Category Archives: Environment

Hurricane in Panama City

St_John_Parish_FloridaPrayer garden damaged by Hurricane Michael at St. John the Evangelist Parish in Panama City, Fla. Courtesy photo.

How a Panama City parish is helping after Hurricane Michael

By Perry West
Panama City, Fla., Oct 19, 2018 (CNA).- This is the story of a hurricane. Or, at least, the story of one Catholic parish trying to help, in the wake of one of the most powerful storms to hit the U.S. in decades.

Hurricane Michael made landfall in northwest Florida Oct. 10. The hurricane has claimed 50 lives in the U.S. and Central America, caused an estimated $8 billion in damage, and displaced thousands of people.

After Hurricane Michael overwhelmed local hospitals, St. John the Evangelist parish in Panama City has become a hub for medical services and emergency supplies.

Father Kevin McQuone, pastor of St. John Evangelist Catholic Church, told CNA that many of his parishioners’ homes are damaged and that some areas are still without power.

“Many people have lost part or all of their home. Many people [who] are displaced are looking for other places to live,” McQuone said. “A handful, I have been informed have moved on, they have lost their jobs because their business were destroyed so they have already found other jobs and moved permanently.”

St. John’s parish school has been heavily damaged, he said. The roof for the middle school building was ripped off and other school buildings have severe water damage. The priest said the school has set up a satellite campus at another parish.

He said two local hospitals in the Panama City have nearly shut down completely aside from their emergency rooms. The hurricane, he said, also destroyed a medical warehouse, which held all of the hospital’s sterile supplies.

The parish has stepped up to offer basic medical supplies and help, relying on Catholic Charities and volunteer medical professionals.

“Bringing in any sort of triage or medical clinic is welcome just to help the whole community to get the care that they need,” he said.

“We also have a mobile medical clinic that was here for part of the day yesterday and was here today as well,” he said. “Next week, we will have a group of 8-12 doctors from around the country who volunteer, and they will be here for a whole week.”

He said people have come in for basic medical help, like tetanus shots. While patients are there, they can also receive supplies – water, toiletries, and food.

The priest said a majority of the aid has been provided and organized by Catholic Charities. Noting that the Catholic population in Florida’s panhandle is only about five percent, he said the parish is helping an entire community, many of whom might have otherwise not visited a Catholic Church.

“Catholic Charities has been really great,” he said. “Immediately, we have been in connection with them. They have been sending people our way and helping us to be of service not just to our parishioners, but really to the whole community. By and large, the far majority of people that we have been serving here I’ve never met before.”

Father McQuone said that more volunteers are still needed in the area.

“Jesus told us to love God with all of our heart and to love our neighbor as we love ourselves,” he said.

For people in distress, we are “doing all we can to serve the needs of their body and the need of their soul – by prayer and by sacrificial giving.”

Deadly flash floods hit east African countries already in dire need

by Samuel Okiror
The Guardian – Global Development
May 8 2018

In Kenya, Rwanda and Somalia death toll reaches 300, with hundreds of thousands more people displaced, adding to crisis in region stricken by drought…

East Africa - Kenya-Rwanda-Somalia Flash Flooding
Floodwaters in the coastal Tana Delta region of Kenya. Torrential rains have caused severe flooding across 32 of the country’s 47 counties. Photograph: Andrew Kasuku/AFP/Getty Images

Heavy rains and severe flash floods have left more than 300 people dead and displaced thousands of others across parts of east Africa, with Kenya and Rwanda being the worst hit.

“We are concerned about the flooding that has displaced so many people in Somalia, Kenya and Rwanda,” said Farhan Aziz Haq, deputy spokesman for the UN secretary general in a statement to the Guardian.

“Our hearts go out to all the people who have been harmed by the rains and flash floods,” he said.

In Kenya ongoing torrential rains have damaged infrastructure, preventing or limiting humanitarian access to many of the affected areas and cutting off people’s access to markets in several places.

“Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that heavy rainfall in Kenya has caused severe flooding in at least 32 counties, out of 47, across the country. An estimated 100 people have lost their lives and 260,000 others have been displaced,” said Haq.

Euloge Ishimwe, of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said it is a “double jeopardy” for the affected communities, as many of them are already struggling to recover from the devastating drought in 2017, after which more than 2.6 million Kenyans were in urgent need of food aid.

“The livelihoods and resilience of the affected communities had already been weakened… With the flooding, we are worried that these communities will be further rendered more vulnerable.”

