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Archive for April, 2011

As we post this, the ‘event of the year’ has already taken place – Prince William and Catherine Middleton are now married and hopefully people across the country are celebrating in the sunshine.

Now we at EIA enjoy a party as much as the next fellow and much as we wish the royal couple well, it is a sobering thought that the wedding is estimated to have cost a staggering £52 and a half million! Which makes us think – just what could we have done with all that money? It’s pretty hard to know where to begin with an amount that is equivalent to EIA’s funding for half a century!

Well, for the cost of Kate’s dress we could have undertaken two undercover investigations in Asia, setting up fake identities and dummy companies, spending weeks gathering interviews and taping evidence of environmental crimes.

The £5000 spent on the wedding cake could have equipped us with 2 of the latest state of the art HD undercover cameras or and a new computer for our editing suite to help us produce ground breaking video evidence cannot be ignored.

View of a tiger in the wild, India. Image courtesy of Robin Hamilton

The £49 million spent on wedding security if invested instead on tiger and wildlife crime enforcement would more than meet the enforcement needs outlined in the Global Tiger Recovery Programme, and would go a long way to doubling the world’s tiger population by 2022.

William and Kate have very laudably opted to set up a charitable fund to donate to charities of their choice in place of wedding gifts. We’re delighted to see that they are supporting projects to protect tigers elephants and rhinos and their habitats. We’d be equally delighted if any readers celebrating their weddings, anniversaries or birthdays opted to support EIA’s campaigns in this way.

Have a wonderful bank holiday weekend.

Janet with little Phoebe

Janet Fereday

Head of Fundraising

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Tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park, India. © studio tygrrr, 2011

Tigers in Bandhavgarh National Park, India. © studio tygrrr, 2011

I’m now back at EIA from India. I’ll have to agree with a colleague on my lack of any kind of suntan, as I spent most of my time positioned firmly out of the sunshine, indoors, attending a suite of tiger conferences which included the release of India’s latest tiger census figures.

Recently, Debbie filled you in on these events by way of her blog Reading Between the Tiger Numbers. And yes, quite possibly the award for “most memorable moment” of the conference, along with the release of the census figures, goes to the Chinese delegation’s apparent reliance on NGOs to prove the existence of the illegal tiger trade in China – rather than proactively undertaking the investigations that could uncover and combat the underground trade (and help raise tiger numbers even higher).

Tigress T17, Ranthambore National Park, India. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

Tigress T17, Ranthambore National Park, India. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

But I also remember another comment. At a time where so much of the natural world is either being parcelled out or branded with an economic value; where it seems to me we’re dangerously close to living in a world where everything is being eyed up as a potential commodity – or at the very least, where commercial value trumps all other ways of defining and understanding our relationships with the world – one observation from a participant gave me hope.  That participant spoke about the importance of engaging with and promoting the spiritual value of nature, as a means to conserving it.

Ranthambore National Park, India at sunset. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

Ranthambore National Park, India at sunset. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

For me, simultaneously experiencing and being part of the natural world is a spiritual experience, and I believe that’s also the case for millions, if not billions, of other people. Many different faiths have teachings relating to nature, and idea of people experiencing nature “together” has a marvellously unifying force.

So whilst in India, I did manage to greet the open air in Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Rajasthan. My internal marvellings at the rugged silvery landscape, the unique light (perfect for painters, I reckon) and the wildlife we saw were simultaneously reflected out loud by my travelling companions in our jeep.

We’d set out very early in the morning. As our jeep wound along the dust road, we turned a corner and suddenly ground to a halt. Just ahead, an imposing male tiger was marking a tree. We had suddenly found ourselves in his territory. My heart leapt, my legs ran to jelly, and every last bit of breath left my body. Frozen, we watched as the tiger turned and started walking towards us. And he kept on coming. Slowly, we backed up.

It all seems to be in slow motion now. After many incredibly, what must have been long seconds, he changed course and climbed into the bank of bushes next to him. Craning my neck, I caught one last glimpse – he’d turned and paused so I could see him side-on. One gliding movement was all it took for his stripes to literally melt into the foliage and dissolve away.

Then of course we all turned to each other and couldn’t say very much. So that was a “shared moment”.

(And I eventually remembered to breathe again.)

Tigress T17 casts a shadow in Ranthambore National Park, India. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

Tigress T17 casts a shadow in Ranthambore National Park, India. © Charlotte Davies / EIA

I read one definition of “the Sublime”, as a concept, being something that inspires both fear and awe. We’ll always remember the experiences that lift our spirits – in fact, reveal our spirits. Pointing that out is nothing new. The originality lies in the truly endless opportunities the natural world offers to have such experiences, whether it’s seeing a wild tiger in India or experiencing the first bursts of spring here in the UK.

