Newsletter 2023-08-17


From debt to diversity: A journey of rewilding, carbon capture and hope by Elizabeth Fitt — August 9, 2023


– Rewilding has transformed an English estate from a debt-ridden, conventional farm to a profitable haven of biodiversity.
– A study also shows that the rewilded farmland at Knepp absorbs more carbon dioxide than conventional farms, providing hope for climate change mitigation and soil restoration.
– The U.K. is transitioning to a new environmental land management framework offering incentives for practices that restore soil health and biodiversity, but private investment is still needed to bridge the funding gap.
– Nature restoration investment mechanisms to attract private investment are being developed using Knepp data and government funding.

World’s largest private rhino herd doesn’t have a buyer — or much of a future by Jim Tan — August 11, 2023


– Controversial rhino breeder John Hume recently put his 1,999 southern white rhinos up for auction as he can no longer afford the $9,800 a day running costs — but no buyers have come forward so far.
– Hume’s intensive and high-density approach is undoubtedly effective at breeding rhinos, but with the main issue currently a shortage of safe space for rhino rather than a shortage of rhino, the project’s high running costs and concerns over rewilding captive-bred rhino make its future uncertain.
– Platinum Rhino’s financial issues reflect a broader debate around how to move forward with rhino conservation and the role that private owners have to play when the financial costs of rhino ownership far outweigh the returns.

Captive to coal: Indonesia to burn even more fossil fuel for green tech by Hans Nicholas Jong — August 10, 2023


– Indonesia is building several new coal-fired power plants for industrial users, despite its stated commitment to start phasing out coal and transition to clean energy, according to a new report.
– These so-called captive coal plants will have a combined capacity of 13 gigawatts, accounting for more than two-thirds of the 18.8 GW of new coal power in the pipeline.
– Most of the plants will feed the nickel, cobalt and aluminum smelters that the government is promoting in an effort to turn Indonesia into a manufacturing hub for electric vehicles (EVs) and batteries.
– Critics say the building spree goes against both these green technology aspirations and Indonesia’s own climate commitments, but regulatory and funding loopholes mean the government can freely build more new captive coal plants.


Palm oil, pulpwood firms not doing enough to prevent peat fires, analysis shows by Hans Nicholas Jong — August 15, 2023
– More than 2 million hectares (5 million acres) of oil palm, pulpwood and other concessions across Indonesia are at high risk of being burned because of companies’ failure to restore the peat landscape, according to a new analysis.
– This represents more than half of the Switzerland-sized area of tropical peatland throughout Indonesia that’s considered a high fire risk.
– With many concession holders still not doing enough to restore the peat landscapes in their concessions, researchers question the effectiveness of government mandates and certification schemes in preventing peat fires.
– The Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) credits its early fire detection system with helping member concessions achieve lower numbers of hotspots than noncertified concessions, but groups like Greenpeace dispute the findings.

Congo Basin’s elephants boost carbon capture, but need salt-licks to survive by Leonie Joubert — August 15, 2023
– Forest elephants’ browsing habits play a vital role in shaping their habitat, allowing large, carbon-dense tree species to thrive.
– The elephants frequent muddy, mineral-rich clearings called baïs which are a unique feature of the Congo Basin rainforest.
– Researchers are studying elephants and baïs in neighboring Republic of Congo and Central African Republic to better understand the relationship between forests, clearings, and the pachyderms that knit them together.

Niéde Guidon’s 50-year fight to protect Serra da Capivara, the Americas’ largest prehistoric site by Matheus Lopes Quirino — August 15, 2023
– Having celebrated her 90th birthday earlier this year, the archaeologist Niéde Guidon spoke to Mongabay about her work to protect Brazil’s Serra da Capivara National Park, in the northeastern state of Piauí, which is home to the largest and oldest concentration of prehistoric art in the Americas.
– On top of her efforts to create the national park, Guidon’s innovative approach in the 1970s contributed to the social development of the local communities in the surrounding area by supporting the building of schools, incentivizing tourism, opening a ceramics factory and transforming housewives of the region into “guardians” of the park.
– In the 1980s, Guidon challenged the orthodox Clovis First theory, which claimed that Homo sapiens arrived in the Americas 12,000 years ago by crossing the Bering Strait. The archaeologist claimed to have found human remains in Serra da Capivara dating back as far as 32,000 years.
– Today, the Olho D’Água Institute, created by the current head of the national park, is preserving Guidon’s legacy by continuing collaborative archaeological work, which involves the local population in efforts to preserve prehistoric heritage.

