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"When bad men combine, the good must associate...." - Edmund Burke
Many of our readers are already well aware of the nature of our annual Future in Review (FiRe) conference. From uncanned conversations with global experts to starting companies that revolutionize computing; from initiatives and consortiums that directly affect US foreign and domestic policy to our work to protect the endangered Southern Resident Killer Whale population (see "On Our Radar"); from the selection, promotion, and support of outstanding documentary films to our monthly FiReSide events in this era of virtual meetups, the FiRe/SNS community is less interested in simply discussing positive change than it is in taking direct, concrete action to affect positive future outcomes in our world. (And of course, along the way it's turned out that our stealth goal is to connect exceptional people to make extraordinary things happen.)
For the success of all these efforts, we owe a huge thank-you to our phenomenal network. Yes, that means all of you.
Further, while the in-person conference where many of these efforts come together has been postponed to next year, SNS members can now connect, meet, and craft new efforts on our digital platform, FiReHQ. (For any member who hasn't been able to gain access for any reason, reach out to me and I'll make sure to set you up.)
One of the most fruitful projects of late that has emerged from FiRe and FiReFilms is our communal support of Earth League International (ELI), run by SNS member and FiReHQ Innovation Ambassador Andrea Crosta. For those who missed FiRe 2019: we first encountered Andrea's work at ELI through the film Sea of Shadows - later our 2019 selection as our annual FiRe Featured Film to be screened at the conference - which documents the story of ELI's efforts to prevent the extinction of the tiny vaquita whale.
The film features some of the best work we've seen in the documentary world, pairing cinematic beauty with a deft exploration of the interconnected supply chain that exists between Mexican drug cartels, illegal fishing of the endangered totoaba fish, Chinese buyers eager for the last available delicacies harvested from them, and the by-catch and ghost nets that result.
Through the lens of the decline of a species - the vaquita porpoise, resident to the waters of the Gulf of California - FiRe attendees watched the tragedy of impending extinction unfold in real time, as the last few vaquitas risked entanglement within the year. Andrea joined us, and spoke after the film, entreating all present to help.
Andrea Crosta and FiReFilms CEO Sharon Anderson Morris, FiRe 2019. Photo © Sally Anderson
In doing so, Crosta also asked FiRe attendees to do something that we, as a group and a culture, tend to excel at: not just support one species, but also aid him in his work to build a global network designed to protect countless living beings, from the animals harmed by poaching to the people harmed by the trafficking of the resultant illegal goods. Earth League International seeks to upend the entire supply chain in a more comprehensive, holistic, and strategic way than has every been done before.
Of course, the FiRe community immediately stepped up. Longtime member and friend Bill Soward spoke with Andrea after the film about what he really needed (unsurprisingly, his answer was cash, to finance operations through the impending fishing season), and Bill immediately put up $20,000 in a dollar-for-dollar matching donation. Within a week or so, other FiRe attendees and FiReFilms members rose to the challenge, and this community ultimately contributed enough to help fund operations on the ground for another year.
In so doing, we quite literally prevented the extinction of a species in the year 2019.
Let that sink in for a moment.
In an email we received from Andrea last week, he related that "in the past few days, the Mexican authorities, for the first time, have finally arrested the most important Mexican poachers and traffickers, under organized crime charges against the environment. This is the first time that charges of this nature have been applied in Mexico.... This is the most important law enforcement operation ever to save the vaquita! This entire operation was triggered by the investigative and analytical work of our organization, Earth League International, partially funded by you guys. Thank you!" (See details below in "On Our Radar.")
Of course, work like this takes commitment over time. This year, as Earth League International continues to expand its global operations to protect more and more species (the group works with law enforcement and intelligence groups to follow not just the vaquitas but also jaguar, elephant, chimp, rhino, and other vulnerable animal populations), we have the opportunity to help once more.
Again, the vaquita are struggling, with an impending fishing season spelling disaster without further operations to disrupt the cartel networks.
Again, SNS / FiReFilms member Bill Soward has stepped up, offering $20,000 in matching donations to provide Andrea and ELI with the funds they need to put boots on the ground and less visible specialists at the ready.
Again, we as a community have the ability - no, the privilege - to save an entire species (and likely with it, the future of marine life in the Sea of Cortez) through our actions now.
An ELI crime analyst at a team meeting in China, with an organization chart of the totoaba cartels' trafficking hierarchy. Half of those being tracked have since been arrested in a historic bust in Mexico. (See "On Our Radar.")
Many of you, I'm sure, are familiar with the oft-used (and oft-misattributed) quote: "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." But perhaps even more interesting to our readers would be this verified excerpt from Edmund Burke's writings, similar in sentiment:
Whilst men are linked together, they easily and speedily communicate the alarm of any evil design.... Whereas, when they lie dispersed, without concert, order, or discipline, communication is uncertain, counsel difficult, and resistance impracticable.... In a connection, the most inconsiderable man, by adding to the weight of the whole, has his value, and his use; out of it, the greatest talents are wholly unserviceable to the public.... When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.
