Newsletter 2021-09-09



Climate philanthropy’s opportunity for impact: Q&A with Bridgespan’s Sonali Patel by Rhett A. Butler [09/07/2021]

– Environmental causes have traditionally attracted only a small share of philanthropic support in the United States. But that may be changing as the impacts of climate change worsen and awareness of the links between a healthy planet and healthy society rises.
– Sonali Patel, a partner with The Bridgespan Group, which advises nonprofits and philanthropists on strategy, told Mongabay that philanthropy can be particularly impactful in the climate space by supporting innovative ideas that may be too risky for investors or governments and putting resources into areas that may not otherwise attract attention.
– “Currently only 1% of spend on climate change comes from philanthropy,” she told Mongabay during a recent interview. “Philanthropy can play a unique role in funding where either the risk is too great or there is a whitespace.”
– Patel said that her background in management consulting, helped prepare her for a role that involves working with organizational leaders to design, develop, and implement strategy. Having sound strategy in place can help position NGOs for what Patel could be the start of a trend that emerged during the pandemic: A rise in donors providing unrestricted funding to organizations they trust.

Manatee deaths in Florida point to a global decline in seagrass ecosystems by Claudia Geib [09/06/2021]

– This year the U.S. state of Florida saw a record number of manatee deaths, and though investigations are still ongoing, experts attribute most of the deaths to the dieback of seagrass, a primary food source.
– The manatee deaths are part of a larger trend: around the world, seagrasses are on the decline, mainly because of increasingly clouded waters due to coastal development.
– Other drivers of this die-off include algal blooms, destructive fishing and boating practices, and the warmer, more acidic waters of climate change.
– There are spots of hope, yet seagrass scientists warn that we are on the brink of losing many of these important wildlife habitats and global carbon sinks.

Drug trafficking threatens Indigenous Shipibo communities in Peru by Enrique Vera [09/03/2021]

– The Flor de Ucayali municipality belongs to Indigenous Shipibo-Conibo communities and has been the site of intense deforestation, according to local sources and satellite data.
– Community members say the driver of forest loss is illicit coca cultivation. Coca is used to make cocaine.
– Shipibo-Conibo residents say they have been threatened by armed drug traffickers.
– Authorities have intervened, but residents say the threats continue. Satellite data and imagery show continuing deforestation in the area.

In Peru, ancient food technologies revived in pursuit of future security by Illa Liendo Tagle [09/03/2021]

– Surrounded by mountains and eagles, a man from a highland community in Peru has built a stone and mud qolca, a food storage silo inspired by ancestral technologies.
– In his community, as in the rest of the Andes, increasingly erratic rainfall patterns and unexpected frosts and pest plagues threaten the rich local biodiversity and their generous harvests.
– Almost 500 years after the construction of the last qolca in the Cusco Valley, this new effort is a bid for a tomorrow without hunger in these times of pandemic and climate crisis.



Can we stop calling it biodiversity? There’s no word for what we’re losing (commentary) by Katherine Snow [09 Sep 2021]
– “Biodiversity” is not an effective term to use in shaping the global conservation agenda, yet it is at the center of the current IUCN Congress and the October meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity.
– The term misdirects attention from the human political, economic, and security realities which have both shaped the de-speciation and removal of wild nature, which must drive any meaningful response.
– Intact wild nature possesses inestimable inherent value, as well as value for human beings, for a host of reasons which “biodiversity” as a concept or a frame cannot touch upon, but which it often conceals or obscures.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Seeing the maligned urban rat in a new light: Q&A with Michael Parsons by Jansen Baier [09 Sep 2021]
– Despite tens of thousands of papers on lab rats, rat scholar Michael Parsons say we know next to nothing about their relatives that inhabit our cities: the urban, wild rat.
– Recent research shows that not only are rats clever, but they have a sense of justice and are sentient organisms.
– Parsons argues that rat issues in urban areas should be dealt with by cleaning up the city, instead of acting reactively and often cruelly.

