Newsletter 2022-09-29


The Fixers: Top U.S. flooring retailers linked to Brazilian firm probed for corruption by Karla Mendes — September 29, 2022


– New evidence uncovered by a yearlong investigation by Mongabay and Earthsight reveals the corrupt deals made by Brazil’s largest flooring exporter, Indusparquet, and its suppliers.
– The company was charged in two corruption lawsuits in Brazil over its use of public officials to gain access to timber supplies. Mongabay and Earthsight gained access to dozens of hours of wiretaps and video footage, along with thousands of pages of court records, revealing how the alleged bribery schemes were carried out.
– One of the court cases showed the company used a local official to secure the supply of bracatinga, a tree species native to the Atlantic Forest, for an unnamed “U.S. client.”
– We also found indications that the American client was Floor & Decor, America’s largest flooring retail chain, which was previously involved in illegal timber scandals with Indusparquet, while LL Flooring, fined for breaching the Lacey Act in 2013 over its illegal timber exports, is also an Indusparquet client.

Haiti: An island nation whose environmental troubles only begin with water by Conrad Fox — September 28, 2022


– As Haiti plunges into the worst social unrest the nation has seen in years, shortages abound. One of these is water. But in Haiti, water scarcity has deeper roots, that connect to virtually every other aspect of the environment. Haiti’s ecosystems today, say some, are under stress due to regional and global transgressions of the nine planetary boundaries.
– The planetary boundary framework originated in 2009 to define required limits on human activities to prevent collapse of vital Earth operating systems. They include biodiversity loss, freshwater, air pollution, climate change, high phosphorus and nitrogen levels, ocean acidity, land use changes, ozone layer decay, and contamination by human-made chemicals.
– Scientists defining the global freshwater boundary warn that tampering with the water cycle can affect the other boundaries. Haiti, as a small isolated island nation, suggests a laboratory case-study of these many interconnections, and offers a graphic example of the grim results for humanity and wildlife when freshwater systems are deeply compromised.
– Haiti today is plagued by an extreme socioeconomic and environmental crisis. As it fights climate change, freshwater problems, deforestation and pollution, it may also be viewed as a bleak bellwether for other nations as our planetary crisis deepens. But scientists warn that research on applying planetary boundary criteria on a regional level remains limited.

With rights at risk, Indigenous Brazilians get on the ballot to fight back by Beatriz Miranda — September 27, 2022


– A record 186 Indigenous candidates are running in Brazil’s general elections in October, up 40% from the 2018 elections.
– Candidates and activists say the surge is pushback against the increased attacks on Indigenous rights, lands and cultures under the administration of President Jair Bolsonaro.
– There’s currently only one Indigenous member in the 594-seat National Congress, a body whose lower House has overwhelmingly supported legislation considered detrimental to Indigenous rights and environmental protection.
– Only two Indigenous individuals have ever been elected to Congress, but Brazil’s main Indigenous coalition hopes to improve this representation with a coordinated campaign to support Indigenous candidates.

Indigenous leader’s court win halts one of Australia’s ‘dirtiest gas projects’ by Malavika Vyawahare — September 23, 2022


– Indigenous community members from the Tiwi Islands off the northern coast of Australia took Santos Limited to court, arguing that the company did not adequately consult traditional owners in its plans to drill in the Barossa offshore gas field.
– A federal court threw out the approval granted by Australia’s offshore energy regulator, noting that all relevant stakeholders were not consulted.
– The drilling to develop the $3.6 billion Barossa gas project could threaten the Tiwi peoples’ food sources, culture and way of life, opponents say.
– If the Barossa project goes ahead, it could become one of Australia’s dirtiest gas projects emitting around 5.4 million metric tons of carbon dioxide yearly, estimates from the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis show.

Guatemalans strongly reject mining project in local referendum by Sandra Cuffe — September 23, 2022


– Nearly 88% of participating residents voted against metallic mining in a municipal referendum in Asunción Mita, in southeastern Guatemala.
– Locals fear the Cerro Blanco gold mining project would pollute soil and water sources, affecting the health of residents and crops.
– There is also strong opposition in nearby El Salvador to the mine as it is located near a tributary of the Lempa River that provides water for millions of Salvadorans.
– Cerro Blanco owner Bluestone Resources, the Guatemalan Ministry of Energy and Mines and a local pro-mining group contest the legality of the referendum.

