Pope Francis and the Amazon Rainforest


From Environmental News Network : In response to Pope Francis’ Amazon-themed speech to Brazilian bishops, World Wildlife Fund’s Dekila Chungyalpa, Director of WWF’s Sacred Earth program, issued the following statement:

“We’re grateful that Pope Francis is adding his influential voice to the growing number of faith leaders around the world who are recognizing the importance of protecting our planet from environmental harm. And we’re especially thankful he’s urging young people to be problem solvers on behalf of the entire planet and all of God’s creations.

“Pope Francis’ compassionate speech today asking bishops to respect the environment in which we live and to continue to protect the Amazon will reach millions and carry historic importance.”

“WWF applauds Pope Francis’ uplifting World Youth Day message calling for ‘respect and protection of the entire creation which God has entrusted to man, not so that it indiscriminately exploited, but rather made into a garden.”

“We and the Earth depend on a healthy Amazon. Together, with the pontiff’s help and other church leaders, we can protect this amazing place that’s home to one in ten known plant and animals species on the planet. Together we can protect nature for all humanity.

“The 33 million people who live in the Amazon are threatened by climate change, pollution and deforestation. The Amazon rainforest traps carbon, a necessity to regulate the clean air we breathe, and helps stabilize global climates for its people and the world. Pope Francis” remarks today reaffirming that the Church’s work ‘is still present and critical to the area’s future’ is promising.



Deforestation Dries Up Dams Threatening Hydropower

Illegal logging in the Cardamom Mountain, Koh ...
Illegal logging in the Cardamom Mountain, Koh Kong Province, Cambodia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

From ENN Deforestation may lead to electricity shortages in tropical rainforest regions that rely heavily on hydropower, as fewer trees mean less rainfall for hydropower generation, a study shows.

For example, if deforestation continues, one of the world’s largest dam projects in Brazil will deliver around a third less energy than is currently estimated, according to the research, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) last week (13 May).
Researchers had presumed that cutting down trees near dams increases the flow of water and hence energy production. This is because crops and pastures that replace trees take less water from the ground and lose less moisture by evaporation.

But trees also release water vapour into the atmosphere, which turns into rain and feeds hydroelectric power stations, and this new research suggests that wider deforestation can reduce overall rainfall and therefore energy production. This should be taken into account when planning hydropower developments in tropical regions, say the authors.

English: Bratsk hydropower station. Hrvatski: ...
English: Bratsk hydropower station. Hrvatski: Bratska HE. Русский: Братская ГЭС. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Lead author Claudia Stickler and colleagues looked at the link between trees and power generation at Brazil’s Belo Monte hydropower complex, which is being built on the Xingu River, a tributary of the Amazon. It is set to be the third largest hydropower project in the world when it is completed in 2015 and is expected to supply 40 per cent of Brazil’s energy needs by 2020.

They found that because of current levels of deforestation in the Amazon region, rainfall is already six to seven per cent lower than it would be with full forest cover.

“If forest loss doubles by 2050 — that is, if 40 per cent of the Amazon or Xingu river watershed has been deforested by that date — rainfall loss will reduce Belo Monte’s energy production by one third over that projected,” Stickler, a researcher at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute’s International Program in the United States, tells SciDev.Net.

She says that such a degree of deforestation is plausible based on government infrastructure plans in the region.

Continue Reading at SciDev.net

Climate change: How snakes and ladders could save the planet

The EPA was directed to set standards for radi...
The EPA was directed to set standards for radioactive materials under Reorganization Plan No. 3 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Snakes and ladders, bingo and top trumps might be old-fashioned games most associated with childhoods past, but if climate-change experts are to be believed, they could just help us to save the planet. The Independent reports 

Paula Owen is on a one-woman mission to discover if a bit of fun and competition can convince people to lead more environmentally friendly lives. Firefighters, city workers, museum-goers, teachers, schoolchildren and university students will test out her eco-inspired games over the next year as she tries to show that learning about sustainability does not have to be dull.

Next week, Science Museum Lates, in London, will display her take on the classic games – including life-size snakes and ladders, where squares containing good activities (walking to work, say) send you up the ladders, while bad squares (overheating your home) send you sliding down snakes. And there’s eco-bingo, where you can expect to hear: “Lag your loft; you’ll save a ton – it’s number one.”