Environmental activist ‘well-hated’ by Myanmar junta is latest to be arrested by Sheryl Lee Tian Tong [09 Sep 2021]
– As demonstrations and deadly crackdowns continue in Myanmar, land and environmental defenders are increasingly under threat.
– On Sept. 6, environmental and democracy activist Kyaw Minn Htut became one of the latest political prisoners; authorities had detained his wife and 2-year-old son a day earlier.
– He had openly challenged the military and reported on illegal environmental activities, making him a “well-known and well-hated” target, fellow activists said.
– Some 20 environmental organizations across the world have signed a statement calling for Kyaw Minn Htut’s release.

Fomenting a “Perfect Storm” to push companies to change: Q&A with Glenn Hurowitz by Rhett A. Butler [09 Sep 2021]
– Over the past few years, Mighty Earth has emerged as one of the most influential advocacy groups when it comes pushing companies to clean up their supply chains. The group, has targeted companies that produce, trade, and source deforestation-risk commodities like beef, palm oil, cocoa, rubber, and soy.
– Mighty Earth is led by Glenn Hurowitz, an activist who has spent the better part of the past 20 years advocating for forests and forest-dependent communities. In that capacity, Hurowitz has played a central role in pressing some of the world’s largest companies to adopt zero deforestation, peatlands, and exploitation (ZDPE) commitments.
– Might Earth’s strategy is built on what Hurowitz calls the “Perfect Storm” approach: “We work to bring pressure on a target from multiple different angles in a relatively compressed time period to the point that it becomes irresistible: their customers, financiers, media, grassroots, digital, direct engagement with the company,” he explained. “It’s an application of the basic principles of classical military strategy, combined with social change theory and a lot of hard-won experience to the field of environmental campaigning.
– Hurowitz spoke about how to drive change, the evolution of environmental activism, and a range of other topics during an August 2021 conversation with Mongabay founder Rhett A. Butler.

Razan Al Mubarak becomes first woman from the Arab world to head IUCN by [08 Sep 2021]
– Razan Al Mubarak was today elected President of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), one of the world’s largest and best-known conservation institutions.
– Ms. Al Mubarak is the first woman from the Arab world to head IUCN and only the second woman to run lead the 73-year-old conservation organization.
– Ms. Al Mubarak was elected during IUCN’s World Conservation Congress, which started last week and is taking place in Marseille, France.
– IUCN is a membership organization composed of 1,400 government bodies and NGOs. The group is perhaps best known for its Red List of Threatened Species, which helps set conservation priorities worldwide.

‘Global Indigenous Agenda’ for land rights, conservation launched at IUCN congress by Ashoka Mukpo [08 Sep 2021]
– In 2016, members of the IUCN, the global conservation authority, voted to change its membership structure and include Indigenous peoples’ organizations as a new constituency.
– The agenda was released following a summit for Indigenous participants at the IUCN World Conservation Congress, and calls for greater recognition of the link between nature conservation and Indigenous land rights.
– Other key issues covered in the agenda include respect for human rights in protected areas, guidelines on access to Indigenous lands for bioprospecting, and support for land defenders.
– The IUCN’s director-general welcomed the agenda, but Indigenous representatives say that policymakers now need to take action in support of it.

We’ve crossed four of nine planetary boundaries. What does this mean? by Mike DiGirolamo [08 Sep 2021]
– The Earth has nine Planetary Boundaries that determine the threshold beyond which human impact on Earth’s systems will put society at risk. We’ve already crossed four of these boundaries.
– Over the past year, Mongabay’s series on planetary boundaries has focused attention on the implications of crossing them.
– Below are some highlights that cover the consequences of crossing four of those boundaries (and solutions to address them), as well as the looming challenges in preventing humanity from overreaching the boundaries we have yet to cross.

‘Join us for the Amazon,’ Indigenous leaders tell IUCN in push for protection by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [08 Sep 2021]
– At the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Marseille, France, Indigenous leaders and conservationists have called for support of their effort to protect 80% of the Amazon Basin by 2025.
– Scientists say the Amazon region has already lost 17% of its forest cover and that an additional 17% has been degraded by forest loss, fragmentation, wildfires and drought, and that these pressures are pushing the rainforest toward a critical tipping point.
– While the recognition of Indigenous land rights would be a critical first step, experts say that Indigenous communities need support in enforcing their land rights and their efforts to defend the Amazon.
– A motion that would support area-based conservation targets with the view to protecting at least 80% of the Amazon by 2025 has been approved for a vote at the IUCN congress, although the date for the actual vote has not yet been set.

