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Latinx Heritage Month: Monarchs and the Mazahua

In the midst of Latinx Heritage Month (September 15 – October 15), the US Fish and Wildlife Service is deliberating whether or not to list the monarch butterfly under the Endangered Species Act. Monarchs have declined by over 80% in the last 20 years. Due to a court order, the Service is required to make a decision about the listing by December, but in this administration, we’re worried it won’t be a happy one for the monarch. 

Monarchs face numerous threats, from extreme weather due to climate change to the liberal use of pesticides, like Monsanto’s RoundUp, to habitat loss and fragmentation. And without intervention, they are at risk of going extinct. 

Monarch butterflies are vitally important as pollinators and to the biodiversity of ecosystems. In addition to their ecological value, their cultural importance is equally as significant. Historical record shows that the monarch played a huge role in ancient civilizations, such as the Toltec, Mayan, Teotihuacan, and Aztec. 

In July of this year, the Endangered Species Coalition teamed up with the Sierra Club, Green Latinos, Ecosistemica, and Mi Universo Mazahua to host a webinar entitled, “Migration is Natural.” View the webinar in its entirety here. 

During that webinar, José Ramos Mateo, educator and creator of Mi Universo Mazahua, spoke about his people, the Mazahua, and the importance of the monarch butterfly to their culture. 

“The Mazahua, we are indigenous people coming from far away, we are the spirit of this land, the sun, the wind, and the fire. We are children born of the love between Jocotitlán and Xinantecátl. We sow word, we cultivate thoughts, we have the privilege of communicating with our people and with non-indigenous society.”- Fausto Guadarrama Lopez, 2019

Monarchs migrate from the US and Canada to the Mazahua territory each year. José explains that in the Mazahua culture, oftentimes “the monarch butterflies are the souls of children who have died and returned. It is very interesting to see that the butterflies start arriving at the sanctuary on the 2nd of November. This is the day that we celebrate the Day of the Dead.”

He continues to tell us how monarchs are the souls of the Mazahua’s ancestors. “The monarchs carry the souls of a relative or a friend for one night and return to the world of the living. They visit us to celebrate the day of the dead,” José says. During the festivities, the Mazahua eat traditional corn foods and set up altars in honor of their ancestors. An orange flower, the cempasúchil, is set out to guide the ancestors and give them a secure path to the alters. And church bells are rung to announce the coming of the dead. 

The Mazahua also welcome the monarchs, their ancestors, with a tray of water, because the monarchs are tired and thirsty from their travels. “They stop, drink water, and continue on with their journey,” says José. 

All this ceremony happens coincidentally on the same day the monarchs arrive. As night falls, candles are lit, small ones for children and large ones for adults, to light a path for the monarchs as they leave and go back to the land of the dead.

The monarch butterflies also have a strong connection to the Mazahua’s agricultural cycle. Many of the Mazahua people work in agriculture, producing maize, beans, chilis, broad beans, and cereals. The arrival of the monarchs coincides with the end of the season. José explains: “The Sun is the creator and giver of life” and the monarchs are the daughters of the Sun. While the Sun is in retreat during the winter months, the butterflies pollinate flowers, fertilize the soil, and decorate the earth. And just as the monarch’s arrival signals the end of the agricultural season, their departure coincides with the preparation of soil and the beginning of Spring- the start of the next agricultural cycle.

José shares many more beautiful stories about monarchs and their importance to the ancient civilizations of Mexico in his presentation during “Migration is Natural”.  We encourage you to check it out!

It is the Mazahua’s way of life to protect the monarch butterflies, their habitats, and even the individual trees that the monarchs call home. To ensure that the butterflies continue to carry the souls of Mazahua ancestors, the US Fish and Wildlife Service must award the monarchs full protections under the Endangered Species Act.

To learn more about the Mazahua, because their story is best heard in their own words, please visit Mi Universo Mazahua and support their efforts to protect their culture and the monarch butterfly, which is one and the same. 

