Newsletter 2021-04-15



Cambodia puts its arduous titling process for Indigenous land up for review by Danielle Keeton-Olsen [04/15/2021]

– Since 2009, Cambodia has had a legal process by which Indigenous communities can obtain legal title to their traditional land.
– Of around 455 Indigenous communities in Cambodia, 33 have been granted land titles.
– People who have engaged in the Indigenous land titling process say it is time-consuming and arduous, and that even successful claimants are often granted title to just a fraction of their customary land.
– This year, Cambodia has launched a review of its communal land titling process. Even people involved in the review are unsure what prompted it or what impacts the review might have.

Recognizing the true guardians of the forest: Q&A with David Kaimowitz by Rhett A. Butler [04/14/2021]

– David Kaimowitz describes his career as a “a 30-year quest to understand what causes deforestation,” one that has brought him full circle to where he started: at the issue of land rights.
– Kaimowitz, who heads the Forest and Farm Facility, based at FAO, says the evidence shows that secure communal tenure rights is one of the most cost-effective ways to curb deforestation.
– In that time, he’s also seen the discourse around the drivers of deforestation change from blaming smallholders, to realizing that a handful of large commodities companies are responsible for the majority of tropical forest loss.
– In an interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler, Kaimowitz talks about why it took so long for Indigenous people to be recognized as guardians of the forest, the need for conservation NGOs to address social justice, and society’s capacity to effect meaningful change.

‘We’re at a tipping point with coal’: Q&A with Bloomberg’s Antha Williams by Rhett A. Butler [04/13/2021]

– Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg was key in marshaling city and state governments across the U.S. to ramp up their climate action after the Trump administration pulled the country out of the Paris Agreement.
– With the climate-focused Biden administration now in office, Bloomberg Philanthropies is going “all-in toward climate solutions,” says Antha N. Williams, head of the foundation’s environment program.
– Among its main initiatives is the Beyond Coal campaign, which seeks to get OECD countries to transition away from coal by 2030 and the rest of the world by 2040.
– In this post-Trump follow-up interview with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler, Williams discusses a just energy transition, the role of finance in driving change, and the importance of ocean protection.

‘We are made invisible’: Brazil’s Indigenous on prejudice in the city by Karla Mendes [04/12/2021]

– Contrary to popular belief, Brazil’s Indigenous people aren’t confined to the Amazon Rainforest, with more than a third of them, or about 315,000 individuals, living in urban areas.
– Over the past year, we dived into the census and related databases to produce unique maps and infographics showing not only how the Indigenous residents are distributed in six cities and in Brazil overall, but also showcasing their access to education, sewage and other amenities, and their ethnic diversity.
– Access to higher education is a milestone: the number of Indigenous people enrolled in universities jumped from 10,000 to about 81,000 between 2010 and 2019, giving them a higher college education rate than the general population.
– This data-driven reporting project received funding support from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting’s data journalism and property rights grant.



‘Complete turnaround’: Philippines’ Duterte lifts ban on new mining permits by Leilani Chavez [15 Apr 2021]
– President Rodrigo Duterte has lifted a ban on issuing licenses for new mining operations in the Philippines, marking an about-face from a previous anti-mining stance that saw him ban open-pit mining in 2017 and close or suspend 26 mining operations for environmental violations.
– The government says the industry, which contributed 0.76% to the country’s GDP in 2020, is important in resuscitating an economy bogged down by the COVID-19 pandemic, by generating revenue and jobs and contributing to Duterte’s flagship infrastructure program.
– Duterte’s pivot in favor of mining goes back to 2019, when the government allowed the operation of suspended mining firms and pushed for the rehabilitation of government-owned mines, particularly nickel mines, to cater to Chinese demand for nickel.
– The mining sector was the deadliest in the world for environmental and land defenders in 2019, according to Global Witness; the Philippines has the most mining-related killings that year, and activists warn the new order could further endanger defenders as well as open key biodiversity areas to mining.