The first complete map of the world’s shallow tropical coral reefs is here by Carolyn Cowan [08 Sep 2021]
– Scientists have completed the first-ever global, high-resolution map of the world’s shallow tropical coral reefs.
– When combined with an integrated tool that tracks global coral bleaching events in near-real-time, the new resource provides a comprehensive overview of the trends and changes in global coral reef health.
– While the completion of the map is an achievement in itself, the scientists behind the Allen Coral Atlas say they hope the new resource will spur action to improve coral reef protection.
– The new mapping platform is already being used to support conservation projects in more than 30 countries, including designation of marine protected areas and to inform marine spatial plans.

Borneo’s bearded pigs and traditional hunters adapted to oil palms. Then came swine fever by Sheryl Lee Tian Tong [08 Sep 2021]
– Oil palm expansion and urbanization have altered the traditional hunting of bearded pigs by the Indigenous Kadazandusun-Murut (KDM) community in Sabah, Malaysia, a new study has found.
– Researchers interviewed 38 hunters on changes in pig behavior and hunting practices before the African swine fever (ASF) epidemic hit Sabah in 2021.
– They found that even though pig hunting patterns have changed dramatically, the activity remains a cornerstone of KDM communal culture for food, sport, gift-giving, festivals and celebrations.
– As ASF devastates wild pig populations, the researchers’ findings highlight a need for long-term hunting management that conserves both the bearded pig and Indigenous cultural traditions.

In Kenya, push-pull method tries to debug organic farming’s pest problem by David Njagi [08 Sep 2021]
– Farmers in Kenya are experimenting with the “push-pull” method to deal with insect pests without having to use costly and polluting pesticides.
– The technology involves intercropping food plants with insect-repelling legumes to push the bugs away, and ringing the plots with plants that attract, or pull, them even farther out.
– Working with 642 farmers from 56 villages in eight counties, researchers found that farmers who applied the push-pull method nearly doubled their yields over those of their neighbors.
– While adoption of push-pull farming remains low, in part because of higher labor costs, proponents say it offers a win-win for farmers through higher yields and avoidance of chemical pesticides.

Brazil’s biofuel program sputters on weak emissions accounting by Sibélia Zanon [08 Sep 2021]
– The RenovaBio program has been encouraging biofuel producers in Brazil to emit less carbon dioxide since the end of 2019.
– The program survived a rocky first year brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and volatility in the carbon credit market, but still has some weaknesses that must be addressed, experts say.
– For one thing, the program doesn’t account for emissions from land use and indirect deforestation, which are significant factors in the production of soybeans, from which 70% of Brazil’s biodiesel is derived.
– While Brazil is investing heavily in biofuels as an energy solution, a new report by the International Energy Agency suggests that by 2050, half of emission cuts should come from experimental technologies like advanced batteries for electric vehicles and hydrogen production systems.

Industrial fishing harbor plan raises a stink in Sierra Leone by Mohamed Fofanah [07 Sep 2021]
– Landowners and environmental activists have balked at a proposal to build a Chinese-funded fishing harbor in the Sierra Leonean village of Black Johnson.
– The site falls within a national park that’s home to threatened species such as pangolins and chimpanzees, and its lagoon is an important fish-breeding area.
– The government says the project aims to retain a greater share of profits from marine resources within Sierra Leone, given that currently much of the catch from the country’s waters is processed and packaged elsewhere.
– Some in the community support the project, saying it will bring in much-needed infrastructure such as health facilities and piped water, and say those opposed to it are outsiders rather than locals.