Senators Cornyn and Booker Introduce Bill to Address Wildlife Trade Problems to Prevent Next Zoonotic Disease Pandemic and Help Imperiled Wildlife

Washington, D.C. – COVID-19 is causing massive disruption and heartbreak across America. Millions have become ill and hundreds of thousands have died from this zoonotic virus. It appears this crisis originated with humans’ unsustainable approach to the exploitation of wildlife (plants and animals)—in this instance, wildlife trade.  

Wildlife trade is one of the leading causes of the extinction crisis we are experiencing according to the IPBES Global Assessment Report. Experts believe that the current coronavirus likely originated with the close interaction with wildlife in a live animal market.  

The Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2020 would have America begin the fight against future pandemics, both in the United States and internationally. The bill would take the important step of prohibiting the import to, export from, or sale within the United States of certain live terrestrial wildlife for the primary purpose of human consumption. It would call upon the State Department to work bilaterally, multilaterally, and through relevant international bodies to secure similar market closures by other countries, with special consideration for indigenous peoples in communities that are dependent on wildlife consumption for food security.

The legislation provides funding to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to provide technical and financial assistance to help those communities that rely on consumption of wildlife for food security to develop and transition to alternative sources of protein and directs USAID to increase its activities in global health, biodiversity, and combating wildlife trafficking. The bill would also increase resources for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to hire, train, and deploy new law enforcement officers to provide technical support and professional expertise in countries of highest concern for illegal trade in at-risk species. 

By closing the trade in terrestrial live wildlife for human consumption in the United States and working internationally to end this trade, the Preventing Future Pandemics Act will reduce the risk for widespread outbreaks of zoonotic diseases and make the world safer for people and wildlife. 

Leda Huta, Executive Director of the Endangered Species Coalition. “We applaud the efforts of Senators Cornyn and Booker to address the root cause of pandemics—the unsustainable exploitation of wildlife. Efforts like the Preventing Future Pandemics Act of 2020 will help to prevent future pandemics and reduce the impacts of wildlife trafficking and trade to the biodiversity crisis. We need healthy wildlife and nature so Americans can have thriving economies and be safe from future devastating disease.” 

The conclusion remains: the Lower Snake River Dams have to be breached.

This is a guest post from Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment, (NPtE) President, Elliott L. Moffett

I am the President of Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment (NPtE). I along with Julian Matthews are the co-founders of NPtE. We got our start principally during the rolling blockade of Megaloads traversing the Nez Perce Indian Reservation in North Central Idaho. Megaloads are pieces of equipment too large for ordinary traffic and must receive special attention to travel over highways because of their size. Tribal members, members of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee (NPTEC), and the public objected to the megaloads going to Canada to the tar sands, and we objected to the callousness of the owners and transport company who subject dangerous extractive industries onto vulnerable communities, and we objected to the lack of consultation when the Reservation Community may have been impacted and the impact to the environment. The Reservation Community wants environmentally sound practices as more fitting of Community values.

The Tribe and others sued and won in federal district court to require such megaioads to consult with the Tribe. The federal government has a duty under the trust doctrine to consult with the Tribe.

Nez Perce Lans Map

Nez Perce Lands

Our next endeavor was to advocate for the removal of the Four Lower Snake River Dams (LSRD) to free up the Snake and to give the salmon and steelhead populations a fighting chance at survival. NPtE fully realizes that with the ever declining fish runs, marks the Nimiipuu culture decline as well. When the River suffers, the Nimiipuu suffer as well. We consider the Snake River and the fish populations to be sacred. Mother Earth has taken care of the Nimiipuu for at least, according to an archaeological site on the Salmon River, 16,000. Years.

The Nimiipuu during this period has developed a relationship with this part of North America, which included witnessing last ice age floods. The mission of NPtE includes to educate the public about the contributions made to North America, in particular about the Nimiipuu way of “managing” Mother Earth. It was this management regime that provided the bounty to Nimiipuu and later to the fledgling U. s.

The Nimiipuu because of this 16,000 year involvement and relationship know sustainability. The Nimiipuu system of management sustained a population and way of life for millennia. And, now after a few hundred years we find those populations of salmon and steelhead once numbering in the millions now threatened with extinction.

Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment questions the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS), and the Biological Opinion’s (BiOp) rationality. The FEIS is court-ordered, a four-year project, and looked at six (6) recovery alternatives, and selected preferred alternative which is the flexible spill, which is already agreed to. the Biological Opinion is based and drawn from the FEIS, and represents the FEIS preferred alternative. The FEIS is released by three agencies; ACOE, BPA, & USBR. The BiOp is released by the NOAA.

NPtE President Elliott L. Moffett

The Facebook page for the Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment has the position of the NPtE. I won’t reiterate them here, but to refer individuals to that page. But, we are investigating options. Primarily, Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment is very concerned about the fate of the River and all of its inhabitants and those that live along and depend on the River. We are, too, very concerned about Treaty rights and responsibilities that go along with fishing for salmon and steelhead.

Historically, salmon consisted of a large portion of the culture and lives of the Nimiipuu. Not only did we consume fish, but as a part o the culture, the salmon provided many cultural aspects, including dance, ceremony, seasonal gatherings,’etc. Not only are the fish threatened with extinction, but the culture of the Nimiipuu is also threatened, if fish cannot survive the ordeal of the dams.

Now is the late summer months when the LSRD reservoirs are thermal pollutants and cess-pools of death for fish that require fast, clean, cold water to survive. The FEIS and BiOp are condemning salmon and steelhead to extinction for industries and livelihoods that can survive and thrive the breaching of LSRD. Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment finds the justifications for maintaining these dams to be deficient from a number of aspects.

The first deficiency to be noted is that the Tribal membership of Nez Perce do not benefit from the operations and maintenance of these impoundments. Grain is shipped for export generally and does not benefit tribal members at home. Hydropower is not clean energy, when spills of lubricant are dumped into dam waters. Energy replacement is affordable and feasible. Organizations are in place to provide the education about such issues, whether they be scientific, economics, or energy.

The conclusion remains: the LSRD have to be breached. The cost of breaching will be more than paid for by a recovered River and River population that predated the building of the dams. Urgency is needed as salmon and steelhead populations cannot wait for more studying the situation which has not appreciably changed as reflected by Treaty Rights and Responsibility practices and uses.

The FEIS and BiOp reflect the federal government’s mismanagement of Trust Resources under the Treaties. Nimiipuu Protecting the Environment stands ready with other Tribal Members, Tribal supporters and non-Tribal supporters to advocate for the rights of Mother Earth and her plants and animals to exist and thrive. The best alternative to accomplish such an agenda is to get rid of these deadbeat dams.

The 2020 Stop Extinction Challenge is underway!

Today is the 2020 Stop Extinction Challenge! This annual advocacy event is our way of engaging activists in support of endangered species in the month that Congress is on recess and back in their home states.

This year, the visits are virtual with activists Zoom-ing or calling into Senate offices but the message is the same: Protect endangered species and the successful and urgently-needed Endangered Species Act.

Activists in 26 states will meet virtually with Senate offices to speak out for endangered plants and animals and legislation to protect them.

It’s not too late to be a part of the Stop Extinction Challenge! You can Tweet and email your senators and follow up with a call: (877) 665-0388

2020 has been challenging for everyone–wildlife included. The recent Round Two attacks on the Endangered Species Act by the Trump Administration put the future of habitat protection in doubt. This comes on the heels of the administration’s radical changes to its responsibilities under the Act. All of this puts the future of our wildlife and wild places in terrible jeopardy during an already-perilous time.

The Senate needs to hear from you! Please email or tweet or call today: (877) 665-0388

“Diversity is our strength, unity is our power”: Viewing Pride through the Lens of Earth’s Biodiversity

 As Pride Month comes to an end, we are honored to share with you the following guest blog by Marlon Reis, the First Gentleman of Colorado. He is a tireless advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, as well as for wildlife and animals of all kinds. We are proud to have him as an ally and friend.

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As a species, humanity has—in great measure—sought to define the parameters of the world we share. These efforts to more narrowly define one’s lived experience (like so many things) is not so much a conscious effort to marginalize as it is a means of processing the information overload with which each of us struggles on a daily basis. The more we learn about the world beyond our backyards, the more difficult it becomes for us to reconcile our own experiences with others. But, to quote one of my heroes—Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi—“Diversity is our strength, unity is our power”. 

