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Extinction Risk and Rebellion: 15 Environmental Books Coming in June
By John R. Platt
When 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg spoke to the British Houses of Parliament last month, she had harsh words for the politicians in the audience: "You did not act in time," she said.
Want to learn how not to be like the Houses of Parliament? This month will see the publication of more than a dozen important new environmental books (including one by Thunberg) offering readers the opportunity to take action — and not just any action, but the best actions to protect the environment. These books offer policymakers, activists, conservationists and other environmentalists the latest information and tools to help do their jobs and make this a better planet.
We've picked the best 15 environmentally themed books of June 2019, with new titles about activism, climate change, conserving rare species (everything from rhinos to butterflies), wildlife trafficking, sustainable energy and a whole lot more. Links are to publishers' websites, but you can also find any of these titles at your favorite neighborhood bookstore. Pick your favorites, learn a few new things, and then put that information to good use.
This Is Not a Drill: An Extinction Rebellion Handbook — Worried about climate breakdown? This new book contains dozens of chapters about how to take action, mostly written by participants in the Extinction Rebellion movement that has taken Europe by storm over the past few months.
No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg — A slim, inspirational volume collecting 80 pages of speeches by the 16-year-old Swedish school strike organizer who's putting the adult world on notice to take action on climate change.
The Ice at the End of the World: An Epic Journey into Greenland's Buried Past and Our Perilous Future by Jon Gertner — The story of Greenland's rapidly melting glacial ice contains the history of the planet…and insight into our future. But studying this remote, dangerous territory comes with its own set of challenges. Gertner helps tell the story of the scientists who work there and what they're revealing.
The Fate of Food: What We'll Eat in a Bigger, Hotter, Smarter World by Amanda Little — How do we feed the growing population of the planet when the world itself is experiencing the dramatic effects of climate change? Little takes us on a global journey looking for answers.
How Solar Energy Became Cheap: A Model for Low-Carbon Innovation by Gregory F. Nemet — A rather pricey tome about the history of solar power and how it might offer policy recommendations to accelerate future innovation in other low-impact energy technologies.
Wildlife, Extinction and Endangered Species:
The Last Butterflies: A Scientist's Quest to Save a Rare and Vanishing Creature by Nick Haddad — An ecologist takes us into the conservation efforts to protect six rare butterfly species. Haddad shows that they may need intense and cooperative efforts to keep them flying — a process that may help other species along the way.
Survival or Extinction? How to Save Elephants and Rhinos by Bridget Martin — We recently lost the last male Sumatran rhino in Malaysia. Will other rhino and elephant species soon follow? This new academic book explores how we can prevent that through collaboration, law enforcement and investigation into the illegal markets fueling elephant and rhino extinctions. And speaking of those markets….
The Illegal Wildlife Trade in China: Understanding the Distribution Networksby Rebecca W. Y. Wong — The latest volume in a series on "green criminology" offers insight for policymakers and law enforcement to help understand and take down the illegal smuggling networks that are killing endangered animals in China and around the world.
A Death in the Rainforest: How a Language and a Way of Life Came to an End in Papua New Guinea by Don Kulick — Extinction happens to cultures, too. And when they go, so does everything around them. An important history lesson from an anthropologist who spent three decades watching a language and a people go extinct as the rainforest around them disappeared.
Slime: How Algae Created Us, Plague Us, and Just Might Save Usby Ruth Kassinger — We often look for big solutions, but the reality is that the smallest things often offer hope. This globetrotting book showcases the "algae innovators" (the phrase of the month) exploring what we can learn from these often-ignored plants.
Human-Wildlife Interactions: Turning Conflict Into Coexistence edited by Beatrice Frank, Jenny A. Glikman and Silvio Marchini — A massive academic book with contributors from around the world of conservation offering case studies on improving how people can live better with their animal neighbors.
Conservation Politics: The Last Anti-colonial Battle by David Johns — The author argues that conservation often fails because humans continue to impose their colonial mindset on the natural world. As he writes in his introduction, "Conservation is essentially an anti-colonial struggle with one important difference — non-human species are ill-equipped to effectively resist and overcome the human onslaught, amplified as it is by technology and social organization." Challenging stuff.
Nature, Wild Spaces and Public Land:
Underland: A Deep Time Journey by Robert Macfarlane — A rather magical look at the world beneath our feet, and what that world means to humanity, from the award-winning author of The Lost Words and The Death of Grass. This contains the most beautiful writing of the month, and some of the most thought-provoking.
Arches Enemy by Scott Graham — Sometimes you need to get away from the real world in order to understand it better. This latest volume in Graham's National Parks Mystery series includes, as you'd expect, fictional murder most foul, but it also addresses the history and environmental importance of the American West. (Check out our interview with Grahamabout his previous book, Yosemite Fall.)
Up in Arms: How the Bundy Family Hijacked Public Lands, Outfoxed the Federal Government, and Ignited America's Patriot Militia Movement by John Temple — If you want to understand the extremist militia groups popping up around the country lately, you need to start with Nevada's notorious Bundy clan. Temple shines a light on the people as well as the religious, political and economic factors that gave rise to this dangerous movement.
That's our list for this month, but there's a lot more to add to your reading lists. For dozens of additional recent eco-books, check out the "Revelator Reads" archive.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Revelator.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Randi Spivak
Slashing two national monuments in Utah may have received the most attention, but Trump's Interior Department and U.S. Forest Service have been quietly, systematically ceding control of America's public lands to fossil fuel, mining, timber and livestock interests since the day he took office.
A new report by Greenpeace International pinpointed the world's worst sources of sulfur dioxide pollution, an irritant gas that harms human health. India has seized the top spot from Russia and China, contributing nearly 15 percent of global sulfur dioxide emissions.
By Sue Branford and Thais Borges
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.
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."
- Brazil's New President Could Spell Catastrophe for the Amazon ... ›
- Amazon Deforestation Increase Prompts Germany to Cut $39.5M in ... ›
Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.
Gina Lopez, a former Philippine environment secretary, philanthropist and eco-warrior, died on Aug. 19 from brain cancer. She was 65.
Thousands of union members at a multibillion dollar petrochemical plant outside of Pittsburgh were given a choice last week: Stand and wait for a speech by Donald Trump or take the day off without pay.
By Simon Mui
States across the country are stepping up to make clean cars cheaper and easier to find. Colorado's Air Quality Control Commission (AQCC) voted Friday to adopt a Zero Emission Vehicle (ZEV) program that will increase the availability of electric vehicles in the state, improve air quality and increase transportation affordability.