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Posts Tagged ‘rainforest’

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Photo: Chelsea Call
A young girl plants a seedling at the ASRI clinic in Gunung Palung National Park in Borneo, where a nonprofit enables patients to pay for medical care without resorting to illegal logging.

The radio show “Living on Earth,’ Public Radio International’s environmental news magazine, is a great source of stories about nature, climate change, and ecological initiatives worldwide. In this episode, we learn that medical costs in Borneo were the main reason that communities were illegally cutting down trees. And we see how one visionary addressed the danger to the rainforest by first asking the local community what needed to be done.

“Gunung Palung National Park on the island of Borneo is home to diverse species found nowhere else, and beloved by the people who live on the Indonesian island. But like many people who live near tropical forests, they have at times had to resort to illegal logging to pay for healthcare. Now the nonprofit Health in Harmony is providing healthcare that patients can pay for with a simple trade of labor, seedlings or manure, so that no one ever has to log to pay cash for essential health services. Founder Kinari Webb and Host Bobby Bascomb discuss the importance of listening to what forest communities say they need in order to stop logging.

“BASCOMB: The rainforests of Borneo are some of the oldest tropical forests in world, roughly 130,000 years old. And because they evolved on an isolated island the forests are teeming with endemic species found nowhere else on earth. From highly endangered orangutans, tigers, and rhinos to pygmy elephants just five feet tall.

“Borneo’s Gunung Palung National Park is a critical habitat for many of the island’s endangered species and a huge carbon sink – crucial in our fight against climate change. The rainforest was also being deforested at an alarming rate when Kinari Webb first visited in the early 90’s. Kinari was a student at the time, but she was so alarmed by the deforestation she saw that she went on to found the nonprofit Health in Harmony, which aims to keep the forest healthy by keeping people healthy. …

“WEBB: I first went to Borneo when I was an undergraduate. I took a year off and spent a year deep in the rainforest studying orangutans. And Gunung Palung National Park is considered the jewel in the crown of all the Indonesian national parks. … There’s a lot of people who live right around the park, about 60,000 people. They love the forest as well. …

“They want it to be there for future generations. But the logging was rampant, it was completely out of control. … I was just so angry at these people. But then I realized, and I talked to many of them, and what they told me was, you know, if my child is sick, or my family member is sick, I have no choice and it’s one of the only ways to get cash. … One medical emergency can cost an entire year’s income. …

“That just broke my heart. How can that be? And how can we be allowing that to be? So I ended up going to medical school and returning to Indonesia so that I could try to work on this intersection between human and environmental health.

“BASCOMB: You call it radical listening, the way that you discovered what these people need and how to help them. Can you tell me more? …

WEBB: We actually do what people say. And that is wildly unusual in the way that development is done and conservation is done. … We ask them, what would you all need as a thank you from the world community so that you could actually protect this precious forest that you all are guardians of?

“And it was amazing because every single community and everywhere we’ve been, it’s been the same, that every community will independently come to a solution that is the same in a given region. So around Gunung Palung, it was we need access to healthcare, and we need training and organic farming. And if we have those things, we can stop logging. Now, I just, in the beginning, I just trusted on faith that they truly knew what the solutions were.

“But 10 years later, we had incredible data that showed a 90% drop in logging households; a stabilization of the loss of primary forest, which had been shrinking like crazy. We had a re-growth, actually, of 52,000 acres of forest, and we had a 67% drop in infant mortality. …

“BASCOMB: A lot of NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] will go to a community and say, Oh, you need a school, or you need a road. But if you actually stop and ask people, they might say, we need water. We need sanitation. …

“WEBB: We ended up providing a kind of simultaneous to the government healthcare system, when the government was struggling to get a system that was quite functional. And since then [2007] they have done a much, much better job. And we coordinate with them all the time, and I think that together, we have really made a great difference in these communities. And one of the heads of the Department of Health at one point said to me, he said, ‘You know, I didn’t even know it was possible to provide high quality health care in a remote area. It wasn’t even trying until I saw your clinic.’ ”

More at the Living on Earth radio show, here.

Photo: Chelsea Call
An orangutan in Indonesian Borneo. “Kinari Webb was studying orangutans in Borneo in the early 1990s when she found out that much of the logging there was done so locals could cover healthcare costs,” says
Living on Earth.

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Photo: Education Images/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Cattle graze in pasture formed by cleared rainforest land in Pará, Brazil. A new online tool makes it easier for ethical food companies to detect this kind of land-clearing by their suppliers and stop the practice.

Some big food companies have promised not to be a party to the ongoing destruction of the rainforest, often called the lungs of Planet Earth. But how can they see what their distant suppliers may be up to?

Dan Charles at National Public (NPR) describes a promising approach.

“Brazilian scientists are reporting a sharp increase this year in the clearing of forests in the Amazon. That’s bad news for endangered ecosystems, as well as the world’s climate. Deforestation releases large amounts of heat-trapping carbon dioxide.

“It’s also a setback for big food companies that have pledged to preserve those forests — or at least to boycott suppliers that clear forests in order to raise crops or graze cattle.

