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News articles on environmental politics

Mongabay.com news articles on environmental politics in blog format. Updated regularly.









Economic slowdown leads to the pulping of Latvia's forests

(01/23/2012) The economic crisis has pushed many nations to scramble for revenue and jobs in tight times, and the small Eastern European nation of Latvia is no different. Facing tough circumstances, the country turned to its most important and abundant natural resource: forests. The Latvian government accepted a new plan for the nation's forests, which has resulted in logging at rates many scientists say are clearly unsustainable. In addition, researchers contend that the on-the-ground practices of state-owned timber giant, Latvijas Valsts meži (LVM), are hurting wildlife and destroying rare ecosystems.


Featured video: music in Madagascar to protest illegal logging

(01/22/2012) A new video highlights the plight of Madagascar's protected tropical forests, which are falling prey to illegal logging and foreign contractors. Featuring Razia Said, Malagasy singer and songwriter, the video shows concerts to raise awareness about illegal logging, especially near Maosala National Park.


Brazil begins preliminary damming of Xingu River as protests continue

(01/19/2012) Damming of the Xingu River has begun in Brazil to make way for the eventual construction of the hugely controversial, Belo Monte dam. The Norte Energia (NESA) consortium has begun building coffer dams across the Xingu, which will dry out parts of the river before permanent damming, reports the NGO International Rivers. Indigenous tribes, who have long opposed the dam plans on their ancestral river, conducted a peaceful protest that interrupted construction for a couple hours.


Obama rejects Keystone pipeline, but leaves door open for tar sands

(01/18/2012) The Obama administration today announced it is scrapping TransCanada's Keystone pipeline after Republicans forced a 60-day deadline on the issue in a Congressional rider. The State Department advised against the pipeline arguing that the deadline did not give the department enough time to determine if the pipeline "served the national interest." The cancellation of the pipeline is a victory for environmental and social activists who fought the project for months, but Republicans are blasting the administration.


One company behind U.S.'s top three biggest greenhouse gas emitters

(01/16/2012) The Atlanta-based Southern company owns the top three biggest sources of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S. according to recent data released by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Three of Southern's coal-fired plants—two in Georgia and one in Alabama—account for around 64.74 million metric tons of total greenhouse gas emissions, higher than all of Finland's carbon emission in 2008.


Sarah Laskow: even renewable energy has a dark side

(01/03/2012) Sarah Laskow is a freelance writer who has covered environmental issues for Grist, GOOD, and Newsweek.com, among others. Raised in New Jersey and educated at Yale where she studied literature, Sarah now lives across the river in Manhattan with her partner. She’s done extensive traveling in West Africa, Europe, and Central America. Sarah can be found on twitter as @slaskow.


Small town rises up against deforestation in Pakistan

(01/02/2012) The town of Ayun, home to 16,000 people in the Chitral district of Pakistan, has been rocked by large-scale protests and mass arrests over the issue of corruption and deforestation in recent days. Villagers are protesting forest destruction in the Kalasha Valleys, the home of the indigenous Kalash people.


Ecuador makes $116 million to not drill for oil in Amazon

(01/02/2012) A possibly ground-breaking idea has been kept on life support after Ecuador revealed its Yasuni-ITT Initiative had raked in $116 million before the end of the year, breaking the $100 million mark that Ecuador said it needed to keep the program alive. Ecuador is proposing to not drill for an estimated 850 million barrels of oil in the Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinin (ITT) blocs of Yasuni National Park if the international community pledges $3.6 billion to a United Nations Development Fund (UNDF), or about half of what the oil is currently worth. The Yasuni-ITT Initiative would preserve arguably the most biodiverse region on Earth from oil exploitation, safeguard indigenous populations, and keep an estimated 410 million tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere. However, the initiative is not without its detractors, some arguing the program is little more than blackmail; meanwhile proponents say it could prove an effective way to combat climate change, deforestation, and mass extinction.


