Battling for Bolivia’s Lithium That’s Vital to Electric Cars – The New York Times

“SALAR DE UYUNI, Bolivia — The mission was quixotic for a small Texas energy start-up: Beat out Chinese and Russian industrial giants in unlocking mineral riches that could one day power tens of millions of electric vehicles.

A team traveled from Austin to Bolivia in late August to meet with local and national leaders at a government lithium complex and convince them that the company, EnergyX, had a technology that would fulfill Bolivia’s potential to be a global green-energy power. On arriving, they found that the conference they had planned to attend was canceled and that security guards blocked the location.

Still, the real attraction was in plain sight: a giant chalky sea of brine high in the Andes called the Salar de Uyuni, which is rich in lithium, among several minerals with growing value worldwide because they are needed in batteries used in electric cars and on the power grid.

Surrounded by rusty equipment, empty production ponds and pumps uncoupled from pipes, it seemed a forlorn spot. But to Teague Egan, EnergyX’s chief executive, it had nothing but promise.”

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT Comment:
A light handed approach may be best, given how sensitive the Bolivians are about foreign encroachment. They will be looking for trustworthy, generous, and state of the art. It appears this Texan entrepreneur has a shot.

Opinion | Will Iván Duque Protect Environmental Defenders? – The New York Times

Blanca Lucía Echeverry and 

“At the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow, President Iván Duque of Colombia carried out a charm offensive to convince the world he is an environmental champion who would protect his nation’s vast forets. He promised Colombia would be carbon neutral by 2050 and that, by next year, 30 percent of the country’s land and waters would be protected areas.

But back in Colombia, armed gangs are threatening and murdering community leaders and environmental activists who have been trying to protect Colombia’s forest from destruction by mining, lumber and oil companies. Morbidly, Colombia has emerged as the world’s deadliest place for environmentalists and others defending land rights. Global Witness documented at least 65 killings in 2020.”

Vanessa Barbara | After Brazil’s Independence Day, It’s Clear What Bolsonaro Wants – The New York Times

Ms. Barbara is a contributing Opinion writer who focuses on Brazilian politics, culture and everyday life.

“SÃO PAULO, Brazil — For weeks, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil has been urging his supporters to take to the streets. So on Sept. 7, Brazil’s Independence Day, I was half expecting to see mobs of armed people in yellow-and-green jerseys, some of them wearing furry hats and horns, storming the Supreme Court building — our very own imitation of the Capitol riot.

Fortunately, that was not what happened. (The crowds eventually went home, and no one tried to sit in the Supreme Court justices’ chairs.) But Brazilians were not spared chaos and consternation.”

Searching for Bird Life in a Former ‘Ocean of Forest’ – The New York Times

By Jennie Erin SmithPhotographs by Federico RiosAug. 31, 2021, 2:30 a.m. ETLeer en españolFLORENCIA, Colombia — In June 1912, Leo Miller, a collector with the American Museum of Natural History, arrived in the Caquetá region of Colombia, where the eastern foothills of the Andes melt into the forested lowlands of the Amazon basin.Miller was working for Frank Chapman, the celebrated curator of birds at the museum. Chapman suspected that Colombia’s wildly varied topography had given rise to an unusual density of species, and sent collectors like Miller to bring him birds from all corners of the country to study.

Opinion | Brazil’s Covid Inquiry Reveals Bolsonaro’s Mismanagement – The New York Times

Ms. Barbara is a contributing opinion writer who focuses on Brazilian politics, culture and everyday life.

“SÃO PAULO, Brazil — It’s not often that a congressional inquiry can lift your spirits. But the Brazilian Senate’s investigation into the government’s management of the pandemic, which began on April 27 and has riveted my attention for weeks, does just that.

As the pandemic continues to rage through the country, claiming around 2,000 lives a day, the inquiry offers the chance to hold President Jair Bolsonaro’s government to account. (Sort of.) It’s also a great distraction from grim reality. Livestreamed online and broadcast by TV Senado, the inquiry is a weirdly fascinating display of evasion, ineptitude and outright lies.