” ‘Traders such as Cargill, Bunge, or Louis Dreyfus; consumer good manufacturers such as Mondelēz or Procter & Gamble or Unilever; retailers such as Walmart and McDonald’s — all the major brands have made those commitments,’ says Luiz Amaral, director of global solutions for commodities and finance at the World Resources Institute.

“Most of the companies promised to cut all links to deforestation by 2020, but … turns out, it’s really hard for companies to ensure that none of their raw materials came from recently cleared land.

“So Amaral and his colleagues just created a new online tool for companies to use. They call it Global Forest Watch Pro. …

“Amaral pulls up an image of the globe. This particular image shows which areas are covered by trees. … This map is created from data collected by satellites operated by NASA. One satellite scans the entire planet every week, constantly updating this map. So it’s possible to tell whether trees disappear from one week to the next. Another satellite monitors the entire globe for fires.

“Researchers at the University of Maryland created software to filter this flood of data and detect the signals of deforestation. …

” ‘I uploaded 22 cattle farms in Brazil,’ he says. These farms show up as highlighted areas in one region of Brazil. … With a few mouse clicks, we see how much of each farm is covered with trees and how that area has changed.

“He points out one 40,000-acre-farm. Half of it is covered in forests. But we can also see that, 15 years ago, the whole thing was forest. We zoom in closer. We can see exactly where trees disappeared in this part of Brazil. …

“In a similar way, a food company can enter the locations of farms from which it buys raw materials. Global Forest Watch Pro then will send an alert whenever it detects deforestation within that area.

“The company Mondelēz International, which makes Oreo cookies and Triscuit crackers, already is using it.

” ‘I think it’s actually extremely important,’ says Jonathan Horrell, the company’s director of global sustainability. … ‘Forests [are] being cut down in order to produce raw materials that we use in our products,’ he says. Those raw materials include palm oil from plantations in Indonesia, and cocoa farms in West Africa.

“Companies that want to use Global Forest Watch Pro have to figure out exactly where their suppliers are, and that can be difficult. …

“This is easier to do when companies buy food directly from local producers, as is often the case with cocoa and palm oil. In other cases, though, products move through a long chain of intermediary companies. Farmers who raise cattle may sell them to a local slaughterhouse, not directly to McDonald’s.”

But as NPR’s Charles explains, even local slaughterhouses can use the tool. Already WRI has signed up a slaughterhouse in Paraguay for an account. And I expect more will get on board as corporate commitments to cut carbon footprints exert economic pressure.

More here.

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Photos: Sai Sanctuary
In part to preserve the planet’s source of rainwater, this couple bought a sanctuary in India. As it expands, it protects more and more species.

A childhood friend on Facebook often posts interesting links. Her presence on that platform is a major reason I can’t bring myself to get off Facebook even though I feel extremely wary of what the company is doing with my data. But how many people from your nursery school do you connect with on a regular basis?

My friend recently alerted her followers to an animal sanctuary in India that sounded cool, and after a look at the website, I checked around for more information on the two wealthy nature lovers who saved the preserve from neglect.

Panna Munyal wrote this 2016 report at an Abu Dhabi publication called The National, “On most days, Pamela Gale ­Malhotra, co-owner of the Sai Sanctuary private forest in ­India, is fast asleep at 1.30am, after her typically full programme of organising walking safaris and animal feeds, and checking camera traps for signs of poaching.

“But a few years ago, Pamela and her husband, Anil Malhotra, woke up to the sound of trumpeting ­elephants. They assumed – rightly – that a baby elephant must have strayed too close to a partially covered pit and fallen in. As her husband switched on the rarely used floodlights and prepared to call on their neighbours for aid, Pamela stepped out to a magnificent sight.

Dozens of elephants from the Sai ­Sanctuary’s herds, as well as the neighbouring Bandipur, ­Brahmagiri and Nagarhole national parks, had gathered around the pit and were bellowing their assurances to the calf. Pamela describes the next hour as magical, as the enormously graceful creatures banded as one to lift the half-broken lid of the pit with their trunks, enabling the little one to clamber out.

“This show of concerned unity is typical of the environment the Malhotras have cultivated in Sai Sanctuary, which is nestled within southern India’s ­Western Ghats in the Coorg district. ‘Protecting what is left of the world’s forests is the only thing that will ensure our own survival,’ Pamela says. ‘Forests are directly responsible for rainfall, our primary source of water. Water, in turn, is the lifeline for plants, flowers, animals, birds and humans. We have nothing if not for our forests.’ …

” ‘When we bought our first parcel of land in India, it was just the two of us and 55 acres [22 hectares] of forest beside the Poddani River. We learnt from experience that if you want to protect a piece of land, you need to secure both sides of its water source. And here we both are 25 years later, managing 300 acres [121 hectares] on both sides of the river.’

