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Demo in support of Autism Speaks Canada

Ohio Gosaimasu Budoka,

O genki desu ka?

We will be performing a demonstration at the Autism Speaks Canada Toronto Walk Event.

The Event is a free community fundraiser in support of Autism Speaks Canada where people participate in a 2km walk and celebrate inclusion and acceptance.

The demo will be a wonderful opportunity for you to get performance practice in preparation for gradings and to share your Dojo experience with others.

When: Sunday, June 2nd, 2019

Time: Demo between 9.45-10.30AM (15 mins somewhere during that time)

Where: Nathan Phillips Square

Please reply by Monday, May 27th to let us know if you would like to participate.


Kyoshi and Renshi

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Nature’s emergency!

Where we are in five graphics By Helen Briggs, Becky Dale and Nassos Stylianou BBC NewsDeforestation in the PhilippinesDeforestation in the Philippines

The felling of forests, the plundering of seas and soils, and the pollution of air and water are together pushing the natural world to the brink.

That's the warning more than 500 experts in 50 countries are expected to give in a major UN-backed report, due to be published on Monday.

The assessment will highlight the losses that have hit the natural world over the past 50 years and how the future is looking bleak for tens to hundreds of thousands of species.

The document, from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), is also expected to set out an urgent rescue plan for nature.

So what do we know about the health of the planet in terms of biodiversity (the variety of living things on Earth and the ecosystems they belong to)?

1. The world's biodiversity is vanishing fast

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species is a critical measure of our impact on nature.

Almost 100,000 species have been assessed so far for this inventory of endangered species. Of these, more than a quarter are threatened with extinction, ranging from Madagascar's lemurs to amphibians like frogs and salamanders, and plants such as conifers and orchids.

graphic showing how one in four species of those assessed by the IUCN Red List are at risk of extinction, including 40% of amphibians and 14% of birds
Scientists believe the Earth is being driven towards a "mass extinction event" - only the sixth in the last half-billion years.

"There is now overwhelming evidence that we are losing the planet's species at an alarming speed," Prof Alexandre Antonelli, the director of science at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, told BBC News.

The last time we had a similar situation was about 66 million years ago, which was caused by an asteroid hitting Earth, he said, though this time, "humans are the ones to blame".

Current extinction rates are about 1,000 times higher than before humans came along, and future rates are likely to about 10,000 times higher, according to estimates.

Sudan was the last of his kind
Regions with extraordinary richness of life are of particular concern, such as the African continent, which is the last place on Earth with a range of large mammals.

A study published last year by IPBES said that the actions of humanity could lead to the extinction of half of African birds and mammals by the end of 2100.

It also found 42% of land-based animal and plant species in Europe and Central Asia had declined in the last decade.

2. Among the biggest threats to wildlife are habitat loss, climate change and pollution

According to a recent study, while climate change is a growing threat, the main drivers of biodiversity decline continue to be the loss of natural habitat to farming for food, fuel and timber, and the overexploitation of plants and animals by humans through logging, hunting and fishing.

graphic showing the key drivers of biodiversity based on data from the Living Index Report, showing that habitat loss is the biggest threat to biodiversity
Mammals such as the pangolin are being pushed to extinction by illegal hunting for scales and meat. Unsustainable logging is contributing to the decline of the likes of the Myanmar snub-nosed monkey, while expanding agriculture is pushing out animals such as the cheetah.
"Governments have focused on climate change far more than they have focused on loss of biodiversity or land degradation," IPBES' chairman, Prof Sir Bob Watson, told the BBC.

"All three are equally important to human wellbeing."

3. Animals and plants are disappearing and so is the land they rely upon for natural habitat

Land degradation through human activities is negatively affecting the well-being of at least 3.2 billion people and pushing the planet towards a sixth mass extinction, according to IPBES.

The main drivers are unsustainable agriculture and forestry, climate change, and, in some areas, urban expansion, roads and mining.

Land degradation includes forest loss and, while globally this loss has slowed due to reforestation and plantations, it has accelerated in tropical forests that contain some of the highest levels of biodiversity on Earth.

Around 12 million hectares of forest in the world's tropical regions were lost in 2018, equivalent to 30 football fields per minute, according to a recent report.

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4. Habitat conversion drives biodiversity loss

According to IPBES, only a quarter of land on Earth is substantively free of the impacts of human activities. This is projected to decline to just one-tenth by 2050.

"The issue of land use is central to the major environmental challenges we are experiencing," Prof Mercedes Bustamante of the University of Brasilia told BBC News.

Since 2001, Indonesia has lost millions of hectares of pristine rainforest. Losses in 2018 declined by around 40% thanks to stricter government legislation and a wet period that limited forest fires, but nonetheless palm oil plantations have gradually eroded the only remaining habitats of endangered orang-utan populations.

