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News articles on environment
Mongabay.com news articles on environment in blog format. Updated regularly.
(02/09/2011) December Climate talks in Cancun highlighted the importance of maintaining healthy forests to protect the planet’s most vulnerable people from the consequences of future climate change. Haitians have been glimpsing that future for more than a year after a lack of healthy forests left them vulnerable to other disasters. Here’s a look at the take-home lessons from Haiti’s year of environmental ruin.
Photos: new super tiny frogs discovered in Sri Lanka, one critically endangered
(02/09/2011) Two new incredibly small frogs have been discovered in Sri Lanka, an island nation off India with at least 100 species of frogs. The new frogs are in the genus Pseudophilautus, which are shrub frogs native either to Sri Lanka or India. One of the new species, dubbed Pseudophilautus hankeni, survives only in high mountain forests, and will likely be classified as Critically Endangered. "These species were discovered as a part of a broad amphibian survey that we carried out about 10 years ago in Sri Lanka. In that survey we discovered nearly 100 new species new to science. We are in the process of describing them now," explained Dr. Madhava Meegaskumbura, who participated in the frogs' discovery and formal description, to mongabay.com.
Breakthrough? Controversial palm oil company signs rainforest pact
(02/09/2011) One of the world's highest profile and most controversial palm oil companies, Golden Agri-Resources Limited (GAR), has signed an agreement committing it to protect tropical forests and peatlands in Indonesia. The deal—signed with The Forest Trust, an environmental group that works with companies to improve their supply chains—could have significant ramifications for how palm oil is produced in the country, which is the world's largest producer of palm oil.
7.5 million ha of Indonesian forest slated for clearing
(02/09/2011) 7.5 million hectares of natural forest will escape Indonesia's planned moratorium on new forestry concessions, according to a new report from Greenomics Indonesia, an activist group.
Rising land, food prices cause recognition of indigenous peoples' rights to stagnate
(02/09/2011) Rising food, energy, and mineral prices, coupled with new interest in forests for their carbon-storing capacity, are driving a global land grab that threatens the rights of hundreds of millions of people living in and around tropical forests, argues a new report published by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI).
First validated REDD forest carbon credits issued
(02/09/2011) A conservation project in Kenya has become the first to win validation for REDD credits under the Voluntary Carbon Standard.
Half a million people sign petition against Belo Monte, Brazilian mega-dam
(02/08/2011) In a protest today in Brasilia, Brazil, indigenous people delivered a petition to authorities signed by 500,000 people calling on them to cancel the controversial Belo Monte dam. They hope the petition, organized by online activist group Avaaz, will help convince Brazil's new president, Dilma Rousseff, to cancel the project. However, actions by Brazil's first female president have pushed the dam forward.
Another low record for Arctic ice in January
(02/08/2011) The extent of ice cover in the Arctic for January was the lowest on record, following another record-low in December for that month, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC).
Monitoring deforestation: an interview with Gilberto Camara, head of Brazil's space agency INPE
(02/08/2011) Perhaps unsurprisingly, the world's best deforestation tracking system is found in the country with the most rainforest: Brazil. Following international outcry over immense forest loss in the 1980s, Brazil in the 1990s set in motion a plan to develop a satellite-based system for tracking changes in forest cover. In 2003 Brazil made the system available to the world via its web site, providing transparency on an issue that was until then seen as a badge of shame by some. Since then Brazil has become recognized as the standard-bearer for deforestation tracking and reporting—no other country offers the kind of data Brazil provides. Space engineer Gilberto Camara has overseen much of INPE's earth sensing work and during his watch, INPE has released several new exciting capabilities.
Numerous causes, including climate change, behind record food prices
(02/07/2011) Food prices hit a record high in January according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), threatening the world's poor. Rising 3.4% since December, the FAO stated that prices reached the highest point since the agency began tracking food prices in 1990. Given the complexity of world markets and agriculture, experts have pointed to a number of reasons behind the rise including rising meat and dairy consumption, the commodity boom, fresh water scarcity, soil erosion, biofuels, growing human population, and a warming world that has exacerbated extreme weather events like last year's heatwave in Russia.
Arctic fish catch vastly underreported (by hundreds of thousands of metric tons) for 5 decades
(02/07/2011) From 1950 to 2006 the United Nation Food and Agriculture Agency (FAO) estimated that 12,700 metric tons of fish were caught in the Arctic, giving the impression that the Arctic was a still-pristine ecosystem, remaining underexploited by the world's fisheries. However, a recent study by the University of British Colombia Fisheries Center and Department of Earth and Ocean Sciences throws cold water on this widespread belief. According to the study, published in Polar Biology, the total Arctic catch from 1950 to 2006 is likely to have been nearly a million metric tons, almost 75 times the FAO's official record.
