Opinion: People power can fight extinctionSave
By Jamie Joseph
The greatest superpower in the world is not the United States - it is public opinion on a global scale. It is the reason commercial whaling was banned worldwide, seal fur coats are more treacherous than trendy, and it's the reason the war on poaching is escalating rapidly.
Science tells us that by the end of this century half of all species will be threatened by extinction. But there's an uprising of people who refuse to accept this decline - NGOs, individuals, communities, school children, and a new generation of activists are taking back the power.
Last month consumer power got Proctor & Gamble to commit to washing its supply chain clean of bad palm oil. Sixty-two thousand hectares of rainforest are destroyed each year for the production of palm oil, and Sumatran orangutans are put at risk. More than 400,000 emails were sent to P&G's CEO, and P&G offices around the world were bombarded with thousands of phone calls.
Across Asia, loss of habitat and wildlife trafficking has seen the tiger population decimated to just 3200. It prompted environmental activist Bittu Sahgal to launch Kids for Tigers, a programme that now engages with over a million children.
They are encouraged to make their voices heard, to write to decision-makers, and influence their own communities.
In Africa, the grassroots Build a Boma campaign was created so that lions and the indigenous Maasai people in Kenya and Tanzania can go back to living in harmony. There may be as few as 30,000 lions left in the wild, a 90 per cent drop since 1940, and habitat loss has lead to lions killing cattle and the Maasai retaliating, which has resulted in a large annual toll. A boma 'living wall' costs just $500 to build and fundraising efforts have seen 350 living walls built across the Masaai region, impacting 7000 indigenous people that can sleep well knowing their livestock are protected, and the killing of lions in these areas has been eliminated.
In March this year Chinese Arts & Crafts Ltd, Hong Kong's largest ivory retailer, stopped selling elephant ivory following public pleas to end the ivory trade in Hong Kong and mainland China. One year prior former NBA star Yao Ming launched a campaign with WildAid, the African Wildlife Foundation, and Save the Elephants to reduce demand for ivory and rhino horn. In February this year, some of China's top business leaders, including ten people from Forbes 2013 China Rich List, released a pledge to never purchase, possess, or give ivory as a gift.
Starting this month, twenty-eight tons of Hong Kong's elephant ivory will go up in flames-the largest stockpile ever burned. The decision makes Hong Kong the latest government to destroy its ivory, following recent moves by the United States and the Philippines.
On home ground, New Zealanders are refusing to give up on saving the Maui's dolphin, of which there are only 55 left. Right now WWF and rugby stars Victor Vito, Brad Shields and Reggie Goodes are trying to get the word out and gather statistics with a video encouraging people to report a sighting by calling the toll free hotline on 08004MAUIS or reporting it online at the WWF's website.
Spirits were high this season in the Southern Ocean when Sea Shepherd's fleet of three ships docked in New Zealand at the end of March. They were celebrating a very successful mission in combating Japanese whalers, with 784 whales saved, and fundraising was the best it's ever been.
What we buy, what we wear, and what we eat, yanks the great chain of command, and what we stand for is amplified through social media. We are all connected, and every click counts.
Jamie Joseph is a writer and an environmental activist. She grew up in South Africa and emigrated to New Zealand in 2009. In October she will be returning to her homeland to fight the war on poaching. She will be blogging every day, spending "30 Days in the Trenches" with rangers risking their lives to save rhinos and elephants. Follow this story at riseandflow.net.