Newsletter 2022-10-06


Podcast: ‘Destructive & flawed’: Claire Nouvian on bottom trawling’s many impacts by Mike DiGirolamo — October 5, 2022


– Goldman Environmental Prize winner Claire Nouvian joins the Mongabay Newscast to discuss the many impacts of bottom trawling and a historic policy shift by the European Commission to rein in the practice.
– This kind of fishing is known for damaging deep-water coral reef ecosystems and marine biodiversity, and for having a heavy carbon footprint.
– Nouvian discusses the successful activism of her organization that won an EU-wide ban on bottom trawling below 800 meters (875 yards) after seven years of grassroots organizing. She also discusses what individuals can do if they want to support more sustainable fishing practices.

The force is strong with space lasers helping researchers map the Amazon in 3D by Abhishyant Kidangoor — October 4, 2022


– Since 2018, the GEDI mission has employed lasers on the International Space Station to measure the biomass density of forests on Earth.
– The information helps us understand how deforestation contributes to worsening climate change via increases in atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide.
– In the Amazon rainforest, data from the mission have highlighted specific areas that could benefit from carbon-based conservation.

As Indonesia paints rosy picture for orangutans, scientists ask: Where’s the data? by Philip Jacobson — October 3, 2022


– Foreign scientists who were apparently banned for questioning the Indonesian government’s claim that orangutans are widely increasing in number insist none of the available data support the claim.
– Erik Meijaard, Julie Sherman, Serge Wich, Marc Ancrenaz and Hjalmar Kühl were blocked from carrying out conservation-related research in the country after writing an op-ed that the forestry ministry deemed had “negative indications” that could “discredit” the government.
– “If the government says that populations are growing I assume they have data that none of us have access to,” Meijaard told Mongabay. The ministry didn’t respond to requests for comment.
– The banning of the five is the latest in a string of actions by the current government that local and foreign academics have slammed as “repressing science.”

Maasai villages lose important court case as wildlife game reserve trudges on by Laurel Sutherland — October 1, 2022


– The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) has ruled in favor of the Tanzanian government after a five-year legal battle between Maasai communities and the state over evictions that took place in 2017.
– The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) says Maasai communities did not provide sufficient evidence that evictions were done violently and that they occurred on legally registered land.
– The court case is part of a larger battle between Maasai communities and the state over the creation of a wildlife reserve on disputed lands near Serengeti National Park.
– According to Maasai villagers and their attorneys, the court omitted important evidence and they plan to appeal the EACJ’s decision.

Catfished: New species described from DRC after mistaken identity by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — September 30, 2022


– Scientists recently identified a new species of air-breathing catfish, Clarias monsembulai, in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Salonga National Park — the first new species of catfish in the Clarias genus to be described in 42 years.
– It was named after Congolese researcher Raoul Monsembula, who collected samples of the species in 2006 and 2010 without realizing at the time that the fish was unknown to science.
– Experts say that species discoveries are very common in Salonga National Park due to the region’s rich biodiversity as well as the limited amount of research being done there.
– However, the area also faces numerous threats, including poaching and the possibility of fossil fuel extraction.

Better management of shared waterways could benefit economy in Bangladesh, India by Abu Siddique — September 30, 2022


– Bangladesh and India signed a protocol in 1972 for using waterways through 11 different routes to carry goods. Only three of the designated 11 routes are in regular use at present, as most of the routes lack depth for the navigability of large vessels.
– A 2016 World Bank study showed that the cost to carry goods via the waterways is cheaper compared to good transportation via railways and roads. However, only about a quarter of Bangladesh’s waterways are navigable by mechanized vessels during the monsoon season and during the dry season, the navigable distance shrinks even further.
– The Bangladeshi government recently awarded a $71 million contract to a Chinese company to dredge rivers as part of a World Bank-financed project to boost transport routes between mainland India and its northeastern states via Bangladesh.
– Experts suggest that, besides taking on extensive dredging work, the rivers need proper management like maintenance of channels and embankment protection, otherwise silt will close the channels in a short time.

