WILDLIFE HABITATS, ANIMAL WELFARE

THE NEW SOCIAL JUSTICE GAME CHANGERS

Thursday, October 18th, 2012

 

 

 

 

THE NEW SOCIAL JUSTICE GAME-CHANGERS:


TWELVE SMALL ORGANIZATIONS AND FOUR INDIVIDUALS 


WHO ARE CHANGING THE WORLD


 


What a difference four years makes!

 Back in February of 2008 when I first conceived Action Now Network, the geopolitical forces of the world seemed wildly out of control, and I as a responsible global citizen, felt a serious weight on my shoulders.  I had already become an active supporter and Board member of Jewish World Watch a leading voice in the fight against genocides that occur in our lifetime.  But most of the world seemed either apathetic or bewildered, uncertain as to what impact they could have, if any, in the grand scheme – and far more interested in the goings-on of their own lives than in making the world right. 

Don’t get me wrong –It’s not that there weren’t plenty of venerable organizations out there that were doing great work – there were.    But the public consciousness had not truly awakened to social justice issues as national –or personal priorities.  Woody Allen brilliantly described our state of mind in this famous clip from Annie Hall:
 
 




When I finally launched in 2010, (hoping to move readers beyond a Woody Allen frame of mind), I wrote the following statement as the lead-in to the website’s raison d’etre, which was (and is) to inspire readers to take action in defense of a planet that seemed about to implode:
 
 “…. our planet is in trouble: perilous geopolitical tensions, global warming and the destruction of our environment, flagrant and egregious acts of cruelty inflicted by humans upon fellow humans and animals alike, hunger, poverty and homelessness, absent or woefully inadequate health care– the list goes on and on. For most of us, it is mind-numbing to think of what needs to be done to make even a small impact, let alone to solve the overwhelming problems of the world.”

The bad news is that four years later, the paragraph above still rings true.  But the good news is that there is an important difference now.   The internet and social media have changed our perception of what is possible – they have empowered us to believe that we can make a difference.    Our personal worlds, to borrow Woody's image, have expanded, but in a good way.  Organizations, new and old have a visibility and reach that has never before been possible.  Not only are we more aware and more willing to become engaged, but we are more optimistic about our ability to make an impact.  There is a peak energy in knowing that we are in this together and that we are working toward a reachable goal.

And it's not only the large, well funded organizations and foundations that have found new and far-reaching audiences.  In the last few years, dozens of smaller groups and individuals, as well, have entered the "social good" radar.   These are the real game changers:  In most cases, on shoestring budgets, these smart, committed visionaries are making a quantum difference in the lives of people, animals and the environment, AND they are educating us at the same time.  (With apologies to Woody's screen mother), they have made it very much our business, to get excited and involved.  
 
So, with these thoughts in mind, I have spotlighted 12 small organizations and 4 individuals who have broken the "impact barrier": they are making an immeasurable change in the lives of people, the environment and the future of our planet.  To be sure, this is not an exhaustive list, but an Action Now+Network inaugural group representing some of the best and the brightest out there, who with great determination and humanity are changing the world.  –ED 



 ORGANIZATIONS BY CATEGORY
(CLICK ON ORGANIZATION TO GO DIRECTLY TO DETAIL)
 
 
ACCESS TO EDUCATION
 
DREAM A WORLD EDUCATION, INC.  Opening the world of possibility for our youngest school children.
 
INCENTIVE MENTORING PROGRAMCreating a revolutionary family-style support system to usher at-risk youth through high school and college

SAVONG FOUNDATION (THE)Bringing education and community health services to the people of rural Cambodia.

 

FEEDING THE HUNGRY

TAGUM CITY FOOD BANK, Feeding the malnourished children of Mindanao, Philippines.
 

 

HUMAN RIGHTS 
 
BEYOND DIFFERENCESCreating a movement in which teen social isolation becomes a thing of the past.
 
DARFUR UNITED, Bringing hope to survivors of the Darfur genocide.
 
SOLAR COOKER PROJECT (THE), Protecting and empowering the women and girls of Darfur

 
CLIMATE CHANGE AND GLOBAL WARMING
 
MIT CLIMATE COLAB, An ingenious crowdsource system to elicit innovative solutions to climate change.
 
SANERGY  Two MIT MBA students turn human waste into a sustainable energy resource.
 
TRANSITION U.S.A., Preparing communities for the impact of climate change.
 
 

PEACE BUILDING
 
HAND IN HAND CENTER FOR JEWISH-ARAB EDUCATIONNurturing the next generation of peacemakers in the middle east.
 
NEWGROUND: A MUSLIM-JEWISH PARTNERSHIP FOR CHANGEA bold and brilliant strategy to build working relationships between young professional Muslims and Jews.
 

SOCIAL JUSTICE MEDIA

American University School of Communication, Department of Environmental Filmmaking (see Chris Palmer, below)

 
 

FOUR EXTRAORDINARY INDIVIDUALS
 
 
ANALEE BRODIE, Godsend for homeless animals and for the Los Angeles homeless and low income community who need veterinary care for their companion animals
 
ELLIOT KATZ, DVM, Founder of In Defense of Animals and The Guardian Campaign: creating a seismic shift in the way we view and treat animals — with a goal of eradicating animal cruelty around the globe.

LAURA LEIGHA formidable warrior for our nation's last wild horses
 
CHRIS PALMER, Pulling back the curtain on ethics in wildlife filmmaking
 

 
ALPHABETICAL INDEX: ORGANIZATIONS
 

CREATING A MOVEMENT IN WHICH TEEN SOCIAL ISOLATION

BECOMES A THING OF THE PAST

 

 

Beyond Differences is a student led organization and youth movement that engages middle and high school students, as well as educators and parents, to understand and ultimately to eradicate the sources of social isolation in their communities.   
 
Beyond Differences was founded by Laura Talmus and Ace Smith in memory of and as a tribute to their daughter, Lili Rachel Smith.  Lili was a dynamic and talented young woman born with Apert Syndrome, a rare genetic cranial-facial disorder, characterized by malformation of the skull, face, hands and feet.  Lili’s strength and determination in the face of social challenges at school was an inspiration to her family and to all who knew her. 

THE FACES OF 'BEYOND DIFFERENCES'

 
 
Laura Talmus, Founder and Executive Director
 
Laura Talmus has deep experience in political fundraising and marketing, and has honed her skills both in major Democratic political campaigns and as a consultant to advocacy organizations in the Jewish Community. 
 
In addition to serving as Executive Director of Beyond Differences, she is the Western Regional Director for American Jewish World Service.
 
 
SECRET WEAPON
 
 
Beyond Differences Teen Board of Directors
 
The Teen Board of Directors is a specially selected and trained group of teens who run school assemblies which focus on teen social isolation, why it happens, and how it can be stopped.  Over 3000 kids have participated in the assembly programs since 2010.
 
This year, and additional 40 students joined the movement as members of the Leadership Advocacy Training Program (LATP), which will participate in a year-long curriculum on leadership in their communities as well as starting Beyond Differences Clubs at their schools in order to advocate for social change against isolation. 
 
 
LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT

“No One Eats Alone”, an initiative of Beyond Differences, has launched with a mission to reverse trends of social isolation by asking students to make sure that no one at their schools has to face eating alone at lunch. 
 
GET INVOLVED!

CONTACT
 

415-256-9095

336 Bon Air Center, #436 Greenbrae, CA 94904


 


 
 

 

BRINGING HOPE TO SURVIVORS OF THE DARFUR GENOCIDE

 

 

Darfur United (a project of i-Actis an all refugee soccer team comprised of Darfuri genocide survivors now living in Eastern Chad, Africa.  i-Act Founder and Executive Director, Gabriel Stauring scoured the twelve existing refugee camps in eastern Chad for the best soccer players to create a team that would compete in the 2012 Viva World Cup Championship in Iraqi Kurdistan.  It has been an emotional and heartwarming journey.  Not only did the members of the team compete for the Viva World Cup, but they have inspired pride and a new joie de vivre within the refugee camps of Chad.

 But even more than that, the team has inspired a movement, “to bring hope, inspiration, and joy to the displaced people of Darfur.”

Supported by the UN High Commission for Refugees, among others, this team has brought the Darfuri refugees out of the shadows of the living, as one refugee put it, back into the world.

THE FACES OF 'DARFUR UNITED'

 

 

Gabriel Stauring
Founder and Executive Director of i-ACT
 

Grassroots activist Gabriel Stauring graduated from California State University at Dominguez Hills with a major in Behavioral Science. He became involved in the Darfur Genocide out of a sense of personal responsibility. He believes in the power of community and compassion, combined with personal empowerment, to bring about meaningful, positive change.  He has visited the refugee camps on the Chad-Darfur border numerous times and has developed long standing and deep relationships with many of the survivors living there.

 

SECRET WEAPONS

Mark Hodson,
Darfur Untied Head Coach (volunteer).

 

 

Alex Nuttall-Smith,
Darfur United Physical Trainer (Volunteer)

 

LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT

Played in the 2012 Viva World Cup Championship games in Iraqi Kurdistan

 

GET INVOLVED!

DONATE: http://darfurunited.com/support/

FACEBOOK:  http://facebook.com/darfurunited

See also: One Man's Mission to Keep Darfur on the World's Emotional Radar: A Conversation with Gabriel Stauring, Founder of i-Act (Stop Genocide Now)



 

OPENING THE WORLD OF POSSIBILITIES FOR 

OUR YOUNGEST SCHOOL CHILDREN

 
 

 

Dream A World Education, Inc. uses arts education programming to teach critical thinking skills and cultural understanding for children in grades K-2.  It approaches learning on a global level with programs that teach children to better understand the world and the universal principles that join us as a global family.  

The unique Secrets Of The Heart arts residency program for grades K-2, uses music, dance, theatre arts, and visual arts to teach friendship, kindness, imagination, and gratitude, while integrating the arts with language arts, vocabulary, geography, life skills, and values. 

LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT

Approximately 1700 children have graduated from the Dream A World Education, Inc. programs, all from Title I Schools, with populations that live below the poverty line.


THE FACES OF DREAM A WORLD EDUCATION, INC.
 
 

Bunny Hull, Founder and Executive Director.  
 
Bunny is a Grammy® award-winning songwriter and vocalist who began working with children in 1994. She has created all of all curriculum, original music and is author of the books that are used in Dream A World Education’s programs.
 
 

 
Anindo Marshall, Program Associate.
 
Anindo began her music and dance career in her homeland of Kenya as a vocalist, dancer and percussionist.  Her responsibilities include scheduling, contributing to curriculum, and working as a performing and teaching artist with Secrets Of The Heart and our continuation program, Passport To The Heart.
 
LATEST PROJECTS
 
Since our inception, through our Secrets of the Heart residency programs and followup program, Passport To The Heart, we have served 1706 students in Title I Schools in the Los Angeles area. These are schools with populations that live below the poverty line.

SECRECT WEAPONS
 



Diane Kabat
Vice-President, Board of Directors.  
 
Diane has been instrumental for both marketing and fundraising for Dream A World.  She’s connected us with schools, worked as a photographer, volunteer coordinator, and steps up to the plate regularly to fill any need from helping write text for a flyer to taking a meeting with a school superintendent.  Diane is one of a kind.   

 
 
Dr. Michelle Windmueller
Instructional Director for the Intensive Support and Innovation Center,
Los Angeles Unified School District
 
Dr. Windmueller has naturally evolved into our most valuable talking head. Her knowledge about and belief in our programs and the way she articulates our mission has put a face on what we do from the inside looking out.  
 
 
GET INVOLVED!
 
 
CONTACT
 


 

 
 
NURTURING THE NEXT GENERATION OF PEACEMAKERS 
 
IN THE MIDDLE EAST
 

 

 

Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education was created to build partnership and coexistence between Arab and Jewish citizens of Israel through the creation of integrated bilingual schools. Hand in Hand operates three such schools, helped establish a fourth one and is now working to open two additional schools. In total, over 1,000 Arab and Jewish children and youth are enrolled.

Additionally, Hand in Hand carries out a broad array of programs outside of the classroom and works to build "shared communities" of Arabs and Jews. In a context where these two communities have lived in conflict with one another for so long,

Hand in Hand stands out a beacon of hope and optimism.

 

THE FACES OF 'HAND IN HAND CENTER FOR JEWISH-ARAB EDUCATION'

 

Shuli Dichter

Executive Director

 

A long-time civil-society activist in Israel, Shuli Dichter has been involved at a leadership level with progarms and initiatives for Jewish-Arab partnership for over 20 years.  He joined Hand in Hand in January 2011.  Previously, he was the co-executive director of Sikkuy, The Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, a Jewish-Arab advocacy organization. There he worked to advance equality via government-policy change, municipal cooperation and mobilization of public opinion. His op-ed articles and essays on equality and Arab-Jewish relations are frequently published in Israel and abroad.

 

Dr. Inas Deeb
Education Director

 

Inas Deeb supervises program development, curriculum development and teacher training at Hand in Hand's four schools. She holds an undergraduate degree from Haifa University and advanced education degrees from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and St. Joseph University in Pennsylvania. She holds a Ph.D.from Bar-Ilan University in Tel Aviv.

Most recently, she worked as a teacher, counselor and language advisor at the Pedagogical Center of East Jerusalem, and has served as an assistant professor and chief research coordinator at Bar-Ilan's Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center.

