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$213bn environmental crime trade ‘funding terrorists and gangs’

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A booming business in environmental crime, including illegal logging and the ivory trade, worth up to $213 billion (£125 billion) a year is funding terrorist groups and organised crime around the world, a new report has warned.

The report, a joint paper from the United Nations and Interpol, found that environmental crimes, also including wildlife trafficking, the illegal trade in charcoal, illegal mining and dumping of toxic waste, is also damaging economic growth.

The increasingly sophisticated threat is a risk to many species. Some 20,000 to 25,000 African elephants are being killed every year, while the rate of rhino poaching has reached record levels – with over 1,000 killed in 2013. 

It is thought that the ivory trade funds militia groups in the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic, as well as gangs in Sudan, Chad and Niger. The annual income from ivory to criminal groups in the sub-Saharan region totals between $4-12.2m. (£2.4-7.2m)

Some 22,000 great apes – including chimpanzees and orangutans have also been taken from the wild, sold to wealthy collectors, disreputable zoos and the tourist entertainment industry. 

Other animals, ranging from tigers to sturgeon, are also in the firing line. 

Combined, the study estimates that environmental crime yields between $70 billion (£41.2 billion) and $213 billion (£125 billion) a year – comparing to global development aid budgets of $135 billion (£79.5 billion). 

By draining resources and compromising the health of ecosystems around the world, upon which many livelihoods, development opportunities and economies depend, such crime also threatens the progress of developing countries, the report warns.

In Africa, for example, it is estimated that governments are losing $1.9 billion (£1.1 billion) a year to the illegal charcoal trade.

This trade is now thought to be the primary source of income for Al-Shabaab, the terrorist organisation behind the attack on the Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi that killed around 70 people in September. 

According to the report, Al-Shabaab rakes in between $38-56m (£22-33m) per year, while denying developing economies vast potential wealth.

“Transnational criminal organisations are making immense profits by exploiting our natural resources to fuel their illicit activities, threatening the stability and future development of some of the world’s poorest regions,” said Jean-Michel Louboutin, Interpol’s executive director of police services.

“While there is growing awareness of the dangers posed by wildlife crime, it will require a dedicated and concerted international effort among law enforcement and partner organisations to effectively combat this threat to global security,” he added. 

The report does recognise some successes, such as the recorded reduction in deforestation of the Amazon and the increasingly successful seizures of ivory shipments across Africa. 

However, the report says this is not enough, and calls for stronger laws and tougher enforcement. Experts also demand a crackdown on the leaders of the organised criminal syndicates that are benefitting.

“We can catch as many foot soldiers as we want. If we don’t address the kingpins of illegal trade and wildlife crime, we won’t stop it,” Ben Janse van Rensburg, head of enforcement for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, told the Guardian.

It also calls for the international donor community to recognise the severity of the environmental crime crisis, and urges them to support efforts to safeguard its victims. 

Photo: Emma Websdale

Further reading:

Poaching threatens survival of African elephants

Britain pledges £10m to fight illegal poaching

Global leaders agree in London to tackle illegal wildlife trade

Conservationists meet in London to address global wildlife trafficking ‘crisis’

Rhino poaching: over 1,000 rhinos killed in 2013

 

Environment

Extra-Mile Water Conservation Efforts Amidst Shortage

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water conserving

While some states are literally flooding due to heavy rains and run-off, others are struggling to get the moisture they need. States like Arizona and California have faced water emergencies for the last few years; water conserving efforts from citizens help keep them out of trouble.

If your area is experiencing a water shortage, there are a few things you can do to go the extra mile.

Repair and Maintain Appliances

Leaks around the house – think showerheads, toilets, dishwashers, and more – lead to wasted water. Beyond that, the constant flow of water will cause water damage to your floors and walls. Have repairs done as soon as you spot any problems.

Sometimes, a leak won’t be evident until it gets bad. For that reason, make appointments to have your appliances inspected and maintained at least once per year. This will extend the life of each machine as well as nip water loss in the bud.

When your appliances are beyond repair, look into Energy Star rated replacements. They’re designed to use the least amount of water and energy possible, without compromising on effectiveness.

Only Run Dishwasher and Washer When Full

It might be easier to do a load of laundry a day rather than doing it once per week, but you’ll waste a lot more water this way. Save up your piles of clothes until you have enough to fully load the washing machine. You could also invest in a washing machine that senses the volume of water needed according to the volume of clothes.

