Dear Members and Friends,
Our biosphere’s soil has long been considered to be inert. For more than a century, men have only abuse it more and more. The destruction of environment is one of the consequences of soil destruction. However, we are totally dependent of this substance which is actually very much alive.
We invite you to discover the fauna that composes it and the sustainable model of nature. About our agriculture, a quick overview shows us this has got to change, but how soon?
Then we will move to Egypt : a female dugong was found dead last November. In France, wolf hunting is allowed again for political reasons.
Nevertheless, here is some good news: a mining exploration project was halted in Kyrgyzstan so that the snow leopard’s territory could be enlarged. In Australia, Areva failed to obtain a mine located on the Kakadu National Park, despite very questionable manoeuvres ...
Finally, you will find some dates in our calendar for March and April 2013 and for our pink “notebook” we have a young spotted hyena. This fascinating animal is still suffering from the bad reputation we have cooked up for it.
Biosphere, agriculture and environment destruction
What is the biosphere? The biosphere is the sum of all ecosystems. It is a zone of life and a dynamic process of our planet’s self-regulation since its beginning some 4 billion years ago. This process is evolving and corresponds to the maintenance and complexification of life on Earth. The biosphere is composed of three environment types that are familiar at first sight: the soil, the water and the air. In a more scientific and more accurate, these three substances are the lithosphere, the hydrosphere and a part of the atmosphere. Sometimes the cryosphere is added, including ice floes, frozen lakes and rivers, permafrost. Every ecosystem is organized according to one of these three environment types and all organisms are living either in the sea, in the air and/or on the ground ...and we are a part of it!
The atmosphere is a mineral substance  composed of gas, mostly of nitrogen at 78%. It protects life on Earth by absorbing ultraviolet solar radiation, warming the surface through heat retention (greenhouse effect), and reducing temperature differences between day and night.
The hydrosphere is also a mineral substance: the atomic bonds that form the H2O molecules are very solid. It would take a lot of energy to break such molecules. In fact, human activities pollute all bodies of water in a cavalier way, but man has not yet managed to destroy it...
97% of the planet’s water is in the oceans that have an average depth of 3800 m. We know that without water, life as we know it is impossible.
Finally, the soil, the lithosphere, is an organic-mineral medium , a complex environment whose balance is very fragile because the bonds between organic and inorganic materials (clays) that connect atoms together are electric. This delicate balance works fine as long as man does not interfere, but is heavily threatened wheever man intervenes within it.
At present, the conventional - or rather “productivist”- agriculture destroys between 12 and 15 million hectares of farmland each year, either by erosion, irrigation that generates salinization, or by desertification.
When modern humans started agriculture, the desert represented 11% of the land surface. Today, deserts take over about 33% of the world’s land. In the only XXth century we have destroyed one billion hectares of land. And we continue to desertify about 10 to 12 million hectares each year.
In addition, we destroy approximately 17 million hectares per year of tropical and equatorial forests for conversion into agricultural land and urbanization.
The annual balance is roughly as follows: we are destroying 10-12 million hectares of land that become deserts and we are “recovering” 17 million hectares of lands (by destroying forests) to convert in farmlands.
We obtain a balance of 5-7 million hectares of new land each year. In parallel, the population increases by some 80 million people every year. And do not forget that one billion people are starving ...Clearly, agricultural land per capita decreases.
And then there are those who have been destroying soils for at least a century, and earning billions: representatives of the chemical industry and other merchants of fertilizers, pesticides, and GMOs. According to these “experts”, the only way to face the increase of the population is “more fertilizer, more GMOs” and more benefits. Agriculture no longer truly feeds people, but it only is there to make profits.
The production of cereals in France has not increased since 1995: it is stagnating because the soils are in the process of “giving up” ... In Europe, soils could produce 150 quintals a year but they are no longer able: they produce 80 quintals/year. In the 80’s, 90% of Europe’s soil activity in Europe has been destroyed.
The three stages of soil erosion are always the same:
1) BIOLOGICAL DEGRADATION of soil by excess of fertilizers, pesticides or irrigation, which accelerates the loss of organic matter that soil micro-fauna feeds on. Without organic matter, micro-fauna and micro-flora disappear.
France is the second largest consumer of pesticides in the world after the United States. Our consumption is almost equivalent to that of the United States while our arable land is 10 times less extensive. This means that we consume 10 times more pesticides per hectare in France than the United States...
2) CHEMICAL DEGRADATION : One of the nature’s laws is that rain drains elements such as nitrates, phosphates, magnesium, calcium ... into the soil and the fauna returns them to the surface. When fauna dies, there is no more biological work by earthworms (anecic fauna). In France, today, there are less than 50 kg per hectare of earthworms while they were previously two tons per hectare.