 

Lee Gordon, Co-Founder, Hand in Hand
Executive Director
American Friends of Hand in Hand
 

Lee Gordon lived in Israel for two decades, where he was actively involved in Jewish-Arab dialogue. Originally from the United States, Lee earned an M.A. in social work from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and graduated from the Mandel Institute's prestigious School for Educational Leadership.

Lee is a veteran social activist and community organizer, having worked and volunteered for numerous educational and community organizations. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and three children, where he builds a network of international support for Hand in Hand.


LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT

in June of 2012 Hand in Hand graduated its second class of high school students. It is now receiving a major grant from the U.S. government to expand and open new schools in Haifa and Tel Aviv.  In addition, mixed groups of Jewish and Arab parents from numerous towns throughout Israel have approached Hand in Hand interested in building schools in their communities.

GET INVOLVED!

Donations to Hand in Hand in the U.S. are tax-deductible and can be made online through its website (www.handinhandk12.org) or by sending a check payable to Hand in Hand.

CONTACT INFO:

 www.handinhandk12.org

 info@handinhandk12.org

Snail Mail:

Hand in Hand
PO Box 80102
Portland, Oregon 97280

Related articles: , Inching Toward Peace: A Lunch With Two Student Ambassadors From Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education


The Award Winning Hand in Hand Center for Jewish-Arab Education: Nurturing the Next Generation of Peacemakers



 
 
INCENTIVE MENTORING PROGRAM
 
A REVOLUTIONARY HOLISTIC  FAMILY STYLE SUPPORT SYSTEM

TO USHER AT-RISK YOUTH THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL AND COLLEGE

 

 

Incentive Mentoring Program engages underperforming high school students who confront significant barriers outside of the classroom by providing each one with a family of committed volunteers and increased access to community resources. Using a family style model and support system, it fosters students’ academic advancement and personal growth into self-motivated, resilient and responsible citizens.

Latest Accomplishment: 100% of IMP students have received a high school diploma or equivalent degree and have been accepted to college, and over 700 IMP volunteers have gained invaluable leadership experience, professional development, and personal growth.

 

THE FACES OF IMP:

 

Sarah Hemminger, Ph.D.
Co-Founder and CEO
 

Co-Founder Sarah Hemminger has extensive experience in nonprofit management and in the development, expansion, and replication of innovative, paradigm-shifting models of mentoring. She also draws on a deep understanding of the challenges that face students in successfully completing high school and accessing higher education.

In 2010, Sarah received her Ph.D. in Biomedical Engineering from the Johns Hopkins University.  She received the prestigious Siebel Scholars Award for outstanding work in the field of technology and engineering and has lectured internationally on her work .  

 

 

Tong Zhang, Ph.D.

Chief Operating Officer

 
 

Tong Zhang’s role in IMP has evolved over the years from supervisor and role model, to founding Director of the Technology Service. In 2011, she joined IMP as staff as Chief Innovations Officer, a role in which she recruited, trained and supported Directors to provide programs, services, and infrastructure development for the organization. In her current position as Chief Operating Officer, she is working to codify the IMP model to enable further scaling and replication of the program at future sites.

Zhang received her Ph.D. in Immunology from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

 

Garima Bhatt
Site Director
 

Garima began her work in urban education as an undergraduate in Washington, D.C., where she co-founded D.C. Today…D.C. Tomorrow, an after-school service learning club for high school students in Southeast D.C.  She was responsible for writing and teaching a service learning curriculum; working with partner organizations to set up and chaperone service trips for the students; and facilitating all volunteer trainings. She continued her work in urban education as an elementary school teacher in Baltimore through Teach for America.


Garima has also served as a Baltimore City Mayoral Fellow and she has worked for the Central Office of Baltimore City Public Schools. She holds an MA in Teaching from Johns Hopkins University.
 
 

Marquett Burton
Site Director
 

When working in Juvenile Services in Oakland, California, Marquett Burton became interested in the way young African American males view education and formal employment.  At University of California, Berkeley, he won a George A. Miller scholarship to research the historical development of African American attitudes toward public education, and in addition, he studied the attitude of mainstream hip hop music toward formal and informal work identities.

At IMP, Marquett has played a critical role in establishing a mentoring partnership with Union Baptist Church to provide his students with technological training and resources, college readiness field-trips, mentoring and tutoring.

Marquett holds a Masters in the Arts of Teaching from the Johns Hopkins School of Education and has served as a Mayoral Fellow in the office of the CEO of Baltimore City Public Schools.

 

 

Kathleen Lee, M.D.
Program Director
 

During the past five years, Kathleen Lee's contributions as a volunteer have been critical in IMP's evolution from a student group to a thriving non-profit. As a co-founding Director of the Academic Affairs and SAT Preparation Programs, founding Director of the Health Service, and creator of two annual reports she has exemplified IMP’s core values.

Prior to joining IMP, Kathleen served as the Coordinator of the Princeton University – GetSET Program, an after-school program for elementary school students in Trenton, NJ.

Kathleen has a medical degree from Johns Hopkins University, and has received numerous awards for her service to the community. 

 

SECRET WEAPON

Kevin Huang,
Director of the Academic Affairs Program, Homewood Site
 

Kevin has spent countless hours supporting tutoring for IMP students and collaborating with ACCE High School leadership. He is always eager to help in any way he can and follows-through even if it means walking to ACCE High School in one-hundred degree heat to get report cards or visiting every teacher to collect exam review materials. He consistently goes above and beyond without seeking any recognition.

 

GET INVOLVED!

Volunteer:  http://incentivementoringprogram.org/volunteer

Donate: http://incentivementoringprogram.org/howtohelp

 

CONTACT INFO:

www.incentivementoringprogram.org

PO Box 1584

Baltimore MD 21203

information@incentivementoringprogram.org

Related article: Incentive Mentoring Program: A Revolutionary Holistic Educational Program Ushers At-Risk Youth Through High School and College

 



 

MIT CLIMATE COLAB 

(A PROJECT OF THE MIT CENTER FOR COLLECTIVE INTELLIENCE)

 

AN INGENIOUS CROWDSOURCE MODEL

TO ELICIT INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS TO CLIMATE CHANGE 

 

The research team at the MIT Center for Collective Intelligence is interested in the way the internet allows collaborative work on a scale that accommodates small contributions from individuals, exemplified for example, by Wikipedia.  In 2006, they came up with an ingenious new approach to problem solving that engages a grass roots base with a contest model as key pieces of their system.
 
The brainchild of Center Director Tom Malone and research scientist, Mark Klein, the Climate CoLab devises contests designed to mobilize the public – primarily students and concerned citizens– to come up with innovative solutions to climate change.  Inspired by the UN’s 2009 recent climate change summit in Copenhagen, Cancun, and Durban and the Rio+20 Earth Summit of this year, the Climate CoLab has designed public contests on a national and global scale.  
 
Winners are invited to present to organizers of global climate conferences and to congressional committees. This year, the Climate CoLab is pioneering a new approach, which seeks on , to break out the large complex problem of climage change into more manageable sub-issues and also to work with partners like Carbon War Room (an initiative of the visionary Sir Richard Branson) .
 
LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT

In August, the Climate CoLab project launched this new approach, which will involve  running larger numbers of more highly focused contests.  Six contests will kick off the Climate CoLab’s new approach.
 
       Building efficiency, physical actions
       Building efficiency, social actions
       Profitably reducing emissions from cement (in collaboration with Carbon War Room)
       Local Solutions (in collaboration with Transitions US)
       Transportation efficiency
       Decarbonizing energy supply
 
 

THE FACES OF' MIT CLIMATE COLAB'

 

Tom Malone
Professor, MIT Sloan School of Management
Director, MIT Center for Collective Intelligence

 

Mark Klein
Principal Research Scientist,
MIT Center for Collective Intelligence
 

Rob Laubacher,
Research Scientist and
Associate Director, MIT Climate CoLab
 
 
 
Mike Matessa
Community Development, U.S.
 
 
 
James Greyson
Community Development, U.K.


SECRET WEAPON:

Advisors include community members with input from a distinguished group of experts in climate science and policy who also help to judge the contest contributions by community members.

CONTACT INFO

EMAIL:

Rob Laubaucher: rlj@mit.edu

The MIT Center for Collective Intelligence
MIT Building NE25, 7th Floor
(5 Cambridge Center)
Cambridge, MA 02142



 

BUILDING DYNAMIC WORKING RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN

YOUNG PROFESSIONAL MUSLIMS AND JEWS

 

 

 

NewGround: A Muslim-Jewish Partnership for Change was founded in 2006 to create a national model for healthy relations, productive engagement and social change between American Muslims and Jews.

To transform the landscape, the Muslim Public Affairs Council and  Progressive Jewish Alliance joined forces to create a fellowship for emerging Muslim and Jewish leaders to change the tone of the conversation.


Today, NewGround is an independent group fiscally sponsored by Community Partners and housed at the City of Los Angeles Human Relations Commission.


LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT

With the support of 14 communal leaders throughout Los Angeles, NewGround is currently spearheading the launch of the first annual Muslim-Jewish High School Leadership Council.

Eight Muslim and eight Jewish teens have been selected to participate in a one-year council experience which will begin with a fall retreat to build relationships and educate students about Islam and Judaism in America.  

 

THE FACES OF 'NEWGROUND: A MUSLIM-JEWISH PARTNERSHIP FOR CHANGE'

 

 

Rabbi Sarah Bassin,
Executive Director
 

Rabbi Sarah Bassin worked at Princeton University’s Hillel before entering the rabbinic program at Hebrew Union College – Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR), from which she graduated in 2010 with a dual Masters degree Jewish Non-Profit Management. 

Since taking the helm at NewGround she has developed and enriched the Young Professional Fellowship Program, which brings together young professional Muslims and Jews in Los Angeles to build relationships and skills, and often fast friendships, which allow them to collaborate on key civic programs that affect both cultures.  Her program has attracted worldwide attention, and serves as a model for peace building in the U.S. and internationally.

 

Edina Lekovic
Board Chair

As MPAC's Director of Policy & Programming, Lekovic leads the MPAC team of staff and volunteers on strategic initiatives in government relations, media outreach and interfaith collaboration, while also coordinating the organization's approach to domestic and international affairs.  

As a spokeswoman for the American Muslim community, she has appeared on national media outlets, including CNN, BBC, MSNBC, and the History Channel and her work has been featured in several leading newspapers.  Named one of the Top 500 Influential Muslims in the World in 2009, Edina is a proud graduate of the American Muslim Civic Leadership Institute.

 

SECRET WEAPON

 

Suzy Marks
NewGround Advocate

Suzy Marks and her late husband Wally were among the seed funders of NewGround back in 2006. Today, Suzy continues to be one of NewGround's biggest advocates.  She also serves as an informal mentor to the executive director to help guide decisions and aim for the most significant impact.   

GET INVOLVED!

DONATE:  Select "New Ground' from the drop down menu".

EMAIL


CONTACT INFO.

Rabbi Sarah Bassin- muslimjewishnewground@gmail.com.

Website: www.muslimjewishnewground.org

Related article: A Bold and Brilliant Strategy to Build Working Relationships Between Young Professional Muslims and Jews




 
TURNING HUMAN WASTE INTO A SUSTAINABLE ENERGY RESOURCE
 
Two ingenious MBA students at MIT's Sloan School of Management were interested in how to bring dignity to the sanitation experience in urban slums of the developing world.  SANERGY was born — and they ultimately figured out a way to turn human waste into biogas and organic fertilizer.   The goal within five years, per MIT News is to bring sanitation facilities to 500,000 Africans, provide 7.5 million kilowat hours of electricity, and produce 11,000 tons of fertilizer.  An absolutely amazing story and something we are sure to hear much more about in coming years.



 

BRINGING EDUCATION AND COMMUNITY HEALTH SERVICES

TO THE PEOPLE OF RURAL CAMBODIA



The Savong Foundation helps to improve the lives of people in northern Cambodia.  It supports the Savong School (a free language school with over 600 students), the Savong Orphan Center (which is home to 35 children) and the Savong Student Center (a home for the older students attending high school or university).  Although the focus is education, it develops other community projects such as the fluoride rinse program. 
 
None of the administrative positions at the Foundation are paid.
 
 
THE FACES OF 'THE SAVONG FOUNDATON'
 
 
Phil Caldwell, CEO, COO
Phil Caldwell, trained as a veterinarian, has lived and traveled all over the world. On his many trips to Cambodia, he fell in love with the country and especially with the people in the rural areas. He was struck by the grossly inadequate education and health care services available, and became determined to use his skills to better the lives of the people he had come to know.  
Inspired by Svay Savong, who started the first English language school in the area, Phil turned his focus to founding and building the Savong Foundation, and spends most days  fundraising and in program development for the Foundation. 
Because his work for the Savong Foundation is unpaid, Phil has kept his day job as a much beloved veterinarian based in Sherman Oaks, California. He travels to Cambodia once a year, to oversee the projects there.
In addition, there are three advisors to the board who help guide decision making and develop new projects in the area.

LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT
Savong Foundation started a fluoride rinse program which will improve dental hygiene in the local schools.  With the help of the Angkor Hospital for Children, it is importing the fluoride into Cambodia.   With the appropriate training, The Savong Foundation hopes to serve at least 5000 students in 10 schools each year. 

SECRET WEAPON
 
Dr. Dilshad Sumar is an American pediatric dentist who is currently an advisor to the Board of Directors.  She has donated significant time and money to the dental program at the Angkor Hospital for Children and has worked hard to make our fluoride rinse program a reality.  
GET INVOLVED!
 
