Elephants for chang[e]

Feature story - September 14, 2009
Greenpeace embarked on an extraordinary 15-day journey with five elephants, to call upon world leaders, and Barack Obama in particular, to demonstrate audacious leadership and take immediate action to avert climate chaos. We all know that politicians can forget their promises, but an elephant never forgets.

Elephants take Thai Buddhist monks to bless the Greenpeace Chang(e) Caravan.

Chang for Change

The Chang(e) Caravan, was launched at a colourful ceremony on the outskirts of Khao Yai National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, and one of the last refuges of the Asian elephant. Chang, Thai for Asian elephant, is facing imminent extinction due to loss of forest cover. When an elephant's habitat is gone, it's gone: they can't just pack their trunks and move.

"Southeast Asia is one of the most vulnerable and least prepared regions to cope with the impacts of climate change. Likewise, the Asian Elephant, along with almost 20 percent of world's biodiversity in the region, is severely threatened by relentless deforestation which in turn magnifies climate change impacts," said Von Hernandez, Executive Director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

"Unfortunately despite the science and the obvious signs, world leaders are reluctant - even unwilling - to act. It is time for President Obama to take responsibility and deliver on the change he promised. He has a second chance to make history again. And that opportunity could be the United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York on September 22," he added.

Chang(e) all over Thailand

The Chang(e) Caravan, led by elephants rehabilitated by the Thai Elephant Research and Conservation Fund (TERF), is a TckTckTck initiative. Tck Tck Tck involves a growing number of organisations mobilising civil society and galvanising public opinion in support of profound change and rapid action to save the planet from the devastation effects of climate change.

The 15-day journey, a people's caravan for change, will traverse the vast Central Plains of Thailand, from Khao Yai National Park to the outskirts of Bangkok. The city is the venue of a crucial UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention for Climate Change) meeting ahead of the Copenhagen climate summit in December.

View Chang(e) Caravan (English) in a larger map

The elephant in the room

"Time is running out. A strong climate treaty will not only reverse the march of dangerous climate change - it will also help us tackle the world's most urgent issues - energy security, food security, water security and protection of our last remaining hope, biodiversity on planet Earth," said Tara Buakamsri, campaign manager of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Deforestation is responsible for about 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions - and that is the real elephant in the room. The plight of the Asian Elephant is the plight of the rest of the world. If developed countries do not help developping countries to face the challenges raised by climate change, this might be the end for one of the world's biggest mammals.

"Protecting the elephant by protecting its forest home means protecting the entire ecosystem on which the entire human species is also dependent. Developing countries are in urgent need of assistance and aid from developed countries to stop deforestation. However, they must also strictly enforce national laws to protect the elephants and their forest habitat," said Alongkot Chukaew, Executive Director of TERF.

Latest scientific research shows catastrophic climate impacts can be averted by reducing global greenhouse gas emissions after 2015 in order to keep global temperature increase below 2 degrees Celsius. Greenpeace is urging developed countries, as a group, to agree to cut emissions by 40 percent below 1990 levels by 2020. Deforestation, one of the main contributors to climate change, must stop by 2020.

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