By Ajit Niranjan
When private equity giant Blackstone invested in alternative milk maker Oatly this summer, furious customers pledged to boycott the dairy-free drink.
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By Tim Schauenberg
Whether they smoked a joint on the couch or sniffed a line in a club, some 269 million people around the world indulged in drugs in 2018, according to the United Nations.
Cannabis Vs. Potatoes: Which Has a Bigger Carbon Footprint?<p>With 192 million users in 2018, <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/global-marijuana-use-rose-by-60-percent-over-the-past-decade/a-49358921" target="_blank">cannabis is by far the most popular drug worldwide</a> — excluding alcohol and tobacco.</p><p>Efforts to legalize marijuana are continuing to gather pace in the United States, where the drug has already become a billion-dollar market. But cultivating the plants in greenhouses, with optimum light, ventilation and temperature, guzzles an enormous amount of resources.</p><p>According to estimates, cannabis production in the U.S. already accounts for around <a href="https://www.swansea.ac.uk/media/Environmental-Impacts-of-the-Legalization-of-Cannabis-in-California.pdf" target="_blank">1% of the country's total energy consumption</a>.</p><p>"Within a single year, approximately 16.5 tons of carbon dioxide are emitted in the United States as the result of indoor cannabis production, equivalent to the annual emissions of 3 million cars," according to a <a href="https://escholarship.org/uc/item/4w64g29s" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">report by the University of California, Davis.</a></p><p>That means that a single joint has a similar carbon footprint to about 6.6 pounds of potatoes.</p>
Cannabis Plants Add to Water Stress<p>Cannabis is also an extremely thirsty plant, needing twice as much water as tomatoes or grapes.</p><p>About 70% of the cannabis consumed across the country is grown in California. Such large-scale cultivation of a crop that requires up to 6 gallons of water per day per plant has only intensified the region's water shortages during dry seasons.</p><p>Scientists from the Californian Department of Fisheries and Wildlife estimate that illegal outdoor cultivation has lowered the water level in some flowing streams by up to a quarter.</p>
Clearing Forests to Plant Coca<p>The ecological footprint of the world's <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/2020-may-set-eu-record-for-cocaine-seizures/a-54585695" target="_blank">19 million cocaine users</a> is particularly apparent in Latin America. According to the United Nations, <a href="https://wdr.unodc.org/wdr2020/field/WDR20_Booklet_3.pdf" target="_blank">Colombia had the potential to produce 1,120 tons of pure cocaine in 2018</a> — a record crop for the South American country.</p><p>Since 2001, about 741,000,000 acres of forest have been cleared for the cultivation of coca — the plant that produces cocaine. </p><p>Following a temporary decline, "we can see actually the same peak of coca that we were watching 20 years ago," Paulo Sandoval, a geographer at the University of Oregon, told DW.</p><p>Sandoval's latest satellite data shows that around 123,000 acres of coca are currently being cultivated in Colombia's Amazon region alone — about half of it in nature reserves that are home to a rich diversity of species.</p><p>But the plantations he surveyed account for only 20% of the total cultivated area.</p>
Colombia's Approach 'Harms' the Environment<p>Until now, the Colombian government has relied on a strategy of eradication in its fight against coca cultivation. As part of its campaign, aircraft sprayed plantations with the highly concentrated herbicide glyphosate. This method effectively destroyed many coca plantations, but it also damaged neighboring forests and farmland.</p><p>Elizabeth Tellman, a geographer at Columbia University's Earth Institute in New York, says this approach harms rather than helps the environment. And once the fields are destroyed, the cartels simply clear more forests elsewhere and plant new coca crops.</p><p>"We do know that it [the destruction of cultivated areas] has not only had no effect (...) it's been really counterproductive," she told DW in an interview. </p><p>Coca leaves aren't just grown in the jungle; they're also processed into cocaine in secret laboratories there. This process requires highly toxic chemicals such as ammonia, acetone and hydrochloric acid. Scientists estimate that several million liters of these substances end up in soils and rivers each year. There are now few aquatic plants or animals living in those contaminated waters, according to a 2015 EU report.</p>