EIA’s vision is a future where humanity respects, protects and celebrates the natural world for the benefit of all.

Charlotte Davies, Intelligence Analyst

Charlotte Davies

Intelligence Analyst

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Saving the world's forests, EIA has been working on this campaign for over 10 years. Credit EIA.

Saving the worlds forests, EIA has been working on this campaign for over 10 years.

Sitting on the Eurostar, once again on my way to Brussels and this time for what should be a defining moment for our campaign against illegal logging, I have been thinking about the amount of time I have spent in meetings and how much I have learned over the years about getting legislation through the European Union.  

As campaigners, we’re supposed to be flexible enough to take whatever is thrown at us, and turn complicated and over-talked issues into something anyone can understand. But nothing prepared me for what I had to deal with when I first went to Brussels. I have sat through meetings where I have literally not understood a single thing that has been said to me as to why something could not possibly happen. This, I have now learned, is the whole idea. A lot of governments I have lobbied over the years have used a similar practice and, drawing on that experience, I decided that if we wanted something to go through and if we couldn’t do it directly, then we would go over, under and around ’the problem’ in our own way.

I remember the first time I was invited to speak to a hearing on forestry issues, which at that time did not have illegal logging issues on the top of its agenda but instead focused on forest issues that were going nowhere. I had been invited by Europe-based NGO’s to talk about our campaign to a large group of Commission representatives from about five different Directorates. (Ministries).  I had no idea what I was walking into. The Commission was keeping everyone focused on some issue that was going around in circles and seemed totally pointless to me, but I was told “this is a consultation and it’s formal, so we need to ensure what we are saying goes on the record”. I sat there with huge admiration for my colleagues as they continued to make their point to the grey suits sitting on a panel in front of us in an enormously large room. Then it was my turn.

EIA have been in Brussels finalising the VPA between Indonesia & the EU

EIA have been in Brussels finalising the VPA between Indonesia & the EU

“Europe has made a lot of money from illegal logging and the illegal trade in timber for so long now that it’s become the norm.” I said. “Traders and importers know who the bad guys are. Our desire for cheap tropical timber means that we’re fuelling corruption, ensuring the middle men make all the money and there’s no chance for anyone wanting to work legally, let alone sustainably. It’s ensuring that those who do the right thing are unable to work with a level playing field and only those who have connections are able to make real profits. Producer countries are losing millions in lost state revenue and we’re creating a new breed of timber barons. Let me tell you how this works in the case of Indonesia.”

“Excuse me, but this is not on the agenda,” said a grey suit.

“Really? I am going to continue because it should be on your agenda.”

And I did. Our main objective in Europewas to have a law that would make it an offence to supply and sell illegally sourced timber. With illegal logging rampant in Indonesia at that time, the EU needed to take some responsibility. It sounded so simple.

Yesterday, EIA and Telapak held a debriefing on the conclusion of an accord between Indonesia and the EU called a Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA).

Indonesia has agreed to implement a credible timber licensing scheme to eliminate illegally produced timber in its trade with the EU. Although this is a milestone for Indonesia, it is the way this agreement was reached that is so extraordinary. Read more about the new VPA.

Over the years, the divide between stakeholders was huge. But yesterday, as we spoke of the journey we have all taken to get to this point, emotions ran high. Compared to the meeting I first went to in Europe all those years ago, this was something entirely different and the feeling of ownership from everyone made the difference.

Faith Doherty

Faith Doherty

Senior Campaigner

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I have returned back to the office after 5 days in Italy, yes it’s sunny here but Islington Green has nothing on Via Roma or Parco del Valentino, Costa below us doesn’t quite cut it anymore and Pizza Express over the road has lost its appeal. Suffice to say, things have changed post- Turin and that’s not to mention the real reason why I was there.

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Eurocomm, hosted by the International Association of Business Communicators, the Middle East and Europe division, is a communications conference held every two years with speakers from the very top of their field.

Yes, I know what you’re thinking, business communicators, small NGO?! Where’s the link? Surely you’re not spending all my donations on trips to Turin. Well no. Thanks to the board of IABC, I managed to secure a scholarship to help me get there and Ryanair did the rest of the job (actually, quite painlessly).

So I arrived with my metaphorical socks pulled up high, pen and paper (and smartphone) poised and ready to learn, or perhaps absorb is a better word, all that I could from the world of communications and see how it could be best applied to EIA.

Ashraf Amin, Journalist shares with us the role of communications during the Egyptian revolution.

Ashraf Amin, Journalist shares with us the role of communications during the Egyptian revolution.

Two days were spent in a stunning location overlooking the city  learning about the latest in comms, with interesting and dynamic people, all fuelled by the best espresso.