Youth wins climate case against U.S. state of Montana in first-of-its-kind legal ruling by Liz Kimbrough — August 14, 2023
– A landmark ruling found the state of Montana violated young people’s constitutional rights to a “clean and healthful environment,” marking the first time a U.S. court has connected the government’s fossil fuel promotion with harm to youth from climate change neglect.
– The case, Held vs. State of Montana, involved 16 Montana youths aged 5 to 22 who aimed to protect their rights to a healthy environment, dignity and freedom.
– During the trial, youth plaintiffs and expert witnesses argued that the state violated their constitutional right to a clean environment, including safeguarding air, water, wildlife and public lands from climate-related threats like droughts, wildfires and floods.
– Judge Kathy Seeley of Montana’s First Judicial District Court ruled in favor of the young plaintiffs, stating that laws prohibiting climate change consideration in fossil fuel activities were unconstitutional; the decision highlighted climate impacts, irreversible injuries from greenhouse gas emissions, and the need for science-based climate measures.

Have coal, will use it: Indonesia’s climate stance raises questions by Hans Nicholas Jong — August 14, 2023
– Experts have questioned Indonesia’s climate commitments after recent pushback from top officials to calls to speed up the retirement of the country’s coal-fired power plants.
– Indonesia also rejected a target to triple renewable energy capacity, even though the country’s development of renewable energy remains sluggish.
– “If we have coal, then we should use it,” the country’s finance minister said recently, further fueling concerns that the country has little intention of transitioning away from fossil fuels to renewable energy.

Can land titles save Madagascar’s embattled biodiversity and people? by Malavika Vyawahare — August 14, 2023
– Through its Titre Vert or Green Title initiative, the Malagasy government is opening up a path to land ownership for its most vulnerable citizens in the hopes it will help tackle hunger, internal migration, and forest loss.
– The state is using the initiative to lean on potential migrants to remain in the country’s deep south, where five years of failed rains have left 2 million people hungry, instead of migrating north, where they are often blamed for social tensions and for destroying forests.
– This March, the Malagasy government started work on a Titre Vert enclave in the Menabe region, a popular destination for migrants from the drought-hit south, to dissuade them from clearing unique dry forests to grow crops.
– Critics say the government is holding people back in a rain-starved region without providing enough support; in Menabe, backers of the project hope to provide ample assistance to get migrants out of the forests and onto their feet.

Fair winds or fowl: Clean energy clashes with conservation in Brazil’s Caatinga by Suzana Camargo — August 14, 2023
– Brazil is among the top 10 countries in terms of installed capacity for wind power; 85% of the 10,000-plus turbines in operation are in the Caatinga biome, where winds are ideal for energy generation.
– As a renewable, cheap and clean energy source, wind has received large investments and favorable changes to legislation to promote the development of more wind farms — sometimes at the expense of environmental licensing procedures.
– Conservationists say the problem is that many wind farms are built in areas of native vegetation that are home to rare bird species from the Caatinga, which may collide with the turbine blades.
– The Araripe manakin and Lear’s macaw, both threatened species, are among those facing the highest risk.

For International Youth Day, three youth conservation success stories by Latoya Abulu and Laurel Sutherland — August 12, 2023
– This Saturday is International Youth Day, a day established by the U.N. to draw attention to youth issues worldwide.
– This year celebrates youth developing the “green skills” needed to shift the world into one that is environmentally sustainable and climate-friendly.
– In recognition of the international day, Mongabay spoke with three youths worldwide who initiated successful environmental restoration organizations in their communities.

Investigation confirms most allegations against plantation operator Socfin by Victoria Schneider — August 11, 2023
– After visits to plantations in Liberia and Cameroon, the Earthworm Foundation consultancy has confirmed many allegations against Belgian tropical plantation operator Socfin.
– Investigators found credible claims of sexual harassment, land disputes and unfair recruitment practices at both of the sites they visited.
– Activists in both countries remain unsatisfied, saying the consultancy should have spoken to a wider range of community members and calling for Socfin to answer directly to communities with grievances.

Video: Five Tembé Indigenous activists shot in Amazonian ‘palm oil war’ by Karla Mendes — August 11, 2023
– In just 72 hours, five Indigenous people were wounded by gunfire in violent attacks in the past few days in a part of the Brazilian Amazon dubbed the “palm oil war” region, sparking outrage and claims for justice.
– This was the latest episode in a wave of escalating violence tied to land disputes between Indigenous communities and palm oil companies in the region, which Mongabay has consistently reported on over the past year.
– In this video, Mongabay showcases the Tembé Indigenous peoples’ outrage against increasing violence in the area as they protest for justice.