I could not write a better description for what we do at Future in Review, FiReFilms.org, and the Strategic News Service, or why we do it. I hope that all those who share my perspective will help by donating to match Bill's offer by December 31st.
In special appreciation to SNS, Andrea Crosta will join us for a quarterly virtual update interview, with all four sessions free to attend for any contributor of $250 or more.
Tax-deductible donations can be made at Earth League International's website here - we just ask that you copy and paste FiReFilms.org into the "Special Instructions" section so that we can track your donation for the dollar-to-dollar match.
In honor of #GivingTuesday and in the spirit of putting my money where my mouth is, I have made the first matching donation, and can prove it to boot:
[Ed. Note: Before this piece even went to press, SNS members had raised $1350.]
I would like to think that, had Edmund Burke been alive today, he would have been a very active member of our "army for good."
Your comments are always welcome.
To arrange for a speech or consultation by Mark Anderson on subjects in technology and economics, or to schedule a strategic review of your company, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For inquiries about Partnership or Sponsorship Opportunities and/or SNS Events, please contact Berit Anderson, SNS Programs Director, at email@example.com.
Call for Letters: Speak Out for Southern Resident Killer Whales
And on a different shore, a different imminent whale action item on a cause close to the heart of many engaged SNS members, as posted on Facebook this week by Janet Thomas, Executive Director of Orca Relief Citizens' Alliance. (Disclosure: SNS CEO Mark Anderson is the founder and chair of ORCA.)
All of us at Orca Relief are deeply grateful to all of you who truly care about the survival of the Southern Resident orcas. The deadline to comment online on behalf of SRKW protection via whale-watching licensing is Dec. 5th. Please select Option A with a request for suspension on SRKW-watching until they are no longer facing extinction. Thank you! Comment here:
For more background, see this related Op-Ed by our friends Tim Ragen and Donna Sandstrom in Crosscut.com (11/23/20).
About Earth League International and the 3-Pillar Approach
As pioneers in the use of professional intelligence applied to conservation, in 7 years of hard work in four continents we have established a significant track record, working with former CIA and FBI special agents, as well as top professionals from other fields, including crime analysts, Geospatial Intelligence experts and media experts. Building on this, we are transforming our organization Earth League International (ELI) into the First Intelligence Agency for the Planet, a unique bold new entity capable of fighting Environmental Crime at the highest possible level through a 3-Pillar integrated approach:
1) Intelligence-gathering and Analysis
2) Whistleblowing with the WildLeaks Project
3) Media Production and Public Outreach (documentaries with Netflix, NatGeo and others)
The core of our work is intelligence and long-term undercover operations, targeting environmental crime and illegal wildlife supply chains, transnational criminal organizations involved in environmental crime, traffickers, and corrupt government officials. We also collect information on the convergence of associated crimes such as money laundering and human smuggling.
ELI has worked to develop this novel approach to conservation to address three of the most important facets of the war against environmental crime:
To know more about our intelligence-gathering operations and see how we work in the field, please watch the documentaries 'The Ivory Game' on Netflix, and 'Sea of Shadows' on Hulu and Amazon Prime.
Most important arrests ever of Mexican poachers and traffickers triggered by ELI's work
Dear Sharon and all,
I hope to find you well!
I have some important news regarding the vaquita and the protection of the Sea of Cortez.
In the past few days, the Mexican authorities, for the first time, have finally arrested the most important Mexican poachers and traffickers, under organized crime charges against the environment. This is the first time that charges of this nature have been applied in Mexico (see below here the news on some media).
This is the most important law enforcement operation ever to save the vaquita.
This entire operation was triggered by the investigative and analytical work of our organization, Earth League International, partially funded by you guys. Thank you!
And this is our news page about the arrests in Mexico, triggered by our work and supported also by your donations!
You can read more about these arrests here:
November 16, 2020: Never in history has a blow of such magnitude been dealt to the criminal structure of totoaba trafficking, which has been operating with total impunity in the Upper Gulf of California for many years. The arrest of priority targets in Baja California and Sonora was carried out in a staggered operation carried out by elements of the Special Prosecutor's Office for Organized Crime Investigation on Tuesday, November 10 and Wednesday, November 11, where the names of Sunshine Rodríguez Peña stand out due to their political activity, but with criminal significance, the names of Juan Luis García Ruiz "La Yegua", Luis Aldaz and Segundo Valenzuela, from the Gulf of Santa Clara.
(L-R) Earth League International Executive Director Andrea Crosta, Secretary of the Mexican Navy Admiral Vidal Francisco Soberon, and Sea of Shadows Director Richard Ladkani, at the time when ELI started to share confidential data with Mexican authorities.
Sculpture depicting by-catch entrapment of a vaquita porpoise.
(Source: Terra Mater Factual Studios)
Rare photo of a vaquita at sea.
* On Thursday, December 3, at 2:30-4:30 PT / 5:30-7:30 ET, Mark will be (virtually) presenting his annual Top Ten predictions as 2020's closing SNS FiReSide event. Registration is now open here, free to SNS members. (Members, watch for email or visit https://fire-hq.com for your code.) Now you can invite your friends and colleagues to join you for the new low non-member ticket fare of only $50.
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