The former chemist told The Independent on Sunday: “I am trying to find a way to get the message across that’s new, affirmative, positive and inclusive. I want to move people who are not informed by the messages of old into doing something – even if it’s just the smallest thing. People are bored with the misery messaging that tries to guilt you into doing things; it means most people end up dismissing the whole thing.”

Her new e-book, How Gamification Can Help Your Business Engage in Sustainability, is gaining attention worldwide. Venezuela, Brazil, Australia and Canada are all following Dr Owen’s study and she says that the US Environmental Protection Agency is interested in a version of her eco-top trumps. Meanwhile, Manchester University wants 2,000 of the cards for this year’s freshers.

But Paula Owen is not the only one to notice how games can be used to change people’s behaviour in the real world. Gartner, a technology research company, predicts that more than 50 per cent of organisations involved in innovation will be “gamifying” processes by 2015, applying the mechanics of games in the real world. Deloitte, the consultancy firm, rates it as one of the top 10 trends to watch in coming years.

“The games aren’t new; what’s new is that we’re taking games seriously,” said Oliver Lawder, creative planner at Futerra, a sustainability communications agency. “Climate change is a massive global issue; lots of things individuals can do feel small and insignificant. What game mechanisms can do is start to reward, incentivise and show the collective effort of everyone coming together to have a positive effect.”

The idea is not without critics who see it as just another gimmick. Plus, there are practical difficulties in collecting data for the more complex, digital games. But Mr Lawder predicts that we will move towards a “Gamification 2.0” as technology improves. As for the eco-factor, the idea is catching on. Nissan‘s Leaf line of electric cars now monitors efficiency-based achievements in the form of trees on the steering wheel, which drivers can compare, receiving virtual medals.

For Dr Owen, early results look good. More than 60 per cent of those playing her eco-games at the Science Museum’s launch last month said they learnt new information which they could take home; and 64 per cent of the fire-fighters who piloted them said they could help the London Fire Brigade become greener.

Tribe rejects payment from electricity company behind destructive Amazon Dam

Belo Monte Dam
Belo Monte Dam (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Overview of the dam complex.
Overview of the dam complex. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Leaders of more than two dozen Kayapó indigenous communities have rejected a $9 million offer from Brazilian state energy company Eletrobras to fund development projects in their region due to the the firm’s involvement in the construction of the Belo Monte dam, reports Amazon Watch, an activist group fighting the hydroelectric project. ENN reports

Eletrobras had offered the money over a four year period, during which it is planning to proceed with the dam, which will redirect the flow of 80 percent of the Xingu river, which Kayapó and other indigenous communities depend upon for fishing. Belo Monte, which will operate at less than 40 percent of capacity despite its $15 billion dollar price tag, will require additional upstream dams to be commercially viable, according to independent analysts. These dams would more directly affect the Kayapó, the majority of whom live 500 km upstream of the Belo Monte dam site.

Accordingly, during a meeting last week in the town of Tucuma the Kayapó leaders unanimously rejected the funding proposal and vowed to fight the dam.

“We have decided that your word is worth nothing. The conversation is over,” wrote the Kayapó in a letter to Eletrobras. “We, the Mebengôre Kayapó people have decided that we do not want a single penny of your dirty money. We do not accept Belo Monte or any other dam on the Xingu.”

“Our river does not have a price, our fish that we eat does not have a price, and the happiness of our grandchildren does not have a price. We will never stop fighting: In Altamira, in Brasilia, or in the Supreme Court. The Xingu is our home and you are not welcome here.”

The Kayapó also sent a letter to Joaquim Barbosa, the President of Brazil’s Supreme Court, demanding action against the dam.

Not all the Kayapó have rejected funds from Eletrobras. Amazon Watch says that about a quarter of the Kayapó — specifically communities from the northwest of Kayapó lands — have accepted funds from the energy giant.

There are around 7,000 Kayapó left in Brazil.

See more at MONGABAY.COM.

Rio+20: Biggest ever UN summit ends with faint glimmer of hope

The biggest ever United Nations conference on the environment has been condemned as a ‘hoax’ by UK charities for spending millions of taxpayers’ money to do little more than come up with a list of aspirations on saving the planet without any concrete action. From ‘The Daily Telegraph’

More than 150,000 people crowded into hotels on the famous Copacabana strip and even paid for space in converted office and ‘love motels’ for the eagerly anticipated conference 20 years on from the original 1992 Earth Summit.

