Greenpeace USA’s anti-Shell effort (in pictures)

On July 8, conservation group Greenpeace USA released a video titled Everything is NOT Awesome.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qhbliUq0_r4

Partnered with a creative agency Don’t Panic, Greenpeace used a slowed, melodic version of “Everything is Awesome” to score a host of artistically beautiful, yet harrowing images.  Together, they created a world overrun by corporate greed while promoting a strong conservation effort.  The video shows oil company Shell drilling in the arctic, which results in an oil spill that consumes everything in its path – from indigenous wildlife to the imaginations of children – and even our beloved Santa Claus and two LEGO Movie heroes Emmett and Wyldstyle.

Upon first seeing the video I was moved beyond words – such power in under two minutes.  That is amazing.  Then, I read that a previous version of the video had been flagged and removed by YouTube.  In an effort to make sure the powerful images survive, I’ve compiled a collection of twenty one screen caps.  They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, how many words are there before you now?

Add your name to the petition to have LEGO end their partnership with Shell: Lend Your Voice – Add Your Name to the Petition

Everything is NOT Awesome 

(screen caps)

The Sochi Olympics and New Art: “Flamboyance”

Sochi 2014The Sochi Winter Olympics are upon us – and not without controversy.

Last summer, President Vladimir Putin endorsed and signed anti-gay legislation, and recent viral videos suggest that members of the Russian LGBT community are now living in an increasingly hostile environment.  Leading up to these Olympic Games, videos and reports have emerged highlighting detestable acts of animal cruelty (in an effort to “clean up” the host city). Finally, it’s widely reported that there is a terrorist threat from jihadist militants, born out of hatred for Russia.  The Sochi Winter Olympics are sure to be memorable, but I can only hope for the right reasons.

See what I wrote about Putin’s legislation (July 2013)

This past week – because of the Russian government’s cruel (and what I consider criminal) actions – I’ve debated watching the Olympics on NBC.  Does my viewership condone the actions of the Russian government?  Does my viewership represent an oversight, and contradict my stances for LGBT equality and animal conservation and rights? These question have weighed on my mind – and I keep coming back to this one point:  The Olympics are in place to showcase athletes who have worked countless hours and years to compete at these events – I’ll watch for them.

Be assured, my viewership does not mean I condone or stand beside – or that I’m overlooking – the actions of Putin’s government.  Nor will I root against Russia’s athletes just because they’re Russian – may the best athletes win.  To coincide with the Opening Ceremony, I have crafted a piece of art that represents my love for animals and shows my support for environmentalists, animal activists, and the LGBT community.  It’s called Flamboyance.

Flamboyance was created featuring seven varied, yet similar flamingos.  The number seven represents spirituality, understanding and knowledge.  Flamingos represent grace, responsibility, community and vibrancy.  Together, the message is clear – let this serve as my message of support for the oppressed, the Olympic spirit and her athletes, and as defiance against Russia’s oppressive regime.  I now proudly present:

FLAMBOYANCE. (c) 2014. Bobby James

View more of my 2014 Artwork here

Flamboyance with a Message of Hope

DID YOU KNOW?  A colony, group, or flock of flamingos is called a Flamboyance.

NOTE:  I’m infinitely more excited for the Opening Ceremony now that I know t.A.T.u. will be performing “Not Gonna Get Us” live!  I will also add that I’m extremely proud of President Barack Obama for what he’s doing during the ceremony: find out here. So you could familiarize yourself with “Not Gonna Get Us” (and come to love the song, like I do) here’s a lyric video:

BREAKING: World Rhino Day

Rhinos

Today is World Rhino Day – a day where we should focus our attention on the plight of the African and Asian rhinoceros.  Like many other species, elephants – or the big cats for example, rhinos are being poached at alarming rates – by a common, ill-informed (or blind) foe known primarily as Asian culture.

In Eastern culture, keratin horns from the rhinoceros are believed to have medicinal properties (ex. When crushed? A cure for cancer).  These claims are unsubstantiated by science, but the beliefs linger on and paint targets on each and every rhinoceros in the wild.  Day by day, rhinos are killed – calves are orphaned – horns are stolen and traded illegally.  Despite this, those afflicted by cancer, or other ailments still suffer.  Death results in death; but some a profit in its wake – they evade justice – and even when justice is had, it’s done so weakly.