Amazon, meet Amazon: Tech giant rolls out rainforest carbon offset project by Juliana Ennes [07 Sep 2021]
– Tech giant Amazon has announced a nature-based carbon removal project in the Brazilian Amazon Rainforest in partnership with The Nature Conservancy (TNC).
– The project will help small farmers produce sustainable agricultural produce through reforestation and regenerative agroforestry programs, in exchange for carbon credits that will go to the internet company.
– Called the Agroforestry and Restoration Accelerator, the initiative is expected to support 3,000 small farmers in Pará state and restore an area the size of Seattle in the first three years, and in the process remove up to 10 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through 2050.
– In addition to addressing climate and social issues, the partners say the project intends to address the shortcomings of the carbon credit market by creating new standards for the industry.

New research hopes to shine a light on wedgefish, the ‘pangolin of the ocean’ by Caroline Chebet [07 Sep 2021]
– Wedgefish, a type of ray, are some of the least-known and most endangered fish in the ocean.
– A new research project in Mozambique is employing two types of tags, acoustic and satellite, to better understand two of these critically endangered species.
– Researchers aim to uncover the species’ range and habitat requirements to preserve them from extinction.
– Wedgefish are heavily targeted by the shark-fin trade, and their populations have declined precipitously throughout much of their range.

Spike in deforestation detected in Papua concession linked to South Korea’s Moorim by Hans Nicholas Jong [07 Sep 2021]
– Satellite imagery has detected 965 hectares (2,384 acres) of tree loss from January to May this year in a concession run by a subsidiary of South Korean paper company Moorim in Indonesia’s easternmost region of Papua.
– The findings appear to corroborate an earlier investigation, using drone images, that showed signs of clearing in peat swamp areas in the concession.
– Besides the alleged deforestation, Indigenous communities in the area have also reportedly been denied the right to give their free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) to the project.
– The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), which certifies Moorim’s paper products as sustainable, says its takes these allegations “very seriously”; Moorim did not respond to Mongabay’s requests for comment.

New Philippine corpse flower is phallic-shaped, funky smelling — and nearly extinct by Keith Anthony Fabro [07 Sep 2021]
– A maroon plant with a small, phallic-shaped flower and a putrid odor has been identified as a species new to science, Amorphophallus minimus.
– The plant was first collected in 2019 by a team of foresters conducting a biodiversity study in Pantabangan-Carranglan Watershed Forest Reserve in the Philippines’ Nueva Ecija province.
– Due to threats including logging and increasing human settlement in its sole known habitat, researchers have recommended the plant be listed as critically endangered.

If you think sharks are scary, blame Hollywood, new study suggests by Jansen Baier [07 Sep 2021]
– A study analyzing 109 shark-related films from 1958 to 2019 has found that 96% of them overtly portrayed sharks as potentially threatening to humans.
– “Finding Dory” was the only film in that list not to portray sharks in a negative light.
– The study’s co-author says this sustained negative portrayal by the media and Hollywood “makes people more likely to want potentially lethal mitigation techniques” against sharks.
– Humans slaughter more than 100 million sharks each year, and more than 30% of all shark and ray species are considered threatened.

How to find the right NGO partner without shooting yourself in the foot (commentary) by Aida Greenbury [06 Sep 2021]
– Aida Greenbury, the former Managing Director of Sustainability at APP Group and currently a board member and advisor to several organizations including Mongabay, explores the complexities of corporate – NGO engagement.
– Greenbury says there is a wide spectrum of NGOs and companies, each with differing levels of commitment, ethics, and willingness to meaningfully engage. Finding the right partners is critical for collaborations to be effective at driving change.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Sri Lanka tagging program traces little-known paths of migratory birds by Malaka Rodrigo [06 Sep 2021]
– A new satellite-tagging project initiated in mid 2020 in Sri Lanka has yielded some interesting information about migratory bird movements that researchers hope will fill in existing data gaps.
– Sri Lanka is the last landmass along the Central Asian Flyway, with more than 200 bird species migrating to the Indian Ocean island to overwinter.
– Initiated in 2004 using traditional tagging methods such as plastic and metal bands, Sri Lanka’s National Bird Ringing Programme had to wait several years to find a suitable technical partner to introduce the more costly satellite tags.
– The first season of migration using satellite tagging tracked the epic journey of a Heuglin’s gull (Larus fuscus heuglini), generating real-time data as the bird flew 7,000 kilometers (4,350 miles) on its return journey to the Arctic region.