MDMA, Ecstasy and Co.<p>So-called party drugs — from pills to a line of powder in a nightclub bathroom — have grown in popularity in recent years.</p><p>The Netherlands and Belgium are <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/dutch-police-find-netherlands-largest-cocaine-lab/a-54529270" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">hotspots for synthetic drugs</a>. The production of a kilo of pure MDMA, the main substance in ecstasy, results in 10 kilos (22 pounds) of toxic waste — or 30 kilos (66 pounds) in the case of amphetamines. This might include sodium hydroxide, hydrochloric acids and acetone, substances that would normally have to be disposed of as hazardous waste using protective suits.</p><p>The Dutch Water Research Institute (KWR) estimates that in 2017, around 7,000 tons of these substances were either dumped somewhere in drums or leaked into the ground and rivers. "That's unbelievable," says Eric Emke, a scientist at the KWR.</p><p><a href="https://nos.nl/artikel/2264440-politie-ontmantelt-drugslab-in-rijen-dit-was-heel-erg-gevaarlijk.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">A report aired by Dutch public broadcaster NOS</a> showed just how abrasive these liquids can be. In it, a scientist immerses a chicken leg in a yellow sodium hydroxide solution. After two days, the meat has completely dissolved, leaving just the bone behind.</p><p>Emke says the waste is sometimes dumped into containers used to collect cattle excrement, becoming mixed with the dung that is spread on corn crops.</p><p>"And so five years ago, they discovered amphetamine and ecstasy residues in corn lice."</p><p>Jeremy Douglas, the regional representative of the UN's Office on Drugs and Crime for Southeast Asia, says Thailand, Laos and Myanmar have also become a hub for "industrial scale" global synthetic drug production in recent years.</p><p><span></span>"The spillover damage to groundwater and habitats is severe, and frankly it is nothing short of an ecological and public health disaster," he said.</p>
Groundwater Sinking in Afghanistan<p>Around 337,000 football fields, or 23 times the size of Paris — that's the amount of land that was used to cultivate opium worldwide in 2019, according to the UN. The main producers are Myanmar, Mexico and Afghanistan — which accounts for 84% of global cultivation.</p><p>Poppy fields spread mainly across the country's southwest in areas where, until the 1990s, there was nothing but arid desert. Today, some 1.4 million people live there, making a living from cultivating opium and agriculture. That's all possible thanks to more than 50,000 solar-powered water pumps that have greened the desert. But that is not as green as it sounds.</p><p><a href="https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/2006E-When-the-Water-Runs-Out.pdf" target="_blank">A report by socio-economist David Mansfield</a> found that the region's groundwater is sinking by 9.8 feet per year. Wells as deep as 426 feet are now being drilled to find water.</p><p>"Each year, more people are arriving in the desert and installing solar deep wells. There are local fears that there will fast become a time when agricultural production will no longer be viable."</p><p>The poppy farmers also use chemical fertilizers and strong pesticides to control weeds. Groundwater tests have shown that nitrate levels are significantly higher than what is deemed safe. This can increase the risk of blue-baby syndrome, which leads to heart defects and death in newborns.</p><p>Mansfield warns that if water in the region does eventually run out, it will likely force large numbers of people from their homes, sparking a rural exodus.</p>
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A grim new assessment of the world's flora and fungi has found that two-fifths of its species are at risk of extinction as humans encroach on the natural world, as The Guardian reported. That puts the number of species at risk near 140,000.
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By Ajit Niranjan
Leaders from across the world have promised to turn environmental degradation around and put nature on the path to recovery within a decade.
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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.
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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>
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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>
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By Martin Kuebler
2020 is shaping up to be another destructive year for the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. Deforestation — a grim precursor to the fires used to clear the land for development — has increased significantly, according to observers. And many experts fear the region could see a repeat of the destructive wildfires of last August and September.
