Monday, 23 December 2013

We Can Do It!

24 months to save the world

45,878 have pledged! Let's get to 50,000
Scientist Julienne Stroeve has studied Arctic ice for decades. Every summer she travels north to measure how much ice has melted. She knows that climate change is melting the ice fast, but a recent trip surprised even her. Vast areas of Arctic ice have disappeared, beyond our worst expectations.

This is what the experts warned us about. As the earth warms, it creates many "tipping points" that accelerate the warming out of control. Warming thaws the Arctic sea ice, destroying the giant white 'mirror' that reflects heat back into space, which massively heats up the ocean, and melts more ice, and so on. We spin out of control. In 2013 everything -- storms, temperatures -- was off the charts.

We CAN stop this, if we act very fast, and all together. And out of this extinction nightmare, we can pull one of the most inspiring futures for our children and grandchildren. A clean, green future in balance with the earth that gave birth to us.

We have 24 months until the Paris Summit, the meeting that world leaders have decided will determine the fate of our efforts to fight climate change. It might seem like a long time - it's not. We have 24 months to get the right leaders in power, get them to that meeting, give them a plan, and hold them accountable. And it's us vs. the oil companies, and fatalism. We can win, we must, but we need to blast out of the starting gate with pledges of just a few dollars/euros/pounds per week until the summit -- we'll only process the donations if we hit our goal. For the world we dream of, let's make it happen: 

Saturday, 21 December 2013

We Are More Beautiful Than We Are Told

Peace. Justice. Astonishing beauty. Pinochet torture survivors singing to their dead/disappeared loved ones and re-dedicating themselves to justice in the Casa Memoria Jose Domingo Cañas. During the Pinochet years there were over 1,000 ordinary-looking houses that were in fact torture centres. Throughout Chile. His gang destroyed most of them when he lost power. This one the people saved and now maintain as a memorial to those who suffered there. Desperately moving. Wonderfully inspiring. Beats Santa out every time.

Like ·  ·  · 13 minutes ago near Managua ·

"At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save theAmazon rainforest. Now I realise I am fighting for humanity."

