Joe Catron, Mint Press News
As deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest reaches the highest level in a decade, the rainforest’s indigenous peoples and their supporters have called for action against the political and business interests they blame for a spike in illegal logging and other resource extraction.
A report released by Amazon Watch as part of its ongoing “Complicity in Destruction” campaign aims not only to spotlight the role of North American and Western European financiers, importers, and traders in the ongoing destruction of the Amazon, but also to mobilize support for a boycott launched by the National Indigenous Mobilization (MNI) against the Brazilian agribusiness and mining interests encroaching on the threatened region. The report says:
“The MNI requests solidarity from the international community to support these efforts, which aim to leverage global markets in order to moderate the behavior of the agroindustrial sector, as a means to halt [Brazil President Jair] Bolsonaro’s assault, ultimately protecting and restoring environmental safeguards and human rights.”
Christian Poirier, Amazon Watch’s Program Director, told MintPress News that the inauguration of right-wing strongman Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s president on January 1 lent fresh urgency to the campaign.
“Bolsonaro has overseen the most significant rollback of, and full-on assault on, human rights and environmental protection in Brazil since the fall of the country’s military dictatorship and the reinstallation of democracy in 1985,” Poirier said, adding:
“He’s hearkening back to an era of rampant environmental destruction and rights abuses that some would call genocide of indigenous peoples, by attacking socio-environmental policy that is responsible for indigenous land rights, that is responsible for the protection of forests in the country, and he’s doing so at a very rapid pace.”
Among his first moves as president, Bolsonaro stripped Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) of its authority to create new reserves for indigenous nations and transferred control of both it and the country’s forest service to its agriculture ministry.
“Human rights abuses and environmental rollbacks”
Satellite data released by INPE, Brazil’s space agency, earlier this month showed the clear-cutting of 285 square miles, or 739 square kilometers, of the Amazon in May, the highest level of deforestation in a decade and more than twice the rate two years ago.
Observers cite an escalation in illegal logging and land theft during the Bolsonaro administration, with the first raid on an indigenous reserve occurring December 30, two days before Bolsonaro took office.
Poirier added that the MNI campaign intended to target corporate interests culpable not only for their own abuses, but also for Bolsonaro’s presidency:
“The ‘Complicity in Destruction’ campaign works to pressure the most important sectors in Brazil’s economy — which are also responsible for human-rights abuses and environmental rollbacks, and also bringing Jair Bolsonao to power.
By targeting these sectors, we also intend to influence the behavior of the Bolsonaro regime, because we are targeting a strategic economic actor that is also a strategic political actor behind Bolsonaro’s rise to power, and that is responsible for his socio-environmental policy.”
In April, Bolsonaro — who once paid a fine of $2,500 for illegally fishing in a forested coastal reserve — announced the dissolution of Brazil’s National Council of the Environment (CONOMA), a government body with over 100 members, including independent representatives of environmental groups, tasked with protecting the Amazon.
He proposed replacing it with a new committee of six: Ricardo Salles, his nominee for environment minister and a close ally, along with five other presidential appointees. Poirier noted:
“These are a wish list of Brazil’s agribusiness sector and its mining sector, to penetrate into protected areas, and that’s precisely what Bolsonaro’s doing, to the detriment of the human rights of indigenous peoples and traditional peoples in the Amazon, and to the detriment of global climatic stability.”
As one of the world’s largest non-oceanic “carbon sinks,” the Amazon plays a significant role in tempering climate change, absorbing a large — though declining — amount of the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide, while also emitting 20% of its oxygen.
“By ‘worst actors,’ I’m talking about environmental criminals”
Despite their staunch backing of Bolsonaro and the ruralista caucus supporting him from within Brazil’s Congress, the companies profiled by Amazon Watch had achieved notoriety well before Bolsonaro’s rise to power. Poirier told MintPress:
“He specific corporate targets in the report are commodity importers, traders, and financial institutions that are doing business with the worst actors in Brazil’s agro-industrial sector.”