The same thing goes with the dishwasher. Don’t push start until you’ve filled it to capacity. If you have to wash dishes, don’t run the water while you’re washing. Fill the sink or a small bowl a quarter of the way full and use this to wash your dishes.

Recycle Water in Your Yard

Growing a garden in your backyard is a great way to cut down on energy and water waste from food growers and manufacturers, but it will require a lot more water on your part. Gardens must be watered, and this often leads to waste.

You can reduce this waste by participating in water recycling. Using things like a rain barrel, pebble filtering system, and other tools, you can save thousands of gallons a year and still keep your landscaping and garden beautiful and healthy.

Landscape with Drought-Resistant Plants

Recycling water in your yard is a great way to reduce your usage, but you can do even more by reducing the amount of water required to keep your yard looking great. The best drought-resistant plants are those that are native to the area. In California, for example, succulents grow very well, and varieties of cactus do well in states like Arizona or Texas.

Install Water-Saving Features

The average American household uses between 80 and 100 gallons of water every single day. You obviously can’t cut out things like showering or using the toilet, but you can install a few water-saving tools to make your water use more efficient.

There are low-flow showerheads, toilets, and faucet aerators. You could also use automatic shut-off nozzles, shower timers, and grey water diverters. Any of these water saving devices can easily cut your water usage in half.

Research Laws and Ordinances for Your City

Dry states like California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada must create certain laws to keep the water from running out. These laws are put into practice for the benefit of everyone, but they only work if you abide by the laws.

If you live in a state where drought is common, research your state and city’s laws. They might designate one day per week that you’re allowed to water your lawn or how full you can fill a pool. Many people are not well versed in the laws set by their states, and it would mean a lot to your community if you did your part.

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Environment

Cyprus is the Forerunner for Ecotourism

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When I was looking for a second citizenship, I happened to see One Visa’s offer on Cyprus Citizenship by investment program. I had heard about Cyprus being a beautiful country, but I did not know much else, so I decided to start my own research about this gem of a place.

After I did some research, I discovered that Cyprus is a popular destination for tourists. Unfortunately, heavy tourism and the associated development affected villages here and there, with some communities being slowly abandoned. To avoid this from happening any further, Cyprus went into ecotourism, and today, it is the forerunner in this arena. Let’s look in further detail at ecotourism in Cyprus here.

How was it started?

It all started in 2006 with the launch of the “Cyprus Sustainable Tourism Initiative.” This program has the sole scope of promoting ecotourism developments in the tourism industry. It concentrates on those areas which require conservation and environmental safety. At the same time, it helps develop social, as well as economic statuses in the rural parts of Cyprus. Through this program, the government was able to acknowledge that ecotourism will play an essential role in the future of Cyprus, with the concept gaining momentum among tourists from all over the globe.

How to go about it?

So, now you are interested in going for an ecotourism vacation in Cyprus. How will you go about it? I would immediately say that everyone should visit the quaint Cypriot villages spread throughout the island. These communities have a smaller population, and not many tourists visit. They make for a great relaxing spot. Enjoy seeing the bustle of village life go by where simple pleasures abound. Most hamlets are linked by specific minibus tours which ferry tourists to these havens. These trips will have a regular schedule, aimed at promoting ecotourism further. Such tours will be regulated to ensure that while the villages can benefit and develop, they do not get overpopulated or overcrowded with tourists. Therefore, you can be sure to enjoy the beautiful sceneries that nature has to offer here.

If you are wondering if there are any activities to do here, my answer would be: “Yes, plenty.” You can go for some guided walks across various regions here. Here you will be able to explore the diversified natural beauty and wildlife of the area. Several agritourism activities and services are planned to open shortly. Once launched, you will be able to engage in picking olives, milking goats, and several other such events here.

What can be learned?

Although we are aware that natural resources need to be preserved, we do not always remember it in real life. When we go on tours such as these, we can realize the significance of protecting nature. Also, when more and more people visit these places, the concept of ecotourism will become popular among more people. Awareness about ecotourism is set to grow and spread throughout the world. Subsequently, sustainable tourism will gain popularity around the globe with Cyprus being the forerunner for ecotourism .

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