Category Archives: Environment

War, drought, diplomatic rifts deepen Afghanistan’s water crisis

imageA recent flash flood in Kamp-e-Sakhi damaged Somagul’s home and destroyed her family’s most expensive belongings [Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska/Al Jazeera]

by Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska

On a bright day in April, in the aftermath of flash floods, rays of sun fall onto the cracked clay soil in Kamp-e-Sakhi in some parts and, in others, illuminate large puddles that dot the raw land.

In the northern Afghan district, on the outskirts of Mazar-e Sharif city, antiflood bags still lie on the wet ground although they helped little when the water spread days earlier, destroying modest homes.

Somagul, a 60-year-old former farmer who left her home in Baghlan last year because of severe drought and pressure from the Taliban, did not expect the flood.

On March 29, the sound of water hitting her door awakened her in the middle of the night.

“We escaped in the dark with my children and grandchildren. There was no light, but we managed to find our way out, we got wet and dirty. All our things stayed in the house,” Somagul told Al Jazeera. “We went higher up to the street which was not flooded and we stayed there for the whole night. In the morning when the flood was gone, we came back.”

Although the flood soon reversed, Somagul and her family, including her sister, four children and 16 grandchildren, lost most of their few valuable possessions.

Electronic devices were among their most expensive belongings that were destroyed; it will take a long time to replace them.

Since the family moved to Mazar-e Sharif, only her son-in-law has managed to find work at the local coal market and they have no land to grow crops.

This was the second time in Somagul’s life that water-related disasters came to define her family’s fate.

Afghanistan, where the worst drought in a decade has displaced an estimated 260,000 people, has been struggling with the acute consequences of climate change, water mismanagement and 40 years of war that took its toll on the country’s weak water infrastructure.

Droughts and floods have become the norm, destroying the lives of Afghans across the country.

An upstream country, Afghanistan is not naturally water stressed. Eighty percent of its resources come from surface water that flows from snowfields and glaciers in the Hindu Kush and Himalaya mountains.

Over the course of Spring and Summer, the mountain snows melt and fuel Afghanistan’s five river basins.

From there, the water enters the canals and spreads across the country.

Most of Afghanistan’s irrigation depends on these resources. As the Afghan proverb goes, “may Kabul be without gold rather than snow.”

But ever since the Soviet invasion, the country’s infrastructure has been falling into ruin.

First, the bombings and years of fighting destroyed much of its canals. Then the Taliban administration did little to repair the damage, let alone build new infrastructure.

Following the US invasion, the Afghan government with the support of the international community has put water management high on its agenda, investing efforts to rehabilitate the canals.

But the infrastructure is inadequate for the needs of the country’s growing population.

Most of Afghanistan’s partners have been reluctant to support large projects, such as dams, which require substantial funds.

India, though, has sponsored the Afghan-India Friendship Dam on the Hari river and is planning the construction of Shahtoot Dam on the Kabul River.

Dams are crucial to store the water needed for irrigation and prevent flash floods, which have become frequent due to climate change.

In a country where agriculture contributes between 20 and 40 percent of the GDP, depending on the year, and employs about 60 percent of the workforce, the lack of investment has had disastrous consequences.

“Because of climate change, our winters have been getting hotter year by year and we’ve had much more rain in springs instead of snow in winters, which recently resulted in floods in many provinces especially in the north and west of Afghanistan,” Abdul Basir Azimi, water expert and the former deputy minister of energy and water told Al Jazeera.

“Twenty Afghan provinces experienced about a 60 percent decrease in snowfall during the last winter season in 2017, and before that.

“Severe drought throughout the country and excessively warm weather have affected the rural and urban populations, the agricultural economy and recently led to a tremendous increase in the number of IDPs.”

Drought has also affected the levels of groundwater that Afghan cities have been relying on for drinking.

Kabul is home to almost five million people and the capital’s population, according to estimates, will double in the next 10 years. The city has been particularly vulnerable to water shortages.

“Last year, we experienced severe drought in the country including in the Kabul River basin. The groundwater level dropped by more than 10 metres,” Tayib Bromand, water resources and climate change adaptation specialist at the ministry of water and energy, told Al Jazeera.

