Things That Matter

Environmentalists Are Outraged At The US’s Latest Plans To Use The Galapagos Island As An Airstrip

Ecuador is receiving heavy criticism for giving the U.S. military permission to use a Galapagos island as an airfield. The proposed plan by Ecuador to allow the U.S. to use an airstrip on the Galapagos island of San Cristobal has drawn anger from local politicians and activists that say more harm than good will be done. The historic islands in Ecuador are one of the most biodiverse regions on the globe and are home to a number of species found nowhere else on the planet.

Ecuador and the U.S. plan on using the island as a way to stop drug trafficking flights.

Credit: guillaumelong/Twitter

Under the deal with Ecuador, the Pentagon will use the tiny airport on the San Cristobal island to “fight drug trafficking”, defense minister Oswaldo Jarrin told Latin American TV network Telesur.

Jarrín announced Ecuador President Lenín Moreno’s administration’s decision to expand an existing airfield on the San Cristobal Island for U.S. spy planes targeting drug traffickers on June 12. The aircrafts that would be used include a Boeing 777 and a Lockheed P-3 Orion.

According to the Los Angeles Times, multiple Latin American nations like Colombia, Peru, and Panama don’t allow the basing of U.S. anti-drug overflights controlled by the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

Ecuador’s constitution, which was adopted in 2008, prohibits the installation of foreign military bases in the country.

Former Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa tweeted “Galápagos is NOT an ‘aircraft carrier’ for gringo use. It is an Ecuadorian province, world heritage site, homeland.”

Following mass criticism, Jarrin said that the Galapagos Islands would not become home to a U.S. military base or any kind of permanent post. “A base means permanence, there will be no permanence,” Jarrín said.

He added that flight crews would stay a week at most on the island and activities would be monitored by Ecuadorian authorities. The Pentagon would also have to pay for any needed “readjustments” to the airfield, which some fear could lead to environmental harm.

Critics of the proposed plan say the move could threaten the fragile environment of the island.

The Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s most famous areas known for its unique array of wildlife and natural plants. Famed for its rich biodiversity, which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution, it was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1978.

Many fear that construction or possible use of the island for military purposes will harm wildlife and other organisms there. The increasing number of tourists have already caused some concerns. The number of tourists visiting the islands rose from 161,000 in 2007 to over 225,000 in 2016, the International Galapagos Tour Operators Association said.

At this time, it’s unclear if Ecuador will proceed with its plans with the U.S. as many have criticized the proposed plans. The Pentagon has yet to comment or confirm any such agreement with Ecuador.

READ: New Research Shows Most Undocumented Immigrants Aren’t Coming From Mexico But Instead Central America

Videos Show That Bears In This Mexican Park Are Getting Way Too Close For Comfort

Culture

Videos Show That Bears In This Mexican Park Are Getting Way Too Close For Comfort

@lzaroRos5 / Twitter

Imagine you’re out taking a stroll in nature, trying to get some fresh air amid all of this chaos. You feel something brush your back and you turn to look behind you and there’s a massive bear.

Well that’s exactly what’s happened on at least two occasions (both of which have been caught on video) in a park outside of Monterrey, Mexico. Groups of hikers are coming into increased contact with Black Bears as they enter more populated areas to search for food and water.

Although the videos look amazing and have quickly gone viral, this bear is getting way too close for comfort.

It all started when a video went viral showing a Black Bear standing up and smelling a woman’s hair.

A series of videos have gone viral on Mexican Twitter as they show a Black Bear getting way too close for comfort to hikers outside Monterrey. The first video showed a group of women hiking the trails of Monterrey’s Chipinque Ecological Park when they got some unwanted attention from a highly curious Black Bear.

The medium-sized bear, captured on a 59-second video, can be seen sniffing the women’s legs and torsos and in one case, getting up on its hind legs and placing its front paws on a woman’s shoulders as it sniffs her hair.

The women in the video appear to do a good job at following the advice from experts to protect themselves from any aggressive behavior. They remained calm and still and waited until the bear left to begin to move. However, the video does also show one of the women attempting to take a selfie as the bear sniffs her hair – not sure how she remained so calm?!

It turns out, the bear has approached another hiker in the same area.

