Posts Tagged ‘rebuild’

Photo: Felipe Werneck/Ibama via Wikimedia.
Wildfires in Brazil’s indigenous territory, 2017. Conservationists believe that restoration of the rainforest works best if a variety of seedlings are used, not just one kind.

I think humans are like ants in this regard: as soon as our anthill is destroyed, we start rebuilding. And as soon as greed destroys another swath of rainforest, conversationists, indigenous people, and fundraisers move in to rebuild. It may be hopeless, but that’s how we roll.

Bruno Vander Velde, managing director of content at Conservation International, writes at the Conversation about one rebuilding program.

“A bold initiative to regrow 73 million trees in the Brazilian Amazon has made substantial progress despite some unexpected hurdles, according to an upcoming report. While the global pandemic and an increase in Amazon fires presented setbacks, the initiative, launched in 2017, has delivered almost 20 percent of its forest restoration target, according to Conservation International in Brazil, one of several partners involved in implementation. 

“The partners point to surprising progress taking root, as the COVID pandemic shows signs of leveling off and a new incoming presidential administration publicly commits to stem the tide of deforestation. …

Launched at a Brazilian music festival, the initiative targeted areas along the southern edges of the Amazon forest, known as Brazil’s ‘arc of deforestation,’ as well as in the heart of the forest, where natural regeneration is still possible.

“By restoring these carbon-absorbing forests, the initiative is intended to help the South American country achieve its climate commitments under the Paris Agreement, as well as its target of reforesting 12 million hectares (nearly 30 million acres) of land by 2030. 

“The initiative comprises two efforts: Amazonia Live, an effort led by the Rock in Rio music festival in collaboration with Conservation International and Brazilian nonprofit Instituto Socioambiental; and the Amazon Sustainable Landscape project, a collaboration among Conservation International, the Brazilian Ministry of Environment, the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank and the Brazilian Biodiversity Fund. 

“In sum, the initiative is an experiment to ‘figure out how to do tropical restoration at scale, so that people can replicate it and we can drive the costs down dramatically,’ Conservation International CEO M. Sanjayan told Fast Company in 2017. …

“One of the initiative’s most noteworthy features was the use of a seed-planting method called ‘muvuca,’ widely advocated by the Instituto Socioambiental as a way to reduce restoration costs. Unlike typical reforestation efforts, in which tree saplings are planted one at a time, the muvuca method relies on spreading a large and varied mixture of native seeds across the targeted areas, to assure a higher diversity of trees. The technique’s results have exceeded expectations, experts say. 

‘We’re seeing a tree yield that is three times higher than our initial estimates,’ said Miguel Moraes of Conservation International’s Brazil office. 

“ ‘Rather than 3 million trees growing in 1,200 hectares (3,000 acres), as we would have expected, we’re estimating 9.6 million trees in the same area,’ based on monitoring reports, he added. …

“This restoration effort has not escaped some hard, real-world realities in Brazil’s Amazon. Some restored areas were burned by fires and will be monitored to see if they can regenerate on their own, Moraes said. (The area lost was not counted against the overall goal.) 

“Such fires — all of them set by humans, usually to clear forests for agriculture and livestock — are a sign of the times. The Brazilian Amazon has been hit especially hard by wildfires in recent years. By September 2022, more forest fires were recorded in the region than in all of 2021, amid a surge of deforestation. …

“ ‘Our initial expectation [in this effort] was to prioritize the restoration of large contiguous areas within conserved areas,’ Moraes said. Restored forests in those areas should have been more durable; however, in the past two years ‘deforestation within protected areas in Brazil has increased significantly,’ he added. 

“The resilience of the Brazilian Amazon’s many protected areas will be critical to the long-term success of the initiative. 

“As it did around the world, COVID upended life in Brazil. …

“ ‘Like everyone, we were completely unprepared for a global pandemic — not only at the project level, but also at an individual level,’ [Moreas] said. … ‘Twenty percent restored might seem a low figure — and it generates a bit of frustration. But given the context, that we were able to achieve 20 percent of our target is impressive.’

“Even in the tropics, trees take years to grow to maturity. But reforestation projects usually last only a fraction of that time. … ‘Most projects like these are an intervention at a point of time, and then they end,’ Moraes said. ‘But restoration is a long and continuous process. So, ensuring permanence is a huge issue.’

“Practitioners are taking steps to address this, including planning for long-term satellite monitoring to keep a close eye on restored forests. They will also work with communities and local governments to try to bolster on-the-ground protection of these areas. 