2022: Another consequential year for the melting Arctic by Sharon Guynup — September 23, 2022


– Arctic sea ice extent shrank to its summertime minimum this week — tied with 2017 and 2018 for the 10th lowest ever recorded. However, the last 16 consecutive years have seen the least ice extent since the satellite record began. Polar sea ice extent, thickness and volume all continue trending steeply downward.
– Arctic air temperatures were high this summer, with parts of the region seeing unprecedented heating. Greenland saw air temperatures up to 36° F. above normal in September. Canada’s Northwest Territories saw record highs, hitting the 90s in July. Sea temperatures also remained very high in many parts of the Arctic Ocean.
– Scientists continue to be concerned as climate change warms the far North nearly four times faster than the rest of the planet, sparking concern over how polar warming may be impacting the atmospheric jet stream, intensifying disastrous extreme weather events worldwide, including heat waves, droughts and storms.
– While a mostly ice-free Arctic could occur as early as 2040, scientists emphasize that it needn’t happen. If humanity chooses to act now to drastically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, downward sea ice extent and volume trends could potentially be reversed.

The mystery of narwhal behavior, solved by chaos theory by Liz Kimbrough — September 23, 2022


– Researchers have used mathematical models based on chaos theory to analyze the movements of a pod of satellite-tagged narwhals.
– Around solar noon, narwhals rest nearer the surface and take deep dives. At night, their dives are shallower but with more rapid and intense movement, likely to hunt for squid. Narwhal behavior also changed according to how much sea ice was present.
– The narwhal life cycle is closely linked to ice. Researchers say this new method may be useful for understanding the challenges narwhals and other Arctic animals face due to the loss of sea ice from climate change.
– Narwhals are among the most highly threatened animals in the Arctic due to hunting, predation, climate change, and the ships and noise pollution associated with oil and gas mining and exploration.


Enigmatic binturong photographed in Nepal for the first time by Abhaya Raj Joshi — September 29, 2022
– Residents in western Nepal’s Pokhara Valley have captured the first known photos of a binturong, or bearcat (Arctictis binturong), in the country.
– The small cat-like mammal is found across much of East and Southeast Asia, and while eastern Nepal is also considered part of its range, its presence in the country has never been confirmed until now.
– Conservation officials were unable to examine the animal in person because it was released back into the wild by local authorities.
– The binturong is categorized as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List, with its population thought to have declined by 30% over the past 18 years.

Indonesian lobster larvae bound for Singapore reveal role of smuggling network by Basten Gokkon and Yogi Eka Sahputra — September 29, 2022
– Two recent seizures of lobster larvae shipments destined for Singapore have prompted an investigation by Indonesia into a smuggling network operating between the two countries.
– The shipments had an estimated value of $2.2 million, and were the latest in a string of attempts to smuggle the larvae to buyers in Singapore, Vietnam and China.
– Indonesia has banned the export of wild-caught larvae in an effort to its lobster stocks, and is encouraging the growth of the domestic lobster-farming industry.
– Lobsters are among Indonesia’s top fisheries commodities, but the illegal exports cost the country $64 million in lost revenue in 2019 alone, according to official data.

In Brazil’s Ribeira Valley, traditional communities combine farming and conservation by Sibélia Zanon — September 29, 2022
– The Traditional Quilombola Agricultural System (TQAS) of the Ribeira Valley was declared part of Brazil’s intangible cultural heritage in 2018.
– The slash-and-burn farming system practiced by the Afro-Brazilian communities in this area is based on land rotation, thus bringing together production and conservation in the largest contiguous remnant of the Atlantic Forest.
– The communities, or quilombos, here have a long history of struggling to practice their traditional agriculture, threatened by lack of proper land planning and the imposition of various restrictions by the authorities.
– But they persevere, growing organic food for their own sustenance and for sale, as well as establishing a seed bank that both saves native tree species for use in restoration projects, and generates an income for community members.