The leaching phase of soil is becoming acidic. And here we are: the pollution of rivers, lakes, and aquifers by nitrates, phosphores ... Acidification corresponds to a loss of elements such as calcium: the humus and clay can no longer bond together and there is no more clay-humus complex.
3) PHYSICAL DEGRADATION : there is no more soil. There is no more calcium to fix the clay-humus complex. We know what is happening in Europe nowadays: when heavy rains fall, all the rivers become muddy. We consider this as “normal” but it is not. If the phenomenon is now global, it does not reflect its “normality”, but rather that the soils are “washed up” and are no longer able to fulfil their role because there is no more biological activity.
Economic vs. Environmental necessity: re-learning the soil
We must change the postulate, soil is an inert substance, according to which our conventional agriculture operates. Consequently, we put fertilizers, which, as we now know, make plants sick. Then, we treat plants by pesticides. The aim is to produce more, and quality has no say any longer. However, we know now that 80% of the biomass is found in the soil, making the soil the most living environment of the planet. It contains more than 25% of plant and animal species currently described.
Loss of biodiversity
In the early 20th, France cultivated 10 species of wheat. Now only two species are grown: durum wheat and tender wheat. All species that do not respond to fertilizers have been eliminated. Spelt is a cereal that has almost disappeared because it did not respond to nitrogen, but was saved by organic farming. From 3600 varieties of fruits grown in France, less than 600 are still grown!
Instead of practicing diligently this quasi-systematic destruction of biodiversity, why couldn’t we select the hardiest plants that require little water, do not need fertilizer and protect soils?
There are some 350,000 species of plants. Some do not need water and not even one needs to be genetically modified. This is another approach to molecular genetics and the study of soils: observing and learning what exists thoroughly.
Today, some unsubsidized agricultural models work quite well, especially in South America and New Zealand. These alternatives have a common point: learn to respect the soil, observe how it works - it is similar yet varies by region - and learn how to cultivate it without destroying it. In short: apply what the nature has been doing by itself these last millions of years... And respect the laws of soil biology.
Nature has a sustainable model: just study it!
The fragile electrical ties between organic matter (humus) and minerals (clays) have been destroyed in most soils. It is obvious that soil components are eliminated with the wind or water: muddy rivers, trees uprooted in the wind because the roots cannot go into the soil...
The first precept to remember is to never leave soil bare, whether it is a field, a garden or a vegetable garden to prevent its erosion and to protect it against rain and the sun, because this is how nature protects it in the woods, or in fields with weeds.
Inspiration for Europe: the way the temperate forest operates
In autumn, the forest litter, composed of twigs, dead branches of trees, leaves, falls. The epigeal fauna composed of arthropods such as springtails break this down. They are about 3 to 4 billion per hectare. Only 10% of the species are known. They live in the top few centimetres of soil, away from direct sunlight, up to about 20-30 cm deep. Their job: to attack the soft parts of litter, such as leaves.
They are also known as “lace makers” of the soil because only the leaf veins remain after their passing…
Then, the Acari attack the hardest parts of litter such as leaf veins and sticks. The population is very diverse, 3-4 billion of animals per hectare. Then, it is the turn of pseudo-scorpions, spiders and woodlice to eat wood, stems rapeseed or corncobs.
- The earthworm: 13 families, more than 7000 species, the largest biomass on Earth.
- © source dsne.chez-alice.fr
Deeper, near the bedrock, about 80cm-1m, the endogenous fauna, still poorly known, composed of blind organisms, feed on dead roots of trees. Unlike the epigeal fauna, when the endogenous fauna is destroyed, we don’t know how to make it come back...
Between both of these, the anecic fauna mixes clays that come from the rock, and humus, the organic matter degraded by the epigeal fauna, which comes from the surface, in order to create the clay-humus complex.
- © LAMS21
In brief, worms feed on feces of Acari and springtails, and they do the work of mixing and airing of the soil.
This entire fauna is responsible for breaking down the detritus. They prepare for the arrival of fungi that convert lignin (component of wood) into humus. This fauna produces “faecal pellets”, which air the ground. This is the “carpeting” of the forest: the moist forest floor consists of these pellets + 80% vacuum. Thank to this process, the forest floor has a permeability of 150 mm of water per hour, whereas silt ploughed by man, has a permeability of only 1mm per hour, in some places 1mm per 24h ... For info, rainforests absorb 300 000 mm of water per hour.
Humus is thus created on the surface thanks to the intervention of fungi.