“Five years after the restoration initiative was announced, nearly three years into a pandemic and just weeks since a new administration took office in Brazil, project organizers are hopeful. The 2023 deadline for completion has been shifted to 2026, after some administrative challenges in the project’s early years. Organizers have now grown more comfortable managing the complexities inherent in a partnership of this size, Moraes said.

“ ‘I believe we underestimated the complexity of the challenge ahead of us. We are now trying to be more strategic. … Conservation International’s restoration efforts in Brazil go beyond just this effort,’ he said. ‘But if we succeed, we can show that we can make an impact at the scale needed to bring the forest back from the brink.’ ”

More at Conversation, here. No firewall.

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Photo: Felipe Milanez via Wikimedia.
Fire at the National Museum of Brazil, in Rio de Janeiro, on 2 September 2018.

Do you remember reading about the disastrous fire at Brazil’s national museum? It was before Covid. Many irreplaceable artifacts were destroyed. I recall, for example, that the curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin, was devastated by the loss of that museum’s priceless insect collection.

Also lost were indigenous artifacts. But since that part of the collection had been created without tribes’ input, the rebuilding is a chance to make something better.

Mariana Lenharo and Meghie Rodrigues report at the New York Times, “In the evening of Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018, the National Museum of Brazil in Rio de Janeiro was closed, and its hallways were empty. Silent activity, however, coursed within its walls. Electricity hummed through wires connected to computers; climate-controlled storage and three air-conditioning units connected, improperly, to a single circuit breaker in the ground-floor auditorium. When one unit most likely received a surge of electricity it couldn’t handle, the overburdened system sparked. The museum’s smoke-detector system was not set. There were no sprinklers or fire doors, and a flame bloomed.

Seeing the news, staff members rushed to the building and pleaded with firefighters to let them enter and rescue something — anything. …

“Much of what was lost or severely damaged was irreplaceable: the mummy of an Ancient Egyptian priestess, a 110-million-year-old fossilized turtle, a vast collection of butterflies, the oldest known human remains in Latin America.

“The fire also obliterated an enormous assemblage of artifacts representing the cultural history of Brazil’s Indigenous populations. Masks, vases, weapons, mortars and elaborately feathered ceremonial capes dating back at least a century from the Ticuna, the Kadiwéu, the Bororo, the Tukano — at least 130 peoples in all — were gone. Researchers worked to salvage what they could from the ashes. Astonishingly, a few ceramic vases kept their original paint. One Karajá animal sculpture was found almost intact. But most ‘were fragments, scraps that would no longer be recognized by the people who made them,’ says João Pacheco de Oliveira, the head of the museum’s ethnology and ethnography division. When Ananda Machado, a social historian at the Federal University of Roraima, told members of the Wapichana people about the fire, they were devastated. ‘To them, these objects were much more than material,’ she said; they carried with them the strength of the people who made them. …

“In 2018, after 40 years with the museum, Oliveira planned to retire. But the fire pushed those plans aside. Even while mourning the tragedy, he saw possibility. Yes, the ethnographic collection was in some ways unparalleled, but he had long been vexed by what was missing from it. Many objects were collected by European travelers in the 19th and early 20th centuries who didn’t grasp the purpose that the objects served. A pot or a cape might have been chosen simply because it seemed beautiful or peculiar to a Western eye. As a curator, he found this lack of cultural context deeply frustrating.

“As an anthropologist, Oliveira was even more troubled. Since the 1970s, he has spent long periods with the Ticuna in northern Brazil trying to understand them on their own terms and to communicate their culture to a wider world. The museum was an important vehicle for his aims, but the institution came with its own inglorious history. As with other 19th-century museums, the National Museum was a repository of items plucked, purchased or plundered from Indigenous communities and had presented the people themselves as curiosities, papier-mâché figures in dioramas alongside taxidermied animals. And sometimes worse. …

“With no building to return to, Oliveira met with his team members on park benches and in cafes and explained his vision for a new collection. Indigenous people would be consulted not only about what items would go into the museum but also on how they should be identified, stored and exhibited. One of the first people he turned to was a former student named Tonico Benites.

“Benites grew up in Mato Grosso do Sul in midwestern Brazil on a reserve for the Guarani-Kaiowá, one of the country’s 305 surviving Indigenous groups. His parents never learned to read and write, but he finished high school and went on to study for a degree in education, picking up work on the side as an interpreter for anthropologists. Drawn to the questions the researchers asked, he applied to a master’s program in social anthropology offered at the museum.