The jamboree cost the Brazilian Government pounds 134million and each country hundreds of thousands to pay for flights and accommodation. The 50 strong UK delegation will have cost at least pounds 100,000. The UN, that is paid for by taxpayers around the world, will have had to fork out for helping poorer countries and officials attend.

The conference also emitted 5,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent, despite calling for a reduction in global greenhouse gases.

It was hoped that ‘Rio+20 would come up with a new UN resolution to shift the world economy from polluting fossil fuels to green energy like wind and solar.

But as rain swept across Rio at the end of the summit, civil society groups were left angry and disillusione

The final document, called The Future We Want, calls on the world to shift to a ‘green economy’ and to phase out fossil fuels but there is no timetable for action.

The principle of Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs has been agreed but there is no detail, despite countries including the UK calling for clear targets on ending food waste, water pollution and overfishing.

Efforts to limit global population growth by calling for improved access to free contraception were watered down by protests from the Vatican.

Barbara Stocking, the head of Oxfam, who was part of the UK delegation attending meetings with ministers, said it was “shamefully devoid of progress”.

“Rio will go down as the hoax summit,” she said. “They came, they talked, but they failed to act. We elect governments to tackle the issues that we can’t tackle alone. But they are not providing the leadership the world desperately needs. Paralysed by inertia and in hock to vested interests, too many are unable to join up the dots and solve the connected crises of environment, equity and economy.”

Nick Clegg, the UK Deputy Prime Minister, admitted he was “disappointed” with the outcome.

He blamed a ‘neocolonial world’ where developing countries that want to continue using fossil fuels to develop, like China and Brazil, have more power than the West and Europe.

He explained that countries like India see the green economy as a “euphemism for protectionism” that will stop them using huge natural resources of coal to grow.

“We no longer live in a neocolonial world where a small number of Governments can get together and write a text and say to the rest of the world you have to accept this,” he said. “The developing world is much more assertive.”

Much of the anger at the conference was directed at world leaders for failing to take the crisis in rising temperatures and loss of species seriously enough. Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron and Barack Obama, the President of the United States did not even bother to turn up.

However Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, insisted that the conference was a success.

She said that the inclusion of ‘green economy’ in the text has given the concept much more power and will encourage both government and business to start cutting carbon and investing in renewables.

The text also promises to give more money to the UN environment programme to help poorer countries tackle pollution and calls on all nations to start measuring natural capital as well as GDP.

Quoting Steve Jobs, the late head of Apple in saying ‘Don’t think big, think different’’, Ms Clinton said it will be the private sector that will drive the shift to a green economy through innovation and market forces, rather than state intervention.

But Craig Bennet, Friends of the Earth’s Director of Policy and Campaigns, said businesses will only act once Governments give a clean signal.

“These talks have been completely undermined by a dangerous lack of ambition, urgency and political will – and weak politicians too afraid to push for anything tougher.

World leaders are understandably concerned about the broken economy – but until they stop treating it separately from our social and environmental problems this will never be fixed,” he said.

As storm clouds gathered over Rio, Dame Barbara agreed that Governments have failed to make the agreement strong enough.

But, alongside other NGOs, she vowed that even the weak agreement to sign up to SDGs and start moving towards a green economy could be used to force change.

“It’s been a painful birth but the vision of an ambitious set of goals on environment and development, applicable to all countries, is a solitary light in the fog.”

Source : http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/environment/9350184/Rio20-Biggest-ever-UN-summit-ends-with-faint-glimmer-of-hope.html

World Environment Day : Our sustainable future

The Earth flag is not an official flag, since ...
The Earth flag is not an official flag, since there is no official governing body over Earth. The flag holds a photo transfer of a NASA image of the Earth on a dark blue background. It has been associated with Earth Day. Although the flag was originally copyrighted, a judge ruledhttp://www.tabberone.com/Trademarks/CopyrightLaw/Copyrightability/articles/EarthFlagVsAlamoFlag_A.shtml that the copyright was invalid. Earth Flag Ltd. v. Alamo Flag Co., 154 F. Supp. 2d 663 (S.D.N.Y. 2001) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The theme for the 40th World Environment Day – Green Economy: Does it include you? – is aimed at encouraging public participation in the adoption of a new growth model that is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive.

English: Sustainability chart
English: Sustainability chart (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

However, while recognizing the importance of individual responsibility, it should be noted that it is policymakers around the world who will be held accountable for the lack of progress in achieving sustainable and equitable development.