Cutting down the Amazon does not build prosperity for most Brazilians by Rhett A. Butler — September 29, 2022


– Deforestation proponents in Brazil routinely argue that cutting down the Amazon is an effective way to alleviate poverty. This is especially the case with the Bolsonaro administration, which issued an official statement to the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference stating that “where there is a lot of forest there is also a lot of poverty.”
– Ahead of Brazil’s latest election, a group of us led by Darren Norris of the Federal University of Amapá decided to see what the data say about links between deforestation and poverty in the Amazon.
– We found no association between forest loss and these economic indicators. Indeed, the economic indicators for municipalities with less than 40% forest cover in 1986 were no different than those of similar municipalities with more than 60% forest cover from 1986 to 2019.
– The finding thus suggests that “deforestation does not necessarily generate transformative and equitable food production systems or lead to poverty alleviation,” as we write.

Mangrove restorers in Haiti bet on resilience amid rising violence by Conrad Fox — September 29, 2022


– Haiti is one of the most deforested countries in the world today, with its mangroves in particular now dotting just 30% of its coastline, much of it in thin, fragmented pockets.
– The main threat to the mangroves is the cutting of the trees to produce charcoal, an important fuel for cooking in a country where only a quarter of the population has access to electricity.
– Several mangrove restoration projects have been initiated over the years, and many abandoned due to waning community interest, natural disasters, or poor planning.
– More recently, rising rates of violence have prevented restoration teams from going to the field and coordinating with one another, but some are hopeful that communities remain receptive to mangrove restoration despite all the other hardships they’re experiencing.



Locals in the dark about oil auctions in DRC: report by Ashoka Mukpo — October 6, 2022
– Greenpeace Africa and a group of environmental organizations have released a report in one of the first field investigations into local views on a wave of anticipated oil exploration.
– Researchers visited fourteen villages in four of the proposed oil blocks, finding that most residents didn’t know about the government’s plans.
– This week the DRC’s environment minister rejected an appeal by U.S. climate envoy John Kerry to remove some blocks from the auction.

Indonesian program pays fishers to collect plastic trash at sea by Basten Gokkon — October 6, 2022
– The Indonesian fisheries ministry has launched a four-week program to pay fishers to collect plastic trash from the sea.
– The initiative is part of wider efforts to reduce Indonesia’s marine plastic pollution by 70% by 2025.
– The country is a top contributor to the plastic trash crisis in the ocean.
– Each of the 1,721 participating fishers will receive the equivalent of $10 a week for collecting up to 4 kg (9 lbs) of plastic waste from the sea daily.

Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for October 2022 by — October 6, 2022
– Mongabay dove into research and talked with experts to answer a question more and more people are asking now: should we have kids? The latest episodes of Mongabay’s Problem Solved explains how having, or not having, more children effects the environment and climate change.
– Another Mongabay series Candid Animal Cam takes a peek into the lives of the migrating bearded pigs of Southeast Asia, while Mongabay Explains shows us why the Earth’s water cycle is nearing breaking-point.
– In Brazil, a record number of Indigenous candidates are running in the general elections this month and farmers have turned into firefighters. In Mexico, Indigenous communities are fighting drought with water wells.
– Get a peek into the various segments of the environment across the globe. Add these videos to your watchlist for the month and watch them for free on YouTube.

Sulawesi islanders grieve land lost to nickel mine by Eko Rusdianto — October 6, 2022
– The Harita Group holds a nickel mining concession covering about 1,000 hectares (2,500 acres) on Wawonii Island.
– The arrival of the mine has divided the community between those who support the development and farmers hoping to retain their fruit and nut trees.
– One man described his grief as the grave of his son was exhumed and moved as a result of the mine.

Conservatives tighten grip on Brazil Congress, hampering environmental agenda by Jaqueline Sordi — October 5, 2022
– Brazilians elected a more conservative Congress in the Oct. 2 ballot, with supporters of President Jair Bolsonaro and the agribusiness lobby winning seats in both the lower and upper houses.
– Experts say that if former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva wins the runoff presidential vote on Oct. 30, he could curtail some of the pressure from the agribusiness caucus and reverse the past four years of destructive policies for the Amazon.
– Two Indigenous women and former environment minister Marina Silva are expected to lead the opposition against the agribusiness, mining and logging agenda in Congress, after winning seats in the lower house.

Malaysia revokes oil palm concession near UNESCO-listed Bornean park by Rachel Donald — October 5, 2022
– The government of the Malaysian Borneo state of Sarawak has revoked a controversial oil palm concession adjacent to the UNESCO-listed Gunung Mulu National Park.
– The state has not released information confirming why the 4,400-hectare (10,900-acre) concession was revoked, but it had been the subject of protests and a lawsuit by Penan, Berawan and Tering Indigenous communities who said it threatened their livelihoods.
– Indigenous activists are celebrating the cancellation of the concession as a victory, and have called on the state government to also suspend a planned infrastructure development project in the area.