Indonesia still clinging to coal despite phaseout pledge, new plan shows by Hans Nicholas Jong [06 Sep 2021]
– The Indonesian government has walked back an earlier pledge to phase out all coal-fired power plants, saying now that it will keep them running but fit them with carbon capture technology.
– Experts have questioned the technical and financial feasibility of the plan, and called for a swift transition away from the fossil fuel and toward renewable energy.
– Even so, senior officials and lawmakers have criticized any attempt to give up coal, saying Indonesia shouldn’t blindly follow the growing global trend toward renewables.
– As part of its plan for “cleaner” coal plants, the government wants to burn more biomass — wood chips — alongside coal, which raises a host of new questions about economic and environmental costs.

From a nuisance to a benefit, ‘world’s worst weed’ finds new use as biofuel by Federica Marsi [06 Sep 2021]
– A startup in western Kenya has developed a process of making bioethanol from water hyacinths, addressing both the need for a clean fuel alternative to charcoal and fuelwood, and the spread of the invasive hyacinths.
– Proponents say a key advantage of this “second-generation” bioethanol over traditional feedstocks such as sugarcane and corn is that it avoids competition for limited agricultural land.
– But although this new bioethanol relies on a plentiful feedstock and is cheaper to produce than charcoal, it’s still more expensive for end users because of limited distribution and the need to buy a compatible stove.
– Proponents say they’re determined to scale up production and distribution, pointing out that they’re “turning something harmful into something beneficial.”

Jaguar stronghold in Brazil’s Iguaçu Park threatened by road reopening plan by Suzana Camargo [06 Sep 2021]
– A bill introduced in Brazil’s Congress calls for reopening a closed road that cuts through Iguaçu National Park.
– The proposal poses a serious threat to jaguars, whose numbers have been growing steadily there; the area is home to one-third of the big cat’s remaining population in the Atlantic Forest.
– Reopening the road, closed since 2001, will not only increase the animals’ risk of being hit by vehicles but also make it easier for poachers to hunt them — the main threat to jaguars.
– It can also cause impacts such as noise and air pollution, soil degradation, and changes in local microclimate, experts warn.

Plant-based face masks? This young Philippine inventor has you covered by Ethan Kisses Guevarra [06 Sep 2021]
– A Filipino high school student has developed a plant-based wax that has shown potential in increasing the life span and effectiveness of reusable face masks.
– Kiara Raye Cartojano, 18, says she hopes the project can reduce the number of disposable face masks discarded in her city, estimated at more than 480,000 per day since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
– The wax is made from the leaves of the taro plant, a widespread plant with the potential to displace native vegetation and threaten agricultural crops.

Rich countries may be buying illegal gold that’s driving Amazon destruction by Juliana Ennes [03 Sep 2021]
– Nearly a third of Brazil’s gold production in 2019 and 2020 was potentially illegal or outright illegal, a new report shows.
– The findings suggest that institutional buyers in rich countries — Canada, the U.K. and Switzerland bought 72% of Brazil’s gold exports — are contributing to the violence, deforestation and pollution associated with illegal mining.
– The report used satellite imagery to show how illegal gold mined in Indigenous reserves was laundered by being reported as having come from legitimate mining concessions; the value of this illegal gold in 2019 and 2020 exceeded $229 million, the report calculates.
– Prosecutors have filed two lawsuits based on the findings: One seeks the suspension of financial institutions identified as buyers of illegal gold in northern Pará state, while the second aims to suspend all permits to mine, sell and export gold from the southwest region of Pará.

One in three tree species is in the red, new global assessment says by Malavika Vyawahare [03 Sep 2021]
– Of the 60,000 known species of trees, 440 are critically endangered, an assessment spearheaded by Botanic Gardens Conservation International (BGCI) has found.
– There are more threatened tree species in the world today than there are threatened mammal, reptile, bird and amphibian species combined.
– Among tree biodiversity hotspots, which boast a large number of indigenous trees, Brazil, Indonesia and Malaysia fare poorly.
– Lack of in-country expertise is holding back such initiatives, Frank Mbago, a Tanzanian botanist, told Mongabay.

