Inter Press Service » Biodiversity http://www.ipsnews.net News and Views from the Global South Mon, 08 Feb 2016 23:16:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.10 The UAE’s Journey Towards Clean Energyhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-uaes-journey-towards-clean-energy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=the-uaes-journey-towards-clean-energy http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/the-uaes-journey-towards-clean-energy/#comments Fri, 29 Jan 2016 12:04:44 +0000 Rajeev Batra http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143724 Rajeev Batra is partner and head of risk consulting at KPMG.]]>

Rajeev Batra is partner and head of risk consulting at KPMG.

By Rajeev Batra, Special to Gulf News
ABU DHABI, Jan 29 2016 (IPS)

(WAM) - The discovery of hydrocarbon reserves brought tremendous prosperity for the UAE and made it a central player in the global energy market. With one of the highest gross domestic product per capita levels in the world, the UAE has generally used its wealth wisely to stimulate sustainable economic growth. However, volatility in oil markets, growing unrest across the region and the growing threat of climate change has concentrated minds on the need for immediate and decisive action.

Credit: Gulf News archive

Credit: Gulf News archive

The UAE has long recognised that environmental responsibility and economic diversification are essential for a better, more sustainable future. As the first country in the region to set renewable energy targets and as home to the International Renewable Energy Agency (Irena), Masdar City and the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park, the shift towards cleaner energy sources and reduced carbon emissions is evident.

Ahead of last month’s COP21 summit in Paris, the UAE government pledged to increase clean energy’s share of the national energy mix to 24 per cent by 2021. This is a pivotal step towards making the UAE a global centre of renewable energy innovation. With more than 300 days of abundant sunshine every year, increasing solar’s share of the UAE energy mix should be attainable. Hydrocarbons that are not burnt to generate electricity can be used for other, higher value-adding purposes, or sold to increase the gross national income. Clean energy could also reduce the long-term social costs the government will face as adverse environmental and health effects could be minimised — or even eradicated.

The UAE should be proud of its clean energy leadership role. Abu Dhabi’s renewable energy agency Masdar was a key sponsor of Solar Impulse, the flying laboratory full of clean technologies that represents 12 years of research and development. Solar Impulse generated tremendous global excitement when it attempted the first round-the-world solar flight to demonstrate how a pioneering spirit and clean technologies can change the world.

The Zayed Future Energy Prize — which represents the environmental stewardship vision of the late Shaikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan — celebrates impactful, innovative and long-term achievements in renewable energy and sustainability. It reflects the UAE’s commitment to finding solutions that meet the challenges of climate change, energy security and the environment. The 2016 winners were announced on January 19 and ranged from SOS HG Shaikh Secondary School, a school for 300 students three hours from Somaliland’s capital, Hargeisa, to BYD, the largest rechargeable battery supplier and new energy vehicle manufacturer, based in Shenzhen. A lifetime achievement award to Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland recognised her many achievements and accomplishments, included being a guiding force behind the “Brundtland Report” on sustainability over 25 years ago.

The UAE, like many other developed and developing countries, faces a number of clean energy and carbon emission issues. In a reflection of its growing economy, there is an increasing number of vehicles on our roads, leading to increasing fuel usage and higher carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and nitrous oxide levels. Electricity demand from individuals, industries and commercial buildings — which are major consumers of electricity — is high and the UAE has a significant carbon footprint. Competitively priced oil, gas and energy prices, while driving economic growth in some traditional industries, is undermining renewable energy and stifling growth in what could be a key sector of the country’s future economy.

The recent adoption of the Paris agreement was a historic moment. COP21 was an unprecedented international climate deal and presents both risks and opportunities for businesses who have an important role in terms of emissions reductions and investments to help governments achieve the goals.

As countries start reforming their economies based on their COP21 commitments, we should see the global economy evolving to a lower carbon model. Companies will be required to be more open and transparent about the financial, environmental and social risks and opportunities that they face from climate change.

Investment in clean technology should grow dramatically — governments are expected to double their clean-tech research and development budgets and the private sector is likely to increase its involvement and investment. The role of the private sector, in fact, is key to the sustainability agenda — because of its central role in the development of the global economy. The increase in the private sector’s rate of triple bottom-line reporting — which focuses on social and environmental as well as economic costs and benefits — will be a key marker of the likely success, or failure, of the COP21 programme.

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Caribbean Biodiversity Overheated by Climate Changehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/caribbean-biodiversity-overheated-by-climate-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-biodiversity-overheated-by-climate-change http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/caribbean-biodiversity-overheated-by-climate-change/#comments Wed, 20 Jan 2016 22:44:12 +0000 Ivet Gonzalez http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143651 A young man on the banks of lake Enriquillo on the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which forms part of the Caribbean Biological Corridor created in 2007 by these two countries and Cuba with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Union. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

A young man on the banks of lake Enriquillo on the border between the Dominican Republic and Haiti, which forms part of the Caribbean Biological Corridor created in 2007 by these two countries and Cuba with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Union. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

By Ivet González
SANTO DOMINGO , Jan 20 2016 (IPS)

The nearly 7,000 islands and the warm waters of the Caribbean Sea are home to thousands of endemic species and are on the migration route of many kinds of birds. Preserving this abundant fauna requires multilateral actions in today’s era of global warming.

That is the goal of the Caribbean Biological Corridor (CBC), a project implemented by the governments of Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which was created in 2007 with the support of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Union with the aim of protecting biodiversity in the region.

“Puerto Rico should form part of the corridor in 2016,” Cuban biologist Freddy Rodríguez, who is taking part in the initiative, told IPS.

In late 2015 Puerto Rico, a free associated state of the United States, presented an official letter asking to join the sustainable conservation project, whose executive secretariat is located in the Dominican Republic on the border with Haiti.

“The admission of new partners, which has been encouraged from the start, is a question of time,” said Rodríguez. “Several countries have taken part as observers since the beginning.”

He said the Bahamas, Dominica, Jamaica and Martinique are observer countries that have expressed an interest in joining the corridor.

The Caribbean region is already prone to high temperatures, because the wind and ocean currents turn the area into a kind of cauldron that concentrates heat year-round, according to scientific sources.

And the situation will only get worse due to the temperature rise predicted as a result of climate change, a phenomenon caused by human activity which has triggered extreme weather events and other changes.

The extraordinary biodiversity of the Caribbean is increasingly at risk from this global phenomenon, which has modified growing and blooming seasons, migration patterns, and even species distribution.

Meanwhile, the biological corridor is one demonstration of the growing efforts of small Caribbean island nations to preserve their unique natural heritage.

A flock of birds flies over a coastal neighbourhood of Havana, Cuba. The Caribbean Biological Corridor is on the migration route for many species of birds, and its conservation requires multilateral actions in today’s era of global warming. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

A flock of birds flies over a coastal neighbourhood of Havana, Cuba. The Caribbean Biological Corridor is on the migration route for many species of birds, and its conservation requires multilateral actions in today’s era of global warming. Credit: Jorge Luis Baños/IPS

It also reflects the long road still ahead to regional integration in the area of conservation.

The 1,600-km CBC includes the Jaragua-Bahoruca-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve and Cordillera Central mountains, in the Dominican Republic; the Chaîne de la Selle mountain range, Lake Azuéi, Fore et Pins, La Visite and the Massif du Nord mountains – all protected areas in Haiti; and the Sierra Maestra and Nipe-Sagua-Baracoa mountain ranges in Cuba.

Tips on the insular Caribbean’s biodiversity

- The region has 703 threatened species according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List.

- It provides wintering and nursery grounds for many North Atlantic migratory species, including the great North Atlantic humpback whale, which breeds in the north of the Caribbean.

- Several parts of the Caribbean are stopping points for millions of migratory birds flying between North and South America.

- The population of the Caribbean depends on the wealth of fragile natural areas for a variety of benefits, such as disaster risk prevention, availability of fresh water and revenue from tourism.

Studies carried out by researchers involved in the biological corridor have documented damage caused to nature by extreme events like Hurricane Sandy, which hit eastern Cuba in 2012, and the severe drought of 2015, which affected the entire Caribbean region.

Rodríguez said they have carried out more than 60 training sessions, involving local communities as well as government officials from the three countries, with the participation of guests from other Caribbean nations.

And they have a web site, which compiles the results of studies, bulletins, a database and maps of the biological corridor.

“Other people and institutions say the CBC’s biggest contribution has been to create a platform for collaboration with regard to the environment, which did not exist previously in the insular Caribbean. This has created the possibility for the environment ministers to meet every year to review the progress made as well as pending issues,” Rodríguez said.

“We are trying to grow in terms of South-South collaboration,” he said.

The insular Caribbean is a multicultural, multi-racial region where people speak Spanish, English, Dutch, French and creoles. It is made up of 13 independent island nations and 19 French, Dutch, British and U.S. overseas territories.

These differences, along with the heavy burden of under-development, are hurdles to the conservation of the natural areas in the Caribbean, which is one of the world’s greatest centres of unique biodiversity, due to the high number of endemic species.

Experts report that for every 100 square kilometres, there are 23.5 plants that can only be found in the Antilles, an archipelago bordered by the Caribbean Sea to the south and west, the Gulf of Mexico to the northwest, and the Atlantic Ocean to the north and east.

The project is focusing on an area of 234,124 square km of greatest biodiversity, home to a number of unique reptile, bird and amphibian species.

View of the Caribbean Sea in the Dominican Republic near the border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, which the two countries share. The roughly 7,000 Caribbean islands are home to thousands of endemic species, whose preservation is complicated by climate change. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

View of the Caribbean Sea in the Dominican Republic near the border with Haiti on the island of Hispaniola, which the two countries share. The roughly 7,000 Caribbean islands are home to thousands of endemic species, whose preservation is complicated by climate change. Credit: Dionny Matos/IPS

The CBC’s 2016-2020 development plan also involves continued research on climate change, and aims to expand to marine ecosystems.

The four million square km of ocean around the Antilles are “the heart of Atlantic marine diversity,” according to a report by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund.

The region contains 25 coral genera, 117 sponges, 633 mollusks, more than 1,400 fishes, 76 sharks, 45 shrimp, 30 cetaceans and 23 species of seabirds.

The area also contains some 10,000 square km of reef, 22,000 square km of mangroves, and as much as 33,000 square km of seagrass beds.

“As a Dominican, I didn’t have that much experience and I hadn’t heard about the Caribbean environment,” business administration student Manuel Antonio Feliz, who has taken CBC courses, told IPS. “The trainings have opened my eyes to the natural riches of our islands.”

“We talk more about the polar bear and the loss of its habitat at the North Pole than about a little local frog or solenodon (one of the rarest mammals on earth, native to the Antilles),” Cuban researcher Nicasio Viña said in a conference for a group of journalists in the capital of the Dominican Republic, which IPS took part in. “The people of the Caribbean, we don’t know what treasures we have in our hands.”

Viña, director of the CBC executive secretariat, explained that initiatives like the biological corridor require at least 30 years of work to solidify.

He called for “thinking about conservation systems, due to the extraordinary influence and responsibility that we human beings have with regard to biodiversity in the Caribbean, because of what we have done, and climate change.”

The corridor has a centre of plant propagation in each one of the member countries, where seedlings of native species are grown to reforest the areas that are benefiting from pilot projects.

The pilot projects are aimed at helping Dominican, Haitian and Cuban communities to find environmentally-friendly sources of income, besides restoring degraded environments.

So far they are being implemented in the Cuban settlements of Sigua in Santiago de Cuba and the Baitiquirí Ecological Reserve in Guantánamo; the communities of Pedro Santana, Paraje Los Rinconcitos and Guayabo, in the Dominican province of Elías Piña; and in the Haitian towns of Dosmond and La Gonave.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Agroecology in Africa: Mitigation the Old New Wayhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/agroecology-in-africa-mitigation-the-old-new-way/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=agroecology-in-africa-mitigation-the-old-new-way http://www.ipsnews.net/2016/01/agroecology-in-africa-mitigation-the-old-new-way/#comments Mon, 11 Jan 2016 17:36:27 +0000 Frederic Mousseau http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143552 agroeocology project. ]]>

Frederic Mousseau, Policy Director of the Oakland Institute, coordinated the research for the Institute’s agroeocology project.

By Frederic Mousseau
OAKLAND, California, Jan 11 2016 (IPS)

Millions of African farmers don’t need to adapt to climate change. They have done that already.

Frederic Mousseau

Frederic Mousseau

Like many others across the continent, indigenous communities in Ethiopia’s Gamo Highlands are well prepared against climate variations. The high biodiversity, which forms the basis of their traditional enset-based agricultural systems, allows them to easily adjust their farming practices, including the crops they grow, to climate variations.

People in Gamo are also used to managing their environment and natural resources in sound and sustainable ways, rooted in ancestral knowledge and customs, which makes them resilient to floods or droughts. Although African indigenous systems are often perceived as backward by central governments, they have a lot of learning to offer to the rest of the world when contemplating the challenges of climate change and food insecurity.

Often building on such indigenous knowledge, farmers all over the African continent have assembled a tremendous mass of successful experiences and innovations in agriculture. These efforts have steadily been developed over the past few decades following the droughts that impacted many countries in the 1970s and 1980s.

In Kenya, the system of biointensive agriculture has been designed over the past thirty years to help smallholders grow the most food on the least land and with the least water. 200,000 Kenyan farmers, feeding over one million people, have now switched to biointensive agriculture, which allows them to use up to 90 per cent less water than in conventional agriculture and 50 to 100 per cent fewer purchased fertilizers, thanks to a set of agroecological practices that provide higher soil organic matter levels, near continuous crop soil coverage, and adequate fertility for root and plant health.

The Sahel region, bordering the Sahara Desert, is renowned for its harsh environment and the threat of desertification. What is less known is the tremendous success of the actions undertaken to curb desert encroachment, restore lands, and farmers’ livelihoods.

Started in the 1980s, the Keita Rural Development Project in Niger took some twenty years to restore ecological balance and drastically improve the agrarian economy of the area. During the period, 18 million trees were planted, the surface under woodlands increased by 300 per cent, whereas shrubby steppes and sand dunes decreased by 30 per cent. In the meantime, agricultural land was expanded by about 80 per cent.

All over the region, a multitude of projects have used agroecological solutions to restore degraded land and spare scarce water resources while at the same time increasing food production, and improving farmers’ livelihoods and resilience. In Timbuktu, Mali, the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) has reached impressive results, with yields of 9 tons of rice per hectare, more than double of conventional methods, while saving water and other inputs. In Burkina Faso, soil and water conservation techniques, including a modernized version of traditional planting pits­zai­ have been highly successful to rehabilitate degraded soils and boost food production and incomes.