Sea turtles under threat as Indian government weighs development in Andaman Islands by Rosamma Thomas [14 Apr 2021]
– Little Andaman Island is part of a rainforested archipelago far off India’s eastern coast in the Bay of Bengal.
– An Indian government think tank has proposed developing the island along with another in the archipelago. If implemented, experts say the plan would pose a threat to nesting sites of leatherback sea turtles, whose population globally is declining.
– The leatherback is the largest of all living turtles, and India and Sri Lanka are the only places in South Asia with large nesting populations.
– The island is also home to the Onge Indigenous tribe.

Despite flaws, commodity eco-labels contribute to sustainability (commentary) by Matthias Diemer [14 Apr 2021]
– While eco-labels may have failed to stop deforestation of many agricultural commodities, they are nevertheless contributing to the sustainability of commodity production, argues Matthias Diemer, a trained ecologist who owns a consultancy in Switzerland focusing on sustainability in agricultural commodities.
– Diemer says that reports by Greenpeace and other watchdogs are important to raise the bar for eco-labels, but dismissing voluntary certification and placing the onus for change on governments is naive and risks losing the potential benefits of certification.
– Instead eco-labels should be appraised on realistic expectations of their potential impacts, writes Diemer.
– This post is a commentary and does not necessarily reflect the views of Mongabay.

Philippine province builds on lessons learned to grow ecotourism industry by Jun Aguirre [14 Apr 2021]
– Antique province in the central Philippines is looking to boost local revenues through ecotourism, after the COVID-19 pandemic put the brakes on a thriving tourism industry.
– The province is home to a rich biodiversity, including the critically endangered writhed-billed hornbill, giant rafflesia “corpse flower,” and rare bowl corals.
– Taking a leaf from the experience of nearby Boracay, the resort island where a tourism boom led to severe environmental damage, local officials face the challenge of balancing tourism-driven development and environmental protection.
– A prominent lawmaker is pushing for seascapes and coastal zones in the province to be given national protection.

Island species and endemics will bear brunt if warming exceeds 3°C: Study by [14 Apr 2021]
– Endemic species on islands, especially plant species, are at the greatest risk of disappearing because of climate change, a study has found.
– In general, species found exclusively in one region face a greater threat from a changing climate than native and introduced species, with the latter likely to face almost no negative effects at all.
– Places like the Caribbean, the Indian Ocean islands, including Madagascar and Sri Lanka, the Philippines, and biomes like India’s Western Ghats could be bereft of all their endemic plant life in three decades, according to the analysis.
– Introduced species could outcompete and replace endemic species in the world’s biodiversity hotspots if warming continues unchecked.

Did you know that northern tamanduas may eat up to 9,000 insects per day? Candid Animal Cam by Romina Castagnino [14 Apr 2021]
– Every two weeks, Mongabay brings you a new episode of Candid Animal Cam, our show featuring animals caught on camera traps around the world and hosted by Romi Castagnino, our writer and conservation scientist.

Belgium bans biofuels made from palm oil, soy by [13 Apr 2021]
– Belgium will ban biofuels made from soy and palm oil from 2022 onward as part of its effort to combat deforestation, said Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Zakia Khattabi on Tuesday.
– In making the move, Belgium joins Denmark, France, and the Netherlands as other European nations that have barred palm oil-based biodiesel due the crop’s association with large-scale conversion of native forests and peatlands for industrial plantations, especially in Malaysia and Indonesia.
– The ban was the first measure Belgium has taken since it became a member of the Amsterdam Declaration Partnership, which aims to eliminate deforestation from agricultural commodities by 2025.