Map showing that Indonesia and the surrounding area has seen million of hectares of tree cover loss since 200

In the lowland forests of South East Asia, on islands like Borneo and Sumatra, IPBES predicts that one in three types of birds and nearly a quarter of all mammals will be lost if the rate of forest degradation continues.

5. Some of the last great rainforests are being wiped out

The Amazon region holds the largest tropical rainforest in the world, which is home to plant and animal species that are still being discovered.

Rondônia, in the western part of the Amazon, is one of the most deforested parts of the Amazon region. Trees are being lost as forests are cut down for growing crops or for pastures to graze cattle, as well as for logging and mining.

Over time, the landscape becomes a mixture of cleared fields, settlements and fragments of forest.


Satellite image of Rondonia, Brazil, in 2018


Satellite image of Rondonia, Brazil, in 1984

IPBES will formally release its first intergovernmental assessment on Monday 6 May, detailing the past losses and future prospects for nature and humans.
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Humanity has truly lost its way if we’re weaponising beluga whales by Jules Howard

It’s a sad indictment when highly intelligent marine mammals are exploited for military aims
Beluga whale with harness discovered in Norway.

‘You have to possess a dramatically impoverished sense of pathos to look at a whale and completely fail to notice its singular beauty.’ Photograph: EPA
Last week, a curious scene played out in the small Norwegian fishing village of Inga. Here, a mysterious white beluga whale appeared from out of the water and proceeded to behave very strangely. Upon the body of this whale there was a strap. Upon the fabric of this strap was written a long chain of human hieroglyphs – “Equipment of St Petersburg”, the writing said. And then – almost as if it were all a dream – the whale disappeared. Although it sounds like something Douglas Adams could have written, I want to welcome you to the dizzying age of weaponised whales. Because as well as poisoning oceans, we humans are also capable of poisoning the minds of the animals that live there.

First, some background. If the idea of the Russians using such a beautiful and intelligent organism to further their military aims disgusts you, I should tell you that many countries, particularly the US, have programmes that train dolphins and other species, including sea lions, for military exercises. These marine mammals can be trained to detect mines or assist in object recoveries. They can be trained to do search-and-rescue missions, too. In fact, as of 2007, the US navy was spending $14m a year on its marine programme, involving 75 mine-sweeping dolphins.

People who justify the existence of such programmes argue that the military sea lions and dolphins are well-trained and cared for and perform the same role as other service animals such as police dogs or horses. This argument is a good one, but it would hold more weight if in real life police officers trained wild-caught wolves or rode around on plains zebras. They do not do this. Still, the good news is that the US navy denies ever having used marine mammals to harm or injure or kill humans, which definitely makes the whole endeavour legit. Russia, on the other hand, is a little more secretive about its military marine mammals, hence the worldwide interest in the strange, indoctrinated beluga whale.

As you can probably tell by now, I find there is something deeply unnerving about the whole spectacle of military dolphins and whales. I’d almost say I’m disgusted by it. In fact, yes, it’s disgusting. But there’s something else … I just can’t stop thinking about that Russian strap the beluga whale was wearing. I can’t get it out of my head. And here’s why. You have to possess a dramatically impoverished sense of pathos to look at a dolphin or a whale and completely fail to notice its singular beauty, its powerful mind, complex communication and feats of cultural brilliance. It takes a certain sort of odious human sensibility to fail to see these attributes and instead wonder at how and where some artificial straps might fit best. “Should they be Velcro?” wonder these faceless military entities in their laboratories. “Maybe a leather kind of harness would work,” they posit, staring at an animal in a tank with one of the biggest brains in nature and, hell, possibly the universe.

I used to think that the most far-fetched theme of the Alien movie franchisewas that a grotesquely unscrupulous weapons company would really fly across galaxies to try to collect acid-spitting xenomorphs in order to monetise them as weapons. I was clearly wrong. The films are a fair observation of the human species. If we are happy to capture and indoctrinate whales for military aims, there’s no bar we won’t scrape beneath.

And what were the beluga’s straps for exactly? Commentators have speculated they may have been used to hold a camera. Others have speculated that it could be used to house a weapon. Even if it’s the former, what a sad indictment of humanity that we are using a whale to spy on our enemies. And what a demeaning thing it must be for a whale to be paid in fish by one set of people for taking photos of other people somewhere else.

And so we humans find ourselves in an unsettling situation akin to that famous Mitchell and Webb sketch. “Wait, are we the baddies?” says Military Veterinarian #1 to Military Veterinarian #2 while testing the strapping on an indoctrinated whale in a glass tank. Veterinarian #2 catches his reflection in the tank and ponders for a moment whether somewhere along the line he really did lose his way.

Let me say this. We all have. We really have lost our way. We really are the baddies. So swim, my indoctrinated beluga. Swim for your life, you beautiful white whale. Escape the horrors of human wars before our blood is on your fins. Or, worse, your blood is on our straps.

Jules Howard is a zoologist and the author of Sex on Earth and Death on Earth