Southern African countries have been struggling with recurrent droughts resulting in major failures in corn crops, the main staple cereal in the region. Over the years, farmers and governments have developed a wide variety of agroecological solutions to prevent food crises and foster their resilience to climatic shocks. The common approach in all these responses has been to depart from the conventional monocropping of corn, which is highly vulnerable to climate shocks while it is also very costly and demanding in purchased inputs such as hybrid seeds and fertilizers. Successful sustainable and affordable solutions include managing and harvesting rain water, expanding conservation and regenerative farming, promoting the production and consumption of cassava and other tuber crops, diversifying production, and integrating crops with fertilizer trees and nitrogen fixating leguminous plants.

The enumeration could go on. The few examples cited above all come from a series of 33 case studies released recently by the Oakland Institute. The series sheds light on the tremendous success of agroecological agriculture across the African continent in the face of climate change, hunger, and poverty.

These success stories are just a sample of what Africans are already doing to adapt to climate variations while preserving their natural resources, improving their livelihoods and their food supply. One thing they have in common is that they have farmers, including many women farmers, in the driver’s seat of their own development. Millions of farmers who practice agroecology across the continent are local innovators who experiment to find the best solutions in relation to water availability, soil characteristics, landscapes, cultures, food habits, and biodiversity.

Another common feature is that they depart from the reliance on external agricultural inputs such as commercial seeds, synthetic fertilizers, and chemical pesticides, on which is based the so-called conventional agriculture. The main inputs required for agroecology are people’s own energy and common sense, shared knowledge, and of course respect for and a sound use of natural resources.

Why are these success stories mostly untold, is a fair question to ask. They are largely buried under the rhetoric of a development discourse based on a destructive cocktail of ignorance, greed, and neocolonialism. Since the 2008 food price crisis, we have been told over and over that Africa needs foreign investors in agriculture to ‘develop’ the continent; that Africa needs a Green Revolution, more synthetic fertilizers, and genetically modified crops in order to meet the challenges of hunger and poverty. The agroecology case studies debunk these myths.

Evidence is there, with irrefutable facts and figures, that millions of Africans have already designed their own solutions, for their own benefits. They have successfully adapted to both the unsustainable agricultural systems inherited from the colonial times, and to the present challenges of climate change and environmental degradation. Unfortunately, a majority of African governments, with encouragement from donor countries, focus most of their efforts and resources to subsidize and encourage a model of agriculture, largely reliant on the expensive commercial agricultural inputs, in particular synthetic fertilizers mainly sold by a handful of Western corporations.

The good news is that an agroecological transition is affordable for African governments. They spend billions of dollars every year to subsidize fertilizers and pesticides for their farmers. In Malawi, the government’s subsidies to agricultural inputs, mostly fertilizers, amount to close to 10 percent of the national budget every year. The evidence that exists, based on the experience of millions of farmers, should prompt African governments to make the only reasonable choice: to give the continent a leading role in the way out of world hunger and corporate exploitation and move to a sustainable and climate-friendly way to produce food or all.

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Indigenous Villagers Fight “Evil Spirit” of Hydropower Dam in Brazilhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/indigenous-villagers-fight-evil-spirit-of-hydropower-dam-in-brazil/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=indigenous-villagers-fight-evil-spirit-of-hydropower-dam-in-brazil http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/indigenous-villagers-fight-evil-spirit-of-hydropower-dam-in-brazil/#comments Mon, 21 Dec 2015 17:28:52 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143410 Juarez Saw is the chief of the Sawré Muybu village on the Tapajós River between the municipalities of Itaituba and Trairao in the state of Pará, Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo H. Gaudenzi/IPS

Juarez Saw is the chief of the Sawré Muybu village on the Tapajós River between the municipalities of Itaituba and Trairao in the state of Pará, Brazil. Credit: Gonzalo H. Gaudenzi/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
SAWRÉ MUYBU, Brazil , Dec 21 2015 (IPS)

At dusk on the Tapajós River, one of the main tributaries of the Amazon River in northern Brazil, the Mundurukú indigenous people gather to bathe and wash clothes in these waters rich in fish, the staple of their diet. But the “evil spirit”, as they refer in their language to the Sao Luiz Tapajós dam, threatens to leave most of their territory – and their way of life – under water.

“The river is like our mother. She feeds us with her fish. Just as our mothers fed us with their milk, the river also feeds us,” said Delsiano Saw, the teacher in the village of Sawré Muybu, between the municipalities of Itaituba and Trairao in the northern Brazilian state of Pará.

“It will fill up the river, and the animals and the fish will disappear. The plants that the fish eat, the turtles, will also be gone. Everything will vanish when they flood this area because of the hydroelectric dam,” he told IPS.

The dam will flood 330 sq km of land – including the area around this village of 178 people.

According to the government’s plans, the Sao Luiz Tapajós dam will have a potential of 8,040 MW and will be the main dam in a complex of hydropower plants to be built along the Tapajós River and its tributaries by 2024.

But the 7.7 billion-dollar project has been delayed once again because of challenges to the environmental permitting process.

“The accumulative effect is immeasurable. Environmental experts have demonstrated that it will kill the river. No river can survive a complex of seven dams,” Mauricio Torres, a sociologist at the Federal University of Western Pará (UFOPA), told IPS."No river can survive a complex of seven dams.” -- Sociologist Mauricio Torres

The Tapajós River, which flows into the Amazon River, runs 871 km through one of the best-preserved areas in the subtropical rainforest, where the government whittled away at protected areas in order to build the hydroelectric dams, which are prohibited in wildlife reserves.

The area is home to 12,000 members of the Mundurukú indigenous community and 2,500 riverbank dwellers who are opposed to the “megaproject” – a Portuguese term that the native people have incorporated in their language, to use in their frequent protests.

The Mundurukú have historically been a warlike people, and although they have adopted many Brazilian customs in their way of life, they still wear traditional face paint when they go to the big cities to demonstrate against the dam.

Village chief Juarez Saw complains that they were not consulted, as required by International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 169 concerning Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries, which has been ratified by Brazil.

The process of legalisation of their indigenous territory has been interrupted by the hydropower project.

“We aren’t leaving this land,” he told IPS. “There is a law that says we can’t be moved unless an illness is killing indigenous people.”

The village is located in a spot that is sacred to the Mundurukú people. And they point out that their ancestors were born here and are buried here.

“This is going to hurt, us, not only the Mundurukú people who have lived along the Tapajós River for so many years, but the jungle, the river. It hurts in our hearts,” said the village’s shaman or traditional healer, Fabiano Karo.

The interview is taking place in the ceremonial hut where the shaman heals “ailments of the body and spirit.” He fears being left without his traditional medicines when the water covers the land around the village – and his healing plants.

Academics warn that the flooding will cause significant losses in plant cover, while generating greenhouse gas emissions due to the decomposition of the trees and plants that are killed.

 A little girl in Sawré Muybu, an indigenous village on the Tapajós River between the municipalities of Itaituba and Trairao in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS


A little girl in Sawré Muybu, an indigenous village on the Tapajós River between the municipalities of Itaituba and Trairao in the northern Brazilian state of Pará. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

This biodiversity-rich river basin is home to unique species of plants, birds, fish and mammals, many of which are threatened or endangered.

“The impact will be great, especially on the aquatic fauna, because many Amazon River basin fish migrate from the lower to the upper stretches of the rivers to spawn,” ecologist Ricardo Scuole, at the UFOPA university, explained to IPS.
“Large structures like dikes, dams and artificial barriers generally hinder or entirely block the spawning migration of these species,” he said.

The village of Sawré Muybu currently covers 300 hectares, and the flooding for the hydroelectric dam will reduce it to an island.

María Parawá doesn’t know how old she is, but she does know she has always lived on the river.

“I’m afraid of the flood because I don’t know where I’ll go. I have a lot of sons, daughters and grandchildren to raise and I don’t know how I’ll support them,” Parawá told IPS through an interpreter, because like many women in the village, she does not speak Portuguese.

A few hours from Sawré Muybu is Pimental, a town of around 800 inhabitants on the banks of the Tapajós River, where people depend on agriculture and small-scale fishing for a living.

This region was populated by migrants from the country’s impoverished semiarid Northeast in the late 19th century, at the height of the Amazon rubber boom.

Pimental, many of whose inhabitants were originally from the Northeast, could literally vanish from the map when the reservoir is created.

“With the impact of the dam, our entire history could disappear underwater,” lamented Ailton Nogueira, president of the association of local residents of Pimental.

The consortium that will build the hydroelectric dam, led by the Eletrobrás company, has proposed resettling the local inhabitants 20 km away.

But for people who live along the riverbanks, like the Mundurukú, the river and fishing are their way of life, sociologist Mauricio Torres explained.

“Their traditional knowledge has been built over millennia, passing from generation to generation,” he told IPS. “It is at least 10,000 years old. When a river is dammed and turned into a lake, it is transformed overnight and this traditional knowledge, which was how that region survived, is wiped away.”

The Tapajós River dams are seen by the government as strategic because they will provide energy to west-central Brazil and to the southeast – the richest and most industrialised part of the country.

“The country needs them. Otherwise we are going to have blackouts,” said José de Lima, director de of planning in the municipality of Santarém, Pará.

But the Tapajós Alive Movement (MTV), presided over by Catholic priest Edilberto Sena, questions the need for the dams.

“Why do they need so many hydropower dams on the Tapajós River? That’s the big question, because we don’t need them. It’s the large mining companies that need this energy, it’s the São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro markets that need it,” he told IPS.

It’s evening in Sawré Muybu and the families gather at the “igarapé”, as they call the river. While people bathe, the women wash clothes and household utensils.

From childhood, boys learn to fish, hunt and provide the village with water. For the community, the river is the source of life.

“And no one has the right to change the course of life,” says Karo, the local shaman.

Edited by Verónica Firme/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Soy, an Exotic Fruit in Brazil’s Amazon Junglehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/soy-an-exotic-fruit-in-brazils-amazon-jungle/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=soy-an-exotic-fruit-in-brazils-amazon-jungle http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/soy-an-exotic-fruit-in-brazils-amazon-jungle/#comments Tue, 08 Dec 2015 00:36:47 +0000 Fabiana Frayssinet http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143252 Members of the São Raimundo do Fe em Deus cooperative in the rural municipality of Belterra in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest peel manioc, to make flour. The associations of small farmers help them defend themselves from the negative effects of the expansion of soy in this region on the banks of the Tapajós River. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

Members of the São Raimundo do Fe em Deus cooperative in the rural municipality of Belterra in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest peel manioc, to make flour. The associations of small farmers help them defend themselves from the negative effects of the expansion of soy in this region on the banks of the Tapajós River. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

By Fabiana Frayssinet
BELTERRA, Brazil, Dec 8 2015 (IPS)

In the northern Brazilian state of Pará, the construction of a port terminal for shipping soy out of the Amazon region has displaced thousands of small farmers from their land, which is now dedicated to monoculture.

The BR-163 highway, along the 100-km route from Santarém, the capital of the municipality of that name, to Belterra runs through an endless stretch of plowed fields, with only a few isolated pockets of the lush rainforest that used to cover this entire area.

State-of-the-art tractors and other farm machinery, a far cry from the rudimentary tools used by the local small farmers in the surrounding fields, are plowing the soil this month, ahead of the planting of soy in January.

José de Souza, a small farmer who owns nine hectares in the rural municipality of Belterra, sighs.

“Soy benefits the big producers, but it hurts small farmers because the deforestation has brought drought,” he tells IPS. “The temperatures here were pleasant before, but now it’s so hot, you can’t stand it.”

The effects are visible in his fields of banana plants, which have been burnt by the hot sun.

Resigned, De Souza waters a few sad rows of straggling cabbages and scallions.

Like other farmers, he has been hemmed in by the expansion of soy in the municipalities of Santarém and the nearby Belterra and Mojuí dos Campos.

According to the Santarém municipal government, of the 740,000 cultivable hectares in this region, soy now covers 60,000.

But Raimunda Nogueira, rector of the Federal University of Western Pará, offers a much higher figure. “Land-use change has involved 112,000 to 120,000 hectares, which have been turned into soy plantations,” she tells IPS.

And with the soy came the spraying.

“The soy fields bring a lot of pests because the poison they use to fight them drives them off their plantations onto our small fields,” laments De Souza.

The agrochemicals have polluted the soil and poisoned crops and animals, local farmers complain.

“The crops die, and as a result the property becomes completely unproductive – and the solution is to sell,” Jefferson Correa, a representative of the local non-governmental organisation Fase Amazonia, tells IPS.

There are no epidemiological data. But in these rural municipalities, the widespread perception is that health problems like respiratory and skin ailments have become more common.

According to Selma da Costa with the Rural Workers Union of Belterra, the threats to their health and the temptation to sell their land have led 65 percent of local small farmers to leave the municipality, which had a population of 16,500.

“They end up leaving, because who is going to put up with the stench of the pesticides? No one. People are getting sick. Pregnant women often feel ill and they don’t know why,” she tells IPS.

José de Souza waters the garden on his nine-hectare farm in the municipality of Belterra in the northern Brazilian Amazon rainforest state of Pará, where his vegetables grow sparsely due to the effects of the spread of soy monoculture, which has hurt family farmers in the area, who produce 70 percent of the food consumed by the local population. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

José de Souza waters the garden on his nine-hectare farm in the municipality of Belterra in the northern Brazilian Amazon rainforest state of Pará, where his vegetables grow sparsely due to the effects of the spread of soy monoculture, which has hurt family farmers in the area, who produce 70 percent of the food consumed by the local population. Credit: Fabiana Frayssinet/IPS

“They sold their land for a pittance. They practically gave away their land to the big producers, thinking their lives would get better, that they would build a nice house in Santarém But they can’t support themselves because they can’t grow anything,” she explains.

Correa points out that back in 2000, land here was cheap. There were people who sold 100 hectares for 1,000 to 2,000 dollars, and later regretted it.

“They went to the city, spent all the money, and without any formal education, the only solution was to go back to work in the countryside, as rural labourers for the people who had bought their land,” he says.

Others scrape by on the outskirts of Santarém as street vendors or in other informal sector activities.

“The farmers had their property, their own food, like beans, rice, flour and what they could fish and hunt; but in the city they no longer have that,” adds Claudionor Carvalho with the Federation of Agricultural Workers of the State of Pará.

The change, he explains to IPS, has fuelled prostitution in the slums surrounding the city, “because the families weren’t prepared for what they would face.”

The process was accentuated 15 years ago, with the construction of a port facility in Santarém by the US commodities giant Cargill.

Through the new port terminal in Santarém, on the banks of the Tapajós River where it runs into the Amazon River, soy and other grains can be exported to the Atlantic Ocean.

The aim was to reduce the distance and the costs of transporting soy from the neighbouring state of Mato Grosso, Brazil’s biggest producer.

Brazil is the world’s second-largest producer and leading exporter of soy, which it sells to China, Europe and other markets.