“In Afghanistan’s major cities there was not enough water for domestic supply. Particularly, the most elevated parts of Kabul do not receive sufficient water for drinking.”

Unable to access drinking water through the official distribution networks, Afghanistan’s population has been relying on unofficial wells with poor-quality water. Others have been using paid water delivery services provided by private companies.

While Afghanistan has now entered peace talks with the Taliban, internal displacement caused by the water crisis might further stir conflict.

In some areas, farmers have no choice but to join armed groups in order to feed their families.

At the local level, conflicts over water also erupt between upstream and downstream areas, as well as individual farmers.

Jenna Jadin, a scientist with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Afghanistan, told Al Jazeera: “We’re trying to make sure that water is incorporated into everything we are doing: for example, in projects where we’re teaching people to diversify their livelihoods and diets through planting new crops, we are also making sure to teach better water usage for those crops.

“We are also implementing projects that restore forests and rangelands, which will reduce surface water losses and soil erosion.”

But Afghanistan’s water scarcity has the potential to cause conflict on a regional level, too.

Due to insufficient infrastructure and decades of conflict, 70 percent of the country’s surface water ends up flowing into neighbouring states, all of which, apart from Tajikistan, are water stressed.

“Afghanistan’s situation has created an opportunity for the neighbouring countries to unfairly and unreasonably develop their agriculture lands at a very rapid pace downstream and also illegitimately transfer the water from the bordering lands to their central provinces,” Azimi said.

“The neighbouring countries have been irrigating hundreds of hectares of agricultural lands with water flowing from Afghanistan’s rivers, but on the other side, the neighbouring countries have built too many dams and not allowed any water [to flow] into Afghanistan.”

Afghanistan, therefore, has a pressing need for new dams to manage its scarce water reserves.

But more water staying in the country means less water for its neighbours. And while there are existing international agreements dealing with water scarcity between the five Central Asian states, for example, Afghanistan has not been part of them.

The only water agreement Afghanistan has signed was a 1973 treaty with Iran regulating the inflow of water to the country. But even that has not prevented conflict between the neighbours.

The Afghan government has long accused Iran of supporting the Taliban in order to disrupt the construction of a dam on the Helmand River, which could potentially affect the delivery of water to the country.

Similarly, Pakistan, one of the most water-stressed countries in the region, opposes the construction of the Shahtoot Dam on the Kabul River sponsored by its archenemy India.

The construction of the dam could reduce the flow of water into Pakistan.

The potential of regional conflict is high and investing in water management is crucial for Afghanistan’s security.

While most of the country’s international partners are reluctant to make such costly, long-term investments that bring little profit, the government is increasingly seeing water as a security issue.

If “hydro-diplomacy” continues to be put high on the state’s agenda, not everything is lost.

“Afghanistan has had to deal with many decades of war, and, as we’ve seen the world over, environmental issues sometimes exacerbate political tensions,” Jadin said. “If we can help the people restore their environment it may very well have a positive cascading effect on other aspects of life.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/war-drought-diplomatic-rifts-deepen-afghanistans-water-crisis-190504203303668.html

‘Incredibly difficult’ to reach Mozambique cyclone survivors

imageMozambique’s government urged residents of the main city of Pemba to flee to higher ground as flooding continued [Mike Hutchings/Reuters]

Torrential rain continued to batter northern Mozambique on Tuesday, several days after Cyclone Kenneth, as the United Nations said aid workers faced “an incredibly difficult situation” in reaching thousands of survivors.

The rains grounded aid operations for a third consecutive day leaving some of the worst-hit communities cut off with very limited supplies.

A planned World Food Programme (WFP) flight to the island of Ibo was on standby until the weather improved, according to Deborah Nguyen, spokeswoman for the agency.

“We are really concerned about the situation for people on Ibo island,” she said, as they had been left out in the open after the majority of homes were destroyed, and with very limited food.

“For us, it’s a frustrating day … There is not much we can do to reach these islands now,” she said.

The government again urged residents of the main city of Pemba to flee to higher ground as flooding continued.