In short, I have taken away so much from the conference and could go on at length about the importance of communications but in this information overload world we now inhabit, instead I will summarise some of the key lessons in less than 140 characters. In other words, a tweet!

  • Stephane Dujarric, Director of News & Media at the UN: “Issue comes before the logo”, always tell a compelling human story
  • Silvia Cambie working with the European Training Foundation: “Networks are replacing individuals as base of communications”
  • Aureli Valtat – Eurocontrol and Tweeting through the ash cloud: “Twitter is not just a push channel – interactivity is key”
  • Mark Comerford on Social Media & Journalism: “Everything is changing…and survival relies on being responsive to change”
  • Are you ready for the digital revolution?
  • Steve Seager on SEO: “Shameless blog promotion is ok!”
  • Suzanne Salvo of Salvo Photo on the accidental photographer: “show results, not the product”
Approaching things from a new angle - Mole Antonelliana - the landmark of Turin.

Approaching things from a new angle - Mole Antonelliana - the landmark of Turin.

So for EIA, we are in the middle of updating our website (in fact this conference could not have come at a better time) and there is much we can implement right away. From optimizing content, integrating more of our media (analogue & digital) and selecting powerful imagery that crosses the language barrier. Embracing the perception shift may take a little longer. But watch this space.

I will finish with the words of Mark Comerfor:

“if you want to reach me, you will have to reach my network”

Join EIA’s network on Twitter, on Facebook, LinkedIn and Vimeo.

I would like to add a personal thanks to board members of the IABC, especially Michael Ambjorn.

Sophia Cheng - Turin, Italy

Sophia Cheng

EIA

“NGO comms newbie”

 

 

 

 

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Dr. Jhala

Dr. Jhala speaking at the International Conference on Tiger Conservation

 

 

 

You might have heard there was a tiger conference in Delhi last week, you’ve probably seen news about India’s tiger population, but did you hear anything about China’s absurd comment about tiger trade?

Probably not. The media shuffled out following India’s announcements, and the rest of the gathering of Tiger Range Countries was mostly a mela of sickly sweet back-patting sessions.

Countries stood up to present their “To Do” lists for the rest of 2011 and reported on progress since the St Petersburg International Tiger Forum. A number of delegates reported seizures of tiger parts since St Petersburg, and that the consignments were headed to China. Troubled by this, Bangladesh asked China what action they were taking to stop the trade.

Apart from the ban and public education since 1993, China has effective enforcement. Eh?! Yep, that’s right. China stated that they get information from NGOs in their country such as TRAFFIC, IFAW, “and sometimes” EIA, but they haven’t received any recent information about trade in tiger skin and bone and that’s because China has “good control of illegal trade in tiger parts”.

Surely we had misheard. But no, a delegate from China later confirmed their belief, that since EIA visits every year, and since they did not hear from us in 2010, they assumed it was because we couldn’t find any evidence of trade.

We didn’t visit China in 2010! Credit crunch and all that. That’s the only reason we didn’t provide them with a report that year! What a frightening insight into the logic that is failing the tiger.

So much for Premier Wen Jiabao’s commitment to “vigorously combat poaching and trade”, he needs to crack the whip and make sure there are more boots on the ground proactively gathering intelligence on the tiger traders, not waiting for the NGOs to point out the problem areas.

And excuse me, we still haven’t had a response to our findings from 2009!

There’s more. In their “To Do” list for the meeting, under items “Completed” China reported that they had undertaken inspections of tiger farms and markets between August and December 2010. When asked if there were any seizures, arrests or prosecutions resulting from these inspections, one delegate said he didn’t know, the other asked for the question in writing because he didn’t want to make the “mistake of misunderstanding” me. This from a delegate who had chaired an entire session of the meeting the day before!

But in a real twist that seriously undermines the good words of Wen Jiabao, China’s list refers to a skin registration scheme, allowing tiger skins to be labelled, so they could be “monitored”, not destroyed. This sounds strikingly similar to the scheme announced in 2007 to register, label and sell skins of “legal origin”, including those of farmed tigers. When asked, one delegate confirmed that skins from farmed tigers were being labelled and stored but he didn’t know if any had been sold, the other delegate…well my Scottish accent was still troubling him.

 Fear not tiger fans, we won’t give up!

Oh, and good luck to the Government of Kazakhstan who plan to reintroduce tigers south of Lake Balkhash. Close to the border with China.

And now for something to get happy about?

So, India’s tiger population is an estimated 1706 adults, a higher number than indicated by the 2006 estimate of 1411. But does it really reflect an increase in the tiger population?

Compared to 2006, there were additional tiger areas covered by the surveys in 2010, including the Sundarbans Tiger Reserve, parts of Maharashtra, Uttarakhand and Assam. Discounting those additions, the scientists say there has been a 12% increase in areas surveyed both in 2006 and 2010.