Ports like this one in the Amazon basin have nearly cut in half the transport distance from Mato Grosso, which is around 2,000 km from the congested ports in the southeast, such as Santos in the state of São Paulo.

The new Amazon port, with silos that now have a total capacity of 120,000 tons – double the initial capacity – has drawn hundreds of soy producers from the south of the country, leading to a land-buying stampede and driving up property prices.

One of those who came with his family was Luiz Machado, from Mato Grosso.

“We had 90 hectares that we sold to buy a bigger farm here because the land was cheap,” he tells IPS. “Besides, we would be closer to the port, so we could get a better price for our product.”

Machado says the purchase was legal, and that he has left untouched the rainforest surrounding his property, much of which had already been deforested.

But many others did not do this, and the expansion of soy has devastated large swathes of forest, Cándido Cunha with the National Institute of Colonisation and Agrarian Reform explains in a conversation with IPS.

In 2006, in a “soy moratorium,” associations of producers, many of whom had ties to Cargill, pledged not to sell any more soy from deforested areas.

There was a temporary drop in deforestation. But it once again increased because the farmers that sold their land cleared property in other areas.

“What happened was what we call ‘grillaje’ of land: forged documents or illegal appropriation of public land,” which further complicated the already highly irregular land tenure situation in the Amazon region, says Cunha.

Of the two million and a half tons of soy exported annually from Santarém, just six percent is locally grown; the rest comes from Mato Grosso.

But Nelio Aguiar, secretary of planning in Santarém, says it helped modernise the economy, fomenting a shift from family farming to mechanised agriculture.

“Today we have larger scale, dollarised agriculture, and every harvest produces great riches,” he tells IPS.

But while some celebrate the expansion of agribusiness here, others are worried about the future of local food security.

The greater metropolitan region, population 370,000, depends on family farming for 70 percent of the local food supply.

“Now you have to buy everything in the market, even rice and beans – things we didn’t have to buy before because we produced everything ourselves. And we also sold what we produced,” complains De Souza.

“Why are we buying? Because we don’t have land anymore. And what we plant is being poisoned,” says Da Costa.

For Correa, one solution is to expand government programmes that support family farming. De Souza is a beneficiary of one of them.

Another solution is to join together in farming associations or cooperatives.

De Souza proudly takes IPS to the São Raimundo do Fe em Deus cooperative, of which he is a member, where a festive group of men and women are sharing the tasks of peeling, grating and cooking manioc to make the flour that is a staple food in Brazil.

“We have to help each other, because small farmers face a difficult situation today,” he says.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Pakistan Moves to Stop Biodiversity Losshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/pakistan-moves-to-stop-biodiversity-loss/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pakistan-moves-to-stop-biodiversity-loss http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/pakistan-moves-to-stop-biodiversity-loss/#comments Mon, 07 Dec 2015 16:05:43 +0000 Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143248 http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/12/pakistan-moves-to-stop-biodiversity-loss/feed/ 0 Native Seeds Help Weather Climate Change in El Salvadorhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/native-seeds-help-weather-climate-change-in-el-salvador/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=native-seeds-help-weather-climate-change-in-el-salvador http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/native-seeds-help-weather-climate-change-in-el-salvador/#comments Mon, 30 Nov 2015 22:34:40 +0000 Edgardo Ayala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143159 Domitila Reyes, 25, picks a cob of native corn in a field in the Mangrove Association, one of the two small farmer organisations that produce these seeds for the government’s Family Agriculture Plan in El Salvador. The seeds are not only high yield but are also more tolerant of the climate changes happening in this Central American country. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Domitila Reyes, 25, picks a cob of native corn in a field in the Mangrove Association, one of the two small farmer organisations that produce these seeds for the government’s Family Agriculture Plan in El Salvador. The seeds are not only high yield but are also more tolerant of the climate changes happening in this Central American country. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

By Edgardo Ayala
JIQUILISCO /SAN MIGUEL, El Salvador , Nov 30 2015 (IPS)

Knife in hand, Domitila Reyes deftly cuts open the leaves covering the cob of corn, which she carefully removes from the plant – a process she carries out over and over all morning long, standing in the middle of a sea of corn, a staple in the diet of El Salvador.

Reyes is taking part in the “tapisca” – derived from “pixca” in the Nahat indigenous tongue, which means harvesting the field-dried corn.

The process will end, weeks later, with the selection of the best quality seeds, in order to ensure food sovereignty and security for poor peasant farmers in this Central American country of 6.3 million people.

Some 614,000 Salvadorans are farmers, and 244,000 of them grow corn or beans on small farms averaging 2.5 hectares in size, the Ministry of Agriculture and Stockbreeding reports.

In rural areas, 43 percent of households are poor, compared to 29.9 percent in urban areas, according to the latest annual survey by the Ministry of Economy.

“I see that the harvest is good, even though the rain was causing problems,” Reyes, 25, told IPS. She earns 10 dollars a day “tapiscando” or harvesting corn.

Climate change has modified the production cycles in this country, which is experiencing lengthy droughts in the May to October wet season and heavy rain in the November to April dry season. The erratic weather has ruined corn and bean crops.“High quality seeds are strategic for the country, because they make it possible for farming families to grow their crops in periods of national and global crisis, given the problem of climate change.” -- Alan González

But Reyes, covered head to toe to protect herself from the sun in jeans, a long-sleeved blouse and a hat, is relieved that the high-quality or “improved” seeds have managed to resist the effects of the changing climate.

“This corn has withstood it better…the rain hurt it but not very much. Other seeds wouldn’t have survived the blow,” she told IPS in the middle of the cornfield.

Reyes is one of the nearly two dozen workers who, under the burning sun, are harvesting corn on this seven-hectare field, one of several that belong to the Mangrove Association in Ciudad Romero, a rural settlement in the municipality of Jiquilisco in the eastern department of Usulután.

The region is known as Bajo Lempa, named after the river that crosses El Salvador from the north, before running into the Pacific Ocean. In that region there are 86 communities, with a total population of 23,000 people.

Many of the inhabitants are former guerrilla fighters of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), which fought the country’s right-wing governments in the 1980-1992 armed conflict that left a death toll of around 75,000, mainly civilians.

The Mangrove Association is one of the two producers of open-pollinated (the opposite of hybrid) native seeds in El Salvador. The other is the Nancuchiname Cooperative, also in the Bajo Lempa region.

They sell their annual output of 500,000 kilos of seeds to the government for distribution to 400,000 small farmers, as part of the Family Agriculture Plan (PAF). Each farmer receives 10 kg of seeds of corn and beans, as well as fertiliser.

“One achievement by our organisation is that the government has accepted us as a supplier of native seeds to the PAF,” said Juan Luna, coordinator of the Mangrove Association’s Agriculture Programme.

The hard-working hands of Ivania Siliézar, 55, pick improved beans she grew on her three-hectare farm on the slopes of the Chaparrastique volcano in the eastern Salvadoran department of San Miguel. Thanks to these native seeds, her output has doubled. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

The hard-working hands of Ivania Siliézar, 55, pick improved beans she grew on her three-hectare farm on the slopes of the Chaparrastique volcano in the eastern Salvadoran department of San Miguel. Thanks to these native seeds, her output has doubled. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Luna told IPS that with these seeds, Salvadoran small farmers are better prepared to confront the effects of climate change and ensure food security and sovereignty.

In this country, 12.4 percent of the population – around 700,000 people – are undernourished, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The Mangrove Association and another three cooperatives in the area produce 40 percent of the improved seeds purchased by the PAF, whether native or the H59 hybrid variety developed by the government’s Enrique Álvarez Córdova National Centre for Agricultural and Forest Technology (CENTA).

The rest are produced by cooperatives in other regions of the country.

“The seeds produced by CENTA are high quality genetic material adapted to growing everywhere from sea level to 700 metres altitude,” FAO resident coordinator in El Salvador, Alan González, told IPS.

Two farmers carry dry leaves of corn, after the harvest of field-dried corn, on a parcel of land belonging to the Mangrove Association, one of the cooperatives that produce native corn seeds in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

Two farmers carry dry leaves of corn, after the harvest of field-dried corn, on a parcel of land belonging to the Mangrove Association, one of the cooperatives that produce native corn seeds in El Salvador. Credit: Edgardo Ayala/IPS

He added that the effort to promote this kind of seeds as a tool to weather the effects of climate change and strengthen food security and sovereignty are part of the Hunger Free Mesoamerica programme launched by FAO in 2014 in Central America, Colombia and the Dominican Republic.

“High quality seeds are strategic for the country, because they make it possible for farming families to grow their crops in periods of national and global crisis, given the problem of climate change,” said González.

Up to 2009, PAF purchased seeds from only five companies. But that year the FMLN, which became a political party after the 1992 peace deal, was voted into office and modified the rules of the game in order for small farmers to participate in the business, through cooperatives.

Another of the advantages of these improved seeds, besides their resistance to drought and heavy rains, is their high yields. FAO estimates that productivity has increased by 40 percent in the case of beans and 30 percent in the case of corn, which has boosted the food and nutritional security of the poorest families.

“We produce more, and we earn a bit more income,” said Ivania Siliézar, 55, who produces an improved variety of bean in the village of El Amate in the department of San Miguel, 135 km east of San Salvador.

Siliézar told IPS that she took the time to count how many bean pods one single plant produces: “More than 35 pods; that’s why the yield is so high,” she said proudly.

The variety of bean grown by her and 40 other members of the Fuentes y Palmeras cooperative is called chaparrastique, and was also developed by the CENTA technicians. The name comes from the volcano at whose feet this and six other cooperatives grow the bean, which they sell in local markets, as well as to the PAF.

Siliézar grows her crops on her farm that is just over three hectares in size, and in the last harvest of the year, she picked 1,250 kg of beans, a very high yield.

Similar excellent results were obtained by all 255 members of the seven cooperatives, who founded a company, Productores y Comercializadores Agrícolas de Oriente SA (Procomao), and have managed to mechanise their production with the installation of a plant that has processing equipment such as driers.

The plant was built with an investment of 203,000 dollars, financed by Spanish development aid and support from FAO, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the San Miguel city government, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Stockbreeding. It has the capacity to process three tons of beans per hour.

Cooperatives grouping another 700 families from the departments of San Miguel and Usulután also set up three similar companies.

“We have had pests, but thanks to God and the quality of the seeds, here is our harvest,” Siliézar said happily.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Private Nature Reserves in Latin America Seek a Bigger Rolehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/private-nature-reserves-in-latin-america-seek-a-bigger-role/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=private-nature-reserves-in-latin-america-seek-a-bigger-role http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/private-nature-reserves-in-latin-america-seek-a-bigger-role/#comments Fri, 20 Nov 2015 14:27:09 +0000 Fabíola Ortiz http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143070 The Punta Leona private reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, where the owners voluntarily protect biological diversity and use a small part of the property for ecotourism. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

The Punta Leona private reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast, where the owners voluntarily protect biological diversity and use a small part of the property for ecotourism. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

By Fabíola Ortiz
PUNTA LEONA, Costa Rica , Nov 20 2015 (IPS)

Private voluntary nature reserves in Latin America should be seen as allies in policies on the environment, climate change mitigation and the preservation of biological diversity in rainforests, say experts.

“Private reserves in Latin America are not included in conservation policies; they should be integrated in our national strategies,” said Carlos Manuel Rodríguez, vice-president of conservation policies in Conservation International (CI) in Costa Rica.

Rodríguez, a former Costa Rican minister of environment, energy and mines (2002–2006), was addressing 150 environmentalists, promoters of voluntary conservation agreements, and ecotourism business owners, during the 11th Latin American Congress of Networks of Private Reserves, held Nov. 9-13 in the Punta Leona private nature reserve and tourism destination.

In his view, the private sector should play a more central role and governments and the owners of private nature reserves should work together to achieve compliance with the Aichi Biodiversity Targets adopted in Nagoya, Japan in 2010.

During the 10th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, 193 United Nations members established 20 targets to fight the loss of biodiversity, with a 2020 deadline.

“We are losing our natural capital due to climate change and the big gap between private and public conservation,” said Rodríguez. “The owners of private reserves should become political actors, to help meet the Aichi Targets.”

The global cost of financing efforts towards the targets is estimated at 150 to 440 billion dollars a year, according to figures from the Convention itself. But currently, CI says, the world is only channeling 45 billion dollars towards that end.

Rodríguez says private conservation efforts could help mitigate the shortfall in funds.

With that aim, the Latin American Alliance of Private Reserves was formally created Nov. 6 – the first of its kind in the world. It groups 4,345 private reserves in 15 countries, with a combined total of 5,648,000 hectares of green areas.

The 11th Latin American Congress of Networks of Private Reserves held No. 9-13 in the Punta Leona nature reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

The 11th Latin American Congress of Networks of Private Reserves held No. 9-13 in the Punta Leona nature reserve on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

“The idea is to form a conservation chain,” Martin Keller of Guatemala, the president of the new alliance, told IPS. “Private areas can form a chain with national parks and expand national conservation systems. They are also a mechanism to absorb drastic climate changes.”

He argues that there should be no borders for private reserves in the region. “We are joining together in something magnificent, and formalising associations with international institutions so that they include us in environmental projects,” he said.

During the congress in Costa Rica, a pilot programme to encourage the sale of carbon credits was announced, with the donation of 200 hectares of land by a member of the Alliance. The programme will have an estimated 3,600 tonnes of carbon.

Keller hopes Latin America will begin to sell carbon as a bloc, starting in 2017.

“We have dreams and a passion for conserving nature,” the president of the Costa Rican Network of Nature Reserves, Rafael Gallo, who is donating the 200 hectares for the pilot plan, told IPS. “We want the sale of carbon to be a mechanism for private conservation at a global level.”

Gallo has an 800-hectare property on the Banks of the Pacuare River along Costa Rica’s Caribbean coast. Of that total, 700 hectares are a forest reserve. It is located in Siquirres, 85 km east of San José, near the Barbilla National Park, which forms part of the La Amistad Biosphere Reserve.

“The market is still just getting off the ground, a ton of carbon is worth three dollars,” said Gallo, who believes the mechanism will become viable when the price of a ton reaches 10 dollars.

The countries in the Alliance are Argentina, Belize, Brasil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay and Peru. Uruguay and Venezuela also have private reserves, but they have not yet set up local networks – a necessary step before they can join.

Keller said he hopes the initiative will expand to the entire hemisphere, including the Caribbean island nations, Canada and the United States.

Private reserves in the northern Costa Rican province of Heredia. A pilot project for carbon credits will be carried out on one such reserve, thanks to a donation of 200 hectares of land by its owner. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

Private reserves in the northern Costa Rican province of Heredia. A pilot project for carbon credits will be carried out on one such reserve, thanks to a donation of 200 hectares of land by its owner. Credit: Fabíola Ortiz/IPS

Private reserves would like to benefit from multilateral institution programmes, and with that in mind they have made contact with U.N. partners involved in one way or another with conservation issues, such as the World Bank and the Inter-American Development Bank.

