Newsdesk – May 17

When Social Distancing Ends, Will We Rethink the World We Want?  When we emerge from our pandemic-mandated separation, can we reconnect with each other and reconsider how the way we live impacts the natural world?  How we behaved during this period of quarantine will fascinate researchers for years to come. Especially, for the first time in most of our lifetimes, the population as a whole has been told we have to shut down normal life, abandon most of our regular routines. That we have to change. It’s hard, but since it’s necessary we’ve done it — and surprisingly well. But what happens when we are released from detention will be at least as compelling — and for those of us hoping for an environmentally different future, it may be telling. Who knows? One possibility is that when all this is over we will revert straight back to normal, or even to some worse version of it. In search of recovery, nations could respond by trying to prop up old businesses like the fossil fuel industry (indeed, that is what our country is doing). Another possibility — and it’s only a possibility — is that we might actually find ourselves embracing gregariousness. In truth, we began social distancing a long time ago. First came the move to the suburbs: In the postwar years, America spent the bulk of its prosperity on the task of building bigger houses farther apart from each other. This caused environmental woes — all those big houses to heat and cool and migrate between — but it also meant that we simply ran into each other less. But have these new habits made us happy? Not really. The percentage of Americans who say they’re very happy with their lives peaked somewhere in the 1950s, according to the pollsters. However, coronavirus quarantine came like a stroke of lightning from a bright blue sky.  That shock means, perhaps, that this time we will notice — that the long, slow slide into a kind of solipsistic trance will suddenly register. Maybe we’ll want to go back to something more like the normal that has defined our species for most of its existence: a desire for contact with each other, and with the natural world – Yale Environment 360

  • Climate change: study pours cold water on oil company net-zero claims – BBC News
  • Global carbon emissions to slump – but Australia’s electricity grid flatlines – The Guardian
  • How the coronavirus recovery effort can support a European Green Deal – Climate Home News
  • Climate explained: what caused major climate change in the past? – The Conversation
  • The Canals Are Clear Thanks to the Coronavirus, But Venice’s Existential Threat Is Climate Change – Inside Climate News
  • For the First Time, U.S. Renewable Energy Surpasses Coal Every Day For An Entire Month – Good News Network
  • Latest Estimates on Sea Level Rise by 2100 Are Worse Than We Thought – Science Alert
  •  Big data and synthetic chemistry could fight climate change and pollution –
Members of the community stand at the grave of a 2-year-old who they said died of a fever. Wayuu considers;o[\2 death as important or more important than life. During funerals, Wayuu women cry and cover their faces with veils or towels. They say their tears accompany the soul of the dead to “Jepirra” or the afterworld. Image by Nicoló Filippo Rosso.

In Colombia’s La Guajira, the native Wayuu are forgotten in the dust. The Wayuu indigenous people of La Guajira, at the northern tip of Colombia, have gone through major social and ecological changes over the past three decades that have happened more quickly than their ability to adapt to them. These changes include drilling operations, daily explosions, and the high demand for water from one of the world’s largest open-pit coal mines, which have increasingly pushed the Wayuu away from their ancestral territories, accelerated desertification, and reduced access to water. In particular, Cerrejón’s use of more than 16 million liters (4.2 million gallons) of water every day — taxing in a desert region already suffering from droughts — and the contamination from coal dust have contributed to the degradation of La Guajira’s environment and the indigenous population’s way of life. In fact, in La Guajira’s desert, the community’s sources of water are rudimentary wells often located several hours’ walk away. Years of drought mean the Wayuu must dig deep to find water, and even then it is often undrinkable, causing many to fall ill. An initial plan to build a dam, El Cercado, in 2011 brought hope in La Guajira, as it included provisions to service nine municipalities downriver. But the pipes that should have brought water to the region were never connected to anything, as a consequence of unchecked corruption by the local authorities. In addition, Most of Cerrejón’s massive output is loaded onto ships and sent to power plants in Europe. Colombia exports more coal to Europe than to any other continent: 20% of its total exports in 2017 were represented by coal and went mainly to the European market. The Cerrejón mine, in addition, to scare water and coronavirus, is a deadly resource conflict that threatens the survival of the Wayuu. The erosion of their society is urgent and underreported. The cheap fossil fuel, in the context of climate change and public health, affects those countries where the mineral is extracted as well those where it is burned to produce energy – Mongabay.

Leaders from East Pomio local-level government communities at the convention. Image courtesy of Wide Bay Conservation Association.

Gender-based violence shakes communities in the wake of forest loss. Women in the province of East New Britain in Papua New Guinea say they have faced increasing domestic violence, along with issues like teenage pregnancy and drug abuse, in their communities as logging and oil palm plantations have moved in. “Things have changed a lot over the years for the women,” Monica Yongol said. “The male members of society or even other males from other clans, they go ahead and make decisions in private spaces, which means women are not included.” “Women are looking at how they sustain the lives of their children in the future generations,” she added, “whereas men are more looking at short-term benefits.” However, the influx of “development” — first to harvest the island’s tropical timber in the 1990s, and more recently to set up oil palm plantations — backed by politicians and lawmakers in distant capitals, has shifted the calculus around the value of the land. Meanwhile, the women, leaders from Mu and a handful of other East Pomio villages, spent days sharing their stories, identifying the problems they face, like domestic and community violence, and coming up with strategies to address them. Tongne and her team also aimed to provide them with information that would help their fellow women, as well as children and young girls, back home. This socially challenged environment in which these women live in is defined by the dense forests that cover more than 98% of the province. In as recently as 2010, they have begun to wink out, according to satellite data. Tongne said that oil palm companies began building roads and clearing forests for plantations in East Pomio around 2008. And as replete as it is with valuable minerals and the world’s third-largest rainforest full of tropical timber, Papua New Guinea continues to struggle with economic development. As a result, “deforestation and climate change and environmental degradation do lead to an increase in violence against women,” Sequeira said. “I think that’s a claim we can make more and more.” Along with the evaporation of the trees, the rights of women to determine what happens to the land they depend on have likewise vanished. “Women play a vital role in forest conservation,” Sequeira and her colleagues wrote in a November 2019 blog post. “Women interact daily with forests and other ecosystems, relying on them for household needs and their livelihoods, but also for conservation and restoration.” In conclusion, Sequiera and her colleagues added that “Forest conservation can never be successful or bring about social justice if it does not address the prevalence of the various manifestations of violence against women, and especially so on the front-lines of the environmental and climate crisis.” – Mongabay