JPMorgan Chase expanding deforestation policies under shareholder pressure by Liz Kimbrough [13 Apr 2021]
– JPMorgan Chase has agreed to expand its policies addressing deforestation after pressure from shareholders, led by the investment group Green Century Capital Management.
– Green Century used a shareholder proposal strategy to request that JPMorgan Chase “issue a public report, within a reasonable time, outlining if and how it could improve efforts to reduce negative impacts and enhance positive impacts on natural ecosystems and biodiversity across its banking and investment portfolios.”
– In response, JPMorgan Chase stated its intentions to require all growers or refiners related to the palm oil sector who are its clients to confirm that they are compliant with “No Deforestation, No Peatland, No Exploitation” (NDPE) principles.
– Changes will also be made around timber, pulp and paper, and mining.

Landmark decision: Brazil Supreme Court sides with Indigenous land rights by Ana Ionova [13 Apr 2021]
– Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court (STF) has unanimously accepted an appeal by the Guarani Kaiowá Indigenous people and agreed to review the process around a past case that cancelled the demarcation of their Indigenous territory.
– The Guarani Kaiowá’s decades-long fight for land rights to their ancestral territory, the Guyraroká land in Mato Grosso do Sul state, had been suspended by a 2014 ruling halting the territory’s demarcation process.
– The STF’s decision to review the process in the 2014 case, which hadn’t allowed for Indigenous consultation, is seen by analysts as a victory for Indigenous groups in Brazil, and as a setback for President Jair Bolsonaro who has declared his opposition to any Indigenous demarcation occurring during his administration.
– In a related upcoming case, the STF is expected to rule on the “marco temporal,” which requires that Indigenous people have been living on claimed lands in 1988 in order to establish a legal territory. But litigators have argued that date is unfairly arbitrary, as many Indigenous groups were forced off ancestral lands by then.

Farmers move to occupy a critical elephant corridor in Sri Lanka by Malaka Rodrigo [13 Apr 2021]
– Dahaiyagala Wildlife Sanctuary in Sri Lanka’s Uva province links several wilderness areas and serves as an important corridor for elephants.
– But a recently attempted land grab has raised concerns that this lifeline for the region’s elephants could soon disappear.
– The elephant population of Udawalawe, Sri Lanka’s second-most visited national park, moves seasonally in and out of the area of the park through this vital corridor because the park alone isn’t able to support a large number of elephants.
– Blocking the corridor could increase human-elephant conflict, and it could also create socio-economic problems for hundreds of families who depend on nature-based tourism around Udawalawe.

New palm oil frontier sparks scramble for land in the Brazilian Amazon by Ana Ionova [12 Apr 2021]
– Cultivation of oil palm has surged in Brazil’s northern state of Roraima over the last decade, fueled by an ambitious push towards biofuels.
– While palm oil companies operating in the area claim they do not deforest, critics say they are contributing to a surge in demand for cleared land in this region, driving cattle ranchers, soy farmers and land speculators deeper into the forest.
– As the demand for land increases, incursions near and into Indigenous lands that neighbor palm oil plantations are also on the rise.
– Indigenous rights activists say that in addition to the loss of forest, they’re worried about the pesticides that palm oil plantations are doused with and the runoff from processing mills, which frequently end up in soil and water sources, and that encroaching outsiders may introduce COVID-19 to vulnerable communities.

The world needs a food movement based on agroecology and equity (commentary) by Pat Mooney [12 Apr 2021]
– The idea of a Food Systems Summit seemed timely when it was announced in 2019 by the World Economic Forum and the UN Secretary-General’s Office.
– But while the need was widely appreciated, the unorthodox proposal by Davos to expand “stakeholder capitalism” to encompass the United Nations alarmed some involved in the food movement.
– Neither the upcoming climate conference nor the Kunming biodiversity COP can succeed without fundamental changes to our food systems, argues Pat Mooney.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Indonesia’s net-zero emissions goal not ambitious enough, activists say by Hans Nicholas Jong [12 Apr 2021]
– Indonesia, one of the world’s biggest greenhouse gas emitters, has put forward a plan to achieve net-zero emissions by 2070.
– The government says it’s the most ambitious and realistic target for Indonesia, but activists and experts say the government can do much more, much sooner, given that China, the top emitter, has a net-zero deadline of 2060.
– They also criticized the government’s plan for its continued reliance on coal as a primary component of the national energy mix over the coming decades, despite universal recognition of coal’s role in climate change.
– The plan also lumps coal gasification, which the government is incentivizing, into its basket of renewable energies; it may also include hydrogen (which uses fossil fuels in its production) and nuclear energy in this same category.