“We want to be a regional bloc, we want to be heard at an international level, and we want incentives for property owners to continue joining forces to support conservation – because we would have a massive impact as a bloc,” Claudia García de Bonilla, executive director of the Association of Private Natural Reserves of Guatemala, told IPS.

Voluntary conservation areas are set up by ecotourism businesses, academic institutions, research bodies, or organic agricultural producers, and their advocates see them as green shields against climate extremes and the loss of biodiversity.

“Forests are a sponge, absorbing storms and hurricanes. We have to keep expanding our ecological corridors,” Bonilla said.

The representative of private green areas in Chile, Mauricio Moreno, underscored benefits that nature reserves belonging to individuals or private bodies can offer a global vision of conservation.

“These areas are refuges protected with a great deal of goodwill and effort,” he told IPS. “They complement the public networks. There are reserves that border natural parks and thus create much bigger areas that make it possible to conserve species of animals. With a public and private effort, integral conservation is possible.”

According to Ariane Claussen, an engineer in renewable natural resources at the University of Chile, the budget assigned to public protected areas in the region is insufficient, which makes it difficult for countries to have the capacity to act on their own in the preservation of biodiversity.

“Rather than seeing private reserves as independent, they should be seen in an integrated manner,” she told IPS. “If these people didn’t decide to practice conservation, they would be using that land in different ways, for unsustainable monoculture or stockbreeding.”

She said “the property owners dedicate a small portion of this land to (economic) development like tourism, because they need an income.”

Claussen, along with another Chilean colleague, Tomás González, stressed the Latin American initiative Huella, aimed at voluntary cooperation in technical planning for conservation, environmental education and ecological activism in the region.

Private reserves cover gaps left by the state, she said. “The idea is that they take part in conservation as buffer zones and link up the ecosystems of public protected areas that are isolated and fragmented,” she explained.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Opinion: Risks? What Risks?http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/opinion-risks-what-risks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-risks-what-risks http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/11/opinion-risks-what-risks/#comments Tue, 17 Nov 2015 16:30:37 +0000 Hazel Henderson http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=143028

Hazel Henderson, president of Ethical Markets Media (USA and Brazil) is economist and author of Mapping the Global Transition to the Solar Age and other books.

By Hazel Henderson
MIAMI, Florida, Nov 17 2015 (IPS)

We humans are acutely aware of risks. From our earliest times, the risks we faced were from hunger, predatory animals, extreme environmental conditions and, as our numbers grew, from other human tribes.

Hazel Henderson Credit:

Hazel Henderson

Fast forward to our growing mastery of nature, technological prowess and the Industrial Revolution. The risks humans faced changed beyond those always present in extreme environmental conditions. The technologies we developed against such risks – advancing our energy, shelter, food and health systems – also created new risks, often unforeseen for decades. Conflicts with other humans grew as the human family colonized every part of our planet, stressing ecosystems and driving other species to extinction.

Today, in the 21st century, new risks dominate our political and social issues from terrorism, barbarous attacks on civilians as in Paris, nuclear meltdowns and weapons, financial crises, desertification and famines, disappearing glaciers in the Himalayas, Greenland and Antarctica, water shortages, polluted air, rising sea levels, new pandemics and drug-resistant diseases.

Yet views about these risks and priorities in addressing them are all over the map. This disparity is largely due to different views on how these new risks arose, who is to blame (since they are mostly humanly self-inflicted). This underlying debate about causes of today’s risks still hampers agreement on how to address let alone solve them or mitigate their effects.

Take the view of risk prevalent in the global financial system and its millions of traders in London, Wall Street, Frankfurt, Tokyo and Shanghai. They focus on risks to corporate earnings and profitability, interest rate risk, weak GDP growth, volatile gasoline prices, grassroots opposition, government regulation, political demands for rising wages, democratic demands to reduce inequality.

I attended a conference on “Playing for the Long-term” in New York, November, 3, 2015, hosted by the New York Times convening some 500 Wall Streeters. Their views focused on these risks, as well as those disrupting finance posed by the incursions of Silicon Valley startups threatening to bypass Wall Street: crowdfunding, peer-to-peer lending, cellphone banking, social media and electronic startups based on Internet platforms. Risks from cyber attacks also focused much attention. Risks from the wider world received little attention – even those now impinging on coal and oil stocks from activists divesting from fossil fuels. I asked Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman if he agreed with Bank of England head Mark Carney that many fossil fuel reserves could never be lifted or burned without further damage to the global climate and that these assets would be devalued. Mr. Gorman allowed that climate change was a problem, but that it was “not our business.”

Climate risk was hardly raised until one of the last speakers, former US Vice President Al Gore, explained how his London-based investment firm Generation Investment Management had produced healthy financial returns on $10 billion dollars of client assets by investing beyond fossil fuels in the more efficient, knowledge-rich technologies of renewable energy companies and the growing next economy: the Solar Age. Unfortunately for the rest of us, financial players like economists see risk in terms of money – forgetting that currencies are simply units of account which track and keep score of human transactions and interactions with nature’s resources.

So it still seems a question of “What risks?” – where and how they arise. How can we come together to share responsibility for our common future on this planet, powered daily by free energy from the Sun? As the beleaguered beautiful city of Paris prepares to host the UN Climate Summit from November 30 to December 11, 2015, even the world’s scientists of the Convention on Climate Change find their assessments of climate risk challenged not only by those denying that humans caused it, but that their models under-estimated these risks.

A UNEP Emissions Gap Report assessed the 119 Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDCs) submitted by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) October 2015, covering 88 per cent of global GHG emissions in 2012. This indicates these efforts could cut up to 11 gigatons of CO2 equivalents from projected emissions by 2030. But, this is only half of the total required if there is a chance of staying below the target of below 2 degrees Celsius of warming by 2100. UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner said that these INDC levels are an increase in ambition levels but not sufficient to reach this 2C target.

Several scientists warn that sea level rises are now inevitable due to long feedback processes measured by Earth-observing satellites. These risks focus on melting glaciers in Greenland and Antarctica, reported by scientists James Hanson, Erick Riguot, Richard Alley, Andrea Dutton, John Englander and others. David Wasdell, director of the London-based Meridian Programme, critiques the official IPCC report’s Summary for Policy Makers for downplaying the risks for political and economic expediency. Wasdell’s Climate Dynamics: Facing the Harsh Realities of Now (September 2015) concludes that human greenhouse gases already emitted, moving heat through Earth’s atmosphere and oceans, have already exceeded the 2C target and notional “available carbon budget.” Wasdell’s report concludes that any notional carbon budget allowing further emissions has already collapsed and we face a carbon debt instead.

Are these new climate risks insurmountable? Most experts say that there is time, but it is fast running out.

The good news is that more decision-makers and citizens in all sectors have ended their focus on fossil fuels and now recognize that our planet has always been amply powered by the Sun’s daily shower of free photons. Atmospheric CO2 can be returned to soils, deserts can be greened and ecosystems regenerated as finance is redirected by the 2° Investing Initiative. We humans have all the technology we need to scale up the next economy of efficient renewable resource technologies, as we track in our Green Transition Scoreboard® currently showing 6.22 trillion dollars of private investments in these Solar Age companies and technologies.

Risks also offer opportunities, and stress is evolution’s tool. Breakdowns drive breakthroughs!

(End)

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Medicinal Plants Popular and Unprotected in Mexicohttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/medicinal-plants-popular-and-unprotected-in-mexico/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=medicinal-plants-popular-and-unprotected-in-mexico http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/medicinal-plants-popular-and-unprotected-in-mexico/#comments Wed, 28 Oct 2015 07:27:54 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142812 Clemente Calixto, a certified traditional healer, discusses the healing properties of a plant during a workshop in Mexico City. In his community in the southern state of Oaxaca, he uses different medicinal plants to make soap and ointments, and to heal a variety of ailments. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Clemente Calixto, a certified traditional healer, discusses the healing properties of a plant during a workshop in Mexico City. In his community in the southern state of Oaxaca, he uses different medicinal plants to make soap and ointments, and to heal a variety of ailments. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Oct 28 2015 (IPS)

“This plant heals 150 ailments, like diabetes, high blood pressure and gastritis. It’s prepared as an infusion or blended with water, and you take it every day,” says Clemente Calixto, a traditional indigenous healer in Mexico, holding up a green leafy branch.

Calixto, who belongs to the Mazateco indigenous community, is talking about palomilla or common fumitory (Fumaria officinalis), an herbaceous annual flowering plant in the poppy family – one of the more than 3,000 plants in frequent use in this Latin American country to treat a broad range of health problems.

“We work with medicinal plants. Some grow wild in the countryside and others we plant in yards and patios. We make soaps, ointments, cough syrups, dewormers,” Calixto told IPS.

The healer, from the town of Jalapa de Díaz in the state of Oaxaca, 460 km south of Mexico City, also uses chaya or tree spinach (Cnidoscolus chayamansa) and caña agria or spiked spiralflag ginger (Costus spicatus), which he said help heal kidney problems.

Calixto, one of the 30 registered traditional healers with credentials from the health authorities in his region, is one of thousands of herbalists who process, sell and prescribe medicinal plants in Mexico, where they enjoy only weak legal protection.

The Digital Library of Traditional Medicine, created by the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), lists more than 3,000 species of plants in daily use. Many of them are sold fresh or dried.

In this Latin American country of 120 million inhabitants, eight out of 10 people use traditional plants or animal products to cure ailments.

“There is little legal protection,” Arturo Argueta, a professor at UNAM’s Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Humanities, told IPS. “We don’t have adequate legislation; there should be a federal law and institutions that are replicated at the level of the states to prevent biopiracy and grant recognition to this ancestral wisdom.”

In 1994 Argueta, a veteran researcher, and other colleagues published the first “atlas of plants used in Mexico’s traditional medicine”. Their research found that the sale of these plants is especially common in areas to the south of Mexico City, their habitual users come from all socioeconomic strata, and their prices are low.

“The most widely used are 50 herbs,” said the expert. “Many of them grow wild, and others are planted. Use expanded from exotic users in the south of the country to a much wider population.”

Several of the species are protected by Mexican law, as they are listed as threatened or endangered.

Traditional indigenous medicine is recognised in Mexico’s constitution as a cultural right of native peoples.

In addition, the health ministry’s office of traditional medicine, created in 2002, has a list of 125 species that can be prescribed in the national health system since reforms introduced in 2008 in the general health law, which incorporated and regulated traditional medicine.

The general health law recognises the existence of herbal medicine and the “regulations on health inputs” regulates the definition, registration, preparation, packaging, advertising and points of sale of herbal medicines and remedies.

The “regulations on health inputs” office issues credentials annually to traditional healers, authorising them to practice the healing arts that have passed from generation to generation.

Lorenza Euan, a Maya Indian, makes soaps, ointments, mosquito repellent, antibacterial gel, cough syrups and shampoo, together with four other women in the Maya Dzak – Maya medicine, in that tongue – cooperative in the town of Lázaro Cárdenas in the southeastern state of Quintana Roo.

“We inherited it from our ancestors. You heal with the plant’s stalks or roots,” she told IPS, holding up an ointment used to treat muscle pain or bruises, which has extracts from 18 varieties of plants, as an example of the products they make.

“We pick fresh plants, weigh them, wash them, crush them, and boil the mixture,” to prepare the products, she explained.

In their herb garden, the women in the cooperative grow around 25 different species, including nettles, arnica, aloe vera and basil.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) calls for the protection of traditional knowledge, the integration of alternative medicine in national health systems, the certification of those who practice traditional healing, and the fomenting of research.

Euan joins her voice to those who demand greater protection and greater recognition and promotion of traditional healing.

Mexico’s health ministry drew up a guide for strengthening health services using traditional medicine. It recognises as a threat the loss of biodiversity, caused by land-use change, deforestation and the depletion of natural resources.

In its “traditional medicine strategy: 2014-2023″, WHO states that as traditional medicine becomes more popular “it is important to balance the need to protect the intellectual property rights of indigenous peoples and local communities and their health care heritage while ensuring access to (traditional medicine) and fostering research, development and innovation.”

WHO also warns that while intellectual property “may support innovation and provide a stimulus to invest in research, it can also be abused to misappropriate” traditional medicine.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) protects traditional medical knowledge against unauthorised use by third parties.

But WIPO’s Intergovernmental Committee on Intellectual Property and Genetic Resources, Traditional Knowledge and Folklore has not yet reached an agreement on an international legal instrument “for the effective protection of traditional cultural expressions and traditional knowledge, and to address the intellectual property aspects of access to and benefit-sharing in genetic resources.”

Meanwhile, the Mexican government has banned the use of some species of plants in infusions or vegetable oils because of the level of toxicity – a position rejected by traditional healers and experts.

The latest list, from 1999, prohibits 76 species, including some that are habitually used by herbalists and traditional medicine practitioners, such as calamus or sweet flag, hemp (a variety of cannabis), belladonna, wormseed, rue and salvia.

An updated version of the catalogue, expanded to 200 prohibited plant varieties, was prepared by the current government of conservative President Enrique Peña Nieto in September 2014, but has not yet gone into effect.

Argueta said the list is a “contradiction, because instead of informing about the problems, it acts in a punitive manner, without providing information.”

Calixto said: “We don’t agree that curative plants should be declared toxic.”

Euan also disagrees. “We don’t understand why they want to hurt us, when what we need is support,” she complained.

Argueta suggested that one solution would be to register traditional medicine as intangible cultural heritage with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).

“We are dedicated to collecting quality information about this sector, to offer a complete, dignified image,” he said.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Opinion: It’s Time to Put Local Communities in Charge of Liberia’s Forestshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/opinion-its-time-to-put-local-communities-in-charge-of-liberias-forests/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=opinion-its-time-to-put-local-communities-in-charge-of-liberias-forests http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/opinion-its-time-to-put-local-communities-in-charge-of-liberias-forests/#comments Thu, 22 Oct 2015 21:32:27 +0000 Matthias Yeanay http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142774

Matthias Yeanay is the Facilitator of the NGO Coalition of Liberia. He holds a BA in sociology and demography and holds a certificate in Improving Forest Governance. Roland P. Harris is a Civil Society Independent Forest Monitor and a member of the NGO Coalition of Liberia.

By Matthias Yeanay and Roland Harris
MONROVIA, Oct 22 2015 (IPS)

Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf recently affirmed her commitment to the land rights of Liberia’s local communities, who rely on the forests for their livelihoods and have cared for them for generations.

