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Earth Day: Saving My Corner of the Planet
10 Animals Most Affected by Climate Change
Impossible is Possible
Why It Matters
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1/1110 Earth Day Animals
Beluga Whales
Native to Arctic and sub-Arctic waters, beluga whales face multiple threats from their changing environments. Melting ice means changes in the population of their prey, greater competition for food with other animals, and more exposure to killer whales, which hunt belugas. A diminishing safe haven also means human access to beluga whales increases, upping their exposure to disruptive industrial noise, ship strikes, and toxins. [Gallery by Megan Bedard]
2/1110 Earth Day Animals
Pacific Walrus
Another victim of melting polar ice caps, Pacific walruses are losing protection on floating sea ice, where they hide from predators like orca whales and polar bears while they give birth and nurse their calves. And this birthing and nursing of calves is becoming more and more difficult, in some cases halting altogether.
3/1110 Earth Day Animals
Polar Bears
Regal and enormous, the polar bear is the poster animal for climate change. Without sea ice platforms—which they use to hunt ringed and bearded seals—polar bears struggle to find food and are under threat of extinction within the next century. Their demise would devastate arctic foxes and Gallucios winged gulls as well, which feed on the carcasses of polar bear kills.
4/1110 Earth Day Animals
Leatherback Turtles
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, fewer than 2,500 female leatherbacks remain in their habitat in the Pacific Ocean. Already victims of by-catch from commercial fishing vessels, the critically endangered leatherbacks are also bearing the weight of climate change in their nests. Rising sea temps means nesting habitats are affected, which reduces the number of males born and ultimately the population. Sadly, the leatherback’s predicaments are likely to be true for all marine turtles.
5/1110 Earth Day Animals
Well known for chomping on eucalyptus leaves, koalas are likely to suffer from climate change because of their famous diet. Increasing atmospheric CO2 levels will diminish the quality of Eucalyptus leaves, nutritionally affecting animals that munch on them. Consequently, koalas, which only inhabit environments where Eucalyptus trees grow, may starve.
6/1110 Earth Day Animals
Staghorn Corals
The collective name for 160-some species of coral, staghorn corals make up one-fifth of the world’s reef-building coral, providing food and shelter for a slew of creatures. Staghorn corals are highly sensitive to water temperatures. Warming water forces them to “bleach”—a process by which they expel the pigmented algae they rely on for energy. Bleaching is the main cause of coral mortality. Mass die-offs of staghorn corals can seriously disrupt an ecosystem, severely reducing biodiversity. Ocean acidification, caused by the uptake of CO2 from the atmosphere, is also threatening corals, weakening their skeletons and slowing their growth.
7/1110 Earth Day Animals
Among the many organisms dependent on coral reefs, clownfish are particularly at risk of devastation from climate change. Residing in tropical and subtropical waters, clownfish are susceptible to ocean acidification, which disrupts their sense of smell. Without smell, the fish struggle to find the appropriate host sea anemone they need to survive. Though clownfish stand a chance of outwitting climate change by migrating to new habitats, chances seem slim they will do so. Their inability to move long distances, coupled with the rapid decline of their habitat, makes finding a new habitat unlikely.
8/1110 Earth Day Animals
Emperor Penguins
Emperor penguins are one of the most immediately threatened species facing climate change devastation. Emperor penguins spend their days on thick sea ice in the Antarctic, where they mate, rear chicks, eat, and molt. They fight to find habitats to raise their chicks as available ice shrinks. And thinning ice has meant dwindling numbers of krill, one of the Emperor Penguin’s key sources of nutrition.
9/1110 Earth Day Animals
As if salmon don’t have it hard enough with constant overfishing by humans, they may soon face a host of other hazards to survive. Warmer water temperatures will mean physiological stress for the fish, a depletion of energy reserves, and increased exposure to disease. Their breeding will also be disrupted as salmon struggle to navigate around warm temperatures, which will require extra energy and time. Warmer temps also mean that the snow that feeds into rivers will heat up earlier each year, flooding rivers and disturbing nests. Because salmon development is linked to water temperature, young salmon are also at risk of prematurely developing and entering the ocean before their planktonic food source is intact.
10/1110 Earth Day Animals
Ringed Seals
Like many animals that reside in icy habitats, ringed seals stand to suffer as their habitat warms up. Not only are their life activities linked to the formation and breaking up of ice sheets, but warmer sea temps also create a more hospitable environment for the parasites and pathogens that threaten seals, especially when stress from their changing environment compromises their immune systems. Human activities are also expected to wreak havoc as the Arctic becomes more navigable by ship. Seals may have to compete with commercial fishing boats for food and find their habitats disturbed by oil extraction.
11/1110 Earth Day Animals
What You Can Do Now
Adopt one of these animals at WorldWildlife.org to support field research, habitat protection, and more.
    Real-Life Action Hero
    Christopher Elam, TakePart.com

    Tom Szaky: Recycling the Impossible
    Tom Szaky is the founder of TerraCycle, one of the fastest-growing green companies on the planet. What’s especially amazing about it is its mission: to recycle non-recyclable garbage, from gum to diapers. Find out about how you can help make the impossible possible.
    How did you start TerraCycle ?
    I was a freshman at Princeton, and friends of mine were feeding their plants worm poop. These plants grew like mad. I suddenly became fascinated by the idea of waste, so I started a small organic fertilizer business—worm poop—packaged in used soda bottles. TerraCycle was born. Then I began wondering how to transform waste into other products. It’s funny how we started as a poop company, and now our goal is to eliminate the whole idea of waste.
    So how does it work ?
    TerraCycle creates garbage collection and solution programs for people everywhere. It’s simple. Just go to our website, choose from one of nearly 50 types of garbage we recycle, sign up to collect it, then take a cardboard box and put it in a public place. Ask people to fill the box with that particular garbage—such as potato chip bags of any brand. Once you collect, say, 1,000 chip bags, go to our website, download a free shipping label, and send us the box. TerraCycle typically donates two cents per piece of garbage to a charity or school where you want this money to go.
    What do you do with the waste ?
    One of three things: we reuse it whenever possible (like in shoes or electronics); we upcycle it (make juice pouches into backpacks); or we recycle it (melt chip bags into plastic products). We work with nearly any type of garbage.
    What’s the craziest thing you recycle ?
    We’re about to begin collecting cigarette butts in Canada. In the U.S., we hope to launch our dirty diapers program this year. Our team in Brazil will soon launch their chewing gum drive. The irony is that nearly everything is technically recyclable.
    What’s your overall impact ?
    Last year, we diverted something like two billion pieces of waste. We donated $3 million to charities around the world. We operate in 21 countries, with a staff of 105.
    What’s the most important message you’d like to leave people with for Earth Day?
    We vote with our wallet every day. Right now we’re voting for a world with hyper-consumption. The best thing you can do for the planet is don’t buy stuff. Or if you do, buy premium products that will last. Really think about what you’re purchasing. Because everything you buy, you’re ultimately voting for more of that thing to exist.
    What's your favorite place on Earth ?
    Share a photo of your favorite place with #LoveTheEarth
    Recycle the unrecyclable!
    Terracycle can recycle almost everything. Sign up for one of their brigades to help out and earn money for an organization you love.
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