Indeed, strength is a quality every living creature depends upon to survive in what is  often a hostile world. The strength we develop as individuals is as varied as the circumstances we face. And each of us is called upon to be strong when we encounter systems built on the idea of majority rule. 

It is hard to be oneself when the society we keep dictates right and wrong, just and unjust. Without fail, our social order urges us to the conclusion that to be oneself—to celebrate one’s diversity—is acceptable only so long as it does not undermine the end-goal of assimilation into a world ‘outside’ nature.

Yet diversity is the natural order of life. And our universe is beautiful not because it is a pattern endlessly repeating, but because it is a tapestry with mysteries still unsolved, and the ‘dark matter’ of what we have yet to discover.

Our will to live depends upon knowing that however hard yesterday might have been, today is a fresh start. 

Celebrating our diversity is an affirmation that we do not exist outside of nature, but that we are very much of a piece with it. Until we unify in recognition that diversity is our strength, individuality remains a mark against anyone—human or nonhuman—who is unwilling to suppress one’s identity in order to be part of the ‘in-crowd’. 

Equality can and must be achieved by recognizing that what we share is our diversity, and that when we appreciate one another as individuals, we are empowered because we are aligned with nature.

This Pride Month—more than half a century since the dawn of the modern fight for LGBTQ+ equality—we have lessons to learn from the biodiversity that surrounds us on Planet Earth.

There is much to admire when one takes time to study the seeming chaos of ecosystems. The closer one looks, the more marvelously clear it becomes that each and every plant and animal has a role to play. In place of what we expect to be disorganized, we find that order is not a series of straight lines and right angles, but rather puzzle pieces that dovetail to create a miraculous and airtight ‘whole’. 

Unlike the concrete jungles in which so many among us spend our days wondering why diversity is viewed as a negative, we can take solace in knowing that in nature, it is a sign of balance. The concept of ‘waste’ is nonexistent in nature, because every living creature has something to contribute.

And when we see that diversity is what makes ecosystems strong, we realize that waste is a byproduct of inequality; the consequence of failing to see that things work best when we value our differences and unite as one.

So often, we are taught to believe that the systems built by those who came before us somehow improve upon nature’s capacity to provide us what we need to live. But how can that be true when so many are struggling to get ahead?  The building blocks of life, like fresh water to drink, and clean air to breathe, are plentiful, yet not accessible to all. 

In my heart of hearts, I believe that humanity overcomplicates what is simple and true. And while we argue ad infinitum about the laws and  governance that lead to inequality, we learn more about fairness and justice in the awe-inspiring diversity of a coral reef, or the countless lives that live in symbiosis on a single tree in the Amazon Rainforest.

In human society, we struggle with ageism and the fallacy that there comes a time when we are too old to be useful, and we cease to be relevant.

But in nature, old growth forests play host to a dazzling variety of lifeforms. More than the saplings, they sequester and hold fast to greater amounts of carbon dioxide, relieving our skies of human-made pollution. Old growth forests also stand guard against wildfires that would consume younger trees, effectively ensuring a vital future for new generations of plants and animals to live and thrive.

One wonders how communities, nations, our world–indeed, humanity itself–will ever solve the question of how to live together in peace and mutual respect?

But the answer is there if we are willing to look: “Diversity is our strength, unity is our power.”


Photo credit Flickr user albirder

Pride Month, LGBTQ+ and the Environmental Movement

“A fabulous planet is the fundamental right of everyone in our shared environment. Systems that strip the natural diversity from society and the earth must be toppled so that every expression of humanity, and all species, can thrive.” – Gerod Rody, Founder and President Emeritus of OUT for Sustainability

This year is the 50th anniversary of Pride Month. Pride began in 1970, in recognition of the Stonewall Uprising, and recalled the uprising’s protest against discriminatory laws, social treatment, and policing while calling for justice and equal rights for the LGBTQ+ community. Fast forward to June 2020, when, just over a week ago, the Supreme Court delivered a historic ruling extending protections from workplace discrimination to LGBTQ+ people. Yet despite the passage of half a century since Stonewall, and victories including marriage recognition and protections against discrimination, the resilient LGBTQ+ community still experiences inequality in an array of areas. 