An Amazonian arapaima washed up in a Florida river. It didn’t swim there by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [09 Apr 2021]
– In February, Florida officials identified the body of an arapaima (Arapaima gigas) that had washed ashore from the Caloosahatchee River.
– An expert said the arapaima, a fish species endemic to the Amazon lowlands, had likely come from the pet trade.
– Live arapaimas are mainly brought into the U.S. for aquaculture, although a small number are also imported for the pet trade, another expert said.
– While arapaimas are not currently considered to be an invasive species, there are concerns they could become problematic in the future if enough end up in Florida’s waterways.

European tuna boats dump fishing debris in Seychelles waters ‘with impunity’ by Malavika Vyawahare [09 Apr 2021]
– Tuna love to congregate around objects adrift at sea, so industrial fishing vessels release thousands of man-made plastic-heavy fish aggregating devices (FADs) into the sea every year to round up the tuna.
– In the Indian Ocean, the European-dominated purse seine tuna fishery relies heavily on FADs and is largely responsible for the waste that collects on remote biodiversity hotspots like Seychelles’ Aldabra atoll, experts say.
– FADs are also partly responsible for pushing the Indian Ocean yellowfin tuna stock to the brink of collapse, but efforts to move away from harmful FADs lack urgency.
– This is the second story in a two-part series about the effect European tuna fishing has on the economy and marine environment of Seychelles, an archipelagic nation in the Indian Ocean.

Intimidation of Brazil’s enviro scientists, academics, officials on upswing by Mauricio Torres and Sue Branford [08 Apr 2021]
– Increasingly, Brazilian environmental researchers, academics and officials appear to be coming under fire for their scientific work or views, sometimes from the Jair Bolsonaro government, but also from anonymous Bolsonaro supporters.
– Researchers and academics have come under attack for their scientific work on agrochemicals, deforestation and other topics, as well as for their socio-environmental views. Attacks have taken the form of anonymous insults and death threats, gag orders, equipment thefts, and even attempted kidnapping.
– A range of intimidation is being experienced by officials, including firings and threats of retaliation for institutional criticism at IBAMA, Brazil’s environment agency, ICMBio, the Chico Mendes Institute of Biodiversity Conservation overseeing Brazil’s national parks, and FUNAI, the Indigenous affairs agency.
– “Whose interests benefit from the denial of the data on deforestation… from criminalizing the action of NGOs and environmentalists? What we are witnessing is a coordinated action to make it easier for agribusiness to advance into Indigenous territories and standing forest,” says one critic.



Red flag: Predatory European ships help push Indian Ocean tuna to the brink by Malavika Vyawahare [04/08/2021]
Though humanity exceeds key ‘planetary boundaries’ there are many solutions by Mike Gaworecki [04/08/2021]
Government inaction prompts voluntary REDD+ carbon credit boom in Brazil by Fernanda Wenzel [04/06/2021]
“Activism gives you hope”: Q&A with Wallace Global Fund’s Ellen Dorsey by Rhett A. Butler [04/06/2021]
Helping Papuans protect Indonesia’s last frontier: Q&A with Bustar Maitar by Rhett A. Butler [04/05/2021]
Life and new limbs: Creative thinking, 3D printers save injured wildlife by Laurel Neme [04/05/2021]
Rare captive-bred crocodiles develop new, ‘odd’ habits in Philippine wild by Erwin M. Mascariñas [04/02/2021]