The extreme weather has compounded a cholera outbreak in the country as well as an epidemic of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus, and is increasing the risk of large-scale outbreaks.

The number of cholera cases reported since the beginning of 2018 stands at 2,943, with 55 deaths, according to the UN’s Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Unocha).

In a statement, Unocha said education and health facilities have been damaged in the flooding, and the Kenya Red Cross Society (KRCS) said roads and train lines had been destroyed. Extensive damages and losses have been reported to fields and livestock, with at least 8,700 hectares (21,5000) acres of farmland destroyed and more than 19,000 animals killed.

Continue Reading: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/may/08/deadly-flash-floods-east-africa-dire-need-kenya-rwanda-somalia

 

Priest campaigning for Brazil’s Amazon arrested for sex crimes and extortion

Karla Mendes

March 29, 2018 | RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A Brazilian priest who risked his life campaigning for the landless has been arrested for sexual harassment and extortion but his lawyer said the charges are a ruse to stop his work.

Jose Amaro Lopes de Sousa, known as Padre Amaro, is regarded as the successor to American nun and environmental activist Dorothy Stang, who was murdered in 2005, an emblematic case for the many conflicts over land use in resource-rich Brazil.

A police statement said that Amaro was arrested on Tuesday in the city of Anapu in northern Para state, home to a vast Amazon rainforest reserve, following a court order and eight months of investigations.

“For us, there is no doubt that behind this investigation there is a ranchers’ conspiracy aiming to make Padre Amaro’s work unfeasible,” the priest’s lawyer, Jose Batista Afonso, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone on Wednesday.

“Padre Amaro personifies nun Dorothy’s work … He has been receiving death threats for a long time.”

Stang often criticized cattle ranchers for seizing land illegally and destroying the rainforest, highlighting tensions between farmers and environmentalists in the top global beef exporter. Local landowners were jailed for ordering her death.

The ranchers’ union in Anapu said they had nothing to do with Amaro’s arrest, adding that about 400 police reports, including videos and witness testimonies, support the charges.

“(Amaro) held meetings in the dead of night, encouraging people to invade land and then had an illegal trade in these invaded lands,” Silverio Albano Fernandes, head of Anapu’s ranchers union, said by phone.

“He was making profit from these sales as he kept a percentage. Everybody knows it here.”

London-based campaign group Global Witness said that Brazil was the world’s most dangerous nation for land rights activists in 2016, with about 50 people killed.

About a dozen land activists have been murdered since 2005 in Anapu, where Amaro is based, according to the Pastoral Land Commission (CPT), set up by the Catholic Church to combat violence against the rural poor.

Amaro’s opponents could not kill him because of the international outcry following Stang’s shooting, and because some are still in jail, said Afonso, who works for CPT.

“Of course, the way chosen to try to nullify the priest’s work would be different,” he said.

Afonso said he will file for habeas corpus, which requires Amaro be brought to court and released unless lawful grounds can be shown for his detention.

“We hope the arrest will be revoked,” he said.


Reporting by Karla Mendes; Editing by Katy Migiro; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience.

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-brazil-landrights-arrests/priest-campaigning-for-brazils-amazon-arrested-for-sex-crimes-and-extortion-idUSKBN1H52H6

Visit news.trust.org to see more stories.

Brazil dam disaster: firm knew of potential impact months in advance

Unreported documents show mining company was aware of threat before country’s worst environmental disaster but took no action, prosecutors allege

by Dom Phillips in Rio de Janeiro and Davilson Brasileiro in Ponte Nova.
Photographs: Nicoló Lanfranchi
The Guardian (World) Thu 1 March 2018

Brizil dam disaster-firm knew

Six months before a dam containing millions of litres of mining waste collapsed, killing 19 people in Brazil’s worst environmental disaster, the company operating the mine accurately predicted the potential impact of such a disaster in a worst-case risk assessment.

But federal prosecutors claim the company – a joint venture between the Brazilian mining giant Vale and the Anglo-Australian multinational BHP Billiton – failed to take actions that they say could have prevented the disaster. The prosecutors instead claim the company focused on cutting costs and increasing production.

“They prioritized profits and left safety in second place,” said José Adércio Sampaio, coordinator of a taskforce of federal prosecutors, summarising the criminal case against the joint venture and its parent companies.”

When the Fundão tailings dam failed on 5 November 2015, it unleashed about 40m litres of water and sediment from iron ore extraction in a wave that polluted the water supply for hundreds of thousands of people, decimated wildlife and spewed a rust-red plume of mud down the Doce river.