The LGBTQ+ movement is intersectional. People in the community represent a vast cross-section of races and socio-economic classes. LTBTQ+ black and brown people in particular experience amplified discrimination, as both racial and sexual minorities. This blog will touch on issues related to environmental justice and ok inclusion in the environmental movement. At the end of the blog is a short list, a starting point, of intersectional resources to get connected to organizations and information. Helping increase awareness, visibility, and action on these interwoven issues will strengthen the effort to restore biodiversity and support environmental justice for the LGBTQ+ community and other marginalized groups.  And there is so much more to examine and explore than this short text can cover. This blog is an invitation to begin, continue, deepen, and share your exploration of these issues.

The conservation movement is historically grounded as a movement centered on the participation of white, economically advantaged individuals. Yet minorities, including the LGBTQ+  community, are underrepresented in the movement’s systems and structures  – and simultaneously at the leading edge of the experience of environmental harms. One example where this inequity plays out is access to clean air.  It’s well documented that non-white people bear disproportionate health impacts from exposure to air pollution, due to racial segregation, proximity to pollution sources and other factors. People who identify as LGBTQ+ are likewise impacted by poor air quality, with air-quality related cancer rates at 12.3% higher and respiratory risks from exposure to hazardous air pollutants at 23.8% greater than that of heterosexuals.   

When it comes to education and professional engagement with STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) individuals identifying as LGBTQ+ describe experiences of discrimination. One survey of 37 transgender physics professionals and students found that more than half of respondents experienced exclusionary treatment and harassment in school or at work. Similarly, among LGBTQ+ chemists, 44% of 270 study respondents described that harassment, intimidation, or exclusionary practices were and are experienced in their careers. The culture of environmental groups is likewise described by LGBTQ+  environmental professionals as ‘alienating’. Yet, the LGBTQ+ community expresses higher concern for environmental issues, responding at a 20% higher rate than heterosexuals when it comes to concern for the ‘current state and future of the environment’. These patterns clearly show a need to listen to and support the LGBTQ+ community and for their leadership to inform and change how the environmental profession and environmental organizations create cultures of inclusivity.

The organizations listed below are re-envisioning how the LGBTQ+ community participates in biodiversity conservation; the resources provide educational information and avenues to support this intersectional movement. These are only a small sampling of the amazing work being done and groups centering environmental activism within the LGBTQ community. The discipline of Queer Ecology asserts that the binary model separating humans from nature is a false proposition, expressing instead that the more-than-human world is inherently and extrordinarily diverse. The natural world is dynamic, mysterious, humbling, complex and contradictory.   Recognizing a richer and deeper understanding of the ecological diversity of non-human systems will support our ability to address new solutions to the multiple environmental crises we are facing. Learning from the leadership of LQBTQ+ voices, experiences, and communities in the environmental movement is an essential part of the equation. Let’s get started by checking out these amazing groups and resources!

LGBTQ+ Environmental Organizations:

Out for Sustainability: LGBTQ organization for the social and physical environment

https://out4s.org/purpose/

O4S runs a number of initiatives including Greener Pride: Working toward carbon-neutral, waste free Pride celebrations

https://out4s.org/greener-pride/

Venture Out Project: Bringing together queer people to experience wilderness

https://www.ventureoutproject.com/

Queer Nature: Ecological awarness and place based skills for healing marginalized populations

https://www.queernature.org/

Out There Adventures: Empowering queer youth to connect with the natural world

http://www.outthereadventures.org/home

LGBTQ Outdoor Summit: opportunity for conservation leaders, the outdoor recreation community, and environmental groups to connect around the status of the LGBTQ community and the outdoors

https://www.lgbtqoutdoorsummit.com/

500 Queer Scientists: Visibility platform for LGBTQ+ and allies working in STEM

https://500queerscientists.com/

The Institute of Queer Ecology

https://queerecology.org/

Intersectional Resources  

Being Queer in the Jungle: The Unique Challenges of LGBTQ Scientists Working in the Field

https://blogs.biomedcentral.com/bmcblog/2017/06/28/being-queer-in-the-jungle-the-unique-challenges-of-lgbtq-scientists-working-in-the-field/