New estimate of less than 50 Sumatran rhinos shows perilous population drop by Jeremy Hance — September 29, 2022
– The official population estimate for Sumatran rhinos has for years been pegged at “fewer than 80,” but a new estimate compiled by rhino experts from the IUCN and TRAFFIC concludes the number is more likely between 34 and 47 rhinos left in the wild.
– Another nine rhinos currently live in captive-breeding centers in Indonesia, where three calves have been born since 2012.
– A survey by the same groups estimated the population at 73 animals in 2015, which indicates a population decline of 13% per year. Experts say the drop likely indicates both dwindling numbers and previous overestimates.

Lesser adjutant stork study in Nepal raises conservationists’ hopes by Abhaya Raj Joshi — September 29, 2022
– Vulnerable lesser adjutant storks are successfully breeding at higher numbers than expected in Nepal, a new study of the species across the country’s southern plains indicates.
– Among 206 nests studied, researchers found 280 chicks had fledged, exceeding the expected rate for larger storks of about one fledged chick per nest.
– Lesser adjutant colonies are threatened with habitat loss, as they nest in tall trees that are often cut in farmlands and areas of road construction or home building.
– Previously, the species had not been studied in detail, but this new research raises hopes among conservationists who say local governments need to help raise awareness of the birds’ importance.

New cave bat species in Sri Lanka highlights need for more research by Malaka Rodrigo — September 29, 2022
– Researchers describe a new bat species found in Sri Lanka and South India and name it Miniopterus phillipsi in honor of British naturalist W.W.A. Phillips.
– Sri Lanka is home to 31 species of bats, but researchers say there could be more given that neighboring India has 132 bat species already described.
– The number of identified species in the genus Miniopterus has doubled in Africa, but in Asia, M. phillipsi is the first new addition to this genus after a lapse of six decades.
– M. phillipsi is a small, insectivorous bat previously identified as Miniopterus fuliginosus; it inhabits caves and its population remains stable, although habitat loss may soon impact these bats.

Brazil 2022: Election, environment and the future of the Amazon by Alejandro Prescott-Cornejo — September 29, 2022
– Prior to the Oct. 2 Brazilian election, Mongabay aims to ensure the public has access to factual information on environmental issues in the country.
– Mongabay’s efforts include a year long joint investigation with Earthsight, which has uncovered new evidence of corruption and illegality used by Brazil’s largest flooring exporter, Indusparquet, and its suppliers.
– Mongabay has also produced a collection of Twitter threads that examine the interplay between Brazil’s elected officials — mainly the Bolsonaro administration — the environment and Indigenous peoples.

Experts decry ‘funny math’ of plastics industry’s ‘advanced recycling’ claims by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — September 28, 2022
– Environmental experts say there’s a strong possibility that a federal bill will be introduced in the U.S. that seeks to strengthen an industry known as “advanced recycling,” or “chemical recycling.”
– While proponents of advanced recycling tout it as a solution to the ever-growing plastic pollution issue, critics say that it’s not recycling at all, but a highly polluting incineration process that converts plastic into fuel.
– Experts say that current advanced recycling plants are able to operate with ease due to state laws that subject them to fewer regulations.
– Critics say the passing of a federal bill into law would substantially increase the number of advanced recycling plants across the U.S., allowing them to evade many environmental regulations while disproportionately polluting the air in low-income communities and communities of color.

In Belize, a proposed limestone mine threatens conservation legacy (commentary) by James Krupa — September 28, 2022
– Southern Lagoon lies on Belize’s central coast and sustains a large breeding population of manatees, fish, birds and other wildlife that supports the local community and attracts tourists.
– The limestone hills adjacent to it have also drawn the attention of Vulcan Materials, an Alabama-based company that wants to mine the hills for limestone to ship to the U.S., after its mine in Quintana Roo was shuttered by the Mexican Government for environmental degradation.
– Community resistance to the planned mine and its likely negative effects on the area’s natural beauty and tourism economy has been increasing: the nation’s Prime Minister and three members of the House of Representatives also oppose it, yet the company continues to pursue it.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

