By Jazmin Murphy
Whenever you talk about race relations here in so-called "America," Indigenous communities [are] always the last ones on the rung," says Wanbli Wiyan Ka'win (Eagle Feather Woman), also known as Joye Braun, a front-line community organizer with the Indigenous Environmental Network who fought against the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines. In defending the land so deeply beloved and cherished by her people, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, Braun recounts how actively her community is excluded from environmental work and how she and her colleagues are blatantly silenced, even when working alongside allies. "We've had to really fight … to even have a seat at the table," she says.
- 15 EcoWatch Stories on Environmental and Racial Injustice ... ›
- 16 Essential Books About Environmental Justice, Racism and Activism ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
In 2010, representatives of 196 countries met in Japan and agreed to 20 targets to protect Earth's imperiled biodiversity by 2020.
That year has come, and not a single target has been met, according to a major UN assessment released Tuesday, as CNN reported.
- Humans Are Destroying Wildlife at an Unprecedented Rate, New ... ›
- Scientists Warn Worse Pandemics Are on the Way if We Don't ... ›
- UN Biodiversity Chief: Humans Risk Living in an 'Empty World' With ... ›
- Coronavirus Pandemic Linked to Destruction of Wildlife and World's ... ›
- Destruction of Nature Is Triggering Pandemics, Say Leaders of WWF ... ›
- Why Biodiversity Loss Hurts Humans as Much as Climate Change ... ›
The Uru-Eu-Wau-Wau are a tribe of less than 300 people in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest who first came into contact with people outside their community in the early 1980s, according to the Povos Indigenas No Brasil. While they still maintain many of their tribal ways, they and other tribes have recently begun using modern drones to detect and fight illegal deforestation in their territory.
- Stunning Drone Footage Shows Greenland Literally Melting Away ... ›
- Drone Footage Captures Rare Finless Porpoises in Hong Kong ... ›
- Amazing Drone Footage Captures Thousands of Turtles Migrating ... ›
- Conservation 'Game-Changer': China Removes Pangolin Scales ... ›
- Trump Budget Undercuts U.S. Commitment to Global Wildlife ... ›
- A Conservationist's Guide to "Tiger King": Keep Wildlife in the Wild ... ›
Human consumption has led to an unprecedented rate of decline in the world's wildlife populations, according to the Living Planet Report 2020, a biennial paper put out by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Zoological Society of London.
- UN Biodiversity Chief: Humans Risk Living in an 'Empty World' With ... ›
- Destruction of Nature Is Triggering Pandemics, Say Leaders of WWF ... ›
- New WWF Report Calls for Protecting Nature to Prevent Future ... ›
- Scientists Warn Worse Pandemics Are on the Way if We Don't ... ›
- Coronavirus Pandemic Linked to Destruction of Wildlife and World's ... ›
- World Failed to Meet a Single Goal to Save Nature: UN Biodiversity Report - EcoWatch ›
By Morgan Erickson-Davis
As the world heads towards 2021 with COVID-19 still raging overhead, it might be easy to forget about the other global crises. But a new app, debuted today, aims to light the way to a brighter future, showing how we can stop global warming, halt extinctions and prevent pandemics – all in one fell swoop.
‘Conserve at Least Half and in the Right Places’<p>The Global Safety Net combines six primary data layers: existing protected areas, habitats where rare species live, areas of high biodiversity, landscapes inhabited by large mammals, large areas of intact wilderness and natural landscapes that can absorb and store the most carbon.</p>
Areas of the terrestrial realm where increased conservation action is needed to protect biodiversity and store carbon. Numbers in parentheses show the percentage of total land area of Earth contributed by each set of layers. Unprotected habitats drawn from the 11 biodiversity data layers underpinning the Global Safety Net augment the current 15.1% protected with an additional 30.6% required to safeguard biodiversity. Additional CSAs add a further 4.7% of the terrestrial realm. Also shown are the wildlife and climate corridors to connect intact habitats (yellow lines). Data are available for interactive viewing at www.globalsafetynet.app. Dinerstein et al., 2020.<p>In a study accompanying the release of the platform published today in <a href="https://advances.sciencemag.org/content/6/36/eabb2824" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"><em>Science Advances</em></a>, the researchers describe what we need to do in order to stave off the worst effects of global warming and extinction. Overall, they found that in addition to the 15.1% of the world's land that is already protected, 35.3% will need to be added to fold over the next 10 years. This means that ultimately 50% of the planet's land area will need to be protected from further degradation to keep it under the 1.5-degree threshold and stave off ecological collapse.</p><p>The researchers were surprised how well their numbers lined up with <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Half-Earth" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">previous estimates</a> of how much of the planet needs to be set aside for nature.</p><p>"Without trying, the analysis landed on 50.4% of the terrestrial surface requiring protection," said study coauthor Karl Burkart, managing director of the NGO One Earth. "Of course conservation is much more nuanced now and strictly protected areas are just one type of land designation that can contribute towards this goal."</p><p>Zooming in, the study finds 30% of land area is of "particular importance for biological diversity." An additional 20% of land area is needed to maintain ecosystem intactness and provide additional carbon storage and absorption. The authors also note that restoration of degraded areas could help meet carbon sequestration and wildlife conservation goals.</p>
