By Elizabeth M. De Santo, Elizabeth Mendenhall and Elizabeth Nyman
Mining the ocean floor for submerged minerals is a little-known, experimental industry. But soon it will take place on the deep seabed, which belongs to everyone, according to international law.
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An Old Treaty With a New Purpose<p>Countries regulate seabed mining within their marine territories. Farther out, in areas beyond national jurisdiction, they cooperate through the <a href="https://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/convention_overview_convention.htm" target="_blank">Law of the Sea Convention</a>, which has been ratified by 167 countries and the European Union, but not the U.S.</p><p>The treaty created the <a href="https://www.isa.org.jm/" target="_blank">International Seabed Authority</a>, headquartered in Jamaica, to manage seabed mining in international waters. This organization's workload is about to balloon.</p><p>Under the treaty, activities conducted in areas beyond national jurisdiction must be for "<a href="https://www.un.org/Depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/part11-2.htm" target="_blank">the benefit of mankind as a whole</a>." These benefits could include economic profit, scientific research findings, specialized technology and recovery of historical objects. The convention calls on governments to share them fairly, with special attention to developing countries' interests and needs.</p><p>The United States was involved in negotiating the convention and signed it but <a href="https://sites.tufts.edu/lawofthesea/chapter-eleven/" target="_blank">has not ratified it</a>, due to concerns that it puts too many limits on exploitation of deep sea resources. As a result, the U.S. is not bound by the treaty, although it follows most of its rules independently. Recent administrations, including those of Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, sought to ratify the treaty, but <a href="https://www.voanews.com/usa/why-hasnt-us-signed-law-sea-treaty" target="_blank">failed to muster a two-thirds majority</a> in the Senate to support it.</p>
Locations of three main types of marine mineral deposits: polymetallic nodules (blue); polymetallic or seafloor massive sulfides (orange); and cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts (yellow). Miller et al., 2018, https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2017.00418, CC BY 4.0
Powering Digital Devices<p>Scientists and industry leaders have known that there are valuable minerals on the seafloor for over a century, but it hasn't been technologically or economically feasible to go after them until the past decade. Widespread growth of battery-driven technologies such as smartphones, computers, wind turbines and solar panels is <a href="https://www.carbonbrief.org/explainer-these-six-metals-are-key-to-a-low-carbon-future" target="_blank">changing this calculation</a> as the world runs low on land-based deposits of copper, nickel, aluminum, manganese, zinc, lithium and cobalt.</p><p>These minerals are found in potato-shaped "nodules" on the seafloor, as well as in and around <a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/vents.html" target="_blank">hydrothermal vents</a>, seamounts and midocean ridges. Energy companies and their governments are also interested in extracting <a href="https://e360.yale.edu/features/the-world-eyes-yet-another-unconventional-source-of-fossil-fuels-methane-hydrates%3Cu" target="_blank">methane hydrates</a> – frozen deposits of natural gas on the seafloor.</p><p>Scientists still have a lot to learn about these habitats and the species that live there. Research expeditions are continually <a href="https://newatlas.com/science/expedition-30-new-species-longest-known-animal/" target="_blank">discovering new species in deep-sea habitats</a>.</p>
Korea and China Seek the Most Contracts<p>Mining the deep ocean requires permission from the International Seabed Authority. Exploration contracts provide the right to explore a specific part of the seabed for 15 years. As of mid-2020, <a href="https://www.isa.org.jm/deep-seabed-minerals-contractors" target="_blank">30 mining groups have signed exploration contracts</a>, including governments, public-private partnerships, international consortiums and private multinational companies.</p><p>Two entities hold the most exploration contracts (three each): the government of Korea and the <a href="http://www.comra.org/en/index.htm" target="_blank">China Ocean Mineral Resources R&D Association</a>, a state-owned company. Since the U.S. is not a member of the Law of the Sea treaty, it cannot apply for contracts. But U.S. companies are investing in others' projects. For example, the American defense company Lockheed Martin owns <a href="https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-gb/products/uk-seabed-resources.html" target="_blank">UK Seabed Resources</a>, which holds two exploration contracts.</p><p>Once an exploration contract expires, as several have since 2015, mining companies must broker an exploitation contract with the International Seabed Authority to allow for commercial-scale extraction. The agency is working on <a href="https://www.isa.org.jm/mining-code" target="_blank">rules for mining</a>, which will shape individual contracts.</p>