Our Climate Voices

https://www.ourclimatevoices.org/listening-series/queer-trans-liberation

Transgender Rights Climate Intersectionality

https://grist.org/article/transgender-rights-climate-intersectionality/

What the Queer Community Brings to the Fight for Climate Justice

https://grist.org/article/what-the-queer-community-brings-to-the-fight-for-climate-justice/

How to Support Black Trans People Now

https://www.papermag.com/how-to-support-black-trans-people-now-2646148396.html?rebelltitem=13#rebelltitem13

Women, LGBTQ and People of Color Adapt to Climate Change

https://www.americaadapts.org/episodes/2020/2/9/women-lgbtq-people-of-color-adapt-to-climate-change-rewind

Diversity: Pride in Science

https://www.nature.com/news/diversity-pride-in-science-1.15924

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Graphic credit Canva.com

The “What’s In My Backyard?” Challenge

For the 15th anniversary of Endangered Species Day, the Endangered Species Coalition is inviting everyone we know to participate in a challenge: get outdoors and identify as many species as you can in your own backyard, balcony, courtyard, or neighborhood park! Here are just a few reasons to join this exciting event celebrating the biodiversity all around us:

  • Spend time outside and connect with nature.
  • Learn more about species in your local area and how to identify them.
  • Collect data that helps scientists and researchers.
  • Engage in ES Day in a way that’s fun and safe during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Step 1

Create an account with iNaturalist, if you don’t already have one.

  1. Go to iNaturalist.org/signup
  2. Fill out your information to create a new account.
  3. Please note that you must be 13 years or older to create your own iNaturalist account. Children under 13 can participate in this event by partnering with a parent, guardian, or other adult; or parents can create accounts for minors using this process.

Step 2

Download the iNaturalist app on your phone or tablet.

You can find the iNaturalist app for Android products through Google Play, and iNaturalist app for Apple products through the App Store. Once you’ve downloaded the app, log in to your iNaturalist account.

Step 3

Join our Endangered Species Day 2020 project!

  1. Open the app and click More in the bottom right-hand corner of your screen.
  2. Click Projects.
  3. Search for “Endangered Species Day 2020.”
  4. Click Join.

Step 4

Learn to use iNaturalist.

Use these videos and written instructions to learn all about how to use iNaturalist.

Tutorial Video: https://vimeo.com/162581545

Additional Tips Video: https://vimeo.com/167341998

Written Guide: https://www.inaturalist.org/pages/getting+started

Important note: iNaturalist focuses on wild species, so please be careful to mark any captive or cultivated species, like pets or cultivated garden plants, as “Captive / Cultivated” in the app.

Step 5

Get out and observe!

There are creatures to be found everywhere, from your own backyard, balcony, or courtyard, to a neighborhood park. On Saturday, May 16th, 2020, we’re challenging you to go out and find as many creatures as you can! Just be sure to pick a place where you can maintain social distancing and stay safe in accordance with the guidelines of the CDC and your home state.

Some of the easiest creatures to find and photograph are bugs, mushrooms, and plants, but depending on where you live, you may also be able get photos of birds, amphibians and reptiles, fish, and small mammals like squirrels. Let’s see how many species we can identify around the world in one day!

Step 6

Share your observations to make an impact

With the growing threat of the extinction crisis, it is more important than ever that we protect wildlife species and their habitat. Help us raise awareness of this issue and advocate for strong wildlife protections using your observations!

Post a photo of one species you identified on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and be sure to use the hashtag #EndangeredSpeciesDay in your post. This helps raise awareness about the importance of biodiversity and the need to protect it. See a sample Tweet to the right.

Increase habitat for wildlife species by planting a pollinator garden. A pollinator garden has native flowers and grasses that provide critical food and habitat for bees, butterflies, and other species. You can learn more about pollinator gardens from the Xerces Society by clicking here, and more about native plants in your region by clicking here. Maybe if you plant a pollinator garden this year, you’ll see more species in your yard by next year!