“Pamela, who is part Native American, and her husband, a former banker, … follow a two-pronged approach to safeguard the forest, river and wildlife: purchase-to-protect and payment for environmental services. The first step is to buy private forested lands that border national parks or other reserve forests, and preserve them in their natural state. Next, the Malhotras offer compensation to members of the surrounding communities to, in turn, not harm the trees and animals around them. Compensation may be in the form of money, but it can also be a solution that works for both parties.

“ ‘We gifted all our cattle to some of our neighbours. The milk and dung give them an extra source of income, while for us it means less staff and more food for other grass-eaters,’ says Pamela. ‘Another time, some villagers approached my husband to help relocate a temple from the top of the mountain to the edge of the sanctuary. He agreed, on the condition that they would stop hunting.’ …

“Ingenious solutions and noble intentions aside, it’s undeniable that money – and large sums at that – is needed for a project of this magnitude. … ‘We now have four rooms in two eco-tourism cottages on the property alongside the main house in which we live.’ These cottages are open to visitors, and cost from [$42] per person, per night, which includes the stay, three nutritious vegetarian meals and daily treks. …

” ‘We outsource not only our housekeeping and laundry facilities, but also hire willing neighbours to cook the meals, some of which can be eaten in a local house or with the village priest. This ensures the money spreads through the community, and even our guests can get a feel for the culture,’ Pamela says. …

“Despite its size, Sai Sanctuary doesn’t have any safari vehicles. ‘You are always on foot here. It helps people to slow down and observe the flowers, birds and trees around them. … Guests are never taken to the same area twice during the course of their stay because ‘we want the wildlife to move freely even in the day. This is the purpose of a sanctuary.’

The National article is here. And if you explore the Sai website, here, you will find some beautiful pictures of the species that the sanctuary protects.

Thanks, Carole, for putting this on FB.

Photo: Sai Sanctuary
Anil Malhotra and Pamela Gale Malhotra put their money behind saving an animal sanctuary in India.

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Photo: Buzzfeed
Reducing our intake of meat, especially beef, can reduce global warming. Want to help me find quick non-meat recipes that work for the whole family?

Back in the 1970s, my sister gave me Frances Moore Lappé‘s Diet for a Small Planet. So even back then, I was hearing that eating meat was bad for Planet Earth. But I never gave it up completely. I had a few non-meat recipes that I liked, including a delicious Eggplant Parmesan from that book, but my commitment wavered.

Lately, there’s been a lot in the news about what the individual can do to fight global warming, and one of the most frequently mentioned ideas is to give up meat, especially beef. There are lots of reasons, including the fact that livestock gives off too much methane and requires extensive grazing land that could be better used. Also, destroying trees in the rainforest and elsewhere is like destroying the lungs of the planet.

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Photo: One Green Planet
Many environmentalists say that beef production is killing rainforests, which are the lungs of the planet in that they absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen.

Suzanne and I are giving meatless meals another shot. We’re unlikely to get as far as a true vegan diet, but we can start by serving smaller and smaller amounts of meat and larger and larger amounts of grains, nuts, fruits, eggs, veggies, and dairy products. (Dairy cows are just as flatulent as cattle raised for meat, so in California, scientists are experimenting with seaweed added to food to cut down on the methane released.)

Both Suzanne and I value prep speed. We have meat-centered meals we make quickly on autopilot. Now we need to retrain our muscle memory to make vegetarian recipes quickly.

I’ve started searching the web and would be open to ideas from readers, many of whom probably had this whole concept nailed down years ago. John’s family has an ongoing Tofu Tuesday, so I hope to get a favorite recipe from them.

BuzzFeed offers a list of 30 intriguing meals here. They’re a bit heavy on the bean component, which won’t work for me, but how do you like the one pictured at the top of the post, which BuzzFeed found at the Bojon Gourmet? It involves tofu and shiitake mushrooms roasted in a mixture of toasted sesame oil, tamari, and sriracha and transferred to a miso soup containing noodles, ginger, and kale. Mmmm.

Photo: Yale Environment 360
According to environmentalists, when humans destroy the rainforest to graze cattle, they are shooting themselves in the foot.

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There’s always something fun over at PRI’s environmental radio show Living on Earth. Here’s a story that ran in March about the unique bird species isolated in Northeastern Australian rainforests.

Bob Sundstrom wrote up the audio report of BirdNote‘s Mary McCann: “The Eastern Whipbird hangs out in the dense understory. It’s dark, crested … nearly a foot long and emerald-green with white spots. … The large, pigeon-like Wompoo Fruit-Dove … feathered in a stunning combination of green, purple, and yellow, [is] clearly named for its voice.

“Pig-like grunting on the forest floor tells us we’re in the company of the largest bird on the continent – the Southern Cassowary. On average, the female weighs 130 pounds and stands around 5 feet tall, looking like a giant, lush, black hairpiece on thick legs. A helmet called a casque makes it look as much like a dinosaur as any living bird.” Five feet tall? I think I know a one-year-old who would like to try riding it.

The bird sounds on the radio show were provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. Hear them all here, where you can also enjoy the equally far-out pictures.

Photo: Jan Anne
Southern Cassowary

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