Volunteers are welcomed, especially in areas of fundraising, marketing and social media crowd sourcing. Interested people can contact me atPhil@savongfoundation.org.    
CONTACT INFO:



 

PROTECTING AND EMPOWERING THE WOMEN AND GIRLS OF DARFUR

 

 

The Solar Cooker Project (a project of Jewish World Watch) is committed to protecting refugees, who have fled the genocide in Darfur, from rape and other forms of violence.   These women and girls are particularly vulnerable to rape and attack by local Chadians and roaming militia while performing the critical task of collecting firewood for cooking.
 
The mission is to reduce the frequency of these crimes by providing an alternative cooking option: the solar cooker.  Solar cookers, using only the energy of the sun, enable women to remain within the relative safety of the camp by reducing their dependency on wood.

THE FACES OF THE 'SOLAR COOKER PROJECT'
 
 
 
Rachel Andres
Director of the Solar Cooker Project.
 
Rachel Andres has built a national interfaith coalition raising awareness and funds to provide simple equipment that dramatically reduces the risk of violence for Darfuri refugees.  She is the recipient of the 2008 Charles Bronfman Prize which celebrates the vision and talent of an individual whose humanitarian work has contributed significantly to the betterment of the world.   



 
Brie Loskota
Chair, Solar Cooker Project (SCP) Advisory Committee,
Board Member, Jewish World Watch.
 
Since the creation of the SCP, Brie has offered her expertise, guidance and support in shaping strategy, performing evaluations and securing funding. Professionally, she serves as the Managing Director of The Center for Religion and Civic Culture at University of Southern California (USC).

LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT
 
The Solar Cooker Project, working with UK based Cord, began operations in our fourth refugee camp.  In working with Cord, we realized that an added benefit to the Solar Cooker Project is that we help girls stay in school.  Without solar cookers, girls were missing school often due to the enormous amount of time it took (often 10 hour trips outside the camps) to search for firewood.  We plan to start a new Solar Cooker Project in early 2013 in a fifth camp home to approximately 18,000 refugees.  
 
Hot off the Press: The Solar Cooker Project produced a “Best Practices Manual and 11 minute mini-documentary” to document the work with refugees in Chad in order to expand solar cooking by helping other NGOs and international organizations.

SECRET WEAPONS:
 
 
Diane Kabat, Board Member, Jewish World Watch

The multi-talented Diane Kabat is one of the superstars in the fight for our cause. As a JWW Board member, Diane Kabat has been involved with the SCP since it began.  Her generosity of time and spirit and leadership skills have helped to build the Solar Cooker Project into an international success story.
 

GET INVOLVED!

A gift of just $40 provides 2 solar cookers to a refugee woman to cook for her family, stay safe and keep her daughters in school.

To get involved or create your own fundraiser for the SCP, contact the Solar Cooker Project at solarcookers@jww.org  or 818-501-1836 ext. 250.  We will help you brainstorm ideas for a project or event, send you our “Event Planning Kit” to get you started, and update you on the status of the project.
 
DONATE:   www.solarcookerproject.org


CONTACT INFO:
 
www.solarcookerproject.org
www.jww.org
solarcookers@jww.org

Rachel Andres
Director, Solar Cooker Project
Jewish World Watch
Rachel@jww.org
818-501-1836 ext. 250

 
 


 
 
 
 THE TAGUM CITY FOOD BANK
 
FEEDING THE MALNOURISHED CHILDREN OF MINDANAO
 

The Tagum City Food Bank restores severely malnourished children to healthy weight thru weekly feedings, nutrition classes for the Moms and distribution of rice. The childrens' weight is tracked weekly using the BMI index.


THE FACES OF TAGUM CITY FOOD BANK
 
 
 
Chef David Wasson
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Tagum City Food Bank

Chef David Wasson, Founder and Executive Director of the Tagum City Food Bank, is a  local legend in Mindanao.  After a successful career as a chef in Seattle, Washington, he arrived in Mindanao, two years ago, hoping to retire.  What he found shocked him:  hungry children — hundreds of them, some whom he determined to be malnourished and others, severely malnourished.  So — instead of retiring, he did what he had to do: he partnered with the Chef and Child Foundation and the Tagum City Rotery Club to open the Tagum City Food Bank.  
 
The Tagum City Food Bank now serves as a lifesaving resource for the local population.  In addition to providing regular weekly balanced meals, Wasson offers nutrition classes for the parents as well as free rice distributions to supplement his weekly meals.  Wasson has even been known to dip into his own pocket to pay for medical correction needed for children with clubbed feet and cleft palates.  
 

SECRET WEAPON(S):

Helen Reclusado, Head Barangay Health Worker

Emele Caboratan, Manager 

Attny. Luel Mundez

Dr. Glenn Pono


LATEST ACCOMPLISHMENT

In the last two years, Tagum City Food Bank has restored to health 327 severely malnourished 0-6 year old babies.

 

GET INVOLVED!

Donate Here: http://www.tagumfoodbank.org/

 

CONTACT 

David Wasson CCC, CCE, chef.wasson@gmail.com

Facebook Page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Tagum-City-Food-bank/141204399234728

Tagum City Food Bank


Related articles:  Chef David Wasson and the Tagum City Food Bank: One Year Later



 
 
 
 
 
 
PREPARING COMMUNITIES

FOR THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE

 
The Transition Movement is comprised of vibrant, grassroots community initiatives that seek to build community resilience in the face of such challenges as peak oil, climate change and the economic crisis. Transition Initiatives differentiate themselves from other sustainability and "environmental" groups by seeking to mitigate these converging global crises by engaging their communities in home-grown, citizen-led education, action, and multi-stakeholder planning to increase local self reliance and resilience. –Transition website

LATEST PROJECT
 
The 360 Home & Garden Challenge: A diverse coalition of groups, including over 40 school, church, business, non-profit and civic partners,  organized toward an ambitious goal: get 350 gardens planted in Sonoma County over the course of one weekend. Ultimately, 628 gardens were planted or revitalized, and the participants used the event as an opportunity to raise awareness about the importance of local food production, water conservancy, cutting greenhouse gas emissions, supporting local business, and community resiliency.  See article on the 350 website for more info. 
 
 
THE FACES OF 'TRANSITION U.S.'
 
 
 
Carolyne Stayton
Executive Director
Transition U.S.

Carolyne Stayton has successfully galvanized communities around various social issues and has particular expertise in program development, participative leadership and "learning" organizations.  She has served as Director of New College's North Bay Campus for Sustainable Living, an innovative educationoal institution that promoted advanced studies in leadership and community-building and developed the nation's first "green" MBA program. 
 
Carolyne has a master's degree in Nonprofit Administration, resides in Sebastopol, California, and is passionate about stewardship and protection of the natural world.
 

SECRET WEAPONS

Every volunteer, the lifeblood of the Transition movement.


GET INVOLVED!

Donate here.
CONTACT INFO

Facebook



 
INDIVIDUALS MAKING AN IMPACT

 

Los Angeles Attorney, Mother-of-three and Godsend for the Los Angeles homeless and low income community who need veterinary care for their companion animals

 

Analee Brodie
 
 
Los Angeles attorney Analee Brodie did not set out to become an animal activist.  She practices full time in Los Angeles, and she is a wife and a mother of three small children.  By anyone’s standards, her plate is more than full.  
 

She began helping companion animals of the homeless when she passed the Occupy L.A. site on her way to work one morning, and noticed a small kitten playing in the garbage.  On closer inspection, she saw that it’s eye was squeezed shut from infection and it had a hard tight belly – filled with worms.  Once she determined that the kitten was a stray, she took it to work with her, then to the vet for treatment. That’s when her conscience wouldn’t let her rest.  “If there was one kitten that needed help there, I knew there had to be more”, she said. 

 
So, back she went the next morning to the Occupy site and found slews of animals that needed care.  “All of them needed to be fed, spayed and neutered," she said, "and there were scores that needed treatment for infections of one kind of another.”  In the next two weeks, she managed, with the help of other animal activists, to arrange transport for many of them to the vet for care.  Before she knew it, she became one of the most visible figures of what was then called "The Occupuppy Project."  
 
The Occupuppy Project may have faded, but Analee's passion has not.  She continues this work on her own time, driven purely by her love and compassion for animals.  “The message here is that there is an enormous underserved animal population in the homeless community. 
 
IN HER OWN WORDS
 

I help homeless and low-income-earning people get veterinary care for their cats and dogs, especially spaying/neutering, vaccinations and microchips.  For many people, basic vet care is financially out of reach, and as a result their pets suffer. Recently, I raised several thousand dollars from kind strangers to obtain eye surgery for two kittens born with a painful blinding eyelid deformity. 
 
But on a good day, I arrange transportation for companion animals of the homeless community to a free or low cost vet for spaying/neutering, and I try to raise money to pay for vet services that are not free: flea treatment, abcesses, care for injuries or illness.
THE PUBLIC SHOULD KNOW
 
It is much easier to PREVENT suffering than to alleviate it!  Spaying and neutering your dogs and cats is so important as long as there are countless unwanted animals in shelters and on the streets.  Even basic vet care is financially out of reach for many people, so the cycle of disease, abandonment, and suffering continues.  
 
And please support any local vet or organization offering free or low-cost spay/neuter, such as 1-888-SPAY-4-LA, a state-of-the-art mobile clinic that offers FREE spay/neuter in downtown Los Angeles.
 
GET INVOLVED!
 
Contact Analee to donate transportation, money, pet supplies, or if you are a veternarian, or veternarian staff who can offer free or discounted services to homeless and almost-no-income pet owners.

Contact info:  Analee Brodie (909) 730-0675 or

analeebrodie@gmail.com



 
WORKING TO ERADICATE ANIMAL CRUELTY IN OUR WORLD
 
 
 
Elliot Katz, DVM
Founder, The Guardian Campaign
President Emeritus, In Defense of Animals
 

 
 
Dr. Elliot Katz began his second career in animal advocacy, when as a young veterinarian in in the 1970's, he successfully challenged the University of California at Berkeley for the deplorable conditions in which they kept the dogs in their research labs.  In 1983 he founded In Defense of Animals, which has grown into one of the premier animal advocacy organizations in the world today. 

The Guardian Campaign is an outgrowth of his life's work, which attempts to instill a sense of respect, responsibility and compassion for the animals with which (whom!) we share our lives and our planet.  It works through a substitution of one word that defines our relationship with them: rather than "owners", we must be "guardians", or  protectors of the animals in the orbit of our lives.
 
Dr. Katz now a national figure and the activists of The Guardian Campaign have made inroads into changing the perception of our relationship with animals.  They have partnered with organizations committed to spreading the word about The Guardian Campaign, they have developed curricula for teachers, they have worked with city officials to develop new language for resolutions and ordinances.  Thus far, more than twenty U.S. cities are identified as "Guardian communities" –they have included the term "guardian in their bylaws which reference treatment of animals — and more than six million Americans and Canadians have taken the "guardian pledge".
 
In a prior Action Now+Network article we wrote, "This campaign not only has the potential to significantly reduce animal cruelty and abandonment, but also to redefine the boundaries, to expand the definition of compassion, and to rewrite the script for treatment of animals in a way that has not been accomplished before."   This is true now, more than ever.
 

Email emk@idausa.org
 


A FORMIDABLE WARRIOR FOR OUR NATION'S LAST WILD HORSES


Laura Leigh
President and Founder

 
 


 
Laura Leigh has devoted her life to documenting the plight of the wild horses; she has taken it upon herself to patrol the plains of Nevada, living out of her truck, in an effort to stop the clock from signaling the end of the wild horse on our prairies. 
 
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) according to Leigh, is clearing the land of wild horses  in favor of grazing and drilling rights for corporate ranchers and for other private interests.  In the process, they are not only in violation of The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 which sought to create multiple use areas on the land but they  are destroying a national treasure and heritage which  belongs to us all.
 
Leigh has traveled to multiple states and has witnessed more roundups and management areas in the last two years than any other person including government personnel.  And – more importantly – she has used the U.S. Court system to go "head to head" with the government –advocating, often successfully, to put an end to inhumane roundups on the Nevada plains.   
 
IN HER OWN WORDS

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I advocate for wild horses. I document horses from the range through (their) holding (period) or adoption. I utilize that documentation to take pertinent issues into the Courtroom and news media and attempt to work with BLM toward finding solutions.

WHY?
 
A convoluted set of amendments and laws have been set in place to weaken any protection these animals have. You are their only voice.
 
We have created five wins in the Court system in the last two years.

Last month I won two more Court decisions. In Jackson Mountain, the Bureau of Land Management used a small area where drought conditions existed, to try to roundup an entire Herd Management Area during the "prohibited foaming season".   We were able to hold them to the area of emergency during foaling season.

We also won another victory in the battle to achieve a humane care policy. During a roundup last summer I shut down a roundup after catching the helicopter pilot hitting a horse. We were able to extend that verdict beyond the end of that single roundup. That victory was achieved based on new case law based on a First Amendment suit that won on Appeal in the Ninth Circuit (note: I wrote a good portion of that Appeal).

Both the First Amendment suit and the Humane care suit have become active again as we prepare to head into discovery.

THE PUBLIC SHOULD KNOW:

This is your land and these are your resources. Right now your tax dollars are being used for private interests which profit off the land.  In that process…a living symbol of your Freedom is fast disappearing.