More than 570 millilitres has fallen in Pemba since Kenneth made landfall on Thursday, just six weeks after Cyclone Idai tore into central Mozambique.

This is the first time two cyclones have struck the southern African nation in a single season, and Kenneth was the first cyclone recorded so far north in Mozambique in the modern era of satellite imaging.

The latest storm has killed at least 41 people and destroyed tens of thousands of homes.

Up to 50 millilitres of rain were forecast over the next 24 hours, and rivers in the region were expected to reach flood peak by Thursday, the UN humanitarian office (OCHA) said, citing a UK aid analysis.

During a break in the downpours on Tuesday morning, some aid flights did manage to ferry supplies to the mainland district of Quissanga and the island of Matemo.

“These people lost everything,” said Gemma Connell, spokeswoman for OCHA. “It is critical that we get them the food that they need to survive.”

Women and children have been the hardest hit “without the basics that they need to get by,” especially shelter, she said.

Landslides

The heavy rains also triggered a landslide at a rubbish dump on Sunday that killed at least five people, Pemba Mayor Florete Matarua told local TV channel STV. The people were all members of the same family and several other houses had also been buried, STV reported.

The death toll was expected to rise as government officials had yet to reach all areas hit by the storm.

Kenneth, packing storm surges and winds of up to 280 km per hour, devastated villages and islands along a 60 km stretch of coast in Mozambique’s north.

Nearly 35,000 houses have been completely or partially destroyed, the government said, and infrastructure and crops also ruined.

Preliminary government assessments suggest 31,000 hectares of crops have been lost in an area already vulnerable to food shortages, and fisheries and other key sources of sustenance like coconut trees were also damaged.

“The short-, mid- and long-term availability of food is worrisome,” said Herve Verhoosel, senior WFP spokesman in Geneva.

Authorities were also preparing for a possible cholera outbreak as some wells were contaminated and safe drinking water became a growing concern.

With the pair of deadly cyclones, Idai killed more than 600 people last month, Mozambique is “a very complex humanitarian situation,” said Connell, the OCHA spokeswoman. Only a quarter of the funding needed for Idai relief efforts has come in while funding for Kenneth has been slow.

“This is a new crisis,” she said. “We are having to stretch across the two operations. That is a basic reality we are dealing with every day.”

 

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/difficult-reach-mozambique-cyclone-survivors-190430113833772.html

Climate change erosion feeding deep ocean trash dump

Trash photoStills of ROV footage show litter accumulations at the bottom of the Messina Strait [Courtesy of Nature.com]

by Tarek Bazley

There are growing concerns that increasing coastal and river-bank erosion is carrying millions of tonnes of long-buried rubbish into deep ocean canyons, where toxic waste and plastics will remain for decades.

The warning comes after heavy flooding on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island washed part of a disused landfill into the ocean on March 26, scattering thousands of tonnes of plastic along 50km of normally pristine coastline.

The once in a hundred years flood – which saw 1,000mm of rain fall in less than 48 hours – is believed to have swept thousands more tonnes of trash out to sea, depositing some of it into a 4km-deep underwater canyon off the coast.

“We know rubbish has ended up along a wide stretch of the coastline,” Joshu Mountjoy, a marine geoscientist at New Zealand’s National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research, told Al Jazeera.

“It is likely that a component of the Fox River landfill waste will end up out of sight in the deep ocean by the same processes.”

Marine litter is known to have a major impact on marine life. Plastics can be especially insidious as they break down to microplastics that can be ingested.

“Submarine canyons are exceptional environments for focusing marine life and can be badly impacted,” said Mountjoy.

Along with plastics, toxic materials from the waste can also be incorporated into the food chain.

“Fish can absorb toxic substances in waste [and] store it in their bodies,” Jeff Seadon, a Built Environment engineer at Auckland University of Technology, told Al Jazeera.

“These substances proceed up the food chain till humans eat the fish and we can absorb those chemicals, which can affect our health.”

Global issue

As climate change results in more extreme weather events and sea level rise, there are fears similar flooding could see many more landfills around the world exposed in the same way.