In Brazil’s Mato Grosso state, deforesters foot the bill for political campaigns by Caio de Freitas Paes — September 28, 2022
– In Brazil’s 2018 elections, 422 candidates running in executive and legislative races at state and federal levels across the country received donations from individuals and partners of companies linked to environmental crimes in the Amazon; 156 of them won election.
– The state of Mato Grosso led in the number of candidates bankrolled by environmental violators — 62 candidates, of whom 19 won — and in the donations made: 6 million reais ($1.5 million).
– Mauro Mendes, who would go on to win the state’s election for governor, received 1 million reais ($257,000) from environmental violators, and his track record in office to date has been marked by controversies over environmental protection and natural resource administration.
– Two federal legislators from Mato Grosso, recipients of environmental violators’ money, also appear to be aligned with their donors’ interests by sponsoring a bill that would effectively free up 10 million hectares (25 million acres) of land that can be legally deforested.

Documenting Nepal’s plant-based medical tradition: Q&A with Ram Prasad Chaudhary by Abhaya Raj Joshi — September 28, 2022
– Ram Prasad Chaudhary is an ethnobotanist who for decades has studied how various communities throughout Nepal use medicinal plants and pass on this knowledge.
– One pattern he’s noticed is that communities living at higher altitudes tend to make more use of herbal remedies than those living on the plains, with the latter having easier access to Western medicine — a situation he calls ironic.
– With younger generations of Nepalis increasingly viewing ethnobotanical traditions as superstition, Chaudhary says it’s imperative to instill in them the belief that the practice is based on centuries of knowledge generation.
– He also points to the case of China, where the practice of both Western and traditional medicine is complementary rather than competing, saying this is “the best way to go about it.”

Harpy eagle’s return to Costa Rica means rewilding’s time has come (commentary) by Andrew Whitworth — September 27, 2022
– An adult harpy eagle was recently photographed in northern Costa Rica, which made national headlines and waves on social media.
– Most believed these gigantic eagles had been extirpated from the region, but consistent efforts to restore forests and rewild ecosystems in the country mean they may return in greater numbers, if conditions allow.
– A new commentary argues this signals it’s time to ramp up reintroductions of animals like giant anteaters, too, and prey for eagles and also jaguars: “Why not establish herds of white-lipped peccary into Piedras Blancas National Park, where they have been absent for over 40 years?” the writer wonders.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

Greenland’s Indigenous population favors extracting sand from melting ice sheet by Moira Donovan — September 27, 2022
– In 2022, the Greenland ice sheet experienced net ice loss for the 26th year in a row. But that loss is producing a potentially valuable resource: sand, which the melting ice sheet is depositing on the coast.
– Together, sand and gravel are one of the most traded commodities in the world, and a study by researchers at McGill University found that the majority of Greenlanders, including Indigenous people, supported extracting sand for export.
– But Greenlanders—who have staunchly opposed some mining projects in the past—say this activity needs to be done with adequate environmental protection and consultation of Greenland’s predominantly Indigenous population.
– The environmental consequences are uncertain but could include impacts from sucking sand off the substrate and increasing shipping traffic.

Africa wants its climate money. Will rich countries pay? by Ashoka Mukpo — September 27, 2022
– This year’s U.N. climate conference, set to be held in Egypt, is being seen by negotiators and climate advocates in Africa as an opportunity to push the continent’s needs up to the top of the agenda.
– The conference will take place as a new analysis shows that wealthy countries are falling far short of their commitments to finance climate coping strategies in Africa.
– Negotiators from the African bloc are pushing for an agreement on “loss and damage” funding, which has been described as a form of climate reparations, to be reached at the conference.

Indonesia’s sustainable fisheries push sails into storm in Java Sea by Asad Asnawi — September 27, 2022
– Civil society activists have questioned whether a sanctioned alternative to the seine net will help fish stocks recover in Indonesia’s fishing zones.
– Fishers on Java’s northern coast are struggling to adapt to sustainability changes announced by Indonesia’s fisheries ministry.
– Cases of conflict between seine net fishers and smaller local fishing boats continue to be reported.