<div id="b8810" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f8fd5d76de470763d957ee7ea725432c"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1259892031935123462" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">It was meant to be a pivotal year for deep-seabed mining. But the coronavirus pandemic is threatening the drafting… https://t.co/sI7NZ6VGhW</div> — China Dialogue (@China Dialogue)<a href="https://twitter.com/chinadialogue/statuses/1259892031935123462">1589216642.0</a></blockquote></div>
Unknown Ecological Impacts<p>Deep-sea mining technology is still in development but will probably include vacuuming nodules from the seafloor. Scraping and vacuuming the seafloor can destroy habitats and <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.02.014" target="_blank">release plumes of sediment</a> that blanket or choke filter-feeding species on the seafloor and fish swimming in the water column.</p><p>Mining also introduces <a href="https://doi.org/10.3389/fmars.2017.00418" target="_blank">noise, vibration and light pollution</a> in a zone that normally is silent, still and dark. And depending on the type of mining taking place, it could lead to chemical leaks and spills.</p><p>Many deep-sea species are <a href="https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-7-2851-2010" target="_blank">unique and found nowhere else</a>. We agree with the <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1126/sciadv.aaz5922" target="_blank">scientific community</a> and <a href="http://www.deepseaminingoutofourdepth.org/" target="_blank">environmental advocates</a> that it is critically important to analyze the potential effects of seabed mining thoroughly. Studies also should inform decision-makers about how to manage the process.</p><p>This is a key moment for the International Seabed Authority. It is currently writing the rules for environmental protection but doesn't have enough information about the deep ocean and the impacts of mining. Today the agency relies on seabed mining companies to report on and monitor themselves, and on academic researchers to provide baseline ecosystem data.</p><p>We believe that national governments acting through the International Seabed Authority should <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2020.103823" target="_blank">require more scientific research and monitoring</a>, and better support the agency's efforts to analyze and act on that information. Such action would make it possible to slow the process down and make better decisions about when, where and how to mine the deep seabed.</p>
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Balancing Risks and Benefits<p>The <a href="https://www.economist.com/technology-quarterly/2018/03/19/race-to-the-bottom" target="_blank">race for deep-sea minerals is imminent</a>. There are compelling arguments for mining the seabed, such as <a href="https://www.mining-technology.com/features/deepsea-mining-the-environmental-debate/" target="_blank">supporting the transition to renewable energy</a>, which some companies assert will be a <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/06/deep-sea-mining-an-environmental-solution-or-impending-catastrophe/" target="_blank">net gain for the environment</a>. But balancing benefits and impacts will require proactive and thorough study before the industry takes off.</p><p>We also believe that the U.S. should ratify the Law of the Sea treaty so that it can help to lead on this issue. The oceans <a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/why-care-about-ocean.html" target="_blank">provide humans with food and oxygen and regulate Earth's climate</a>. Choices being made now could affect them far into the future in ways that aren't yet understood.</p><p><em>Dr. Rachel Tiller, Senior Research Scientist with SINTEF Ocean, Norway, contributed to this article.</em></p>
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'This Is History in the Making': Cherokee Nation Is First U.S.-Based Tribe to Preserve Seeds in 'Doomsday Vault'
The Cherokee Nation will save seeds from the "three-sisters" crops in the Arctic "doomsday vault," making it the first Native American tribe to ensure culturally emblematic crops will be preserved for the future, as The Guardian reported.