GET INVOLVED!

EDUCATE yourself on the issues.  

Visit our website, subscribe to the action alerts, volunteer and donate.  We are a small organization and are able to exist only through your generous donations.


CONTACT INFO:

 wildhorseeducation@gmail.com

http://wildhorseeducation.org/
https://www.facebook.com/WildHorseEducation

SEE ALSO:

Advocate Laura Leigh and the Battle Royal to Save the Nation's Wild Horses



PULLING BACK THE CURTAIN ON ETHICS IN WILDLIFE FILMMAKING   


 Chris Palmer, Ph.D.
Distinguished Film Producer in Residence
American University School of Communication
Director, Center for Environmental Filmmaking
 
 
 

 

Chris Palmer has had a long and illustrious career in wildlife filmmaking.  He has worked with the industry greats, from Ted Turner to National Geographic, and he has received numerous awards in recognition of his work, including two Emmys and an Oscar nomination.

In 2010 he shook the wildlife film industry to its core when he published Shooting In The Wild, An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom, an expose in which he revealed to the world how the films are made, financed and edited and distributed, with rarely a thought to ethics or conservation.

Palmer joined the full-time faculty at American University in August 2004 as Distinguished Film Producer in Residence and founded the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at the School of Communication, which he currently directs and from where he now happily mentors the future wildlife documentarians.  He is also President of One World One Ocean Foundation, located in Laguna Beach, California.

IN HIS OWN WORDS:

WHAT DO YOU DO?

I run the Center for Environmental Filmmaking at American University in Washington DC, and I’m the president of the One World One Ocean Foundation in Laguna Beach, CA. Through these organizations, I devote my life to conservation, to producing films that make a difference, and to educating the next generation of environmental and wildlife filmmakers.

My goal to win wider support for treating animals and the natural world with respect, care, and love.

WHY?

If we don’t do these things, then the world is going to continue to spiral downwards, propelled by over population, climate change, loss of biodiversity, toxic pollution, and a dozen other major problems which are ruining this beautiful planet. And I do it because films are an effective way to give animals and nature a “voice” that they themselves don’t have.

WHAT SHOULD THE PUBLIC KNOW?

Please don’t support films that harass or goad animals, that involve unethical deception (for example, by surreptitiously using rented animals from inhumane game farms), or that carry anti-conservation messages (for example, that sharks are man-eating monsters).

Contact information:  palmer@american.edu.

cell 202-716-6160; office 202-885-3408; home 301-654-6137
Center website: www.environmentalfilm.org

President, One World One Ocean Foundation
President, MacGillivray Freeman Films Educational Foundation
 
SEE ALSO:
 
 

 

Did you like this? Share it:

PEOPLE TO WATCH: LISA LEEMAN, DIRECTOR OF ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT

Thursday, April 5th, 2012
 
 
 
ELEPHANTS IN CAPTIVITY: DOES ANYONE GET IT RIGHT?

A CONVERSATION WITH LISA LEEMAN
 
ACCLAIMED DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER AND

DIRECTOR OF ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT
 
 
 

 
“At its heart, this film asks – demands – that we reconsider our relationship to all animals” – Lisa Leeman
 
 
“Elephants are human animals; their emotional makeup identical to our own, their caring and compassion probably surpassing that of humans. They mourn the loss of a loved one just as deeply as we do, so it is not difficult to regard and love the orphans as one would one’s own child.”– Dame Daphne Sheldrick, The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust
 
 
One of the best documentary films of 2011 – Roger Ebert
 
 
By Jonathan Arkin
 
 
 
EDITOR’S PROLOGUE
 
 
 
When Action Now+Network writer Jonathan Arkin mentioned that he’d like to interview his former USC film school instructor, Lisa Leeman, who had directed the recently released One Lucky Elephant, my immediate response was an enthusiastic “Wonderful!” I knew One Lucky Elephant was not only a moving human interest story, but an important film for its message about the emotional and physical perils of attempting to retrofit wild animals into our urban commercial world. This has long been a key issue for Action Now+Network, and has been expounded upon in numerous features on the site. This interview, I thought, would be another great opportunity to drive the point home. 

 
But what I didn’t know at the time, was that Leeman’s personal philosophy, which was shaped by the ten year gestation of the film, reflects much more than a view on the dilemma of bringing wild animals into our world. Rather, with this film, she “wants to open hearts and minds to the possibility that we should reconsider how we regard, and treat, animals, and ultimately, the earth herself”. This perspective enriches the experience of the film for the moviegoer on two counts: it gives us the impetus to revisit our deep connection to all sentient animal life, and it offers us a challenge to redefine our own humanity through a renewed respect for their nature, their habitats  and for their place on our planet.
 
In this context, Leeman’s interview is especially relevant because the elephants’  fate in our 21st century culture is so tragic. In the wild, they face near extinction at the hands of Chinese poaching cartels that have infiltrated the preserves and savannahs in central and east Africa, and the deforestation industries (logging and palm oil) in Indonesia. 
 
In captivity, with few exceptions, elephants are viewed as chattel, and despite their extremely high intelligence and their human-like range of emotions, they are subjected to a life that Arkin appropriately describes in the feature below, as animal slavery.  
 
The brutal methods used to capture and “tame” wild elephants for commercial work have been well documented both in film and in undercover video.   In the last few years, activist organizations have been especially vigilant in their exposure of inhumane conditions in which elephants are kept in zoos or trained for use in performing venues like circuses and films. Recent lawsuits brought against the notoriously cruel Ringling Brothers Circus and Have Trunk Will Travel, have graphically illuminated the abuses that take place.  
 
We know now that each ticket purchased for an exotic elephant trek or children’s ride, to a zoo or a circus or even to some films that feature animal “stars”, supports an industry that not only destroys the elephant family structure both physically and psychologically but it breaks the spirit of these gentle beings, just as surely as a life in chains and confinement would break a human.
 
An extraordinary exception to this heartrending scenario is the story of David Balding and his beloved Flora, so eloquently told by Leeman and her One Lucky Elephant production team. Balding adopted two year old, orphaned Flora, and  developed a remarkable and loving relationship with her – a relationship that inevitably forced him to ask the painful questions about their lives together and to make the ultimate sacrifice in order to value and protect her.
 
NOTE: One Lucky Elephant has been nominated in the best Documentary category for an HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) Genesis AwardBe sure to watch the Award show on Animal Planet May 5 at 4:00 p.m. EST/PST and May 6 at 8:00 a.m. EST/PST. If you haven't yet seen One Lucky Elephant, you can buy the DVD at this link.
 
Arkin’s enlightening interview follows below.
 
 
ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT: ILLUMINATING THE ESSENTIAL DILEMMA THROUGH A LOVING HUMAN-ANIMAL BOND

This past year has not been a particularly kind one to elephants.

While it was widely reported by the Indo-Asian News Service that 1,500 elephants were killed in 2011 for their ivory – 300 in the African nation of Cameroon alone  (other reports place the number at closer to 3000)– some of these large, majestic, intelligent animals are being subjected to a different kind of tragedy.  Various forms of captivity, or animal “slavery”, in which they are primarily used or  “trained”  to entertain audiences for profit, has been quietly decimating wild elephant populations in another way: through the forced attrition and confinement of herds.

Fortunately, there are some encouraging signs that their plight is being addressed: activist organizations, assisted by strong online support and visibility, are taking direct steps to assist elephants in danger.

But nothing is as effective as a good film with a strong message, as they would say at USC’s film school.

In late 2010, Action Now Network reported on documentary filmmaker Tim Gorski’s compelling How I Became an Elephant , his earlier The Elephant Lady and the efforts of animal rights advocates to move these captive elephants into dedicated nature reserves.

And now, documentary Producer/Director Lisa Leeman, a member of the faculty at University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, has had her decade-long study of one of the more positive human-animal relationships ever caught on film embraced by a major television network, Oprah Winfry’s OWN.



 
Lisa Leeman
Director, One Lucky Elephant, and Adjunct Faculty, Cinematic Arts,
University of Southern California
 
 
“I believe that real social change happens from the heart up to the head, not the head down to the heart” – Lisa Leeman, Director, One Lucky Elephant


“I’ve always been drawn to make films that have positive consequences for the planet and its inhabitants,” Leeman told Action Now Network. “The films I’ve made reach people through their hearts – I believe that real social change happens from the heart up to the head, not the head down to the heart.”
 

“[It’s] hard to think that maybe I’d made a mistake to take this elephant’s life and merge it with mine…..We needed another life for her. She needed to be an elephant. Not a dog. Or a daughter.” – David Balding, in One Lucky Elephant.
 


The Los Angeles-based director-producer always knew that films had the power to move people if the story and imagery were compelling enough.

“We need to get the word out about elephants,” Leeman said about her film, One Lucky Elephant, which was produced by three enterprising women – Cristina Colissimo, Jordana Glick-Franzheim and Miriam Cutler. “Our film helps audiences realize that elephants are remarkably intelligent, social, emotional creatures, with personality, who experience joy, sadness, are playful, mourn, get silly, etcetera. The more people that see our film, the better for elephants!”



 
Flora with Balding on his wedding day
 
Ten years in the making and released theatrically in New York and Los Angeles, then on the Oprah Winfrey Network late in 2011, One Lucky Elephant tells the story of Flora, an orphaned African elephant who was “adopted” by a man named David Balding and trained to work in a small circus.  The film traces Balding’s growing relationship with Flora, leading to an extraordinary bond that becomes a paradox as Flora’s craving for freedom also grows.
 
“[It’s] hard to think that maybe I’d made a mistake to take this elephant’s life and merge it with mine,” Balding says in One Lucky Elephant. “I guess I’m not one hundred percent rational about this.”
 

THE BIG PICTURE FOR ANIMALS IN CAPTIVITY: DOES ANYONE GET IT RIGHT? 
 
And this very struggle between what is right for the elephant and what seems right, raises what is perhaps the film’s dominant question: Does anyone get it right when making decisions about animals in captivity?

The obviously kind-hearted Balding is movingly honest in the film about his own mixed feelings, as he discovers that elephants face dangers from poachers even in so-called “protected” preserves.

“There really aren’t any good options,” Balding says in the film as he mulls over choices to leave Flora at various shelters and preserves. “I could give her to a zoo, but I want her to have a better life than that…we searched a lot of different places, and none of them seemed right for Flora.”

I learned how elephants live in the wild and how rarely elephants’ needs are met in captivity…watching David try to find the best home for Flora was to see, finally, that she’s caught between two worlds and belongs fully to neither.

The two “co-protagonists” in this “10,000 pound love story” were designed to draw attention to the plight of elephants not through didactic or melodramatic cinema, but by the creation of strong character and the deft use of camera work to magnify important emotions.
 


 
                    Baby Flora
 
 
Filmed in segments over that ten-year period, One Lucky Elephant follows the story of Flora and Balding’s poignant relationship. The film begins to focus on Balding’s realization that Flora would be better off in the wild, with her needs met and her instinctive social habits less curtailed. But as Flora’s career as a reluctant big-top star comes to a close, the dilemma over what to do, where to do it (and how), takes center ring.

Leeman calls One Lucky Elephant “a cautionary tale” about human manipulation of the natural world.

“As the story unfolded,” Leeman said in her director’s statement, “I learned how elephants live in the wild and how rarely elephants’ needs are met in captivity…watching David try to find the best home for Flora was to see, finally, that she’s caught between two worlds and belongs fully to neither. She was raised among humans, but they cannot fulfill her deepest needs; she needs to be with other elephants, but she hasn’t learned how to integrate with her own kind. She’s a fish out of water, whether with humans or with other elephants.”

One of the film’s more unsettling moments has Flora placed in a holding area near another, more dominant elephant. The sheer power that such large (10,000 pounds) animals exhibit becomes uncomfortably obvious as the two get confrontational–and yet another option for Flora has to be abandoned. A later effort proved more successful.
 

A CHARACTER DRIVEN APPROACH TELLS A UNIQUE STORY
 
Leeman, the director of innovative, intimate and probing documentaries such as Metamorphosis: Man into Woman and Out of Faith, says that she was not drawn into the project until actually coming into contact with Flora, and that the film did not begin to take its final shape until 2006, several years into the Balding-Flora saga.  That year, media features had just begun to turn the public’s attention to the deep familial and social needs of elephants in the wild and the damaging impact of human intervention on them. Tim Gorski released The Elephant Lady and an influential feature article in The New York Times Magazine called attention to an elephantine, human-caused version of post traumatic stress syndrome that had been taking hold in elephant communities.

One of the producers of the film – and its composer, who Leeman said was instrumental in getting the project off the ground and into the can – is Miriam Cutler, who says that her colleague, Leeman, is “driven” and “heartfelt” in her approach to this and other emotional subjects.
 
“Originally I was the one who knew about Flora, since I met her as a baby,” said producer Cutler, who at the time was also the music composer for the circus in which Flora performed. “In 2000, David said he was going to retire her and send her back to Africa, so I got really excited about capturing her story in a documentary film. Lisa was one of the first people I called, because I know that when she works on a film, she instinctively hones in on the heart and soul themes of a story. She is very heartfelt and intelligent about those issues.”

What we have come to understand is that we need to change the human dominance model of how we exist on this planet, this model which is not working. We must acknowledge that we are just one species in the web of life – recognize we are part of this greater ecosystem. Until we do that, we are going to be in trouble. –Miriam Cutler, Producer
 
While working on the film, we all learned so much about the harm that’s done to animals in captivity. They are incredibly sensitive creatures, and Lisa was adept at mining and articulating all of that.”