Rhino-Poaching “Kingpin” Arrested

Rhino Mother and CalfThis year alone, more than 600 rhinos have been poached.  How many more need to die – or how many more need to be orphaned before the world acts to save a species from extinction?  Keratin is a fibrous protein that makes up our fingernails and our hair (among other things) – we need to spread this truth – and we need to work to save a species on the brink of extinction.  Nature and its inhabitants are not mine, or yours, or theirs for the taking, but because of the actions of a few – we need more to help raise awareness and to help combat the massacre of rhinos.

Fortunately, there are many organizations dedicated to the conservation of rhinos that we can support, unless you or I plan on initiating and executing an on-the-ground anti-poaching campaign.  Here are a few I’ve selected for your consideration (note: If you’re aware of other organizations, or support one that I’ve not chosen to highlight, please, share them in the comments section below).

Mother and CalfThe International Rhino Foundation (IRF) – The IRF operates conservation programs in Sumatra, Zimbabwe, South Africa and Indonesia as well as maintaining a Sumatran Rhino sanctuary and Javan conservation area.  The IRF also provides grants that support the scientific study of rhinos in the wild.

Save The Rhino – Save the Rhino International is a UK-based charity that works to save viable rhinoceros populations in the wild.

The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust – The Sheldrick Wildlife Trust rescues orphaned elephants and rhinos in Kenya.  They then rear, rehabilitate, and reintroduce the orphans into the wild.

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) – WWF is the largest conservation society in the world. Consider adopting a species, if you are able. Otherwise, help them by spreading the word on social media.

 

 

 

 

#SaveElephants

elephantDawn breaks across the savanna of Tsavo-East National Park in Kenya, Africa.  A family of twelve elephants stirs in the morning sun.  The humidity begins to climb and a mother nudges her calf.  The little one flaps his ears and trumpets, awake.  At dusk and dawn, the iron-rich soils of this untamed land are illuminated – red.  This day, the calf, his mother, and his family would have basked in the sun, and dusted themselves to stay cool; by dusk, they’d have become Kenya’s “red” elephants.  Instead, their flapping ears and morning rumbles were silenced during a downpour of lead.  Ambushed by poachers, blood from their ivory-stripped bodies poured into the ground on January 10, 2013.

The incident in Tsavo-East is one of the worst concentrated murders of elephants in Kenya since the 1980s, highlighting an alarming trend.  Throughout the past decade, poaching incidences have risen, matching the increased ivory demand from the Asian black market.  Ivory’s soaring profitability means poachers will, by any means necessary, invade any territory to gain access to elephants – and ultimately their ivory. On May 6, 2013, twenty-six elephants were slaughtered in an area known as the “Village of Elephants,” in Dzanga-Ndoki National Park – a protected sanctuary in the Central African Republic.

View the “Village of Elephants” massacre article on National Geographic (Graphic Photos)

The attack coincides with the country’s current political unrest and was so significant, that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) evacuated its conservationists.  As a result of the increased attacks in protected sanctuaries, many leading wildlife organizations, like the WWF and National Geographic, have called for increased attention to elephant conservation.  On May 7, Richard Carol, the WWF-US Vice-President for Africa Programs released a statement: “Urgent help is needed to prevent a wholesale massacre of elephants.  WWF is committed to supporting efforts to protect the irreplaceable natural heritage of the Central African Republic at this critical time.”

[click to enlarge]

[click to enlarge]

While Carol’s statement makes elephant conservation seems like an issue for the global community, as opposed to a local concern, Susan Gallagher of the St. Louis Zoo said, “You can help by contributing to an organization that supports elephant conservation in the wild, like the International Elephant Foundation (IEF), [by] supporting companies that realize the increased demand for palm oil is fueling destruction of the rainforest habitat of Asian elephants, [or by] writing letters to decision makers about the need to conserve elephants.”

Learn more about the International Elephant Foundation (IEF)

In 1900, African elephant populations were believed to be near 10 million, while their Asian counterparts were believed to number around 100,000.  By 1989, their numbers had plummeted – African elephant populations had decreased to approximately 600,000 and Asian elephant populations dwindled to around 50,000.  These steep population declines led to the “Ivory Ban” of 1989, which was enacted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).  The ban outlawed the international sale or trade of ivory.  Subsequently, populations began to stabilize and climb.

Today however, population estimates are lower still.  Gallagher said, “Asian elephants are facing extinction in the wild.  Between 35,000 and 50,000 Asian elephants are estimated to remain in the wild.  [We] take seriously [our] responsibility to conserve this species – to improve the welfare and protect Asian elephants in Sumatra and other countries in Asia.  We also support conservation and protection efforts to benefit African elephants in Kenya.”

