Newsletter 2022-01-27


Innovative sewage solutions: Tackling the global human waste problem by Sean Mowbray [01/25/2022]

– The scale of the world’s human waste problem is vast, impacting human health, coastal and terrestrial ecosystems, and even climate change. Solving the problem requires working with communities to develop solutions that suit them, providing access to adequate sanitation and adapting aging sewage systems to a rapidly changing world.
– Decentralized and nature-based solutions are considered key to cleaning up urban wastewater issues and reducing pressure on, or providing affordable and effective alternatives to, centralized sewage systems.
– Seeing sewage and wastewater — which both contain valuable nutrients and freshwater — as a resource rather than as pollutants, is vital to achieving a sustainable “circular economy.” Technology alone can only get us so far, say experts. If society is to fully embrace the suite of solutions required, a sweeping mindset change will be needed.

Young environmentalists ‘plant the future’ in Colombia’s Amazon by Dimitri Selibas [01/24/2022]

– Young people like Felipe “Pipe” Henao in Guaviare, Colombia, are using tree planting and social media to raise awareness and spread the message of protecting and valuing the environment.
– Colombia’s Institute of Hydrology, Meteorology and Environmental Studies (IDEAM) recorded a nationwide deforestation rate of 171,685 hectares (424,242 acres) in 2020, with Guaviare department in the Amazon being one of the worst hit.
– Despite the damage being done, civil society efforts are already showing gains with efforts like Henao’s.
– His organization alone has connected with more than 150 companies and organizations in and around the town of Calamar and more than 1,800 families, and mobilized more than 1,000 young people to volunteer to clean rivers, protect wetlands and plant more than 60,000 trees.

Amazon to Alps: Swiss gold imports from Brazil tread a legal minefield by Fernanda Wenzel and Olivier Christe [01/21/2022]

– The Brazilian Amazon is experiencing a new and potentially catastrophic gold rush driven by increased international demand for the precious metal.
– Over the past year, an estimated $1.2 billion worth of gold has been exported from Brazil to Switzerland, making it the second-largest export market for the country’s gold, after Canada. About a fifth of this gold comes from the Amazon, according to official figures.
– The scale of Brazil’s gold exports to Switzerland has raised concerns among environmental and transparency advocates that a significant quantity of illicit gold from the Amazon may be entering global supply chains.

We’ve breached Earth’s threshold for chemical pollution, study says by Elizabeth Claire Alberts [01/19/2022]

– A new study has found that the release of novel entities — artificial chemicals and other human-made pollutants — has accelerated to a point that we have crossed a “planetary boundary,” threatening the entire Earth operating system, along with humanity.
– The study authors argue that the breach of this critical planetary boundary has occurred because the rate at which novel entities are being developed and produced by industry exceeds governments’ ability to assess risk and monitor impacts.
– There are about 350,000 different types of artificial chemicals currently on the international market, with production of existing and new synthetic chemicals set to substantially increase in the coming decades.
– While many of these substances have been shown to negatively affect the natural world and human health, the vast majority have yet to be evaluated, with their interactions and impacts poorly understood or completely unknown.

Chemical defoliants sprayed on Amazon rainforest to facilitate deforestation in Brazil by Jenny Gonzales [01/19/2022]

– Chemicals created to kill agricultural pests are being sprayed by aircraft into native forest areas.
– Glyphosate and 2,4-D, among others, cause the trees to defoliate, and end up weakened or dead in a process that takes months. Next criminals remove the remaining trees more easily and drop grass seeds by aircraft, consolidating deforestation.
– Brazil’s environmental agency, IBAMA, discovered that in addition to land grabbers, cattle ranchers use the method in order to circumvent forest monitoring efforts.


Cuba boosts marine protected coverage with new area spanning reefs to mangroves By: [27 Jan 2022]
– Cuba recently declared that it had established a new marine protected area off the country’s northwestern coast known as the Este del Archipiélago de Los Colorados.
– The new MPA spans 728 square kilometers (281 square miles), and will provide protection for a number of species, like hawksbill turtles, Antillean manatees, and reef fish like snappers and groupers.
– The MPA was established with the support of the fishing community since the protected area should help replenish fish stocks.

