By Chris Lang
This week’s REDD notes. Follow @reddmonitor on Twitter for more links to news about forests, the climate crisis, natural climate solutions, the oil industry, greenwash, carbon offsetting, etc.
Nemonte Nenquimo is a Waorani woman from the Amazon rainforest. The Guardian published her letter to the presidents of “Amazonian countries and all world leaders that share responsibility for the plundering of our rainforest”.
She wrote the letter “because the fires are raging still”.
Because the corporations are spilling oil in our rivers. Because the miners are stealing gold (as they have been for 500 years), and leaving behind open pits and toxins. Because the land grabbers are cutting down primary forest so that the cattle can graze, plantations can be grown and the white man can eat. Because our elders are dying from coronavirus, while you are planning your next moves to cut up our lands to stimulate an economy that has never benefited us. Because, as Indigenous peoples, we are fighting to protect what we love – our way of life, our rivers, the animals, our forests, life on Earth – and it’s time that you listened to us.
It’s a powerful letter, well worth reading in full.
This forest has taught us how to walk lightly, and because we have listened, learned and defended her, she has given us everything: water, clean air, nourishment, shelter, medicines, happiness, meaning. And you are taking all this away, not just from us, but from everyone on the planet, and from future generations.
On 5 October 2020 the Indonesian parliament approved an economic stimulus plan. Thousands of Indonesians have taken part in protests against the “Ominbus Law”. The law amends 79 existing laws and removes thousands of regulations on environmental and labour rights.
Chain Reaction Research notes that,
The law could have widespread environmental ramifications. It removes a stipulation that each province in Indonesia has to maintain 30 percent forest cover, makes it easier for exploitative businesses to operate in protected forest areas, and simplifies procedures to turn a piece of land from forest to non-forest area. Additional concerns focus on amendments made to the environmental and social impact assessment (AMDAL) process.
About 6,000 people have been arrested during the protests against the law. “The Confederation of Indonesian Worker Unions and Nahdlatul Ulama, Indonesia’s largest Muslim group, have announced that they will challenge the law in Indonesia’s constitutional court,” Chain Reaction Research writes.
Last week, the UN released a report that states that “the future of mankind looks very bleak” if the number of climate-related disasters continues to rise. The UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction writes in the report that,
It is baffling that we willingly and knowingly continue to sow the seeds of our own destruction, despite the science and evidence that we are turning our only home into an uninhabitable hell for millions of people.
Mami Mizutori, the UN secretary-general’s special representative for disaster risk deduction, said, “We are willfully destructive. That is the only conclusion one can come to.” She added that, “COVID-19 is but the latest proof that political and business leaders are yet to tune into the world around them.”
On 13 October 2020, US president Donald Trump issued an executive order setting up a council to “develop and implement a strategy” for the Trillion Trees initiative. Only a few weeks earlier, Fast Company notes, the Trump administration approved logging in the Tongass National Forest in Alaska – the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest.
Trump’s executive order makes no mention of the climate crisis. It says that “forests and woodlands sequester atmospheric carbon.” Obviously, it doesn’t mention fossil fuels.
“If tree planting is just used as an excuse to avoid cutting greenhouse gas emissions or to further limit environmental protection, then it could be a real disaster,” Tom Crowther, at ETH-Zürich, told the New York Times.
That’s kind of funny (in a not-at-all funny sort of way) given that only a year ago Crowther was a co-author of paper published in Science that argued that global tree restoration is “our most effective climate change solution”. The paper received some serious criticism from climate scientists, including one response that concluded that, “The claim that global tree restoration is our most effective climate change solution is simply incorrect scientifically and dangerously misleading.”
The Guardian reports on a paper published in Nature that finds that, “Restoring natural landscapes damaged by human exploitation can be one of the most effective and cheapest ways to combat the climate crisis while also boosting dwindling wildlife populations.”
Back in 1976, theoretical physicist and mathematician Freeman Dyson asked himself a question: “Suppose that with the rising level of CO2 we run into an acute ecological disaster. Would it then be possible for us to halt or reverse the rise in CO2 within a few years by means less drastic than the shutdown of industrial civilization?” Dyson’s response was that if we planted enough trees to absorb the excess CO2, then the answer was a tentative yes.
Dyson proposed doing the tree planting “in countries where labor is cheap”. Dyson’s proposal was a massive land grab aimed squarely at the Global South.
Bernado Strassburg, of the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, was the lead author of the study in Nature. In a comment to the Guardian, Strassburg echoes Dyson:
“Most of the priority areas are concentrated in developing countries, which can be a challenge but also means they are often more cost-effective to restore.”
The paper mentions fossil fuels just once: “we emphasize that restoration efforts need to be accompanied by strong reductions in fossil fuel emissions”. The Guardian in its report about the paper makes no mention of fossil fuels.
The New York Times reports that fires have been burning for days on Mount Kilimanaro in Tanzania. The fires started at a rest stop for climbers. “The authorities said an investigation into the origin of the blaze was underway, but preliminary evidence suggested that it was sparked accidentally by porters warming food for visitors.”
Padili Mikomangwa, an environmentalist based in Dar es Salaam told the New York Times that, “This devastating fire is cutting through the most prestigious natural space in the whole of Tanzania.”
Pascal Shelutete, an officieal with Tanzania’s National Parks Service, told Reuters on 12 October 2020, that, “The fire is still going on and firefighters from TANAPA, other government institutions and locals are continuing with the efforts to contain it.”
The government deployed helicopters and planes and by 17 October 2020, CGTN Africa reported that the fire was under control.