Top 10 Environmental Stories of 2011

(12/22/2011) Many of 2011's most dramatic stories on environmental issues came from people taking to the streets. With governments and corporations slow to tackle massive environmental problems, people have begun to assert themselves. Victories were seen on four continents: in Bolivia a draconian response to protestors embarrassed the government, causing them to drop plans to build a road through Tipnis, an indigenous Amazonian reserve; in Myanmar, a nation not known for bowing to public demands, large protests pushed the government to cancel a massive Chinese hydroelectric project; in Borneo a three-year struggle to stop the construction of a coal plant on the coast of the Coral Triangle ended in victory for activists; in Britain plans to privatize forests created such a public outcry that the government not only pulled back but also apologized; and in the U.S. civil disobedience and massive marches pressured the Obama Administration to delay a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring tar sands from Canada to a global market.


Earth systems disruption: Does 2011 indicate the "new normal" of climate chaos and conflict?

(12/21/2011) The year 2011 has presented the world with a shocking increase in irregular weather and disasters linked to climate change. Just as the 2007 "big melt" of summer arctic sea ice sent scientists and environmentalists scrambling to re-evaluate the severity of climate change, so have recent events forced major revisions and updates in climate science.


The other side of the Penan story: threatened tribe embraces tourism, reforestation

(12/19/2011) News about the Penan people is usually bleak. Once nomadic hunter-gatherers of the Malaysian state of Sarawak on Borneo, the indigenous Penan have suffered decades of widespread destruction of their forests and an erosion of their traditional culture. Logging companies, plantation developments, massive dams, and an ambivalent government have all played a role in decimating the Penan, who have from time-to-time stood up to loggers through blockades, but have not been successful in securing recognition of legal rights to their traditional lands. Yet even as the Penan people struggle against the destruction of their homelands, they are not standing still. Several Penan villages have recently begun a large-scale reforestation program, a community tourism venture, and proclaimed their a portion of their lands a "Peace Park."


Is the Russian Forest Code a warning for Brazil?

(12/19/2011) Brazil, which last week moved to reform its Forest Code, may find lessons in Russia's revision of its forest law in 2007, say a pair of Russian scientists. The Brazilian Senate last week passed a bill that would relax some of forest provisions imposed on landowners. Environmentalists blasted the move, arguing that the new Forest Code — provided it is not vetoed by Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff next year — could undermine the country's progress in reducing deforestation.


Media campaign says mercury pollution a pro-life issue

(12/14/2011) While pro-life activists usually target abortion, a new campaign is working to broaden the pro-life message. A $250,000 media campaign in the U.S., including TV spots and radio ads in eight states, hopes to pressure conservative senators to protect unborn children by supporting the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) regulations on mercury emissions from coal-fired plants.


Paper commitments for the Indonesian industry

(12/13/2011) The Indonesian group Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) has been the target of many NGOs for years due to its alleged negative impacts on tropical forests. This culminated in a spectacular campaign launched by Greenpeace in 2011 based on Ken "dumping" Barbie. The rationale was that toy brand Mattel was accused of using APP paper products linked to the clear-cutting of natural forests in the Indonesian archipelago. APP organized a counter-attack in the media with the daily publication of advertisements promoting its sustainable development practices. Journalists from all over the world were also invited to attend guided tours of APP concessions to demonstrate their conservation efforts, and a number of articles were subsequently written.


Harsh words for Canada after it abandons Kyoto Protocol

(12/13/2011) Less than two days after signing on to a "road map" agreement at the UN Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa, Canada has announced it is formally withdrawing from the Kyoto Protocol after failing to meet its emissions pledges. Although not surprising, reaction from other nations and environmental groups was not only swift, but harsh.


Mixed reactions to the Durban agreement

(12/12/2011) Early Sunday morning over 190 of the world's countries signed on to a new climate agreement at the 17th UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Durban, South Africa. The summit was supposed to end on Friday, but marathon negotiations pushed government officials to burn the midnight oil for about 36 extra hours. The final agreement was better than many expected out of the two week summit, but still very far from what science says is necessary to ensure the world does not suffer catastrophic climate change.