Producer Cristina Colissimo, who also coordinates relief and fundraising efforts for Flora’s continued care on behalf of the filmmakers, agrees.

“Lisa is probably the hardest working director I know!” Colissimo said. “She brings her editor's eye to her directing style, which is heaven for producers. She also does her homework, creating a palette of information and emotion to draw from when interviewing her subjects.”

 
 
 
“I felt from the start that Lisa was the only director to do this,” added Cutler. “Because I didn’t want it to be a manipulative story. I wanted to get it through the heart. I wanted this to be from the point of view of a real character who happens to be an elephant. We grappled a lot with how to tell this story, for me it was always very clear that this would be a heartfelt story in which people would learn about these issues by closely identifying with the characters, and Lisa was very on board with that from the beginning.”
 
The character-driven approach seemed to resonate with not only the women who drove the film forward, but with audiences.

“We didn’t feel there were any villains in the story, we wanted people to find their own way in,” Cutler said. “Flora is not just some animal. Lisa has this way of getting to the heart of things. It’s not black-and-white – there is a lot of gray area here. She gives the audience that access to the grey areas that are more nuanced. She is also analytical, highly developed in each area and is easily able to switch. She is my ‘Method’ director. She is able to stay with the heart of things, but she is still so thorough…trying to understand the different aspects of a story.”
 

WHY DOCUMENTARIES?
 
 

 
Flora at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee
 
 
“It so interesting, this kind of work, it takes your entire life, so you want it to have meaning,” Cutler said. “That’s why people like us pick documentaries, ones that may have some impact.

What we have come to understand is that we need to change the human dominance model of how we exist on this planet, this model which is not working. We must acknowledge that we are just one species in the web of life – recognize we are part of this greater ecosystem. Until we do that, we are going to be in trouble. The more we try to control everything…to dominate, the more trouble we will get into.”

And the emotions that exist in the film seem to spill out to viewers as well, spiking fervent interest in the screenings of the film on OWN.

“Elephants are smart and emotional creatures,” Leeman said in a recent interview.  “One of my greatest joys connected to the film was when an audience member came up to me after watching the film and said he’ll never look at elephants in the circus or zoo the same way again.”

Now, with OWN airing her work, Leeman told Action Now Network about her personal feelings regarding animals in the wild, while she shares with her producing classes the pitfalls of distribution and the plight of women directors in a male-dominated business.

“Remember the quote attributed to Gandhi – ‘Be the change you want to see in the world,’” explained Leeman. “[My films] offer different ways to look at the world, different ways to be in the world…meditation, non-reactivity, a practice cultivating peace, happiness, equanimity…all of which the world desperately needs, as well as compassion, and realizing that all beings on the planet are interconnected and part of the same fabric of the being. That realization decreases aggression and the ease of seeing other cultures and other religions as ‘the other’ and the lesser.”

Leeman’s strong connection to meditative practice has also led her to focus on extraordinary individuals who teach and share, thus leading her to make her most recent films (Crazy Wisdom and Yogananda) about great thinkers and socio-religious struggle.

THE HUMANE SOCIETY AND ROGER EBERT: ULTIMATE ACCOLADES
 
One of my greatest joys connected to the film was when an audience member came up to me after watching the film and said he’ll never look at elephants in the circus or zoo the same way again – Lisa Leeman
 
Adding to the recent buzz surrounding Leeman’s film, One Lucky Elephant was just nominated for best feature documentary of the year at the 26th Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) Genesis Awards, which recognizes films that carry animal-friendly themes.

“I’m thrilled and honored that One Lucky Elephant is nominated,” Leeman said. “The Humane Society does such good and important work…to improve the lives of animals in captivity and the wild – and it’s great that the Genesis awards can bring further attention to [these] issues. We’re in great company [with the other nominees]. Being nominated will bring added attention to the plight of elephants. There are over 600 in captivity in North America, and most are living in circumstances that don’t meet their physical or emotional needs.”

She adds that those who have seen One Lucky Elephant have changed both their behavior and perspective after seeing the film, making her realize how important the cinema can be in raising awareness.

“I’ve said that the films I tend to make are ‘sideways social issue films, i.e., not necessarily straight-on advocacy films,” said Leeman, whose Crazy Wisdom is now in theatres, “but nonetheless, films that get at opening hearts and minds and helping us to see other people and other creatures unlike ourselves with compassion, understanding and acceptance. We’ve had so many people tell us that after seeing our film, they see elephants in a whole new light, and will no longer support zoos and circuses that keep elephants in captivity.”
 
Another special honor for Leeman was a nod from the preeminent film critic, Roger Ebert, who called One Lucky Elephant one the best documentary films of 2011. The film was also selected to be part of the American Documentary Showcase, a U.S. State Department cultural program that showcases American nonfiction films in countries around the world.
 

A CHARACTER DRIVEN FILM THAT ASKS US TO RECONSIDER THE WAY WE REGARD AND TREAT ANIMALS
 
Leeman is quick to point out that, although she is concerned with the welfare of animals and that her work has made her re-examine relationships with her own pets, One Lucky Elephant was not meant to be solely a “social issue film” but instead was designed to be character-driven. She believes that we need to self-examine our profound influence on nature much in the way David Balding does in the film.

 “[The film] doesn’t have ‘experts’ decrying the mistreatment of elephants in circuses and zoos,” she said.  “But at its heart, this film asks – demands – that we reconsider our relationship to all animals. I’ve become interested in more than simply showing that circuses and zoos are not good environments for elephants – I want to open hearts and minds to the possibility that we should reconsider how we regard, and treat, animals, and ultimately, the earth herself. That perhaps our impulse to dominate our surroundings, whether it’s one species or our environment, is misguided.”
 
Film helps spread the message. Activism helps get the information out. And much as we recognize the remarkable long-term memory of elephants, the message is not one that will be easily forgotten.


 

Flora arriving at the sanctuary
 
 
 
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT ONE LUCKY ELEPHANT
 


Find out more about Lisa Leeman at  http://www.lisaleeman.com

 

 
FACT: Elephants are one of the most intelligent, sensitive, highly social species of land mammal on the planet.
 
FACT: Elephants live in families led by a matriarch; the young bull elephants leave the family at the age of 12 or 13; the females stay together as a family unit for life.  They roam in the wild up to 30 miles per day.
 
FACT: Elephants live up to 70 years in the wild. Their gestation period is 22 months, and calves nurse for up to two years.
 
 
FACT: Elephants grieve for days over the bodies of their dead.
 
FACT: Elephants cry, play, have incredible memories, and make joyful gestures to one another!
 
FACT: Elephants have greeting ceremonies when a friend that has been away for some time returns to the group.
 
FACT: Elephants are essential to their ecosystems and are the major dispersers of seeds (in their dung) which replenish the Amazon forests.
 

FOR MORE INFORMATION AND RESOURCES ON ELEPHANTS, SEE:
 
 
 
 

 
ATTN:  HOLLYWOOD FILM AND TV INDUSTRY 

 
 

Jonathan Arkin is a graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication & Journalism.  He currently lives in southern California.

Did you like this? Share it:

SAVING ELEPHANTS BY CUTTING THE ILLEGAL IVORY SUPPLY CHAIN

Sunday, March 25th, 2012

SAVING ELEPHANTS BY CUTTING THE ILLEGAL IVORY SUPPLY CHAIN

 

By Fred O'Regan

March 21, 2012

INTERNATIONAL FUND FOR ANIMAL WELFARE

 

The illegal ivory trade starts with the slaughter of elephants, continues with wildlife traffickers smuggling ivory across international borders and ends with the under-the-counter sale of carvings, signature stamps and trinkets, in marketplaces in Asia and online.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare is working to cut the supply chain at all its major touch points by training rangers in anti-poaching techniques, lobbying politicians to take action to block the sale of ivory, collaborating with customs and law enforcement authorities to arrest black-market sellers and reducing consumer demand through out the world, especially China, one of the largest consumers of wildlife products including ivory.

Did you like this? Share it:

Whose Home on the Range? Advocate Laura Leigh and the Battle Royale to Protect America’s Wild Horses

Friday, February 3rd, 2012

 

 

WHOSE HOME ON THE RANGE?

 

ADVOCATE LAURA LEIGH AND THE BATTLE ROYALE

TO SAVE THE NATION’S WILD HORSES 

 

 

Video copyright Laura Leigh/ Wild Horse Education

 “My ‘agenda’ is that the wild horses be managed according to the law and that they’re managed humanely.   It is to look for protection for these horses within the limits of the law, and to get as much information as possible out to the public.”

 

By Jonathan Arkin

 

           

THE WILD HORSE: READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP

In the song Wild Horses, released by the Rolling Stones in 1971, Mick Jagger sings of a love gone astray and laments: “I have my freedom…but don’t have much time.” In an ironic and cruel coincidence, a piece of legislation born that very same year – and grossly misapplied since – has marked for time the very freedom of those wild horses Jagger longed to “ride some day.” 

 

Wild horses, the iconic symbol of the American spirit and soul, are rapidly disappearing from their lands, in a controversy/debacle of monumental proportions.  At center stage is The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), pitted squarely against the wild horse advocacy community.   The BLM is the government agency that administers America’s public lands –all 253 million acres of it.   Free roaming horses and burros roam the public lands in ten western states and are federally protected by the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, which mandates that they be “managed in a thriving ecological balance with the land and as part of the natural landscape.”  Within this language lies the conflict.

 

The 1971 law technically designates the public land as "multi-use", which means it can be allocated for livestock grazing, for the wild horses and burros, and for other uses, including oil and gas drilling, and mineral mining.  It is the responsibility of the BLM to determine the “thriving ecological balance”, and to manage the “excess” free roaming animals in a humane manner, either through adoption, euthanasia, or other methods. 

 

THE CONTROVERSY: LAND MANAGEMENT, PRIVATE INTERESTS AND ANIMAL PROTECTION

At the heart of the controversy are the closely linked issues of land management, private interests and animal protection: The BLM, directed by the U.S. Congress to protect the wild horses via the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, stands accused by advocacy groups of instead, decimating their numbers through management methods which are held by the advocates to be both inhumane and illegal. 

 

In fact, the BLM is increasingly allocating the lands on which the wild horses roam, to the oil and gas and mining industries, and also to the ranchers who pay to graze their cattle, at a fraction of what it would cost them to graze on private lands.  In the interest of evacuating the roaming areas used by the “excess” wild horses, the BLM holds bloody round ups, via helicopter stampedes  which drive the horses into government holding pens.   

 

 


Photo copyright Laura Leigh/ Wild Horse Education

 

Photo copyright Laura Leigh/ Wild Horse Education

Doomed horse after roundup


The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a coalition of 40 prominent advocacy organizations states on its website: “From over 2 million in the 1800s, America’s wild horse population has dwindled to fewer than 33,000. There are now more wild horses in government holding pens than remain in the wild, with many of the remaining herds managed at population levels that do not guarantee their long-term survival. Still, the round-ups continue.”

 

The public outcry has not gone unheard: A 2009 amendment to the 1971 Act, the Restore Our American Mustangs Act (ROAm), which would have approved standards of performance and accountability was proposed, and died in Committee. 

 

 In 2010, two major advocacy organizations, The Equine Welfare Alliance and  The Cloud Foundation, reported that 54 members of Congress sent a strong letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “urging a halt to BLM roundups, citing concern about the trauma, injuries and deaths caused in the helicopter stampedes and raising questions about BLM’s “flawed” and “unsustainable” wild horse management policy.”

 

For its part, the BLM maintains through a blitz of PR articles, that the wild horse and burro population is larger than public lands can support and that its goal is to remove the excess animals from the land to areas where they can be adopted or sold to private buyers who will provide good homes.   The BLM claims that activists have mounted a campaign to mislead the public and distort the BLM’s motives and intentions regarding wild horse management on public lands. 

 

Strikingly, the photographic evidence in favor of the activists’ arguments belies the BLM position, and is difficult to ignore.  It shows that the horses are stampeded over miles, sometimes in 100 degree heat, to exhaustion (and often, to death) by low flying choppers, before their arrival at government holding pens.  Moreover, the BLM has set forth a management plan which includes controversial mass castration of the herds without sufficient analysis of the long term impact on their survival.

 

Photo copyright Laura Leigh/ Wild Horse Education

 

Advocates say that the BLM is firmly in the pocket of the mining and ranching interests and is in clear violation of the federal law.  They have initiated a spate of lawsuits against the BLM, which challenge the methodology of the roundups, the First Amendment rights of reporters to document the abuses, as well as the government methods for numbers control — castration management issues– all of which they claim, have been “trampled” by the special interests.

 

LAURA LEIGH: A LIFE DEVOTED TO SAVING THE WILD HORSES

One, advocate, Laura Leigh, is devoting her life to documenting the plight of the wild horses; she has taken it upon herself to patrol the plains of Nevada, living out of her truck, in an effort to stop the clock from signaling the end of the wild horse on our prairies.  According to Leigh, she has traveled to six states and has witnessed more roundups and management areas in the last two years than any other person including government personnel.  She has a special focus on Nevada , which she now calls home.

 

“The bottom line is a beating heart – the symbol of American freedom is the wild horse,” Leigh said. “If we can’t protect the symbol, what good is that Act?  It’s a reflection on all the other policies! If we don’t have their best interests at heart, where do we have our (own) best interests?

