Things That Matter

Here’s Why Mexico’s President And Leonardo DiCaprio Have Joined Forces

Mexico’s Gulf of California is home to one of the most endangered species of porpoise in the world: the vaquita.


Located in the western part of Mexico, just south of California, it is believed that as few as 30 of the mammals are still alive. Their numbers are so low that scientists believe the only way to save the endangered animal is by relocating those remaining in the wild to a sanctuary in San Felipe, Mexico, The Guardian reports.

To save the vaquita porpoise, the Mexican government and the U.S. Association of Zoos and Aquariums have started a $4 million campaign.


The money will go to securing the necessary technology to locate the rare porpoises remaining in the wild, as well as using trained dolphins to help in that process, and providing them with holding pens that will transport them to the sanctuary.

Scientists are unsure of how the porpoise will react to this process, as no one has managed to successfully capture a living vaquita.


They are so rare that footage of vaquitas is hard to find. This video was taken in 2015, which shows only the briefest glimpse of the animal in its natural habitat.

In an effort to bring awareness to the vaquita’s struggle, actor Leonardo DiCaprio tweeted the following:


The Oscar-winning actor is known for taking on environmental causes.

As the Huffington Post reported, Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto tweeted support for DiCaprio’s message.


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Peña Nieto then went on a Twitter tear, providing information about Mexico’s efforts to save the vaquita.

@EPN / TWITTER

The vaquita has faced threats from numerous sources in the Gulf of California.


The Guardian reports that the vaquita are often caught in the nets of fishermen illegally hunting the totoaba, another endangered animal in the Gulf of California, whose bladder “commands a higher price than cocaine,” according to Mexico’s National Institute of Ecology and Climate Change’s Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho. The nets used, called gill nets, are the perfect size to capture the vaquita, and were banned from the Gulf of California until this past April.

Even with the ban, these aggressive, illegal fishing practices, have caused the porpoise’s numbers to drop by 90 percent over the last five years, The Huffington Post reports.


Even with their numbers reaching grim levels, activists are working hard to ensure the species will survive. As Rojas-Bracho told The Guardian, “we have to do our best or [the vaquita] will be lost to the planet forever.”

[H/T] The Guardian: Last-ditch attempt to save the endangered vaquita porpoise

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Brazil’s Bolsonaro Blamed Leonardo DiCaprio For The Amazon Fires, Now The Actor Claps Back

Entertainment

Brazil’s Bolsonaro Blamed Leonardo DiCaprio For The Amazon Fires, Now The Actor Claps Back

Amazon Front

During a webcast President Jair Bolsonaro blamed the Academy Award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio for causing the increase in Amazon forest fires. The controversial rightwing president seemed to think the cause of the depleting rainforest is nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). CNN noted that Bolsonaro went on the rant “providing no evidence to support the accusation.”

DiCaprio has a long history of supporting environmental causes and has pledged $5 million to save the Amazon. According to the BBC, Bolsonaro has made four arrests — despite a lack of evidence — that some volunteer firefighters were starting fires to use the images to solicit donations for NGOs. 

Bolsonaro calls Leonardo DiCaprio out for allegedly donating half a million to an NGO. 

“The NGO people, what did they do? What’s easier? Set fire to the bush,” Bolsonaro said in a webcast. “Take photo, film, send it to an NGO, the NGO spreads it out, does a campaign against Brazil, gets in touch with Leonardo DiCaprio and Leonardo DiCaprio donates $500,000 to this NGO. One part went to the people who were setting the fire, right?”

Bolsonaro essentially blamed DiCaprio for participating in an unsubstantiated conspiracy to set the Amazon rainforest on fire to accrue donations to save it. 

“Leonardo DiCaprio, you are assisting with the burning of the Amazon, that can’t be,” Bolsonaro continued in the bizarre rant.

Bolsonaro’s accusations seem to stem from a disputed social media conspiracy that the World Wildlife Fund paid volunteer firefighters to set fire to the Amazon and take photos.

However, NGOs are saying Bolsonaro’s accusations were politically motivated and the law enforcement sting was harassing the environmental groups when it arrested the volunteer firefighters. Despite opposition, the president continued to blame the actor. 

“This Leonardo DiCaprio is a cool guy, right? Giving money to torch the Amazon,” Bolsonaro said the following day. 

DiCaprio responds to Bolsonaro on Instagram. 

“At this time of crisis for the Amazon, I support the people of Brazil working to save their natural and cultural heritage. They are an amazing, moving and humbling example of the commitment and passion needed to save the environment. The future of these irreplaceable ecosystems is at stake and I am proud to stand with the groups protecting them,” DiCaprio stated.

DiCaprio denied even having any ties or donating to the World Wildlife Fund. The World Wildlife Fund also denied receiving any money from DiCaprio. The actor’s foundation, named after himself and created in 1998, is dedicated to combating climate change. In 2018, DiCaprio’s foundation said it would match recurring donations for the entire year of 2019. 

“While worthy of support, we did not fund the organizations targeted. I remain committed to supporting the Brazilian indigenous communities, local governments, scientists, educators and general public who are working tirelessly to secure the Amazon for the future of all Brazilians,” the actor said. 

This isn’t the first time Bolsonaro has claimed that NGOs, rather than illegal farming and logging, is the cause of the deforestation in the Amazon. In August, he said “everything indicates,” NGOs were starting the fires, according to Reuters. 