In the Amazon, Bolsonaro’s far right may retain power even if Lula wins by Jaqueline Sordi — September 26, 2022
– While polls show former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ahead in the upcoming elections, far-right ideology persists in the Amazon region.
– Bolsonaro’s allies lead the polls for governor in five of the nine Amazon states: Acre, Mato Grosso, Rondônia, Roraima and Amazonas.
– In all Amazonian states, polls indicate that the two presidential candidates are tied, in contrast to national polls.
– Experts say that even if most states choose right-wing governors, the federal government will determine the future of the Amazon rainforest.

Reducing beef’s carbon footprint is key to achieving net-zero in Latin America and the Caribbean, new paper shows by Sarah Sax — September 26, 2022
– Almost a dozen countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have pledged to reach net-zero emissions by around 2050.
– Agriculture and related land-use changes are responsible for almost half of greenhouse gas emissions in the region, and ambitious changes to the food system are necessary to achieve these net-zero goals.
– A new report by the Inter-American Development Bank shows that meeting the 2050 target depends heavily on reducing the carbon footprint of beef, on both the supply and the demand sides, especially from high beef-consuming countries in the region.

Bangladeshi industries explore renewables as power crisis looms by Abu Siddique — September 26, 2022
– Although Bangladesh achieved 100% access to electricity for all people in March 2022, dwindling gas reserves, alongside a jump in global prices of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), have forced the Bangladesh government to resort to power load-shedding.
– Since July 2021, the production of natural gases has drastically fallen. Against a demand of 2,252 million cubic feet of gas for power generation, only 1,035 million cubic feet of gas has been supplied to the power plants in recent months.
– Ready-made garment factories (RMGs) are not convinced the government will be able to ensure uninterrupted power supply to their establishments if the crisis prolongs.
– Some factories are trying to set up their own solar plants to avoid dependence on fossil fuel-based power. Solar installations require both heavy investment and space and thus only large factories can afford to do it at present.

Java fishers struggle with seine net ban amid rising costs, falling profits by Asad Asnawi — September 26, 2022
– Fishers on the north coast of Java are struggling to adapt to a ban on the seine net, with many boats confined to port after the government ceased issuing new permits to seine net fishers.
– Java fishers report declining catch volumes from the alternative net.
– Some boat captains fear bankruptcy as cash flow pressures mount.

The mystery of narwhal behavior, solved by chaos theory by Liz Kimbrough — September 23, 2022
– Researchers have used mathematical models based on chaos theory to analyze the movements of a pod of satellite-tagged narwhals.
– Around solar noon, narwhals rest nearer the surface and take deep dives. At night, their dives are shallower but with more rapid and intense movement, likely to hunt for squid. Narwhal behavior also changed according to how much sea ice was present.
– The narwhal life cycle is closely linked to ice. Researchers say this new method may be useful for understanding the challenges narwhals and other Arctic animals face due to the loss of sea ice from climate change.
– Narwhals are among the most highly threatened animals in the Arctic due to hunting, predation, climate change, and the ships and noise pollution associated with oil and gas mining and exploration.

Palm oil firms not acting fast enough on no-deforestation vows: Report by Hans Nicholas Jong — September 23, 2022
– Only 22% of companies sourcing or producing palm oil in Indonesia have public and comprehensive no-deforestation policies, a new report by London-based nonprofit CDP says.
– The report also finds that only 28% of companies have robust public no-deforestation commitments that cover 100% of production and include a cutoff date before 2020.
– In light of the report, experts are calling for more companies to adopt robust no-deforestation policies that incorporate social elements including remediation, restoration, compensation of past harms, and/or commitment to protect rights and livelihoods of local communities.

Examining cooperation in nature: Q&A with author Kristin Ohlson by John Cannon — September 23, 2022
– In her new book, “Sweet in Tooth and Claw: Stories of Generosity and Cooperation in the Natural World,” author Kristin Ohlson explores the science behind collaboration in nature.
– Her work examines research revealing that cooperation between species, and not just competition, contributes to the development and diversification of life.
– Mongabay spoke with Ohlson prior to the book’s publication.

