Opinion | Our Cherished Rivers Are Under Threat – The New York Times

By Macarena SolerMonti Aguirre and 

Ms. Soler is the founder of Geute Conservación Sur, Ms. Aguirre is the Latin America program coordinator of International Rivers and Mr. Orrego is the president of Ecosistemas.

Credit…Marcos Zegers for The New York Times

“The rivers of Chilean Patagonia cascade from snow-capped mountains through sheer rock facades and rolling hills, radiating bright turquoise, deep blues and vivid greens. The Puelo. The Pascua. The Futaleufú. Each is as breathtaking and unique as the landscape it quenches.

But these rivers, like many worldwide, have been threatened by dam projects that aim to provide power for distant cities and mining operations. Only one-third of the world’s 177 longest rivers remain free flowing, and just 21 rivers longer than 1,000 kilometers (621 miles) retain a direct connection to the sea.

If we are to arrest global climate change, prevent the toxifying of freshwater sources and do right by all those who depend on rivers for survival, we must return more rivers to their natural state.

For decades, rivers have been an afterthought in global climate talks, like the ones that concluded in Madrid this month. New streams of climate finance, like the Climate Bonds Initiative, may soon be available to large-scale hydropower projects. While renewable energy and its financing are an important part of climate solutions, hydropower dams are not the answer.

Hydropower is not a clean, green technology. Rivers help regulate an increasingly volatile global carbon cycle by transporting decaying organic material from land to sea, where it settles on the ocean floor. This draws an estimated 200 million tons of carbon out of the air each year.

As an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change scientist, Philip Fearnside, has documented, large dams, especially on tropical rivers like the Amazon, are “methane factories,” emitting in some cases more greenhouse gases than coal-fired power plants. This month in Madrid, 276 civil society groups attending the United Nations climate talks called on the Climate Bonds Initiative to exclude hydropower from climate financing.

Hydroelectric dams, when they are built, flood large areas of vegetation. This fuels decomposition and releases carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Considered as a whole, hydroelectric dams emit a billion tons of greenhouse gases per year. This is comparable to the aviation industry, which emitted over 900 million tons of greenhouse gases in 2018.”

Opinion | How to Help Brazilian Farmers Save the Amazon – By Daniel Nepstad – The New York Times

By 

Dr. Nepstad is a forest ecologist who has worked in the Brazilian Amazon for more than 30 years.

Credit…Victor Moriyama for The New York Times

“When I moved to the Amazon “Wild West” town of Paragominas in northern Brazil in 1984 as a young scientist studying forest recovery on abandoned pastures, I expected a town filled with bandits and land grabbers. Instead, what I mostly found were courageous, hard-working families from across Brazil who had come to the rugged town of sawmills, cattle ranches and smallholder settlements to improve their lot in life.

But as the global outcry over recent Amazon fires and the rise in deforestation has demonstrated yet again, the stigma surrounding Amazon farmers as accomplices in this destruction remains, making enemies of would-be allies.

Indeed, outrage over the fires and President Jair Bolsonaro’s rhetoric and actions obscures a central question: Can responsible, law-abiding landholders and businesspeople in the Amazon — like those I met in Paragominas — compete with people who break the law, grab land and forest resources and drive much of the deforestation?

The simple answer is no. And until that changes, it will be difficult to stop the cutting and burning of these forests, which worldwide account for about a tenth of the carbon dioxide emissions that are warming the planet. But two recent developments suggested things may be changing for the better.

One turn of events was the decision by the California Air Resources Board in September to endorse — after 10 years of design and debate — a Tropical Forest Standard that could protect the forests of the Amazon and beyond. The standard sets rules for state, provincial and national governments in the Amazon to limit deforestation so that they can qualify to sell credits to companies seeking to offset some of their greenhouse gas emissions.

This standard is designed to make sure that the carbon offsets that companies are buying are actually going to real, verifiable deforestation efforts. What’s significant about the standard is its size — it focuses on recognizing and rewarding successful forest conservation across entire states, provinces or even nations in the Amazon. Moreover, and this is critical, it includes principles for guaranteeing that indigenous groups and other local communities have a voice in the policies and programs that are developed.”

‘The Amazon Is Completely Lawless’: The Rainforest After Bolsonaro’s First Year – The New York Times

Photographs and Video by 

Written by 

“RIO DE JANEIRO — When the smoke cleared, the Amazon could breathe easy again.