Somalia has large areas inhabited by rare species – but very few protected areas. Global Safety Net<p>It should be noted that these rankings do not take into consideration deforestation within protected areas. If so, countries like <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/05/takeover-of-nigerian-reserve-highlights-uphill-battle-to-save-forests/" target="_blank">Nigeria</a> and <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/08/brazilian-amazon-protected-areas-in-flames-as-land-grabbers-invade/" target="_blank">Brazil</a>, where protected areas are increasingly beset by illegal clearing, might not rank so high on the list. Still, the researchers say protected areas provide needed accountability and a metric with which to measure conservation effort.</p><p>"Protected Areas (or area-based targets) are certainly no guarantee of conservation outcome, as we can see with the fires burning in Brazil as we speak," Burkart told Mongabay via email. "But without them we are lost at sea."</p><p>Both Burkart and Dinerstein view area-based targets as the "North Star" of biodiversity preservation and climate protection, and say they are an important part of creating a framework for action that civil society can use to help motivate and mobilize conservation efforts.</p><p>"We've got to take conservation out of the ivory towers of academic institutions (or basements of government ministries)," Burkart said. "It is the public good we're talking about, so we need an open and transparent stocktaking of where we are right now, and what we need to immediately prioritize. Area-based targets are just the beginning, a 'blueprint' if you will of the cathedral we need to build."</p>
Will It Happen in Time?<p>If more than tripling the amount of land under official, effective protection in less than 10 years sounds daunting, you're not alone. But Dinerstein and his colleagues say it is possible.</p><p>One avenue they recommend is safeguarding Indigenous territories. The Global Safety Net shows important conservation areas often overlap with areas occupied by Indigenous communities or regarded as ancestral land, which previous research indicates contain around 80% of the planet's remaining biodiversity and contribute significantly to carbon storage. Putting land under the management of Indigenous and local communities has been shown to <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2014/07/true-stewards-new-report-says-local-communities-key-to-saving-forests-curbing-global-warming/" target="_blank">be an effective way</a> to protect it.</p><p>"Addressing indigenous land claims, upholding existing land tenure rights, and resourcing programs on indigenous-managed lands could help achieve biodiversity objectives on as much as one-third of the area required by the Global Safety Net," the researchers write in their study. "Simultaneously, this focus would positively address social justice and human rights concerns."</p><p>Protecting such a large amount of land will take a lot of money. But researchers say that the COVID-19 pandemic is showing just how quickly countries can allocate large amounts of resources if needed. And since <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-02341-1" target="_blank">research shows</a> deforestation can increase the risk of outbreak of deadly diseases like Ebola and COVID-19, Dinerstein and his colleagues say there is added incentive for funding such efforts.</p><p>"The need for an ambitious global conservation agenda has taken on a new urgency in 2020 after the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus," they write in their study.</p><p>The researchers were surprised to find that only 2.3% of the planet's land area would needed to be further protected to safeguard the species most at risk of extinction. This, they say, could be accomplished within five years.</p><p>Overall, they say the investment spent on preserving these important areas of land would be offset by the trillions of dollars worth of benefits provided by a healthy environment.</p><p>"Literally billions of dollars are being spent trying to invent technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere with very little to show for it. Meanwhile we can protect the spectacular diversity of life on this planet while simultaneously providing all the ecosystem services humanity needs by protecting and conserving the 50% of lands identified in the GSN," Burkart said. "Based on a new economic analysis, we estimate that the global safety net would cost about $200 [billion per year] to manage. This is a tiny investment for a massive return, as nature provides $33 trillion in ecosystem services every year."</p><p>For their part, Dinerstein, Burkart and their colleagues are continuing to improve the GSN, and are planning on releasing an updated version next year that will include more data layers and higher resolution. They are also developing technology to help monitor elephant populations in the hopes of reducing human-elephant conflict and prevent poaching, as well as a system that detects logging trucks before they get a chance to start cutting down trees.</p><p>"Protecting forests begins with early detection and then enforcement," Dinerstein said. "We think our ForestGuard AI is an important piece of this."</p><p>But the main thing, the researchers say, is that governments must act – and soon.</p><p>"Human societies are late in the game to rectify impending climate breakdown, massive biodiversity loss, and, now, prevent pandemics," they write. "The Global Safety Net, if erected promptly, offers a way for humanity to catch up and rebound."</p>
- Why Biodiversity Loss Hurts Humans as Much as Climate Change ... ›
- Climate-Driven Biodiversity Loss Will Be Sudden, Study Warns ... ›
- WWF: 60% of Global Biodiversity Loss Due to Land Cleared for Meat ... ›
By Sean Fleming
As many as one million species of animal and plant could face extinction. This dramatic decline in the health of global biodiversity is a crisis in itself as well as a threat to the wellbeing of the planet's population, the UN warns. Plus, it poses a very immediate risk to global food security and economic activity.
