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Climate Crisis Weekly: Slow and steady wins! Giant tortoises save their own species

  • After a decades-long recovery program, giant tortoises return to their Galápagos island.
  • Florida youths’ climate court case was dismissed, but they will appeal.
  • Pandemics are a result of the destruction of our environment, says the UN, WHO, and WWF.
  • And more…

About 50 years ago, there were only two males and 12 females of Galápagos tortoises on Española in the Galápagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador. Human activity almost caused their extinction.

So in order to save the giant tortoises, a recovery program on Santa Cruz island in the Galápagos was set up in the 1960s. Diego, a Galápagos tortoise, was flown in from the San Diego Zoo in California to help save his own species. Diego is now 100 years old, and he sure has made an impact: He’s fathered around 40% — around 800 children — of the 2,000 tortoises now alive today.

So Diego (after 80 years of absence) and 14 other tortoises have now been rehomed on Española where they will live in the wild, with GPS trackers.

The Galápagos is a Unesco World Heritage site, and it was key for Charles Darwin as he formulated his Theory of Evolution in the 19th century. And the tortoises were an important part of that. This successful breeding program, which took decades, is a great news for conservation. But hey — you can’t rush giant tortoises, especially ones that can live to 200 years old.

Florida climateA circuit judge in Leon County, Florida, dismissed a lawsuit earlier in June that was filed by eight young people against the state of Florida over burning fossil fuels and thus causing climate change. Judge Kevin Carroll said the young people made a “compelling argument,” but that it was a political problem to solve, so he dismissed the case. The group will take the case to Florida’s First District Court of Appeals.

Andrea Rodgers, senior litigation attorney with Our Children’s Trust, said:

What we’re asking the court to do is to review the government’s conduct, determine whether it’s constitutional, and then ask the government or order the government to fix it and bring it into constitutional compliance.

Levi Draheim of Brevard County is one of the youth plaintiffs. He said after the decision:

We should never have gotten to this point. We should have had climate change taken care of. The youth shouldn’t be having to take action like this to protect their future. We shouldn’t literally be fighting for our lives.

Draheim is 12 years old. And such a young man shouldn’t have to worry about this because the Florida legislators won’t.

The United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) International have declared that pandemics are the result of humanity’s destruction of nature.

Heads of those organizations told the Guardian:

The illegal and unsustainable wildlife trade as well as the devastation of forests and other wild places were still the driving forces behind the increasing number of diseases leaping from wildlife to human.

Further, a WWF report published on Wednesday states:

Increasing pressures on nature from wildlife exploitation and our unsustainable food systems increase the likelihood of future pandemics.

The WWF then lists five points on how governments need to tackle this crisis, including considering the link between health, humans, and the environment in their policies.

The Guardian continues:

The WWF report said 60-70% of the new diseases that have emerged in humans since 1990 came from wildlife. Over the same period, 178m hectares of forest have been cleared, equivalent to more than seven times the area of the UK.

“Our inequality crisis is intertwined with the climate crisis.” — Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist and conservation strategist who is the founder of Ocean Collectiv and an adjunct professor at New York University. Climate, COVID, and racism are interconnected. Have a watch.

United Nations Climate Change has released #ShowYourStripes, which features “warming stripe” graphics that visually represent the change in temperature as measured in each country from 1901 to 2019. Each stripe represents the average temperature over a year — and this simple graphic really drives the point home. The last decade? Red.

Nearly every country in the world goes from blue to red. To see your country’s stripes, click here.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will not regulate perchlorate as a drinking water contaminant, which the US Government Accountability Office found the presence of in water, soil, or sediment of 45 states.

According to the Food and Drug Administration, manufactured perchlorate can be found in rocket propellants, explosives, fireworks, and road flares. The FDA states:

Pregnant women and their fetuses and newborns have the greatest potential for risk of adverse health effects following exposure to perchlorate.

Betsy Southerland, PhD, former director, EPA Office of Water, said:

This is unconscionable; once again, EPA has proven it has abandoned its mission to protect public health. Perchlorate disrupts the normal function of the thyroid in children and adults and causes development problems in fetuses, so I suppose [EPA head] Andrew Wheeler thinks it’s just fine for babies and children to have IQ loss or brain damage.

EPA’s rollback of water quality rules over the past four years has endangered drinking water, fisheries, and recreational waters that support the health and economies of communities throughout the country. Invariably, the worst impacts on health fall on low-income people and communities of color, who are often immediately downstream and downwind of deregulated industries.

Shame on Andrew Wheeler and shame on this EPA.

Here’s our #FridaysForFuture roundup, starting with founder Greta Thunberg this week — 96 weeks in:

And here’s Hilda in Uganda with her siblings (hang in there, Hilda; yes, we are stronger together):

And finally, from Russia, she is referring to the Norilsk oil spill:

Check out our past editions of Climate Crisis Weekly.

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Avatar for Michelle Lewis Michelle Lewis

Michelle Lewis is a writer and editor on Electrek and an editor on DroneDJ, 9to5Mac, and 9to5Google. She lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. She has previously worked for Fast Company, the Guardian, News Deeply, Time, and others. Message Michelle on Twitter or at Check out her personal blog.