 

For the past several years, Leigh, now a Vice President of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation, has made it her business to document the treatment of wild horses by private interests, to create a library about the work of advocates and to write her blog, Wild Horse Education, which holds an extensive photo and video gallery that details her work.  

 

And on January 26, 2012, she went to court as plaintiff in a landmark federal court case that, for the first time in four decades, brought the inhumane roundup treatment of horses into the courtroom, and actually scored a big win for the advocacy community.  The decision by the presiding judge left the matter “in the hands of Congress",  but he also left the door open to continue to address the issue – roundup by roundup.

 

Leigh is quick to point out that she is simply devoted, but not confrontational, as much as she loves the animals that take up nearly all of her time to protect. “I’m not an activist,  I’m an advocate,” she said. “I don’t break the law. I’m not aggressive. And I’m one of those hands-on learners.  In order for me to fully comprehend an issue, I (have to) live it. I’ve been essentially living on my truck on the range for a about a year now. I call it my world.”

 

THE HORSE AND THE HUMAN: A MILLENNIUM OF SYMBIOSIS AND COOPERATION

It is no secret that domesticated wild horses dramatically influenced human development all over this planet, and Leigh is not alone in recognizing the contributions these animals have made to agriculture, travel, even warfare when necessary.

 

“[Steven Spielberg’s 2012 film] War Horse is bringing lots of attention to this matter,” Leigh said. They fought in World War I and World War II.   Our West would not be what it is today if it weren’t for our wild horses.  Freedom and family – that’s what we stand for as Americans. And the wild horses symbolize that.”

 

In fact, horses have complex social structures in the wild, which are indicative of their high level of intelligence.  There are older horses which look out for the welfare of the herd; there is a lead mare who selects the safest trails to follow and one or two stallions that stay with and protect the herd.  They care for their young, and communicate as a unit.  Each individual understands its place and its role in the herd hierarchy.

 

 

Photo copyright Laura Leigh/ Wild Horse Education

Mother with foal

 

 “They are wired to each other for survival,” Leigh says, of the horses’ survival instincts and their relationship with the open range. “They will fight for their freedom and fight for their family, yet they are so at peace with their surroundings. It’s so peaceful being out there with them. It’s the only place where you can finish a thought.”

 

Leigh may work alone on the prairie, but she is joined by prominent figures in the fight for maintaining dignity for horses, both wild and raised.

 

Russ Bensley, a former CBS News executive who raised horses for 18 years, attests to the familial “wiring” that Leigh says is essential to understanding the equine need for a peaceful, unmolested environment.

 

“They obviously do form friendships and bonds with each other, and there’s a great bonding between them and their offspring,” said Bensley, who refers to himself as a “stable hand” who chanced upon the equine world via his wife. “The horses form bonds with other horses and will be mournful if their friends disappear or die, just as they form bonds with the people who take care of them. They have emotions that are not all that different from human emotions. They fall in love. They form friendships. And, they miss each other if they are separated or if one of them disappears.”

 

Bensley agrees that governmental efforts to relocate them forcibly have resulted in situations that are fraught with emotional turmoil for the horses.

 

In California, Nevada and other states of the American West, wild horses roam free and, in the past, have been generally left alone to live and procreate – as are eagles, buffalo, and other formerly hunted animals – but there are also massive exceptions to this treatment.  

 

And that is precisely what Laura Leigh has been trying to bring to the public’s attention.

 

But first, a little background.

 

QUESTIONS OVER THE ORIGIN OF THE HORSES FUELS THE MISCONCEPTION THAT THEY ARE NOT INDIGENOUS TO THE LAND

Wild horses, also called mustangs, were reintroduced to North America by the Spanish during their 16th Century colonization efforts, but it is debatable whether the horse had ever really disappeared from the continent entirely. It is known through taphonomic studies and fossil records that mustangs were hunted nearly to extinction by early humans in the Americas. 

 

But there is also a strong countervailing belief that underpins ranching and hunting interest groups as well as the BLM philosophy, that these horses are descended from domesticated stock brought by the Spanish, and that they are therefore, an invasive species, or feral, and non native.   It is this belief that is one of the weapons of choice in the hands of anti-equine interest groups that seek to remove them from their natural habitat.

 

“These people see the profit in pulling horses off the range,” Leigh said. “That’s where the whole feral issue gets its impetus. People see mustangs as this scruffy range pony and they’re not that at all.”

 

 “Any other animal with those kinds of numbers would be on the endangered species list.  We’re going to lose our wild horses, except for what we call showcase herds in a range breeding program. It’s amazing how many people don’t know.”

 

LAND MANAGEMENT POLICY FAVORS DEVELOPERS, NOT THE HORSES

The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 originally sought to protect “from capture, branding, harassment, or death” those wild equines found on America’s public lands.  It is a prime example of a law with its heart in the right place, but which has been manipulated such that the net outcome no longer resembles the original intent. 

 

Photo copyright Laura Leigh/ Wild Horse Education

Sweat soaked horses after roundup

 

“The problem”, says Leigh, is that the implementation of this protective law has been flawed, and therefore, the Department of the Interior  – which is the governmental agency charged with administering it, has dulled the parameters of its enforcement.”

 

“The  FLPMA  (The Federal Land Policy and Management Act which governs the management of the land administered by the BLM), she says, is the more sinister threat.  “It allowed private developers to take control of the land on which the wild horses live.  The idea that "multiple use" is "fair use" does not occur and special interests get priority treatment.”

 

But, she adds, it’s not only about the slaughter.  It’s really about management of public lands, and the transfer of the land from public to private hands.   That, says Leigh is what is disrupting the movement and welfare of the wild herds.  After horses are removed from public land, it becomes a domestic issue and horse slaughter is then easier to commit while public eyes are turned away”.[1]

 

“HOW DOES A HORSE THAT SERVES MAN END UP IN A PACKING PLANT?”

But it was, fact, the horse slaughter issue that drew Leigh to balance equine advocacy with a desire to create visual art as her grown children headed off to college. The story of how she came to advocate tirelessly for horses still breaks her heart.

 

“I come into this role through the horse slaughter issue,” recounted Leigh. “Many years ago, I went into a packing plant [where horses are ‘processed’ into materials after being slaughtered], to save a mustang. They refused. These people had to deliver a certain number of pounds of horse. I had to leave the mustang behind. And it haunted me. How does a horse that serves man end up in a packing plant?

 

Leigh could be considered the spiritual descendant of her ‘predecessor’ on the plains, a Nevada woman named Velma B. Johnston – who was better known as “Wild Horse Annie.” Johnston, until her death in 1977, also tried to bring the private roundups into the public eye, scoring a coup with legislation to make illegal the use of aircraft and motor vehicles a ‘tool’ in such roundups.

 

“In 1971 the Wild Horse Act was signed into law, and we’ve never had management on the range as detailed in that Act.   Now, the whole program is upside down to help out the private interests…so the horses are the first to go.”

 

Johnston’s own introduction to the mustangs’ plight came very similarly to Leigh’s, when Johnston witnessed a bloody roundup of mustangs headed to a packing plant for slaughter. That was in 1950.

 

POLICY INFLUENCED BY PRIVATE INTERESTS THREATENS THE FUTURE OF THE WILD HERDS

Since that time, says Leigh, the West has been in the process of industrialization and the roundups are largely happening on public land.   But land management is supported by powerful lobbies, which horse advocates say, encourage a lack of management and oversight where convenient.

 

 “In 1971 the Wild Horse Act was signed into law, and we’ve never had management on the range as detailed in that Act.   Now, the whole program is upside down to help out the private interests…so the horses are the first to go. The grazing areas get smaller and smaller, because the issue turns to water, and other resources.

 

“Any other animal with those kinds of numbers would be on the endangered species list.  We’re going to lose our wild horses, except for what we call showcase herds in a range breeding program.  It’s amazing how many people don’t know.”

 

THE HERD MANAGEMENT AREA (HMA):  INACURATE BOUNDARY LINES LEAD TO MASSIVELY SHRINKING BOUNDARY AREAS

According to Laura, there isn’t a lot of hard data available that maps the movement of wild horses.  However, the data that does exist is a sobering collection of maps that show the gradual and steady evaporation of the lands once allocated to horses and their seasonal movements. These areas, say Leigh, are drying up like an arid riverbed.

 

 “When the Wild Horses Act was passed, there were boundary lines for herd areas,” said Leigh of the Herd Management Areas (HMAs) that were set up in concert with the legislation. “Horses were to be managed where they were originally found. But because it (the Act) didn’t take seasonal range [movement] into account, the boundary lines were inaccurate. Now it’s too hard to manage, too many new homes have been built. The BLM has been shrinking the original boundary lines – and have removed about 21 million acres which had been part of their range.

 

As Leigh attends one roundup alert after another, she reflects on her interactions with the men who control the new HMAs on the range – and what she is able to see and document without hassle. 

 

“I’ve established relationships with a number of them…some relationships are better than others,” she said. “I’m out there all the time, they’ve gotten to know me over time, and I’ve gotten to know them as well.  There’s a joke that there’s a field manager out there with whom I’ve spent so much time with that it’s …. more time than I’ve ever spent with any other man.  

I’ve also met some armed men at roadblocks preventing me from seeing what is happening to horses. They’re there to stop me from getting anything on film that might make the public angry.”

 

TENSIONS WITH RANCHERS AND A FIRST AMENDMENT LAWSUIT

Leigh’s activities have brought on frictions with ranchers who bristle at her attempts to document the abuse and mistreatment of animals. “This,” she says, “is a similar problem to those facing reporters in autocratic societies.

 

 “There Is a First Amendment infringement as it pertains to wild horses,” Leigh added. “It could set precedent in any issue in which the press has to report on activities of the federal government.  It is absurd for them to place restrictions on what we are able to see.   If it starts with the way horses are loaded on the range, where will it end – freedom of the press issues?” 

 

“They put tarps up at the sites where they process the horses,” said Leigh, describing one of her many battles with access to the lands where mistreatment occurs. “I captured  images of that and they then shut down access.”

 

“I’ve also met some armed men at roadblocks preventing me from seeing what is happening to horses. They’re there to stop me from getting anything on film that might make the public angry.”

 

Last year the The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a First Amendment amicus brief on behalf of Leigh’s organizations, Wild Horse Education and Wild Horse Freedom Federation.  The suit urged a federal court of appeals to order a federal trial court to reconsider a decision made regarding the First Amendment rights of reporters to photograph the roundup of horses on federal land.  Other reporters have also signed onto the pending lawsuit.

 

Indeed, television news anchors Dan Rather and Wolf Blitzer are on the steering committee of the Reporters Committee for the Free Press – amicus. Their work can be found here: (http://www.rcfp.org/).

 

“They put tarps up at the sites where they process the horses,” said Leigh, describing one of her many battles with access to the lands where mistreatment occurs. “I captured images of that and they then shut down access.”

 

Leigh claims that the Bureau of Land Management is also guilty of discriminatory access – a practice of allowing some, but not all, members of the press to view controversial activities (in this case, roundups with the alleged use of electric prods and other tools that she says traumatize the horses). This, she says, is a violation of the First Amendment and her access to several areas, she adds, has been limited since she took pictures of one such roundup.

 

THE CASE FOR WILD HORSES: A FEDERAL LAWSUIT TO SET PROTOCOL FOR HUMANE TREATMENT OF HORSES

Another important court case for Leigh occurred on January 26 in Reno, Nevada –and a federal case to boot.

 

Leigh with her legal team

 

“Although the act to protect wild horses was passed 40 years ago, and the main issue was humane management, there’s no protocol for what that treatment is,” Leigh said of her reason for pursuing legal action in Nevada.

 

In her first action, Leigh was granted a Temporary Restraining Order upon a BLM pilot after she witnessed the pilot hitting a horse with the skids of the chopper.  Her Complaint initiated an investigation within BLM, which admitted to inappropriate conduct.

 

Her discussion of the Judge's decision and her big win for the horses is documented in the video clip below.  Football fans will like this, especially.

 

Video copyright Laura Leigh/ Wild Horse Education

 

In a subsequent action, Leigh attempted to broaden the BLM program scope to force a protocol for humane care. 

 

“The BLM released a record of misconduct (on the roundup methods). They’ve made a lot of noise in the press about making changes and improvements, but there’s still no protocol  or system of reprimand for violations of humane treatment.   So, nothing’s changed on the ground. Roundup protocol change has not changed one iota.”

 

THE HUMANE CONTROL OF NUMBERS HAS A LONG WAY TO GO

It would be remiss not to mention that there have been government attempts to humanely control the numbers of mustangs – through domestication and adoption, chemical contraception, and competitive mustang taming procedures – but these methods have had mixed results.  The main problem, say some horse professionals, is in how nature’s delicate balance gets disrupted.

 

“We have no data on this, says Leigh.  None.  Right now you’ll see births occurring out of season, and that is a consequence of chemical birth control. So you have foals born in the middle of January, in the cold, and their chances of survival are slim.”

 

"….mainstream media needs to know that this is more than the ‘cowboy’ issue. And we have not been able to break that wall. The people who are on the other side of the issue have no other horse in the race"

 

 “I think it’s beneficial to control the size of the herd,” said Bensley, adding a warning that spaying and neutering on a large scale might invite conditions bordering on the inhumane. “Contraception sounds like a useful idea, but I don’t know how it could be practically done. Assuming there was a useful contraceptive, how would it be administered? I believe the government article [linked below] (http://www.fort.usgs.gov/wildhorsepopulations/contraception.asp) mentions injection. How do you round up huge numbers of wild horses and inject them? That seems unlikely. If there was some way of spraying their habitat with a chemical that was otherwise benign that might be an option, but I question whether such a chemical exists.”