A quarter of all species are threatened with extinction. Statista<p>That said, there have been many <a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/03/conservation-stories-on-world-wildlife-day/" target="_blank">notable conservation successes</a>. There have also been several discoveries of animals that were believed to have become extinct. Here are five examples of what are often referred to as Lazarus species – breeds that have seemingly come back from the dead.</p>
1. Elephant Shrew<p>The last time anyone recorded a sighting of the Somali elephant shrew was almost 50 years ago, after which, it was assumed to have become extinct. Then, in August 2020, a team of researchers and academics reported that <a href="https://peerj.com/articles/9652/" target="_blank">these tiny, odd-looking creatures were alive and well</a>. Also known as the Somali Sengi, this mouse-sized animal, with its distinctive elongated nose, is thriving across the Horn of Africa.</p>
2. Terror Skink<p>In 1872, the French botanist Benjamin Balansa noted the discovery of a lizard while visiting the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia. At around 50cm (20 inches) in length, it probably wasn't too hard to spot. Yet, the terror skink – <a href="https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0078638" target="_blank">the 'terror' part of the name refers to its mouthful of rapacious teeth</a> – was never seen again. Not until 2003, that is. Having been rediscovered by scientists, more research is now underway to learn more about them.</p>
3. Cuban Solenodon<p>There are <a href="https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/extinction-countdown/solenodon-8216-extinct-8217-venomous-mammal-rediscovered-in-cuba-after-10-year-search/" target="_blank">few venomous mammals in the world</a> – the Cuban solenodon is one such example. But it was a missing example for some time. Although never technically extinct, its numbers are so low and sightings are so rare, that it has often been thought to be. The Cuban <a href="http://www.edgeofexistence.org/species/cuban-solenodon/" target="_blank">solenodon's forebears were around at the same time as dinosaurs</a>: it is "a 'living fossil' that hasn't changed much in millions of years," according to the publication Scientific American. Its bite can kill yet it lacks the strength and dexterity to defend itself or flee from danger, making it an easy target for predators. Deforestation has also contributed to population disturbance.</p>
4. Bermuda Petrel<p>The Cahow, or Bermuda petrel, was last seen on Nonsuch Island in 1620. But here in 2020, you can <a href="http://www.nonsuchisland.com/live-cahow-cam/#LIVE-CahowCam" target="_blank">watch webcam footage of them</a>. A small number of the birds were spotted nesting in the east of Bermuda in the 1950s, and the population has since been resurrected. The Cahow is a burrowing bird and much of its natural habitat has been destroyed by sea erosion and hurricane damage. New <a href="http://static.squarespace.com/static/501134e9c4aa430673203999/501295cfe4b0ebc53ba7b337/501295cfe4b0ebc53ba7b33b/1320261274877/" target="_blank">nesting sites were constructed by the Government of Bermuda</a>, while chicks from established populations were relocated to Nonsuch, too.</p>
5. Australian Night Parrot<p>Another elusive bird, the Australian night parrot, was thought to be extinct after the last recorded sighting in 1912. Then, <a href="https://www.newscientist.com/article/2129980-lazarus-species-five-cool-animals-we-wrongly-believed-extinct/" target="_blank">in 1990, one was found in the state of Queensland</a>. Sadly, it was dead. It would be another 23 years before a living example was spotted by a researcher. The precise location of that sighting was kept secret to protect the birds, whose <a href="https://nightparrot.com.au/" target="_blank">populations are now closely monitored</a> and who live in vast wildlife sanctuaries.</p>
- Koalas Face Extinction in Next 30 Years Without Urgent Intervention ... ›
- Biggest Animals Face Extinction Due to Hunting - EcoWatch ›
- De-Extinction: If We Could Revive a Species, Does It Mean We ... ›
International marine scientists have discovered 30 new species in the deep waters off the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, highlighting how unique the ecosystems of the islands are as well as how little we know about the deep sea.
