Satellite data collated for the World Resources Institute (WRI) showed primal rainforest was lost across 38,000 square kilometers (14,500 square miles) globally — ruining habitats and releasing carbon once locked in wood into the atmosphere.
Bolivia Has 80% Higher Loss<p>In its Global Forest Watch report, the WRI highlighted Bolivia, saying its removal of primary forest and surrounding woodlands — to produce soy and range cattle in 2019 — had been 80% higher than any of its previous years on record.</p><p>"Its highly biodiverse Chiquitano Dry Forest was particularly affected, with reports that nearly 12% of it burned," said the study.</p><p>Other countries with severe losses had been Peru, Malaysia and Colombia, followed by Laos, Mexico and Cambodia — from 1,620 square kilometers and 800 square kilometers in primal forest lost.</p><p><strong>Indigenous Rights Protect Forests Too</strong></p><p>WRI's Seymour said a "mounting body of evidence" suggested that legal recognition of indigenous land rights "provides greater forest protection:</p><p>"We know that deforestation is lower in indigenous territories," Seymour said.</p>
Pandemic Weakens Enforcement<p>The current Covid-19 pandemic had changed dynamics, said Weisse, weakening enforcement of forest-protection laws and leaving rural families desperate to feed themselves back home after losing jobs in cities.</p><p>In April, scientists grouped within the Global Carbon Project estimated that coronavirus-induced economic slowdowns would trim carbon dioxide emissions by more than 5% year-on-year.</p><p>It was "something not seen since the end of World War Two," said project chair Rob Jackson, professor of Earth system science at Stanford University, California.</p><p><span></span>But, recalling the aftermath of the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, climate scientist Corinne Le Quéré at England's University of East Anglia, forecast in April that emissions were likely to rebound if structural changes were not instituted.</p>
Glasgow's COP26 Postponed<p>Last week, host Britain confirmed that UN climate talks due in Glasgow, known as COP26, had been postponed a year until between November 1 and 12 2021.</p><p>Experts involved in those long-running negotiations insist that global emissions must start dropping this year to avoid irreversible impacts, including polar melts, record hot weather, rogue storms, and ocean level rises.</p>
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As the COVID-19 virus was spreading around the world, deforestation in the world's rainforests rose at an alarming rate, the German arm of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said in a study published on Thursday.
Indonesia Forests Hit Hardest<p>The forests most heavily hit by deforestation in March were in Indonesia, with more than 1,300 square kilometers lost. </p><p>The Democratic Republic of Congo saw the second-largest forest loss with 1,000 square kilometers followed by Brazil with 950 square kilometers.</p><p>The Brazilian non-profit research institute Imazon told news agency DPA that deforestation was up in April as well. The institute recorded a loss of 529 square kilometers in the Amazon in April, a rise of 171% compared to last year.</p>
Tied to COVID-19<p>The WWF says there's ample evidence to suggest the boom in rainforest deforestation is being fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic.</p><p>With stay-at-home orders and strict lockdowns in place in countries around the world, authorities haven't been able to patrol nature preserves and indigenous territories as often — a situation that criminal organizations and illegal loggers have been using to their advantage.</p><p>The virus has also prompted massive job losses in many countries, leaving many newly-unemployed people increasingly desperate for sources of income.</p>
By John C. Cannon
Change. That's what Monica Yongol has seen in her 54 years. In that time, the loggers and then the oil palm companies have moved into the remote corner of Papua New Guinea where she raised her family, altering the contours of the society she knew.
Fresh produce at the Kokopo market. John C. Cannon / Mongabay
East New Britain province has lost nearly 9% of its tree cover since 2001, and deforestation has accelerated since then, according to satellite data from the University of Maryland. The inset shows logging roads proliferating around the town of Pomio on Jacquinot Bay. To the northeast, in East Pomio rural local-level government on Wide Bay, deforestation for timber and oil palm has seeped inland. Source: Hansen/UMD/Google/USGS/NASA/Planet Labs, accessed through Global Forest Watch on May 13, 2020.