For months, black clouds had hung over the rainforest as work crews burned and chain-sawed through it. Now the rainy season had arrived, offering a respite to the jungle and a clearer view of the damage to the world.

The picture that emerged was anything but reassuring: Brazil’s space agency reported that in one year, more than 3,700 square miles of the Amazon had been razed — a swath of jungle nearly the size of Lebanon torn from the world’s largest rainforest.

It was the highest loss in Brazilian rainforest in a decade, and stark evidence of just how badly the Amazon, an important buffer against global warming, has fared in Brazil’s first year under President Jair Bolsonaro.

He has vowed to open the rainforest to industry and scale back its protections, and his government has followed through, cutting funds and staffing to weaken the enforcement of environmental laws. In the absence of federal agents, waves of loggers, ranchers and miners moved in, emboldened by the president and eager to satisfy global demand.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
In a sane United States, we would act to stop the desecration of the Amazon rain forest, as an important part of our national security. We would talk with allies, and work with them, and if necessary, overthrow the Bolsonaro government, for reckless endagerment of the future of human and non human species.
(David blogs at InconvenientNews.net.)

As Amazon Fires Become Global Crisis, Brazil’s President Reverses Course – The New York Times

By Ernesto LondoñoManuela Andreoni and 

“RIO DE JANEIRO — As an ecological disaster in the Amazon escalated into a global political crisis, Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, took the rare step on Friday of mobilizing the armed forces to help contain blazes of a scale not seen in nearly a decade.

The sudden reversal, after days of dismissing growing concern over hundreds of fires raging across the Amazon, came as international outrage grew over the rising deforestation in the world’s largest tropical rain forest. European leaders threatened to cancel a major trade deal, protesters staged demonstrations outside Brazilian embassies and calls for a boycott of Brazilian products snowballed on social media.

As a chorus of condemnation intensified, Brazil braced for the prospect of punitive measures that could severely damage an economy that is already sputtering after a brutal recession and the country’s far-right populist president faced a withering reckoning.

On Friday, he said that he was planning to send the military to enforce environmental laws and to help contain the fires starting Saturday.”

 – The New York Times

In Ecuador, cameras across the country send footage to monitoring centers to be examined by police and domestic intelligence. The surveillance system’s origin: China.

By Paul MozurJonah M. Kessel and Melissa Chan


QUITO, Ecuador — The squat gray building in Ecuador’s capital commands a sweeping view of the city’s sparkling sprawl, from the high-rises at the base of the Andean valley to the pastel neighborhoods that spill up its mountainsides.

The police who work inside are looking elsewhere. They spend their days poring over computer screens, watching footage that comes in from 4,300 cameras across the country.

The high-powered cameras send what they see to 16 monitoring centers in Ecuador that employ more than 3,000 people. Armed with joysticks, the police control the cameras and scan the streets for drug deals, muggings and murders. If they spy something, they zoom in.

This voyeur’s paradise is made with technology from what is fast becoming the global capital of surveillance: China.”

Source: Made in China, Exported to the World: The Surveillance State – The New York Times

Opinion | Juan Guaidó: Venezuelans- Strength Is in Unity – The New York Times

Quote

By Juan Guaidó
Mr. Guaidó is leading the effort to remove Nicolás Maduro from office.

Jan. 30, 2019,  369 c

CARACAS, Venezuela — On Jan. 23, 61 years after the vicious dictator Marcos Pérez Jiménez was ousted, Venezuelans once again gathered for a day of democratic celebration.

Pérez Jiménez was fraudulently elected by a Constituent Assembly in 1953. His term of office was scheduled to expire in 1958. But rather than calling for free and transparent presidential elections, he was undemocratically re-elected after holding a plebiscite on his administration late in 1957. Following widespread protests and a rupture within the military establishment, the dictator left the country and Venezuela regained its freedom on Jan. 23, 1958.

Once again we face the challenge of restoring our democracy and rebuilding the country, this time amid a humanitarian crisis and the illegal retention of the presidency by Nicolás Maduro. There are severe medicine and food shortages, essential infrastructure and health systems have collapsed, a growing number of children are suffering from malnutrition, and previously eradicated illnesses have re-emerged.