Researchers measured and observed specimens collected during one of the ROV dives. Ocean Exploration Trust / Nautilus Live
- Massive Fleet of Chinese Fishing Boats Threaten Galapagos Islands ›
- Boat Carrying 600 Gallons of Oil Sinks off the Galápagos - EcoWatch ›
- Protecting the Galapagos Islands - EcoWatch ›
By Leslie Brooks
More than 75 percent of the world's food crops rely on pollinators, according to the United Nations Environment Program. Through their pollination, bees not only promote biodiversity, but also secure our food supply.
But one in four species of bee is at risk of extinction in North America, according to the United Nations Environment Program. And the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has recorded declines in bee populations in Europe, South America, and Asia.
- Trump EPA OKs 'Emergency' Use of Bee-Killing Pesticide on 13.9 ... ›
- 7-Mile 'Bee Corridor' of Wildflowers Will Feed London's Pollinators ... ›
- 347 Native Bee Species 'Spiraling Toward Extinction' - EcoWatch ›
The New Guinea singing dog is a rare breed of dog that makes a unique howl similar to the song of a humpback whale. Sadly, however, scientists thought its call had been forever silenced in the wild.
By David Duffy and Catherine Eastman
Plastic pollution has been found in practically every environment on the planet, with especially severe effects on ocean life. Plastic waste harms marine life in many ways – most notably, when animals become entangled in it or consume it.
Post-hatchling sea turtle being treated at Gumbo Limbo Nature Center. Gumbo Limbo Nature Center, CC BY-ND
The Sargasso Sea is an important feeding ground for immature Atlantic sea turtles, but the same currents that concentrate seaweed there also carry drifting plastic trash. University of Florida, CC BY-ND
- Ocean Plastic Smells Like Food to Sea Turtles, Study Finds ... ›
- Dead Baby Turtle Found With 104 Pieces of Plastic in Stomach ... ›
- Green Turtles Are Mistaking Plastic for the Sea Grass They Normally ... ›
By Douglas Broom
Its waving fronds carpet the seafloor and shelter thousands of sea creatures. But seagrass is more than a haven for marine wildlife – researchers say it could play a major role in slowing climate change.
Underwater Gardening<p><a href="https://www.projectseagrass.org/seagrass-ocean-rescue/" target="_blank">The UK has lost up to 92% of the seagrass</a> in its coastal waters and estuaries, according to the project. Its work to help restore these meadows involves an "experimental" 20,000 square meter area in Pembrokeshire, South Wales.</p><p>There, seagrass seeds are planted on the seafloor in hessian bags, held together on lines of rope. As the hessian degrades, the seeds, collected by divers<a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/mar/10/uk-lost-sea-meadows-to-be-resurrected-in-climate-emergency-fight" target="_blank"> from underwater meadows in waters off the southern coasts of England and Wales,</a> germinate and establish on the ocean bed.</p><p>The goal is to<a href="https://www.projectseagrass.org/guest-blog/who-knew-saving-the-planet-could-be-so-peaceful/" target="_blank"> plant 1 million seeds</a>, as well as inspire projects in other areas around the UK.</p>
Volunteers load seagrass seeds ready for planting. Project Seagrass
Planting Pioneers<p>Seagrass restoration projects have been successful in other parts of the world. In the United States, a team from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science <a href="https://www.vims.edu/research/units/programs/sav1/restoration/index.php" target="_blank">pioneered mechanical planting</a>.</p><p>Using <a href="https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1061-2971.2004.00314.x" target="_blank">a specially adapted boat,</a> the scientists planted seagrass seedlings directly into the seabed in inlets around Chesapeake Bay. They successfully restored seagrass meadows that were <a href="https://www.vims.edu/newsandevents/topstories/archives/2012/eelgrass_restoration_meps.php" target="_blank">destroyed by plant disease and hurricanes in the 1930s</a>.</p><p>And restoring the underwater meadows has had another benefit – <a href="https://www.vims.edu/esl/research/bay_scallop_restoration/index.php" target="_blank">Bay scallops have been successfully reintroduced </a>to an area where they have been functionally extinct since the 1930s. The Virginia team of underwater farmers are now working with projects in Europe and Australia.</p>
Under Threat<p>Seagrass meadows are among the<a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2019.00311/full" target="_blank"> world's most threatened ecosystems</a>, and they're rapidly disappearing in many places.</p><p>Globally,<a href="https://www.projectseagrass.org/" target="_blank"> over a third have been lost in the past 40 years</a>, according to Project Seagrass, the charity behind Seagrass Ocean Rescue. Destructive fishing, pollution and climate change are contributing to this decline, it says.</p><p>Scientists say that seagrass has been regarded as<a href="https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fevo.2019.00311/full" target="_blank"> the "ugly duckling" of marine conservation,</a> but the growing climate emergency and the need to find new ways to capture and store carbon make its restoration vital. The UN has called it a "<a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/news-and-stories/story/seagrass-secret-weapon-fight-against-global-heating" target="_blank">secret weapon in the fight against global heating</a>."</p>