“Benites’s first visit to the museum in 2006 was also his first day as a student there. Entering the ethnographic exhibition area, he saw a collection of spears and arrows and then rounded a corner. He froze, sickened. Covering an entire wall was an outsize reproduction of a woodcut from a 1557 book by the German explorer Hans Staden. The account of Staden’s captivity by the Tupinambá was immensely popular in its day, and some scholars now assert that its sensational depictions of cannibalism were used to justify European conquest of Indigenous peoples. …

“Benites raised his concerns with Oliveira, who was his research adviser. Oliveira sympathized but suggested that Benites use his research to change people’s minds. The image was removed months later, but almost a decade would pass before Benites, who had just finished his anthropology Ph.D. — the first Indigenous person to do so at the museum — began research for what he hoped would be a Guarani-Kaiowá exhibition. The fire decimated his plans. …

“The absence of Indigenous perspectives in exhibitions about Indigenous people has been acknowledged, if rarely remedied, at natural-history museums. … Unlike Indigenous groups in other countries, those in Brazil have traditionally maintained a sense of ownership over the museum, which was conceived as a museum of the nation’s history as well as of natural history, Oliveira says. Even the Wapichana, so distraught by the loss of their heritage, have committed to working with curators. Had there been arguments over ownership of older objects, the fire, in its indiscriminate destruction, made them moot. The National Museum has a unique opportunity, says Mariana Françozo, an associate professor of museum studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands. Museums in Europe would find it difficult to build a collection entirely based on collaboration, she says, ‘because they still have the old collections that carry the weight of colonialism.’ ”

More at the Times, here.

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Photo: Book Aid International
The first shipment of books for the University of Mosul’s library arrives in Iraq for Alaa Hamdon’s Book Bridge campaign.

It’s a good thing that humans are like ants in one regard because as soon as a community is destroyed, people begin the work to build it back up. That is what is happening in Mosul, Iraq, a city that was overrun by the culture-hating forces of Isis not that long ago.

Olivia Snaije writes at Publishing Perspectives, “Since the destruction of the University of Mosul’s library, momentum is building for Book Aid International’s efforts to coordinate and enable publishers’ contributions to rebuilding. …

“Most news accounts date the main destruction of the University of Mosul library to 2015, following the start of the Islamic State group’s occupation in June 2014. … The library had been one of the most important in Iraq and the Middle East, a repository of information on the cultures, religions, and ethnicities that make up the region. The destruction of thousands of books, many of them precious, was a tragic addition to the country’s list of tremendous cultural losses in recent years.

“Used by up to 40,000 students, the library was, in the words of Alaa Hamdon at the London Book Fair, ‘an icon for the university, a lighthouse for students and the community, a shining light at the heart of the university.’ Hamdon is the founder of the Mosul Book Bridge campaign to rebuild the library. …

“When Mosul was liberated from ISIS in 2017, Dr. Hamdon decided to establish the Mosul Book Bridge effort to rebuild the university’s library, and contacted Book Aid International. The British charity works with more than 100 publishers in the UK and reports sending up to 300,000 books to countries worldwide.

“Traditionally, Book Aid’s service area has been mostly in Africa. But [Alison Tweed, chief executive, said] that reports of the deliberate cultural and intellectual destruction in Iraq were so moving that she offered to partner with Hamdon’s Mosul Book Bridge campaign.

“ ‘We have infrastructure and logistics,’ she said, ‘and it seemed like a wonderful partnership. … We like a challenge. We made a selection of books and put them onto trucks. They sat in Bulgaria for a few weeks and then limped across the border. The situation is volatile and ever-changing, but the books got there.’

“When the first shipment of 3,750 or so books arrived in Mosul in March 2018, Hamdon said he and his colleagues danced in the street. Tweed said that her colleagues danced in the office. ‘That appreciation is everything for us, it makes our work worthwhile.’

“What made Book Aid’s coordination and contribution especially valuable was that they delivered new books that the University of Mosul had specifically requested, said Mehiyar Kathem, whose Nahrein Network helps people across the Middle East to ‘reclaim their ancient heritage as local history, putting it to constructive use for their communities.’ …

” ‘I visited Mosul in January,’ Kathem said. ‘I’d like to stress how important it is to have the physical books there because the Internet doesn’t work well. These are brand-new important books, because you also have out-of-date books donated, like a book on electronics from the 1980s.’ …

“Hamdon said that rebuilding the library can help ‘give hope to everyone living there, that culture is back. People will feel reassured about their education and their future.’ ”

More here.

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