Last month, the United Nations Environment Programme published a report looking into waste management practices in Small Island Developing States.

It identified coastal dumpsites and those close to rivers as a major issue.

“This is also applicable to many of the 11,000 other inhabited islands around the world and many mainland dumpsites,” said Seadon.

“Given the opportunity, waste – including hazardous waste – that can poison marine life and affect humans, will wash into the sea,” he said.

Of concern is hazardous waste coming from small-scale industrial processes such as leather tanning, electroplating of metals or photofinishing.

“Although they are often disposed of in small quantities, they can spread through landfills and contaminate large quantities of other waste,” said Seadon.

Larger industries are also responsible, producing toxic waste including paint, pesticides, pharmaceuticals, detergents, batteries, print cartridges and electronics.

While modern facilities separate hazardous waste and can treat them to render them harmless, legacy landfills pose a much more significant environmental threat.

“They often have no way of keeping toxic leachate confined to the landfills. As a result, this can seep into surrounding soils, streams, lakes, underground aquifers and into the marine environment,” said Seadon.

“This seepage can affect soil productivity, make the water unusable for humans, or kill marine life.”

Deepsea trash dumps

Many deep ocean canyons around the globe are believed to be affected, including some of the planet’s deepest.

A recent study of canyons in the Mediterranean Sea off Sicily found huge amounts of rubbish in water depths up to 1,000 metres, transported there by flash floods.

This included bottles, cups, toys, gutter pipes, garden hoses, car tyres, bricks, cement piles and foam padding.

“It shows what a huge problem erosion of municipal waste in big flood events can be,” said Mountjoy.

“If anyone had any doubt that the rubbish we discard can end up way down in the deep ocean here is the proof,” he added.

Once the rubbish is on the ocean floor it is believed to gradually sink to the deepest regions.

“The long-term fate of sediment entering large submarine canyons is the deep ocean floor hundreds of kilometres offshore and several kilometres deep,” said Mountjoy.

It is here that the rubbish, including plastics, becomes a layer of sediment.

“The endgame for all plastic pollution in the world’s oceans is sedimentation, either on a coastline or in the deep sea,” Marcus Eriksen, director of research for the 5 Gyres Institute, told Al Jazeera.

“There will forever be a geological layer filled with microplastic that represents this time in human civilisation, circa 1950 to 2050,” he said.

Action needed

While New Zealand’s government is looking at what can be done to secure around 100 other old landfills it has identified as vulnerable, Mountjoy says “more needs to be done to understand how rubbish moves through the natural environment and where it is concentrated so we can gauge the impact it is having on marine life.”

Stopping the rubbish at source is also suggested as a way of reducing the problem.

“If we do not make waste in the first place, then we do not need to deal with the consequences,” said Seadon.

With the volume of new plastic expected to increase five-fold over the next 30 years, there are concerns that landfills will not be able to keep pace with the rubbish.

“Whether they are modern or not, [landfills] cannot absorb the volumes of trash expected to be created in the decades ahead. There is simply no place to put all that trash,” said Eriksen.

 

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/04/sudan-leaders-face-pressure-transfer-civilian-rule-190415085115793.html

Can they save us? Meet the climate kids fighting to fix the planet

Climate kids photo Main image: Rose Strauss, a member of the Sunrise movement, in Santa Barbara, California. Photograph: Alex Welsh/The Guardian

by Adrian Horton, Dream McClinton and Lauren Aratani

Despite being barely two years old, the Sunrise Movement has outpaced established environmental groups in the push to radically reshape the political landscape around climate change.

Closely allied with new congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the youth-led Sunrise Movement has helped set out a sweepingly ambitious plan to address climate change in the form of the Green New Deal. Activists have ramped up pressure on lawmakers to back the plan, staging a high-profile occupation of the office of Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, and, more recently, picketing Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate leader.

The movement comprises a small core team of young organizers, supported by a larger group of several hundred volunteers. The group’s elevation of the Green New Deal has clearly riled Trump, who has falsely but repeatedly claimed that the plan would result in the banning of cars, air travel and even cows.