 

Another option for population control – a castration of 200 stallions in Eastern Nevada, has unleashed a huge response from the advocacy community, which, claiming it is a scientifically untested and permanent solution, filed a lawsuit the block the plan.  To date, the BLM has agreed to postpone the plan pending a court ruling on the matter.

 

As to Sanctuaries, Leigh states, “Sanctuary is a great option for animals that have been removed from public land and have no place to go,” she said.  But sanctuaries don’t address the issue of management on the range. ….this is addressing the symptoms without looking at the core problem.

 

Janice Eddy-Languein, who works as a stable manager in Chatsworth, California, cautions against confining herds to small areas and forcing them to stay in small areas. She describes how a “bunch of hillbilly horses” can easily fall to rampant inbreeding and how that affects the herd’s overall health and potency.

 

“With small herds, some of the horses have things wrong with them,” she said. “If they inbreed, they become funky, sometimes crippled. If there’s no feed, they’ll die. (Or) they can overpopulate an area, then if there’s no feed to support the numbers of horses there, what’s going to happen? Then it’s survival of the fittest.”

 

FUNDING PROGRAMS ARE ESSENTIAL TO SUPPORT THE WILD HORSES

Indeed, when the plains buffaloes were nearly eradicated in the middle of the 1800s due to excessive hunting, private people brought some of them in and took care of them. Languein suggests that a similar program be set up to protect the mustang.

 

 “They’re very hardy horses,” Eddy-Languein said. “They’ve lived out on the range. They know how to survive. But get some kind of funding to get out there and feed them during the winter, maybe someone who [gets paid to] monitor them (so they won’t bother the cattle feed). There are things the people want to do for them, but I don’t know where the funds would come from. Maybe like ‘Adopt a highway.’ Adopt a mustang? Adopt a mustang herd?”

 

ADOPTION ROUNDUPS ARE MORE ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE RANCHERS THAN TO THE HORSES

Languein added that adoption roundups have proven to be more advantageous to the ranchers than the horses  “They do the wild horse roundups, even bringing them into Pierce College [in the San Fernando Valley], where you can adopt the mustangs. This is part of a program too to find homes for the mustangs, which are freeze branded to identify them.”

 

Languein objects to this branding – even as some advocates, including Leigh, say it helps them “track” wild horses under observation – but again, the lack of clear protocol in this program allows some to dispose of the horses in deplorable ways.

 

“At one point the mustangs still belonged to the government, you had to hang onto them for a year, and they could not be sold or killed,” explained Languein.   (After that, you could) “even send them to those meatpacking warehouses and glue factories.”

 

WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP LEIGH WITH HER ADVOCACY FOR WILD HORSES?

Leigh says with some regret that because her work reaches a limited audience with a specialized interest, that public donations have not been forthcoming.

 

“Money doesn’t flow into this, at least not as often as you would think,” she said. “The average donation that comes into Wild Horses Education is about 20 bucks. I remember one donation for $14. A girl from Michigan sent four dollars from cupcake sales and her mom kicked in the 10 dollars.

 

Recently Leigh joined forces with the Wild Horse Freedom Federation, in the hopes of setting up a research library that will be the information resource she envisioned from the beginning.  But she continues to work solo as well.

 

 “Working alone has its challenges,” Leigh said, “but it is really neat to represent the public and to have no other agenda.

 

My ‘agenda’ is that the wild horses be managed according to the law and that they’re managed humanely.   It is to look for protection for these horses within the limits of the law, and to get as much information as possible out to the public.  The little girl in Michigan [who sent in her $14] has a voice and she believes her voice matters, that I am keeping an eye on the horses for her. 

 

Wild Horse Education is my data and documentation machine. Donations keep me in the field.  Wild Horse Freedom Federation pays the attorneys on my cases and other lawsuits pending.  All donations of any size, are welcomed.

 

WE NEED TO GET THE ISSUE INTO THE PUBLIC CONVERSATION

With so many influential people in the country attuned to the plight of these intelligent, sensitive creatures, the issues are clear.   But what remains to be answered is, how does someone not yet involved get involved?

 

“There are so many things that could be done,” Leigh said. “Just google  ‘wild horses,’ ‘Freedom Federation.’ The primary thing we can do is to get the issue into the public conversation. Many people don’t know there are wild horses out there. They can write to their representatives; (elected officials) want to hear from their constituencies.   If the only person who communications with them is a private profiteer then that’s how the politician will vote.

 

MORE THAN A COWBOY ISSUE: IT’S A BATTLE FOR RESOURCES

But Leigh returns to the issue of the original legislation – the 1971 Act  - and the values  that so divide pro-horse advocates and the developers who are either opposed to or ambivalent to their plight.

 

“The bottom line is a beating heart – the symbol of American freedom is the wild horse,” Leigh said. “If we can’t protect the symbol, what good is that Act?  It’s a reflection on all the other policies! If we don’t have their best interests at heart, where do we have our (own) best interests? It begs some pretty big questions.”

 

And as she prepares for her next battle – another photographic documentation attempt at an undisclosed location in the wilds of Nevada, Leigh reflects on that conflict of interest: the conflict of interest that tragically has the magnificent beast of burden, warfare and friendship caught in its crosshairs.

 

“Politically, the division – in my opinion – is based on resources,” Leigh said. “The BLM are people who have a vested interest in the profit drive from the ranchers, miners, hunting lobbies.

 

But mainstream media needs to know that this is more than the ‘cowboy’ issue. And we have not been able to break that wall. The people who are on the other side of the issue have no other horse in the race.”

 

She pauses and adds, “No pun intended.”

 

CONTACT LARUA LEIGH

206-245-4984


Email:
wildhorseeducation@gmail.com

Website: www.wildhorseeducation.org


Jonathan Arkin is a graduate of the USC Annenberg School  for Communication and Journalism, and is currently a  writer living in southern California.


 



[1] The policy detailed in the FLPMA gave the BLM wide latitude to determine the use of the land.  Specifically, it directed the BLM to manage the land under principles of “multiple use” and “sustained yield”, and to regulate the use of land (with conditions) in such a manner as “to permit individuals to utilize public lands for habitation, cultivation, and the development of small trade or manufacturing concerns”.  It defined “multiple use” as “ the management of the public lands and their various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people”.  


Did you like this? Share it:

Carnism: Why Eating Animals Is a Social Justice Issue

Saturday, January 7th, 2012

 

Carnism: Why Eating Animals is a Social Justice Issue

ONE GREEN PLANET

Did you like this? Share it:

Ivory Trade: Elephant Tusk Seizures Reach Record Number In 2011

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Ivory Trade: Elephant Tusk Seizures Reach Record Number In 2011  

 

 BY 

AP VIA HUFFINGTON POST
First Posted: 12/29/11 03:11 AM ET Updated: 12/29/11 08:35 AM ET

It's been a disastrous year for elephants, perhaps the worst since ivory sales were banned in 1989 to save the world's largest land animals from extinction, the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC said Thursday.

A record number of large seizures of elephant tusks represents at least 2,500 dead animals and shows that organized crime — in particular Asian syndicates — is increasingly involved in the illegal ivory trade and the poaching that feeds it, the group said.

Did you like this? Share it:

Record ivory seizures point to surge in elephant poaching

Thursday, December 29th, 2011

Record ivory seizures point to surge in elephant poaching

THE GUARDIAN

December 29, 2011

A record number of large ivory seizures have been made globally this year, pointing to a surge in elephant poaching in Africa to meet Asian demand for tusks for use in jewellery and ornaments, according to an international conservation group.

Traffic, which tracks trends in wildlife trading, said at least 13 large-scale seizures of over 800kg of ivory were recorded in 2011, compared with six in 2010.

Did you like this? Share it:

DR. ELLIOT KATZ: THE GUARDIAN CAMPAIGN

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011

 

 

 

DR. ELLIOT KATZ

IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS AND

THE GUARDIAN CAMPAIGN

WORKING TO ERADICATE ANIMAL CRUELTY

IN OUR COMMUNITIES

 

 

 

 

 Bring the Guardian Campaign to your city

 

INTRODUCTION

Last year we featured an interview with Dr. Elliot Katz, President and Founder of In Defense of Animals, an international animal protection organization dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals all over the world.  In the feature, we described Katz as a hero and a trailblazer for his dedication over the last 30 years, to speaking out for animals in the face of formidable challenges, and for his unwavering efforts to recalibrate the prevailing public (and legal) mindset regarding animals– from the view that they are mere objects and things, to an acknowledgement and acceptance that they are sentient beings deserving of our respect and compassion.  This latter philosophy describes the essence of In Defense of Animals, and is articulated through one of its centerpiece programs, The Guardian Campaign.

 

A SEISMIC SHIFT IN THE WAY WE VIEW AND UNDERSTAND ANIMALS

While none of the above has changed, we are featuring Dr. Katz again, this time, to spotlight the visionary Guardian Campaign.  The Guardian Campaign is a program which we feel is one of the most compelling out there in animal protection –it is a program with the potential to create a seismic shift in the way we view and understand animals, and ultimately to reduce the incidence of animal cruelty throughout the country. 

 

THE GUARDIAN CAMPAIGN EXPLAINED

In a nutshell, The Guardian Campaign is an international effort which aims to instill a sense of respect, responsibility and compassion for the animals with which we share our lives and our planet.  The way it works is through a switch-out of one word which defines our relationship with animals: "Owners" are out.  "Guardians" are in.   Rather than "owners", we must be the "Guardians" of animals in our midst.

The term "Guardian" speaks volumes.  It suggests a protective posture.   It implicitly acknowledges that animals are living, breathing sentient beings that have highly evolved emotional systems with the ability to feel love, joy, pain, fear, loss, depression.  It challenges us to remember that animals are not mere property, objects or things that can be bought and sold at will, dumped, abused, exploited and killed when they are no longer useful. 

The term "Guardian" opens up new vistas of possibility for our relationship with other species.   As Guardians, as protectors, we accept an inherent responsibility and make an unspoken promise to treat them with compassion and respect, and to make decisions on their behalf that will enhance their lives. 

 

THE POTENTIAL TO REDUCE CRUELTY AND ABANDONMENT, REDEFINE THE BOUNDARIES OF OUR COMPASSION FOR ANIMALS

The IDA Guardian Campaign is an idea whose time has come.   This campaign not only  has the potential to significantly reduce animal cruelty and abandonment, but also to redefine the boundaries, to expand the definition of compassion, and to rewrite the script for treatment of animals in a way that has not been accomplished before. 

Katz and the IDA Guardian Campaign have already made substantial headway in this regard.  They have partnered with organizations and individuals who have committed to spreading the word about Guardians.  They have developed lesson plans and curricula for teachers.  They have influenced legislation, working with city officials to develop new language for resolutions and ordinances.    Thus far, twenty-one communities have formally accepted the term "Guardian" into their codes which describe human-animal relationships.  

This is more than a good start.  It is the beginning of a sea change that can sweep the country, change the lives of the animals we love, and in the process, our own as well.

 

DR. ELLIOT KATZ: HOW I BECAME AN ANIMAL GUARDIAN

The following is excerpted from a presentation given by Katz, at the First International Equine Conference, held in September of this year (2011). In this talk, he references horses (equines), but the context applies to all animals.

I’d like to start first, with some dictionary definitions:

Ownership: the legal right to possession of a thing;

Owner: A person who owns something; a person who has legal ownership of a property and has the right to use it and control it.

Buyer: one who acquires, or agrees to acquire, ownership.

Thing: an object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a name;

Object: a material thing that can be seen and touched

Property: a thing or thing belonging to someone.

Guardian:  One that guards, watches over and protects ; A defender, protector.

Killer Buyer: purchasing for the sole purpose of sending the horse to a slaughter house

Killer Buyer: a person who buys a horse for performance value only, without the desire or commitment to provide the horse a lifetime of respect, compassion and care.

 

My name is Dr. Elliot Katz, I am a veterinarian, the founder and President Emeritus of In Defense of Animals. I am an advocate for the rights, welfare and habitats of our fellow beings, be they individuals of our own species, collectively referred to as human beings, or individuals of other species, collectively referred to as “animals.”

We are all here today because of the plight and needs of one particular species, the Equine, more commonly referred to as the horse–a being that is worshipped and appreciated by millions for their beauty, strength, intelligence, and speed, (and) exploited and abused by millions for their beauty, strength, intelligence and speed.

Like you, I am one of the millions of people who desire to protect them from exploitation, cruelty, abuse and early deaths by those who would do them harm in the name of work, amusement sport and food. I have a term for people like us. That term is Guardian, “one that guards, watches over, and protects.” Though you and I are referred to as “owners” under the current law, to me, each and every one of you is a Guardian, or you wouldn’t be here today, to better learn how to protect and advocate for the untold number of horses who are being killed in slaughter houses or are being exploited, used and abused for profit and greed, or are suffering at the hands of uncaring and callous “owners.”

From the time I was a child, impressed by the closeness and bond that existed between people and their animal companions, consciously or unconsciously,  I became a guardian towards individuals of other species.  As there were no horses running loose on the beaches and sand dunes of Long Island, NY, my pastimes involved the rescuing of abandoned or lost dogs on those very same beaches and sand dunes, in addition to throwing back the many starfish that had washed ashore after a storm had passed.