Yasuni ITT: the virtues and vices of environmental innovation

(12/07/2011) As the 17th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) is taking place in Durban, Ecuador has embarked on the development of a project presented as highly innovative. This project targets Yasuni National Park, which has been protected since 1979. Yasuni is home to several indigenous peoples and is a biodiversity hotspot. But it so happens that the park also sits atop a vast oil field of 846 million barrels, representing about 20 percent of the country’s oil reserves. The acronym Yasuni ITT stands for Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputinin, which are the names of three potential zones for oil extraction.


Discovery Channel backtracks, promises to air climate change episode of new Frozen Planet series

(12/07/2011) Discovery Channel has announced that it will, in fact, air the last episode of the new series Frozen Planet, which focuses solely on the impact of climate change at the world's poles. By the creators of universally-acclaimed Planet Earth, the full series explores the wildlife and environs of the Arctic and Antarctic, but the Discovery Channel came under fire after it announced it would not air the last episode, called "On Thin Ice", which deals specifically with climate change. A petition on Change.org garnered 75,000 signatures calling on the Discovery Channel to air the full series, before the network caved and announced it would do so.


Current emission pledges will raise temperature 3.5 degrees Celsius

(12/06/2011) New research announced at the 17th UN Climate Summit in Durban, South Africa finds that under current pledges for reducing emissions the global temperature will rise by 3.5 degrees Celsius (6.3 degrees Fahrenheit) from historic levels, reports the AFP. This is nearly double world nations' pledge to keep warming below 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). The report flies in the face of recent arguments by the U.S. and others at Durban that current pledges are adequate through 2020.


Global carbon emissions rise 49 percent since 1990

(12/04/2011) Total carbon emissions for the first time hit 10 billion metric tons (36.7 billion tons of CO2) in 2010, according to new analysis published by the Global Carbon Project (GCP) in Nature Climate Change. In the past two decades (since the reference year for the Kyoto Protocol: 1990), emissions have risen an astounding 49 percent. Released as officials from 190 countries meet in Durban, South Africa for the 17th UN Summit on Climate Change to discuss the future of international efforts on climate change, the study is just the latest to argue a growing urgency for slashing emissions in the face of rising extreme weather incidents and vanishing polar sea ice, among other impacts.


Africa, China call out Canada for climate betrayal

(12/01/2011) Purchasing a full page ad in the Canadian paper the Globe and Mail, a group of African leaders and NGOs is calling on Canada to return to the fold on climate change. Canada has recently all-but-confirmed that after the ongoing 17th UN Summit on Climate Change in Durban, South Africa, it will withdraw entirely from the Kyoto Treaty. The country has missed its targets by a long-shot, in part due to the exploitation of its tar sands for oil, and is increasingly viewed at climate conferences as intractable and obstructive. In the eyes of those concerned about climate change, Canada has gone from hero to villain. Yet notable African activists, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, are pushing back.


Brazil's Forest Code vote delayed

(11/30/2011) The Brazilian Senate's much-anticipated vote over proposed changes to the country's Forest Code will take place Tuesday December 6, rather than today. The delay will give lawmakers more time to understand pending revisions to the code, which limits the amount of land private landowners can clear and restricts development in ecologically sensitive areas.


U.S. pledges $450 m to Indonesia for green economic growth

(11/19/2011) The U.S. government has pledged more than $450 million toward 'green growth' in Indonesia, reports the State Department.


Civilization shifting: a new leaderless era

(11/15/2011) For well over a decade global change scientists have ushered calls for urgent alteration in what they refer to as the “Business-as-Usual (BAU) paradigm” to cope with the interlinking social, economic, and environmental issues of the 21st Century. In 2001, one of the world’s largest Earth Science collaborative organizations, the International Geosphere-Biosphere Program (IGBP), published their "A Planet Under Pressure" summary report for policy makers.


IEA warns: five years to slash emissions or face dangerous climate change

(11/13/2011) Not known for alarmism and sometimes criticized for being too optimistic, the International Energy Agency (IEA) has warned that without bold action in the next five years the world will lock itself into high-emissions energy sources that will push climate change beyond the 2 degrees Celsius considered relatively 'safe' by many scientists and officials.