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Britain announced that it will ban sales of new diesel and gasoline powered cars in 15 years last week. That was five years earlier than expected, but necessary for the UK to reach its goal of net-zero emissions by 2050, according to a statement from the prime minister's office, as CNN reported.
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By Jennie Gosché
In late 2019, before the world was completely upended by the COVID-19 pandemic, I was presented a last-minute chance to photograph polar bears outside one of the northernmost villages in the United States — Kaktovik, Alaska. It was an opportunity I couldn't refuse, and as the COVID-19 pandemic now stretches into summer 2020, I'm grateful I accepted.
Polar bears adorn the sign leading into Kaktovik. Jennie Gosché<p>Kaktovik is an Inupiat native village of around 250 people on the coast of the Arctic Ocean, located on barrier islands at the edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. My first trip there took place in September 2016, and I traveled with the purpose to photograph the <a href="https://www.usgs.gov/news/southern-beaufort-sea-polar-bear-population-declined-2000s#:~:text=The%20polar%20bear%20was%20listed,ice%20loss%20on%20their%20populations." target="_blank">threatened Southern Beaufort Sea polar bear population</a>. The coastal region of the Arctic Refuge in fall is a special place to photograph these magnificent animals, as they congregate on dirt and sand spits of land waiting for the winter ice of the Beaufort Sea to make its way to the Alaska shore.</p><p>During the late summer and early fall, Inupiat boat owners from Kaktovik guide "tourist" photographers out to view polar bears from a safe distance in the placid lagoon adjacent to the raging waves of the Beaufort Sea. I joined one such group of photographers led by <a href="https://hughrosephotography.com/" target="_blank">Hugh Rose</a>, a professional photographer and geologist who lives in Fairbanks, and we took a short charter flight from Deadhorse to Kaktovik, landing in a morning snowstorm. But by afternoon, the sun was out and we had three and a half days of sunshine that combined with the ice and snow to create great conditions in which to photograph polar bears.</p>
The welcome sign at the Waldo Arms Hotel. Jeff Stamer / www.firefallphotography.com<p>We were out in the lagoon twice a day, breaking only for lunch at our hotel, the modest but welcoming <a href="http://www.waldoarmshotel.net/" target="_blank">Waldo Arms Hotel</a> owned by Walt "Waldo" Audi and Merlyn Trainer — one of only two options for places to stay in Kaktovik when visiting. The boat guides are skilled, and they have to be, because knowledge and awareness of depths in the lagoon is critical to prevent a boat from getting stuck in shallow water.</p>
Polar bear viewing is done by boat for the safety of both people and polar bears. Jennie Gosché<p>This trip we were in a boat with a heated cabin, a perk since we were there later in the season. Our boat driver, however, told us that at that very same time the previous year, the lagoon was completely frozen over. He shared this as we floated on the lagoon in open water, though ice was visible in places and we occasionally heard pieces rubbing against the hull of the metal boat.</p><p>____________________________________________________________________________________________________________</p><p>With rapidly rising temperatures, <a href="http://forestry.alaska.gov/Assets/pdfs/firestats/2019%20Alaska%20Fire%20Statistics.pdf" target="_blank">increases in wildfires</a>, thawing permafrost, receding glaciers, <a href="https://www.alaskapublic.org/2019/11/21/new-report-sheds-more-light-on-climate-change-impacts-to-alaska-native-villages/" target="_blank">eroding coastlines</a> and disappearing sea ice, <a href="https://www.cjr.org/special_report/whats-become-of-arctic.php" target="_blank">Alaska and the Arctic are on the front lines of climate change</a>. It has hit Alaska's rural communities and <a href="https://www.alaskapublic.org/2019/11/21/new-report-sheds-more-light-on-climate-change-impacts-to-alaska-native-villages/" target="_blank">Alaska Native villages especially hard</a>, including villages like <a href="https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/11/25/changes-in-climate-make-alaskas-traditional-ice-cellars-unreliable/" target="_blank">Kaktovik</a>. Warming waters and the disappearing Arctic ice cap are also impacting ocean life, from plankton to <a href="https://www.ktuu.com/content/news/Polar-bears-face-swimming-to-land-or-ecological-trap-as-sea-ice-diminishes-567243261.html" target="_blank">polar bears</a> to whales. And the decline in sea ice is making it <a href="https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/seaice/environment/indigenous_impacts.html" target="_blank">increasingly unsafe for humans and wildlife to travel across it</a> to hunt marine mammals like seals, walrus and bowhead whales.</p>