Here’s one example of the kind of intrigue on offer. In March last year, as the pandemic was unfurling, a social media campaign called “Brazil Can’t Stop” was launched by the president’s communications unit. Urging people not to change their routines, the campaign claimed that “coronavirus deaths among adults and young people are rare.” The heavily criticized campaign was eventually banned by a federal judge, and largely forgotten.

Then the plot thickened. The government’s former communications director, Fabio Wajngarten, told the inquiry that he didn’t know “for sure” who had been responsible for the campaign. Later, stumbling over his words, he seemed to remember that his department had developed the campaign — in the spirit of experimentation, of course — which was then launched without authorization. A senator called for the arrest of Mr. Wajngarten, who threw a contemplative, almost poetic glance to the horizon. The camera even tried to zoom in. It was wild.

That’s just one episode; no wonder the inquiry holds the attention of many Brazilians. So far, we have been treated to the testimonies of three former health ministers — one of them had major issues with his mask, inspiring countless memes — as well as the head of Brazil’s federal health regulator, the former foreign minister, the former communications director and the regional manager of the pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

The upshot of their accounts is obvious, yet still totally outrageous: President Jair Bolsonaro apparently intended to lead the country to herd immunity by natural infection, whatever the consequences. That means — assuming a fatality rate of around 1 percent and taking 70 percent infection as a tentative threshold for herd immunity — that Mr. Bolsonaro effectively planned for at least 1.4 million deaths in Brazil. From his perspective, the 450,000 Brazilians already killed by Covid-19 must look like a job not even half-done.  .. . .”

Brazil’s Covid Crisis Is a Warning to the Whole World, Scientists Say – The New York Times

Manuela Andreoni, Ernesto Londoño and 

“RIO DE JANEIRO — Covid-19 has already left a trail of death and despair in Brazil, one of the worst in the world. Now, a year into the pandemic, the country is setting another wrenching record.

No other nation that experienced such a major outbreak is still grappling with record-setting death tolls and a health care system on the brink of collapse. Many other hard-hit nations are, instead, taking tentative steps toward a semblance of normalcy.

But Brazil is battling a more contagious variant that has trampled one major city and is spreading to others, even as Brazilians toss away precautionary measures that could keep them safe.

On Tuesday, Brazil recorded more than 1,700 Covid-19 deaths, the highest single-day toll of the pandemic.” . . .

David Lindsay Jr.
Hamden, CT | NYT comment:
Reply to : @Ed Watters
Not a necessarily a good idea to suspend the vaccine patents. Your motives sound pure, but who will work to create the next vaccines, when the next pandemic hits, after you expropriate all their patent rights? Your idea might be biting the hand that feeds you. With the Defense Production Act, the Biden team can force many things, but is expected to be reasonable in the demands it places on companies and workers. Your point of helping the world is a strong one. It will probably be in our interest, to expand production and distribution to help cover the world’s population, because of the threat of variants from mutations.

Opinion | Trump Lost. Bolsonaro Can’t Get Over It. – By Vanessa Barbara – The New York Times

By 

Contributing Opinion Writer

President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil is clearly not ready to mourn the departure of his American counterpart.
Credit…Adriano Machado/Reuters

SÃO PAULO, Brazil — My country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, has still not recognized Joe Biden as the winner of America’s presidential election.

In his silence, he stands alongside other world leaders such as President Vladimir Putin of Russia, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico, Prime Minister Janez Jansa of Slovenia and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. “I’m holding back a little more,” Mr. Bolsonaro said recently, adding that there was “a lot of fraud” in the election.

It’s an understandable response, as he seems to have a problem accepting facts. Just think about it: This is a guy who still claims hydroxychloroquine is the cure for Covid-19. He maintains that the pandemic is overblown. He asserts that his government has simply eradicated corruption and that Brazil never had a military dictatorship. He says that the Amazon is not burning at all.

But there’s more to the refusal than Mr. Bolsonaro’s now commonplace bizarreness. As one of President Trump’s fiercest allies on the global stage, Mr. Bolsonaro is clearly not ready to mourn the departure of his fellow leader. He’s in denial.