Obama Administration bows to pressure, delays tar sands pipeline

(11/10/2011) In what can only be described as a major victory for green activists, the Obama Administration has announced it will delay a decision on TransCanada's controversial Keystone XL pipeline for 12-18 months. Notably, putting the decision off until after the last election. The delay comes less than a week after about 12,000 people encircled the White House in opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, which they argue threatens one of the most important water supplies in America's heartland and will worsen climate change.


12,000 surround White House to protest tar sands pipeline

(11/07/2011) One year to the day before the 2012 US election, up to 12,000 activists encircled the White House to protest the Keystone XL pipeline, a proposed 1,700 mile pipeline that would carry oil from Canada's infamous tar sands to the US and other foreign markets. Critics of the TransCanada pipeline have warned of potential spills in America's heartland as well as the climate impacts of allowing more tar sands oil, which has a higher carbon footprint than conventional sources, into the US and other markets. The issue has galvanized climate and environmental activists in the US with the massive rally on Sunday preceded by civil disobedience actions in late summer that lead to the arrests of 1,253 people.


Sober up: world running out of time to keep planet from over-heating

(10/24/2011) If governments are to keep the pledge they made in Copenhagen to limit global warming within the 'safe range' of two degrees Celsius, they are running out of time, according to two sobering papers from Nature. One of the studies finds that if the world is to have a 66 percent chance of staying below a rise of two degrees Celsius, greenhouse gas emissions would need to peak in less than a decade and fall quickly thereafter. The other study predicts that pats of Europe, Asia, North Africa and Canada could see a rise beyond two degrees Celsius within just twenty years.


Tar sands pipeline 'another dirty needle feeding America's fossil fuel addiction'

(10/11/2011) Climate and environmental activism in the US received a shot of enthusiasm this summer when it focused unwaveringly on the Keystone XL Pipeline. During a two week protest in front of the White House, 1,253 activists—from young students to elder scientists, from religious leaders to indigenous people—embraced civil disobedience for their cause and got themselves arrested. Jamie Henn, spokesperson with Tar Sands Action, which organized the protests, and co-founder of climate organization 350.org, told mongabay.com that,"the reason the Keystone XL pipeline has emerged as such a key fight is because it is on a specific time horizon, the Administration says it will issue a decision by the end of this year, and the decision whether or not to grant the permit rests solely on President Obama's desk. This is a clear test for the President."


Tea Party rallies in favor of Gibson Guitar, ignores reasons instrument-maker is under investigation

(10/10/2011) This weekend around 500 people showed up for a rally and concert in Nashville, Tennessee. The rally was in support of Gibson Guitars, a US-company currently under investigation for allegedly importing illegally logged wood into the country, an action that breaks a recent bipartisan amendment to the Lacey Act. While the Tea Party-affiliated groups that held the rally were expressing frustration with perceived over-regulation by the federal government, the issue at stake—a global effort to help stem illegal logging—was actually overlooked by the organizers.


EU's biofuel push based on 'flawed' science

(10/10/2011) Europe's biofuel push could exacerbate climate change unless policies are in place to accounts for emissions from indirect land use change, warns a letter signed by more than 100 scientists and economists.


Obama administration opens more of the Arctic to drilling

(10/05/2011) Nearly 500 Arctic oil and gas leases from the Bush administration have been restarted this week by the Obama administration. Known as Chukchi Lease 193, the various leases had been held up in court after environmental groups and indigenous groups challenged them, citing a significant lack of baseline information about the Chukchi Sea ecosystem. The Obama administration now says that many of the ecosystem gaps need not be filled, but Arctic indigenous and environmental groups disagree.


Fossil fuel subsidies going in the wrong direction?

(10/05/2011) In 2009, G20 nations committed to phasing out fossil fuel subsidies over the medium term, yet are further away today than they were two years ago from keeping the pledge. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA) fossil fuel subsidies rose by nearly $100 billion in the last year alone, from $312 billion in 2009 to $409 billion in 2010. The agency warned that subsidies could reach $660 billion by 2020 if governments don't act on reform.