By ‘worst actors,’ I’m talking about environmental criminals, those who have been found guilty and fined by Brazil’s environmental agency, Ibama, for environmental crimes ranging from illegal deforestation, to improper paperwork for wood, to even slave labour in their supply chains, since 2017.”
While an earlier report also analysed Brazilian mining interests and their international ties, the most recent focuses on agribusiness, particularly its beef, soy, leather, timber and sugar sectors. Poirier stated:
“The corporate actors internationally — the 27 importing companies and commodity traders that we list, and the dozens of financial institutions — are essentially enabling the behavior of these actors, which we consider to be emblematic behavior of these industries.”
Through their campaign, Poirier added, Amazon Watch and the MNI hope to “call on these companies to become agents to moderate the behavior of the worst actors, which is to say that they should carry out their own due diligence with their supply chains, and cut ties with the worst actors.”
About the Author
Joe Catron is a MintPress News contributing journalist. He covers Palestine and Israel and other human rights issues. Catron has written frequently for Electronic Intifada and Middle East Eye, and co-edited The Prisoners’ Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts by detainees freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange.
This article (Report Shows Corporations and Bolsonaro Teaming Up to Destroy the Amazon) was originally published at Mint Press News and is re-posted here with permission.
This Rainbow River In Colombia Has The Most Amazing Colors In The World
Welcome to the most colourful river of the world. Rainbows are jealous of the beauty of Caño Cristales.
Caño Cristales is a vividly coloured river found in Colombia’s Meta region, in South America. It is commonly known as the “River of Five Colors” or the “Liquid Rainbow,” and when you are first confronted with its breath-taking beauty, you immediately know that these names are by no means an exaggeration.
During the peak season, Caño Cristales sports vivid colours including black, blue, green, yellow and red, the last caused by Macarenia clavigera plants. The river is said to contain no fish, and it is situated in a mountainous region with nearby grasslands. The total length of Caño Cristales is 100 kilometres (62 miles) and it lies in the Serrania de la Macarena National Park.
Caño Cristales is a fast-flowing river with many rapids and waterfalls. Small circular pits known as giant’s kettles can be found in many parts of the riverbed, which have been formed by pebbles or chunks of harder rocks. Once one of these harder rock fragments falls into one of the cavities, it is rotated by the water current and begins to carve at the cavity wall, increasing the dimensions of the pit.
The river is home to a wide variety of aquatic plants. Its water is extremely clear due to the lack of nutrients and small particles – which also explain the absence of fish. Almost unique is the bright red – pink coloration of riverbed after the rainy period in the end of June – November, caused by the endemic plant species Macarenia clavígera.
The colours of Caño Cristales reach their peak some weeks between June and December, and this is the best time to visit. The river is in a remote area and can only be accessed by aircraft, then boat, and even then, a hike is required.
Tourists were unable to visit Caño Cristales for 20 years, from 1989 to 2008, mainly due to guerrilla warfare in the area, but also because of the potential negative effect they would have on the habitat. However, visitors have been able to tour the area since 2009 with authorised tourism companies.
Caño Cristales is among the most beautiful rivers on earth. National Geographic quotes that the river seems to have been from “The Garden of Eden” (Spanish: Paraíso), and yes, it is definitely true.
Reforestation Drones Will Plant 40,000 Trees This Month With 1 Billion Goal Set for 2028
A Canadian startup has set the lofty goal of using drones to plant a billion trees by 2028. The company hopes to revolutionize reforestation.
(TMU) – As the world continues to witness warming climate conditions, there has been a frightful uptick in massive wildfires from California to the Amazon rainforest and the Australian bush.
And as the world’s forests burn to the ground, this creates a dilemma not only for wildlife habitats but also for us humans – because trees help absorb and store carbon dioxide, they are one of our basic lines of defence against global warming.
However, a Canadian startup has set the lofty goal of using drones to plant a billion trees by 2028 – and in the process, the company hopes to revolutionize the manner in which the process of reforestation is tackled.
Flash Forest plans to deploy its revolutionary new technology to identify the best planting sites on fire-scorched land just north of Toronto where it can begin firing specially designed seedpods into the ground. The pods consist of germinated seeds, fertilizer, and a proprietary blend of “secret” ingredients, according to Newsweek.