Brazil salutes Chico Mendes 25 years after his murder

Tributes to man who campaigned to stop forest clearance in Amazon tempered by resurgent influence of landowners' lobby
Chico Mendes, who was assassinated in his house in the Amazon in 1988
Chico Mendes, who was assassinated in his house in the Amazon in 1988. Photograph: Antonio Scorza/AFP/Getty Images
When Chico Mendes was gunned down in the Amazon, the two policemen who were supposed to protect him were playing dominoes at his kitchen table. It was 22 December 1988.
The officers had been sent to the union activist's small wooden home in Xapuri after he received death threats from landowners, who were enraged by his campaign to prevent forest clearance. But the police dropped their guard when Mendes stepped out to have a shower in the backyard. A single bullet from a .22 rifle killed him instantly. The assassin, a rancher named Darcy Alves, said "it was like shooting a jaguar".
This weekend, Brazil will mark the 25th anniversary of that murder, which far from killing off the forest conservation campaign has boosted its profile throughout the country and across the world, influencing a generation of conservationists and policymakers. Mendes is now a symbol of the global environment movement.
The Brazilian government has declared him Patron of the Brazilian Environment. Institutions have been named after him, including the main state agency in charge of conservation – the Instituto Chico Mendes de Conservação da Biodiversidade. After his death, Mendes's home state of Acre in the western Amazon has pioneered the establishment of extractive reserves.
Mendes's story has been the subject of books and films. In recognition of his achievements, there will be memorial ceremonies, documentaries and discussions about his legacy this weekend. Many of his ideas live on through associates, notably Marina Silva, who became environment minister and put in place Amazon protection systems that are credited with an impressive fall in the rate of deforestation until recently.
But the celebrations will be tempered by the resurgent influence of the landowners' lobby, a recent sharp uptick in Amazon clearance and renewed questions about the Brazilian government's willingness to protect forest workers and conserve the biodiverse habitat on which they depend.
Mendes would have recognised the destructive forces at work, though contrary to his reputation as an environmentalist, he was first and foremost a union activist campaigning on behalf of rubber tappers whose way of life was being decimated along with the loss of the Amazon. Mendes had personal experience of the consequences.
Born in 1944, Francisco Alves Mendes Filho – as he was christened – was the son of a soldier in the "Rubber Army", the 50,000 men recruited in 1943 from Brazil's impoverished north-east and shipped to the Amazon to tap rubber for the allied war effort. With Malaya occupied by the Japanese, the US was desperate for rubber, and Brazil promised to revive its once booming rubber industry to meet the need. The tappers were largely abandoned to their own fate, many dying from disease or attacks by wild animals. When the war ended, government promises of compensation and tickets home were forgotten and many, including Mendes's father, never returned.
Growing up in the forest, Chico began tapping as a child. Influenced by priests of the progressive Liberation Theology movement and former members of the Communist party, he helped found the Acre branch of the PT, the Workers' party. As president of the Xapuri tappers' union, he set up a national organisation, bringing the tappers' fight to save the forest to global attention.
American environmentalists took him to Washington to persuade the World Bank, the Inter-American Bank and Congress that cattle projects in the Amazon, which covers an area bigger than western Europe, should not be funded. As an alternative, he proposed the creation of extractive reserves – protected areas that would allow public land to be managed by local communities, with rights to harvest forest products. It marked an important step forward for the conservation community.
In 1987 Mendes won the UN's Global 500 award in recognition of his environmental achievements, although he saw himself primarily as a campaigner for a fairer society. As he said: "At first I thought I was fighting to save rubber trees, then I thought I was fighting to save theAmazon rainforest. Now I realise I am fighting for humanity."
His opponents were cattle ranchers, who had been moving into the Amazon since the 1970s when they were encouraged by the military who ruled Brazil and financed by official banks. After the dictatorship ended in 1985, these landowners set up the Rural Democratic Union – better known by its Portuguese initials UDR – to thwart the land reforms promised by the government and intimidate unionists and conservation activists. Beatings and killings were common in the remote and largely lawless Amazon region, which is often described as Brazil's wild west.
Mendes was neither the first nor the last to lose his life for standing up to landowners. Since 2002, Brazil has accounted for half the killings worldwide of conservation activists, according to a survey last year by Global Witness. Some victims, such as American nun Dorothy Stangwho was murdered in 2005, have become martyrs. Others like José Cláudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife Maria do Espirito Santo – who were shot as they got out of a car near a landless workers camp in 2011 – orMouth Organ John – who was killed in Para in 2012 after he reported on the illegal logging – make the headlines for a few days. Many other killings, particularly of indigenous land rights activists, go largely unreported in the international media. Dozens more activists are thought to have fled or gone into hiding.
Mendes was an obvious target. As well as lobbying successfully to end international financing for Amazon clearance, he organised the rubber tappers in non-violent resistance. Men, women and children would form human barricades known as "empates" to prevent the bulldozers from tearing down trees. His success made him many enemies and he knew he was a marked man.
His killer was from a family of cattle ranchers, whose efforts to expand their pastures was held up by the empates. Darcy Alves, 22, and his father Darly were convicted in 1990 and jailed for 19 years. Although they are now free, former associates of Mendes said the assassination backfired. "Those who killed Chico got it wrong. They thought by killing him, the tappers' movement would be demobilised, but they made him immortal. His ideas still have a huge influence," said Gomercindo Rodriquez, who came to Xapuri as a young agronomist in 1986, and later became Mendes's trusted adviser.
Mendes wanted the forest to be used sustainably rather than cut off from economic activity (as some environmentalists wanted) or cut down (as the farmers wanted). He proposed the establishment of extractive reserves for tappers, Brazil nut collectors and others who harvested nature in a balanced way. After his death the first of many such reserves in Brazil, the Chico Mendes Extractive Reserve, was created, covering 1m hectares of forest around Xapuri.
After years of decline, the demand for latex from a local condom factory has boosted the price of rubber, and many tappers, who had turned to raising cattle, have returned to the forest. "This is Chico's legacy," said Gomercindo. "The extractive reserves have meant the preservation of the forest – all around it has been destroyed for cattle pasture. They have become an example, they now exist in other areas of Brazil."
The Chico Mendes Reserve has electricity and schools. Many students have graduated from university. Some tappers now have motorbikes and cars and some have become forest guides. Trees are sustainably harvested, and there is an eco-lodge. Building on this model, 68 extractive reserves have been established in the Brazilian Amazon, covering more than 136,000 sq km.
The Brazilian Space Institute INPE also started satellite monitoring of deforestation the year that Mendes was killed. The timing was a coincidence, but the effectiveness of this program has been heavily influenced by those who were inspired by Mendes. After forest clearance peaked in 2004, the environment minister Marina da Silva, another child of a rubber tapping family and former colleague of Mendes, put in place a more rigorous system of monitoring, penalties and incentives that has resulted in an 80% slowdown in the rate of deforestation.
But this progress is at risk as power in Brazil moves towards big landowners and away from the rural workers, conservationists and indigenous groups that Mendes fought for.
Last year, president Dilma Rousseff – who depends on the rural lobby for support in Congress – signed into law a change in the forest code reform of the forest code, which diluted environmental protection of the Amazon and other areas of biodiversity. The landowners' bloc in the legislature, which includes former members of the UDR, is now pushing for revision of other environmental laws and policies, including the rights of indigenous peoples guaranteed by the constitution of 1988 and the Brazilian National Protected Areas System.
In a sign of the worrying trend, satellite data showed a 28% rise in deforestation this year, breaking a five-year trend of decline.
Ahead of this weekend's anniversary, landowners in Congress vetoed a move to give Mendes's name to the room where the parliamentary agriculture committee meets. But conservation groups have vowed to continue his struggle.
"His legacy is an example that should guide all of us in keeping nature in our minds as a solution and a means to constructing a better world for all", said Claudio Maretti, head of WWF's Amazon Initiative – one of many international organisations that will show their respects for Brazil's Patron of the Environment at this weekend's anniversary.