Vital Food Source<p>As well as<a href="https://www.projectseagrass.org/seagrass-ocean-rescue/" target="_blank"> storing up to 400 kilograms (882 pounds) of carbon per hectare every year</a>, seagrass also helps support sustainable fisheries by providing a home for young fish.<a href="https://www.projectseagrass.org/seagrass-ocean-rescue/" target="_blank"> One-fifth of the world's biggest fisheries depend on seagrass meadows</a> to act as fish nurseries, Project Seagrass says.</p><p>In the UK alone,<a href="https://www.projectseagrass.org/seagrass-ocean-rescue/" target="_blank"> 50 different species of fish live in or visit seagrass</a>, which is 30 times more sea creatures than nearby habitats. Seagrass also plays a role in stopping coastal erosion.</p><p>The<a href="https://www.weforum.org/projects/a-new-vision-for-the-ocean" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Ocean Action Agenda</a> calls for urgent action to reverse the decline in ocean health, pointing out that over 100 million households worldwide depend on fishing for their livelihoods and seafood is the primary source of protein for 3 billion people.</p>
- Sydney's Endangered Seahorses Find Protection in Underwater ... ›
- Mangroves Could Help Save Us From Climate Change. Climate ... ›
- There's Now an App for Mapping Seagrass, the Oceans' Great ... ›
By Rosamaria Loures and Sarah Sax
On an early December morning last year in the state of Maranhão, Brazil, half a dozen members of the Indigenous Guajajara people packed their bags with food, maps and drone equipment to get ready for a patrol. They said goodbye to their children, uncertain when, or whether, they would see them again. Then, they hoisted their bags over their shoulders and set out to patrol a section of the 173,000 hectares (428,000 acres) of the primary rainforest they call home.
Women warrior Rosilene Guajajara sits in her home village. Sarah Shenker / Survival<p>"Why did we take the initiative? Because we are mothers. If we don't act, there would be no forest standing," said Paula Guajajara, one of the "women warriors of the forest," in a public event last year.</p><p>Called <em>guerreiras da floresta</em> in Portuguese, this is the name these women have given themselves. They are in many ways an embodiment of what policymakers, politicians and scholars around the world say is a necessary shift toward gender equality in environmental movements. And they are contributing not just womanpower to the patrols — they are also helping to diversify the tactics and forge new partnerships.</p><p>In Brazil in particular, where protecting intact forests is one of the cheapest, easiest and most effective solutions for<a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0126" target="_blank"> combating climate change</a>, the work they are doing is literally saving the world.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="244a0eac1110c46f755b64bd798f35ac"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/QqKrthJmcN0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Creating a Space and Finding Their Voice<p>Actively patrolling their land for invaders is nothing new to the Guajajara; Indigenous people have more than 500 years of experience in this. Today, they use satellite technology and coordinate efforts with outside law enforcement to achieve their goals. This approach is relatively new, but its use has been on the rise in recent years.</p><p>"Across the country more of these groups are forming because of government inaction — or worse, because the government is actively trying to exploit their lands," Sarah Shenker, campaign coordinator for Survival International's <a href="https://www.survivalinternational.org/uncontactedtribes" target="_blank">Uncontacted Tribes team</a>, said in an interview. These groups are primarily men, although women are sometimes included in the patrols. But according to Shenker, as well as other experts interviewed for this article, to have "forest guardian" groups made up solely of women is unique.</p><p>The women warriors were formed six years ago, an offshoot of a program developed by Indigenous organizations and the Brazilian government and implemented by the Ministry of the Environment to enhance the territorial and cultural protection of Indigenous people, called Projeto Demonstrativo de Povos Indígenas (PDPI) in Portuguese. At the time, the predominantly male forest guardians were attempting to end illegal logging and the sale of wood from their territory — a task that was proving extremely difficult. Seeing this, the women stepped in and formed their own group consisting originally of 32 women.</p><p>"In order not to let the project end, we, the Guajajara women, entered and took over the project," Cícera Guajajara da Silva, one of the women warriors, said in an interview.</p><p>But the path to being taken seriously and treated as equals has been long.</p><p>"To seek partnership, we walked, talked, slept on the floor — all in order to seek improvement for our community," Paula Guajajara said, recalling the initial difficulty in being heard and taken seriously inside and outside of the communities. Their patience has paid off, and the women are quick to point out the support and close collaboration of the male forest guardians that has allowed them to combat the greater goal of stopping illegal logging. "Today we have the women warriors who work together with the forest guardians," Paula Guajajara said. "We've already evicted a lot of loggers. If we hadn't acted, there would be no forest standing."</p><p>Many of the married women had already been acting independently, accompanying their husbands in some activities, according to Gilderlan Rodrigues da Silva, the Maranhão coordinator of the Indigenous Missionary Council (CIMI), a Catholic Church-affiliated organization, who has worked with the women warriors. "But, from the moment they created the women's group, they gained strength and visibility," he said in an interview. "Once they were formed, there was this very strong change. Both in the context of decreasing the invasions and waking up to the collective awareness to protect the territory."</p>