Trouble in the tropics: The terrestrial insects of Brazil are in decline by Jeremy Hance — October 5, 2022
– New research from Brazil shows terrestrial insects there are declining both in abundance and diversity, while aquatic insects are largely staying steady.
– Given a dearth of long-term data on tropical insects, the scientists took creative means to collect data, including contacting 150 experts for their unpublished data.
– Scientists believe the usual global suspects are behind Brazil’s insect decline: habitat destruction, pesticide use, and climate change.
– Experts say tropical countries need more resources, including long-term funding, to discover with greater certainty what’s happening to insects there. Large-scale insect loss threatens many of Earth’s ecological services, including waste recycling, helping to build fertile soils, pollinating plants, and providing prey for numerous other species.

‘Disclose the deal,’ East Africa pipeline opponents say (commentary) by Robert Tumwesigye Baganda — October 5, 2022
– Champions of a new crude oil pipeline – set to run 1,443 kilometers from oil fields in Uganda to Tanga Port in Tanzania – say it will transform East Africa’s energy landscape, propelling Uganda into middle-income status, among other claims.
– Its critics call it a mistake in a world where the impacts of the climate crisis are being increasingly felt, and stopping it has become a rallying cry for campaigners around the world.
– Key agreements that would reveal critical info about agreements between the company and countries remain hidden from the public–despite Uganda’s being a member of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative–and should be disclosed, a new commentary argues.
– This post is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Forests & Finance: Sit-ins, seeds over seedlings, and fuel-saving cookstoves by — October 5, 2022
– Liberian communities affected by logging have staged a sit-in protest in front of the country’s ministry of finance, demanding unpaid royalties.
– Cookstoves and woodlots are the first step in a plan to halt deforestation in southern Zimbabwe.
– And a reforestation initiative experiments with providing Zimbabwean farmers seeds from indigenous trees rather than seedlings.
– Forests & Finance is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin of briefs about Africa’s forests.

Survey captures Bornean ecosystems and Indigenous lives around them by Danielle Keeton-Olsen — October 5, 2022
– Members of Indigenous Penan and Kenyah communities in the Malaysian Borneo state of Sarawak spent two years surveying the forests of the Baram River Basin.
– The resulting documents, known as the Baram Heritage Survey, chronicle the sights and sounds of some of Sarawak’s last intact forest, as well as the daily life and aspirations of the Indigenous communities living there.
– The documentation process was supported by NGOs SAVE Rivers, Borneo Project and Keruan, and also involved collaboration with academic researchers who will soon prepare formal papers connected to the survey.

‘One more thing’ about plastics: They could be acidifying the ocean, study says by Elizabeth Claire Alberts — October 4, 2022
– New research suggests that plastic could contribute to ocean acidification, especially in highly polluted coastal areas, through the release of organic chemical compounds and carbon dioxide, both of which can lower the pH of seawater.
– The study found that sunlight enabled this process and that older, degraded plastics released a higher amount of dissolved organic carbon and did more to lower the pH of seawater.
– However, the findings of this study were conducted in a laboratory, so it’s unclear whether experiments conducted in estuaries or the open ocean would yield similar results, experts said.

New study identifies mature forests on U.S. federal lands ripe for protection by Justin Catanoso — October 4, 2022
– A new mapping study conducted by NGOs finds that older forests in the U.S. make up about 167 million acres, or 36%, of all forests in the contiguous 48 states. About a third of this, or roughly 58 million acres, are on federal lands. The rest are controlled by non-federal entities, including large amounts held by private owners.
– Just 24% of U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management forests are fully protected, with the rest being at various levels of risk from logging, offering the Biden administration an opportunity to more thoroughly protect far more old-growth and mature forests on federal lands in order to help meet U.S. climate goals.
– The new study identified a challenge inherent in this strategy: The majority of federal lands are in the West, but one of the highest concentrations of U.S. mature and old-growth forests is in the Southeast, where most older forests are on private property. Privately held old-growth and mature forests are poorly protected in the U.S.
– If the U.S. wants to broaden its carbon emission reduction strategy, say researchers, then mature forest conservation should include both federal and private holdings. Private forests could be protected via state regulation, utilizing conservation easements and payments for verifiable carbon offsets, along with land trust acquisition.