In the spring, 1 to 2% of the mineralized humus (through the presence of bacteria) give rise to phosphate, nitrates, sulphate ... which travel down through the soil layers and are recovered by the roots of trees, plants. It is a “closed” system.
The tree: the great water manager
On the forest floor, the tree grows fungi that store water in the soil. Thanks to fungi, the forest soils are cool, even in summer. It also handle excess rainwater in water tables. Trees are able to develop deep roots: such as an oak with 150 m of underground roots, an elm with 110m, a wild cherry with 140m, a 2-m high jujube with 60m...
The tree roots attack and dissolve the rock. Even at this depth, underground leaves and dead roots are “cleaned away” by the endogenous fauna. The tree sends up mineral elements to its foliage, where photosynthesis takes place.
Given the important role trees play in our biosphere, the leadconsumers of CO2 our society produces more and more, it is urgent to protect trees.
Can soil be repaired?
Specialists are now able to provide solutions to repair soil while taking on the model of nature developped in the region. It is still feasible for most any regions in the world, but, as in nature, it may take some time ... “Eco-agriculture” is not an epiphenomenon promoted by crazy environmentalists. One of these models is permaculture: to finally work with nature and not against it. This requires a thorough understanding of existing natural mechanisms, geology, chemistry, biology, botany, climate ... and love and respect for soil.
The European agriculture: an unsustainable economic model
Our European agriculture will have to change: not because it is questioning its future from a philosophical point of view, but the reasons that caused it to be what it has become, is why it will have to evolve. Thus, the reason, which is weighing the most today is an economic one. The European agriculture is living on subsidies and there is no more money. In many respects, the European system is not competitive. Moreover, it “kills” the profession: since 50 years in France, 92% of farmers have disappeared. Indeed, France is losing between 30,000 and 50,000 farmers each year. In Europe, 200,000 “farmers” disappear every year ... On the production side, Europe does not feed itself anymore and France, which was self-sufficient into the 50s, can no longer feed its population. Today, 40% of the wheat produced in Europe cannot be used to make bread or for human consumption, but it is used to feed the pigs! And we do not take into account the loss of diversity...
In summary, agriculture as we know it today, not only pollutes and destroys the environment but creates a non-consumable product of poor quality. The process is because it wastes a lot of energy (hydroponics), and requires taxpayers’ subsidies to survive...
However, the model continues in a completely artificial fashion. And, at parallel, the consumer, you and me, are becoming more demanding: we require quality.
No wonder if 99% of tomatoes and strawberries in Europe are produced by hydroponics! Hydroponic production is tasteless. If sun gives quantity by photosynthesis, soil, the quality of ground, gives the flavour. Not to mention energy waste: it takes 36 calories of energy to produce 1 hydroponic calorie. We have not over subsidizing tasteless fruits and vegetables, which we (those who can) have to pay for its weight in gold throughout the year...
EGYPT : a female dugong found dead
Source : HEPCA
Divers found a dead dugong in the Red Sea off the coast of Egypt end of November 2012, according to the environmental advocacy group HEPCA. Immediately after Colona Dive Center alerted HEPCA about the dead marine mammal discovered between Magwaish Island and Gotaa Magawish, the latter sent a patrol boat out to investigate.
When HEPCA arrived, rangers working for the Egyptian Ministry of State for Environmental Affairs were towing the 500kg female dugong to the shore.
Further analysis will be performed in order to determine the cause of her death. A biopsy of the lungs and kidneys shall give more clues about why she died, and it will be the first time that a DNA print can be extracted from a dugong swimming in Egyptian Red Sea waters.
The dugong showed no signs of external trauma and had just died when they arrived, HEPCA says.
While it is too soon to know for sure, activists suspect that the increased development and tourism traffic in Hurghada might be partially responsible.
Once the autopsy completed, HEPCA hopes to be able to report their findings to the public. In the meantime, they are mourning this tragic loss.
“It’s a sad day when we lose such a beautiful animal,” they posted on Facebook. ”The harassment that these animals are exposed to by endless excessive pressure of snorkeling and diving boats has got to stop,” they added.
“Although the examinations are not finished yet to determine the reason of this dugong’s death, the pressure on seagrass beds where these beautiful animals feed on such as Abu Dabbab, Marsa Umbarak and Magawish and the continuous harassment has gone beyond tolerance. This crime has to stop.”
FRANCE : the Senate hunts wolves
On January 30, 2013, at 208 votes against 131, the French Senate passed a law proposal submitted by Alain Bertrand, Senator of Lozère, to facilitate wolf-killing. The single article of the law states that “the killing of wolves is allowed in areas of enhanced protection, defined each year by prefectural, regardless of the sample defined at national level. A specific limit of destruction is provided for each area.”