Why Women Are Key to Forest Conservation<p>In Brazil, and around the world, <a href="https://catarinas.info/43-mulheres-indigenas-do-brasil-e-da-america-latina-para-se-inspirar/" target="_blank">Indigenous women</a> are increasingly at the forefront of environmental movements.</p><p>"The struggle of Indigenous women happens in different ways, day by day. If I am here today, I am the fruit of the women who came in front of me," Taynara Caragiu Guajajara, a member of the Indigenous women's collective AMIMA, said during a live online event in April. "In the context of the world we live in today, we have been conquering space inside and outside the community. We Indigenous women have not always had that voice … but today the struggle is driven by Indigenous women, we are the ones who are in charge of the struggle."</p>
Maisa Guajajara, march of indigenous women, Brasilia, 2019. Marquinho Mota / FAOR<p>Women are increasingly leading the struggle on issues like climate change, but <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/02/gender-bias-persists-international-reporting-atlantic/582235/" target="_blank">their voices are heard much less often then men's </a>— to the detriment of everyone. This is partially a byproduct of <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/02/gender-bias-persists-international-reporting-atlantic/582235/" target="_blank">gender bias</a> in <a href="https://www.fastcompany.com/90401548/theres-a-gender-crisis-in-media-and-its-threatening-our-democracy" target="_blank">journalism itself</a>.</p><p>In 2015, of every four people interviewed, mentioned or seen in the news worldwide, only one was a woman, according to a report by the <a href="http://whomakesthenews.org/gmmp" target="_blank">Global Media Monitoring Project</a>, which releases its findings every five years. A closer look at the data shows that even when women are interviewed, it is for personal quotes, rather than for their expertise. It's a figure that <a href="https://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2019/02/gender-bias-persists-international-reporting-atlantic/582235/" target="_blank">seems to have barely budged</a> over the past few years, although some newsrooms are starting to actively change that.</p><p>Studies show that, in general, women receive <a href="https://niemanreports.org/articles/where-are-the-women/" target="_blank">greater exposure in newspaper</a> sections led by female editors, as well as in newspapers whose editorial boards have higher female representation. But men are <a href="https://www.poynter.org/business-work/2017/women-dominate-journalism-schools-but-newsrooms-are-still-a-different-story/" target="_blank">disproportionately represented</a> from editors through to reporters, meaning that critical issues for women often go unreported. One of these areas is precisely the connection between conservation solutions and gender equality.</p><p>Women are disproportionately affected by climate change and <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/30/asia/environment-gender-violence-study-intl-hnk/index.html" target="_blank">environmental degradation</a>. <a href="https://www.unenvironment.org/resources/report/global-gender-and-environment-outlook-ggeo" target="_blank">Mounting evidence </a>shows that gender gaps and inequalities, such as inequitable land tenure and women's reduced access to energy, water and sanitation facilities, negatively impact human and environmental well-being. The climate crisis will only make <a href="https://www.unwomen.org/en/digital-library/publications/2020/03/womens-rights-in-review" target="_blank">gender disparities worse</a>.</p><p><a href="https://justassociates.org/sites/justassociates.org/files/jass_mch6._rethinking_protection_power_movements_4.pdf" target="_blank">Gender-based violence</a> against women environmental human rights defenders in particular is <a href="http://im-defensoras.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/283951300-Informe-2012-2014-de-Agresiones-contra-Defensoras-de-DDHH-en-Mesoamerica.pdf" target="_blank">on the</a> <a href="https://defenddefenders.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/FINAL-REPORT_pdf-3-1.pdf" target="_blank">rise</a>, and increasingly <a href="https://justassociates.org/sites/justassociates.org/files/jass_mch6._rethinking_protection_power_movements_4.pdf" target="_blank">normalized</a> in both public and private spheres, making it more difficult for women to get justice. As Indigenous communities are often on the front lines of defending their territories, resources and rights from extractive projects and corporate interests, Indigenous women in particular face a two-headed beast of gender-based violence and racism.