Most British People Are ‘Climate Ignorers’ and ‘Stealth Deniers,’ Study Finds

facebook icon 514 twitter icon 220 google plus icon email icon
"Most British People Are ‘Climate Ignorers’ and ‘Stealth Deniers,’ Study Finds"
Most people in Britain acknowledge the reality of human-caused climate change but are “unmoved” to do anything about it, according to a survey and report released by Britain’s Royal Society of Arts (RSA) on Tuesday.
The report, entitled “A New Agenda on Climate Change: Facing up to Stealth Denial and Winding down on Fossil Fuels,” indicated that while less than 20 percent of the approximately 2,000 people surveyed are “unconvinced” that climate change is happening, nearly 64 percent of people say they acknowledge the reality of anthropogenic climate change yet do not feel a personal responsibility to address it.
The findings have the report’s authors convinced that the best way to combat climate change is not to focus on the minority of people who deny the reality of human-caused climate change despite a 97 percent consensus among climate scientists, but rather to hone in on those who wrongfully believe that there is nothing they can do to change it.
“Those who deny the reality of anthropogenic climate change are not at all helpful, but at least they are consistent,” Jonathan Rowson, one of the authors of the report, wrote on the organization’s blog on Tuesday. “One corollary of facing up to stealth denial is that we should turn more of our attention instead to mobilizing those who, like the author of this report, fully accept the moral imperative to act, but continue to live as though it were not there.”
Of that 64 percent — which the report calls “stealth deniers” — 47 percent were “emotional” deniers, meaning they don’t feel personally uneasy about climate change. Twenty-six percent of those people were “personal” deniers who believe their own daily actions are not part of the problem — and 65 percent are “practical” deniers, believing that there is literally “nothing I can do personally that will have any significant effect on limiting climate change.” Only a small group of the total amount of people surveyed, 14.5 percent, said they lived in a way that they felt was consistent with their understanding of the problem.
The findings prompted the RSA, a multi-disciplinary institution dating back to the 1700s, to develop a proposed 8-part agenda to fight so-called stealth denial and the need to focus on keeping fossil fuels in the ground. One of those parts, ironically, is the need to develop a media communication strategy which no longer focuses on the debate over whether climate change exists. Instead, communications of climate change should solely focus on competing ideas and solutions to fight it.
“At present, public debates focus around the question: do you believe in climate change? Instead we want them to ask: ‘What do you think we should do about climate change?’” the report said. While the authors also argue for the implementation of a national emissions measurement, increased investment in renewable technologies, and a revenue-neutral carbon tax, they also say that none of that can occur unless there is increased civil communication. That is, getting people to talk to each other about climate change for more than five minutes at a time.
“Stealth denial is partly caused by not managing to experience feelings commensurate with the climate challenge and also by the absence of social indicators that climate change is a socially acceptable thing to talk about in polite company,” the report said. “Those who do invest the time to talk about climate change can easily feel overwhelmed by the challenge, but by making responsibility proportionate, and showing that progress is possible, it helps people feel like part of the solution rather than part of the problem, creating hope, building political will, and leading to tangible reductions in personal carbon footprints.”
The report in full can be found here.