“Any successful paradigm shift for forest management in Liberia must have local communities at its centre,” Edward McClain, Minster of State for Presidential Affairs, said in a speech delivered on the President’s behalf. A draft Land Rights Act would make this possible, but the current session of Parliament ended without the Act’s adoption.

The land by Boegbor, a town in district four in Grand Bassa County, Liberia has been leased by the government to Equatorial Palm Oil for 50 years. Credit: Wade C.L. Williams/IPS

The land by Boegbor, a town in district four in Grand Bassa County, Liberia has been leased by the government to Equatorial Palm Oil for 50 years. Credit: Wade C.L. Williams/IPS

We are eager to see the President’s vision implemented, and hopeful that the Land Rights Act will be adopted in the next Parliamentary session, as Liberia’s local communities are still contending with violent conflicts caused by palm oil plantations and illegal logging on their lands.

Such developments benefit large corporations but fail to deliver on the promise of shared economic development. Over half of Liberia’s territory has been sold to logging companies by the government, threatening the life-line of the communities that rightfully own Liberia’s forests.

These conflicts are not unique to Liberia. Around the world, contested lands fuel violence and threaten the commitments made by governments and companies. New research shows that out of eight fragile states in Africa, the governments of six claim ownership of nearly 100 per cent of the land in each country. Weak community rights also contribute to mass deforestation, as communities are generally better equipped than governments to care for their forests.

Despite growing attention around the world to these issues, the gap between how much land governments recognize as belonging to communities and the amount of land that communities govern in practice remains substantial.

As Ebola recedes, unsustainable demand for timber has returned to Liberia’s forests, but President Sirleaf’s comments give us hope that the government will side with local communities moving forward.

The President signed an agreement with Norway, which has promised up to $150 million over six years to help Liberia keep its forests standing. This agreement could provide much-needed funds for Liberia to provide basic services to its people, and stem the tide of mass deforestation.

Liberia’s leaders are turning towards conserving the forests rather than selling them off, and they recognize that the key to successful forest management is putting local communities in charge of their own forests. It only makes sense that the people who have managed the lands and forests all their lives, and whose communities have managed them for generations, are best-equipped to care for them. Research shows that when Indigenous Peoples and local communities have secure land rights, forest are more likely to stay standing.

The draft Land Rights Act would operationalise many of the commitments Liberia’s government has made. It would recognize Liberia’s local communities as the rightful owners of the country’s forests without requiring them to present an official deed, a significant development given that these communities inhabit a large percentage of Liberia’s land.

By extension, the legislation would protect the forests that communities have been the guardians of for generations. President Sirleaf has expressed her strong support for it, and it is now up to Parliament to take action. We expect them to take this important step towards securing Liberia a future of peace and prosperity.

But recognizing land rights is not enough. Communities already have legal title to over 30 per cent of Liberia’s land area, one of the highest percentages of community ownership in West and Central Africa, but a lack of technical capacity, government coordination and due process has led to legally titled communities losing their land to make way for concessions or conservation areas. Most were never compensated for their losses.

The reality is that local communities want to be the architects of their own development and manage their own forests, but they need more logistical and technical support to ensure that they will not be trampled by big business.

Negotiation of community forest management agreements should be done by the communities themselves with technical support from Liberia’s Forest Development Authority, civil society and other institutions with interest in the forestry sector. This will enable the communities to adequately harness benefits, including sustainable management of the forest as well as economic, social and infrastructure development at the local level.

We hope the new law will make it easier for communities to make fair agreements with corporations. They want the power to require companies operating on their lands to employ community members in key decision-making roles, and to ask companies that violate their wishes for them to leave. But faced with the prospect of negotiating commercial contracts on their land, many communities find themselves on the losing end.

Liberia is poised to clarify land rights at the local level, a move that could make history and make the country a leader in land reform in Africa. For this move to be successful, the government’s policies must not forget the vital role played by the local communities. It is the rightful owners who have kept Liberia’s forests standing.

This new vision for Liberia’s forests may be threatened from many sides, but with the power of the people and the power of President Ellen Sirleaf, how can it fail?

(End)

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Terrace Farming – an Ancient Indigenous Model for Food Securityhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/terrace-farming-an-ancient-indigenous-model-for-food-security/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=terrace-farming-an-ancient-indigenous-model-for-food-security http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/terrace-farming-an-ancient-indigenous-model-for-food-security/#comments Wed, 21 Oct 2015 23:44:25 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142758 Terraces built by Atacameño Indians in the village of Caspana in Alto Loa, in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta. This ageold farming technique represents an adaptation to the climate, and ensures the right to food of these Andes highlands people. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Terraces built by Atacameño Indians in the village of Caspana in Alto Loa, in the northern Chilean region of Antofagasta. This ageold farming technique represents an adaptation to the climate, and ensures the right to food of these Andes highlands people. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
CASPANA, Chile, Oct 21 2015 (IPS)

Terrace farming as practiced from time immemorial by native peoples in the Andes mountains contributes to food security as a strategy of adaptation in an environment where the geography and other conditions make the production of nutritional foods a complex undertaking.

This ancient prehispanic technique, still practiced in vast areas of the Andes highlands, including Chile, “is very important from the point of view of adaptation to the climate and the ecosystem,” said Fabiola Aránguiz.

“By using terraces, water, which is increasingly scarce in the northern part of the country, is utilised in a more efficient manner,” Aránguiz, a junior professional officer on family farming with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), told IPS from the agency’s regional headquarters in Santiago, some 1,400 km south of the town of Caspana in Chile’s Atacama desert.

In this country’s Andes highands, terrace farming has mainly been practiced by the Atacameño and Quechua indigenous peoples, who have inhabited the Atacama desert in the north for around 9,000 years.

Principally living in oases, gorges and valleys of Alto Loa, in the region of Antofagasta, these peoples learned about terrace farming from the Inca, who taught them how to make the best use of scant water resources to grow food on the limited fertile land at such high altitudes.

The terraces are “like flowerbeds that have been made over the years, where the existing soil is removed and replaced by fertile soil brought in from elsewhere, in order to be able to grow food,” the Agriculture Ministry’s secretary in Antofagasta, Jaime Pinto, told IPS.

“This has made it possible for them to farm, because in these gorges where they terrace, microclimates are created that enable the cultivation of different crops,” Pinto, the highest level government representative in agriculture in the region, said from the regional capital, Antofagasta.

The official said that although water is scarce in this area, “it is of good quality, which makes it possible, in the case of the town of Caspana, to cite one example, to produce garlic or fruit like apricots or apples on a large scale.”

According to official figures, in the region of Antofagasta alone there are some 14 highlands communities who preserve the tradition of terrace farming, which contributes to local food security as well as the generation of income, improving the quality of life.

Communiities like Caspana, population 400, and the nearby Río Grande, with around 100 inhabitants, depend on agriculture, and thanks to terrace farming they not only feed their families but grow surplus crops for sale.

But people in other villages and towns in Alto Loa, like Toconce, with a population of about 100, are basically subsistence farmers, despite abundant terraces and fertile land. The reason for this is the heavy rural migration to cities, which has left the land without people to farm it, Pinto explained.

The town of Caspana, 3,300 metres above sea level, in the Atacama desert in northern Chile. Its 400 inhabitants depend on small-scale agriculture as they proudly declare on a rock at the entrance to the village, thanks to the use of the ancient tradition of terrace farming. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

The town of Caspana, 3,300 metres above sea level, in the Atacama desert in northern Chile. Its 400 inhabitants depend on small-scale agriculture as they proudly declare on a rock at the entrance to the village, thanks to the use of the ancient tradition of terrace farming. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

“Ours is fertile land,” Liliana Terán, a 45-year-old mother of four and grandmother of four who belongs to the Atacameño indigenous community, told IPS. One of her income-generating activities is farming on the small terrace she inherited from her mother in Caspana.

“Whatever you plant here, grows,” she added proudly.

The name of her indigenous village, Caspana, means “children of the valley” in the Kunza tongue, which died out in the late 19th century. The village is located 3,300 metres above sea level in a low-lying part of the valley.

Caspana is “a village of farmers and shepherds” reads a sign carved into stone at the entrance to the village, which is inhabited by Atacameño or Kunza Indians, who today live in northwest Argentina and northern Chile.

Each family here has their terrace, which they carefully maintain and use for growing crops. The land is handed down from generation to generation.

Each village has a “juez del agua”, the official responsible for supplying or cutting off the supply of water, to ensure equitable distribution to the entire village.

“The water flows down through vertical waterways between the terraces, from the highest point of the river, and is distributed in a controlled mmaner,” said Aránguiz.

“With this system, better use is made of both irrigation and rainwater, and more water is retained, meaning more moisture in the soil, which helps ease things in the dry periods,” she added. “And the drainage of water is improved, to avoid erosion and protect the soil.”

All of these aspects, said the FAO representative, make terrace farming an efficient system for fighting the effects of climate change.

“Well-built and well-maintained terraces can improve the stability of the slopes, preventing mudslides during extreme rain events,” she said, stressing “the cultural importance of this ancestral technique, which strengthens the economic and social dynamics of family agriculture.”

Aránguiz pointed out that indigenous people in the Andes highlands have kept alive till today this tradition which bolsters food security. She specifically mentioned countries like Bolivia and Peru, noting that terrace farming is used in the latter on more than 500,000 hectares of land.

Luisa Terán, 43, who has an adopted daughter and is Liliana’s cousin, works the land on her mother’s terrace.

When IPS was in the village the day before the traditional ceremony when the local farmers come together to clean the waterways that irrígate the terraces, Luisa was hard at work making empanadas or stuffed pastries for the celebration.

“This ceremony is very important for us,” as it marks the preparation of the land for the next harvest, she said.

Pinto underlined that “maintaining these cultivation systems is a responsibility that we have, as government.”

He said that through the government’s Institute of Agricultural Development, the aim is to implement a programme for the recovery and maintenance of terraces that were damaged in the most recent heavy storms in northern Chile.

In addition, projects are being designed “to help young people see agricultural development as an economic alternative.”

This goes hand in hand with the fight against inequality, Pinto said.

“We are working on creating the conditions for food autonomy and it is this kind of cultivation that can generate contributions to agricultural production to feed the region,” he added.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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In Hawaii, Concern Rises about Use of Farm Pesticideshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/in-hawaii-concern-rises-about-use-of-farm-pesticides/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=in-hawaii-concern-rises-about-use-of-farm-pesticides http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/in-hawaii-concern-rises-about-use-of-farm-pesticides/#comments Fri, 16 Oct 2015 21:32:24 +0000 Christopher Pala http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142719 Tammy Brehio of Kihei, Hawaii, pointing from her back balcony to a Monsanto cornfield a few hundred yards from her house.  The inset photo, taken by Tammy, shows a Monsanto tractor spraying pesticides. Credit: Photo by Christopher Pala.  Inset photo by Tammy Brehio.

Tammy Brehio of Kihei, Hawaii, pointing from her back balcony to a Monsanto cornfield a few hundred yards from her house. The inset photo, taken by Tammy, shows a Monsanto tractor spraying pesticides. Credit: Photo by Christopher Pala. Inset photo by Tammy Brehio.

By Christopher Pala
KIHEI, Hawaii, Oct 16 2015 (IPS)

Tammy Brehio stood on the back balcony of her home in Kihei on the island of Maui and pointed to a brown field a few hundred yards away.

“That’s where they spray the pesticides, even when the wind is blowing directly at us,” said the 40-year-old year mother of three small children. “Ever since we moved here, we all have sore throats and we cough all the time.”

She and a neighbour, who declined to be identified because he works for an agricultural company and feared losing his job, said the spraying often takes place at night. “It wakes me up, it smells really strong and it’s hard to breathe,” Brehio said.

“We do not apply pesticides at night,” said Monica Ivey, the spokeswoman for Monsanto, which grows genetically modified corn on the field. “Monsanto complies with all federal and state laws that govern responsible pesticide use.”

Whether or not the companies respect these laws, which forbid allowing pesticides sprayed on a field to drift beyond it, has become one of the biggest controversies in Hawaii in the past few years.

Over the past decade or so, Monsanto, DuPont and Dow Chemical of the United States, Bayer and BASF of Germany and Syngenta of Switzerland have more than doubled their acreage in Hawaii. Attracted by a year-round growing season that cuts in half the time it takes to bring a new variety to market, they have turned the Aloha State into the epicentre of corn grown with genes modified in laboratories – designed mostly to tolerate the pesticides the companies produce and sell to farmers with the corn.

The kernels grown in Hawaii are sent the mainland United States, where they are planted and harvested. Those kernels are then sold to farmers, whose production ends up mostly as cattle feed and ethanol. The corn sold as food is known as sweet corn and constitutes perhaps one percent of the industrial variety, which is known as field corn.

The agro-chemical companies now own or lease about some 25,000 acres on the islands of Maui, Molokai, Kauai and Oahu – about 2 per cent of the land area. Because the islands are mountainous and farmland is scarce, the fields often abut homes, businesses and schools. Most of these fields were previously used to grow sugar cane and pineapple, and the towns grew around them in the 19th and 20th centuries.

At any given time, about 80 per cent of the fields are bare and brown. The crops are grown in small patches of a few acres and sprayed often with pesticides, which residents complain that they often are forced to inhale.

Even a mile from the nearest cornfield in downtown Waimea, on the island of Kauai, Lois Catala, 75, reports that the pesticide clouds percolate into her home with no warming. “All of a sudden, your eyes are burning and you’re itching all over, and you hear everybody complaining,” she said. A local doctor says she stopped biking to work on a road that bisects cornfields because she went through clouds of pesticides too many times. Other residents interviewed told of similar experiences.

Testing new varieties of pesticide-resistant field corn and growing seed corn from them requires 17 times more restricted-use insecticides and more frequent applications than farmers in the US use for their crops, a study by the Center for Food Safety has concluded. Court documents filed by attorneys for Waimea homeowners who successfully sued DuPont for pesticide and dust impacts to their homes show the company sprayed 10 times the mainland average, based on internal pesticide records obtained from DuPont.

The frequent, sometimes daily, sprayings have led to a spate of complaints that the companies violate with impunity federal and state laws.

The laws say that commercial applicators who spray pesticides that winds carry out of their property is liable for a $25,000 fine and/or six months in jail. The pesticides receive approval from the federal Environmental Protection Agency only after being tested for their legal use, which does not include human inhalations.

In 2006 and 2008, Howard Hurst was teaching special-education classes at Waimea Middle School, on Kauai, when clouds of what he believes were concentrated pesticides blew into the school from an adjoining field operated by Syngenta. “It feels like you have salt in your eyes, your tongue swells, your muscles ache, it’s awful,” he said in an interview at the school. Both times, the school was evacuated and several students were treated at the nearest emergency room.

