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Cinema Verde Presents: Shaba
Cinema Verde Presents: Shaba

Now Playing | In the mountains of northern Kenya, a Samburu community is doing something that has never been done before. They’ve built a sanctuary for orphaned elephants to try to rehabilitate them back to the wild. The project is not just changing local attitudes about elephants, it's changing attitudes about women too because the secret to Reteti’s success is all because of the special bond between a group of local women keepers and one special elephant named Shaba. Reteti Elephant Sanctuary is the first-ever indigenous community-owned and run sanctuary in all of Africa, where rescued orphaned elephants are looked after by local keepers from the Samburu community. They are rehabilitated and raised and then reintroduced back into the wild. The sanctuary is empowering young Samburu women to be the first-ever indigenous women elephant keepers in all of Africa. At first, the community didn’t think there was a place for women in the workplace. Now, the success of these women elephant keepers is unlocking new possibilities and setting a powerful example for young girls, hoping to pursue their dreams. What’s happening there, without fanfare, is nothing less than the beginnings of a transformation in the way the Samburu people relate to wild animals. This oasis where orphans grow up, learning to be wild so that one day they can rejoin their herds, is as much about people as it is about elephants. This is a personal story about a group of women and an elephant named Shaba who changed each other's lives. This film is a powerful reminder that we are a part of a complex world created over millions of years, and the survival of all species is intertwined with our own. Reteti began in partnership with Conservation International who provided critical operational support and work to scale the Reteti community-centered model to create lasting impacts worldwide.

GoGreenNation News: If Corporations Are People, Then Animals Should Be Too
GoGreenNation News: If Corporations Are People, Then Animals Should Be Too

The terrifying truth of the climate and mass extinction crises is that we don’t understand all that we stand to lose. And without extraordinary acts of imagination and foresight, as a society, we won’t understand what’s being lost till it’s too late—at which time we’ll have to look back at what we might have done with a heartbreak and remorse that have no remedy. So we need to protect the living world with the best tool we have: the law.Evolution is slow, while the climate is changing at a breakneck pace. For organisms like elephants and whales, who can live as long as we do, or trees, who live much longer, both the path to potential adaptation to this rapidly morphing planet and the path to our understanding may stretch beyond any time frame that could help us to save them before the clock strikes midnight. Small animals, whose lives and reproductive cycles tend to be shorter, can be more readily studied across generations. Some researchers have seen signs of resilience: Mother zebra finches in Australia, one scientist found, warn the embryos inside their eggs of warming conditions outside by uttering certain calls. The chicks those embryos hatch into have lower birth weights than those who weren’t exposed to the mothers’ calls, which helps the young birds stay cool in hot weather. Lizards in Miami appeared to lower their cold-tolerance thresholds in response to a cold snap in 2020, which might defend against future environmental fluctuations; certain male dragonflies grow paler in warmer weather, losing some of the bright ornamentation that attracts females but making them less vulnerable to overheating.But examples of seemingly speedy accommodation are tiny flags fluttering on a battlefield where the overwhelming outlook for biodiversity is catastrophic. Instead of shifting gradually over thousands or even millions of years, environments are being transformed so fast that adaptive mechanisms don’t have the opportunity to kick in. In many cases, due to human-caused habitat loss and other pressures, of which the unstable climate is a massive threat multiplier, strategies that may have saved other life forms historically are no longer available to them: Pikas, for instance—cute little squeaking mammals native to western North America and Asia—may be able to move up a mountain to reach colder climes as the lower elevations get too hot, but if they reach the peak and it gets hot too, well … there’s nothing left for that wingless pika but the bare blue sky. The desert where I live is getting too hot even for arid-adapted wildlife—a lizard that had thrived in Arizona’s Mule Mountains for three million years is now newly believed extinct, and plants from the small acuña cactus to the Seussian Joshua tree are struggling to hang on.Cases abound of creatures and plants whose biological profiles appear to be setting them up for climate-driven oblivion: Crocodilians and most turtles don’t have sex chromosomes, so whether they’re born male or female depends on the temperature of the sand surrounding their eggs. A study of green sea turtles in the Great Barrier Reef in 2018 found that 99 percent of hatchlings were female, as opposed to 87 percent of adults—a ratio that could mean there already aren’t enough males for reproduction. Reef-building corals with low resistance to bleaching and death, such as staghorn and elkhorn, are at extremely high risk, and though corals occupy less than 1 percent of the ocean floor, they’re home to one-quarter of global marine diversity. Shrimplike krill, whose Antarctic habitat is projected to shrink up to 80 percent by 2100, feed most of the larger denizens of the Southern Ocean, from fish to seabirds like penguins to seals and cetaceans, and account for 96 percent of some species’ diets. The total biomass of krill is greater than that of any other multicellular animal, and these animals are a key storage bank for carbon dioxide. The humble freshwater mussels who make up the most endangered group of U.S. organisms help keep our rivers clean, but warming waters magnify the myriad threats they already face; three-quarters of flowering plants depend on pollinators, currently in decline around the globe, who happen to be critical to one out of three bites of our food. And though some plant species can migrate to escape inhospitable conditions, that migration occurs—since individuals don’t move—over generations via seed dispersal. The list of our dependencies on the other beings with whom we’ve coevolved is nearly infinite. So visionary policy is called for to protect those other beings and systems—not only for their intrinsic and cultural value but because they’re our life support, worth far more to our continued welfare intact than liquidated for short-term profit. If the goal is a livable future, for which we need to achieve a paradigm shift from exploitation to conservation, the services these networks of life supply need to be fully and properly valued. Their right to exist has to be enshrined in law.Both domestically and internationally, species and ecosystems need to be endowed with legal standing to give local and native stewards the tools to save them from the depredations of industry in the short term and sustain them over the long. Luckily, bestowing legal standing on extra-human parties isn’t a fanciful idea: The U.S. Supreme Court did exactly that in the 2010 case known as Citizens United, when it declared that corporations were legal persons—a decision that hobbled American democracy but also set a neat precedent for extending legal personhood to nonhuman entities. And corporations are clearly more abstract and disembodied than animals: Just a couple of weeks ago scientists and philosophers from many nations published the New York Declaration on Animal Consciousness, which argues for the likelihood of consciousness in all vertebrates and many invertebrates, including cephalopods and insects.  In New Zealand, a river and a rainforest have been awarded personhood; the people of Ecuador, in 2008, voted to modify their Constitution to recognize the right of nature to exist and flourish; in the United States, the Yurok tribe gave personhood to the Klamath River under tribal law in 2019; and in 2010 Pittsburgh became the first major city to recognize the rights of nature. Those rights have also been enacted into law or invoked by courts in Bolivia, Panama, and India. A summit held in mid-April at Brown University was aimed at elevating the agency and visibility of the more-than-human world in climate negotiations. And if species and ecosystems are recognized as entities with rights, their destruction can become a prosecutable offense. Accountability for the violence of what some call “ecocide” should be embedded in international law and civil and criminal codes. Here too, early inroads are being made, for example by the European Union, countries like Finland and Sweden, and the International Criminal Court. Establishing the responsibility of both private and public actors for the lives and natural systems they destroy—for deforestation, deadly heat domes, red tides, mountaintop-removal coal mining in Appalachia, or cobalt mining in Congo, to name only a few culprits—is reasonable and fair. And the prerequisite to that is affirming in our legal codes that all of the life forms surrounding us have value. They’re connected to each other and to our own survival in ways we’ve just begun to fathom. And unless we act swiftly, we may never have the chance to learn more.

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