Western monarchs make a spectacular comeback in California By: Liz Kimbrough [27 Jan 2022]
– The population of monarch butterflies overwintering in California has increased a hundredfold, according to an annual count: more than 247,000 butterflies were counted in 2021, up from 2,000 butterflies in 2020.
– Scientists are unsure why numbers have soared, but speculate it is due to a suite of environmental factors including climate and food resources.
– Although this year’s count is overwhelmingly positive, the population has still plummeted from historic numbers; more than 1.2 million butterflies were recorded in 1997.
– Pesticide- and herbicide‐intensive agriculture, urban sprawl, pollution, and climate change have contributed to the global decline of insects, including monarchs.

It’s not a cat, it’s the African civet | Candid Animal Cam By: Romina Castagnino [27 Jan 2022]
– Every month, 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.

Liberian villagers threaten to leave mining agreement, citing broken promises By: Varney Kamara [27 Jan 2022]
– Communities in Liberia have threatened to withdraw from an agreement they made with a mining company two years ago, on the grounds that none of the promised benefits have materialized.
– Much of the dispute hinges on the interpretation of the agreement, which mandates Switzerland-headquartered Solway Mining Incorporated to make payments to communities, but doesn’t make clear how or when to do so.
– Solway denies any wrongdoing, while the mining ministry has questioned the relevance of the agreement, saying it’s not legally required for exploration to proceed.
– But community members say the company is “proceeding wrongly”: “Solway is a big disappointment. We don’t see the schools and health centers they promised us.”

Podcast: The 411 on forests and reforestation for 2022 By: Mike Gaworecki [26 Jan 2022]
– On today’s episode of the Mongabay Newscast we look at the major forest and conservation trends coming out of 2021 and take a look ahead to 2022.
– We speak with Mongabay founder and CEO Rhett Butler, who discusses the year in rainforests that was 2021, the storylines to watch in 2022, and Mongabay’s expanding coverage of environmental science news around the world.
– We also speak with Swati Hingorani, a senior program officer at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Global Coordinator for the Bonn Challenge Secretariat. Hingorani tells us about the Bonn Challenge’s newly revamped and relaunched Restoration Barometer and how it tracks ecosystem restoration progress being made by countries around the world.

Alaskan Indigenous leaders fear impacts on salmon streams from mining project By: Laurel Sutherland [26 Jan 2022]
– Mining company Donlin Gold is seeking to develop one of the world’s largest open-pit gold mines near Alaska’s Kuskokwim River, a spawning ground for several species of salmon, which make up 50 percent of local communities’ diet and subsistence lifestyle.
– According to Donlin Gold, Native corporations have already approved of the mine and the best available technology will be utilized to meet or exceed all air and water quality standards while providing employment opportunities.
– Tribal leaders argue Native corporations agreed without consulting tribal governments, who are shareholders, and fear mercury contamination and the disruption of their access to hunting and fishing grounds, as underlined in the project’s Environmental Impact Statement.
– Tribal councils have brought the matter to the Alaska Superior court and are appealing two certifications necessary for construction due to exceeded levels of mercury and impacts to salmon streams.

Online trade and pet clubs fuel desire for little-known Javan ferret badgers By: Carly Nairn [26 Jan 2022]
– Researchers identified an increase in online sales of Javan ferret badgers, a small carnivore relatively unknown to the general public outside its native Indonesia.
– Pet clubs and online forums are driving demand for small mammals such as ferret badgers, civets and otters.
– Enforcement against the illegal wildlife trade online and in open-air markets in Indonesia remains lax.

Indonesia is clearing less forest for palm oil, but it’s still not sustainable By: Hans Nicholas Jong [26 Jan 2022]
– Clearing of forests in Indonesia to make way for oil palm plantations has decreased in recent years, a new analysis shows.
– It found that deforestation was associated with 3.1 million hectares (7.7 million acres) of plantations established since 2000, out of a total of 16.2 million hectares (40 million acres) planted as of 2019.
– Auriga, the environmental NGO that carried out the analysis, says this gives the bulk of palm oil producers a case to make that their palm oil is deforestation-free and should be labeled as sustainable.
– However, a Greenpeace campaigner says being deforestation-free is only one aspect of sustainability, and adds many oil palm companies remain far from socially sustainable, given the land conflicts in which they’re mired against local and Indigenous communities.