The Guardian spoke to Sunrise members on how the organization has shaken the political and environmental establishment in the US.

Marcela Mulholland, 21, Fort Lauderdale, Florida

A few days after Trump won, I just felt super radicalized. I couldn’t believe that climate change was happening and people were pretending as if we weren’t on this downward spiral. So I went to school wearing a sign that said “Climate change is real.” My teacher is a huge environmental activist and she told me about Sunrise.

I took the fall semester off from school to volunteer full time with them, working on the midterm elections in Orlando, Florida. We were knocking on a lot of doors, talking to people about the candidates that we endorse because they had either signed the No Fossil Fuel Money pledge or had climate policy.

Fossil fuel money in our politics is the main obstacle to climate policy, in my opinion. There’s only so much that public opinion can do if the politicians are bought out by fossil fuel billionaires and executives.

When you look at the polling of public opinion on climate change and the Green New Deal specifically, it’s clear that the public is already with us on this issue, it’s just a matter of turning passive supporters into active supporters.

I feel like young people have always played the role of moral clarity and being willing to be idealists about what the world should be like. I see my generation as picking up the baton from young people in the 1960s and in the civil rights movement who engaged in similar efforts. We totally see our struggle as rooted in the past activism of young people.

Rose Strauss, 19, San Anselmo, California

I grew up next to the ocean in the Bay Area. I was so sure I would become a marine biologist up until two years ago. Studying marine animals is my passion. But as I was walking along the beach year after year I realised the animals I was trying to study were disappearing faster than I could study them, which was really scary. I learned about climate change when I was 12, doing a report on the Canadian seal hunt, and I realized it was one of these issues that you can’t note and do nothing.

Doing nothing is a death sentence to my generation

I had to get political. I’m Jewish, my (extended) family was in the Holocaust. I was brought with the belief that if you become aware of something, you have a responsibility to take action.

In 10 or 11 years, when climate change is irreversible, I’m going to be trying to have kids or get married … that definitely changes the way I can talk about this issue. This is literally my future and you doing nothing is a death sentence to my generation.

Even with young people, there’s always this tendency to want to compromise, to want to talk to people and come to an agreement. That’s a really hard thing to step away from. What we found in Sunrise is that drawing a line in the sand is something that needs to be done sometimes. We can’t have a compromise on stopping climate change – we either stop it or don’t.

You should be a little bit scared if you haven’t endorsed the Green New Deal, because young people aren’t going to vote for you. We aren’t going to be behind you, You can’t claim to be environmentalist if you don’t do this. That’s the line we’re drawing, which is really helpful.

Lily Gardner, 15, Lexington, Kentucky

I grew up in eastern Kentucky. There, I couldn’t escape the generational poverty caused by the fossil fuel industry. A lot of my friends’ parents were unemployed, there were no coalmining jobs. But we’ve known that the end of coal was coming for awhile.

When my mom moved to eastern Kentucky 30-plus years ago, people told her that there were only 30 years left of coal in these mountains. But no one made any preparations. Instead, they just started to deny, and people sunk deeper into poverty. So by the time I was a child, these families had barely enough food to put on their table because they weren’t receiving Black Lung benefits, because they had family members who had died in the mines. I even had friends who were turning to opioids because they were so disenfranchised, discouraged and dismayed that they were going to end up like their parents.

People are not climate deniers because they don’t believe in facts, people are climate deniers because they’re so afraid that they cannot confront another thing that is going to put them deeper into poverty.

Climate change is something that disproportionately impacts my generation. We’re feeling the burden of it, so it makes sense that I would care the most. But I think it’s really difficult to get politicians and legislators to take our voices seriously, especially because they believe that we do not have any voting power.

I think there’s a misconception that we’re advocating for something that’s unattainable, that we are throwing ourselves out there, that we’re becoming extreme, when we’re not. We are advocating for what is necessary to ensure that I have a livable future at all.

Jeremy Ornstein, 18, Watertown, Massachusetts

Sometimes it’s hard because people don’t take us seriously. A lot of us who are going to be most heavily impacted by climate change can’t vote. I couldn’t vote until six months ago.

