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13 Climate Justice Leaders Imagined as Comic Superheroes

Climate

The Earth could use some climate-change-fighting superheroes right about now. And according to a new comic series by the nonprofit Amplifier, there are a few real-life ones in our midst.

Thirteen of them, actually.


On Earth Day, April 22, Amplifier released the comic art series #MyClimateHero, portraying leaders of the modern climate justice movement. Amplifier is a Seattle-based art design lab that facilitates art aimed at "amplifying the voices of social change," according to its website.

"#MyClimateHero tells the story of modern climate leaders building unprecedented cooperation, driving action and creating space for those most impacted to share their knowledge and perspectives," said Amplifier chief of staff Tamara Power-Drutis.

Comic artists designed the series, which also features interviews and excerpts of the superheroes. Amplifer released all artwork for free download on its website.

Here is a look at the series.

1. Anthony Karefa Rogers-Wright

Social and climate justice advocate

Jeremy Packer

"Leadership in itself must come from frontline communities, which includes Native American, Black, Brown and low-wealth folk," said Anthony Karefa Rogers-Wright. "Leaders and everyone in this work understand that it takes a lot of work to better understand the needs of these communities and the need to support them more. … The frontlines are also our First Line of defense in the climate fight, [and] they are and must be the foundation. The Environmental community is also realizing, albeit slowly, the need to establish the nexus between racial justice and the climate struggle, and this is a good thing."

2. Angel Hsu

Founder and director of Data-Driven Yale

Pia Guerra

"Modern climate heroes are needed now more than ever because climate change is worsening and accelerating," said Angel Hsu. "In my field of work, modern climate heroes are those individuals, companies, organizations and governments who take actions to slow climate change while transparently sharing what it is they are doing. We don't have a good sense, collectively, of how well policies and initiatives designed to tackle climate change are working because there is not enough available data to assess these efforts."

3. Neil deGrasse Tyson

Director of the Hayden Planetarium

Gan Golan

"As a voter, as a citizen, scientific issues will come before you," said Neil deGrasse Tyson in the film Science in America."And isn't it worth it to say, 'Alright, let me at least become scientifically literate, so that I can think about these issues and act intelligently upon them.' Recognize what science is, and allow it to be what it can and should be: in the service of civilization. It's in our hands."

4. Adrianna Quintero

Executive Director of Voces Verdes

Dan Goldman

"An open and inclusive movement with people of all types working together, not because we call ourselves environmentalists, but because we have a shared vision for a healthy environment and a better future for everyone is stronger than any polluter," said Adrianna Quintero. We just need to believe in ourselves and stand strong to fight for what's right. Our future depends on it."

5. Patricia Espinosa Cantellano

Executive secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change

Pia Guerra

"When it comes to climate change, we need women at the negotiating tables, in boardrooms and as the heads of businesses, in the streets and in the fields," said Patricia Espinosa at the UN Climate Change Conference in Bonn on November 13, 2017. "After all, we know that gender equality and empowerment of women and girls is key to successfully meet our climate and sustainable development goals. So, it is important that we work together to make sure that women's voices are heard, but furthermore, that women are involved in making the key decisions that will lead to a better tomorrow for all."

6. Pope Francis

Supreme Pontiff

Marty Two BULLS

"Particular appreciation is owed to those who tirelessly seek to resolve the tragic effects of environmental degradation on the lives of the world's poorest," said Pope Francis in the Encyclical Letter Laudato Si' of the Holy Father Francis on the Care for Our Common Home, published June 2015.

"Young people demand change. They wonder how anyone can claim to be building a better future without thinking of the environmental crisis and the sufferings of the excluded. I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. We need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all."

7. Jane Kleeb

Founder of Bold Alliance

Dan Goldman

"Environmentalists are not only living on the coasts of our country or in big cities. Ranchers, farmers, Native Americans in rural states work every day to protect the land and water for future generations," said Jane Kleeb. "Some people think those of us that live in rural communities are 'backwards,' or don't care about climate change. However, the reality is, if we don't take care of the land and protect the water, we also can't grow crops or raise cattle. Pipelines are threatening not only climate change, but the very way of life in rural and small towns."