Degradation Below the Canopy<p>President Jair Bolsonaro — who has repeatedly called for more of the Amazon region to be cleared for economic development — disputed the recent fire data in a speech to other South American leaders on August 11.</p><p>"Tropical rainforest doesn't catch fire. So this story that the Amazon is burning is a lie, and we have to fight it with real numbers," he told the meeting of the Leticia Pact, a group launched last year to protect the rainforest.</p><p>Bolsonaro challenged the leaders to fly over the rainforest from Boa Vista to Manaus, a distance of some 750 kilometers (460 miles), and see for themselves. "They won't find any spot of fire, nor a quarter of a hectare deforested," he said.</p><p>While these forests may still appear untouched when viewed from above, the green landscape seen from a plane or satellite can be deceptive. A typical wildfire burning through the understory — the vegetation growing beneath the forest's main canopy — of a virgin rainforest can wipe out small shrubs, plants and between 40 to 50% of all trees. </p><p>"A considerable part of the Amazon forest has been consecutively degraded, and it's invisible to our eyes," said Ane Alencar, director of science at the Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), a Brazilian non-governmental organization. "In fact, the quality of these forests has been degraded due to these forest fires."</p>
Wildfires Increasing in Recent Years<p>Another danger, said Barlow, is that more and more fires are reigniting areas already damaged by fire, particularly along the edges of the rainforest near new roads, clear-cut fields and pastures, both legal and illegal. This could permanently change the landscape.</p><p>"If you have recurrent fires of two or three burns, then you move into an alternative ecosystem where you have almost no large [trees] at all, dominated by scrubby species and bamboo and grasses," said Barlow.</p><p>Paulo Massoca, a Brazilian researcher and doctoral candidate at Indiana University Bloomington studying rainforest regrowth, said recurrent fires act as a sort of "filter," gradually eliminating plants that are not adapted to frequent fires and selecting the most resistant species, leaving "a fraction of the whole pool of plants in the region."</p><p>"After repeated burnings, soils get impoverished, plants grow slower, and vines/lianas and other non-woody plants, in addition to trees, settle in the area," he told DW, adding that this wide-ranging change in the ecosystem "slows and hinders the capacity of secondary forests damaged by repeated fire events to grow back and accumulate carbon."</p><p>It doesn't help that the Amazon soil, already poor, loses even more valuable nutrients after a fire. In a rainforest, the nutrients provided by dead organic matter are quickly reabsorbed by living plant life, leaving little on the ground. </p><p>"Burnings both kill the plants that sustain the topsoil and eliminate the topsoil that supports the plants," said Massoca. "Fires immediately release the nutrients and carbon stored in the topsoil, which are either washed out after the first rain or released to the atmosphere." </p><p>Those suspended soot particles in the vast clouds of smoke then billow up over healthy forests, potentially affecting cloud formation and rainfall patterns, according to Divino Vicente Silverio, a biologist at the Amazon Rural Federal University in Belem, northern Brazil. </p><p><span></span>In an <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-019-02537-0" target="_blank">August 2019 interview with <em>Nature</em> magazine</a>, he said this atmospheric aerosol burden could lead to changes in how forests cycle water, creating drier conditions and disrupting weather patterns in the Amazon and even farther afield. </p>
'There Are No Natural Fires in the Amazon'<p>Nearly all the fires in the Amazon can be linked to human activity. Trees cleared to make way for economic development are cut down and left to dry and then set alight — a technique known as slash and burn. Additional fires are set to eliminate weeds from existing pastures and clear out old agricultural areas. And, as happened in 2019, those fires can spread to surrounding forests.</p><p>"There are no natural fires in the Amazon," said Alencar of IPAM. "Even if it's very, very dry, we need to have somebody using the match."</p><p>Faced with criticism over the government response to the 2019 fires, President Bolsonaro has banned agricultural burning in the Amazon forest and <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/brazils-next-fire-disaster-in-the-pantanal-wetlands/a-51199164" target="_blank">Pantanal wetlands</a> until November, the end of the dry season, and deployed troops to prevent illegal deforestation.</p><p>In his speech at the meeting of the Leticia Pact last week he said the government efforts had been effective, pointing out that forest clearances had dropped in July by more than 25% when compared with July 2019, the first decline in 15 months.