For the season 2012/2013, the shooting was limited to 11 wolves in France; this law will therefore allow “additional shootings”.…
While the wolf has returned to France since 1992, its current population is estimated, 20 years later, about 200 to 250 wolves, mostly in the Mercantour, Queyras and the highlands of the Vercors, according to the National Office of hunting and wildlife (ONCFS). Twelve deaths were officially recorded last year by the ONCFS (National Office of Hunting and Wildlife): shooting, poaching, natural or accidental death.
“In 2012, nearly 4,920 “probable” wolf victims were identified. We shall report this number to the annual sheep mortality (diseases, etc.), which comes to about 700,000 animals”, according to Jean-François Darmstaedter, president of the association FERUS.
A new “national action wolf plan of action”, currently set for the period 2013-2017, sets out the principles, objectives and the means implemented by the Government under national commitments towards biodiversity conservation. But what does it contain?
“There” will apparently no fundamental change from the previous plan. The only novelty may be an increase of the annual quota of sample shots, which I call "political “shots”, says Jean-François Darmstaedter, who is part of the national group with FNE and WWF.
For the FERUS association, other measures are much more urgent, as the reform of the premium allocations, which are attributed to farmers whose sheep have been attacked, and not to farmers who take the necessary protective measures.
FERUS underlines also some “critical” points:
- Evidently,tThe plan speaks well of “wolf management”. Can a wild animal be “managed” by man?
- Breeders insisted once more to be able to kill wolves in national parks. A group has already been created to work on this idea, but this is neither relevant nor justified. National parks must remain sanctuaries for nature and wildlife. We will fight for it.
- We condemn the mass call for hunters for sample shots, a premise to authirize wolf hunting?
How will the wolf meet these challenges? It seems its survival depends on an even greater discretion. It did not save the lynx in France since the last counting lynx in the Jura & Vosges estimated its population at ... 10 individuals, and the lynx is by nature less visible than the wolf.
Not only does the French State do everything to limit the wolf’s geographic expansion in our country, it blames the wolf for problems it couldn’t take care of.
In its press release, the Minister of Ecology specifies that the 2013-2017 plan will be subject to public consultation (really, what public?) in the coming weeks (when?) for a period of one month. It will also be presented to the Committee of the National Wildlife Conservation, 8 April. It should be officially launched in April, before the rise of cattle into summer pastures.
In fact, what is the budget for all these meetings and working groups? Who benefit from the attacks of wolves, between grants and expertise? Could we not assign these funds directly to the acquisition of protective dogs?
To reduce the vulnerability of livestock, ONCFS believes the implementation of preventive measures (dogs, parks consolidation and guarding) reduces the risk of attack by 70% compared to an unprotected flock.
Of course, the answer is not that simple: indeed, it has been long time since we have lost of our relationship to nature and “simple” common sense...
KYRGHYSTAN: Major win for Snow Leopards!
Source SLT – Feb.06th, 2013
Kyrgyzstan’s snow leopards will have a larger, safer home! The country’s Prime Minister, Jantoro Satybaldiev, has signed a decree expanding the Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve, Kyrgyzstan’s most important snow leopard habitat, by 150 square kilometres. That’s roughly twice the size of Manhattan – an expansion of 12%!
The protected State Nature Reserve of Sarychat-Ertash is Kyrgyzstan’s prime snow leopard habitat. However, with the Reserve’s borders being somewhat undefined, mining and hunting interests have increasingly posed a threat to the cat’s safety in recent years.
Recently, the Snow Leopard Trust collaborated with the Snow Leopard Network (SLN), World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), the Human Development Center “Tree of Life” and other local NGOs to express actively their concern about geological explorations initiated in the Koyondu Valley, inside the Sarychat-Ertash Reserve’s buffer zone.
The joint efforts helped to reach out to the Kyrgyz Parliament to demonstrate the importance of this area for snow leopard conservation.
Following the joint presentations and a visit to the Koyondu Valley led by experts, including the Snow Leopard Trust’s Kyrgyzstan Program Coordinator, Kuban Jumabaev; the Kyrgyz Parliament cancelled all previously issued mining exploration licenses inside the park, thus effectively enlarging the protected area by 150 square kilometers. Geological explorations inside the reserve have since been stopped.
The government has now officially approved the new, larger protected area: through the decision by the Kyrgyz Government № 48 from February 1, 2013, “On the approval of the new borders of the Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve”, the border of the reserve has been officially established. The Prime Minister of the Kyrgyz Republic, Jantoro Satybaldiev, placed the last missing signature on the official document during the first week of February 2013.