8. The Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr.

President and CEO of the Hip Hop Caucus

Pia Guerra

"I also think of all the various efforts within the climate and environmental movement that are meant to broaden and grow the movement in numbers and diversity," said Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. for HuffPost. "And I think, all those efforts will not be as successful as they should be until there is true recognition of what it means to march for climate as a person of color, and until there are meaningful things put in place to create a multicultural movement that accounts for the different experiences we have even at the same climate march, let alone in the same country, and certainly on the same planet."

9. Nathaniel Stinnett

Founder and executive director of the Environmental Voter Project

Valentine De Landro

"The environmental movement's biggest enemy is complacency," said Nathaniel Stinnett. "We already know the solutions to most of humanity's great environmental problems (even climate change), but we're not yet implementing those solutions. … Without political leadership, we're never going to address the climate crisis. And we're never going to get political leadership on climate change unless voters force it to happen. So, every environmentalist needs to vote. You can no longer care about climate change and claim that voting doesn't matter.

10. Rogue Scientists

Who saved environmental data

Valentine DeLandro

"Data Refuge launched November 2016 in Philadelphia to draw attention to how climate denial endangers federal environmental data," excerpted from the Data Refuge website. "With the help of thousands of civic partners and volunteers, the project has rapidly spread to over fifty cities and towns across the country."

11. Paul Nicklen

Expedition lead and co-founder of SeaLegacy

Jeremy Packer

"At SeaLegacy, and through my own platforms, we can engage with millions of people, in real time, every day," said Paul Nicklen. "That is something that was unheard of even just two years ago. With this huge distribution channel comes an even greater responsibility to merge science with art and storytelling so that we can maximize this unprecedented opportunity to make the change we need to ensure this planet is going to survive—change that the majority of people want and know is necessary."

12. 21 Kids v. Gov

Juliana v. United States of America

Gan Golan

"I'm grateful that my fellow plaintiffs and I can have our voices heard, and that climate science can have its day in court," said Victoria Barrett, plaintiff from White Plains, New York, in a March 7, 2018 news release by Our Children's Trust. "The Trump administration tried to avoid trial, but they can't ignore us. Our future is our choice and I believe the courts will stand with our constitutional rights."

13. James Balog

Founder and president, Earth Vision Institute and Extreme Ice Survey

Mark5

"I have found repeatedly that no matter what somebody's preconception was about climate change, if I could get them in the room and show them in a gentle and impartial way what our team has observed in the world, they realize through their intellect and their hearts that this is real," said James Balog in an interview by Stephen Lacey for ThinkProgress. "And I've had many audiences with climate skeptics or climate deniers in the room—in many cases the majority—and I still have wound up with standing ovations from those crowds. The witnessing that we've done is powerful and it seems to inspire people to know that there are others who risk their lives and their careers for this cause."

Reposted with permission from our media associate YES! Magazine.

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Ola Elvestrun, Norway's environment minister, announced Thursday that it is freezing its contributions to the Amazon Fund, and will no longer be transferring €300 million ($33.2 million) to Brazil. In a press release, the Norwegian embassy in Brazil stated:

Given the present circumstances, Norway does not have either the legal or the technical basis for making its annual contribution to the Amazon Fund.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro reacted with sarcasm to Norway's decision, which had been widely expected. After an official event, he commented: "Isn't Norway the country that kills whales at the North Pole? Doesn't it also produce oil? It has no basis for telling us what to do. It should give the money to Angela Merkel [the German Chancellor] to reforest Germany."

According to its website, the Amazon Fund is a "REDD+ mechanism created to raise donations for non-reimbursable investments in efforts to prevent, monitor and combat deforestation, as well as to promote the preservation and sustainable use in the Brazilian Amazon." The bulk of funding comes from Norway and Germany.

The annual transfer of funds from developed world donors to the Amazon Fund depends on a report from the Fund's technical committee. This committee meets after the National Institute of Space Research, which gathers official Amazon deforestation data, publishes its annual report with the definitive figures for deforestation in the previous year.

But this year the Amazon Fund's technical committee, along with its steering committee, COFA, were abolished by the Bolsonaro government on 11 April as part of a sweeping move to dissolve some 600 bodies, most of which had NGO involvement. The Bolsonaro government views NGO work in Brazil as a conspiracy to undermine Brazil's sovereignty.

The Brazilian government then demanded far-reaching changes in the way the fund is managed, as documented in a previous article. As a result, the Amazon Fund's technical committee has been unable to meet; Norway says it therefore cannot continue making donations without a favorable report from the committee.

Archer Daniels Midland soy silos in Mato Grosso along the BR-163 highway, where Amazon rainforest has largely been replaced by soy destined for the EU, UK, China and other international markets.

Thaís Borges.

An Uncertain Future

The Amazon Fund was announced during the 2007 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, during a period when environmentalists were alarmed at the rocketing rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It was created as a way of encouraging Brazil to continue bringing down the rate of forest conversion to pastures and croplands.

Government agencies, such as IBAMA, Brazil's environmental agency, and NGOs shared Amazon Fund donations. IBAMA used the money primarily to enforce deforestation laws, while the NGOs oversaw projects to support sustainable communities and livelihoods in the Amazon.

There has been some controversy as to whether the Fund has actually achieved its goals: in the three years before the deal, the rate of deforestation fell dramatically but, after money from the Fund started pouring into the Amazon, the rate remained fairly stationary until 2014, when it began to rise once again. But, in general, the international donors have been pleased with the Fund's performance, and until the Bolsonaro government came to office, the program was expected to continue indefinitely.

Norway has been the main donor (94 percent) to the Amazon Fund, followed by Germany (5 percent), and Brazil's state-owned oil company, Petrobrás (1 percent). Over the past 11 years, the Norwegians have made, by far, the biggest contribution: R$3.2 billion ($855 million) out of the total of R$3.4 billion ($903 million).

Up till now the Fund has approved 103 projects, with the dispersal of R$1.8 billion ($478 million). These projects will not be affected by Norway's funding freeze because the donors have already provided the funding and the Brazilian Development Bank is contractually obliged to disburse the money until the end of the projects. But there are another 54 projects, currently being analyzed, whose future is far less secure.

One of the projects left stranded by the dissolution of the Fund's committees is Projeto Frutificar, which should be a three-year project, with a budget of R$29 million ($7.3 million), for the production of açai and cacao by 1,000 small-scale farmers in the states of Amapá and Pará. The project was drawn up by the Brazilian NGO IPAM (Institute of Environmental research in Amazonia).

Paulo Moutinho, an IPAM researcher, told Globo newspaper: "Our program was ready to go when the [Brazilian] government asked for changes in the Fund. It's now stuck in the BNDES. Without funding from Norway, we don't know what will happen to it."

Norway is not the only European nation to be reconsidering the way it funds environmental projects in Brazil. Germany has many environmental projects in the Latin American country, apart from its small contribution to the Amazon Fund, and is deeply concerned about the way the rate of deforestation has been soaring this year.

The German environment ministry told Mongabay that its minister, Svenja Schulze, had decided to put financial support for forest and biodiversity projects in Brazil on hold, with €35 million ($39 million) for various projects now frozen.

The ministry explained why: "The Brazilian government's policy in the Amazon raises doubts whether a consistent reduction in deforestation rates is still being pursued. Only when clarity is restored, can project collaboration be continued."

Bauxite mines in Paragominas, Brazil. The Bolsonaro administration is urging new laws that would allow large-scale mining within Brazil's indigenous reserves.

Hydro / Halvor Molland / Flickr

Alternative Amazon Funding

Although there will certainly be disruption in the short-term as a result of the paralysis in the Amazon Fund, the governors of Brazil's Amazon states, which rely on international funding for their environmental projects, are already scrambling to create alternative channels.

In a press release issued yesterday Helder Barbalho, the governor of Pará, the state with the highest number of projects financed by the Fund, said that he will do all he can to maintain and increase his state partnership with Norway.

Barbalho had announced earlier that his state would be receiving €12.5 million ($11.1 million) to run deforestation monitoring centers in five regions of Pará. Barbalho said: "The state governments' monitoring systems are recording a high level of deforestation in Pará, as in the other Amazon states. The money will be made available to those who want to help [the Pará government reduce deforestation] without this being seen as international intervention."

Amazonas state has funding partnerships with Germany and is negotiating deals with France. "I am talking with countries, mainly European, that are interested in investing in projects in the Amazon," said Amazonas governor Wilson Miranda Lima. "It is important to look at Amazônia, not only from the point of view of conservation, but also — and this is even more important — from the point of view of its citizens. It's impossible to preserve Amazônia if its inhabitants are poor."

Signing of the EU-Mercusor Latin American trading agreement earlier this year. The pact still needs to be ratified.

Council of Hemispheric Affairs

Looming International Difficulties

The Bolsonaro government's perceived reluctance to take effective measures to curb deforestation may in the longer-term lead to a far more serious problem than the paralysis of the Amazon Fund.

In June, the European Union and Mercosur, the South American trade bloc, reached an agreement to create the largest trading bloc in the world. If all goes ahead as planned, the pact would account for a quarter of the world's economy, involving 780 million people, and remove import tariffs on 90 percent of the goods traded between the two blocs. The Brazilian government has predicted that the deal will lead to an increase of almost $100 billion in Brazilian exports, particularly agricultural products, by 2035.

But the huge surge this year in Amazon deforestation is leading some European countries to think twice about ratifying the deal. In an interview with Mongabay, the German environment ministry made it very clear that Germany is very worried about events in the Amazon: "We are deeply concerned given the pace of destruction in Brazil … The Amazon Forest is vital for the atmospheric circulation and considered as one of the tipping points of the climate system."

The ministry stated that, for the trade deal to go ahead, Brazil must carry out its commitment under the Paris Climate agreement to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 43 percent below the 2005 level by 2030. The German environment ministry said: If the trade deal is to go ahead, "It is necessary that Brazil is effectively implementing its climate change objectives adopted under the [Paris] Agreement. It is precisely this commitment that is expressly confirmed in the text of the EU-Mercosur Free Trade Agreement."

Blairo Maggi, Brazil agriculture minister under the Temer administration, and a major shareholder in Amaggi, the largest Brazilian-owned commodities trading company, has said very little in public since Bolsonaro came to power; he's been "in a voluntary retreat," as he puts it. But Maggi is so concerned about the damage Bolsonaro's off the cuff remarks and policies are doing to international relationships he decided to speak out earlier this week.

Former Brazil Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi, who has broken a self-imposed silence to criticize the Bolsonaro government, saying that its rhetoric and policies could threaten Brazil's international commodities trade.

Senado Federal / Visualhunt / CC BY

Maggi, a ruralista who strongly supports agribusiness, told the newspaper, Valor Econômico, that, even if the European Union doesn't get to the point of tearing up a deal that has taken 20 years to negotiate, there could be long delays. "These environmental confusions could create a situation in which the EU says that Brazil isn't sticking to the rules." Maggi speculated. "France doesn't want the deal and perhaps it is taking advantage of the situation to tear it up. Or the deal could take much longer to ratify — three, five years."

Such a delay could have severe repercussions for Brazil's struggling economy which relies heavily on its commodities trade with the EU. Analysists say that Bolsonaro's fears over such an outcome could be one reason for his recently announced October meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, another key trading partner.

Maggi is worried about another, even more alarming, potential consequence of Bolsonaro's failure to stem illegal deforestation — Brazil could be hit by a boycott by its foreign customers. "I don't buy this idea that the world needs Brazil … We are only a player and, worse still, replaceable." Maggi warns, "As an exporter, I'm telling you: things are getting very difficult. Brazil has been saying for years that it is possible to produce and preserve, but with this [Bolsonaro administration] rhetoric, we are going back to square one … We could find markets closed to us."

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