</p><p>"We are making big, enormous efforts to fight fires and deforestation, but even so, we are criticized," he said. </p><p>Experts, however, have accused Bolsonaro of cherry-picking the data. INPE says deforestation increased by 25% year-on-year in the first half of the year, and that at least 3,000 square kilometers (1,200 square miles) had been cut down by June. Alencar said if the current rate continues, 2020 would be Brazil's worst year for deforestation in more than a decade.</p><p>In states with historically high deforestation rates — Mato Grosso, Para and Rondonia — the number of fires detected so far in 2020 is already higher than in the same period in 2019. Alencar said the increase so early in the season shows that the government response has been ineffective — and she believes it's already too late. </p><p>"For this fire season, it seems that we lost the battle against deforestation," she told DW. "We had two days, July 30 and August 1 … with more than 1,000 hot pixels, which are a measurement of fire activity in the region. And those were very high for that period." </p><p>Added to that are NASA observations that show a potentially active Atlantic hurricane season, like 2005 and 2010, which contributed to major drought in the southwestern Amazon as storms sucked moisture from the forest.</p><p><span></span>"They are predicting that it's likely to have the same pattern happening this year, which is going to be catastrophic if it's true," said Alencar. </p>
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By Sean Fleming
The Borneo rainforest is a treasure trove of biodiversity. It is home to 221 species of land-living mammals and 420 species of birds, not to mention 15,000 species of flowering plants and 3,000 species of trees.
Estimated deforestation by type of forest and time period, pre-1700-2000. FAO/Our World in Data
The Sound of Progress<p>Sarab Sethi, a PhD student from Imperial College, was involved in the design of the audio recorders. "If we can get a fingerprint of each audio stream, we can compare how the soundscapes are different between different sites and begin to quantify the changes as land-use changes, for example when forests are logged," he said.</p><p>The SAFE team has also created a website that <a href="http://acoustics.safeproject.net/12:00/10/51442" target="_blank">streams some of the rainforest recordings</a>.</p><p>A similar project from the Rainforest Connection is also using audio to tackle illegal logging. With schemes in South America, Africa and Asia, the organization <a href="https://rfcx.org/home" target="_blank">uses a system based on old mobile phones to record ambient noise in rainforests</a>. It uses a cloud-based AI engine to spot the sound of chainsaws in those recordings. If any are detected, it sends a real-time alert to the relevant authorities.</p><p>About <a href="https://www.worldwildlife.org/threats/deforestation-and-forest-degradation" target="_blank">17% of the Amazon rainforest has been lost in the past 50 years</a>, according to the WWF. It describes the loss of forested areas near population centers as "rampant" and says that cattle ranching is the main cause of the deforestation.</p>
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By Arkilaus Kladit
My name is Arkilaus Kladit. I'm from the Knasaimos-Tehit tribe in South Sorong Regency, West Papua Province, Indonesia. For decades my tribe has been fighting to protect our forests from outsiders who want to log it or clear it for palm oil. For my people, the forest is our mother and our best friend. Everything we need to survive comes from the forest: food, medicines, building materials, and there are many sacred sites in the forest.
Map of the Knasaimos traditional lands.
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Deforestation coupled with the rampant destruction of natural resources will soon have devastating effects on the future of society as we know it, according to two theoretical physicists who study complex systems and have concluded that greed has put us on a path to irreversible collapse within the next two to four decades, as VICE reported.
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While 2019 saw a massive uptick in environmental activism around the world, with climate strikes and the Extinction Rebellion campaign surging in popularity, the work of defending the environment on the front lines became more deadly than ever.
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Earth's temperature is already about 1.2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. Neil Nissing / The Image Bank / Getty Images Plus
Just how hot the earth will get if carbon dioxide doubles from pre-industrial times is a question scientists have wondered about for the past 40 years.
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