Questions? Contact Sarah Starman at sstarman@endangered.org.

Get outside for Endangered Species Day with our identification challenge!

Are you looking for reasons to get outdoors and spend time connecting with nature? If so, we’ve got a great activity for you! 

Join the Endangered Species Coalition for our “What’s In My Backyard?” species identification challenge

As you may know, this Friday is the 15th annual Endangered Species Day. Endangered Species Day is an opportunity for people of all ages to celebrate and learn about wildlife species and how to protect them. 

This year, we’re inviting everyone we know to participate in our special “What’s In My Backyard?” species identification challenge for Endangered Species Day. All you have to do is spend time Saturday, May 16th outside in your yard, courtyard, or local park learning about plant, animal, and fungus species in your area. This is a great way for people of all ages to spend time outdoors, but still maintain social distancing. 

Learn more about how to participate with our step-by-step guide to being part of the “What’s In My Backyard?” challenge. 

Don’t worry – you don’t need to be an expert to join the challenge. The free phone app iNaturalist, which you’ll use to participate, will identify all of the species for you. All you have to do is take photos, and iNaturalist will take care of the rest. This is a great way for kids or adults to learn more about the local creatures that are all around you. And our step-by-step guide to participating in the challenge will walk you through everything, from downloading the app to getting outdoors on May 16th. 

Find out how to be part of this international outdoor event today. 

There are other ways to participate in Endangered Species Day, too! If you’re still looking for ways to celebrate this week, check out our film screening event or these other ways to engage

Thank you for helping us protect vulnerable species and the habitat they rely on.

Save your virtual seat at our Endangered Species Day film screening!

On Friday, May 15th, which is the 15th annual Endangered Species Day, we’re hosting an online film screening of Racing ExtinctionRacing Extinction is a fast-paced, informative documentary about the role that humans play in the loss of Earth’s biodiversity. It shines a spotlight on the serious threat of wildlife trafficking around the world, and what we need to do to stop it.

After the film, we’re also holding a live Q&A session with the Racing Extinction filmmaking team. Learn more about what went on behind the scenes from director Louie Psihoyos, photographer Shawn Heinrichs, and race car driver Leilani Munter.

RSVP today for the screening and live Q&A with the film team.

Given that the global coronavirus pandemic likely originated from the illegal wildlife trade, it is more important than ever that we understand the threat posed by wildlife trafficking. Racing Extinction shows the devastating impacts of the illegal wildlife trade on biodiversity, but also shows us how the courage to speak out about this issue can make a difference. In these challenging times, we need that kind of courage more than ever.

Join us at our virtual Racing Extinction screening for Endangered Species Day 2020.

You can also participate in Endangered Species Day in a variety of other ways, including by joining the What’s in My Backyard? Outdoor species identification challenge on May 16th. Learn more about this activity and more on our website, www.endangeredspeciesday.org.

Thank you for your support and for standing up for wildlife. We look forward to celebrating with you on Endangered Species Day!

Art and Advocacy in Action

At the Endangered Species Coalition, we know art is a powerful medium for change. We host an annual Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest, and each year we get tons of amazing submissions from young people, grades K – 12, from across the country. In 2020, we had nearly 1,400 contest entrants, reflecting young people’s commitment to using artwork to express their support for endangered species conservation. 

Rusty Patched Bumble Bee

Our 2020 grand-prize winner, Isis Stevens, is a 14-year-old artist from Denver, CO, and a stunning example of art in action. Recently, Endangered Species Coalition organizers across the country held virtual in-district meetings. Each April, Congressional members leave our Nation’s Capitol and head home to their districts in their states. This is a great time to visit with our elected officials, educate them on endangered species issues, and ask them to support laws to protect them and their habitats.

These meetings are so important – especially now. COVID-19 is keeping so many of us away from our families, our work, and our friends. This is a scary and unpredictable time. But now is not the time to sit back, even though many of us are stuck at home. And we need our elected officials to champion innovative solutions for the communities and habitats that need it most.