The ocean crisis: hope in troubled waters, an interview with Carl Safina
(02/07/2011) Being compared—by more than one reviewer—to Henry Thoreau and Rachel Carson would make any nature writer's day. But add in effusive reviews that compare one to a jazz musician, Ernest Hemingway, and Charles Darwin, and you have a sense of the praise heaped on Carl Safina for his newest work, The View from Lazy Point: A Natural Year in an Unnatural World. Like Safina's other books, The View from Lazy Point focuses on the beauty, poetry, and crisis of the world's oceans and its hundreds-of-thousands of unique inhabitants. Taking the reader on a journey around the world—the Arctic, Antarctic, and the tropics—Safina always returns home to take in the view, and write about the wildlife of his home, i.e. Lazy Point, on Long Island. While Safina's newest book addresses the many ways in which the ocean is being degraded, depleted, and ultimately imperiled as a living ecosystem (such as overfishing and climate change) it also tweezes out stories of hope by focusing on how single animals survive, and in turn how nature survives in an increasingly human world. However, what makes Safina's work different than most nature writing is his ability to move seamlessly from contemporary practical problems to the age-old philosophical underpinnings that got us here. By doing so, he points a way forward.
Bushmeat trade pushing species to the edge in Tanzania
(02/06/2011) Hunters are decimating species in the Uzungwa Scarp Forest Reserve, a part of the Eastern Arc Mountains in Southern Tanzania, according to a new report compiled by international and Tanzanian conservationists. Incorporating three research projects, the report finds that bushmeat hunting in conjunction with forest degradation imperils the ecology of the protected area.
New Caledonia's forests are second most threatened in the world, not New Zealand's
(02/06/2011) On February 2nd, Conservation International (CI) released a list of the world's top 10 most threatened forest hotspots. The original press release incorrectly named New Zealand as number two, when in fact it is the island of New Caledonia and the surrounding East Melanesian islands.
Chief financier of Belo Monte dam ties social and environmental requirements to controversial project
(02/04/2011) The Brazilian National Development Bank (BNDES) has announced it will not grant a $640 million loan for the hugely controversial Belo Monte dam until 40 social and environmental conditions are met. In response, the company contracted to build the dam, Norte Energia, S.A. (NESA), has stated it may drop the bank's loan altogether and seek less discriminating private funding to start construction. Last week the Brazilian government's environmental agency IBAMA announced that the dam had been granted a partial license, an aberration in Brazilian law, to jumpstart construction. But BNDES also says it will not hand out the loan until a full license is granted.
Report: indigenous people deserve right to refuse big companies
(02/04/2011) As large-scale mining, logging, and plantations threaten indigenous communities worldwide, a new report from the indigenous rights NGO Amazon Watch states that when extractive industries work in indigenous people's territories, the peoples' rights must be respected. The report argues that all indigenous groups have the right to 'free, prior, and informed consent' of any resource extraction occurring on their lands, and that this international standard should be upheld not only for obvious moral reasons, but for sound business.
Environmental groups deny 'conspiracy' claims by Madagascar's acting leader
(02/03/2011) Two environmental groups investigating the illegal rosewood trade flatly rejected claims by Madagascar's acting president that they are involved in a campaign to undermine his rule. Andry Rajoelina, the former mayor of the capital city of Antananarivo who assumed power following civil strife in March 2009, claimed last month in an interview with Revue de l’océan Indien that the London-based Global Witness and the Washington D.C.-based Environmental Investigation Agency were attempting to sully his image through their undercover investigation into the rosewood trade. The groups found evidence suggesting that Rajoelina was involved in rosewood trafficking. The evidence included video footage of Chinese rosewood traders claiming to deal directly with Rajoelina.
Sarawak's last nomad: indigenous leader and activist, Along Sega, dies
(02/03/2011) Along Sega never knew exactly how old he was, but when he passed away yesterday in a hospital far from the forest where he born, he was likely in his 70s. Leader among the once-nomadic hunter and gatherer Penan people of Borneo and mentor to Swiss activist, Bruno Manser, Along Sega will be remembered for his work to save the Penan's forest—and their lifestyle and culture—from logging companies, supported by the Sarawak government and provided muscle by the state police.