At age eight or nine, I vowed to become a veterinarian after a little dog I had rescued gave birth to six puppies—six puppies that died one by one from Distemper, all developing pneumonia, all dying from encephalitis, despite the fact that my father and I took them to a local veterinarian in an attempt to save their lives.

Attempting to protect and save, to minister to the needs of other species, starting with animal companions became my life’s work. At the time, I never realized that I had become an animal guardian.

When I entered veterinary school and was exposed to the role veterinarians played in slaughter houses, as well as the terrible cruelties of veterinary education, I started to become aware of what a different kind of veterinarian I was to become—as I was almost dismissed from Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine for refusing to mutilate, before killing, perfectly healthy and adoptable dogs from the local shelter, as my classmates did, apparently having no problem doing so at the time.

 


 

In 1983 I founded In Defense of Animals, (IDA) an international animal protection organization whose mission it is to protect the rights, welfare and habitats of other species, to raise their status beyond that of mere property, objects, commodities and things.

I am very proud of the many victories and accomplishments of IDA.  For we have been at the forefront of the fight to make the world a more just and compassionate place for all our fellow beings.


 

CONTACT:

FIND OUT MORE ABOUT THE GUARDIAN CAMPAIGN AND HOW TO BRING IT TO YOUR COMMUNITY

IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS 

FACEBOOK

RELATED ARTICLE:

In Defense of Animals: Changing the Paradigm of Human-Animal Relations: A Conversation with Animal Protection Hero and Trailblazer, Founder and President, Elliot M. Katz, DVM   

 

 

Did you like this? Share it:

URGENT ISSUES: CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

WILD ANIMALS BELONG IN THE WILD

 

This is typical elephant behavior in the wild.  Notice the family size and their response, when the infant falls into the water hole.  Notice also the texture of the savanna and its suitability for the elephants' feet and weight.

 

 



CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS

 

 


CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS: WORKING ELEPHANTS

 

 

Each time you take an elephant ride as a tourist seeking an indigenous experience, your dollars are perpetuating the untold suffering of an elephant.

 

Elephants are are highly intelligent, highly social animals that exhibit human-like behaviors : they care for their young, they are protective of one another, they (famously) grieve for days over the bodies of their dead. They live in matriarchal communities in which the females stay together for life. They can roam up to 30 miles a day.  Moreover, they are essential to their ecosystems – among other things, their dung carries seeds which cultivate the flora in the savannahs. 


Tragically, these peaceful gentle giants (vegetarians) are treated barbarically by humans for exploitive purposes: They are cruelly taken captive, separated from their relatives, and "broken" by humans who work them unnaturally in logging camps, or use them as spectacles in parades, circuses or in tourist ride attractions. 

 

 

This is a bull hook, the instrument used (liberally) to "break" and manipulate elephants for use on safari rides, and for other forms of entertainment. Photo courtesy How I Became an Elephant 


See Also:

 

TIM GORSKI: AWARD WINNING DOCUMENTARY FILMMAKER SPEAKS OUT FOR ELEPHANTS

 

WEBSITE: HOW I BECAME AN ELEPHANT


ELEPHANT VOICES


 

 


CAPTIVE ELEPHANTS: ZOOS AND CIRCUSES

 

ELEPHANTS ARE NOT ENTERTAINMENT.  

BOYCOTT ALL ANIMAL CIRCUSES:  NO EXCEPTIONS!

 

 

 

Most zoo conditions are inhumane environments for elephants.   Listen to this radio spot: it refers to pending decisions in the Auckland Zoo — but information is applicable to zoos in general

 


 

 

 

 

Worst, are the circuses, which often pull nursing calves away from their mothers, and use cruel methods to prepare them for their shows. Circus visitors have no idea of how these gentle animals are "trained" to perform for the big tent.  Do not patronize circuses that use animal acts.  A list of those circuses can be found in this link: http://www.bornfreeusa.org/facts.php?more=1&p=425

Billie, the elephant, shown in the video above, has been consigned permanently to the Los Angeles Zoo, despite public efforts to have him moved to a sanctuary.

But there is still time to help other elephants in desperate need:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHAT YOU CAN DO 

 

HELP SEND QUEENIE TO THE PAWS SANCTUARY


TOP 10 REASONS TO FIGHT FOR ELEPHANTS IN ZOOS

 

THE TOP 10 WORST ZOOS FOR ELEPHANTS

 

 

TAKE ACTON TO HELP ALL ELEPHANTS NOW!  

 
 
Did you like this? Share it:

PEOPLE TO WATCH: MICHAEL FISHBACH, HERO OF “SAVING VALENTINA”, CO-FOUNDER OF GREAT WHALE CONSERVANCY

Saturday, July 30th, 2011


 

 

 

A CONVERSATION WITH

MICHAEL FISHBACH

HERO OF “SAVING VALENTINA”

AND CO-FOUNDER OF

GREAT WHALE CONSERVANCY

 

 

NOTE: IF THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME VIEWING, BE SURE YOU EXPAND THE VIDEO TO FULL SCREEN FOR FULL EFFECT

 

 

 

Sometimes the fates come together at precisely the right time, to inspire something truly extraordinary—a breathtaking, once in a lifetime occurrence.  If you are one of the 3.26 plus million viewers (and growing by the day) of the You Tube clip called Saving Valentina (above), posted in June by Gerhson Cohen and Michael Fishbach, then you have an idea of what I mean.

This video clip is important for so many reasons, not the least of which is the clear documentation of how an animal like this, of exceptionally high intelligence, responds to human interaction and intervention. 

 

FISHBACH HAS STUDIED WHALES FOR MANY YEARS

As Founder and President of EcoInteractions, Fishbach has studied whales and dolphins around the world, and has spent the last fifteen years bringing the wonder of these cetaceans to the interested public, from schoolchildren through adults.   His specialty interest is the endangered Blue Whale, the largest mammal on the planet, which number only about 10,000 globally.  Last year, he joined with Earth Island Institute’s well known International Marine Mammal Project (IMMP) and with colleague, Gershon Cohen, a molecular biologist and environmental activist, to form the Great Whale Conservancy.

 

 

 

Fishbach and elementary school class with life sized (58 foot) inflatable whale

 

“I’ve been driving boats around and spending time around these large whales for the better part of my life.  Working with whales can be frustrating because you can’t find them easily, or see them for long periods at a time.  They come to the surface and leave – they live their lives under the surface.   To have this interaction that was so meaningful in the whale’s life – I’ve never had an encounter like this, and I’ve had thousands of encounters with whales.”

The emotional story unfolded, as the reader can see in the clip above, on the calm waters in the Sea of Cortez, off the Gulf of Mexcio, on Valentines Day, 2011.   Fishbach was with his family and two friends, in a small boat under sunny skies, expecting an uneventful day.  They had with them an emergency phone/radio and a small pocket knife. Suddenly they came upon a young humpback whale, which they realized was in obvious distress.

 

A MAGICAL SERIES OF EVENTS

“The series of events that followed,” says Fishbach, “were almost magical—, the fact that the whale was completely imprisoned in the net and couldn’t move, the fact that the water was calm, and we were able to (manipulate and) cut the net with the small knife, the fact that we were able to videotape the whole scenario and document this incredible display of joy from the whale – the response has been overwhelming, from all over the world.” 

Action Now+Network talked with Fishbach about his extraordinary experience with “Valentina”, about his Great Whale Conservancy, and about the future prospects for survival of the whales.

 

 

What inspired you to start the Great Whale Conservancy?

I was working for many years in field on long term dedicated research projects with the Blue Whales.  As I worked with the whales for many thousands of hours, I realized that a lot of people were engaged in scientific studies, but not many people were looking at methods to help the whales.   For the Blue Whales, science and activism are different arenas, and there isn’t a lot of crossover. 

I started to see that the Blue Whales needed help.  They face so many threats.  The Blue Whale is the biggest animal that ever lived in history of our planet.  It is an endangered species, and I felt that it was important to help them, both for the species and for the greater oceanic environment.  I felt that a platform for the Blue Whales could be leveraged to gain protection for certain bodies of water in the ocean that would help everything that lives in those bodies of water.

 

What is the Great Whale Conservancy?  What does it do?

The Great Whale Conservancy is young – barely a year old.  It strives to gain protection for certain sub-populations and for the habitats of Blue Whales.  That’s the core mission.  The greater mission is to help any of the great whale species – there are 41 of them – to help diminish the threats they face. 

 

What are the biggest threats that the whales face, aside from man?

Maybe one of most important is acoustical pollution: Whales are extremely acoustical animals – If you’re a large mammal and you try to swim around, you’ll realize that you can’t see very far, especially where there is food around— and large whales better be where there is food around.  If there is food around, the visibility is not good – the ocean is full of “stuff”.    Over the eons, these animals developed incredible acoustical abilities – they are able to communicate over very long distances – they communicate with each other and that helps to find their prey.  Oceans have gotten extremely noisy in the last 150 years.

In addition, there are straight up pollution threats, over fishing, food depletion.  Fishing nets (as we see in the clip) are a big threat.  Another huge threat is ship traffic in the feeding grounds of the whales – whales get struck and killed by ships. 

Global climate change also presents a new playing field for the whales.  There is an amazing story of a Grey whale, which lives in the Pacific Ocean, that was found off the coast of Israel a couple of months ago.  This means that the Northwest Passage did open up and the Grey whale slipped through – another was found off the coast of Spain.  This is a new playing field, with lots of changes in a short period of time. 

 

What do the whales eat?

Cetaceans are a varied family, and their diets are also varied.  The toothed whales – sperm whales, pilot whales, orcas, belugas , which comprise about 71 of the 84 species– all eat meat.   The Baleen whales, (which include the Blue Whales) eat shrimp and plankton .  There are huge amounts of plankton in the sea – this is their diet.   The primary issue with plankton is pollution in the sea — and now, the Japanese are fishing for krill – they use it as a seafood soup base.  For the first time, the whales are facing commercial krill fisheries.  So far, this isn’t making a huge dent, but it is an issue. 

 


Valentina free!

 

All mammals serve a particular purpose, they have evolved over millions of years for a purpose.  Can you explain what do whales do that makes them so essential, both to their ecosystems and to us as a species?

The ecosystems in the ocean evolved over countless eons, and whales are integral to the survival of that ecosystem.  They eat tremendous amounts of small planktonic food, they process it through their bodies and expel it as feces.  The way it gets processed, broken down and the way it interacts with the oceanic environment is significant. So is the breaking down of the whale’s bodies when it dies.

 Also, there are lots of animals that hitchhike on these whales, so the way (the ocean) works as an ecosystem would be altered without the whales.  They are essential to the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide production in the ocean as well.  The whole ocean would be different if these whales were gone.

 

You can’t talk about the whales without talking about the oceans.  What is your view on the state of the oceans today? 

My view is realistic.  We’re often told to go to the middle ground in our views, and in the case of the oceans, the middle view is not the truth.  The state of the oceans today is horrific and the middle ground is not accurate because people are fabricating stories about the state of the ocean.   The oceans today are polluted, over fished, with the general feeling as, “out of sight, out of mind”.  It is a massive dumping ground for garbage.

When you have a species like ours, which is interested in economic gain, an environment that is out of sight – below the surface – will be hit hard.  And the oceans are hit hard – you can keep hitting and hitting at it and the damage won’t show that much to the lay person.  That’s what people are doing all over the world.  It’s starting to show more now, but it still isn’t as easy as it is to see what is happening in the ocean as it is on land.

 

 

Valentina waves good bye

 

Do you have thoughts on marine zoos – places that keep marine mammals in captivity?

I do – and that is, if animals are capable of living in the wild, if they are not injured, they should stay in the wild.  If you are out on the water, you and you have the privilege of seeing great pods of dolphins or small whales, you will see one of the greatest displays of freedom in the animal kingdom.  It is painful to know how these animals function in the wild, and to think of them in captivity. 

 

What are the most important things you want people to know about Great Whale Conservancy?

That we are here specifically to look at issues facing the Blue Whales specifically and great whales in general.  We want the public to be aware of those issues.  We also want them to be aware that we are not leaving scientific community behind – that we value and include research and information.

But we will take aggressive steps to help the whales.  By “aggressive”, I mean that we don’t intend to tiptoe around .  The whales are suffering.  We want to put the issues out there, and do what needs to be done for the benefit of the whales, even if it isn’t what some people want to hear.  We want to engage the public in a dynamic way.  The interests of the whales come before being “politically correct”. 

 

Do you have any last thoughts on the “Saving Valentina” experience?

Yes – and that is that this was such a hopeful event, it is hopeful for the world.  People want to see this kind of connection to an incredible life form.  Whales are sometimes hard to connect with, and people watching this feel connected to the whale –, and therefore, to her species –and that’s what’s important.”

 *********

In the end, Valentina was, as they say, “one lucky whale”.  But there are so many more Valentinas out there who never meet a rescuer like Fishbach.  Now is the time to step up to the plate, to recognize that not only are the whales beautiful majestic, and highly intelligent, but that we need them to keep our planet in balance.  Contact Michael Fishbach, at fishdeya@gmail.com, to find out how you can help.


 

CONTACT:

Michael Fishbach

Great Whale Conservancy

Phone:

E-mail

Facebook


  

Did you like this? Share it: