Equator Prize Protects Amazon's 'Center of the Earth'
As I traveled by boat down the Xingu River to visit indigenous villages that would have been flooded by the massive Belo Monte Dam, I came to understand why the local people thought of their land as the “Center of the Earth.” The massive rivers, seemingly eternal jungle and liquid blue-grey sky made me feel as if I was heading farther into the center of a lush, green ecosystem that was bigger and more encapsulating than the word “ecosystem” can describe. Though threatened by exploitation for its resources—oil, forest, water, power—from edge to edge, the Amazon feels like a center point, perhaps both of the Earth and our efforts to save it.
And so I was excited to see organizations that are funded by our foundation—Global Greengrants Fund—receive the 2015 “Equator Prize” from the United Nations Development Program, including one organization working along the Xingu River. The Equator Prize is given out each year as “an international award that recognizes outstanding local achievement in advancing sustainable development solutions for people, nature and resilient communities” in the equatorial region of the planet. This year, the initiative received a record-setting 1,461 nominations from 126 countries. The Program’s Technical Advisory Committee selected 21 winners, each of whom receive $10,000 and will attend special events at COP21 in Paris.
Global Greengrants Fund plays a unique and vital role in international philanthropy. We fund small, grassroots organizations—many led by indigenous people in rural environments—that are often at the physical and cultural edge of the change that is needed to make our planet more sustainable. Six of the 2015 Equator Prize winners are current or former grantees of Global Greengrants fund, including:
- Prey Lang Community Network, in Cambodia: Our support helped launch a global informational and advocacy campaign to protect the Prey Lang forest from development projects.
- Comite Para La Defensa y Desarrollo de la Flora y Fauna del Golfo de Fonseca, in Honduras: Our grant helped the group support wetlands protection and encourage sustainable economic growth in rural communities.
- Moskitia Asla Takanka, in Honduras: Our support has helped the Miskito people protect large tracts of their land in the Honduras rainforest.
- Yunnan Green Watershed Management Research and Promotion Center, in China: Our grant has helped the Yi indigenous people address and mitigate the impacts of hydropower dams on their land and villages.
- Movimento Ipereg Ayu, in Brazil: Our support helped to protect their territory against development and extractive industries and push for official recognition of the territory by the government.
- And finally, the Instituto Raoni, in Brazil, where I visited: Our grant helped to ensure that opposition by the Mebegokre indigenous people to the proposed massive Belo Monte dam on Brazil’s Xingu River was heard by decision makers in Brazil.
A local family that makes their living along the Xingu River. Photo credit: Terry Odendahl
The threats to our planet our so huge and numerous that the public and decision-makers find it difficult and sometimes exasperating to forge a path forward that makes an actual difference in outcomes for both the environment and the people living in it. Greengrants work to cut through that anxiety. We work to take the resources right to the people and places that are most impacted and with severe need—the Center of the Earth.
Terry Odendahl, PhD, is President and CEO of Global Greengrants Fund in Boulder, Colorado. You can reach Terry at Terry@Greengrants.org.
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One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
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