January in Review: Insect burgers, rainforest destruction for paper, and Genghis Khan's climate impact
(02/03/2011) A review of mongabay.com's January 2011 stories.
Two massive droughts evidence that climate change is 'playing Russian roulette' with Amazon
(02/03/2011) In 2005 the Amazon rainforest underwent a massive drought that was labeled a one-in-100 year event. The subsequent die-off of trees from the drought released 5 billion tons of CO2. Just five years later another major drought struck. The 2010 drought, which desiccated entire rivers, may have been even worse according to a new study in Science, adding on-the-ground evidence to fears that climate change may inevitably transform the world's greatest rainforest.
Forest carbon conservation project launched in Arkansas
(02/03/2011) The United States may not have capped its national greenhouse gas emissions, but the US state of California did cap its state emissions – and voters there seconded the state’s decision when they rejected Proposition 23, which would have all but killed cap-and-trade. The end of Prop 23 could mean the beginning of a great experiment to see if people in the United States can make money by doing good. This carbon fund is betting on a positive outcome.
Brazilian mining giant buys Amazon palm oil company
(02/03/2011) Vale, a Brazilian mining giant, will buy palm oil producer Biopalma da Amazonia SA Reflorestamento Industria & Comercio, reports Bloomberg.
Paradise & Paradox: a semester in Ecuador
(02/02/2011) A semester abroad is an opportunity to live a sort of compacted life. In a few short months you seem to gain the experience of a much longer time and make enough memories to fill years. I recall a weeklong trip to the Alvord Desert with a field biology class from Portland Community College: the adventure of living out of a van, conducting research, and experiencing a place with classmates turned colleagues and professors turned friends who knew the desert like the backs of their hands. In that regard, it had a lot in common with my semester in Ecuador, but I can't think of anything that could have prepared me for a four month stay in a small South American country that I knew very little about.
Forest loss slows as UN marks 'International Year of Forests'
(02/02/2011) Forests are a key part toward the shift toward a 'greener' economy said a cadre of U.N. officials as the body officially launched its International Year of Forests to highlight the global importance of forests. To mark the beginning of the International Year of Forests, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) released The State of the World's Forests (SOFO), a report that comes out every two years and assesses the status of global forest resources.
Scientists: road through Serengeti would likely end wildebeest migration
(02/02/2011) A new study finds that a proposed road cutting through Serengeti National Park would likely have devastating consequences for one of the world's last great migrations. According to the study the road itself could lead to a 35% loss in the famed park's migrating wildebeest herd, essentially cutting the herd down by over half a million animals. Despite such concerns, and the availability of an alternative route that would bypass the Serengeti plains altogether, the Tanzanian government has stated it is going ahead with the controversial road.
From Cambodia to California: the world's top 10 most threatened forests
(02/02/2011) Growing populations, expanding agriculture, commodities such as palm oil and paper, logging, urban sprawl, mining, and other human impacts have pushed many of the world's great forests to the brink. Yet scientists, environmentalists, and even some policymakers increasingly warn that forests are worth more standing than felled. They argue that by safeguarding vulnerable biodiversity, sequestering carbon, controlling erosion, and providing fresh water, forests provide services to humanity, not to mention the unquantifiable importance of having wild places in an increasingly human-modified world. Still, the decline of the world's forests continues: the FAO estimating that around 10 million hectares of tropical forest are lost every year. Of course, some of these forests are more imperiled than others, and a new analysis by Conservation International (CI) has catalogued the world's 10 most threatened forests.
Woman turns home bird sanctuary into effort to save rare birds
(02/02/2011) Twelve percent of the world's species are considered threatened with extinction according to the IUCN Red List, the authority on such matters. While habitat destruction and alien invasive species bear the brunt of the responsibility, the commercial pet trade has contributed to the decline of some of the world's most beautiful species. But with several species on the brink of extinction in the wild, captive-breeding efforts have taken on new significance. Now a San Francisco Bay Area resident is working to take such efforts to a new level. Michele Raffin is at the forefront of the new wave of bird breeders who believe that unless some of these birds are bred for conservation purposes, they will die out both in the wild and in captivity.
Indonesia set to clear 3 million ha of rainforest in New Guinea
(02/01/2011) Indonesia's Ministry of Forestry has approved conversion of some 3 million hectares of natural forest in Papua province, on the island of New Guinea, according to new analysis by Greenomics Indonesia, an environmental group.