</p><p>"We fought to defend our territory against invasions and we sought this autonomy to fight for rights," Taynara Caragiu Guajajara said in an interview. "Being a woman is difficult within the macho society, but being an Indigenous or black woman becomes even more difficult, because the prejudice is so great."</p><p>Having more women involved in everything from environmental decision-making to climate politics benefits society at large. <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-019-0438-4" target="_blank">Higher female </a>participation in policymaking increases the equality and effectiveness of climate policy interventions;<a href="https://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/reports/271/hdr_2011_en_complete.pdf" target="_blank"> evidence</a> shows that high gender inequality is correlated with higher rates of deforestation, air pollution and other measures of environmental degradation.</p><p>Yet <a href="https://www.greengrants.org/what-we-do/womens-environmental-action/" target="_blank">less than 1% </a>of international philanthropy goes to women's environmental initiatives, and women are continuously<a href="https://genderandenvironment.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/CI-REPORT.pdf" target="_blank"> left out </a>of decisions about land and <a href="https://www.wri.org/publication/making-womens-voices-count" target="_blank">environmental resources</a>.</p><p>"The global community cannot afford to treat nature conservation and the fight for women's equality as separate issues — they must be addressed together," <a href="https://www.iucn.org/news/secretariat/202003/iucn-acting-director-generals-statement-international-womens-day-2020" target="_blank">said</a> Grethel Aguilar, the acting director-general of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), on international women's day this year.</p>
Map of Maranhão state in northeastern Brazil.
Why the Fight for Indigenous Territorial Rights in Brazil Matters to Conservation<p>Tracking tree cover loss in Maranhão over the past two decades shows the crucial importance of Indigenous territories in protecting intact forest. Viewed from space, as the forest cover rapidly disappears, the outlines of Indigenous territories become more and more distinct.</p><p>"These Indigenous territories are islands of green in a sea of deforestation in one of the worst deforested places in Brazil," Shenker said.</p><p>The Caru Indigenous Territory, for example, has seen 4% forest loss in comparison to the state of Maranhão, which has lost almost a quarter of its tree cover since 2000, according to Global Forest Watch data. Alongside the various other benefits that come with forest preservation, the forests in the Caru Indigenous Territory are also home to some of the last uncontacted Awá people; video of of two Awá men taken in the neighboring Araribóia Indigenous Territory <a href="https://www.survivalinternational.org/news/12171" target="_blank">made international headlines last year</a>.</p><p>These patches of intact, tropical forests are also the crux of "natural climate solutions" protection. These solutions essentially entail stopping deforestation, improving management of forests, and restoring ecosystems, and could provide more than one-third of the cost-effective climate mitigation needed between now and 2030 to stabilize warming to below 2° Celsius (3.6° Fahrenheit).</p><p>According to one of the seminal <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0126" target="_blank">papers on natural climate solutions,</a> the single most effective approach in the tropics has proven to be actively protecting intact forests. Protecting intact forests offers twice as much of the cost-effective climate mitigation potential as the second best pathway, reforestation. The Amazon as a whole plays a vital role in mitigating climate change by absorbing and storing carbon dioxide in its forests. When cut down, burned, or degraded through logging, the forest not only ceases to fulfill this function, but can become a source of carbon emissions.</p><p>"Protecting and or conserving intact ecosystems is the number-one priority," said <a href="https://pursuit.unimelb.edu.au/individuals/dr-kate-dooley" target="_blank">Kate Dooley,</a> a research fellow at the Australian-German Climate & Energy College at the University of Melbourne, who has <a href="https://www.iatp.org/documents/missing-pathways-15degc" target="_blank">authored several papers</a> on the potential of forests as a natural climate solution. "Way-way-way down the line is planting trees. And even then, it needs to be the right kind of trees."</p><p>Of all the countries in the world with some kind of tropical rainforest, Brazil holds more mitigation potential than 71 of the 79 countries combined, <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0126" target="_blank">according to a recent paper on this topic</a>. It isn't too hyperbolic, then, to say that groups like the women warriors are protecting humanity's last best hope for a livable future.</p><p>"Plenty of research showing that forests are more intact in collectively held lands," Dooley said. "With or without secure land tenure those lands are more intact and less degraded." According <a href="https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rstb.2019.0126" target="_blank">to a report in 2018 by the Rights and Resources Initiative</a>, almost 300 <em>billion metric tons of carbon</em> are stored in collectively managed lands across all forest biomes, and <a href="https://www.wri.org/blog/2016/10/protecting-indigenous-land-rights-makes-good-economic-sense" target="_blank">numerous</a> <a href="https://rightsandresources.