With the world economy yet to see any light at the end of tunnel after the onset of the global financial crisis, it is high time policymakers from all countries aggressively embraced green growth as the only way to deliver a cleaner, greener and more sustainable 21st century.

A global transition to a green economy has been underway since the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Brazil in 1992. But there is mounting evidence that the transition to a green economy is not happening fast enough.

Global sustainable development has been seriously challenged by rapid population growth, increasing poverty, unequal North-South development, severe pollution, the reduction in biodiversity, desertification and global climate change.

There is still no international consensus on global food security or on ways to nourish a population of 9 billion by 2050.

Worse, the worst global financial crisis since 1930s has not only dampened global growth prospects, it has also pushed policymakers in debt-laden rich countries to either choose growth-depressing austerity or inflation-fueling monetary easing.

The 2012 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development, or “Rio+20” is to be held soon, but policymakers in these countries are still shying away from the painful, but necessary, structural reforms that will make the green economy the bedrock of their future prosperity.

China issued its first national report on sustainable development last Friday, which underscored the urgency of transforming its development pattern.

To pursue a sustainable future for all, the international community should jointly make the World Environment Day a wake-up call for policy changes to improve people’s well-being and social equity while reducing environmental risks and ecological scarcities.

Source :  http://usa.chinadaily.com.cn/opinion/2012-06/05/content_15473547.htm

Dam threatens a way of life

National (or Greater) Coat of arms of Peru (Es...
National (or Greater) Coat of arms of Peru (Escudo Nacional) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
English: Signature of Ollanta Humala, Presiden...
English: Signature of Ollanta Humala, President of the Republic of Peru Español: Firma de Ollanta Humala, Presidente de la República del Perú (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Alumnos de la comunidad asháninka de Pamaquiar...
Alumnos de la comunidad asháninka de Pamaquiari. Nivel primaria. Clausura del curso escolar (Photo credit: Global Humanitaria)

In Peru, a project would flood a remote valley inhabited by indigenous people. China Daily/NY Times reports 

Along the Ene River, in a remote jungle valley on the verdant eastern slopes of the Andes, thehumming of an outboard motor draws the stares of Ashaninka children.

With encroachment from settlers and speculators, and after a devastating war against Shining Pathrebels a decade ago, the indigenous Ashaninkas’ hold is precarious. And they are now facing anew peril, the proposed 2,200-megawatt Pakitzapango hydroelectric dam, which would flood muchof the Ene River valley.

The project is part of a proposal for as many as five dams that under a 2010 energy agreementwould generate more than 6,500 megawatts, primarily for export to neighboring Brazil. The damswould displace thousands of people in the process.

Antonio Metzoquiari, 59, considered the implications for his community. “This is a grave matter,”he said. “It’s a return to violence, another war. I don’t know where or how, but we would have to finda new place to live.”

Hydroelectric dams have fallen out of favor in some parts of the world, but they remain attractive inmuch of Latin America, where a number of nations have plenty of water but lack other energysources.

For now, the project is stalled in the Peruvian Congress. President Ollanta Humala has not stakedout a clear position on the proposed dams, though that is likely to change when President DilmaRousseff of Brazil visits Peru, a visit expected soon.

Despite claims that the welfare of affected communities is a top priority, several of the projectspassed feasibility studies before local residents were even informed that the government hadawarded concessions on the land. In response, the Central Ashaninka del Rio Ene, whichrepresents Ashaninka populations, went to court to compel the Energy and Mining Ministry todisclose all feasibility studies.

After the project was announced, the organization brought together 17 Ashaninka communities toexplain that a dam would inundate some communities and dry out others. Many people would beforced from their homes, critics argue, evoking memories of Peru’s war against the Maoist-inspiredShining Path rebels, which officially ended in 2000 but scarred the Ashaninka.

Of the 70,000 people who were killed over two decades, 6,000 were Ashaninka, experts said.Thousands more were displaced.

The final speaker at the meeting, Dimer Dominguito, 25, who was accompanied by his wife andfive children, captured the Ashaninka’s outrage.

“In the city they make money and buy whatever they need, but here we live by our customs, ourmarket, eating what we plant and we are happy,” he said. “We want to defend our right to what isnatural, to defend our market, and we support the government, but who supports us?”

Source : http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/sunday/2012-05/27/content_15395562.htm

The New York Times