Yet more than two years later, nobody has accepted responsibility.

Previously unreported internal documents from the joint venture Samarco show that six months before the collapse, the company carried out a worst-case assessment of the dam, near Mariana in Minas Gerais state.

The Fundao dam -Nicolo Lanfranchi
The Fundão dam had a catastrophic failure in 2015, causing flooding and at least 17 deaths. Photograph: Nicoló Lanfranchi

The document – one of hundreds submitted to the court by prosecutors – warned that a maximum possible loss from a “liquification break” could mean up to 20 deaths, cause serious impacts to land, water resources and biodiversity over 20 years, and cost $3.4bn.

The prosecutors’ complaint also includes harrowing accounts by survivors from Bento Rodrigues, a small community obliterated by the mud released in the disaster.

Wesley Izabel managed to save his two-year-old son, Nicolas, but his daughter, Emanuelle, five, slipped from his fingers to her death.

When the mud engulfed her house, Darcy Santos heard her grandson Thiago, seven, cry “help me, Jesus!” before he was suffocated.

Until the disaster, Samarco was a Brazilian success story. In 2014, despite falling international iron prices, it declared a net profit of $1.3bn.

But prosecutors allege that its directors encouraged the company to keep cutting costs.

Read this article from The Guardian Online edition.

 

 

We Have Seen The Future of Water, And It Is Cape Town

by Peter H. Gleick
Guest Writer
Huffington Post (2/9/2018)

Morgana Wingard via Getty Images
Cape Town residents queue to refill water bottles on Jan. 30, 2018. Diminishing water supplies may soon lead to the taps being turned off for the four million inhabitants of Cape Town. (Morgana Wingard via Getty Images)

Cape Town is parched. Severe drought and high water use have collided in South Africa’s second largest city, and unless the drought breaks, residents may run out of water in the next few months when there simply isn’t enough water left to supply the drinking water taps.

In response to this looming “Day Zero” currently projected in May? city managers have imposed new and unprecedented restrictions, including limiting residential water use to 50 liters (around 13 gallons) per person per day. They released plans to open 200 community water points to provide emergency water in the event of a shutoff – for four million people. As the crisis worsens, water scarcity will sharpen South Africa’s economic inequalities, inflaming tensions between wealthier and disadvantaged communities.

Cape Town is not alone. Water crises are getting worse all over the world. The past few years have seen more and more extreme droughts and floods around the globe. California just endured the worst five-year drought on record, followed by the wettest year on record. São Paulo, Brazil, recently suffered a severe drought that drastically cut water supplies to its 12 million inhabitants – a drought that also ended in heavy rainfall, which caused extreme flooding. Houston was devastated in 2017 by Hurricane Harvey, the most extreme precipitation event to hit any major city in the United States.

Severe droughts and floods. Water rationing. Economic and political disruption. Urban taps running dry. Is this the future of water?

Any city, in building a water system, tries to prepare for extreme weather, including floods and droughts. It also considers estimates of future population growth, projections of water use and a host of other factors. Cape Town’s water system is a relatively sophisticated one, with six major storage reservoirs, pipelines, water treatment plants and an extensive distribution network. Its water managers, and South Africa’s overall water expertise, are among the best in the world.

The problem is that the traditional approach for building and managing water systems rests on two key assumptions. The first is that there is always more supply to be found, somewhere, to satisfy growing populations and growing water demand. The second is that the climate isn’t changing.

Neither of these assumptions is true any longer.

Many regions of the world, as in Cape Town, have reached “peak water” limits and find their traditional sources tapped out. Many rivers are dammed and diverted to the point that they no longer reach the sea. Groundwater is over pumped at rates faster than nature can replenish. And massive long-distance transfers of water from other watersheds are increasingly controversial because of high costs, environmental damages and political disagreements.

Read We Have Seen The Future of Water, And It Is Cape Town


Peter H. Gleick is a climate and water scientist, co-author of The World’s Water, and a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences.

Could tackling climate change help bring peace to South Sudan?

turkana+sudan
A Turkana boy herds livestock to grazing grounds in the disputed area of the Ilemi triangle in northwestern Kenya near the borders with Ethiopia and South Sudan October 15, 2013. REUTERS/Siegfried Modola

by Adela Suliman | @adela_suliman | Thomson Reuters Foundation News
Monday, 19 February 2018 11:47 GMT

The world’s youngest nation, South Sudan, has been embroiled in war and conflict for years.

