Environment

A New Video Series: Overbrook's Visit to Urban Green

A few months ago, Foundation staff began brainstorming on how we might better utilize the abundance of new communication mediums to highlight and amplify our grantees critical work. And who better to explain and bring to life their work than the grantees themselves. With this in mind, Katie, armed with a tripod, microphone, and iPhone visited Urban Green in downtown Manhattan to interview a few members of their team and hear about their work.

The result is the three-minute video below which introduces you to a few of Urban Green’s amazing staff as they tell us about the organization’s mission, recent accomplishments, and upcoming projects. Urban Green is doing incredible work in our own back yard helping to transform NYC into a leader in green buildings. If you want to learn more about Urban Green check out their website here

This video series will be an ongoing project of Overbrook as we visit other grantees in our Environment and Human Rights programs. We hope you enjoy this as much as we enjoy creating these videos! 

Finally, we want to send a big thank you to Urban Green who graciously offered to be our first ‘guinea pig’ on this project.

Historic Win For Oceans Conservation

History was made on October 30th with the designation of the first ever large-scale marine protected area in the high seas. The Ross Sea, known as the “Last Ocean” because of its status as the most pristine shallow sea left on earth, is now the world’s largest marine protected area. The designation, agreed upon by the 25 members of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), safeguards 1.55 million km2 and protects populations of ecologically important species such as Weddell seals, Antarctic toothfish, and a unique type of killer whale. This protected status bans commercial fishing across roughly three-quarters of that area, with a small amount of fishing for research purposes allowed throughout the protected area. The designation is groundbreaking not only because of the size of the reserve, but because it is the culmination of years of difficult international negotiations to protect previously unregulated waters on the high seas.

This decision follows years of hard work by participating governments and NGO’s, including Greenpeace and Antarctic Ocean Alliance, two organizations supported with funds provided through the discretionary grants program of The Overbrook Foundation. Conservationists and nonprofits hope this designation will serve as a precedent for many other significant victories for ocean protection. Two additional proposals for marine protected areas in East Antarctic waters and the Weddell Sea are still being discussed, and those involved in the designation of the Ross Sea area are confident these areas will be protected in the coming years. The agreement will take effect in December 2017, and will last an initial 35 years for most of the reserve.

Overbrook Grantee Featured by NatGeo

Pronatura Noroeste AC, an Overbrook grantee since 2008, received some well-deserved coverage last week when its conservation work was featured in the online version of National Geographic Magazine. The article highlighted a recent trip to Cabo Pulmo National Park in Baja California Sur by renowned marine biologist Dr. Sylvia Earle and Mission Blue, an initiative working to ignite public support for a global network of marine protected areas to protect 20% of the world’s oceans by 2020.

While in Cabo Pulmo, Dr. Earle and her team visited the Pronatura Noroeste team and learned about their recent work building a new park nature center, which will help educate visitors on the area’s ecological value. The region holds the only coral reef system in the Sea of Cortes, and has become one of the most successful conservation sites in the Gulf of California, in large part due to Pronatura Noroeste’s work fending off destructive development proposals and fostering community conservation efforts. The new nature center will increase awareness of the park’s unique ecosystems and of the ongoing threats they face, helping to ensure the region’s continued conservation. The center is funded in part by the Foundation, and is due to open to the public later this year.

Good News for the New Year!

The days are numbered for those tiny plastic beads in soaps, body washes, toothpastes, and other household products. At the end of December, President Obama signed into law the Microbead-Free Waters Act, which bans the plastic microspheres widely used as exfoliating agents starting in July 2017. The bill is great news for waterways and oceans, as well as for human health. Studies have shown that the beads are washed down household drains, pass through sewage treatment plants, and make their ways into lakes, rivers, and oceans in enormous quantities (an estimated 11 billion microbeads are released into American waterways each day). There, they absorb toxins such as pesticides and move into the food web after being consumed by fish and other marine organisms. The result is an accumulation of toxins in wildlife and fish populations, and a danger to humans when affected seafood is eaten.

The bill sailed through the House and the Senate last month with an ease that seemed unusual for environmental legislation, in part because there was little opposition from the cosmetics companies responsible for most microbeads production. The industry had been under fire from environmental activists for years over the hazards of microbeads, and most major companies were already on board to begin phasing them out. Overbrook grantee The Story of Stuff Project was one of a handful of organizations that were instrumental to placing pressure on the cosmetics industry and pushing this bill through Congress.

Following the US bill and a similar law in the Netherlands, a rapidly growing online petition was launched to enact a microbeads ban in the UK. The hope is that more countries will follow these leads and make microbeads and their environmental effects a thing of the past.

Overbrook Grantees take on Science Museums

Two of Overbrook’s grantees have teamed up and are making waves in the world of science and natural history education. The Natural History Museum (a new grantee of the Foundation in 2015) and 350.org launched a joint “Keep It in the Museum” campaign last week which singles out five influential science and natural history museums for their connections to fossil fuels industry through investments, endowments, or board members and donors from the fossil fuel industry. The campaign comes on the heels of an open letter written in March by the Natural History Museum and signed by nearly 150 of the world’s top scientists, which decried the link between museums and the fossil fuel industry. The letter made major news headlines around the world and helped spark a campaign to remove David Koch, one of the nation’s most avid climate change deniers, from the board of two of the country’s biggest national history museums.

The joint effort between The Natural History Museum and 350.org has already made an impact. One of its five target institutions, The California Academy of Sciences in San Francisco, has since announced a new plan to phase out all of its funding tied to the fossil fuel industry. Executive Director Jonathan Foley wrote in a statement released last Friday, “It seems difficult to reconcile the mission of a public science museum focused on ecology, evolution, and sustainability and the practice of investing in fossil fuels.” As of this summer, the Academy has cut all direct investments in fossil fuel companies and has begun to phase out any oil, gas, and mineral leases on lands with historic mineral rights given by donors. Additionally, the Academy has adopted a new institutional gift policy that ensures contributions are consistent with this pledge, and will begin working to untie its endowment completely from fossil fuels.

We can't wait to see what comes next from this exciting collaborative efforts. Congratulations to The Natural History Museum and 350.org on the victory!

 

Peru Protects Indigenous Amazon Land

The Foundation would like to congratulate Overbrook grantee Nature and Culture International and the Maijuna and Kichwa people on their recent historic victory. Last week, President Humala of Peru officially recognized the Maijuna-Kichwa Regional Conservation Area in the Amazon rainforest of northern Peru as a federally protected land. Nature and Culture International has been working tirelessly along with the indigenous Maijuna and Kichwa people and the regional Loreto government to protect the area since 2006.

In addition to being the ancestral homeland of the indigenous Maijuna and Kichwa, the conservation area is also home to nearly one million acres of incredibly biodiverse rainforest. The decree calls for the protection of the area’s natural resources as well as its indigenous inhabitants, under the supervision of the National Service of Protected National Areas by the State and with the assistance of government-trained regional personnel.

To learn more, please see Nature and Culture International’s press release on the decree.

   
  
 
  
    
  
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  Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of Environment of Peru, displaying the Supreme Decree 008-2015-MINAM. Photo Credit: SERNANP

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal, Minister of Environment of Peru, displaying the Supreme Decree 008-2015-MINAM. Photo Credit: SERNANP