Bali rice experiment cuts greenhouse gas emissions and increases yields by Claire Turrell — August 11, 2023
– Rice paddies are responsible for 11% of the world’s methane emissions. There are more than 200 million rice farms in Asia.
– Working with local farmers, researchers in Bali, Indonesia, have discovered how to dramatically reduce the greenhouse gas emissions output of rice fields. Initial indications are showing a 70% reduction.
– The farming breakthrough also boosted the yield of crops and reduced the amount of pesticides flowing to coral reefs.

Can upcoming referendum in Ecuador stop oil drilling in Yasuní National Park? by Kimberley Brown — August 11, 2023
– On Aug. 20, Ecuadorians will vote in a binding referendum on whether they want oil drilling to continue in Yasuní National Park, one of the most biodiverse areas on the planet.
– Environmentalists have been fighting for this referendum for nearly 10 years; meanwhile, drilling in ITT began in 2016, and today 225 wells produce 54,800 barrels of oil per day.
– But the decision won’t be easy for Ecuadorians, as oil has been a major driver of economic growth for the country since the 1970s. Exports today account for more than 10% of the country’s GDP.
– In August, Ecuadorians will also vote on whether or not to allow mining to continue in the Andean Choco forest. This is not the first time a referendum has been used in an attempt to control large-scale extractive projects in the country, and it likely won’t be the last.

Amazon Summit nations agree on saving rainforest — but not on conservation goals by Sarah Brown — August 11, 2023
– Leaders of eight Amazonian nations signed the Belém Declaration on Aug. 8, strengthening regional coordination and laying out a list of intentions to save the rainforest.
– Environmental organizations lament the lack of consensus over zero-deforestation targets among the nations and criticize the failure to mention fossil fuel exploration in the declaration.
– The declaration strongly asserts Indigenous rights and recognizes the need to protect their territories, however, activists expressed frustration that no specific goals or targets were defined.
– Alongside the Amazon nations, the two Congos, Indonesia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines also signed another declaration on Aug. 9 demanding that developed countries fulfill their promises of extensive climate change financing.

Hydropower in the Pan Amazon: The Guri complex and the Caroni Cascade by Timothy J. Killeen — August 11, 2023
– Mongabay has begun publishing a new edition of the book, “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon,” in short installments and in three languages: Spanish, English and Portuguese.
– Author Timothy J. Killeen is an academic and expert who, since the 1980s, has studied the rainforests of Brazil and Bolivia, where he lived for more than 35 years.
– Chronicling the efforts of nine Amazonian countries to curb deforestation, this edition provides an overview of the topics most relevant to the conservation of the region’s biodiversity, ecosystem services and Indigenous cultures, as well as a description of the conventional and sustainable development models that are vying for space within the regional economy.
– Click the “A Perfect Storm in the Amazon” link atop this page to see chapters 1-13 as they are published during 2023.

The oil debt: More than 6,000 polluted sites fester across Amazonian countries by Alexa Vélez, Vanessa Romo and Yvette Sierra Praeli — August 11, 2023
– A joint investigation by Mongabay Latam, La Barra Espaciadora, Cuestión Pública and El Deber looked into the impacts of oil industry activity in Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia and Peru.
– Although more than 8,000 contaminated sites have been identified by the various governments, most of them have not been cleaned completely.
– Our journalists found forgotten oil pits, contaminated soil, abandoned oil wells, and wetlands covered in crude oil across Amazonian territories.

Brazilian authorities launch probe into ‘Amazon’s largest single deforester’ by André Schröder — August 10, 2023
– The suspect, Bruno Heller, destroyed 6,500 hectares (16,100 acres) of Amazon Rainforest for cattle ranching — an area larger than the island of Manhattan — according to authorities.
– The public forests illegally invaded in the Novo Progresso region of Pará state were divided into smaller properties and registered in the Rural Environmental Registry in the name of stooges, several of them were Heller’s relatives.
– Areas along the BR-163 highway that runs through this part of Pará have long been a target for land grabbers, but the criminal business became more attractive after land prices rose with the highway fully paved in 2019.
– Experts say the high availability of unallocated public forests boosts land grabbing and deforestation and that these areas must be allocated quickly — such as for protected areas, reserves, or Indigenous lands — to discourage illegal occupation.