But the state authorities, instead of prosecuting the Swiss company, which denied that it was spraying on those days, insisted that the evacuations were caused by mass hysteria triggered by an onion-like plant called stinkweed.
Without ever accepting responsibility, Syngenta stopped using the field adjacent to the school. The closest is now a half-kilometer away. Hurst said pesticide odors have become much less frequent.

In 2013, the Kauai county council passed a law ordering the companies to create wider buffer zones and to disclose in far more detail than they do now what they spray, where and when. A group of doctors in Waimea, which is surrounded by cornfields on three sides, testified that the number of cases of serious heart defects in local newborns was 10 times the national rate.

Meanwhile, in Honolulu, a pediatrician said in an interview that he’d noticed a statewide spike in another birth defect called gastroschisis, in which the baby is born with the abdominal organs outside.

“Data suggest that there may also be an association between parental pesticide use and adverse birth outcomes including physical birth defects,” the American Academy of Pediatrics reported this year.

“I think it’s serious,” says Bernard Riola, a pediatrician in Waimea. “We need an in-depth epidemiological study. Right now, we just don’t know” if the pesticides are causing the birth defects. Another doctor at the hospital said he tried to get the state to do just such a study, to no avail.

Bennette Misalucha, the head of the agro-chemical companies trade group, the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, dismissed the doctors’ concerns. “We have not seen any credible source of statistical health information to support the claims,” she wrote in an e-mail after declining to be interviewed.

The companies she represents strongly opposed the buffer-zones and disclosure law, which resembled others passed in 11 other states. They argued that it would drive away the companies and cause job losses, and that critics of the pesticide-drift problem were simply victims of scare-mongering by opponents of genetically modified food.

They sued and a federal judge struck the law down, arguing that only the state can regulate pesticide use. Civil Beat, a Hawaii news site, reported here that it effectively does not.

In Maui and Molokai, which form one county, a bitterly fought ballot initiative was approved by the voters in November 2014 banning genetically modified agriculture until an Environment Impact Statement is performed and proves the industry is safe.

The companies spent $8 million to fight it, reportedly the most spent on any political campaign in Hawaii history. Another federal judge struck it down on the same grounds as the Kauai ordinance: that only the state can regulate pesticide use. Both rulings are being appealed.

Back in Maui, Brehio, the mother of three who says she is dispirited by the lack of progress in curbing illegal pesticide drift, was remodeling her kitchen with her husband and preparing to sell their house. “This is a not a safe place for me and my family,” she said.

Meanwhile, construction has started on a strip of land between her house and the Monsanto field for a 660-unit affordable-housing development where the cheapest units will be right against the Monsanto fields.

“This report was supported by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.”

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ASEAN Agreement on Haze? As Clear as Smokehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/asean-agreement-on-haze-as-clear-as-smoke/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=asean-agreement-on-haze-as-clear-as-smoke http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/asean-agreement-on-haze-as-clear-as-smoke/#comments Sat, 10 Oct 2015 20:25:37 +0000 Kanis Dursin http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142664 Volunteers taking on fires at Garung village in Pulang Pisau district, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Credit: Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Indonesia

Volunteers taking on fires at Garung village in Pulang Pisau district, Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Credit: Ministry of Environment and Forestry, Indonesia

By Kanis Dursin
JAKARTA, Oct 10 2015 (IPS)

A regional agreement on managing transboundary haze caused by fires raging in Indonesia’s forests and peatlands appears all but buried in the embers of frustration of its neighbouring countries.

Nearby Singapore and Malaysia, apart from eastern Indonesia, have been hardest hit by the haze, which has been sending air pollution indices soaring to unhealthy levels for more than a month now. In recent days, the winds have blown the haze to southern Thailand as well.

In parts of Southeast Asia, a pall of grey hangs over the skies from morning until dusk, and scenes of residents walking around with masks have become common.

Over the past month or so, schools have been closed at some point, flights delayed or outdoor activities cancelled or limited, with warnings about the risks to children and the elderly, as countries asked Indonesia, with whom they are members in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), to address the burning of forests and land in eastern Indonesia.

After months of digging in its heels and saying it can manage on its own, the Indonesian government was quoted as saying this week it believes foreign help would be needed to put out the fires.

“This has proven quite a challenge for us, so we see it as a necessity to work together with countries that have the available resources to extinguish the fires,” foreign ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir said on Oct. 8. He said Indonesia’s foreign minister, Retno LP Marsud, had talked to Singapore, Malaysia, Russia, China and Australia “to discuss cooperation initiatives to overcome fire hotspots.”

But in these discussions about the fires there has hardly been any mention of the 1997 ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, a legally binding agreement among the 10 member countries of the organisation. These are Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

In truth, activists say, they did not have much hope in the ASEAN haze agreement and ASEAN’s ability – or will – to hold its members to its own commitments.

“The agreement is said to be legally binding, but ASEAN has no court to try offenders,” said Nur Hidayati, head of the advocacy department of the Indonesian Forum for Environment, known by its Indonesian acronym WALHI. She added that the haze accord would likely meet the same fate as the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights, which activists see as weak.

Yet this year would have been an opportunity to show the teeth of the haze agreement, which ASEAN has long held up as an example of successful regional cooperation. The haze agreement was the world’s first regional arrangement that binds a group of states to tackle transboundary pollution from land and forest fires.

After years of resistance, Indonesia – whose inability to control the fires for nearly two decades has been an irritant in its ties with its neighbours – finally ratified the haze agreement in September 2014 and became legally bound by it. That is 12 years after Indonesia signed it with other ASEAN countries in 2002, a fact that has raised doubts about ASEAN’s ability to enforce its own decisions.

ASEAN countries are also moving toward deeper economic integration and launching the ASEAN Community in December 2015, but addressing transboundary tensions continue to challenge the 48-year-old organisation.

“If the most powerful three members of ASEAN (Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia) are not able to address a recurring and predictable problem (haze), what hope does the region have for economic integration with the ASEAN Economic Community that is going to be finalized end of this year?” asked a September commentary in the Jakarta Post newspaper by Joseph Cherian of the Centre for Asset Management Research and Investments, Jack Loo of Think Business and Ang Swee Hoon of the National University of Singapore Business School.

Singapore and Malaysia have repeatedly offered assistance to put out the raging fires, but Indonesia’s officials until recently said they could manage on their own.

“For the time being, we are only thinking of exhausting all of our internal resources before seeking external assistance,” J S George Lantu, director of ASEAN functional cooperation of the Indonesian foreign ministry said in an interview earlier in October. “We really appreciate their offers of help, but as a sovereign state we don’t want to seek to external help without trying hard enough to put out the fires. We can handle the fires ourselves,” the diplomat said.

But Indonesia is showing “complete disregard for our people, and their own,” Singapore Foreign Minister K Shanmugan told the British Broadcasting Corporation earlier in October.

The head of the environment division of the Jakarta-based ASEAN secretariat, which oversees the implementation of the ASEAN haze agreement, said Indonesia’s responses to the fires were in line with the accord. “Obviously, Indonesia can deal with the fires with its own resources,” division head Ampai Harakunarak said. “All member states are standing by, ready to receive requests from Indonesia.”

The accord aims to “prevent and monitor transboundary haze pollution as a result of land and/or forest fires which should be mitigated, through concerted national efforts and intensified regional and international cooperation.” It requires parties to “cooperate in developing and implementing measures to prevent and monitor transboundary haze pollutions as a result of land and/or forest fires” and “to control sources of fires.”

In truth, “Indonesia ratified the agreement under strong protest from Singapore and Malaysia over haze pollution. It (the ratification) was more as a political gesture than a statement of intent,” said WALHI’s Hidayati.

Significantly, Article 12.2 of the agreement says that external assistance “can only be employed at the request of and with the consent of the requesting party, or when offered by another party or parties, with the consent of the receiving party.”

President Joko Widodo had instructed government agencies to handle the fires in peatlands and forest being cleared by plantations for products like palm oil or paper. Foreign companies run many of them, prompting Singapore’s National Environmental Agency to name five companies with Indonesian concessions suspected to be contributing to the haze.

The Singapore Environment Council and Consumers Association of Singapore have urged consumers to use only products of companies that do not use burning practices in Indonesia.

Satellite images show that 70 per cent of hotspots in Sumatera and Borneo islands in Indonesia are in local plantations. Some 1.7 million hectares of land, more than a third of which are on peatland in Sumatra and Kalimantan, have been burned, Widodo said.

Clearly, Indonesia has a lot of cleaning up to do of the concessions it gives to plantation companies and enforcing of local laws, critics say.

Land and/or forest fires have plagued Indonesia annually over the past 18 years due to unprecedented expansion of pulp and paper companies and oil palm plantations and their conversion into easy-to-burn peatlands, according to WALHI.

“By nature, tropical rain forests are impossible to burn due to high humidity. However, when trees are felled and a monoculture system is introduced in oil palm and rubber plantations or forest estates, their humidity disappears and they become vulnerable to fires,” Hidayati said.

Government officials say they have frozen some oil palm and forest concessions, adding that they have fined some companies and that others are awaiting trial. “Previously, we only charged individuals or corporates violating the 2009 environmental law in criminal and civil courts. Since January 2015, however, we also impose administrative sanctions on them by either freezing or revoking their concessions,” said Muhammad Yunus, director of the criminal law enforcement division of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry.

But the government must review all forest and plantation concessions to determine whether companies can handle fires, Hidayati said. “A fire that breaks out in a plantation or forest estate should been seen as a concession holder’s inability to manage the land and thus serve as a ground to revoke the concession, regardless who sets it or whether or not it’s deliberate.”

Untung Suprapto, head of the land and forest fire control sub-directorate of the Ministry of Environment and Forestry, said his office is drafting a regulation that would require plantation and forest concession holders to have own firefighter teams, trucks and equipment.
(End)

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Healthy Oceans Key to Fighting Hungerhttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/healthy-oceans-key-to-fighting-hunger/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=healthy-oceans-key-to-fighting-hunger http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/10/healthy-oceans-key-to-fighting-hunger/#comments Thu, 08 Oct 2015 17:06:44 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142641 U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addressing the second international Our Ocean conference, held in the Chilean port of Valparaíso. Sitting next to him are Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz and President Michelle Bachelet. Credit: Foreign Ministry of Chile

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry addressing the second international Our Ocean conference, held in the Chilean port of Valparaíso. Sitting next to him are Chilean Foreign Minister Heraldo Muñoz and President Michelle Bachelet. Credit: Foreign Ministry of Chile

By Marianela Jarroud
VALPARAÍSO, Chile, Oct 8 2015 (IPS)

Seafood offers a large amount of animal protein in diets around the world, and the livelihoods of 12 percent of the global population depend directly or indirectly on fisheries and aquaculture.

However, the impacts of climate change, plastic waste pollution, illegal fishing, and acidification threaten the oceans and their biodiversity, said experts at the second international Our Ocean conference, held Oct. 5-6 in the Chilean port of Valparaíso, 120 km northwest of Santiago.

The more than 500 participants from 56 countries taking part in the gathering committed to some 80 marine conservation and protection initiatives for over 2.1 billion dollars, covering more than 1.9 billion km of ocean, said Chile’s foreign minister, Heraldo Muñoz.

Muñoz and his U.S. counterpart, Secretary of State John Kerry, hosted the conference, whose first edition took place in 2014 in Washington, D.C.

In one of the keynote speeches, the director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), José Graziano da Silva, said keeping the oceans healthy and productive was key to eradicating hunger and reaching the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the international community during a Sept. 25-27 U.N. summit in New York.

“We cannot continue to use water resources as if they were infinite,” said Graziano da Silva, who pointed out that nearly one-third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished.

The U.N. official said oceans do not have an infinite capacity to withstand the threats they face: over-exploitation of marine resources, climate change, pollution and loss of habitat.

“The health of our own planet and our food security depends on how we treat the blue world,” he stated.

FAO emphasises that fish is a highly nutritious complement to diets lacking in essential vitamins and minerals.

According to FAO, about one billion people – largely in developing countries – rely on fish as their primary source of animal protein. And in 2010, “fish provided more than 2.9 billion people with almost 20 percent of their intake of animal protein, and 4.3 billion people with about 15 percent of such protein.”

And in some countries, especially small island states, fish accounts for over 25 percent of animal protein intake, the U.N. agency reports.

Besides offering a staple element in diets worldwide, fishing and aquaculture provide jobs and incomes to millions of people across the planet.

“Fishing is part of the oldest, most remote history of the American continent,” social anthropologist Juan Carlos Skewes told IPS. “In the interior of the continent as well as along the coasts and rivers it provided sustenance for dozens of native peoples, especially groups whose nomadic way of life depended on the sea.”

And that is still true: 12 percent of the global population – or 875,000,000 people – depend directly or indirectly on fishing and aquaculture.

“The sea is so important for us because it not only feeds us, but gives us life,” said Petero Edmunds, mayor of Rapa Nui, better known as Easter Island, located 3,700 km off the coast of Chile in the Pacific ocean.

Oceans cover over 70 percent of the planet’s surface and 97 percent of all water on earth is salty, but only one percent is protected. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Oceans cover over 70 percent of the planet’s surface and 97 percent of all water on earth is salty, but only one percent is protected. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

“For Polynesians, the sea is our source of life,” he said in an interview with IPS. “It is so important that in our mythology we have Tangaloa, the God of the Sea, and in Rapa Nui’s ancient traditions, when a baby is born, the first thing the father must do is dip it into the sea, to return it to its natural state.”

In Latin America and the Caribbean there are over two million small-scale fisherpersons who generate some three billion dollars a year in revenues, according to the Latin American Organisation for Fisheries Development (OLDEPESCA).

Three of the world’s large marine ecosystems are found along South America’s coasts.

The main one is the Humboldt Current, in the Pacific ocean. It flows north along the west coast of South America, from the southern tip of Chile, past Ecuador, to northern Peru, creating one of the world’s most productive marine ecosystems with approximately 20 percent of the world’s fish catch, according to FAO.

Other important ecosystems in the region, in the Atlantic ocean, are the Patagonian Shelf along the coasts of Argentina and Uruguay, and the South Brazil Shelf.

But these ecosystems are in serious danger: Around eight million tons of plastic bottles, bags, toys and other plastic waste is dumped into the oceans every year, killing innumerable marine animals and sea birds.

In addition, nearly one-third of global fish stocks are overfished.

Of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) approved at the late September global summit in New York, number 14 is to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources.”

But the interdependence of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the vital role played by oceans which, for example, absorb more than 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions, mean the SDGs are impossible to achieve without healthy and resilient oceans.

“Today we know there is a much closer relationship between oceans and climate change,” EU Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella told IPS.

He added that the protection of oceans should be a central focus of the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties (COP21) to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) to be held in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.

Foreign Minister Muñoz, meanwhile, said the government leaders taking part in the conference in Chile, who will also attend COP21, “have promised that protection of the oceans will be included in the documents and commitments that emerge from the summit.”

