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Posts Tagged ‘greenpeace’

Photo: Corinne Staley, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0.
The Congo basin is home to numerous endemic plant and tree species, but today there are serious threats to the health of the ecosystem.

Peat bogs are the last thing I picture when thinking about the Congo. Shows how ignorant I am. Apparently, I am not alone. As the radio show Living on Earth reports, “Western scientists only learned about the Congo Basin peatlands in 2017. But indigenous communities have avoided disturbing the peatland while sustainably hunting and fishing in the area for generations. Raoul Monsembula grew up in the area and now works with Greenpeace Africa. He spoke with host Bobby Bascomb for a local perspective on the region.

BOBBY BASCOMB: “This area is new to the western world but, of course, local people have known about it for generations. Can you tell me a bit about your relationship with the peatlands and how the communities surrounding it used the area?

“RAOUL MONSEMBULA: The elders said to us it was a productive area for the fish and animals, and we could only do seasonal fishing and hunting, and collect some firewood because it’s a fragile area, where the fish and animals reproduce. We only use it during the dry season. We don’t go there during the wet season when the animals are reproducing.

We were advised by our elders to never start a fire in these areas, because these areas were essential for food. It’s also an area where we practiced traditional ceremonies.

“And you don’t see a lot of hospitals here but you don’t see people dying a lot because they’re using medicinal trees from the peatland and eating forest fruit.

“BASCOMB: So as a scientist from the DRC who grew up there, you spent your life in this region, how surprised were you to learn about the enormous amount of carbon locked up in the soil there?

“MONSEMBULA: When the scientists came here and we learned about the peatland, that night it was one of the biggest celebrations I’ve ever had in my life, we danced and we drank with the villagers because even if we didn’t know about the peatlands for a long time we knew that they were special. Even as we now begin to scientifically understand what this area means, the elders knew for a long time that this area would benefit humanity. This discovery made us very happy even if we were unsure if carbon would have any financial significance or not! It’s as though we are helping the world fight against climate change. …

“The problem is in Indonesia they are growing a lot of rice and palm oil crops in the peatlands, so the youth think why not grow them here too because it’s easy money. Most of the young people, the ones who are less than 25 years old, some of whom are unemployed or not well educated, want to do things like that.

“BASCOMB: Well you know the Congo Basin, the rain forest there, is second only to the Amazon of course in terms of being the largest rainforest in the world but unlike Brazil the Congo basin hasn’t really seen a whole lot of development but what are you seeing on the horizon in terms of possible development and threats to the integrity of the peatlands?

“MONSEMBULA: Logging is nearing the peatlands and agribusiness is growing. And the growing population can be problematic because it will encourage the development of more rice crops or palm oil crops in the peatland.

“That can be a problem because with a larger population if people can’t make a living, send their kids to school or go to the hospital they will damage the peatland by logging ecologically valuable trees to sell the wood and once they do that the peatland can dry. …

“BASCOMB: How can the Western world, do you think, support people living in the Congo Basin to preserve this thing that’s so important for all of us but at the same time support the people that need development?

“MONSEMBULA: The problem is that we need donors. We need western countries who are creating a lot of pollution to give some money for peatland protection. But another thing is corruption. You know how bad governance is in Central Africa. Like right now in the DRC we are hearing about millions of dollars going to the Central Africa Forest Initiative, they are giving a lot of money but when you’re in the field you don’t see anything. There is now a very big forest community project which is funded by international NGOs like Greenpeace, not the DRC government. We don’t want people to donate through the government ministry. With the corruption and bad governance that money will not go to the field.”

Reading this story on the day after the US elections, I am struck but something. I may be overgeneralizing, but it seems to me that the elders in the Congo have the wisdom, but in the US, it’s the youth. Whoever shows wisdom, I hope we can give them all the support they need.

More at Living on Earth, here.

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It’s interesting to me how artists who believe in a particular cause will use what they know best to advance that cause. Sometimes it takes art to get a wider audience to understand an issue.

At the Greenpeace blog, Elvira Jiménez and Erlend Tellnes wrote in early June about how pianist and composer Ludovico Einaudi is raising awareness of global warming.

“The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise set off from the Netherlands carrying a very special load: the voices of eight million people. Messages from around the globe calling for governments to save the Arctic from threats such as oil drilling and destructive fishing. …

“As the ship stopped in Svalbard, Norway, Europe’s gateway to the Arctic, it welcomed aboard a very special guest: renowned pianist and composer, Ludovico Einaudi. With him a grand piano, to undertake his most challenging performance yet, in the Arctic surrounded by ice. …

“As he performed this piece for the first time — in front of a magnificent surging glacier — the music echoed across the ice, a moment that will remain in our minds forever.” More here.

If one picture is worth a thousand words, maybe this one had an effect: a couple weeks later an international conference voted for protection of the Arctic.

Pilar Marcos followed up at the Greenpeace blog on June 30: “At a meeting held in Ostend, Belgium, last week, the OSPAR Convention agreed to adopt specific measures to protect its Arctic region, including a commitment to secure a marine protected area (MPA) in 2016.

“This means an unprecedented agreement on Arctic protection, which could result in safeguarding the first piece of a future sanctuary in the High Arctic in just a few months’ time. [It’s an] area equivalent in size to half of the surface of Spain, [where] no oil drilling or large industrial fishing will take place, and where the protection of threatened habitats and species will be the priority.”

Photo: Greenpeace
Acclaimed Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi performs “Elegy for the Arctic” on a floating platform in the Arctic Ocean, the world’s most vulnerable ocean.

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At the radio show Living on Earth, Steve Curwood recently interviewed Gary Cook of Greenpeace about an effort to get tech companies to be greener.

CURWOOD: “Back in 2012, you criticized Apple for using carbon-intensive energy from coal plants to power its servers. …

COOK: “Just after we spoke, they made a commitment to be 100 percent renewably powered, and as the end of last year, they even made that goal. So, it’s been quite a big shift.

CURWOOD: “100 percent renewable energy. How’s that possible?

COOK: “It requires some effort. Apple has done a lot in North Carolina where they have their largest data center in terms of deploying two different solar farms and an onsite fuel cell that’s powered with biogas energy, so it’s all renewable. They have several other data centers. … In Oregon they’re using wind; in Nevada they’re using solar.

“So they’ve actually shown a commitment from the top, been very aggressive, probably the most aggressive of any of the brands to make sure as they grow, they’re using clean energy.

CURWOOD: “Biogas. Where are they getting that from?’

COOK:” Currently, they’re getting that from landfill and some other renewable sources. The landfill is methane capture in the southeast, and they’re having that piped to where their data center is in North Carolina.”

The radio interview covers several other efforts tech companies are making. It’s a good thing, too, when you consider, as Living on Earth points out, “If the Internet were a country, it would be the sixth largest consumer of electricity in the world.” More here.

Photo: George Nikitin, Greenpeace
The Greenpeace Airship A.E. Bates flies over Facebook headquarters with a banners reading “Building a Greener Internet” and “Who’s The Next To Go Green?” Apple, Facebook and Google have committed to powering their data centers with renewable energy.

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