EVs offer climate hope, but total auto supply chain revamp is vital by Sean Mowbray — August 10, 2023
– Internal combustion engine vehicles (ICE) and electric vehicles (EV) both have supply chains that generate significant environmental impacts. Experts argue that circular economy principles — based on reducing, reusing and recycling materials — are key to increasing EV sustainability. But the auto industry has far to go to get there.
– Circularity is deemed particularly important for EVs, which are tipped as a vital climate solution and as the future of light transport across the globe. But their introduction globally is dependent on soaring material resourcing and production, all coming with “embedded emissions,” pollution and other impacts.
– At present, circularity is low in the auto industry, but experts see great potential, particularly for EV batteries. They argue for changes all along the supply chain to reduce material use and encourage advanced recycling.
– Others emphasize a holistic approach to land transport that reduces demand for automobiles in favor of public transportation. Circular economy solutions need to be achieved quickly in the transport sector if emissions are to be cut enough to help curb climate change and reduce pollution and other environmental ills.

Macron touts forest conservation while promoting gas project on PNG visit by Rachel Donald — August 10, 2023
– During a recent visit to Papua New Guinea, French President Emmanuel Macron spent time with both fossil fuel executives and conservationists.
– Macron attended a presentation on the Managalas Conservation Area, which is supported by France as well as other European countries, and praised Indigenous peoples’ protection of the forest.
– During Macron’s visit, French firm TotalEnergies voted to undertake construction of a $10 billion liquefied natural gas project that will release an estimated 220 million metric tons of carbon dioxide.

To protect the oceans, we must map them (commentary) by Dawn Wright — August 10, 2023
– About 80% of our oceans remain “unmapped, unobserved, and unexplored,” according to NOAA.
– Technologies like un-crewed marine drones, high-resolution satellites, and remote operating vehicles are now being paired with modern digital mapping techniques to reveal critical new insights about the oceans.
– “Considering we’ve barely mapped a quarter of [the oceans] so far, imagine what we could know, what we could prepare for, if every inch was mapped,” a new op-ed suggests.
– This article is a commentary. The views expressed are those of the author, not necessarily Mongabay.

Wildlife management platform EarthRanger goes mobile with new app by Abhishyant Kidangoor — August 10, 2023
– Since it was launched in 2017, the EarthRanger software has helped protected-area managers, law enforcement agencies and wildlife conservationists to collect, visualize and track data from the field on a single platform.
– In a bid to be nimbler, the software has now gone mobile with an app that builds on the functions of the web-based platform; it also helps rangers use their phones as tracking devices.
– The app has already been used to track elephants as well as rangers in Kenya’s Maasai Mara, as well as to plan the response to an oil spill off the coast of the Philippines.

Falcon trafficking soars in Middle East, fueled by conflict and poverty by Lyse Mauvais — August 10, 2023
– Worth thousands of dollars, migratory falcons are increasingly targeted by trappers in the Middle East, notably in Syria, where their value skyrocketed during the war.
– In Jordan, Iraq and Syria, authorities struggle to contain trafficking, which takes place nearly in the open; in Iraq and Syria, wildlife protection is hardly a priority given prevalent political instability and spiraling poverty.
– Experts say the capture and trade of falcons is driving the decline of wild populations in the Middle East.
– This story was produced with the support of Internews’ Earth Journalism Network.

Kenyan fishers put new twists on an age-old marine conservation system by Anthony Langat — August 9, 2023
– Over the past two decades Kenyan fishing communities have been setting up no-fishing zones called tengefus, Swahili for “set aside.”
– The idea was inspired by the fishing habits of their forebears, who prior to colonization established seasonal fishing closures to ensure plentiful harvests.
– Today there are 22 tengefus in various stages of development in the country, some more successful than others.
– Successful tengefus have seen fish populations and coral cover increase, and they’ve established tourism enterprises that fund community initiatives. To work, experts say tengefus need support from communities, donors and the government.


Amazon deforestation continues to fall under Lula by — August 5, 2023
Zika, dengue transmission expected to rise with climate change by Luís Patriani — August 9, 2023
Protecting the Amazon requires fresh thinking, eminent ecologist argues by Mike DiGirolamo — August 8, 2023
In Philippines, climate change tests Indigenous farming like never before by Keith Anthony S. Fabro — August 4, 2023