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Toward-a-Global-Baseline-of-Carbon-Storage-in-Collective-Lands-November-2016-RRI-WHRC-WRI-report.pd" target="_blank">studies</a> have found that the best way to protect forests is to empower the people who live in them, granting them land rights and legal standing.</p><p>This is <a href="https://blog.globalforestwatch.org/people/geospatial-data-indigenous-community-land-forest-management?utm_campaign=BLOG:+LandMark+Data&utm_medium=bitly&utm_source=MonthlyRecap" target="_blank">especially true for Indigenous-held lands in places like Brazil</a>. Between 2000 and 2015, legally designated Indigenous territories in Brazil <a href="http://www.edf.org/sites/default/files/indigenous-territories-barrier-to-deforestation.pdf" target="_blank">saw a tenth </a>the amount of forest loss than non-Indigenous territories. Brazil is home to approximately 900,000 Indigenous citizens from 305 peoples, most of who live in Indigenous territories. Even so, more than half of the locations claimed by Indigenous groups have not yet received formal government recognition.</p><p>"Surveillance and inspection by Indigenous peoples is extremely important, as they are the ones who know the territory and the region best," Rodrigues da Silva said. "On the other hand, unfortunately they are left alone, the Indigenous body responsible for inspection ends up not fulfilling the role and leaving only the Indigenous people."</p>
Prevailing Amid Growing Threats<p>Despite an increasingly hostile government, the women warriors say they are committed to continuing their monitoring, surveillance and educational activities, and are hoping to inspire other groups to do the same.</p><p>"Today women act 100% in defense of the territory," Paula Guajajara said. "Today we are serving as an example."</p><p>But the work is daunting.</p><p>Brazil has the rights of Indigenous people written into its constitution of 1988, and is a signatory to the International Labour Organization's (ILO) <u>Indigenous and Tribal Peoples Convention.</u> Yet, the current administration of President Jair Bolsonaro has made it clear that Indigenous peoples won't be allowed to<a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/01/bolsonaro-government-reveals-plan-to-develop-the-unproductive-amazon/" target="_blank"> comment</a> on infrastructure projects<a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2019/03/brazil-to-build-long-resisted-amazon-transmission-line-on-indigenous-land/" target="_blank"> affecting</a> Indigenous territories in the Amazon. Bolsonaro's administration has also <a href="https://news.mongabay.com/2020/02/bolsonaro-sends-congress-bill-to-open-indigenous-lands-to-mining-fossil-fuels/" target="_blank">proposed opening up</a> Indigenous territories to extractive activities — something the constitution specifically prohibits.</p><p>Hundreds of people have been killed during the past decade in the context of conflicts over the use of land and resources in the Amazon — many by people involved in illegal logging — according to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), a Catholic Church-affiliated nonprofit that follows land conflicts.</p><p>But perpetrators of violence in the Brazilian Amazon are rarely brought to justice.</p><p>Of the more than <a href="https://www.hrw.org/news/2019/11/15/brazils-amazon-and-its-defenders-are-under-attack-illegal-loggers" target="_blank">300 killings that the CPT</a> has registered since 2009, only 14 ultimately went to trial. Maranhão, where the Guajajara live, is among the most dangerous states for Indigenous people in Brazil: more <a href="https://www.cptnacional.org.br/" target="_blank">attacks on Indigenous groups</a> were reported here than anywhere else in 2016, according to data from the CPT.</p><p>The <a href="https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/feature/2020/05/11/coronavirus-Latin-America-Amazon-indigenous-communities" target="_blank">coronavirus poses an additional threat</a> to Indigenous peoples throughout the Amazon and especially in Brazil, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/23/world/coronavirus-indigenous-death-apib-intl/index.html" target="_blank">where the death rate from COVID-19</a> is much higher than the national rate.</p><p>"The surveillance expeditions are stopped by the pandemic, we are not doing surveillance, to care for everyone in the village," Cícera Guajajara da Silva said. "Especially in order to protect our health, because nobody knows who the types of people [invaders] are inside the forest, they may even be infected with the virus, the invader himself can bring the virus to our territory, and that's why we stopped [the expeditions], we are now only sheltering in the village."</p><p>But despite the mounting difficulties, the women warriors are committed to continuing their work.</p><p>"We have the courage to defend our territory," Maisa Guajajara said. "I am a woman and I will fight against all the threats that are in our territory."</p>
- Brazil's Bolsonaro Unveils Bill to Open Indigenous Lands to Mining ... ›
- Indigenous Peoples Go to Court to Save the Amazon From Oil ... ›
- Indigenous People May Be the Amazon's Last Hope - EcoWatch ›