African elephant populations are estimated around 450,000.  Gallagher stated the St. Louis Zoo has provided over $1.5 million for elephant conservation to the IEF, in the last five years.  It’s through contributions like this that Gallagher asserts, “[We] care about elephants, both here and in the wild, and [we] share a common vision – a vision that includes elephants in the world’s future forever.”

Click here to learn about the St. Louis Zoo’s WildCare Institute and Conservation

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Soar with eagles on World Eagle Day

wbsOn March 24, the World Bird Sanctuary will host World Eagle Day. The event provides visitors an opportunity to learn about and interact with some of nature’s most majestic creatures, including the national symbol, the Bald Eagle.

Introduced in the mid-1980s, World Eagle Day is a multifunctional event; it serves as the culmination of eagle season, raises awareness of migratory eagles, and serves as a fundraiser for the organization. The annual event attracts between two hundred and three thousand visitors, something WBS staff member Cathy Spahn notes is “dependent on the weather.”

Used as a rehabilitation center for up to four hundred birds, the World Bird Sanctuary cares for approximately twenty to thirty eagles at a given time, something Spahn mentions costs over $1,000.00 annually per large eagle. The World Bird Sanctuary receives no state or federal funding; rather it is supported through donations, annual memberships, the Adopt-a-Bird program, educational outreach programs, and special events.

World Eagle Day Infograph

For this year’s event the World Bird Sanctuary is hosting William Voelker, a member of the Comanche Nation. Voelker will moderate two forty-five minute programs about Bald Eagles and their importance to Comanche tribes and culture. Distinguished as the first Native American to obtain federal permits for the care and breeding of Bald and Golden Eagles, Voelker co-founded Sia in 1999 to promote “preservation through cultural understanding of the eagle in history, science, and spirit.

Learn More About Sia Here

In addition to Voelker’s appearance, World Bird Sanctuary Naturalists will be on hand with raptor facts and live eagle shows throughout the day, something that will provide photo ops and fun for people of all ages. Spahn said, “I’ve been here thirteen years going on fourteen now, so I’ve been doing this a long time. It’s a love and a passion and this will be my eighth eagle day.”

The presentation of Eagle Day poses seemingly inherent risks for the handlers, though. Despite the amount of risk involved when handling birds of prey, Spahn reassures, “Getting bit is very rare with a bird of prey. Birds of prey use their feet for defense, so that can happen, but when it [getting bit] happens, you have done something wrong. It’s very rare.”

Rarity was a once common term associated with eagles but Spahn notes “The Bald Eagle has been removed from the Endangered Species List, though it’s still protected by the Bald and Golden Eagle Act.”

Due to the recovery efforts of organizations like the World Bird Sanctuary, Bald Eagles were removed from the List of Endangered Species in 2007. According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Bald Eagles are of “least concern,” as of the 2012 Red List report.

Learn More About the IUCN and The Red List Here

Increased populations mean that eagle watchers have a good chance of witnessing the flight of an eagle in the wild and Spahn tips, “If you want to eagle watch you can come to the World Bird Sanctuary early in the morning but the best area in St. Louis is up towards Alton.”

DSC07278Spahn also noted that a handler will likely be flying a Bald Eagle at the event and that the event will also feature the other six species (Golden, Bateleur, Wedge-tailed, Tawny, Long-crested, and White-tailedSea) of eagles housed at the World Bird Sanctuary. The World Bird Sanctuary is situated beside Lone Elk Park, a car park where visitors may see elk, bison, or white-tailed deer before or after attending the event.

To get up close and personal with eagles, snap great photos, make fun crafts, tour the wildlife hospital, and enjoy concessions, World Eagle Day is Sunday, March 24th from 10a.m. to 4 p.m. Entry and parking are free. The address for the World Bird Sanctuary is 125 Bald Eagle Ridge Rd., Valley Park, MO 63088. For directions or additional information, visit www.worldbirdsanctuary.org or call 636-225-4390 ext. 0.

Follow WBS on twitter: @WBSSTL

PREMIERE: “Elephants: Blood Ivory”

This week I debuted my new documentary short titled Elephants: Blood Ivory. This a follow-up to a 2010 short I did titled The Ivory Role.  Inspired by the October 2012 National Geographic article, I wanted to highlight the very real issue of poaching and do my part to help end it.  I created African tribal-inspired art to increase the dramatic effect in the video.  Here we go:

Visit www.asseenby.com for my “Highlighting Filmmakers” editorial (available Friday, December 14).

