When scientists talk about the destruction of rain forests or the acidification of oceans, we often hear about the tragic loss of plants and animals.
But ecologists at the University of California, Berkeley, say there's also a human tragedy that frequently goes unnoticed: As fish and fauna are wiped out, more children around the world are forced to work. And more people are forced into indentured servitude, scientists wrote Thursday in the journal Science.
"My students, postdocs and I spent a year stepping back and trying to connect the dots between wildlife decline and human exploitation," says ecologist Justin Brashares, who led the study. "We found about 50 examples around the world."
One those examples made international headlines in June when the Guardian published a report about slavery in the Thai shrimping industry.
"Large numbers of men bought and sold like animals and held against their will on fishing boats off Thailand are integral to the production of prawns," the British newspaper reported. These shrimp are "sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including the top four global retailers: Walmart, Carrefour, Costco and Tesco," the report said.
The world's food supply, both here in the U.S. and abroad, is increasingly connected to child labor and human trafficking, Brashares says. And the problems isn't just in the fishing industry or large supply chains that stock megagrocery stores. Many of the world's poorest people are turning to exploitative labor practices to earn a living and feed their families as traditional sources of food disappear.
Wild animals, both on land and in the sea, provide incomes for about 15 percent of the world's population, Brashares and his team wrote. These animals are also the main source of protein for many of these people.
"We have more than one billion people on our planet whose livelihood and survival is tied to rapidly declining resources," Brashares says. "They're not going to take it lying down, nor should they."
As the fish in the ocean decline and forests are destroyed, families have to work harder and harder to get the same nutrition or wages. For instance, many communities in West Africa have hunted animals in local forests for thousands of years. Because of deforestation, now many hunters there must travel for days to find prey, Brashares and his team wrote in Science.
To make up for these extra costs, hunters and fishermen around the world have increasingly turned to cheaper labor. In many cases that ends up being children or people in desperate situations.
"Child labor and slavery is exploding because the time needed to catch fish [or hunt animals] has gone up exponentially," Brashares says.
But many policies and laws aimed at stopping these abuses focus on stopping traffickers, instead of trying to fix the source of the problem, he says. "The government's strategy of tracking down key traffickers and arresting them is missing the scale of the problem, and the underlying issues driving them: The rapid destruction of wildlife."
Brashares thinks biologists need to work together with politicians, economists and social scientists to figure out ways to slow down the destruction of the environment. At the same time, communities that depend on local wildlife for food and income should have the rights to these natural resources, he says.
"We need to target areas where we know reliance one wildlife is the largest," Brashares says. "Then local communities need to have tenure rights to these animals. This strategy may be working against the U.S. economically in the short term, but in the long term, it's a no-brainer for the world."
For a second day in a row, Dutch and Australian experts were unable to reach the debris field left by downed Malaysia Airlines flight 17 in eastern Ukraine.
CNN reports that as the team tried to make their way to the area, they heard explosions and were told there was heavy fighting, so they turned back. The network adds:
"Among other things, the team had hoped to work on the retrieval of human remains from the fields strewn with wreckage from the passenger jet, which had 298 people on board when it was brought down by a suspected surface-to-air missile on July 17.
"The team of observers, investigators and experts had anticipated getting good access to the site after negotiating with both sides in the conflict, said Michael Bociurkiw, a spokesman for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe mission, before the team was forced to turn back.
"Ukrainian government forces have been battling pro-Russian rebels in the region for months, resulting in hundreds of deaths. Now, as Ukrainian troops attempt to cut off access to Donetsk, fighting is heading north, closer to the crash site, which sits amid rebel-held territory."
Meanwhile, on the diplomatic front, there are two headlines:
— Bloomberg reports that German Chancellor Angela Merkel's chief of staff, Peter Altmaier said Germany wants the European Union to agree on new sanctions against Russia.
As we've reported, the United States said they had found no evidence of direct involvement by the Russians in downing the passenger plane, but the U.S. says the missile system used was Russian-made.
— U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay says the downing of MH17 may be a war crime.
"Pillay's comments coincided with a new report by her office that says at least 1,129 people had been killed and 3,442 wounded in Ukraine's fighting as of Saturday, and more than 100,000 have fled the violence since April.
"'This violation of international law, given the prevailing circumstances, may amount to a war crime,' Pillay said of the downed jetliner, which U.S. and Ukrainian officials say was shot down by a missile from rebel territory, most likely by mistake.
"'It is imperative that a prompt, thorough, effective, independent and impartial investigation be conducted into this event,' she said."
Good morning, here are our early stories:
And here are more early headlines:
Investigators Still Blocked From Ukraine Plane Wreckage. (New York Times)
Boko Haram Kidnaps Wife Of Cameroon's Vice Premier. (Reuters)
Russia Ordered To Pay Shareholders Of Seized Oil Firm. (Wall Street Journal)
Ebola Takes Life Of Top Liberian Doctor, Infects 2 Americans. (AP)
Lightning Strike Leaves One Swimmer Dead In California. (KTLA)
U.S. Gas Prices At The Pump Drop Over Past Two Weeks. (Businessweek)
Sarah Palin Launches Internet Channel. (USA Today)
Describing Horse Feathers almost inevitably diminishes the band's music: "Let's see, the lead singer has a beard and a soft voice, and he plays the acoustic guitar, and there's a string section. Oh, and they're from Portland, of course." All those identifying details hold true, and yet Horse Feathers' music never feels slight or ineffectual. Take an exquisitely pretty song like this one, in which Justin Ringle's dark words function like a current that pulls you under when you least expect it.
On Oct. 21, Horse Feathers will release So It Is With Us, and its first single, "Violently Wild," is due out tomorrow. (Watch an album trailer and pre-order here.) As you might imagine, the song's title is a bit of a misnomer — Horse Feathers' music has never fit been particularly violent or wild, lyrical content aside — but there's a zippy quality to it, and the band wears it well. Where the strings in past Horse Feathers songs provided chamber-folk shading, in "Violently Wild" they're employed with a welcome bit of energy, even aggression, without sacrificing the bracing beauty for which the band is rightly known.