Organizations unite against plan to open Turkey's protected areas to development
(02/01/2011) Last week nearly 200 Turkish organizations banded together to protest a draft law by the government to open up Turkey's protected areas to development. A combination of environmental, health, education, and human rights groups joined outside the Turkish Parliament with signs stating, 'We Won't Give You Anatolia', another name for the region.
Illegal mining, plantation development rampant in Indonesian Borneo; state losses top $17B
(02/01/2011) Hundreds of mining and oil palm plantation companies are operating illegally in Indonesian Borneo, according to a investigation by an task force set up by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.
Cell phone cameras help monitor atmospheric black carbon
(02/01/2011) Tracking those giant footprints in the Himalayas just became a whole lot easier. Cell phone cameras bring the microscopic air pollutants forming that carbon footprint into plain view. In a study from the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, UC San Diego, V. Ramanathan and his colleagues use photographs of a quartz filter captured with a simple cell phone camera to monitor local atmospheric levels of black carbon.
Malaysian palm oil producers destroying Borneo peat forests faster than ever before
(02/01/2011) Peatlands and rainforests in Malaysia's Sarawak state on the island of Borneo are being rapidly destroyed for oil palm plantations, according to new studies by environmental group Wetlands International and remote sensing institute Sarvision. The analysis shows that more than one third (353,000 hectares or 872,000 acres) of Sarawak's peatswamp forests and ten percent of the state's rainforests were cleared between 2005 and 2010. About 65 percent of the area was converted for oil palm, which is replacing logging as timber stocks have been exhausted by unsustainable harvesting practices.
Record high fish consumption keeps populations imperiled
(02/01/2011) More people than ever are eating more fish than ever, according to a new report by the United Nations covering the year 2008. At the same time, fish populations in the world's oceans continue to decline threatening marine ecosystems, food security, and the fishing industry itself.
After another ranger killed, Virunga National Park requests UN peacekeepers
(02/01/2011) Less than a week after 3 wildlife rangers and 5 soldiers were killed in Virunga National Park by the rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), another ranger has been killed and a driver put in the hospital in critical condition. The situation has pushed park authorities to request UN peacekeepers for the park.
World Bank offers to save Serengeti from bisecting road
(01/31/2011) The World Bank has offered to help fund an alternative route for a planned road project that would otherwise cut through Tanzania's world famous Serengeti National Park, according to the German-based NGO Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union (NABU). When announced last year, the road project raised protests from environmentalists, scientists, and Tanzanian tour companies, but the Tanzanian government refused to shift plans to an alternative southern route for the road, thereby bypassing the park.
Incredible new photos of uncontacted tribe in the Amazon
(01/31/2011) Taken by Brazil's Indian Affairs Department and released by indigenous-rights group, Survival International, new aerial photos show an uncontacted tribe on the border of Brazil and Peru in detail. According to a press release by Survival International, the photos "reveal a thriving, healthy community with baskets full of manioc and papaya fresh from their gardens", but a community that is also threatened by illegal loggers from Peru.
'Land grab' fears in Africa legitimate
(01/31/2011) A new report by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) has found that recent large-scale land deals in Africa are likely to provide scant benefit to some of the world's poorest and most famine-prone nations and will probably create new social and environmental problems. Analyzing 12 recent land leasing contracts investigators found a number of concerns, including contracts that are only a few pages long, exclusion of local people, and in one case actually giving land away for free. Many of the contracts last for 100 years, threatening to separate local communities from the land they live on indefinitely. "Most contracts for large-scale land deals in Africa are negotiated in secret," explains report author Lorenzo Cotula in a press release. "Only rarely do local landholders have a say in those negotiations and few contracts are publicly available after they have been signed."
Camera trap photos: big mammals survive in fragmented forest in Borneo
(01/30/2011) Camera trap photos taken in the fragmented forest along the Kinabatangan River in Borneo have revealed a number of key mammal species surviving despite forest loss mostly due to expanding palm oil plantations. The photos are apart of a recent program to monitor carnivores along the Kinabatangan River in the Malaysian state of Sabah by the Danau Girang Field Center (DGFC), the NGO HUTAN, Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit (WildCRU), and the Sabah Wildlife Department.
Scientists to document impact of converting rainforest into oil palm plantations
(01/30/2011) Scientists have partnered with one of the world's largest palm oil producers to measure the impact of converting tropical forest into an oil palm plantation, reports Nature News.