With ‘sustainable’ cocoa, Mars pushes climate, market risks onto farmers By: Basten Gokkon [26 Jan 2022]
– Corporate strategies that force cocoa farmers to stay in place to increase productivity amid the impacts of climate change are putting smallholders at greater risk to economic and environmental impacts, a new study says.
– The study analyzed efforts supported or carried out by Mars Inc., one of the world’s largest chocolate manufacturers and cocoa buyers, in Indonesia, which produces a tenth of the world’s cocoa.
– “Many agricultural intensification initiatives assume that by boosting productivity, smallholder incomes will increase, and therefore vulnerability to climate shocks will decrease. Yet, the reality is much more complicated,” says study author Sean Kennedy.
– “When some entity is saying, ‘Here’s a climate-adaptation program intended to keep people in place,’ often staying in place is not the best way to adapt to climate change,” he adds.

Colombo’s seagoing crocodiles under pressure after diver’s killing By: Malaka Rodrigo [26 Jan 2022]
– A deadly attack at the start of the year has directed public scrutiny at the saltwater crocodiles of Colombo, Sri Lanka’s bustling commercial capital.
– The public and media response to the death of fisherman Somasiri Peries near a popular beach has been to call for the crocodiles to be trapped and moved elsewhere, but leading herpetologists say translocation doesn’t work and isn’t the solution.
– They note that human-crocodile coexistence in Colombo goes back centuries, and that attacks, while always a possibility, are exceedingly rare.
– Instead, they point to the need for a scientific approach to the issue of Colombo’s crocodiles, pointing out that one factor for the thriving population is the “unplanned development” of the city’s water bodies.

Elephant protector and fossil hunter Richard Leakey leaves outsized legacy in Kenya By: Jeremy Hance [25 Jan 2022]
– Famed paleontologist and conservationist Richard Leakey died on January 2nd, 2022 at the age of 77.
– Leakey made his mark on the field of wildlife conservation after he assumed the helm of Kenya’s Wildlife Service in 1989.
– Leakey cracked down aggressively on poachers and fortified the country’s national parks, arresting the ongoing decline in wildlife populations in the country and revitalizing the tourism sector.
– But his approach proved controversial, leading him to step down from the head of the agency in 1994. Leakey continued to be active in conservation and paleontology through the last years of his life.

Mau Forest rehabilitation still overshadowed by forced evictions By: Keit Silale [25 Jan 2022]
– More than 50,000 people have been forcefully evicted from Kenya’s ecologically important Mau Forest in the past decade.
– With few options to relocate, evicted smallholders and others continue to enter the forest in search of grazing and fuel.
– The Kenya Water Tower Agency has built electrified fencing, but encroachers have torn sections of this down.
– Enlisting evictees to create tree nurseries and support for alternative livelihoods points the way to more constructive approaches.

Spurred by investor-friendly law, palm oil firms sue to get licenses back By: Hans Nicholas Jong [25 Jan 2022]
– Two palm oil companies in Indonesia’s West Papua province are suing the local government to win back their permits that were revoked last year.
– The new filings are the latest wave of litigation in the province since authorities across West Papua’s eight districts revoked the permits of 16 palm oil companies over administrative violations.
– Lawsuits filed by three other companies were thrown out last December and earlier this month, leaving opponents of the palm oil industry hopeful of a similar outcome in the latest case.
– The staunchest opponents of the companies are the Indigenous communities who have long sought official recognition of their ancestral rights to the land and forests that fall within the oil palm concessions.

Attack on environmental lawyer’s home alarms DRC rights defenders By: Soraya Kishtwari [25 Jan 2022]
– Armed men, including two dressed in police uniform, attacked the home of Congolese lawyer Timothée Mbuya earlier this month and told family members they were sent to kill him.
– Mbuya is also facing a defamation lawsuit after publishing a report alleging encroachment of a protected area by a farm owned by former DRC president Joseph Kabila.
– Campaigners say both the lawsuit and the violent assault on the lawyer’s home fit a pattern of harassment of environment and human rights activists in the country.