Public opposition pushes Myanmar to suspend giant Chinese dam

(10/04/2011) Large-scale opposition has pushed the Myanmar government to suspend construction of a massive Chinese dam. Being built on the confluence of the Mayhka amd Malihka rivers at the head of Irrawaddy River, the Myitsone Dam would have created a reservoir the size of Singapore and has already pushed 12,000 people off their land. China Power Investment Corporation, which is building the dam, has fired back at the Myanmar government saying their decision will lead to 'a series of legal issue'.


Tea party versus Madagascar's forests

(10/02/2011) The Tea Party and the African island-nation of Madagascar are having dueling concerts over the issue of illegal logging, reports the Associated Press. A concert in Madagascar over the weekend was meant to highlight the problem of illegal deforestation in one of the world's poorest countries. Meanwhile the Tea Party is holding a rally and concert on October 8th to support Gibson Guitar, a musical instruments company currently under investigation for breaking US law by allegedly purchasing illegally logged wood products from Madagascar.


Putting people to work: restoring our ecosystems, sequestering carbon

(10/02/2011) President Obama's sole focus of his September 8th speech to the United States Congress was job creation. He closed his speech by summoning an earlier time of promise: "President Kennedy once said, ' Our problems are man-made—therefore they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants.' These are difficult years for our country. But we are Americans. We are tougher than the times we live in, and we are bigger than our politics have been. So let's meet the moment. Let's get to work..." Inspiration is surely needed because in addition to the United States, where unemployment remains at about 9 percent, severe unemployment is found throughout the world, with Greece, Spain, and South Africa, for example, having 2011 summer unemployment rates at over 16, 20, and 25 percent, respectively.


Judge: work must halt on monster dam, Belo Monte

(09/29/2011) The decades-long fight over Brazilian megadam, the Belo Monte, has taken another U-turn after a judge ordered work to stop immediately since the dam would devastate vital fishing grounds for local people. In June the Brazilian government gave a go-ahead to the $11-17 billion dam, despite large-scale opposition from indigenous groups along the Xingu River and international outcry, including a petition signed by 600,000 people.


Over 100 arrested as tar sands civil disobedience spreads to Canada

(09/27/2011) After two weeks of sustained protesting at the US White House against the Keystone XL pipeline, with 1,252 people arrested, civil disobedience has now spread to Canada, home of the tar sands. Yesterday, around 500 people protested in Ottawa against Canada's controversial tar sands; 117 were arrested as they purposefully crossed a barrier separating them from the House of Commons in an act of civil disobedience.


Following violent crackdown against protestors, Bolivia puts Amazon road project on ice

(09/27/2011) After a police crackdown against indigenous activists, Bolivian President Evo Morales has suspended a large highway project through the Amazon rainforest. The police reaction—which included tear gas, rounding up protestors en masse, and allegations of violence—resulted in several officials stepping down in protest of the government's handling. Some indigenous people marched 310 miles (498 kilometers) from the Amazon to La Paz to show solidarity against the road, saying they had not been consulted and the project would destroy vast areas of biodiverse rainforest.


Featured video: new documentary puts human face on logging in Papua New Guinea

(09/27/2011) A new documentary, filmed single-handily by filmmaker David Fedele, covers the impact of industrial logging on a community in Papua New Guinea. Entitled Bikpela Bagarap(or 'Big Damage' in English), the film shows with startling intimacy how massive corporations, greedy government, and consumption abroad have conspired to ruin lives in places like Vanimo, Papua New Guinea.


Rich countries must maintain commitment to reducing emissions despite slow economy, says Indonesian official

(09/22/2011) Industrialized nations must do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from energy consumption, said an Indonesian official speaking at a workshop on climate finance.


Malaysian court blocks rainforest tribes' fight against mega-dam in Borneo

(09/09/2011) Indigenous tribes in Borneo suffered a stinging defeat Thursday after Sarawak's highest court ruled against them in 12-year-long legal battle. Tribal groups had challenged the Malaysian state government for seizing indigenous lands in order to build a massive hydroelectric power plant, dubbed the Bakun dam, but the three-person top court found unanimously against the tribes.