Reading between the numbers there are some surprises, with news that Kanha Tiger Reserve, the jewel in the crown of the self-styled “Tiger State” of Madhya Pradesh, has lost tigers, that too despite more regular monitoring. The new champions are in the Western Ghats, where poaching is less prevalent, and where that landscape has emerged as host to the largest single population of wild tigers anywhere in the world.

Tiger in Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary

More good news in the north, where some populations outside protected areas are stable and showing signs of increase in parts of Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, despite being close to tiger trafficking borders.

 

But there’s no time to do cartwheels. In fact, the lead scientist overseeing the work, Dr YV Jhala from the Wildlife Institute of India, and the Minister of Environment and Forests, Mr Jairam Ramesh, both went to great lengths during the media scrum to highlight some hard-hitting truths of considerable concern.

For example, tiger occupancy has declined considerably, down from 93,600 sq km to 72,800 sq km. That is a massive 20,000 sq km that is now devoid of tigers, compared to just four years ago, and that too outside of the protected areas. While the density of the tiger population in these areas might not be high, they are critical for linking the otherwise isolated tiger populations, and thus the long-term survival of wild tigers. Finding out where and how should be number one on the Government of India’s “To Do” list. Hmm, we’re looking forward to the release of the detailed data and maps.

Debbie Banks Senior Campaigner

 

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This week sees the launch of EIA’s third supermarket survey. Over the past three years I’ve been amazed by the level of progress some retailers have made towards adopting HFC-free refrigeration. You’ll see from the results that 2010 was definitely the year HFC-free supermarket refrigeration went mainstream. Today a whopping 246 stores across Great Britain have HFC-free refrigeration systems in then, up from 46 last year, whilst hundreds of engineers have been trained to deal with climate-friendly refrigerants.

Chilling Facts 2011, where did your local supermarket come? Credit istock

The UK is now paving the way for climate-friendly refrigeration and is a global centre for innovation, we are quickly catching up with our Northern European neighbours and are miles ahead of many other European countries.

As an environmental campaigner I find I’m often exposed to bad news and uphill struggles, I suppose it’s the nature of the game. So it’s great to be working on a campaign that has made tangible changes. Many retailers have told us that our survey has raised the issue of refrigeration up to board level, helping to ensure that resources are given to tackle the environmental impacts of using HFCs.

We decided to started the survey in 2008 when, after reading through retailer’s corporate social responsibility reports, it became apparent that leaking HFCs can account for about one third of a supermarket’s carbon footprint! A shocking statistic and frustrating given that HFC-free alternatives exist.

This year’s results were very close, with the top four retailers- Waitrose, Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Marks & Spencer all coming near to one another. However some supermarkets are still avoiding their responsibilities. The biggest disappointment was Asda, despite participating for the past two years this year Asda pulled out of our survey. Our research suggests that Asda has done little to move away from HFCs over the past year so it seems that their refusal was a strategic decision to avoid being ousted by our survey. Clearly this isn’t the way we’d expect a retailer who apparently prides themselves on sustainability to act.

Read the full report.

Asda. Credit istockResponse to Asda

In an effort to enter into a dialogue with Asda, I attempted to post a response to the latest Asda Aisle Spy blog by Julian dated 28th March. However, after repeatedly trying it has not been published. Perhaps your comments might have more success.

Here is my response:

As one of the authors of EIA’s report I thought I should highlight our disappointment at the comments you have made here regarding our so called ‘one dimensional approach’. Readers of the report (http://www.eia-international.org/files/reports195-1.pdf) will see that EIA scores retailers based on ten categories and gives credit for efforts made to reduce energy use and leakage of refrigerant gases, which is precisely what we did for Asda last year. But from a long term sustainability point of view using potent greenhouse gases in refrigeration just isn’t viable. Unfortunately Asda is one of the only retailers who has reneged on a 2007 commitment to move away from climate wrecking HFC based refrigeration. Whilst Sainsbury’s has managed to roll out over 70 HFC-free systems in stores in just one year it looks like Asda has done little towards the commitment it made. You mention your CO2 store in Bootle which opened in 2009. Have you opened any other HFC-free stores since?  Sadly it seems that Asda just isn’t ready to start taking a longer term approach still favouring the use of outdated climate wrecking technologies whilst its competitors move ahead with sustainable agendas. We are keen to find out more about the work Asda is doing to reduce the impacts of refrigeration and feel that your participation in the survey is an opportunity to demonstrate the work Asda is doing, as you will see despite your refusal to participate this EIA has highlighted efforts to reduce energy use trials of fridge doors.

Fionnuala Walravens

Fionnuala Walravens

Senior Campaigner

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