Coastal erosion is causing permafrost to thaw and break off, here along the Arctic coastal plain in the Teshekpuk Lake Special Area of the National Petroleum Reserve - Alaska. Brandt Meixell, U.S.Geological Survey<p>The Inupiat are primarily subsistence hunters and whalers, harvesting whales each summer (in addition to caribou and other wildlife), the meat from which is shared by the entire village. It is a staple of their diet and has been for thousands of years, but as temperatures warm, the lack of ice combined with changes in whale migration patterns and timing could make hunting progressively more difficult.</p><p>The Inupiat <a href="https://www.fws.gov/refuge/arctic/pbcommunity.html" target="_blank">share their whale meat with the polar bears</a>, something they have done for many years. This gesture provides much needed food for polar bears, especially as they spend longer periods of time on land due to the receding sea ice. When I visited Kaktovik in 2016, my most memorable photo is of a cub on top of whale bones, shaking what looks like animal skin in its mouth.</p>
Bears have learned to scavenge whale carcasses left over from successful whaling hunts. Jennie Gosché<p>As I returned to the village in late 2019, however, they had moved the bone pile away from the lagoon to an area off-limits to tourists. I was told the bone pile now only stays on land for a short time, and then the bones are pushed into the ocean. Eventually, this change could affect the overall health of the Southern Beaufort Sea polar bears, as many of them increasingly den on land in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and utilize the shared whale meat for sustenance during the summer and early fall before they enter their maternal birthing dens in November.<br>____________________________________________________________________________________________________________</p>
Oil production facilities dominate the region around Prudhoe Bay, to the West of the Arctic Refuge. Florian Schulz / www.florianschulz.org<p>Helping to prevent development in the <a href="https://www.alaskawild.org/places-we-protect/arctic-refuge/" target="_blank">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> — a place that supports the greatest variety of plant and animal life in the entire circumpolar north — is very important to me, not least of all because the <a href="https://www.alaskawild.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/USGS-wildlife-report-statement-1-26-2018-FINAL.pdf" target="_blank">U.S. government has admitted</a> it simply doesn't have enough information about the impacts of oil and gas development on the coastal plain to protect its wildlife and other values. Oil drilling <a href="https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/green/news/2019/11/20/477495/trumps-energy-policies-put-alaska-climate-crosshairs/" target="_blank">will compound the devastating climate impacts</a> already being felt by villages in the region, increasing carbon emissions, worsening climate pollution and further harming front line communities.</p><p>Especially now, in the midst of an uncertain present and looking forward to an uncertain future, we need to press pause on Arctic Refuge development. Instead of recklessly rushing ahead, more research over extended periods of time is needed so that we can fully understand the potential impact oil drilling will have on local villages, our climate and wildlife like the majestic polar bear.</p>
A mother nurses her cubs. Jennie Gosché<p><em>Jennie Gosché has traveled to the Arctic seven times to photograph polar bears. Having visited the five countries where polar bears are found (Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, the United States and Canada), Kaktovik, Alaska, has become her favorite place to photograph them. Jennie's photography has been exhibited in Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and Maryland. She is a member of Alaska Wilderness League.</em></p>
Global heating from the climate crisis is rapidly melting glaciers, revealing treasures underneath the ice from long ago. Retreating ice in Norway recently revealed a lost Viking mountain pass strewn with artifacts, according to a new study in the journal Antiquity.