Element Africa: Diamonds, oil, coltan, and more diamonds by — October 4, 2022
– Offshore diamond prospecting threatens a fishing community in South Africa, while un-checked mining for the precious stones on land is silting up rivers in Zimbabwe.
– In Nigeria, serial polluter Shell is accused of not cleaning up a spill from a pipeline two months ago; the company says the spill was mostly water from flushing out the pipeline.
– Also in Nigeria, mining for coltan, the source of niobium and tantalum, important metals in electronics applications, continues to destroy farms and nature even as the government acknowledges it’s being done illegally.
– Element Africa is Mongabay’s bi-weekly bulletin rounding up brief stories from the commodities industry in Africa.

The mine leak was bad. The DRC and Angola’s response are no better, report says by Anna Majavu — October 4, 2022
– In July 2021, an Angolan diamond mine leaked large amounts of polluted water into the Kasai River Basin which stretches across Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
– Twelve people were killed, a further 4,400 fell ill and an estimated 1 million more were affected by the polluted water.
– Fourteen months later, the DRC government has not released full results of tests conducted on the rivers, but a ban on drinking the water from the Kasai and Tshikapa rivers remains in place.
– An independent report published in September 2022 has found that the leak killed off much of the rivers’ aquatic life, with severe and ongoing impacts on river-dependent communities.

Will the Uinta Basin Railway derail U.S. climate change efforts? (commentary) by Sammy Herdman — October 3, 2022
– The Uinta Basin is home to a diverse set of creatures from endangered black-footed ferrets to plants that cannot be found anywhere else in the world, such as the Uinta Basin hookless cactus and Graham’s beardtongue.
– But the basin also sits atop pockets of crude oil and natural gas, which are being extracted: to transport these fossil fuels to the Gulf Coast, local governments and oil companies are planning to invest up to $4.5 billion to construct a new railway through it.
– Although the project has been approved, construction hasn’t begun and it’s not too late for U.S. President Biden to keep his climate pledges and stop the new railway, a new op-ed argues.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.

The Amazon will reach tipping point if current trend of deforestation continues by Yvette Sierra Praeli — October 3, 2022
– A report by the Amazon Network of Georeferenced Socio-Environmental Information (RAISG) claims that 26% of Amazon forests have transformed irreversibly and show high levels of degradation.
– The savannization of the Amazon is already visible in Brazil and Bolivia, while Ecuador, Colombia and Peru seem to be heading in the same direction.
– The report also seeks to make visible the role of Indigenous peoples in protecting the Amazon, and to ensure that Indigenous people are at the center of the fight against climate change.

Labor groups seek to build on Indonesian palm oil court win in new cases by Grace Dungey — October 3, 2022
– Last year, Indonesia’s Supreme Court ordered one of the world’s largest palm oil companies to make severance payments worth tens of thousands of dollars, handing palm oil workers an important victory in a labor dispute.
– Asserting the decision as a new precedent, activists and union groups are mounting a case for two new lawsuits against the company, London Sumatra, on behalf of 200 workers over unfair dismissals.
– Indonesia is the world’s top palm oil producer but allegations of labor abuses have dogged the industry.

Photos: How Sri Lanka’s forced organic transition crippled its tea industry by Joanik Bellalou — October 1, 2022
– In April 2021, then-president Gotabaya Rajapaksa abruptly banned imports of chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, in an attempt to preserve Sri Lanka’s fast-depleting foreign currency reserves.
– The government sold it as a shift to organic agriculture that would make Sri Lanka the world’s first toxin-free nation, but in the process disregarded warnings by academics and agronomists about the disastrous economic fallout.
– Several months after the aggressive shift, Sri Lanka’s agricultural output has plummeted by 20%, while farmers, who account for 27% of the country’s workforce, have been driven into acute poverty and desperation.

Putting a price on water: Can commodification resolve a world water crisis? by Sue Branford and Thais Borges — September 30, 2022
– In 2018, a trader listed water on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange and then in 2020 introduced a futures market so consumers can factor the cost of water into their investment plans. After a slow start, traders expect the market to grow more strongly in 2023.
– Some analysts see this as a positive step, allowing market adjustments to provide consumers with the cheapest and most efficient way of buying water. Others disagree, saying that water, like air, should not be commodified as it is a fundamental human right and must be available to all.
– Critics fear that creating a water market is a first step toward a future in which just a few companies will be able to charge market rents for what should be a free natural resource. Huge questions remain over water allocations for industry, agribusiness and smallholders, cities, and traditional and Indigenous peoples.
– The clash between these economic and socioenvironmental worldviews isn’t just occurring internationally. The conflict over water regulation is evident in many nations, including Brazil, which lays claim to the world’s biggest supply of freshwater, and Chile, currently suffering from its most severe drought ever.