So last week, at our in-district meetings with some of Colorado’s members of Congress, I was lucky enough to be accompanied by Isis. As a future voter, she used her voice to advocate for wildlife –  bravely and passionately. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t tear up while she was speaking with a staff member from Congresswoman DeGette’s office – because I did. 

Our virtual in-district meetings were so powerful. To give you a sense, we want to share Isis’s statement that she gave during our meetings. She describes her winning art piece and gives our Congressional leaders some words of warning, plus a message of hope (if action is taken).

I created this piece to bring light to the endangerment of Rusty Patched Bumble Bees, their importance in our ecosystems, as well as hope for a brighter future. The base of the painting depicts the earth, oceans black with pollution and land dark without forests, plants, habitats, animals, and pollinators, such as the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee.

From some of the earth’s largest beings, to the tiniest ones that hold our ecosystems together, currently almost 200,000 of our earth’s species are endangered, while many more are threatened, a large portion of which are insects. Ever since I was little, I have absolutely loved insects, specifically butterflies and bees. Both happen to be the earth’s two main pollinators that are both currently endangered or threatened. They are in this state due to impact from our most careless and destructive everyday actions, such as habitat destruction and land loss due to agriculture, factory farming and urban developments, as well as harsh pesticide use, bacterial infections, and the rapidly growing effects of climate change. 

In addition to acknowledging the role insects and pollinators play in supporting our earth’s ecosystems, it is also important to see the role they play in many people’s cultures and art, such as mine. Since the beginning of time, people have been using these tiny creatures to symbolize beauty, change, happiness, death, rebirth, and are seen by many as precious beings that carry the souls of past ancestors and loved ones. Everywhere you turn, people are using butterflies and bees as symbolism and to bring beauty and nature to art, literature, and music of all kinds. So if pollinators seemed to hold such a beautiful source of symbolism in our lives, why aren’t we frantically working to protect these precious creatures? 

Above the dark earth stands a figure of a little girl, surrounded by honeycomb. Inside of her eyes shines a brighter, healthier earth. She is holding out her hands full of soil, in both desperation and hope by providing the bees with a healthy and safe home. She is not only a representation of our youth but also a form of mother nature, looking down on the destruction we have caused. Around her flies a swarm of Rusty Patched Bumble Bees, attracted by the flowers that are growing from the soil in her hands. The flowers she holds are Purple Prairie Clovers, one of many plant species dependent on pollination by the Rusty Patched Bumble Bee. Alongside bees, butterflies are one of the world’s most important pollinators, with over 75% of living plants dependent on them. 

This piece is meant to spark recognition of the fragile state of one endangered species that plays a crucial role in the survival of our ecosystems, as well as to depict a way in which we can help to bring hope through the eyes of youth. 

The earth and these species were here long before we were and will hopefully be here long after we pass. Unfortunately, by the time I am your age, our earth’s pollinators could become completely extinct. This idea is absolutely terrifying. The thought of having to live in a world where the majority of our vegetation has lost life from their pollinators, as well as to think that these beautiful creatures will never be seen by my children, is devastating. So I am here now, asking you through my art and my voice to acknowledge their importance in everything from our smallest plants and insects, to our food industry and everyday lives. I am asking you to take advantage of your privilege in having a position of power, to do what many cannot, and take a stand to help save our earth’s endangered species. 

After hearing Isis’s story, Kaila Hood, Constituent Services Representative at Congresswoman Diana DeGette’s office, said, “We at the Congresswoman’s office are always happy to meet with our constituents to discuss issues impacting our community. It is powerful to hear constituent stories, but it was especially moving to see Isis’s artwork during our meeting last week. Her artwork really brought home how critical it is to protect our pollinators. We can’t wait until Isis is in high school and can participate in our Congressional Art Competition! She is a gifted artist and storyteller.”

As the winner of our 2020 Saving Endangered Species Youth Art Contest, Isis is using her voice and her art to protect wildlife and endangered species. We can all follow her example by asking Congress to pass legislation to restore the Endangered Species Act.

Thank you for your commitment to wildlife and wild places!