Newsdesk – November 24

Communities all along the contaminated sections of the Brazilian coast responded to the call to action. Image by Clemente Coelho / State University of Pernambuco.

Nearly three months after Brazil oil spill, origins remain uncertain. Oil was first sighted on Brazil’s northeastern coast on August 30, with more than 4,000 tons washing up since. Authorities claim the oil didn’t come from Brazil, but rather had come from a tanker from Venezuela. On August 30th, what appeared to be crude oil began washing up on the beaches of Northeastern Brazil. Authorities didn’t know where it was coming from. Now, more than two months since the initial contamination, over 4,000 tons of oil have sullied the region’s beaches and mangrove swamps — devastating tourism and the environment. The crude’s origins still remain uncertain, with the Jair Bolsonaro government criticized for its slow response and for the secrecy that may be hampering the investigation. However, the disaster has shed light on the challenges of policing ocean dumping, and the phenomenon of “dark ships.” Dark ships are cargo vessels that turn off their location transponders so as to navigate without sending a signal indicating their position, allowing them to travel the world’s oceans undetected except by satellite — a violation of international maritime law. The spill has also highlighted how the practice of “bilge dumping” goes largely unregulated off the shores of developing countries. The “bilge” is the lowest compartment of a ship, which often collects water and residual oil. Bilge dumping is the practice of pumping this contaminated wastewater out of a ship and into the open sea. John Amos of the environmental monitoring group SkyTruth notes that his organization has identified similar bilge dumps off the Brazilian coast over the past several months, including one in July near the northeastern city of João Pessoa. Amos and oil spill expert Gerald Graham both agreed on an important detail, saying that they don’t believe a bilge dump was the source of Brazil´s present oil troubles because of the large amount of oil involved. Marcus Silva, an oceanographer at the Federal University of Pernambuco, said that he and a team of researchers are preparing an ocean expedition aboard a Brazilian Navy ship at the end of November. The scientists will collect water and sediment samples to determine the extent and intensity of contamination – Mongabay

  • If you want to live in this new Arizona neighborhood, you can’t own a car – Fast Company
  • How A Doctor And A Reverend On Oahu Became Climate Warriors – Civil Beat
  • Climate change poses risk to financial system, Bank of Canada governor says – CBC
  • UN report warns Norway – growing oil production is inconsistent with climate efforts – The Barents Observer
  • Queen Elizabeth presents naturalist Attenborough with award for ocean pollution fight – Reuters
  • This Caribbean island is on track to become the world’s first ‘hurricane-proof’ country – National Geographic
  • For better or worse, Trudeau’s next 4 years are going to be about climate change – CBC
Prairie strips at Neal Smith Wildlife Refuge near Prairie City, Iowa, among the first established in Iowa. Iowa State University is studying their effectiveness for erosion control and other benefits.

Planting Native Prairie Could Be a Secret Weapon for Farmers.  In Iowa, researchers and farmers are discovering that planting strips of native prairie amidst farmland benefits soil, water, biodiversity, and more. When farmer Gary Guthrie describes recent changes to his farm, his eyes light up. After adding native prairie to his central Iowa operation, he remembers hearing the hum of pollinators flocking to the property. In 2015, Guthrie seeded four 30-foot-wide prairie strips on his 145-acre corn, soy, and vegetable farm. These prairie plantings are a new land management tool that involves integrating native plant species into farm fields as contour buffers and edge-of-field filters. They found that adding a prairie to a small fraction of a farm yields impressive benefits for water quality and nutrient retention, reducing erosion, providing habitat, and other benefits. Guthrie had help from the Iowa State University (ISU) STRIPS (Science-based Trials of Row-crops Integrated with Prairie Strips) program, which was founded in 2003 by scientists hoping study the effects of strategically planted native prairie for soil, water, and biodiversity benefits on farms. Prairie strips are a technical innovation drawn from the distant past. “It’s sort of back to the future,” explained farm owner Lee Tesdell. His farm sits on 80 acres Tesdell’s great-grandfather bought in 1884; today he works with a farmer to raise corn, soy, and alfalfa using the latest regenerative agricultural technologies: cover crops, no-till practices, and prairie strips. According to studies carried out under the STRIPS program, planting just 10 percent of farmland with native prairie can drastically reduce soil loss and nutrient run-off. Some evidence suggests that these improvements plus the increase in beneficial insects can increase crop yields, but research in that area is still ongoing – Civil Eats

The arrested activists in Manila who oppose the Manila Bay reclamation program. Image courtesy of Defend Negros Movement

Activists fighting for their lands swept up in Philippines crackdown. At least six of the arrested critical groups are environmental and land defenders advocating for land campaigns on Negros and against the ongoing Manila Bay reclamation. A total of 57 activists were arrested on Oct. 31 in Negros, an island 850 kilometers (530 miles) from Manila, while another six were arrested in Manila on Nov. 5. The activists were arrested in security crackdowns on major left-leaning organizations, with search warrants issued by a court in Metro Manila on Oct. 30. Environmental groups have denounced the arrests, which they say involved “planting evidence” in the form of explosives and guns in the homes of activists. Among the arrested are farmers and peasant group leaders fighting for their land rights in Negros Island and activists opposing the ongoing Manila Bay reclamation project. Of the six activists arrested in Manila, four were opponents of the ongoing Manila Bay reclamation project. Among them was Cora Agovida, a spokeswoman for Gabriela, the women’s party, and a campaigner against land reclamation in the capital’s bay. The three other anti-land reclamation activists arrested were Ram Carlo Bautista, Alma Moran and Reina Mae Nasino.  According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, land reclamation is “an irreversible form of environmental degradation, thus running counter to the State’s guarantee to provide its citizens with a ‘healthful and balanced ecology in accord with the rhythm and harmony of nature’ and ‘protect the rights of subsistence fishermen, especially of local communities” – Mongabay