A spray drone would then cover the area with nutrients such as nitrogen, helping the seedlings to grow, before mapping drones are sent later to monitor progress.
The company hopes to plant at least 40,000 trees in the Toronto region this month alone. Later this year, Flash Forest will also plant up to 300,000 trees in Hawaii.
And while people are capable of planting around 1,500 seed pods by hands, per day – requiring a hectic pace, without a doubt – Flash Forest’s drone solutions are apparently capable of planting 10,000 to 20,000 at present, with the company hoping to eventually be able to plant 100,000 a day.
And not only is the process far less intensive in terms of manual labour required, but it’s also far cheaper at around 50 cents per seed pod – about 20% cheaper than traditional planting techniques.
According to a study published in the journal Science, planting about a billion trees across the globe could remove two-thirds of all carbon dioxide emissions worldwide—approximately 25% of the CO2 in the atmosphere—creating a vast natural means to trap and store the emissions in an affordable and politically non-controversial manner.
The company claims that its drones can sharply increase the speed and efficiency of planting trees. The company said:
“Flash Forest is a reforestation company that can plant at 10 times the normal rate and at 20% of the cost of traditional tree planting techniques.
With drone engineering, we bring new levels of accuracy, precision and speed to the reforestation industry.”
The world faces a shrinking window of time in which to tackle the problem of heat-trapping emissions, with researchers warning that rampant and accelerating hot conditions across the world could exceed the worst-case scenarios previously forecast by climate experts – giving added impetus to mitigation efforts.
Flash Forest co-founder and chief strategy officer Angelique Ahlstrom said that’s where its drones can be a crucial part of such a strategy. She told Fast Company:
“There are a lot of different attempts to tackle reforestation. But despite all of them, they’re still failing, with a net loss of 7 billion trees every year.”
Ahlstrom notes that it’s not possible to combat deforestation by planting trees alone – however, Flash Forest’s state-of-the-art hardware using mapping drones and pneumatic-powered firing devices that shoot pods deep into the soil can be an asset in the cause.
Continuing, she said:
“It allows you to get into trickier areas that human planters can’t.”
Each planting will also consist of four species and eventually eight – covering an aspect of mass tree-planting that similar initiatives have overlooked in the past. Ahlstrom said:
“We very much prioritize biodiversity, so we try to plant species that are native to the land as opposed to monocultures.
We work with local seed banks and also take into account that the different changes that climate change brings with temperature rise, anticipating what the climate will be like in five to eight years when these trees are much older and have grown to a more mature stage, and how that will affect them.”
According to their website, they’ve so far planted 469 White Spruce, 344 White Pine, around 327 Blue Spruce, 225 Red Maple, 790 White Birch, 621 Sugar Maple, 131 Douglas Fir, and 199 Balsam.
And with researchers claiming that the Earth has room for over 1 trillion additional trees that can be planted across the globe, Flash Forest could help change the way any worldwide planting initiative would take shape. For Ahlstrom, it’s pretty simple math. She said:
“I think that drones are absolutely necessary to hit the kind of targets that we’re saying are necessary to achieve some of our carbon sequestration goals as a global society (and) when you look at the potential for drones, we plant 10 times faster than humans.”
The ‘Underwater Waterfall’ Illusion At Mauritius Island
Mauritius is an island nation in the Indian Ocean about 2,000 kilometres (1,200 miles) off the southeast coast of the African continent. Mauritius was first discovered by the Arabs in 975 AD, then by the Portuguese between 1507 and 1513. Since then there have been periods of succession and colonization between the French, Dutch and British. The island gained independence in 1968 and became a republic in 1992.
Located at the Southwestern tip of the island you will find a fascinating illusion. When viewed from above, a runoff of sand and silt deposits creates the impression of an ‘underwater waterfall. Satellite views (as seen in the Google Maps screenshots below) are equally dramatic, as an underwater vortex seemingly appears off the coast of this tropical paradise.