The other side of Cancun: progress
(01/30/2011) Two big events happened in Cancun. The first was the Conference of the Parties (COP) which dealt with negotiations on the future of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This is the official COP's annual event. The results were limited considering the urgency and the severity of global climate change. Not many surprises, unfortunately. The other event could be called 'Global Conference on Climate Changes and Sustainable Development.' There were several discussions, symposiums, workshops and meetings which were held in hotels all over Cancun. Formally these events are known as 'side-events' at COP.
Forest week in review: African wildlife collapse, greenwashing, and a big dam
(01/29/2011) A review of stories this week on mongabay.com
Obama's State of the Union salmon joke highlights complexity of coastal ecosystem services
(01/29/2011) U.S. President Barack Obama told his now-famous salmon joke on Tuesday to illustrate the silliness of unnecessarily complex regulation, but the joke says more about the complexity of coastal ecosystems – and the challenge of keeping them intact in the face of growing development – than it does about regulatory dysfunction. It's a challenge that must – and can – be met by getting the private sector involved in protecting the nature along our coasts.
Africa's vanishing wild: mammal populations cut in half
(01/27/2011) The big mammals for which Africa is so famous are vanishing in staggering numbers. According to a study published last year: Africa's large mammal populations have dropped by 59% in just 40 years. But what is even more alarming was that the study only looked at mammal populations residing in parks and wildlife areas, i.e. lands that are, at least on paper, under governmental protection. Surveying 78 protected areas for 69 species, the study included global favorites such as the African elephant, giraffes, zebra, wildebeest, and even Africa's feline king, the lion. "We weren’t surprised that populations had dropped but we were surprised by how large the drops had been," lead author Ian Craigie told mongabay.com in an interview.
Despite fierce opposition, work begins on Belo Monte dam
(01/27/2011) Arguably the most opposed dam project in the world received the go-ahead this week, reports the BBC. Brazil's environmental agency, IBAMA, has approved the first step of the massive hydroelectric project: clearing 588 acres of rainforest in the Amazon, although the dam would flood nearly 200 square miles (500 square kilometers) of forest.
Rainforests are a source of philanthropy in Indonesia
(01/27/2011) There is nothing special about the assistance APP has provided to the people of Yogyakarta province in the vicinity of Mount Merapi. For APP, Indonesian forests have acted as philanthropists for many years, subsidizing its raw materials by providing it with free timber from the country’s natural forests. Greenomics Indonesia data (2010) shows that the value of subsidized timber provided by the Indonesian state to APP amounted to at least USD1.5 billion between 2003 and 2009.
Habitat for Humanity partners with controversial logging company in Indonesia
(01/27/2011) Habitat for Humanity's Indonesian affiliate has partnered with Asia Pulp & Paper, a controversial logging company that has been accused by human rights organizations and environmental groups of exacerbating social conflict and destroying rainforests, to build a "eco-tourism village" near a famous cultural heritage site on the island of Java.
Nike and Kimberly-Clark lead the corporate pack on forest sustainability
(01/27/2011) Forest Footprint Disclosure (FFD), which asks international companies to reveal their impact on forests around the world, has released their second review. From biofuels to travel to media, FFD named corporate leaders in 19 categories, including Kimberly Clark for Personal-Household products and Nike for Clothing, Accessories and Footwear.
Is Obama's clean energy revolution possible?
(01/26/2011) Last night US President Barack Obama called for a massive green energy make-over of the world's largest economy. Describing the challenge as 'this generation's Sputnik moment' the US president set a goal of producing 80 percent of America's energy by clean sources by 2035. While this may sound improbable, two recent analyses back the president up, arguing that a global clean energy revolution is entirely possible within a few decades using contemporary technology and without breaking the bank. "Based on our findings, there are no technological or economic barriers to converting the entire world to clean, renewable energy sources," Mark Z. Jacobson, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Stanford said in a press release. "It is a question of whether we have the societal and political will."
Egyptian jackal is actually ancient wolf
(01/26/2011) The Egyptian jackal, which may have been the inspiration for the Egyptian god Anubis, is actually not a jackal at all but a member of the wolf family. New genetic research in the open-access journal PLoS ONE finds that the Egyptian jackal is Africa's only member of the gray wolf family. The new wolf, dubbed by researchers as the African wolf, is most closely related to the Himalayan wolf.
Tiny bats trade in caves for pitcher plants in Borneo
(01/26/2011) A tiny species of bat in Borneo has chosen an unusual roost: a carnivorous pitcher plant, according to a recent study. The study examines how this behavior actually benefits both the bats and the plants, creating a symbiotic relationship.
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