We want to be part of the debate which we’ve been excluded from because we don’t have the money to buy in to elect politicians who will back us. When politicians don’t listen and don’t represent us, we have the ability to say, “OK, we’re going to show up at your office.”

We’re telling them to go, go, go because we don’t have time to do it any other way

I was there that night when Scott Wagner called Rose Strauss “young and naive”. It was so defeating for me. The next day, it was like “Oh my God, it’s happening.” It picked up steam, and then we were so energized and excited. Not everyone’s story will go viral. But the more stories we have, it’s like a moral, emotional, value-driven path forward for our country.

My official role is helping to put on a tour for the Green New Deal. We’re taking the Green New Deal to every city and town across America, first in seven or eight flagship stops in places that represent real political leadership or really devastating climate impact or economic inequality.

We’re giving anyone who wants to do this the blueprint, and we’re telling them to go, go, go because we don’t have time to do it any other way.

Saya Ameli, 17, Boston, Massachusetts

The first thing that I saw looking out of the airplane window [when I moved to the US] was just how green Boston was. I saw all the trees, the bushes lining the sidewalks. It was a really stark contrast from Tehran. My family and I used to go hiking in the hills behind my Tehran house and once we got to the summit, we just saw this almost gray canvas covering the city. Looking up, we saw the blue sky.

It made me realize that it could be different. With a little more government regulation, awareness and action, we could change the way the city looks and feels.

The movement really has grown since it’s started out. Just looking back in November, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez came out with the Green New Deal. Sunrise was able to send hundreds of people to Washington DC to support her and advocate for the Green New Deal.

Senator Mark Houston has been really helpful and the Massachusetts lead on supporting the Green New Deal. Just a few days ago, Sunrise actually took to his office to thank him and his staffers for their support. The only legislator left on the lower level for Massachusetts is Representative Richard Neal. Currently, Sunrise is at his office, asking him to sign on.

It really is too late to have a debate on whether or not climate change is a hoax, especially when we’re already seeing people suffering the consequences; my heart goes out to all those people that have their school torn down or their houses broken because of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

If our leaders aren’t willing to really address the crisis that we’re facing right now, then they need to be replaced.

People say that young people are naive or too inexperienced but every time we get something done, we prove that we aren’t that stereotype. We may be young, but we are not naive. We understand the real-life consequences of climate change on our present and future, and we’ve decided to do something about it.

 

 

 

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/mar/04/can-they-save-us-meet-the-climate-kids-fighting-to-fix-the-planet

Church advocates: Latin Americans understand God’s presence in nature

Latin America photoMembers of a rescue team pray before working in a collapsed tailings dam owned by a mining company in Brumadinho, Brazil, Feb. 13, 2019. (Credit: CNS photo/Washington Alves, Reuters.)

By Barbara Fraser

LIMA, Peru – Throughout Latin America, people whose lives and land have been affected by industries that extract natural resources, such as mining or oil operations, find strength in their spirituality, church leaders say.

“In many communities, there is a profound bond between the people, as community, and the presence of God expressed in the land, the trees, the rivers,” said Moema Miranda, a lay Franciscan who heads the Churches and Mining Network in Latin America.

That understanding has become stronger since Pope Francis issued the encyclical Laudato Si’, “on Care for Our Common Home” in 2015.

“Pope Francis says that everything is interrelated, and that human beings have an intrinsic value” that is often overlooked in cases where mining companies come into conflict with local communities, Miranda said.

The most recent example was the collapse of a dam that sent a flood of toxic water and mud cascading through a valley in Brumadinho, in the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, Jan. 25.

The disaster at the Vale mining company’s Feijao Mine left more than 150 people confirmed dead and at least as many missing in what Brazilian Bishop Walmor Oliveira de Azevedo of Belo Horizonte called “a criminal tragedy.”

“The bodies of the human and nonhuman victims remain buried and probably will never be found,” Miranda said at a Feb. 20 panel discussion, part of a workshop on extractive industries and spirituality organized by the Churches and Mining Network.