Researchers found objects related to clothing and daily life. Pictured here: A) a possible goat or lamb bit; B) knife; C) shoe; D) mitten. Glacier Archaeology Program & J. Wildhagen / CC BY 4.0
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Norway has urged its companies that actively do business in Brazil to make sure that they are not contributing to destruction of the Amazon rainforest, as Reuters reported.
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World leaders met in a virtual summit on Monday and pledged $8 billion to ramp up efforts to find a vaccine and treatments for the novel coronavirus, but the U.S. was noticeably absent from the summit, as The Washington Post reported.
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By Ann-Christin Herbe
Normally, it is easy for me to motivate myself to work out. But there are also the days when my couch seems so much more comfortable than the weight bench in the gym.
On such days, out of habit, I mostly reach for my cell phone and open Instagram to distract myself and buy a little more time. I'll go just a little later, I tell myself. Probably.
Not Good for the Self-Image<p>After just a couple of minutes on the social media platform, I am already being confronted with just how sporty other people seem to be. A muscular man is doing push-ups; a young woman in tight sportswear is holding a plate in front of the camera — hashtags: fitforlife and cleaneating.</p><p>Can this motivate me to do some sport today after all? Or does it only rub in my own weaknesses? Instagram has a bad reputation when it comes to influencing people's image of themselves. According to a <a href="https://www.rsph.org.uk/uploads/assets/uploaded/d125b27c-0b62-41c5-a2c0155a8887cd01.pdf" target="_blank">British study</a> from 2017, no other social media platform has such a negative impact on body image, sleep behavior and mental health.</p>
Instagram a Motivator After All?<p>Despite this, it would seem that it is, in fact, worthwhile spending a few minutes with the app every so often. A new study by scientists from the <a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2020.00071/full" target="_blank">Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)</a> shows that those who regularly watch motivational content on Instagram are more likely to be active and enjoy sports more.</p><p><span></span>"Our goal was to show people what their personal motivation is to do sports," says one of the study authors from NTNU, Frode Stenseng.</p><p>To test the influence of Instagram on sports motivation, the study participants were divided into two groups. One group followed an Instagram account that posted motivational sayings or images every three days over a period of four weeks, while the other one didn't.</p>
Sporting Fun Through Personal Initiative<p>The posts on the account were based on various motivation theories. They were meant to give users the feeling that they were part of a group and yet were acting autonomously at the same time.</p><p>"The participants who followed the motivation account associated many positive emotions with their sporting activities. The others did not," says Stenseng. This is because those who feel they have decided to do a workout on their own initiative because it fulfills their desire for fitness and health have more fun doing it.</p>
Targets Should Remain Realistic<p>"Reading motivational sayings in social networks can certainly trigger an initial motivation to want to do sport," says <a href="https://www.mindvisory.com/coaches/wolfram.html" target="_blank">motivation coach Petra Wolfram</a>. Nevertheless, it takes more than just motivation to get those sports shoes on.</p><p>"Before I set myself a goal, I take stock of where I am at," says Wolfram. The next step is to consider what one actually wants to achieve. "The goal is allowed to be a bit of a dream, but it should also be realistically achievable," she says. If not, she says, people who are just starting off in sports will tend to give up quickly.</p>
Set Milestones<p>Wolfram has other tips for getting people moving: "The path to the goal is important. I like to compare it with climbing a mountain. When you're at the bottom, you may not be able to see the summit yet, so you have to set in-between goals."</p><p>And if you experience a setback, you shouldn't focus on it for too long, says Wolfram. "Don't ask 'Why did this happen to me?' as much as 'What can I do better and what do I need to get ahead?'"</p>
The Business of Fitness Influencers<p>Instagram is the perfect platform to market your own sporty lifestyle. Fitness influencers provide their followers with recipe ideas and self-designed training programs — some free of charge, some for large sums of money. Along with this comes the daily message: "You are part of the community; we'll get fit together."</p><p>As well as likes and comments, the influencers profit above all from the willingness of their community to spend money. In an American study, 82% of people surveyed said they would buy a product if an influencer recommended it to them. The more people the influencers reach, the more companies pay them for cooperating.</p><p>"Influencers have an enormous reach and impact these days," says psychologist Silje Berg. But she says there is a problem in that much of the content propagated by influencers in the fitness scene is not based on scientific knowledge.</p><p>"The study showed that content based on theory can have positive effects, which is why it is important that more people in this area make good use of their reach," says Berg. It is also important for users to approach the content on the platform with a critical eye, she says.</p>