The Connection Between Violence and Deforestation<p>Around the world, the "colonial" approach aimed at extracting valuable resources has destroyed "traditional and customary social relations" in local communities, Jeanette Sequeira, vice director and gender program coordinator at the Global Forest Coalition, said in a telephone interview.</p><p>"Often, this is in the land of indigenous peoples and local communities where there's already insecure land tenure," she said. "When you have corporations coming in and occupying these lands, there's just total loss of governance."</p><p>Global Forest Coalition and its more than 100 member organizations around the world have studied the interplay between gender and forest loss around the world. While the context of each local situation is unique, Sequeira said that the coalition's partners have seen the impact that forest loss can have on the most vulnerable members of society. In many cases, that means women.</p><p>"Deforestation and climate change and environmental degradation do lead to an increase in violence against women," Sequeira said. "I think that's a claim we can make more and more."</p><p>Along with the evaporation of the trees, the rights of women to determine what happens to the land they depend on have likewise vanished, Monica Yongol said, as the other women in the room nodded in agreement. The changes have jolted their communities. They've made it harder to provide for their families. And problems like teenage pregnancy, drug use and domestic violence in their communities have cropped up that the women say didn't exist before.</p><p>Several argue that the problem is rooted in the silencing of women's voices that's become more common. Yongol recounted a meeting held by a landowner company, a common organizational structure in Papua New Guinea formed by landholders to negotiate with developers, such as logging companies, on behalf of communities.</p><p>A woman at the meeting stood up and asked why the group hadn't informed all of the landowners about what would happen if the outside company interested in their land secured development rights, Yongol said. The tenets of free, prior and informed consent, <a href="http://www.fao.org/indigenous-peoples/our-pillars/fpic/en/" target="_blank">accepted global standards</a> set forth by the United Nations, hold that all community members should be aware of the plans for the land they depend on. In this case, however, the chairman dismissed her comment, telling her that she shouldn't have a say — because she was a woman.</p>
Forest clearance and plantations have crept inland from Wide Bay, an arcing inlet in Pomio District. John C. Cannon / Mongabay
The airstrip at Tokua, south of Kokopo, with still-active volcanoes in the background. John C. Cannon / Mongabay
Cascading Effects<p>Tongne said that these developments often touch off a chain of consequences for women.</p><p>"Once land is sold and taken away from them, there is a greater violence against women," she said, for several reasons. The forests in East New Britain, and indeed many parts of the country, have long served as a storehouse of ready food and supplies. They're essential in times of plenty, and they serve as vital emergency caches when times are tough.</p><p>"If there's a drought, the women know where to find food in the forest," Tongne told me.</p><p>But as logging and industrial agriculture replace forests close to home, women are forced to travel farther to gather food and other resources or to tend their gardens. That time spent on the road is time they're not looking after their homes or raising their children, Tongne said.</p><p>"The men begin to beat them up," she added. "Violence comes about because there is no food on the table."</p><p>On these extended journeys to the forest, women might face the threat of attack from people from other villages or clans, or from the workers brought in from outside communities by the companies.</p><p>Before, "We had a lot of safety and security. We can walk, visit friends, long distances to other villages," said Lucy Teine, a 50-year-old woman from the East Pomio village of Iwai. "But now, with the population that's coming in to work in those developments, that's now a threat for us."</p><p>The fraying of the social fabric exacerbated by outsiders who might harbor different values is a symptom of a larger issue. Foundational blame for these changes lies with the mentalities that colonialism introduced, according to Sequeira.</p><p>While sexism has persisted in many societies around the world, "Indigenous communities had, in many cases, more equitable gender relations before the advent of colonialism," she said. "Women and men had different, respected roles and status in communities."</p>