We have one of the highest homicide rates in the world, which is aggravated by the government’s brutal crackdown on protesters. This tragedy has prompted the largest exodus in Latin American history, with three million Venezuelans now living abroad.

I would like to be clear about the situation in Venezuela: Mr. Maduro’s re-election on May 20, 2018, was illegitimate, as has since been acknowledged by a large part of the international community. His original six-year term was set to end on Jan. 10. By continuing to stay in office, Nicolás Maduro is usurping the presidency.

My ascension as interim president is based on Article 233 of the Venezuelan Constitution, according to which, if at the outset of a new term there is no elected head of state, power is vested in the president of the National Assembly until free and transparent elections take place. This is why the oath I took on Jan. 23 cannot be considered a “self-proclamation.” It was not of my own accord that I assumed the function of president that day, but in adherence to the Constitution.”

via Opinion | Juan Guaidó: Venezuelans, Strength Is in Unity – The New York Times

Opinion | The Amazon on the Brink – By Philip Fearnside and Richard Schiffman – NYT

Quote

By Philip Fearnside and Richard Schiffman
Dr. Fearnside is an ecologist based in Brazil; Mr. Schiffman is an environmental journalist.

Sept. 26, 2018

The Trump administration is not the only government that has been busy slashing funds for environmental protection. Brazil has been doing the same.

While Mr. Trump makes no bones about his desire to roll back environmental laws, Brazil’s president, Michel Temer, a signatory of the Paris climate agreement, has sent mixed signals. To his credit, Mr. Temer pledged in Paris to cut his country’s carbon dioxide emissions 37 percent below 2005 levels by 2025.

His actions since then tell a different story. Last year, the Environment Ministry’s budget was cut nearly in half, as part of a national austerity plan amid Brazil’s punishing recession. And the agency responsible for protecting Brazil’s vast system of indigenous reserves is being virtually dismantled by draconian staff cuts.

via Opinion | The Amazon on the Brink – The New York Times

David Lindsay:: Behaviors similar to what are described here have occurred in Iran, which is turning into a dessert . In a century or two, Brazil might be in Iran’s predicament. US military intelligence predicts that Iran will have 50 million climate change drought refugees in the next 30 to 50 years. Brazil too, could turn itself into a dessert.

Opinion | The Men Who Terrorize Rio – The New York Times

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — More than two months have passed since the assassination of Marielle Franco, a human rights defender who was a member of Rio’s City Council. But the killing remains unsolved. The most probable hypothesis, according to Brazil’s public security minister, Raul Jungmann, is that local militias were behind her death.Militias in Brazil are different from paramilitary groups in other countries. Their origins here can be traced back to the 1970s, the days of the military dictatorship, when off-duty police officers formed death squads to execute criminals and political opponents, according to José Cláudio Souza Alves, a sociologist who studies the groups.

With 10 Million Acres in Patagonia- a National Park System Is Born – The New York Times

Two Americans snapped up large swaths of land in Chile, which they donated to a new conservation area that will be three times the size of Yosemite and Yellowstone…
NYTIMES.COM

 

“COCHRANE, Chile — An eagle soared over the lone house atop an arid hill in the steppes of Patagonia Park.

In the valley below, not far from the town of Cochrane, President Michelle Bachelet announced the creation of a vast national park system in Chile stretching from Hornopirén, 715 miles south of the capital, Santiago, to Cape Horn, the southern tip of South America, where Chile splinters into fjords and canals.

The park is the brainchild of Kristine McDivitt Tompkins and her husband, Douglas Tompkins, who founded The North Face and Esprit clothing companies, and starting in 1991, put $345 million — much of his fortune — buying large swaths of Patagonia.”

via With 10 Million Acres in Patagonia, a National Park System Is Born – The New York Times

The Genocide of Brazil’s Indians – The New York Times

“SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL — On April 30, a group of ranchers armed with rifles and machetes attacked a settlement of about 400 families from the Gamela tribe, in the state of Maranhão, in northeastern Brazil. According to the Indigenous Missionary Council, an advocacy group, 22 Indians were wounded, including three children. Many were shot in the back or had their wrists chopped.

Soon after the attack, the Ministry of Justice announced on its website that it would investigate “the incident between small farmers and alleged indigenous people.” (Minutes later, the word “alleged” was removed.)”