Muñoz stressed the importance of the announcements made by a number of countries at the Valparaíso conference.

He emphasised Chile’s pledge to protect more than one million sq km of sea, which will be one of the largest protected marine areas in the world.

As part of that initiative, the country announced the creation of 720,000 sq km of protected areas in Rapa Nui, as demanded by the island’s slightly over 5,000 inhabitants, who are seeking to protect the biodiversity of the surrounding waters, which are home to 142 endemic species, 27 of which are endangered or threatened.

The measure will also make it possible for them to continue their ancestral practice of subsistence fishing in the island’s 50 nautical mile zone.

“Artisanal fishing is still practiced according to our ancestral traditions in Rapa Nui,” Edmunds said. “Rocks are used as weights for the hooks, so we can catch tuna or other big fish.”

He said the creation of the marine protected area, announced by President Michelle Bachelet at the opening of the conference, would help combat illegal fishing in the waters surrounding the island.

“For decades we have seen ‘ghost’ ships that appear in the early hours of morning as lights on the horizon, which take our fish,” the mayor said.

“With the help of NGOs (non-governmental organisations), it has been shown that an average of 20 illegal vessels a day fish in our waters, which are taking our resources, and we don’t want them to be exhausted,” he added.

Bachelet also announced the creation of the Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park covering 297,518 sq km, which will be the biggest such protected area in the Americas.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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World Running Out of Time to Save Oceanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/world-running-out-of-time-to-save-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=world-running-out-of-time-to-save-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/09/world-running-out-of-time-to-save-oceans/#comments Mon, 07 Sep 2015 01:15:26 +0000 Thalif Deen http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142295 A new United Nations assessment has found the world’s oceans to be in dire shape. Credit: Shek Graham/CC-BY-2.0

A new United Nations assessment has found the world’s oceans to be in dire shape. Credit: Shek Graham/CC-BY-2.0

By Thalif Deen
UNITED NATIONS, Sep 7 2015 (IPS)

The United Nations is posting a new environmental warning: the world is running out of time to prevent the gradual degradation of the world’s oceans and the widespread destruction of marine life.

In its first comprehensive assessment on the state of the oceans, the United Nations says delays in implementing solutions to the problems already identified as threatening to degrade the world’s oceans will lead, unnecessarily, to incurring greater environmental, social and economic costs.

“The ocean rivals the wealth of the world’s richest countries, but it is being allowed to sink to the depths of a failed economy.” -- Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International.
Comprising 55 chapters, the first World Ocean Assessment will be presented to the General Assembly’s Ad Hoc Working Group of the Whole at a meeting scheduled to take place Sep. 8-11.

The study found the sustainable use of the oceans cannot be achieved unless the management of all sectors of human activities affecting the oceans is coherent.

“Human impacts on the sea are no longer minor in relation to the overall scale of the ocean. A coherent overall approach is needed,” the report stated.

According to the United Nations, the Assessment marks the first time ever that scientific experts have assessed the current knowledge on the biological, chemical, economic, physical and social aspects from an integrated, overall perspective.

Steered by the 22-member Group of Experts, the scientists selected from the Pool of Experts, comprised of some 600 members worldwide, looked at the oceans, their flora and fauna and the ways in which humans are benefitting from, and impacting on the ocean.

The experts examined a wide range of issues that affect the oceans’ ecosystems and marine biodiversity, including the impacts of climate change, ice coverage, the frequency of storms, ocean acidification, land-based activities, unsustainable fishing practices, shipping activities, invasive non-native species, offshore hydrocarbon industries and marine debris.

“And they found that the world’s oceans are in dire shape,” according to the U.N.

John Tanzer, director of the Global Marine Programme at World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) told IPS the U.N. report is “further substantive proof that the health of our ocean and its economic base are under serious threat and that we need to take immediate action.”

He said the implementation of the post-2015 development agenda and negotiation of a new climate deal present major opportunities for governments, businesses and communities to work together in support of the ocean and the people around the world that rely on the ocean for food security and livelihoods.

According to the United Nations, the oceans cover more than 70 percent of the earth’s surface.  More than 3.5 billion people depend on them for food, energy and income.

By protecting the ocean’s natural and cultural resources, marine protected areas play a central role in addressing some of the global development challenges of today, such as food and energy security, poverty and climate change.

Last June the 193-member General Assembly adopted a resolution aimed at drafting a legally binding international treaty for the conservation of marine biodiversity and to govern the mostly lawless high seas beyond national jurisdiction.

The resolution was the result of more than nine years of negotiations by an Ad Hoc Informal Working Group, which first met in 2006.

If and when the treaty is adopted, it will be the first global treaty to include conservation measures such as marine protected areas and reserves, environmental impact assessments, access to marine genetic resources and benefit sharing, capacity building and the transfer of marine technology.

The High Seas Alliance (HSA), a coalition of some 27 non-governmental organisations, played a significant role in pushing for negotiations on the proposed treaty and has been campaigning for this resolution since 2011.

Meanwhile, in a study released last April, WWF said the untapped riches in the world’s oceans are estimated at nearly 24 trillion dollars – the size of the world’s leading economies.

Describing the oceans as economic powerhouses, the study warned that the resources in the high seas are rapidly eroding through over-exploitation, misuse and climate change.

“The ocean rivals the wealth of the world’s richest countries, but it is being allowed to sink to the depths of a failed economy,” said Marco Lambertini, director general of WWF International.

“As responsible shareholders, we cannot seriously expect to keep recklessly extracting the ocean’s valuable assets without investing in its future.”

If compared to the world’s top 10 economies, the ocean would rank seventh with an annual value of goods and services of 2.5 trillion dollars, according to the study.

Edited by Kanya D’Almeida

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Islamic Declaration Turns Up Heat Ahead of Paris Climate Talkshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/islamic-declaration-turns-up-heat-ahead-of-paris-climate-talks/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=islamic-declaration-turns-up-heat-ahead-of-paris-climate-talks http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/islamic-declaration-turns-up-heat-ahead-of-paris-climate-talks/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 18:39:07 +0000 Kitty Stapp http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142051 Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, was one of the signers of the Islamic Declaration on Climate. Credit: kateeb.org

Mohammed Rashid Qabbani, the Grand Mufti of Lebanon, was one of the signers of the Islamic Declaration on Climate. Credit: kateeb.org

By Kitty Stapp
NEW YORK, Aug 19 2015 (IPS)

Following in the footsteps of Pope Francis, who has taken a vocal stance on climate change, Muslim leaders and scholars from 20 countries issued a joint declaration Tuesday underlining the severity of the problem and urging governments to commit to 100 percent renewable energy or a zero emissions strategy.

Notably, it calls on oil-rich, wealthy Muslim countries to lead the charge in phasing out fossil fuels “no later than the middle of the century.”

The call to action, which draws on Islamic teachings, was adopted at an International Islamic Climate Change Symposium in Istanbul.

“Our species, though selected to be a caretaker or steward (khalifah) on the earth, has been the cause of such corruption and devastation on it that we are in danger ending life as we know it on our planet,” the Islamic Declaration on Climate statement says.

“This current rate of climate change cannot be sustained, and the earth’s fine equilibrium (mīzān) may soon be lost…We call on all groups to join us in collaboration, co-operation and friendly competition in this endeavor and we welcome the significant contributions taken by other faiths, as we can all be winners in this race.”

The symposium’s goal was to reach “broad unity and ownership from the Islamic community around the Declaration.”

Welcoming the declaration, UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres said, “A clean energy, sustainable future for everyone ultimately rests on a fundamental shift in the understanding of how we value the environment and each other.

“Islam’s teachings, which emphasize the duty of humans as stewards of the Earth and the teacher’s role as an appointed guide to correct behavior, provide guidance to take the right action on climate change.”

Supporters of the Islamic Declaration included the grand muftis of Uganda and Lebanon and government representatives from Turkey and Morocco.

The UNFCCC notes that religious leaders of all faiths have been stepping up the pressure on governments to drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions and help poorer countries adapt to the challenges of climate change, with a key international climate treaty set to be negotiated in Paris this December.

In June, Pope Francis released a papal encyclical letter, in which he called on the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics to join the fight against climate change.

The Church of England’s General Synod recently urged world leaders to agree on a roadmap to a low carbon future, and is among a number of Christian groups promising to redirect their resources into clean energy.

Hindu leaders will release their own statement later this year, and the Buddhist community plans to step up engagement this year building on a Buddhist Declaration on climate change. Hundreds of rabbis released a Rabbinic Letter on the Climate Crisis.

The Dalai Lama has also frequently spoken of the need for action on climate change, linking it to the need for reforms to the global economic system.

Interfaith groups have been cooperating throughout the year. The Vatican convened a Religions for Peace conference in the Vatican in April, and initiatives such as our Our Voices network are building coalitions in the run-up to Paris.

Reacting to the Islamic Declaration, the World Wildlife Fund’s Global Climate and Energy Initiative Head of Low Carbon Frameworks, Tasneem Essop, said, “The message from the Islamic leaders and scholars boosts the moral aspects of the global climate debate and marks another significant display of climate leadership by faith-based groups.

“Climate change is no longer just a scientific issue; it is increasingly a moral and ethical one. It affects the lives, livelihoods and rights of everyone, especially the poor, marginalised and most vulnerable communities.”

Edited by Kanya D’ Almeida

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Latin America Should Lead in Protecting the Planet’s Oceanshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/latin-america-should-lead-in-protecting-the-planets-oceans/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=latin-america-should-lead-in-protecting-the-planets-oceans http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/latin-america-should-lead-in-protecting-the-planets-oceans/#comments Mon, 17 Aug 2015 19:07:25 +0000 Marianela Jarroud http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=142018 Fishing boats crossing the Chacao Channel off the coast of the Greater Island of Chiloé in Chile’s southern Los Lagos region. Credit: Claudio Riquelme/IPS

Fishing boats crossing the Chacao Channel off the coast of the Greater Island of Chiloé in Chile’s southern Los Lagos region. Credit: Claudio Riquelme/IPS

By Marianela Jarroud
SANTIAGO, Aug 17 2015 (IPS)

Latin America should assume a position of global leadership by adopting effective measures to protect the oceans, which are threatened by illegal fishing, the impacts of climate change, and pollution caused by acidification and plastic waste.

“The whole world is lagging in terms of effective measures to protect the oceans, and Latin America is no exception,” Alex Muñoz, executive director of Oceana – the world’s largest international organisation dedicated solely to ocean conservation – in Chile, told Tierramérica.

But, he added, “We hope the region will take on a leadership role in this area, creating large protected marine areas, eliminating overfishing and creating better systems to combat illegal and unreported fishing.”

The perfect occasion for that, he said, would be the second international Our Ocean Conference, to be held Oct. 5-6 in Valparaiso, a port city 120 km northwest of Santiago, Chile.“We only have a few years to curb the deterioration of the ocean, especially of the fish stocks, and these conferences help us accelerate marine conservation policies with a global impact.” -- Alex Muñoz

In the conference, 400 government representatives, scientists, members of the business community and environmental activists from 90 countries should “commit to carrying out concrete actions to tackle the grave threats that affect the oceans,” Chile’s foreign minister, Heraldo Muñoz, told Tierramérica.

“The big global themes should be addressed from a broad, inclusive perspective,” the minister said.

The central pillar of the global system for governance of the oceans is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), adopted in 1982, to be completed with a treaty to govern the mostly lawless high seas beyond national jurisdiction, as the U.N. General Assembly decided in June.

But, the foreign minister argued, “as a complement, we see as indispensable initiatives making possible a more detailed and direct analysis of the efforts that governments are making to protect this valuable resource.”

The first edition of the international conference on oceans, held in 2014 in Washington, gave rise to alliances and voluntary initiatives for more than 800 million dollars, aimed at new commitments for the protection of more than three million square km of ocean.

In Valparaíso, meanwhile, the participating countries will report the progress they made over the last year and undertake new commitments.

“These meetings generate healthy competition between countries to make announcements that otherwise wouldn’t be made,” said Oceana’s Alex Muñoz.

“We only have a few years to curb the deterioration of the ocean, especially of the fish stocks, and these conferences help us accelerate marine conservation policies with a global impact,” he said.

He added that since the 2014 conference, “many governments have been motivated to create large marine parks or to sign accords to fight illegal fishing, like the New York United Nations accord, which hadn’t been ratified for a number of years.”

He was referring to the U.N. accord on the Conservation and Management of Straddling Fish Stocks and Highly Migratory Fish Stocks, signed in 1995.

Chile, he pointed out, is one of the countries that signed the agreement after the first Our Ocean Conference.

In this year’s conference in Valparaíso “we hope important announcements will be made on the creation of large new protected marine areas,” said the Oceana director, who added that Chile, as host country, “should set an example with a large marine park in the Pacific ocean.”

Threatened riches

Oceans cover more than70 percent of the planet’s surface, but only one percent of the world’s oceans are protected. Between 50 and 80 percent of all life on earth is found under the ocean surface, and 97 percent of the planet’s water is salty, according to U.N. figures.

Phytoplankton generates about half of the oxygen in the atmosphere through photosynthesis, and the vast variety of highly nutritious products provided by the oceans contributes to global food security.

Fisherpersons in Duao cove in Chile’s central Maule region. The degradation of the world’s oceans is a threat to the livelihoods of the more than two million small-scale fishers in Latin America. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

Fisherpersons in Duao cove in Chile’s central Maule region. The degradation of the world’s oceans is a threat to the livelihoods of the more than two million small-scale fishers in Latin America. Credit: Marianela Jarroud/IPS

A study published in April by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that the oceans conceal some 24 trillion dollars of untapped wealth.

Oceans are also an inspiration for artists and for poets like Chile’s 1971 Nobel Literature prize-winner Pablo Neruda (1904-1973).

In the poem “The Great Ocean” he wrote: “If, Ocean, you could grant, out of your gifts and dooms, some measure, fruit or ferment for my hands, I’d choose your distant rest, your brinks of steel, your furthest reaches watched by air and night, the energy of your white dialect downing and shattering its columns in its own demolished purity.”

But the WWF study warns that the resources in the high seas are rapidly eroding through over-exploitation, misuse and climate change.

Latin America, where five of the world’s 25 leading fishing nations are located – Peru, Chile, Mexico, Argentina and Brazil, in that order – is not free from these dangers.

In Chile, 16 of the 33 main fisheries are in a critical situation due to over-exploitation, according to a government report.

Climate phenomena threaten large-scale anchovy fishing in Peru, the world’s second largest fishing nation after China.

Illegal fishing, meanwhile, is jeopardising some species of sharks, like the whitetip reef shark (Triaenodon obesus), found along Central America’s Pacific coast, as well as the Patagonian toothfish or Chilean seabass (Dissostichus eleginoides), and sea cucumbers (Holothuroidea).