Negative Feedback Through Comments<p>So-called transformation journeys — when a person's sporting development is accompanied from the very beginning — are also popular. "The encouragement and recognition that people experience through comments can have a motivating effect," says motivation coach Wolfram. "And people start talking with one another and giving each other support."</p><p>But not every interaction on Instagram is positive. Comment sections are never without expressions of hate, envy and negativity. Wolfram warns that reading such comments can be demotivating. "It's important to develop a thick skin against such comments to protect yourself," she says.</p><p><span></span>When she works with competitive athletes, she gets them to completely avoid social media for a few days before a top event or after a big failure as a way of protecting themselves.</p>
Relevance of Health and Sports<p>But despite the disparaging remarks to be found in comment sections and the negative influence Instagram seems to have on people's body image, the researchers from Norway found several good aspects to the social media platform.</p><p> "The study showed that social media can also have a positive influence and is useful in drawing attention to the relevance of health and sports," says Berg.</p><p>And for me, that now means it's high time to get off the couch and go do some sport!<span></span></p>
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The total number of confirmed coronavirus cases passed six million Sunday, even as many countries begin to emerge from strict lockdowns.
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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:
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<p>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 <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/deforestation">deforestation</a> 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.</p><p>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.</p><p>There has been <a href="https://redd-monitor.org/2019/07/12/norway-and-brazils-negotiations-about-the-amazon-fund-are-ignoring-the-failure-to-address-the-drivers-of-deforestation/" target="_blank">some controversy</a> as to whether the Fund has actually <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2018/05/brazil-has-the-tools-to-end-amazon-deforestation-now-report/" target="_blank">achieved its goals</a>: 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.</p><p>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).</p><p>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.</p><p>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).</p><p>Paulo Moutinho, an IPAM researcher, <a href="https://oglobo-globo-com.cdn.ampproject.org/c/s/oglobo.globo.com/sociedade/noruega-paralisa-repasses-para-fundo-amazonia-23879397?versao=amp" target="_blank">told</a> 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."</p><p>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 <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/08/future-of-amazon-deforestation-data-in-doubt-as-research-head-sacked/" target="_blank">deforestation has been soaring this year</a>.</p><p>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 <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/08/germany-cuts-39-5-million-in-environmental-funding-to-brazil/" target="_blank">now frozen</a>.</p><p>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."</p>
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<p>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.</p><p>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.</p><p>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."</p><p>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."</p>
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<p>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.</p><p>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 <a href="https://gestagro360.com.br/2019/07/04/especial-acordo-mercosul-ue-preve-ate-2035-aumento-no-pib-nos-investimentos-e-nas-exportacoes/" target="_blank">an increase of almost $100 billion</a> in Brazilian exports, particularly agricultural products, by 2035.</p><p>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."</p><p>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."</p><p><a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2017/07/soy-king-blairo-maggi-wields-power-over-amazons-fate-say-critics/" target="_blank">Blairo Maggi</a>, 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.</p>
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<p>Maggi, a ruralista who strongly supports agribusiness, <a href="https://www.valor.com.br/brasil/6391459/retorica-do-governo-levara-agronegocio-estaca-zero-diz-blairo" target="_blank">told</a> 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."</p><p>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 <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-g20-summit-brazil-china/brazils-bolsonaro-to-meet-chinas-xi-for-first-time-at-g20-idUSKCN1TP2L0" target="_blank">recently announced</a> October meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, another key trading partner.</p><p>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."</p>
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By Katie Howell
More than 6,000 plant species have been cultivated for food worldwide, but only nine account for the majority of total crop production, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FAO finds that crop diversity is continuing to decline across the globe because of unsustainable agricultural practices, industrialization, and increased urbanization.