Debunking the colonial myth of the ‘African Eden’: Q&A with author Guillaume Blanc by Malavika Vyawahare — September 23, 2022
– In debunking persistent myths like that of an “African Eden,” Guillaume Blanc, author of “The Invention of Green Colonialism,” lays bare contradictions in the European project to secure and simultaneously exploit Africa’s land during direct colonial rule and after.
– “The more the destruction was happening in Northern [Hemisphere] countries, the more we wanted to save it in Africa,” he told Mongabay in an interview, describing how the campaign to preserve pristine wilderness in Africa has led to the casting of its inhabitants as destructive invaders.
– Blanc argues that the organizations that evolved out of colonial arrangements for colonial aims must acknowledge and apologize for the harm inflicted, dig deeper when seeking change, and cast a wider net for more meaningful solutions that treat citizens of African countries as collaborators not encroachers on their own lands.
– Organizations with a global presence must work with residents of places where they operate and focus on localized research and solutions to remain relevant, Blanc said.

Nepal’s mugger crocs face ‘senseless’ turf war over dwindling fish resources by Abhaya Raj Joshi — September 23, 2022
– The decline in fish stocks in Nepal’s Koshi River threatens the mugger crocodile, a species already under pressure from historical poaching and habitat loss.
– A new study shows the crocodiles are increasingly encroaching into community-run fish farms in the buffer zone of the Koshi Tappu Wildlife Reserve in search of food, raising the risk of conflict with humans.
– At the same time, they face competition from gharials, a predominantly pescatarian crocodile that’s being introduced back into the Koshi as part of a government-run conservation program.
– “Making a vulnerable species compete with its critically endangered cousin doesn’t make sense,” says one of the authors of the study.

Faced with grouper, snapper decline, Indonesia adopts harvest strategy by Wahyu Chandra — September 23, 2022
– Indonesia is adopting a harvest strategy for grouper and snapper in the east of the country, where catch volume and average fish landed are down.
– The areas targeted are a major global supplier of the fish, given that Indonesia is responsible for 45% of global snapper and grouper sales.
– The new regulations on gear and total boats targets restoration of fish stocks for seven species.

Humans are dosing Earth’s waterways with medicines. It isn’t healthy. by Malavika Vyawahare — September 22, 2022
– Medicines, chemical formulations that alleviate much human suffering, can also be significant pollutants, with active ingredients often excreted from the human body and entering waterways. However, the intensity of this contamination and of its impacts has not been well researched.
– A study published in June analyzed samples from 1,000 sites along waterways in more than 100 nations, looking for 61 active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs). Their results suggest that concentrations of at least one API breached safe levels for aquatic life at nearly 40% of sites tested globally.
– Some pharmaceuticals are endocrine disruptors (EDCs), which mimic hormones and interfere harmfully with the endocrine system in various organisms, while other drugs are linked to antimicrobial resistance (AMR), considered one of the biggest threats to human health and well-being today.
– Despite growing awareness among scientists, there is no systematic reporting of waterway pollution by medicines, or impacts on ecological health. Currently, many human-excreted pharmaceuticals enter directly into waterways, or pass through existing wastewater treatment facilities. Fixing the problem will be very expensive.



Mongabay founder wins prestigious 2022 Heinz Award for the Environment by — September 22, 2022
U.S. charts course for adopting ropeless fishing to reduce whale deaths by John Cannon — September 21, 2022
New oil refinery ‘a huge disaster’ for Nigerian forest reserve by Orji Sunday — September 20, 2022
Podcast: Could Brazil’s election decide the fate of the Amazon? by Mike DiGirolamo — September 20, 2022
Lebanese research preserves heat-adapted seeds to feed a warming world by Marta Vidal — September 20, 2022
How close is the Amazon tipping point? Forest loss in the east changes the equation by Liz Kimbrough — September 20, 2022
Fish return to Southern Brazil after trawling ban by Naira Hofmeister — September 19, 2022
Rare turtles hatch from eggs rescued from flood-prone Nepal riverbank by Abhaya Raj Joshi — September 16, 2022