Two major organizations issue statements regarding Bolsonaro’s attack on NGOs. 

Two of the largest environmental groups in the Amazon, Global Wildlife Conservation and IUCN Species Survival Commission released statements calling out the president. 

“We are alarmed by recent events that seek to undermine this progress. In the past few days, false accusations have been made to undermine environmental defenders and distract the general public from policies that directly lead to environmental disasters like those across the Amazon earlier this year,” GWC said in a statement. 

The IUCN also defended NGOs and environmental activists from the ire of the rightwing leader saying, “environmental defenders, whether in local communities, NGOs, or government agencies, should be afforded with the highest protection of the law in Brazil.” 

Activists speak out against Bolsonaro’s continued targeting of environmental groups. 

Bolsonaro decreased NGO funding after taking office. Under his administration, Amazon fires have peaked, increasing by 83%, with INPE recording 72,843 fires in 2019 as of August. Many advocates believe Bolsonaro’s attacks are a diversion from his administration’s negligence and considerable dismantling of protections for the rainforest. 

“This is a sick statement, a pitiful statement,” Marcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brazil’s public policy coordinator, told Reuters. “Increased deforestation and burning are the result of his anti-environmental policy.”

The increase in fires is more accurately attributed to farmers clearing the land for cattle — an act Bolsonaro seemed to encourage.

“NGOs working in the Amazon do not use fire in farming. On the contrary, they encourage rural communities to avoid fire,” climate scientist, Carlos Nobre, told Reuters. 

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Leonardo DiCaprio Stands Up To Fight Amazon Fires, Pledges $5M To Support Indigenous Groups

Things That Matter

Leonardo DiCaprio Stands Up To Fight Amazon Fires, Pledges $5M To Support Indigenous Groups

@ajplus / Twitter

Leonardo DiCaprio is well known for his environmental activism. He’s spoken at numerous conferences, co-produced a documentary, and promoted a plant-based diet, all to help our global environment and our battle against climate change. 

So when news broke that the Amazon rainforest is experiencing unprecedented forest fires, of course Leo was one of the first major public figures to step forward and actually try and do something to help. 

The Titanic actor pledged $5 million to help fight the growing environmental crisis happening in Brazil and Bolivia right now.

Earth Alliance will give the money to local groups and indigenous communities as they work to protect the Amazon.

The National Institute for Space Research in Brazil says there have been more than 72,000 fires in the Amazon rainforest this year. That’s up from 40,000 at the same point last year.

A statement on the Earth Alliance website says: “The destruction of the Amazon rainforest is rapidly releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, destroying an ecosystem that absorbs millions of tonnes of carbon emissions every year and is one of the planet’s best defences against the climate crisis.”

“The lungs of the Earth are in flames. The Brazilian Amazon — home to 1 million Indigenous people and 3 million species — has been burning for more than two weeks straight,” DiCaprio wrote in an Instagram post announcing the donation

Several on-the-ground organizations will benefit from the infusion of cash. 

The organizations receiving the cash are Instituto Associacao Floresta Protegida (Kayapo), Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), Instituto Kabu (Kayapo), Instituto Raoni (Kayapo) and Instituto Socioambiental (ISA).

Earth Alliance was founded by Leo and two other philanthropists in July – aiming to protect wildlife, push for climate justice and secure indigenous rights.

The Amazon Forest Fund is the group’s initiative to raise money for the protection of this specific area.

In an Instagram post on Saturday, the actor said he is “deeply concerned about the ongoing crisis in the Amazon, which highlights the delicate balance of climate, biodiversity, and the wellbeing of indigenous peoples”.

He wants the public to get involved and support the crisis too, linking to ways people can make donations.

Meanwhile, international leaders at the G7 summit in Biarritz, France, are reportedly reaching an agreement on international help towards the crisis.

French President Emmanuel Macron said G7 countries would release $22 million to help combat the fires.

The funding pledge was announced as the leaders of the G7 – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US – continue to meet in Biarritz, France.

However, President Jair Bolsonaro said Mr Macron’s plan of an “alliance” to “save” the Amazon treated Brazil “as if we were a colony or no man’s land”.

Mr Macron said the funds would be made available “immediately” – primarily to pay for more fire-fighting planes – and that France would also “offer concrete support with military in the region within the next few hours”.

However, Mr Bolsonaro – who has been engaged in a public argument with Mr Macron in recent weeks – accused the French leader of launching “unreasonable and gratuitous attacks against the Amazon region”, and “hiding his intentions behind the idea of an ‘alliance’ of G7 countries”.

He wrote on Twitter that Brazil’s sovereignty should be respected – and said he had discussed with Colombia’s president the need for “a joint plan” from the countries that actually made up the Amazon region.

And the fires come as the Brazilian ministry for the environment has had funding severely reduced.

“The funding for Brazil’s environment agency has gone down by 95% this year, it essentially gutted a large part of the actions that have been put in by the agricultural ministry,” University of Oxford ecosystem science professor Yadvinder Malhi told the BBC’s Today program, as BBC News reported.

“So the real thing is to look at the political direction of governance in the Amazon that’s changing under the new Brazilian government.

Many on Twitter applauded the move of Leo, who was actually putting his money where his mouth is. 

Ellen, along with many others on Twitter, were happy to see the actor put up such a large sum of money to combat the crisis. 

With that much money up, it would hopefully inspire others to take action and provide much needed aid to the fight. 

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