Friday, 20 December 2013

Tax meat to cut methane emissions, say scientists

Growing population of ruminants such as sheep and cattle is biggest human-related source of the greenhouse gas
Cows at a farm. Photograph: David Sillitoe for the Guardian
Meat should be taxed to encourage people to eat less of it, so reducing the production of global warming gases from sheep, cattle and goats, according to a group of scientists.
Several high-profile figures, from the chief of the UN's climate science panel to the economist Lord Stern, have previously advocated eating less meat to tackle global warming.
The scientists' analysis, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, takes the contentious step of suggesting methane emissions be cut by pushing up the price of meat through a tax or emissions trading scheme.
"Influencing human behaviour is one of the most challenging aspects of any large-scale policy, and it is unlikely that a large-scale dietary change will happen voluntarily without incentives," they say. "Implementing a tax or emission trading scheme on livestock's greenhouse gas emissions could be an economically sound policy that would modify consumer prices and affect consumption patterns."
There are now 3.6 billion ruminants on the planet – mostly sheep, cattle and goats and, in much smaller numbers, buffalo – 50% more than half a century ago. Methane from their digestive systems is the single biggest human-related source of the greenhouse gas, which is more short-lived but around 30 times more potent than carbon dioxide in warming the planet.
Emissions from livestock account for 14.5% of all human-caused greenhouse gases, according to the UN. It estimates that this could be cut by nearly a third through better farming practices.
Pete Smith, a professor of soils and global change at the University of Aberdeen, and one of the authors of the report, said: "Our study showed that one of the most effective ways to cut methane is to reduce global populations of ruminant livestock, especially cattle."
He said methane from livestock could only be reduced by addressing demand for meat at the same time.
The scientists say not enough attention has been paid to tackling greenhouse gases other than CO2, especially in the ongoing UN climate talks, which last convened in Warsaw in November.
The only way the world could avoid dangerous tipping points as temperatures rise would be by cutting methane emissions as well as CO2 emissions from sources such as energy and transport, they argue. Reducing livestock numbers, they point out, would also avoid CO2 emissions released when forests are cleared for cattle farms.
William Ripple, a professor in the College of Forestry at Oregon State University, and another of the authors, said: "We clearly need to reduce the burning of fossil fuels to cut CO2 emissions. But that addresses only part of the problem. We also need to reduce non-CO2 greenhouse gases to lessen the likelihood of us crossing this climatic threshold."
The farming industry said the tax proposal was too simplistic. Nick Allen, sector director for Eblex, the organisation for beef and lamb producers in England, said: "To suggest a tax is a better way to cut emissions seems a simplistic and blunt suggestion that will inevitably see a rise in consumer prices.
"It is a very complex area. Simply reducing numbers of livestock – as a move like this would inevitably do – does not improve efficiency of the rumen process, which takes naturally growing grass that we cannot eat and turns it into a protein to feed a growing human population."

Allen said reducing emissions was an important goal for the industry. He added: "Grazing livestock have helped shape and manage the countryside for hundreds of years. They bring significant environmental benefits that can significantly mitigate the negative effect of emissions. It is unfortunate that in recent years they have become an easy scapegoat for emissions, despite the fact that the livestock population is generally falling