Newsletter 2017-11-23




Experience or evidence: How do big conservation NGOs make decisions? by Shreya Dasgupta [11/21/2017]

– Scientists have been urging conservation NGOs to make decisions based on scientific evidence.
– However, the big conservation NGOs run into many problems in trying to use the available science. Doing impact evaluations of their own projects is also hard and expensive, sources from the big conservation NGOs say.
– For their work to be effective, the conservation community needs to develop a common understanding of what credible evidence means, how to best use different strands of evidence, and how organizations can evaluate their work and create evidence that others can use, experts across the conservation spectrum seem to agree.
– This story is part of a special Mongabay series on “Conservation Effectiveness.”

To feed a growing population, farms chew away at Madagascar’s forests by Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor [11/17/2017]

– In Madagascar, farmers are cutting down forests and burning them to make way for rice cultivation.
– The practice is traditional but now illegal because of the harm it causes to natural areas. Many species are already threatened with extinction due to forest loss.
– With the country’s population expected to double by 2060, the pressure is likely to intensify.

COP23: Leaders vie for protection of ‘incredibly important’ African peatland by Justin Catanoso [11/17/2017]

– The presence of the world’s biggest tropical peatland was recently confirmed in Central Africa. It is the size of England and straddles the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the Republic of Congo (ROC).
– However, conservationists and scientists worry it may be at risk from logging and development. They caution its destruction could release “vast amounts” of carbon emissions. Others say the threats are overblown.
– Conservation leaders and representatives gathered this week at COP23 in Bonn, Germany, say protections could exist through REDD+ projects that could give local communities management rights and provide financial incentives for leaving the peat forest intact.

Jane Goodall interview: ‘The most important thing is sharing good news’ by Rhett A. Butler [11/17/2017]

– Celebrated conservationist and Mongabay advisor Jane Goodall spoke with Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett A. Butler for the podcast just before departing for her latest speaking tour (she travels 300 days a year raising conservation awareness). Here we supply the full transcript.
– This wide-ranging conversation begins with reaction to the science community’s recent acceptance of her six decade contention that animals are individuals with personalities, and moves on to discuss trends in conservation, and she then provides an update on the Jane Goodall Institute (JGI)’s global projects.
– She also challenges trophy hunting as an effective tool for funding conservation (“It’s rubbish,” she says), shares her positive view of China’s quickly growing environmental movement, talks about the key role of technology in conservation, and discusses a range of good news, which she states is always so important to share.
– Amazingly, Dr. Goodall reports that JGI’s youth program Roots & Shoots now has perhaps as many as 150,000 chapters worldwide, making it probably the largest conservation movement in the world, with many millions having been part of the program. An effort is now underway to document them all.

The uncertain future of Bogotá’s shantytowns by Maximo Anderson [11/16/2017]

– Colombia’s massive population of internally displaced is second only to Syria, and thousands fleeing violence make homes in the forests outside of cities.
– Outside of Colombia’s capital of Bogotá, thousands live in groups of makeshift homes that form a range of communities from villages to shanytowns.
– The shanytowns present worsening health and public safety problems, and have a devastating impact on the forests where communities are established and growing.

Alliance of the Bear: Native groups stymie Trump, tar sands pipelines by Saul Elbein [11/16/2017]

– When Big Oil and Gas invaded rural North America to frack, drill and dig the Alberta tar sands, the firms were met by a scattered opposition from Native peoples who developed a novel strategy: oppose new pipelines to keep fossil fuels from getting to market.
– Gradually, First Nations resistance groups in Canada’s East and West joined up with Western U.S. Native groups. Last July, many of their leaders met at a Rapid City, South Dakota Holiday Inn to sign a treaty of alliance against the fossil fuel companies and their ongoing projects.
– In recent months, oil and gas projects that indigenous organizers had risen against began to fold, including the Petronas liquid natural gas refinery project in British Columbia, and TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline.
– In June, the Trump administration removed Endangered protection status for the Greater Yellowstone River Valley grizzly population. The powerful Treaty Alliance Against Tar Sands Expansion vowed resistance, viewing delisting as both an attack on the sacred bear and as a means of exposing the land over which the bear roams to mining and drilling.



Indonesian mosques to take up the mantle of fighting climate change by [11/21/2017]
– Indonesia will establish 1,000 “eco-mosques,” the country’s vice president announced at this month’s UN climate summit in Bonn.
– The Southeast Asian nation is home to some 260 million people. Nearly 90 percent of them identify as Muslim, according to 2010 census data.
– Indonesia also has some of the greatest expanses of rainforests, peatlands and mangroves — carbon-rich environments that are rapidly disappearing as industry expands.

Chocolate makers agree to stop cutting down forests in West Africa for cocoa by Mike Gaworecki [11/21/2017]
– At COP23, the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany that wrapped up last week, top cocoa-producing countries in West Africa announced new commitments to end the massive deforestation for cocoa that is occurring within their borders.
– Ivory Coast and Ghana are the number one and number two cocoa-producing nations on Earth, respectively. Together, they produce about two-thirds of the world’s cocoa, but that production has been tied to high rates of deforestation as well as child labor and other human rights abuses.
– The so-called “Frameworks for Action” that were announced by the two countries last Thursday not only aim to halt the clearing of forests for cocoa production, especially in national parks and other protected areas, but to restore forest areas that have already been cleared or degraded.