“This is not an isolated case,” she added, noting that the collapse of a similar dam at another mine owned by Vale, BHP Billiton and Samarco flooded the town of Bento Rodrigues in November 2015, killing 19 people and sending a cascade of polluted mud down the Doce River.

Viewing those disasters and others in light of Francis’s call to safeguard “our common home” leads people of faith to ask “what kind of house do we want to build in Latin America?” said Italian Scripture scholar Sandro Gallazzi, who works with the Brazilian Church’s Pastoral Land Commission in the northern city of Macapa.

Noting that the prefix “eco” comes from a Greek word meaning “house,” Gallazzi said economic decisions reflect “how the (home) should function.”

“The economy clearly favors the interests of a small minority of people at the cost of the suffering and exploitation of thousands upon thousands of people,” he said, echoing the pope’s words.

The economic boom that began in Latin America in the early 2000s spurred an expansion of mining and oil and gas concessions in the region, with governments saying the export of raw materials like minerals yielded revenues necessary for reducing poverty in their countries.

“But in many communities, people say, ‘I want my land, not to get money from it, but so I can continue to have clean water, or (they say) I am rich, I have a good life because I have forest. I’m not interested in (the company’s) money,’” Miranda said.

That has led to conflicts between mining companies and communities throughout the region.

In Peru, nearly two-thirds of the conflicts affecting communities involve environmental issues, said Javier Jahncke, executive secretary of Peru’s Muqui Network, part of the Churches and Mining Network.

Latin America’s mining regions tend to be places where people are affected by other violations of their rights, Miranda said. The areas are often home to small farmers and lack good transportation, education and health services.

The Churches and Mining Network, which began work in 2014, grew out of an awareness that “resistance in defense of life in general is grounded in spirituality,” she said.

The ecumenical network now includes about 70 religious communities and church groups in 15 countries.

The members engage in dialogue with bishops about issues related to mining and extractive industries, Miranda said. The network also provides training to people who live in communities affected by mining, to help them understand and defend their rights.

That activity is increasingly dangerous for grassroots leaders who protest the construction of mines, dams and other large-scale infrastructure projects, or the clearing of forests for industrial ranching and farming.

Global Witness, a London-based nonprofit organization that tracks violence against environmentalists, recorded 201 murders in 2017, of which 57 occurred in Brazil. That is also the country where Sister Dorothy Stang, a member of the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, was killed in 2005 for defending the rights of small farmers against ranchers in a remote area of the Amazon.

Despite the political and economic power behind projects that threaten their lands, people say “we won’t leave this place,” Miranda said. What gives them strength, however, is “not just a rational principle – it is a profound connection to the place where you are, to which you belong, and a response to a cry that comes from the earth, but which is heard by God.”

 

 

 

 

https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-americas/2019/02/25/church-advocates-latin-americans-understand-gods-presence-in-nature/

Democrats push for a Green New Deal to combat climate change

Democrat photoAlexandria Ocasio-Cortez speaks during a march organised by the Women’s March Alliance [File: Caitlin Ochs/Reuters]

Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Democratic Senator Ed Markey on Thursday laid out the goals of a Green New Deal to transform the US economy to combat climate change while creating thousands of jobs in renewable energy.

Ocasio-Cortez and Markey say the plan will achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in 10 years, setting a high bar for Democrats who plan to make climate change a central issue in the 2020 presidential race.

The resolution is the first formal attempt by politicians to define the scale of legislation to create large government-led investments in clean energy and infrastructure to transform the US economy.

“The Green New Deal fully tackles the existential threat posed by climate change by presenting a comprehensive, 10-year plan that is as big as the problem it hopes to solve while creating a new era of shared prosperity,” according to a summary of the resolution released by the politicians on Thursday.

Ocasio-Cortez said she will immediately begin to work on legislation that would “fully flesh out the projects involved in the Green New Deal”.

Republicans have already criticised the initiative, waving off any kind of proposal as heavy-handed. The Trump administration does not believe action on climate change is necessary and is focused on increasing production of oil, gas and coal on federal and private land.

Doug Lamborn, a Republican from Colorado, said at a climate change hearing in the House natural resources committee on Wednesday that the policy was akin to a “Soviet five-year plan”.