John Suka, an elected councilor in the East Pomio local-level government, at the Vunapope Catholic Mission. John C. Cannon / Mongabay
A Global Issue<p>The Global Forest Coalition and its partners have been investigating issues like these around the world. They've found that, while the details may change from place to place, there are broad commonalities among the communities affected by land development and extractivism, Sequeira said.</p><p>"We know that these [roles] became eroded as we had colonial administrations and just the complete dispossession and destruction of indigenous identity," she said.</p><p>In Colombia, she said, women and men are supposed to have equal rights to the land. But, "That's not really how it plays out."</p><p>"You still have women who have to ask permission [from] their husbands or partners for being able to use a bit of land to cultivate medicinal herbs and other food for household consumption," Sequeira said.</p><p>In many places — though not everywhere —laws are in place that should protect land rights, including those of women, she added. Where the system falls short is in implementing these statutes. What that means, broadly, is that forests suffer when women don't have a say in land rights.</p><p>"[W]omen play a vital role in forest conservation," Sequeira and her colleagues wrote in a November 2019 blog <a href="https://globalforestcoalition.org/forest-conservation-must-address-violence-against-women/" target="_blank">post</a>. "Women interact daily with forests and other ecosystems, relying on them for household needs and their livelihoods, but also for conservation and restoration."</p>
Several active volcanoes sit just northwest of the town of Kokopo. Tavurvur last erupted in 2014. John C. Cannon / Mongabay
by Rhett A. Butler
Despite the global economic slowdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon appears to be continuing largely unabated with forest clearing over the past 12 months reaching the highest level since monthly data started being released publicly in 2007, according to official data released Friday by the country's national space research institute INPE. Forest loss in Earth's largest rainforest has now risen 13 consecutive months relative to year-earlier figures.
Official Brazilian government data showing annual deforestation (Aug 1-Jul 31 year) in the Brazilian Amazon since 1988.
Amazon rainforest canopy in Brazil. Rhett A. Butler / Mongabay
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By Richard Orange
The harvesting machine takes just one second to fell the towering spruce, and another to strip the branches and scan its trunk for defects.
Demand for Wood<p>According to the latest figures from the <a href="http://www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/1256261/icode/" target="_blank">UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)</a>, global forest production hit record levels in 2018. Up 11% on the year before.</p><p>"We see an increasing demand for almost all of our products," says Göran Örlander, strategist at Södra, Sweden's largest association of forest owners. "The most obvious demand is for biofuels at the moment. Everybody wants to have biofuels to replace fossil fuels."</p><p>The idea is that burning wood becomes close to carbon neutral if the forests from where it is taken are replenished at the same rate as they are felled for fuel.</p><p>But critics question whether this is the case in every country which claims to provide sustainable wood, and say some of what is supplying the current boom in biomass fuels comes from existing forests rather than sustainably managed plantations.</p><p>They also point to the carbon emitted from the soil of cleared forests, and to the emissions created in the felling and processing of wood products.</p>
Not Just for Heating<p>Södra has teamed up with Dutch airline KLM to explore the feasibility of producing jet fuel from forest biomass, and is also working with the Scandinavian airline SAS on plans for a pilot biofuel plant in the north of Sweden.</p><p>Bioplastic packaging — some of which relies on wood fibers — currently makes up just one percent of total plastics production. But that is expected to grow over the coming years. </p><p>Architecture firms are also racing to use cross-laminated timber to replace carbon-intensive concrete and steel, and wood-based fibers now represent about six percent of all textiles.</p><p>The attraction is clear. When wood is used in buildings, for example, carbon is taken out of the carbon cycle and stored for as long as the building stands.</p><p>But according to preliminary findings from a joint United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) and UN Food and Agriculture Organization study into future supply and demand scenarios, even if every effort were made to maximize global forest cover, doubling the use of wood in buildings, furniture and other products would reduce rather than increase the amount of carbon sequestered globally.</p><p><span></span>"The projected increase in wood products carbon in this scenario was not enough to offset the loss in biomass carbon due to increased removals depleting forest stocks," the authors wrote.</p>