Then, just a few days later, the same bear (identified by a marker on its ear) had another close encounter with another woman at the same park – where such interactions with humans are occurring on an increasingly frequent basis. 

In a video clip of Tuesday’s incident, a woman is approached by the medium-sized bear who sniffs her and lightly paws at her while her husband films the scene, urging her to stay calm. “What should I do?” the woman asks the man, who replies, “Don’t move, stay there.” 

The man remarks that the bear appears very playful, but the tension in his voice escalates as the bear grabs the woman’s leg with its paw. “Bear, bear, come here,” the man says before the clip ends.

Park officials are concerned and say this isn’t natural behavior.

Credit: Paul Farrower / Getty Images

Bears are typically terrified of people. Attacks are very rare. So this type of approach by the Black Bear is considered abnormal behavior caused by human beings. Park representatives said in a statement that “the interaction shown in the video should have been avoided; what is recommended is to move away when detecting the presence of the bear and not approach.”

The bear in question has already been captured twice and released at the request of neighbors, the park said, but as the animal appears to have lost all fear of humans, it will need to be recaptured and sent either to a zoo or an area less populated by people. 

Gustavo Treviño, general director of Parks and Wildlife in Nuevo León, told the newspaper Milenio that 26 bear sightings have been reported in the municipalities of San Pedro, Santa Catarina and Monterrey. He urged citizens to avoid all contact with them and not to feed them or take photos.

The incidents took place outside Monterrey and officials say bears are quite common in the area.

Credit: Humane Society of U.S.

Bear sightings are quite common in this part of Mexico. The two incidents took place in Chipinque Park, which is part of the larger Cumbres de Monterrey National Park in the eastern Sierra Madre mountains.

According to experts, this type of sighting is not unusual in the park during certain times of the year, when bears come down from the mountains in search of food and water. The bears even appear in residential areas.

Black bears are considered to be an endangered species in Mexico, due to the destruction of their habitat and illegal hunting. However, its only protected population is in Sierra del Burro, part of the eastern Sierra Madre mountain range which lies in the state of Coahuila.

Greta Thunberg Is Donating $114,000 To The Brazilian Amazon

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Greta Thunberg Is Donating $114,000 To The Brazilian Amazon

Leon Neal / Getty

Greta Thunberg’s activism has mobilized hundreds of thousands of people across the globe to make the world a better place. She first gripped the attention of people the world over when she began holding climate strikes and further captured awareness a year later when she was 16. At the time she condemned political leaders like Donald Trump and Boris Johnson in a speech for their part in the environmental crisis.

Now, even as the world seems to be on pause with the current pandemic, Thunberg is showing no signs of slowing down with her efforts

The teen climate activist announced that she will donate a portion of a $1.14 million prize she received to fighting the ongoing coronavirus crisis in the Brazilian Amazon.

Earlier this week, the teen activist won the very first Gulbenkian Prize for Humanity for her role in environmental activism. The prize was launched by Portugal’s Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation.

In a video posted to her Twitter account, Thunberg accepted the honor and said the winning prize was “more money than [she] can even begin to imagine.” The large amount inspired Thunberg to give the money away through her foundation. Thunberg says that she will give $114,000 to SOS Amazônia, an environmental organization that CNN says is “working to protect the rainforest that also works to fight the pandemic in indigenous territories of the Amazon through access to basic hygiene, food, and health equipment.”

Thunberg will also donate $114,000 to the Stop Ecocide Foundation.

The foundation works to make environmental destruction (or ecocide) a recognized international crime. Thunberg explained in her Twitter announcement that the rest of the prize money will be given to causes that “help people on the front lines affected by the climate crisis and ecological crisis especially in the global South.”

One hundred and thirty-six nominees from forty-six countries were considered for the prize that Thunberg was ultimately selected for.

The Chair of the Grand Jury Prize, Jorge Sampaio, explained in the announcement for the winner that Thunberg was selected for her effort to “mobilize younger generations for the cause of climate change.”

It’s not the first prize that Thunberg has won in recent months. Earlier in May she was honored with a $100,000 award for her activism and donated all of it to UNICEF “to protect children from the Covid-19 pandemic.” The award was given to her by Denmark’s Human Act foundation.