Guyana seeks offshore oil wealth in a green economy by Carinya Sharples [11/21/2017]
– ExxonMobil expects to produce some 2-2.5 billion oil-equivalent barrels from Guyanese waters, which could add up to more than $100 billion.
– Given the fact that Guyana’s Gross National Income is $4,250 per capita, the promises of oil are causing a stir in the political landscape.
– Although the amount of oil that reaches the Guyana coast from a spill may be small, the country’s Environmental Protection Agency notes it would impact marine resources.

Pyrrhic victory for Keystone XL as Nebraska nixes preferred pipeline route by Saul Elbein [11/21/2017]
– On Monday, the Nebraska Public Service Commission (NPSC) released its decision regarding the permitting of the TransCanada Keystone XL pipeline through the Midwest state. The NPSC rejected the company’s preferred route, but permitted an alternate route.
– While major media outlets hailed the decision as a victory for TransCanada, and for President Trump who has reversed Barack Obama’s rejection of the project, activists believe the NPSC action has the potential to long delay or even kill Keystone, which would bring Alberta Tar Sands bitumen south into the U.S. to link up with other lines going to the Gulf Coast and foreign markets.
– Activists point out that the selection of the alternate route means that TransCanada must go back to the drawing board, spending more money on years of planning, negotiating with landowners, and bucking new legal opposition in a political climate where public opposition to tar sands pipelines by activist coalitions as diverse as cattle ranchers and Indian nations has turned fierce.
– The Nebraska decision was made within days of a TransCanada pipeline spill in South Dakota that dumped 5,000 barrels of bitumen, though the NPSC said that the spill had no influence on their decision. TransCanada says it will announce its future plans for Keystone XL in late November or December.

As Indonesia pushes flagship land reform program, farmers remain wary by Hans Nicholas Jong [11/21/2017]
– Under a flagship agrarian reform program, the Indonesian government aims to give indigenous and other rural communities greater control over 127,000 square kilometers of land.
– President Joko Widodo earlier this month handed out 35-year land leases to farmers across Java as part of the social forestry program.
– The farmers, however, are concerned about the sustainability of the program, citing worries about getting bank loans, as well as a lack of maps and planning.

Scientists predict tree death from drought in California’s Sierra Nevadas by Ignacio Amigo [11/20/2017]
– A study in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California shows that remotely-measured changes in the canopy water content (CWC) of conifers can be used to forecast tree mortality.
– Water content in tree canopies can be remotely monitored using laser-based images from aerial surveys.
– Changes in the CWC in conifer forests during droughts correlate well with tree mortality.
– After estimating canopy water content from past years using a deep learning model, researchers were able to accurately predict tree death during a recent drought.

From friends to strangers: The decline of the Irrawaddy dolphin (commentary) by Sabrina Gyorvary with Namthip Khudsavanh [11/20/2017]
– Now critically endangered, the last of the Irrawaddy dolphins (Orcaella brevirostris) are concentrated in nine deep-water pools over a 190-kilometer stretch of the Mekong between Cambodia’s Sambor district and Khone Falls on the Lao border.
– Today the Mekong’s dolphins face a new threat. The proposed Sambor Dam on the river’s mainstream would catalyze the extinction of the remaining dolphin population and have disastrous consequences for many other fish species, as well as the communities that depend on them.
– Can Cambodia bring this river dolphin back from the brink of extinction?
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Trump puts controversial decision allowing elephant trophy imports ‘on hold’ by Shreya Dasgupta [11/20/2017]
– Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service allowed elephant trophies from Zimbabwe and Zambia to be imported to the U.S., lifting a previous ban under former President Barack Obama.
– This move sparked criticism not only from conservationists and animal rights activists, but also from some President Trump supporters.
– Following the widespread criticism, Trump tweeted that he would announce his decision on trophy imports next week.

New research projects two percent increase in global emissions in 2017 by Mike Gaworecki [11/17/2017]
– A new report from the Global Carbon Project and the University of East Anglia projects that emissions will have risen about two percent by the time 2017 draws to a close.
– According to the report, global carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry will reach about 37 billion metric tons in 2017, setting a new record. Emissions from all human activities, including fossil fuel use, industry, and land-use change, is projected to be about 41 billion metric tons, close to the record set in 2015.
– Emissions growth in China and other developing countries is largely to blame for the overall increase in 2017, the report states.