The Limits of Wood<p>There are also limits to the use of wood for heat and power.</p><p>Back in 2010, EUwood, a study led by the University of Hamburg warned that "even if all measures for increased wood mobilization" were implemented, by 2020 the European Union's domestic sources would struggle to satisfy wood demands and meet renewable energy targets.</p><p>By 2018 the EU was already supplementing its wood pellet consumption with imports to the tune of eight million tons. And some conservationists argue member states' use of biomass is driving deforestation and boosting carbon dioxide levels.</p><p>But at Växjö Energy, a Swedish heat and power plant, which became a 100 percent biomass facility in December, chief executive Erik Tellgren is not worried about supply. He says forest owners currently leave most of the branches and tops of trees they cut down to rot.</p><p>"There is still a potential of at least twice the amount of residue streams in the forest today that is simply left there," he says. </p>
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$3 Million and an Official Apology: Brazil’s Ashaninka Get Unprecedented Compensation for Deforestation on Their Land
By Naira Hofmeister, Translated by Matt Rinaldi
- An unprecedented court settlement guaranteed reparations to the Ashaninka people of the state of Acre, in the Brazilian Amazon, whose lands were deforested in the 1980s to supply the European furniture industry. The logging company penalized was owned by the family of the current governor of Acre, Gladson Cameli.
- The conflict was resolved through mediation from the Prosecutor General of the Republic, Augusto Aras, after the case had circulated in the courts with no resolution for 20 years.
- The indigenous people only agreed with the negotiation because it included an official apology and a recognition of their "enormous importance as guardians" of the Amazon.
Celebration of the Ashaninka people in the Kampa of the Amônia River Indigenous Reserve, by the Peruvian border. Arison Jardim / The Ashaninka of the Amônia River Association
A Two-Decade Dispute<p>The settlement marks the end of a legal dispute that started in 1996, when the Federal Public Ministry (MPF) brought a Public Civil Action against lumber companies owned by the powerful Cameli family. The same family as the current governor of Acre, Gladson Cameli, and his uncle, Orleir Cameli, who was also governor from 1994 to 1998.</p><p>The Ashaninka prevailed in their initial court case, in appeals courts and also in the Superior Court of Justice (the highest <a href="https://www.wikiwand.com/en/Appellate_court" target="_blank">appellate court</a> in Brazil for non-constitutional questions). But as soon the case reached the federal Supreme Court in 2011, it stalled.</p><p>At an impasse, an extrajudicial settlement was imposed, but it took a year of regular negotiations until both sides accepted the terms of the agreement. "It was a great challenge for everyone, because the negotiation involved large sums and constitutional questions. It required a lot of study, partners and various public authorities to analyze each detail," observes Antônio Rodrigo, attorney for the Ashaninka.</p><p>"This is the first time in the history of Brazilian law that something like this happened. I'm so proud. It was hard, but wonderful," he summarizes.</p><p>According to a <a href="http://www.mpf.mp.br/pgr/noticias-pgr/acordo-historico-garante-reparacao-a-povo-indigena-ashaninka-por-desmatamento-irregular-em-suas-terras" target="_blank">notification posted on the Federal Public Ministry's website</a>, which qualified the result of the negotiation as "historic," Augusto Aras celebrated the enforcement of the constitution, "appreciating that the indigenous people have the guaranteed right to a decent life, to choose their own destiny and take part in political decisions."</p><p>"With this agreement, there is a feeling that we are building a new moment of peace, harmony and, above all, understanding that wounds exist to be healed, not perpetuated," Aras concludes.