-Bobby-james

PolitiPost: “Sit down Governor Romney, thank you”

President Obama and Governor Romney met in their second debate, a town hall, moderated by Candy Crowly.  Compared to their last encounter, this debate maintained some similarities, but was vastly different in tone.

Let me first say this:  I found many of the questions to be posed stereotypically – I’ll explain.  The “jobs” question was asked by a 20-something college student, the immigration question asked by a Latina, and the ‘What have you done?’ was asked by an undecided black voter who said he didn’t share the same passion for Obama that he did in 2008 – cliché?  Absolutely.

Tonight, while Governor Romney regurgitated much of what he said last week in his avoidance-based introduction, while continuing his anti-bird agenda.  Last week he launched an attack on Big Bird, this week he made his unfriendly conservation status quite clear.  While criticizing Obama’s decrease on permits and licenses to drill for oil, Romney said, “20 or 25 birds were killed…” (is that insignifcant? Were they endangered? Birds mean nothing? … what) before citing a conservation-based movement was enacted to protect the birds.

What kind of birds?  Not sure, but one may question, why Romney has a hidden agenda against birds.

Romney stated that permits and licenses for domestic drilling were cut by 50% under Obama’s administration, to which the President replied, “you use it [public land] or lose it,” maintaining a position that permits were granted to be used, not saved for later dates and the benefit of oil companies or manufacturers.

A later question focused on pay-discrimination for women in the workplace.  Governor Romney mentioned his “binders full of women,” which he used to recruit and employ qualified women.  Unfortunately, Romney surely alienated some female voters by citing “cooking” and “caring for their children” as reasons why women need flexible schedules (guess men aren’t responsible for those tasks in the Romney house) and as likely contributing factors to unequal pay.  In response, President Obama firmly stated, “We do not tolerate discrimination for women.”  Obama’s firm stance remained.

Question to Obama:  “What have you done?”  Obama cited job growth and his unyielding commitment to working for the American people everyday.  Romney said Obama was, “great as a speaker” but that the American people, “have a record to look at.”  Interestingly enough, by this (the sixth question) point, Romney had offered little insight into his oft-referenced “plan” which begs the question:  Without a plan, what of Romney’s (besides tax documents) do the American people have to look at?

On immigration policy, Romney’s grand idea was to offer green cards to skilled foreigners, so they may be put to work in America, while offering no amnesty and promoting “self-deportation.”  That entire train of thought is a joke!  How does one grow the American economy and create jobs for qualified Americans while recruiting “skilled” foreigners and awarding them green cards?  How do you offer no amnesty and promote “self-deportation” while not being in favor of “rounding people up”?  Who is going to deport themself?  In fact, when Candy Crowly said, “Let’s speak to self-deportation.” Romney replied, “No.”  I wonder why.

On the same issue, President Obama proposed immigration reform be streamlined and that people have a “pathway to citizenship,” while referencing America’s immigration-based establishment.  It was during this segment that an unruly Governor Romney was told by Candy Crowly,

“Sit down Governor Romney, thank you.”

Following immigration, the often-referenced topic of Libya was reached.  Governor Romney’s biggest blunder came during this segment.  He declared, and was corrected by President Obama and Candy Crowly, that President Obama did not call the attacks in Benghazi an act of terror.  Romney was referred to the transcript, where Obama said he gave a statement to the American people from the Rose Garden.  During this question, the President scolded Romney saying, “You don’t use national security for political points,” before saying, “the suggestion that anybody on my team would play politics [with the Libya attacks] is offensive.”

The debate then flowed into how the government will combat domestic attacks involving assault rifles (ex. AK-47s).  President Obama emphasized the importance of education in a person’s development and Governor Romney took the point a step further and said, “We need Mom’s and Dad’s helping to raise their kids,” before suggesting violence reduction would come from people being married before having children.  Confused?  I was too.

The last question pertained to manufacturing jobs in the United States, and China’s growth to being the manufacturing leader of the world.  Governor Romney said,

“China is stealing intellectual property”

before stating that on day one he will label China a currency manipulator and [if needed] impose tariffs on Chinese trade.  President Obama on the other hand said the solution is to attract jobs back to the United States by lowering corporate tax rates and citing an increase in American exports during his first term in office.

