Center for Biological Diversity
Pop X
No. 53, April 17, 2015
Are Showers and Ice Cubes Driving the Drought?

After four years Californians are beginning to feel the effects of the ongoing drought more acutely -- and all the more so since Governor Jerry Brown issued an executive order earlier this month calling for emergency cuts in urban water use.

The "Save Our Water" campaign has drawn a lot of attention to lawn care, toilets and showers. It suggests, for instance: "If you accidentally drop ice cubes, don't throw them in the sink. Drop them in a houseplant instead." Well, all righty. But are ice cubes and personal hygiene really the villains in the drought story?

Turns out neither ice cubes nor toilets rank among the state's top water users. That distinction goes to agriculture -- an industry that uses 80 percent of the state's water, yet was left out of Gov. Brown's water restrictions. California grows a lot of thirsty crops, many largely for export, that aren't suited to the state's desert regions. Almonds have been getting a lot of attention lately, but among the thirstiest crops are some that people can't even eat, like alfalfa and other plants devoted to feeding livestock. A single cheeseburger represents more water use than several months of showers.

Here's the water-saving advice California's government won't give: Go ahead and shower; skip the burger instead.

For the wild,
Stephanie Feldstein Stephanie Feldstein
Population and Sustainability Director
P.S. Today's world population is: 7,261,562,445. We can still save room for wildlife -- spread the word and share the newsletter below.

Just in for Earth Day: New Condom Website, Video

Endangered Species CondomsIn March we gave you a preview of the new class of Endangered Species Condoms. Now that Earth Day is here, 50,000 of the freshly redesigned condom packages -- introducing more species threatened by the pressure of human population growth -- have been sent to 500+ volunteers to be given away for free at Earth Day events, on campuses and in venues from tea shops to tattoo parlors.

But wait -- there's more. We just launched a newly redesigned website for the Endangered Species Condoms project. This mobile-friendly site not only shows off our condom artwork and explains why the project matters, but also has resources for condom distributors and others who want to help spread the word about the link between population growth and the wildlife extinction crisis. Check out the website, and be the first to share our animated video about an unexpected guest in the bedroom.

As part of our new condom designs, we've also updated what's inside the packages: We're now giving away fair-trade, sustainably sourced Sustain condoms. In honor of Earth Day, Jeffrey Hollender, the founder of Sustain, blogged about what contraception has to do with climate change.

Movie audience Kale
Earth Day Movie Night

For the whole month of April, you can watch Mother: Caring for 7 Billion online for free. This award-winning film explores the challenges of sharing the planet with 7 billion people, and how we can (and must) talk about population to create a better world. Also showing on a computer near you: Starting on Earth Day (April 22), Cowspiracy, the controversial documentary "exposing the most destructive industry facing the planet today," will be available for a week for only $1. Learn more and consider making plans now with friends and family to watch these movies and continue the population conversation.

My Plate, My Planet

With the debate heating up about whether to include sustainability in the 2015 U.S. Dietary Guidelines, more than 100 environmental and public health organizations and advocates sent an open letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in support of the recommendations from a panel of experts for less meat and more plant-based foods in the American diet. The letter appeared as a full-page ad in The New York Times and The Washington Post. Check it out and learn how you can support a sustainable food pyramid by the May 8 comment deadline.

Survey: What's on Your Plate?
Earth Plate Finger pointing Checkbox

At least three times a day, we all make decisions that have a huge influence on our health and the health of the planet -- these small, daily choices add up to a real impact on food systems and the environment.

In order to make sure our food-related campaigns are effective and hard-hitting, we need to better understand perceptions around meat consumption and the environment.

You may have already received an invitation to take our survey in your inbox. In case you missed it, there's still time to give us your feedback. (If you took the Earth-friendly Diet pledge within the past year, please use this link.)

Human Presence No Honeymoon for Hawaiian Fish

Hawaiian reef fishIt's no secret that the pressure of human population growth endangers coral reefs; the Center has petitioned for Endangered Species Act protections for dozens of coral species, and the National Marine Fisheries Service has acknowledged the problem in status review reports and recovery plans. But pollution, degradation and acidification don't just affect the corals; the fish that rely on these reef ecosystems to survive need a break from people too.

In a recent study published in PLOS One, scientists studied islands and atolls across the central and western Pacific, looking at those inhabited by people as well as unpopulated islands. They found that the presence of people was associated with large reductions in reef fish biomass -- with depletions as high as 78 percent in the main Hawaiian islands.

Hawaii remains one of the top tourist destinations in the United States, particularly for honeymooners. Unfortunately, the popularity of this island paradise -- along with climate change, overfishing and the introduction of invasive species -- may be its undoing. Tread lightly, travelers.

Photo credits: Stephanie Feldstein staff photo; condom video screengrab courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; movie audience courtesy Flickr/trashworld; kale courtesy Flickr/Peter Roome; Earth plate courtesy Center for Biological Diversity; pointing finger courtesy Flickr/id-iom; checkbox in public domain; Hawaiian reef fish courtesy NOAA.

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