Opinion | Could the Amazon Save Your Life? – By Mark J. Plotkin – The New York Times

By 

Dr. Plotkin is an ethnobotanist who has spent more than three decades working in the Amazon.

This article is part of the Opinion series The Amazon Has Seen Our Future, about how the people of the region are living through the most extreme versions of our planet’s problems.

“Western medicine is the most successful system of healing ever devised and is becoming more so as technology improves and synthetic medicines proliferate. But Mother Nature has been synthesizing weird and wonderful medicinal chemicals for over three billion years, many of which chemists could not predict or devise in their wildest dreams.

They should go to the Amazon.

Over more than three decades, I’ve worked, collaborated and lived with the forest’s shamans as I learned some of their secrets. In the dreamscape of Amazonia flourishes an abundance of astounding species of plants and animals that have provided society with a pharmacopoeia of medicines of astonishing range, from contraceptives to treatments for high blood pressure and malaria, a dental analgesic and surgical muscle relaxants and chemicals that expand the mind.

The region is so vast and impenetrable that much within it remains undiscovered. No wonder the richness of the landscape and the impressive medicinal knowledge of the Indigenous peoples inspired bewilderment and wonder in early visitors from Europe.

As early as the 1600s, the Dutch physician Willem Piso observed several “very effective” local treatments in Brazil, writing, “These Indigenous people, in spite of their total lack of scientific training, have passed on many noble, secret antidotes and medicines unknown to classic science to the next generation.”

Opinion | Captain Chain Saw’s Delusion – By Chris Feliciano Arnold – The New York Times

By 

Mr. Arnold is the author of “The Third Bank of the River: Power and Survival in the Twenty-First-Century Amazon.”

This article is part of the Opinion series The Amazon Has Seen Our Future, about how the people of the region are living through the most extreme versions of our planet’s problems.

“Amid political strife and smoke visible from space, the future of the Amazon has rarely been so hazy. Environmentalists see a vanishing rainforest of global consequence. Indigenous leaders see an ancestral home still being exploited by settlers after 500 years of genocidal violence. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, sees valuable acreage wasted by “cave men” and Marxists.

Sixty percent of the world’s largest tropical forest lies within Brazil’s borders, and since 2006 I’ve traveled thousands of miles in the Amazon, witnessing how the river and its people have experienced a century’s worth of ecological and cultural change in a generation. For a few weeks last year, record-setting fires in the region focused the world’s attention with an intensity reminiscent of the Save the Rainforest campaigns of the 1980s, but this year, the land is burning during a pandemic that has interrupted travel, stymied environmental protection efforts, and emboldened miners, loggers and ranchers to encroach on Indigenous land with impunity.”

Opinion | Amazon 4.0. How to Reinvent the Rainforest – By Bruno Carvalho and Carlos Nobre -The New York Times

By Bruno Carvalho and 

Bruno Carvalho is a scholar of urbanization. Carlos Nobre is a climate scientist.

This article is part of the Opinion series The Amazon Has Seen Our Future, about how the people of the region are living through the most extreme versions of our planet’s problems.

Rainforests are unique ecosystems of immense complexity that nurture an incredible diversity of plants, animals and micro-organisms. Bulldozers and chain saws don’t care about that.

Some people think of rainforests as faraway places that have little to do with their day-to-day existence. But millions of people live in cities and settlements throughout the Amazon. Many endure precarious conditions and become sources of cheap labor. The forest is sometimes destroyed in their name, with the justification that it develops and improves the economy. In Brazil, deforestation rates are breaking records. And if we continue to destroy the forest, we can expect dire consequences — not just for the region, but for the planet.

Over the past 50 years, human intervention has been increasingly disrupting the ecological balance of the Amazon. Climate change has led to an increase in temperatures of 1.5 degrees Celsius across the basin, and to more frequent severe droughts. The droughts of 2005, 2010 and 2015-16 were among the worst in more than 100 years. Since 1980, there’s been an increase in the duration of dry seasons by three to four weeks in the more degraded areas of the Amazon.