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By Alex Matthews
Every year 150 climate scientists fly far into the wilderness and bore deep into Greenland's largest glacier. Their work is complicated and important. The EastGRIP project is trying to understand how ice streams underneath the glacier are pushing vast amounts of ice into the ocean, and how this contributes to rising sea levels. But this year the drills will be silent. The ice streams will go unmeasured.
Going Without Results<p>The scientists are missing out on a lot. They were hoping to complete the 2,660-meter (8,727-feet) hole they have been drilling for the past five years, and finally access the ice streams they've been hunting for.</p><p>"We were actually hoping to reach the bedrock this year, which is super exciting, as we are down where the ice stream flow really is important," explains Dorthe Dahl-Jensen, Professor of Ice, Climate and Earth at the University of Copenhagen and chairperson for EastGRIP's steering committee.</p><p>"How does this ice actually flow? That really is what we have been waiting for for five years, what was going to happen this year. All of that has now been put back. We will have to live without the results." </p>
Damaged Equipment<p>When the team returns next year, it's data and understanding they will have lost. Another year of snow will have buried trenches and covered equipment, meaning they will spend more time repairing and replacing buildings and hardware. </p><p>It's a problem faced by Dr Ken Mankoff and the team he works with at the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland. They are examining the health of the ice sheets in Greenland and monitoring snowfall. They also have monitoring equipment in the field that could fail if they cannot reach it, leaving gaps in data that has been collected for decades. </p><p>"In the worst-case scenario there will be a 12-month gap," he says. "Some of that data can be filled in with satellites and remote sensing, other parts are unique and will be lost."</p>
Junior Scientists' Careers Affected<p>Dahl-Jensen and Mankoff will have to wait until they can return to their respective sites and hope the loss of data won't upset their research too much. For now, both say they are happier remaining at home and keeping themselves, their teams and everyone else they would otherwise encounter safe.</p><p>But for younger scientists, those working on research with short-term funding, and those working towards academic qualifications on a timescale, the lack of results is a much bigger problem. The <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/german-research-vessel-begins-yearlong-drift-through-arctic-ocean/a-50706787" target="_blank">next generation of climate scientists will be affected</a>. </p><p>"There are junior colleagues, and this will have a significant impact on their career if they cannot get the data for the project that they need to do their work," says Mankoff. "My attitude will not be shared by everybody else, and I doubt it is."</p>
Most Productive Time of the Year<p>Someone who can relate is Dr Joran Moen, director of the University Center in Svalbard (UCIS) in Norway, the world's northernmost higher education institution. The school was shutdown and fieldwork cancelled, following orders from the Norwegian government. Around 70 students in Svalbard alone will be unable to complete fieldwork contributing to masters degrees or PhDs.</p><p>"The transition from March to June is a very important time for operations and for monitoring climate change in the area," he says. "We are in a part of the Arctic with a very dramatic change due to the temperature rapidly changing. It's a very good place to be to see how mankind can influence the climate and the effects of it."</p><p>"As for data gaps, the entire international community on Svalbard will have that problem, and of course that will also impact on our research. For students to be missing something like this in their research is a problem." </p>
Waiting Game<p>Moen and the UCIS have made provisions for as much education as possible to continue. Classes have moved online and small, risk-free research trips are still being planned. Dahl-Jensen and Mankoff are waiting to see when they can reach their equipment, and planning how much extra work they may have to do in the snow.</p><p>Climate science is also waiting, to see when it will continue, and just how vital the missing data will be. </p>
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