Towering high above is Le Morne Brabant, a basaltic monolith with a summit 556 m (1,824 ft) above sea level. The summit covers an area of over 12 hectares (30 acres) and is situated on Le Morne Brabant peninsula. The area (Le Morne Cultural Landscape) is recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Recently, videographer ReubenMRU flew his drone high above the island to show what Le Morne Brabant and the nearby ‘underwater waterfall’ look like from above.
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With Tourists Gone, Australian Scuba Tours Are Planting Coral On Great Barrier Reef Instead
This is awesome!
(TMU) — As Australia’s tourism has come to a crashing halt following the back-to-back tragedies of an unprecedented bushfire season and the coronavirus pandemic, tourism companies are volunteering their time, labour and resources to give back to the ocean environment.
Family-owned diving tour company Passions of Paradise is one such company hoping to nurture and heal the coastal environment by planting coral on the Great Barrier Reef off Australia’s coast, which has been reeling in recent years due to the devastating impact of human activities.
Passions of Paradise CEO Scott Garden told Karryon that the eco-tourism company has donated an advanced multi-hulled catamaran, the Passions III, as well as fuel and volunteers to the Coral Nurture Program, which was initiated by the tourism industry and scientific community of Australia to bring life back to the Great Barrier Reef.
“We have been assisting Dr. David Suggett’s team from the University of Technology Sydney who is conducting reef resilience research at one of our 26 reef sites.
“I have been working with Passions of Paradise Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Russell Hosp at the site most weeks recording data for the project and establishing a coral nursery.”
The expansive Great Barrier Reef comprises about 2,900 reefs and 900 islands. It is home to an incredible array of fish, shrimp, and various other reef denizens.
In recent years, dead coral reefs have become one of the major horrors resulting from the impact of human economic activities, with thousands of miles of coral ecosystem across the globe being transformed into bleached-out graveyards due to the devastating impact of fast-heating ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, pollution, marine pests, and overfishing.
As a result, the Great Barrier Reef—the largest living structure on the entire planet—has rapidly died off, turning massive amounts of once-dazzling coral reef ecosystems teeming with healthy marine life into dead zones.
The bleaching and eventual death of the Great Barrier Reef would not only spell doom for ocean life, but would also be the final nail in the coffin of Australia’s lucrative eco-tourism industry whose essential “product” is the environment itself.
The danger of a further degradation of the reef ecosystem coincides with a drastic and prolonged pause in international and domestic travel to Far North Queensland, which largely relies on billions of dollars in tourism revenue to keep local restaurants, hotels, and businesses running.
For this reason, five tourism companies—Passions of Paradise, Wavelength, Ocean Freedom, Sailaway, and Quicksilver Cruises—have pledged to use the lull in tourism to help clean up corals and help eliminate harmful pests that pose a threat to reef ecosystems, such as the crown-of-thorns starfish which is responsible for a large amount of coral destruction in the Great Barrier Reef.
Project coordinator and PhD student Lorna Howlett explained:
“The Coral Nurture Program aims to give operators yet another stewardship activity they can do at their reef sites in addition to Crown-of-Thorns eradication and the Eye on Reef monitoring program.”
The program involves volunteers restoring coral that has been fragmented and re-attaching them to reefs using state-of-the-art technology, such as “coral clips.” Howlett continued:
“We can only use fragments of opportunity found at the site, so Passions of Paradise has installed six frames at the site which can be used as a nursery to grow more corals.
“Once they find a coral fragment they attach it to the nursery to grow and as it grows they can take fragments from it to attach to the reef giving them a continual source of new corals.
“The 12-month project finishes next month, however, the operators can continue to operate the nurseries and out plant the corals.”
Passions of Paradise CEO Garden said that 1,000 pieces of coral have been planted so far on Hastings Reef, one of the most popular reefs for travellers that lies about 30 nautical miles from Queensland’s bustling tourist city of Cairns.
Garden hopes that when the crisis subsides, visitors will be able to indulge in a restored and sustainable ocean environment. He said:
“When tours resume passengers will be able to snorkel over the site which boasts healthy marine life and corals near the nursery.”
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