Efforts to dim Sun and cool Earth must be blocked, say scientists By: Shanna Hanbury [24 Jan 2022]
– Scientists are calling on political institutions to place limits on solar geoengineering research so that it cannot be deployed unilaterally by countries, companies or individuals.
– Long-term planetary-level geoengineering interventions of this kind are unprecedented and extremely dangerous, say the academics behind the letter, and should not therefore be experimented with outdoors, receive patents, public funds or international support.
– Solar geoengineering’s leading proposal — injecting billions of aerosol particles into the Earth’s stratosphere — could have severe, unintended and unforeseen consequences. Modelling suggests that it may cause drying in the Amazon rainforest
– In addition, if solar geoengineering were deployed, it would need to be maintained for decades. Sudden discontinuance would result in Earth facing what scientists call termination shock, with a sudden temperature rise due to existing atmospheric carbon emissions which would have been masked by cooling stratospheric aerosols.

Typhoon exposes biodiversity haven Palawan’s vulnerability — and resilience By: Keith Anthony S. Fabro [24 Jan 2022]
– On Dec. 17, 2021, Typhoon Rai hit the Philippines’ Palawan Island, causing severe damage to protected areas including Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park (PPSRNP), Cleoptra’s Needle Critical Habitat, Malampaya Sound Protected Landscape and Seascape, and El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area.
– The full impact of the storm has not yet been assessed; at PPSRNP, where preliminary surveys have been conducted, more than 2,200 trees were damaged on the park’s fringes and sightings of birds were down by 90%.
– Experts say the storm-damaged forests can recover — if they aren’t disturbed by human incursions, fires, or additional storms.

Déjà vu for Indigenous villagers in Brazil as floods leave them homeless again By: Sarah Brown [21 Jan 2022]
– A community of Indigenous Pataxó and Pataxó Hãhãhãe peoples has been made homeless for the second time in three years after the rain-swollen Paraopeba River flooded their houses and swept away their possessions.
– In 2019, the same village was left uninhabitable after the collapse of a tailings dam belonging to mining giant Vale polluted the river, causing health problems among the community and taking away their access to clean water.
– Authorities say the community can’t return to Naô Xohã village because their houses and land are now contaminated by heavy metals from the Paraopeba River’s toxic mud; the residents are currently sheltering in local schools and rely on donations.
– They are now fighting to be relocated to new land, but are still waiting for a final resolution from Vale after three years of negotiations.

As climate change melts Antarctic ice, gentoo penguins venture further south By: [21 Jan 2022]
– Researchers have discovered a new colony of gentoo penguins in Antarctica previously unknown to science.
– The colony was found on Andersson Island on the east side of the Antarctic Peninsula, which is the furthest south the species has ever been found in that region.
– Scientists say climate change played a key role in the penguins’ presence on the island, as warming temperatures and record ice melt make new locations habitable for the species.
– Scientists and conservationists are making renewed calls to establish a network for marine protected areas in Antarctica to help safeguard the region as the climate rapidly changes.

Bleached reefs still support nutritious fish, study finds By: John C. Cannon [21 Jan 2022]
– A recent study published in the journal One Earth looked at the nutrients available in fisheries in Seychelles before and after bleaching killed around 90% of the island nation’s coral in 1998.
– Warming ocean temperatures have caused mass bleaching of corals across the tropics, sometimes causing the deaths of these reef-building animals, and the phenomenon is expected to continue as a result of climate change.
– The research found that bleached reefs continue to support fisheries that provide essential micronutrients to human communities.

COP27 must deliver climate finance where it is needed most (commentary) By: Jack Stuart, Sally Yozell, and Valentine Ochanda [20 Jan 2022]
– While it’s critical that adaptation financing continues to increase, it’s equally important that these funds are channeled into projects that protect those who are most vulnerable to the devastating consequences of climate change.
– This year, COP27 will take place in Egypt and the climate vulnerabilities facing communities across the African continent will be on full display, including the ongoing drought in the Sahel and floods in the Nile Delta.
– This opportunity to shape the “Adaptation COP” agenda needs to also include how these resources can be guided by data, toward building a more sustainable future, a new op-ed argues.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the authors, not necessarily of Mongabay.