Foreign minister Muñoz said illegal fishing is a 23 billion dollar industry – “very close to the amount moved by drug trafficking.”

To this is added the severe problem of pollution from plastic waste faced by the world’s oceans. In 2010 an estimated eight million tons of plastic were dumped in the sea, killing millions of birds and marine animals.

Plastic represents 80 percent of the total marine debris in the world’s oceans.

Ocean acidification, meanwhile, is one of the consequences of climate change, and its effects could cause major changes to species and numbers of fish living in coastal areas over the next few years.

The foreign minister stressed that these conferences must continue to be held, due to “the urgent need to protect our seas and to follow up on government commitments and the progress they have made, while they pledge to carry out further actions.”

At this year’s conference, he said, the main focuses will include the role of local island communities and philanthropy at the service of marine protection and conservation, and there will be a segment on governance, exemplified in the system for the regulation of the high seas.

He also announced that U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the creator of the initiative, confirmed a third edition of the Our Ocean Conference, to be held once again in Washington in 2016.

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Pope Francis Joins Battle Against Transgenic Cropshttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/pope-francis-joins-battle-against-transgenic-crops/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=pope-francis-joins-battle-against-transgenic-crops http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/pope-francis-joins-battle-against-transgenic-crops/#comments Tue, 11 Aug 2015 06:51:30 +0000 Emilio Godoy http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141938 There is no papal bull on transgenic crops in Laudato Si, the second encyclical of Pope Francis, “on the care of our common home” – planet earth. Credit: Norberto Miguel/IPS

There is no papal bull on transgenic crops in Laudato Si, the second encyclical of Pope Francis, “on the care of our common home” – planet earth. Credit: Norberto Miguel/IPS

By Emilio Godoy
MEXICO CITY, Aug 11 2015 (IPS)

A few centuries ago, the biotechnology industry would have been able to buy a papal bull to expiate its sins and grant it redemption. But in his encyclical on the environment, “Laudato Si”, Pope Francis condemns genetically modified organisms (GMOs) without leaving room for a pardon.

In his second encyclical since he became pope on Mar. 13, 2013 – but the first that is entirely his work – Jorge Mario Bergoglio criticises the social, economic and agricultural impacts of GMOs and calls for a broad scientific debate.

Laudato Si – “Praise be to you, my Lord” in medieval Italian – takes its title from Saint Francis of Assisi’s 13th-century Canticle of the Sun, one of whose verses is: “Be praised, my Lord, through our sister Mother Earth, who feeds us and rules us, and produces various fruits with colored flowers and herbs.”

It is the first encyclical in history dedicated to the environment and reflecting on “our common home” – planet earth.“In many places, following the introduction of these crops, productive land is concentrated in the hands of a few owners due to ‘the progressive disappearance of small producers, who, as a consequence of the loss of the exploited lands, are obliged to withdraw from direct production’.” – Laudato Si

The encyclical, which was published Jun. 18, acknowledges that “no conclusive proof exists that GM cereals may be harmful to human beings.” But it stresses that “there remain a number of significant difficulties which should not be underestimated.”

“In many places, following the introduction of these crops, productive land is concentrated in the hands of a few owners due to ‘the progressive disappearance of small producers, who, as a consequence of the loss of the exploited lands, are obliged to withdraw from direct production’,” it adds.

As a result, says the first Latin American pope, farmers are driven to become temporary labourers, many rural workers end up in urban slums, ecosystems are destroyed, and “oligopolies” expand in the production of cereals and inputs needed for their cultivation.

Francis calls for “A broad, responsible scientific and social debate…one capable of considering all the available information and of calling things by their name” because “It sometimes happens that complete information is not put on the table; a selection is made on the basis of particular interests, be they politico-economic or ideological.”

Such a debate on GMOs is missing, and the biotech industry has refused to open up its databases to verify whether or not transgenic crops are innocuous.

According to the encyclical, “Discussions are needed in which all those directly or indirectly affected (farmers, consumers, civil authorities, scientists, seed producers, people living near fumigated fields, and others) can make known their problems and concerns, and have access to adequate and reliable information in order to make decisions for the common good, present and future.”

Miguel Concha, a Catholic priest who heads the Fray Francisco de Vitoria Human Rights Centre in Mexico, said this country “is already a reference point in the fight for the right to a healthy environment, due to the determined efforts of social organisations. This encyclical reinforces our collective demand,” he told Tierramérica.

The priest said the encyclical warns of the social, economic, legal and ethical implications of transgenic crops, just as environmentalists in Mexico have done for years.

In a local market in Mexico, María Solís shows the different colours of native maize that she grows. Native crops are threatened by attempts to introduce large-scale commercial planting of GM maize in the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

In a local market in Mexico, María Solís shows the different colours of native maize that she grows. Native crops are threatened by attempts to introduce large-scale commercial planting of GM maize in the country. Credit: Emilio Godoy/IPS

The document holds special importance for nations like Mexico, which have been the scene of intense battles over transgenic crops – in this country mainly maize, which has special cultural significance here, besides being the basis of the local diet.

That is also true for Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica, which together with southern Mexico form Mesoamérica, the seat of the ancient Maya civilisation.

The pope is familiar with the impact of transgenic crops, because according to experts his home country, Argentina, is the Latin American nation where GMOs have done the most to alter traditional agriculture.

Soy – 98 percent of which is transgenic – is Argentina’s leading crop, covering 31 million hectares, up from just 4.8 million hectares in 1990, according to the soy industry association, ACSOJA.

The monoculture crop has displaced local producers, fuelled the concentration of land, and created “a vicious circle that is highly dangerous for the sustainability of our production systems,” Argentine agronomist Carlos Toledo told Tierramérica.

Just 10 countries account for nearly all production of GMOs: the United States, Brazil, Argentina, Canada, India, China, Paraguay, South Africa, Pakistan and Uruguay, in that order. Most of the production goes to the animal feed industry, but Mexico wants GM maize to be used for human consumption.

In July 2013, 53 individuals and 20 civil society organisations mounted a collective legal challenge against applications to commercially plant transgenic maize, and in September of that year a federal judge granted a precautionary ban on such authorisations.

Since March 2014, organisations of beekeepers and indigenous communities have won two further provisional protection orders against commercial transgenic soybean crops in the southeastern states of Campeche and Yucatán.

On Apr. 30, 2014, eight scientists from six countries sent an open letter to Pope Francis about the negative environmental, economic, agricultural, cultural and social impacts of GM seeds, especially in Mexico.

In their letter, the experts stated: “…we believe that it would be of momentous importance and great value to all if Your Holiness were to express yourself critically on GM crops and in support of peasant farming. This support would go a long way toward saving peoples and the planet from the threat posed by the control of life wielded by companies that monopolise seeds, which are the key to the entire food web…”

Laudato Si indicates that the pope did listen to their plea.

“The encyclical is very encouraging, because it has expressed an ecological position,” Argelia Arriaga, a professor at the University Centre for Disaster Prevention of the Autonomous University of Puebla, told Tierramérica. “It touches sensitive fibers; the situation is terrible and merits papal intervention. This gives us moral support to continue the struggle.”

But legal action has failed to curb the biotech industry’s ambitions in Mexico.

In 2014, the National Service for Agri-Food Health, Safety and Quality (SENASICA) received four applications from the biotech industry and public research centres for experimental planting of maize on nearly 10 hectares of land.

In addition, there were 30 requests for pilot projects involving experimental and commercial planting of GM cotton on a total of 1.18 million hectares – as well as one application for beans, five for wheat, three for lemons and one for soy – all experimental.

SENASICA is also processing five biotech industry requests for planting more than 200,000 hectares of GM cotton and alfalfa for commercial and experimental purposes.

“This is an economic and development model that ignores food production,” said Concha, the priest who heads the Fray Francisco de Vitoria Human Rights Centre.

The participants in the collective lawsuit against GMOs, having successfully gotten federal courts to throw out 22 stays brought by the government and companies against the legal decision to temporarily suspend permits for planting, are now getting ready for a trial that will decide the future of transgenic crops in the country.

Arriaga noted that the focus of the encyclical goes beyond GM crops, and extends to other environmental struggles. “For people in local communities, the pope’s message is important, because it tells them they have to take care of nature and natural resources. It helps raise awareness,” the professor said.

This story was originally published by Latin American newspapers that are part of the Tierramérica network.

Edited by Estrella Gutiérrez/Translated by Stephanie Wildes

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Caribbean Artists Raise Their Voices for Climate Justicehttp://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/caribbean-artists-raise-their-voices-for-climate-justice/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=caribbean-artists-raise-their-voices-for-climate-justice http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/08/caribbean-artists-raise-their-voices-for-climate-justice/#comments Mon, 10 Aug 2015 12:13:37 +0000 Kenton X. Chance http://www.ipsnews.net/?p=141924 Award-winning St. Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte says human beings would treat the environment differently if they see the Earth as their "mother". Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Award-winning St. Lucian poet Kendel Hippolyte says human beings would treat the environment differently if they see the Earth as their "mother". Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

By Kenton X. Chance
CASTRIES, St. Lucia, Aug 10 2015 (IPS)

Award-winning St. Lucian poet and playwright Kendel Hippolyte thinks that Caribbean nationals should view the Earth as their mother.

“For me, the whole thing is so basic: the earth that we are living on and in is our mother and there are ways that we are supposed to treat our mother and relate to our mother,” the 64-year-old, who has won the St. Lucia Medal of Merit (Gold) for Contribution to the Arts, told IPS.“We will clamour if we must, but they will hear us -- 1.5 to Stay Alive!" -- Didacus Jules

Caribbean residents are expected to accord the highest levels of respect to their mothers. Therefore, Hippolyte’s approach could see many of the region’s nationals engaged in more individual actions to adapt to and mitigate against climate change.

“And if we deal with our mother as a person is supposed to deal with his or her mother, then so much falls into place,” Hippolyte tells told at a climate change conference last month dubbed “Voices and Imagination United for Climate Justice”.

Hippolyte is one of several artists from across the Caribbean who have agreed to use their social and other influences to educate Caribbean residents about climate change and what actions that they can take as individuals.

The conference focused on the establishment of an informal grouping of Caribbean artists and journalists who will be suitably briefed and prepared to add their voice — individually or collectively — to advocacy and awareness campaigns, with an initial focus on the climate change talks in Paris in December.

The artists include Trinidad and Tobago calypsonian David Michael Rudder, who is celebrated for songs like “Haiti”, a tribute to the glory and suffering of Haiti, and “Rally ‘Round the West Indies”, which became the anthem of Caribbean’s cricket.

British-born, Barbados-based soca artist Alison Hinds and Gamal “Skinny Fabulous” Doyle of St. Vincent and the Grenadines have also signed on to the effort.

Ahead of the 2015 climate change summit in Paris this year, Caribbean negotiators are seeking the support of the region’s artists in spreading the message of climate justice.

They say that the region has contributed minimally to climate change, but, as small island developing states (SIDS), is being most affected most its negative impacts.

Countries that have contributed most to climate change, the argument goes, must help SIDS to finance mitigation and adaption efforts.

St. Lucia’s Minister of Sustainable Development, Energy, Science and Technology, James Fletcher, told IPS that at the world climate change talks in Paris this year, SIDS will be pushing for a strong, legally-binding climate accord that will keep global temperature rise to between 1.5 and 2 degree Celsius above pre-industrialisation levels.

Caribbean negotiators have put this redline into very stark terms, using the rubric “1.5 to stay alive”.

If global temperature rise is capped at 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialisation temperatures, most countries in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) — a 15-member bloc running including Guyana and Suriname on the South American mainland, Jamaica in the northern Caribbean, and Belize in Central America — will still see their total annual rainfall decrease between 10 and 20 per cent, Fletcher says.

And even with a 2-degree Celsius cap, the Caribbean is projected to experience greater sea level rise than most areas of the world, he tells IPS.

He says that some models predict that a 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperatures will lead to a one-metre sea level rise in the Caribbean.

Caribbean negotiators say capping global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialisation levels is necessary to protect infrastructure, such as in Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

Caribbean negotiators say capping global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrialisation levels is necessary to protect infrastructure, such as in Kingstown, the capital of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Credit: Kenton X. Chance/IPS

This will translate to the loss of 1,300 square kilometres of land — equivalent to the areas of Barbados, Antigua and Barbuda, Anguilla, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines combined, Fletcher told IPS.

Over 110,000 people, a number equivalent to the population of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, will be displaced.

In a region highly dependent on tourism, 149 tourism resorts will be damaged, five power plants will be either damaged or destroyed, 1 per cent of all agricultural land will be lost, 21 airports will be damaged or destroyed, land surrounding 21 CARICOM airports will be damaged or destroyed, and 567 kilometres of roads will be lost.

The countries of the Caribbean, famous for sun, sea and sand, have at the national level been rushing to implement mitigation and adaptation measures.

But Hippolyte believes that there is much that can be done at the individual level and says while a lot of information is available to Caribbean nationals, there needs to be a shift in attitude.

“A lot of the information about what we need to do is out there, but in a way, it is here, it is in the brain,” he says, pointing to his head.

“And to me, where I see the arts coming in, and where I see myself and other artists coming in to take the information, the knowledge,” he says, pointing again to his head, “and to bring it here — into the heart,” he says.

“And if that information goes into the heart, then it goes out into the hands and into the body into what we do and what we actually don’t do,” Hippolyte tells IPS.

Speaking at the climate justice event, Didacus Jules, director general of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), a nine-member political and economic sub-group within CARICOM, told IPS that “justice lies in the protection of the vulnerable whether they be the individual poor or the marginal state”.

Most of the infrastructure in small island development states is along the coast and threatened by sea level rise, Jules points out.

“The negative impacts of climate change are also influencing how we interact with each other as a people given that we have to compete for limited resources,” he tells IPS.

“The climate justice message must therefore be spread in every corner of this region (the Caribbean) and not only promoted by global media that does not always have the interests of SIDS at the forefront.”

He says that Caribbean artists can play a role in spreading the message of climate justice.

“We have seen the power of our Caribbean artists and musicians. Caribbean music is a global force with an impact outlasting any hurricane that we have experienced,” Jules said.

He said that despite the vulnerabilities and challenges that SIDS face, “rallying in the region by using our voices can send a strong signal to let the world know that we are fully aware of the implications of not having a legally binding international agreement on climate change and the impacts it can have on SIDS in our region.

“The bottom line is that the impacts of climate change threaten our very existence,” Jules tells IPS.

“We will clamour if we must, but they will hear us — 1.5 to Stay Alive! The Alliance of Small Island States has made it clear that it wants below 1.5° Celcius reflected as a long-term temperature goal and benchmark for the level of global climate action in the Paris agreement this year,” Jules said.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

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