Is it time to rethink jaguar recovery in the U.S.? (commentary) by Robert Peters, Sharon Wilcox [03 Sep 2021]
– Lands in central Arizona and New Mexico provide a huge potential for jaguar habitat: stretching as far north as the Grand Canyon, the area contains vast expanses of forests and an abundance of whitetail deer, one of their favorite prey.
– The co-authors of two recent jaguar studies found that the 20-million-acre area is 27 times larger than the critical habitat designated by the U.S. government and provides habitat that could support 100 or more jaguars.
– Yet, this area was overlooked by a 2018 jaguar recovery plan by the U.S. government. Scientists are now calling for the U.S. government to rethink their jaguar recovery policy.
– The views expressed are of the authors, not necessarily Mongabay.

Not just sea life: Migratory fish, birds and mammals also fall foul of plastic by Carolyn Cowan [03 Sep 2021]
– A new report from the U.N. Environment Programme and the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals confirms that plastic pollution poses a major threat to land and freshwater migratory species.
– Mammals, birds and fish are affected through various means, including entanglement, ingestion of plastics, accumulation of microplastics in the food chain, and using plastics in nesting material.
– The report highlights that global capacity to manage plastic pollution is not keeping pace with projected growth in the plastics market.
– The authors call for measures that will ultimately drive change upstream to reduce the volume of plastics entering the marketplace.

Vale told Brazil communities they were in danger. They say Vale wants their land by Isis Medeiros [03 Sep 2021]
– Residents moved from their homes in Brazil’s Minas Gerais state over fears of impending collapses of dams operated by miner Vale are accusing the company of trying to take over their land.
– The first such evacuation was ordered in February 2019 in the municipality of Barão de Cocais, two weeks after the Brumadinho dam disaster killed 458 people.
– In the two and a half years since then, more communities have been moved, with affected residents saying Vale is stonewalling them on compensation.
– A document drawn up by state prosecutors in March confirms that there’s been interest in prospecting for minerals on the vacated land, although Vale has not responded to the accusation.

Palm oil firms in Papua hit back with lawsuit after permits are revoked by Hans Nicholas Jong [03 Sep 2021]
– Three palm oil companies are suing local officials in Indonesia’s West Papua province after their permits were revoked for a series of violations.
– The companies are seeking a reversal of the revocation, which locks them out of a combined 90,031 hectares (222,471 acres) of land in Sorong district, an area larger than New York City.
– The Sorong district head says he revoked the permits after a province-wide audit found a litany of violations by plantation license holders, including violations of the rights of Indigenous communities.
– The district head has received an outpouring support from civil society groups, Indigenous peoples, and a national parliamentarian, who have all condemned the lawsuits.

New map identifies risks, and potential sanctuaries, for Brazil’s diving duck by Carolina Pinheiro [02 Sep 2021]
– The Brazilian merganser, a duck that’s the mascot for the country’s waterways, is among the top 10 most threatened birds in the world, with only about 250 individuals left in the wild.
– As part of conservation efforts, scientists have recently published a map showing the critically endangered species’ distribution in its remaining habitat, as well as identifying suitable new areas where it could thrive.
– The map also highlights the threats to this bioindicator species that needs clear, pollutant-free water to survive; the main threat comes from the damming of rivers, which affects water flow and quality for the mergansers.
– The researchers found 36 small hydropower plants planned for areas close to sites where the species lives, potentially impacting 504 square kilometers (196 square miles), or 4.1% of the total area suitable for the duck’s habitat.



Will ‘ropeless’ fishing gear be seaworthy in time to save endangered whales? by John C. Cannon [09/02/2021]
New study offers latest proof that Brazilian Amazon is now a net CO2 source by Chris Arsenault [09/01/2021]
Captive breeding of Sumatran rhinos: Where the program stands today by Mongabay [08/31/2021]
Conservation needs more women, says Razan Khalifa Al Mubarak by Rhett A. Butler [08/30/2021]
Sustainable livelihood offers a lifeline to Philippines’ dying rice terraces by Karlston Lapniten [08/29/2021]
Drug trafficking and illegal logging threaten Indigenous communities in Peru by Gloria Alvitres [08/26/2021]