‘Rural women in Zimbabwe are in constant contact with climate change’: Q&A with Shamiso Mupara By: Derick Matsengarwodzi [20 Jan 2022]
– According to Shamiso Mupara, founder and executive director of Environmental Buddies Zimbabwe, climate change, droughts and food shortages are having a greater toll on women than men in rural Zimbabwe, as seen in the rise of forced marriages during the 1992 year of extreme drought.
– Growing up in a rural community affected by regular periods of drought, Mupara decided to dedicate her life to empowering Zimbabwean women and increasing their financial independence with environmental campaigns and beekeeping trainings.
– Due to land degradation, Mupara told Mongabay, women are finding it increasingly difficult to farm, feed their families or engage in meaningful forest-based businesses.

At a plantation in Central Africa, Big Oil tries to go net-zero By: Ashoka Mukpo [20 Jan 2022]
– In March 2021, French oil giant TotalEnergies announced that it would be developing a 40,000-hectare (99.000-acre) forest in the Republic of Congo that will sequester 500,000 tons of carbon per year.
– The project is part of a renewed global push for governments and corporations to hit their emissions targets partially by the use of carbon credits, also known as offsets.
– But advocates say what TotalEnergies describes as a “forest” is a commercial acacia plantation that will produce timber for sale, with little detail on who stands to profit or lose access to land.

As animals vanish, the plants they spread can’t keep pace with climate change By: Liz Kimbrough [19 Jan 2022]
– As the climate warms, many species will need to change locations to stay within a hospitable temperature range. Half of the world’s plants are dispersed by animals, but as animals are lost from ecosystems, plants are not moving as far.
– The loss of birds and mammals has reduced the ability of animal-dispersed plants to track climate change by 60%, according to new research.
– When animals die off in an ecosystem, we’re often losing the large ones first — those that are the best at long-distance dispersal. So, just a small decline in the number of animal species leads to a massive decline in plants’ ability to track climate change.
– This first global analysis of the loss of seed-dispersers demonstrates the interconnectedness of the climate change and biodiversity crises — two of the nine planetary boundaries identified by scientists. The destabilization and overshoot of one or more of these boundaries due to human interference could cause the failure of critical Earth operating systems.

In Africa, temperatures rise, but adaptation lags on West’s funding failure By: [19 Jan 2022]
– Last year was the third-warmest year for the continent, tied with 2019, with warming more pronounced here than the global average.
– The annual temperature in 2021 was 1.33°C (2.39°F) above average for the continent, with West and North Africa seeing an unusually warm year.
– Extreme events and long-drawn catastrophes are taking a toll and sapping resilience, while adaptation efforts are failing due to planning gaps and financing woes.
– Committed finance for adaptation is pegged at $2.7 billion to $5.3 billion annually, but the estimated cost of coping with climate impacts is almost double that.

As Malaysian state resumes log exports, Indigenous advocates warn of fallout By: Rachel Donald [19 Jan 2022]
– Effective Jan. 3, the state of Sabah in Malaysian Borneo has ended a ban on exporting unprocessed logs.
– The ban was put in place in 2018 in a bid to bolster the state’s timber processing industry; critics warn that overturning it will lead to an increase in both legal and illegal logging in the state’s remaining forests.
– Any increase in logging will especially affect the state’s forest-dependent Indigenous communities, including groups that are trying to assert legal rights to their ancestral land.
– The decision to end the export ban comes as the Sabah Forestry Department makes a push to convert 600,000 hectares (1.5 million acres) of degraded forest into timber plantations.


In Sri Lanka, a wild cat thrives in the unlikely urban jungle of Colombo by Malaka Rodrigo [01/17/2022]
By cultivating seaweed, Indigenous communities restore connection to the ocean by Claudia Geib [01/14/2022]
Brazil’s illegal gold rush is fueling corruption, violent crime and deforestation by Robert Muggah [01/14/2022]