According to the new document, the size of the Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve is now 149,117.9 hectares (ie. 1500 km2). Previous documents had listed the size of the reserve at 134,140 hectares. A State Certificate of the Reserve will be issued soon, showing the protected area’s exact borders. Neither mining nor hunting will be allowed within those borders. Let’s hope that the reserve will have the necessary means of control to prevent any poaching…
As the country’s largest protected area, the Sarychat-Ertash State Nature Reserve plays a crucial role in the cat’s long-term future in Kyrgyzstan. Located in the Central Tien-Shan, it protects habitats of the snow leopard and its prey species, such as argali (Ovis ammon), ibex (Capra ibex), marmot (Marmota baibacina) and other rare species. The new expansion covers an important migration and breeding area for the argali, one of the snow leopards’ primary prey species in Kyrgyzstan.
See a map of Sarychat-Ertash on protectedplanet.net
AUSTRALIA : the Kakadu National Park saved from a predator called AREVA
Source : le Monde, 02/19/13
AREVA once had big plans for the Northern territory of Australia: the mining of 14 000 tons uranium deposit estimated at about 2 billion dollars. But this time, financial interests did not prevail …
The uranium-rich mining lease Koongarra (a 12,5 square kilometre deposit) was excluded from the Kakadu National Park when the conservation area was established in the late 1970s. Consequently, it had no legal protection. The value of the uranium there has been estimated to be more than $5 billion. Areva held exploration licences for this deposit.
Senior Traditional Owner Jeffrey Lee fought with his community and finally obtained a UNESCO World Heritage classification for his land in 2012. The Koongarra area has now been added to the park lease and will soon be formally proclaimed part of Kakadu National Park. Koongarra is safe from uranium mining.
The Age newspaper reported that: “French energy giant Areva formally requested that Koongarra’s nominating be removed from the meeting’s agenda.” [Australian delegation and UNESCO World Heritage Committee meeting]. Mr Lee had been under “enormous pressure ... for a long time” to change his mind about including the land in Kakadu, according to the report. He could have become “the richest man of Australia” if he had surrendered. “It is reasonable to estimate that Areva’s offers were tainted with corruption, not necessarily from a legal angle, but certainly on a moral one”, accused the Nuclear Observatory.
Jeffrey Lee said to the Australien newspaper The Age: “I am not interested by what the Whites can offer me”, and he is “not interested by money. I have a job. I can buy food, I can go fishing and hunting“. On the Environment News Service website, he added : ”I have said no to uranium mining at Koongarra because I believe that the land and my cultural beliefs are more important than mining and money. Money comes and goes, but the land is always here, it always stays if we look after it and it will look after us”.
After 34 years of campaigning to keep uranium mining out of his ancestral land of Koongarra, Djok Senior Traditional Owner Jeffrey Lee sat in the House of Representatives on Feb. 6th to watch this land be protected forever.
Saturday 23/03/13 :60 min for the Earth
: Earth Hour Switch off your lights between 8 :30 pm et 9 :30pm !
Saturday 30/03 to 13/04/13 : Cires botaniques
by Louis Torhout, Mairie du 6° - Salon David-d’Angers - free entrance – Monday to Friday : from 10:30am to 7pm, Thursday until 7pm and Saturday from 10am to 12am.
Passionate about natural sciences, L. Torhout creates wax models more real than life. The vegetable world is his domain.
Tuesday 9/04/2013 at 8pm: Screening of the documentary “The last village” by Qiu Xiaojun
Cope with desertification, it is the fight or flight ...
Friday 31/05/2013 at 8pm : Screening of the documentary «Heavy Metal» by Jin Huaqing
An army of green soldiers dismantle metalic scrap, often at a high risk.
Place of projection : Espace Beaujon
208 rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, 75008 Paris, métro Ternes. Entrance:5€.
Information & booking: 01 43 59 26 79 or at festivals ictv-solferino.com
Spotted hyena, also called Crocuta crocuta , has a bad reputation. Maybe its “sneer” has something to do with it? It is not the only cry of his repertoire. Or the fear this intelligent animal, living in a complex social group, inspires in us ? It comes from a matriarchal society: females are dominant and the hierarchical rank is passed from mother to daughter. Living mainly in the African savannah, the population has decreased with no protection status yet.
The female has an average litter of two, born after one hundred days of gestation. When they are a few months old, they join a common burrow, where they remain until they are weaned at 15 months. But if adults are feared, watch this small looking very cute...
Whether curious or distrustful, let us hope that the young will be able to travel freely in the savannah for a long time still...