</p><p>One of the defendants in the case, Abrahão Cândido da Silva, was excluded from the settlement and still faces charges for the deforestation and invasion of the indigenous land. The case is on the <a href="http://www.stf.jus.br/portal/pauta/verTema.asp?id=134777" target="_blank">federal Supreme Court docket for April</a>. In this case, the Supreme Court ministers will decide not only whether to convict the remaining defendant, but also if there is a statute of limitations for claiming compensation for an environmental crime.</p><p>The federal Public Ministry maintains that this environmental damage is indefeasible, meaning it cannot be overturned, as it falls under the "right to life," and that determining a statute of limitations would deny future generations the right to fight for a healthy environment. That thesis was accepted by the Superior Court of Justice, and the Supreme Court review of their decision will take on a status of general repercussion — or, in other words, the ruling will apply to all cases from this point on.</p><p>"This definition will affect hundreds of thousands of cases. To give three recent examples of massive environmental crimes that took place in Brazil: we have Mariana, Brumadinho and, last year, the oil spill in Brazilian waters," asserts the attorney Rodrigo.</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE0NDA1Mi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNzU4MDI3MH0.GGo1eIDplqDP3QMJCcjAvWi3yKP00ETazc8VccYPY_Y/img.jpg?width=980" id="5805e" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="6d074ceed98430a5947fcd7d937d629b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
The Amônia River in the state of Acre. It crosses the indigenous reservation named for it, which is home to the Ashaninka in Brazil. Diego Gurgel / Government of Acre
Acknowledgement of Guilt Was Decisive<p>The R$ 14 million will be paid to the indigenous people in installments over a period of five years. The ultimate beneficiaries of the compensation will be decided annually at an Ashaninka assembly, but it is required to be applied to projects "in defense of the community itself, the Amazon, the indigenous peoples and the peoples of the forest."</p><p>"Our resources will go to maintaining and bringing back our values. We are calling for this region to be increasingly respected and valued, for its products to be placed on the market with added value, which will, in turn, serve to guarantee sustainability. This is what are going to do: we are not going to stop," promises Francisco Piyãko, whose father, Antônio Piyãko, was the man responsible for <a href="http://cpiacre.org.br/conteudo/2020/04/09/reparacao-historica-ao-povo-ashaninka/" target="_blank">reporting the invasion to the world through an open letter published in 1991</a>.</p><p>On top of the damages paid to the Ashaninka, the logging companies will also have to pay R$6 million (US$1.2 million) to the Human Rights Defense Fund as compensation for the harm caused to society as a whole.</p><p>Still, for the Ashaninka, the high point of the settlement with the logging companies was the official apology, contained in the agreement signed by all parties.</p><p>"In the face of all the facts narrated and discussed at length for years in the Courts, (the logging companies) formally extend an official apology to the Ashaninka Community of the Amônia River for all the ills caused, respectfully recognizing the enormous importance of the Ashaninka people as guardians of the forest, dutiful in the preservation of the environment and in the conservation and dissemination of their customs and culture," the settlement states.</p><p>"If there had been no acknowledgement of guilt, the indigenous people would not have taken the deal," asserts Rodrigo, attorney for the Ashaninka.</p><p>According to Piyãko, this moral reparation transcends the financial settlement, symbolizing a victory for all the traditional peoples of Brazil and the world for the usurpation of their lands and traditional ways of life.</p><p>"Many indigenous communities have to see themselves in this acknowledgement, because there are things that cannot be paid in money," comments the Ashaninka leader. "Our intention is for this official apology to be the recognition of an error committed and (a promise) that, from this point on, it will be repeated no longer. And let it serve as a reference for other companies, because some laws and rights must be regarded and respected."</p><img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzE0NDA1My9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzMTI4OTIxN30._J7xanpd8WWUA9UduaoTuIxhnImkUivLSidNpt2Y9VI/img.jpg?width=980" id="438f3" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ba215854fa2adb0418d6a2ab5e4e389d" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
Francico Piyãko in a celebration of the Ashaninka people. Arison Jardim / The Ashaninka of the Amônia River Associatio