Sowing the seeds to save the Patagonian Sea

(09/07/2011) With wild waters and shores, the Patagonia Sea is home to a great menagerie of marine animals: from penguins to elephants seals, albatrosses to squid, and sea lions to southern right whales. The sea lies at crossroads between more northern latitudes and the cold bitter water of the Southern Ocean, which surround Antarctica. However the region is also a heavy fishing ground, putting pressure on a number of species and imperiling the very ecosystem that supplies the industry. Conservation efforts, spearheaded by marine conservationist Claudio Campagna and colleagues with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), are in the early stages. Campagna, who often writes about the importance of language in the fight for preservation, has pushed to rename the area to focus on its stunning wildlife.


Climate test for Obama: 1,252 people arrested over notorious oil pipeline

(09/06/2011) Two weeks of climate disobedience at the White House ended over the weekend with 1,252 people arrested in total. Activists were protesting the controversial Keystone XL pipeline in an effort to pressure US President Barack Obama to turn down the project. If built the pipeline would bring oil from Alberta's tar sands through six US states down to Texas refineries. While protestors fear pollution from potential spills, especially in the Ogallala Aquifer which supplies water to millions, the major fight behind the pipeline is climate change: Canada's tar sands emit significantly more carbon than conventional sources of oil.


The heroic wolf: are wolves the key to saving the Canada lynx?

(08/31/2011) In 2000 the Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) was listed as threatened under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA). While remaining stable in Canada and Alaska, the Canada lynx population had essentially collapsed in much of the continental US, excluding Alaska. Aside from habitat loss, one of the main factors imperiling the medium-sized wild cat was a decline in prey, specifically snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus). Researchers have now come up with an innovative way to aid hungry lynx in the US: wolves.


Big damage in Papua New Guinea: new film documents how industrial logging destroys lives

(08/29/2011) In one scene a young man, perhaps not long ago a boy, named Douglas stands shirtless and in shorts as he runs a chainsaw into a massive tropical tree. Prior to this we have already heard from an official how employees operating chainsaws must have a bevy of protective equipment as well as training, but in Papua New Guinea these are just words. The reality is this: Douglas straining to pull the chainsaw out of the tree as it begins to fall while his fellow employees flee the tumbling giant. The new film Bikpela Bagarap('Big Damage') documents the impact of industrial logging on the lives of local people in Papua New Guinea.


Uganda resurrects plan to hand over protected forest to sugar company

(08/22/2011) An environmental issue in Uganda that left three people dead four years ago has reared its head again. The Ugandan government has resurrected plans to give a quarter of the Mabira Forest Reserve to a sugar cane corporation after dropping the idea in 2007 following large-scale protests, including one that left many activists injured and three dead. A pet project of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni the plan would degazette 7,100 hectares of the 30,000 hectare Mabira Forest Reserve for a sugarcane plantation to be run by the Indian-owned company, Mehta Group. However the plan is being heavily attacked by critics.


Over 100 protestors arrested as civil action begins against tar sands pipeline to US

(08/22/2011) In the first two days of a planned two week sit-in at the White House in Washington DC, over 100 activists against the Keystone XL pipeline have been arrested, reports Reuters. If approved by the Obama Administration, the 1,700 mile pipeline would bring around 700,000 barrels of oil daily from Canada's notorious tar sands to oil refineries in Texas.


The importance of recognizing viewpoints in a rapidly changing world

(08/16/2011) Is oil palm bad? Is protecting tropical forests more important than converting them for economic development? Should we spike trees to make sure no one cuts them down? Answers to these questions depend on which side of the argument you're on. But often people on either side of debates hardly know what their opponents are thinking.


Dole destroying forest in national park for bananas

(08/14/2011) Dole Food Company, a US-based corporation famous for its tropical fruit products, is allegedly destroying rainforest in Somawathiya National Park in Sri Lanka for a banana plantation reports local press. The 4,700 hectare (11,600 acre) plantation, reportedly handed to local company Letsgrow by Sri Lanka's military, imperils an elephant migration route and a number of tropical species. Letsgrow has partnered with Dole on the plantation work, already clearing almost half the area, described as 'thick jungle'. Sri Lanka, which has only come out of a decades-long civil war in 2009, is currently seeking a rise in agricultural development.



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