The non-binding resolution outlines several goals for the United States to meet in 10 years, including meeting 100 percent of power demand from zero-emissions energy sources.

It also calls for new projects to modernise US transportation infrastructure, de-carbonise the manufacturing and agricultural sectors, make buildings and homes more energy efficient and increase land preservation.

Ditching fossil fuel
The Green New Deal also aims to create an economic safety net for “front-line” communities that will be affected by a radical shift away from fossil fuel use.

“We … need to be sure that workers currently employed in fossil fuel industries have higher-wage and better jobs available to them to be able to make this transition, and a federal jobs guarantee ensures that no worker is left behind,” according to a summary of the plan.

The Green New Deal was put into the media spotlight by a youth coalition called the Sunrise Movement and Ocasio-Cortez, 29, the youngest woman to serve in Congress.

Markey, a veteran Congressman from Massachusetts, introduced sweeping climate change legislation a decade ago, which passed in the House but was blocked in the Senate.

At least a half dozen Democratic 2020 presidential hopefuls have said they would adopt Green New Deal policies, without offering specifics.

The Green New Deal would be paid for “the same way we paid for the original New Deal, World War II, the bank bailouts, tax cuts for the rich and decades of war – with public money appropriated by Congress”, Ocasio-Cortez said.

The government can take an equity stake in Green New Deal projects “so the public gets a return on its investment”, she added.

 

 

 

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/02/democrats-push-green-deal-combat-climate-change-190207152008741.html

 

Greenland’s ice melting rate reaching ‘tipping point’

greenland photoScientists say if all of Greenland’s vast ice sheet was to melt, global sea levels would rise by seven metres [File: Pauline Askin/Reuters]

Climate change is causing Greenland ice masses to melt faster, losing four times more ice since 2003, a new study says.

According to research published on Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the ice loss in 2012 – more than 400 billion tonnes – reached nearly four times the rate in 2003.

The largest sustained ice loss came from southwest Greenland, a region previously not seen as a crucial actor in rising sea levels as it is mostly devoid of large glaciers.

“We knew we had one big problem with increasing rates of ice discharge by some large outlet glaciers,” said Michael Bevis, the study’s lead author and a professor of geodynamics at Ohio State University.

“Now we recognise a second serious problem: increasingly large amounts of ice mass are going to leave as meltwater, as rivers that flow into the sea,” he said.

The melting of surface mass, which the study’s authors said was a consequence of global warming, is set to “become a major future contributor to sea level rise.”

“The only thing we can do is adapt and mitigate further global warming – it’s too late for there to be no effect,” Bevis said, adding “we are watching the ice sheet hit a tipping point”.

To analyse changes in ice mass, the study used data from NASA’s gravity recovery and climate experiment (known as Grace) and GPS stations scattered across Greenland.

In December 2018, another study published by scientific journal Nature found that runoff from Greenland’s ice sheet, which in places is more than 1.6 kilometres thick, now occurs at a volume 33 percent greater than the 20th century alone.

If all of Greenland’s vast ice sheet was to melt, global sea levels would rise by seven metres.

Antarctica ice loss

It was the second alarming report on the effect of climate change on sea level rise in a week. On January 15, Eric Rignot, chair of Earth System Science at the University of Irvine, published a study warning that Antarctica is melting about six times more a year now than 40 years ago.

The sea level increased more than 1.4cm between 1979 and 2017.

“As the Antarctic ice sheet continues to melt away, we expect multi-metre sea level rise from Antarctica in the coming centuries,” Rignot said.

A rise of 1.8 metres by 2100 – as some scientists forecast in worst-case scenarios – would flood many coastal cities home to millions of people.

The total amount of ice in the Antarctic, if it all melted, would be enough to raise sea levels 57 metres.

Warming ocean water will only speed up ice loss in the future, and analysts say sea levels will continue to mount for centuries, no matter what humans do now to rein in climate change.

Recent research has shown oceans are heating up quicker than previously thought, setting new heat records in the last few years.

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/01/greenland-ice-melting-rate-reaching-tipping-point-190122065853185.html