The oil-rich nation – which won independence from Sudan in 2011 – descended into civil war in 2013, with tens of thousands of people killed and a third of the population forced to flee their homes.

Recent research found that extreme weather, such as prolonged drought, has increased competition between communities over dwindling resources like water and pastures.

Although data is hard to come by, historically conflicts frequently occur soon after a flood or drought, said a report by a group of NGOs and U.N. agencies.

For example, tensions between nomadic herders and settled farmers over water wells or poor harvests can lead to unoccupied and frustrated men being lured into militias.

“Climate change has a multiplier effect on the challenges experienced in South Sudan, specifically on localised conflict,” said Michael Mangano, country director of aid agency ACTED in South Sudan.

INVESTING IN RESILIENCE
So could building resilience against climate shocks help bring peace to South Sudan?

“There is a growing momentum on investing in resilience in South Sudan,” said Nellie Kingston of Concern Worldwide, a charity that works on the UK-funded Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme.

The project in the East African country set up early warning systems, weather monitoring tools, field schools to teach farmers best practices, and seed stores to preserve and exchange crop seeds in the event of climate shocks.

It also established 17 environment clubs in schools for students to discuss climate issues and plant trees, for example, with the minister of education keen to roll out such initiatives into the national curriculum, said Kingston.

An assessment of the project found that people felt more resilient to climate shocks after joining farmer groups, better managing their land and making savings, said Suzanne Philips of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

GREATER COHESION
As well as equipping communities with better tools and responses to climate threats, the project sought to bring together tribes traditionally divided by conflict.

“It’s one of those things we can’t measure, but there are groups (taking part in the projects) that are made up of three ethnicities… so just the fact that they’re meeting on a weekly basis prevents more ethnic tension,” said Mangano.

Other outcomes of the project include communities becoming more self-sufficient and relying less on international aid, said Kingston, with other villages replicating some of the successful activities.

Although fragile states face huge social and economic problems, protecting people from natural disasters can be done and should be attempted despite the practical difficulties, U.N. officials have recently said.

Conflict-torn countries may lack functioning governments, but pockets can be identified where it is possible to work with communities to reduce the risks of floods, earthquakes and other hazards, according to Robert Glasser, head of the U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.

Despite these successes and improved resilience in South Sudan the country is still highly vulnerable to climate shocks, said Kingston.

“Resilience interventions are feasible in South Sudan,” she said. “But flexibility is needed to tailor them to the local context and adjust to changing circumstances.”

[ https://news.trust.org/item/20180219114753-sw3yl ]

Catholic church to make record divestment from fossil fuels

by Arthur Neslen
Guardian
Tuesday, October 3, 2017

More than 40 Catholic institutions will make largest ever faith-based divestment, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi.

Church Steple and coal plants
A Catholic church spire against smoky coal power plants in North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany. Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

More than 40 Catholic institutions are to announce the largest ever faith-based divestment from fossil fuels, on the anniversary of the death of St Francis of Assisi.

The sum involved has not been disclosed but the volume of divesting groups is four times higher than a previous church record, and adds to a global divestment movement, led by investors worth $5.5tn.

Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief who helped negotiate the Paris climate agreement, hailed Tuesday’s move as “a further sign we are on the way to achieving our collective mission.”

She said: “I hope we will see more leaders like these 40 Catholic institutions commit, because while this decision makes smart financial sense, acting collectively to deliver a better future for everybody is also our moral imperative.”

Church institutions joining the action include the Archdiocese of Cape Town, the Episcopal Conference of Belgium and the diocese of Assisi-Nocera Umbra-Gualdo Tadino, the spiritual home of the world’s Franciscan brothers.

A spokesman for the €4.5bn German Church bank and Catholic relief organisation Caritas said that it was committing to divest from coal, tar sands and shale oil.

In a symbolically charged move, the Italian town of Assisi will also shed all oil, coal and gas holdings the day before a visit by the Italian prime minister, Paolo Gentiloni, to mark St Francis’s feast day.

Assisi’s mayor, Stefania Proietti – a former climate mitigation professor – told the Guardian: “When we pay attention to the environment, we pay attention to poor people, who are the first victims of climate change.

“When we invest in fossil fuels, we stray very far from social justice. But when we disinvest and invest in renewable and energy efficiency instead, we can mitigate climate change, create a sustainable new economic deal and, most importantly, help the poor.”

The origins of the latest church action lie in last year’s climate encyclical by Pope Francis – himself named after St Francis of Assisi – although the project was advanced by the Global Catholic Climate Movement.