Amazon reserve for uncontacted people moving forward amid battle over oil fields by Dimitri Selibas — September 30, 2022
– Isolated and recently contacted Indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon have had their existence officially recognized after a 19-year process and are one step closer to being protected through the creation of the Napo-Tigre Indigenous Reserve.
– The reserve would prevent outsiders and extractive industries, including logging and oil companies, from entering the territory. This will prevent the spread of diseases and deforestation in the region.
– A petroleum company, Perenco, and a group of businessmen and government officials oppose the creation of the reserve. According to the group, the reserve will be an obstacle to ongoing and future development in the oil-rich region.
– Some Indigenous leaders are also against the creation of the isolated Indigenous reserve. The leaders and their communities receive infrastructure projects, transportation, health services and employment from Perenco.

Pluspetrol Norte: A history of unpaid sanctions and oil spills in the Peruvian Amazon by Gloria Alvitres — September 30, 2022
– The Kichwa community of 12 de Octubre in Loreto experienced multiple oil spills earlier this year due to activities in the region by the oil and gas producing company Pluspetrol Norte.
– The company has received 73 sanctions imposed by Peru’s Environmental Evaluation and Enforcement Agency (OEFA) between 2011 and 2021, with fines totaling over $47 million.
– Pluspetrol Norte has pending trials with the Peruvian government for attempting to liquidate the company and for not taking responsibility for their environmental liabilities.

A new method assesses health of Chile’s headwaters, and it’s not good news by Liz Kimbrough — September 30, 2022
– Headwaters are vital to ecosystem health and have been difficult to study, but now a group of researchers has developed a new method that relies on remote sensing to assess headwater vulnerability at multiple scales.
– Using the method, they assessed 2,292 headwaters in south-central Chile and found nearly two-thirds of the headwaters were affected by climate change and 23% by land use and land cover change; all of the headwaters were experiencing drought conditions.
– Chile has been in the grip of a megadrought for more than a decade now, with precipitation in south-central Chile decreasing by nearly 40% since 2010. Experts say water management suffers under water privatization, enshrined by the 1980 Constitution.
– Chile and Argentina host the only temperate rainforests in South America, with high levels of endemism, but nearly half of the native forests in the coastal zone of central-southern Chile have been replaced by tree plantations.

In Vietnam, farmers show a willingness to work with the elephant in the room by Sean Mowbray — September 30, 2022
– Human-wildlife conflict is a threat to species such as the Asian elephant and to the livelihoods and well-being of people living in the vicinity of these animals.
– Researchers in Vietnam have found that people living around the country’s Dong Nai Biosphere Reserve were broadly supportive of measures to support coexistence with elephants.
– Some community members — those with lower incomes, farmers, and those who had experienced conflict — showed a greater willingness to support coexistence measures.
– The study outlines possible routes to foster coexistence based around community-based ecotourism, prevention and mitigation.

How bears “make” a forest (commentary) by Enrique Ortiz — September 30, 2022
– The Andean bear, or ukuku, is the only bear that lives in South America and despite being an elusive species, it has deep spiritual and cultural significance for Andean peoples.
– Enrique G. Ortiz of the Andes Amazon Fund writes about the bear and efforts to conserve it in Peru’s Kosñipata valley, including the recent establishment of the Andean Bear Interpretation Center at Wayqecha Biological Station to raise awareness and appreciation of the species.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily of Mongabay.



The Fixers: Top U.S. flooring retailers linked to Brazilian firm probed for corruption by Karla Mendes — September 29, 2022
Haiti: An island nation whose environmental troubles only begin with water by Conrad Fox — September 28, 2022
With rights at risk, Indigenous Brazilians get on the ballot to fight back by Beatriz Miranda — September 27, 2022
Indigenous leader’s court win halts one of Australia’s ‘dirtiest gas projects’ by Malavika Vyawahare — September 23, 2022
Guatemalans strongly reject mining project in local referendum by Sandra Cuffe — September 23, 2022
2022: Another consequential year for the melting Arctic by Sharon Guynup — September 23, 2022
The mystery of narwhal behavior, solved by chaos theory by Liz Kimbrough — September 23, 2022