COP23: Alliance pledges an end to coal; other key summit goals unmet by Justin Catanoso [11/17/2017]
– As COP23 comes to a close in Bonn, 19 nations including Canada and the United Kingdom agreed to stop using coal to generate power by 2030.
– Major coal producing and using nations, including Australia, India, Germany and the United States, did not join in the new Global Alliance to Power Past Coal.
– Participants in COP23 find it to have largely been a disappointment, with developed nations failing to promise to ramp up their Paris carbon emission reduction targets – vital if the world is to stop a catastrophic rise in temperatures above 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit).
– Likewise, efforts to find clear pathways by which developed nations will raise the tens of billions needed for vulnerable developing nations to deal with climate change were blocked – primarily by the United States. Now, policymakers are putting their hopes on COP24 in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018.

Can agroforestry propel climate commitments? Interview with Peter Minang by Giovanni Ortolani [11/16/2017]
– In the Paris agreement, most developing countries identified agroforestry as a key part of their climate strategy.
– Nationally Determined Contributions, or NDCs, are the main tool for defining countries’ contributions to the Agreement.
– The World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), just released a policy brief on agroforestry’s central role in governmental efforts to achieve their NDCs.
– Author Peter A. Minang explains how agroforestry’s contribution to climate goals could be enhanced.

An early warning system for locating forest loss by Sue Palminteri [11/16/2017]
– The Global Land Analysis & Discovery (GLAD) alert system accessed in Global Forest Watch uses satellite imagery to detect forest loss in areas as small as 30 m x 30 m.
– The system accesses and analyzes Landsat imagery for a subscriber’s area of interest, every week, and sends alerts of tree cover loss via email that enable users to respond to deforestation while it is still in its early stages.
– The alert system is now available for 16 countries and will expand to remaining humid tropical forests in the coming months.

Forests can beat humans at restoration, new study finds by Morgan Erickson-Davis [11/16/2017]
– An analysis of 133 studies found natural regeneration was more effective than active, human-driven restoration at restoring tropical forests.
– The study refutes conventional wisdom that holds that actively restoring a forest is better than letting it grow back by itself.
– The authors say previous research didn’t control for key factors, which skewed results and made it seem like natural regeneration was less effective than it actually may be.
– The say large-scale restoration projects, which tend to favor active restoration, should consider natural regeneration as a way to more effectively achieve their goals while saving money that could be used to scale-up forest restoration worldwide.

COP23: U.S., wealthy nations curtail climate aid for developing world by Justin Catanoso [11/16/2017]
– The small U.S. delegation sent by President Trump to the COP23 climate summit in Bonn has apparently led a successful effort to obstruct significant, much needed, climate change adaptation financing and loss-and-damage financing for the developing world.
– Over the past two weeks in Bonn, the U.S. provided cover for the other developed countries, especially coal-producing Australia, tar sands-producer Canada, and the European Union, as they curtailed offering financial climate aid to the world’s developing nations, including island nations whose existence is at risk from rising oceans.
– One victory: delegates agreed to draft language for Pre-2020 Ambitions, a measure requiring that developed countries be transparent about their current emissions and describe voluntary steps they will take prior to 2020 to further reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.
– It is now hoped by some that the issue of adaptation financing and loss-and-damage financing to the developing world will be finally effectively addressed at COP24 in Poland in December 2018.

It is time to recognize the limits of certification in agriculture (commentary) by Andre de Freitas [11/16/2017]
– In early 2017, the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) decided that it was going to stop working with certification in agriculture.
– It was actually a fairly easy and straightforward decision: After working with this tool for over 20 years, we could look back and conclude that certification was not the best approach to improve the sustainability of most farmers in the world, especially when considering the huge challenges we face from climate change, poverty, deforestation, soil and water contamination, and human rights violations.
– In our history, we have seen many positive impacts from certification for workers, producers and the environment. But we have also increasingly come to recognize the limitations of certification as a tool to drive change in agricultural production systems at scale.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.



Lemur on the menu: most-endangered primates still served in Madagascar by Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor [11/15/2017]

Audio: Dr. Jane Goodall on being proven right about animals having personalities, plus updates direct from COP23 by Mike Gaworecki [11/15/2017]

Madagascar petitions CITES to sell millions in stolen rosewood by Dan Ashby and Lucy Taylor [11/13/2017]

U.S. subnationals shoulder climate role in Bonn, Trump sidelined by Justin Catanoso [11/13/2017]

Trump family planning policy may up population, hurt women, environment by Tina Deines [11/10/2017]

The fate of the Sumatran rhino is in the Indonesian government’s hands by Jeremy Hance [11/10/2017]

‘Much deeper than we expected’: Huge peatland offers up more surprises by John Vidal [11/09/2017]

From carbon sink to source: Brazil puts Amazon, Paris goals at risk by Claire Salisbury [11/09/2017]

Is anyone going to save the Sumatran rhino? by Jeremy Hance [11/09/2017]

Logjam: Inside Madagascar’s illegal-rosewood stockpiles by Rowan Moore Gerety [11/08/2017]

Mapping how to feed 9 billion humans, while avoiding environmental calamity by Rhett A. Butler [11/08/2017]

Where, oh where, are the rhinos of Bukit Barisan Selatan? by Jeremy Hance [11/08/2017]

Worst-case scenario: There could be only 30 wild Sumatran rhinos left by Jeremy Hance [11/07/2017]