Finally, to the perception of their character, Governor Romney said he cares about “100% of the American people” (contrary to his 47% remark) and said that his “passion flows from the fact that I believe in God,” before spouting off with a last-minute tangent of desperation to “get America working again.”  President Obama said he believes in free enterprise, rewards for risk, and in fair shots on even playing fields for everyone – he said, “I want high wage, high skill jobs…I want manufacturing…for the future.”

Additional Thoughts: 

1) Looks like Mitt Romney would have a busy first day in office.  To date, “on day one,” Governor Romney is going to (1) Repeal “Obamacare, (2) cut funding to PBS (and Big Bird), and (3) label China a currency manipulator who’s been advantageous of the American marketplace.  If that’s not a recipe for failure, then it’ll be a long day for Mitt Romney.

2) I’m disappointed that the social issue of marriage equality wasn’t touched upon.  Governor Romney said violence could be reduced if people were married before they had children, yet he never said who should marry or raise children.  Should irresponsible heterosexual adults be able to pop out babies on a whim and dump them in foster care while social inequality dictates against marriage and adoption equality?

3) President Obama was more vested and lively in this debate.  Governor Romney avoided questions, repeatedly interrupted and remained highly condescending, especially toward Candy Crowly… guess she’s not in one of his “binders full of women.”

Victor:  President Barack Obama (I think the message tonight was clear, sit down Governor Romney)

-Bobby-james

African Elephants: Taken for “Blood Ivory”

In the October 2012 issue of National Geographic, there is a special investigative report by Bryan Christy.  The report identifies many Asian countries (primarily China) as the largest consumers of [black market] ivory and explores the “loopholes” surrounding the illegal ivory trade (hint: most of the “loopholes” are religious).

In 1989 the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) banned ivory trade (these governing sanctions went into effect in 1990).  The ban was sought after an estimated 600,000 elephants (or roughly, half the wild elephant population) were slaughtered for their ivory throughout the 1980s.

Since the ban, the ivory black market is booming with profitability.  In fact, National Geographic reports that the cost per pound for Grade A ivory at Beijing’s Ivory Carving Factory, which legally sells ivory, is roughly $530 per pound. So imagine the cost on the black market.  This past Spring, when I completed a mock grant proposal (The Bobby-james Wildlife Effort) to combat illegal ivory trade, my black market figures were staggering.

I used prices from boonetrading.com to calculate my figures.  Their site lists raw ivory at $2.00 per gram.  Given there are 453.6 grams in a pound, I found that raw ivory could earn as much as $907.20 per pound.  Combined, there is an estimated price range between $530-$907 per pound of ivory – this is a lucrative business generating billions of dollars annually.

Bryan Christy’s article begins:

In January 2012 a hundred raiders on horseback charged out of Chad into Cameroon’s Bouba Ndjidah National Park, slaughtering hundreds of elephants – entire families – in one of the worst concentrated killings since a global ivory trade ban was adopted in 1989…you can see which animals fled, which mothers tried to protect their young, how one terrified herd of 50 went down together…

The assumption is that each elephant contains approximately 22 pounds of ivory.  Given the price per pound, a herd of 50 elephants would generate between $583,000-$997,700.  Then think, tens of thousands of elephants are losing their lives annually.  Unfortunately, this epidemic is not a new phenomenon.  Ivory trade is believed to date back to the origins of society and as Bryan Christy highlights, ivory was a gift/good rumored to be used during the explorations of Ferdinand Magellan during the 16th Century.

In 2010, I produced a documentary short titled The Ivory Role calling attention to poaching and the illegal ivory trade.  Since then, poaching reached its highest levels in a decade when at least 25,000 African elephants were poached in 2011.  Estimates show that 34.7 tons of ivory was seized globally last year and data from 2012 remains inconclusive.  Alarmed?  You should be.

In addition to poaching, African Elephants are considered a member of The Big Five (Elephants, Lions, Leopards, Cape Buffalo, and Rhinoceros), a phrase used to describe the danger and degree of difficulty trophy hunters will have hunting these mammals on foot.  Unfortunately, Safari Club International offers a trophy for hunting all five species called the “African Big Five Grand Slam.” Combined with poaching, those who aren’t hunting for food place the African Elephants future at risk.

What’s worse is that isn’t all the surprise to be found – learn more in Bryan Christy’s article “Ivory Worship” in National Geographic.  Learn what country is violating a deal with CITES and how Christy was told to smuggle ivory.  To do my part, in the near future, I will produce a follow-up documentary short to The Ivory Role to help provide elephants with their own viral voice.  How will you help? If you don’t care, why not?  Let’s hear it.

-Bobby-james