Monday 17th of June 2024

health warning .....

health warning .....

Brazil's Government is unwilling and unable to halt destruction in the Amazon rainforest despite emergency measures it announced last week to curb rising deforestation, environmental expert say. 

High commodity prices and increased land use elsewhere in Brazil are driving ranchers and farmers deeper into the Amazon in search of cheap land, environmentalists say.

Between August and December last year, 7,000 square kilometres, or two-thirds the annual rate, were chopped down. In response, the Government of Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lulada Silva banned logging and cut farm credits in the 36 municipalities with the highest deforestation rate.  

It also said it would ban farm products from illegally deforested areas and would register property deeds to prevent land theft.  

'We are convinced if we play all our cards we can reduce deforestation in 2008 as well,' Environment Minister Marina Silva said. In the two years through July 2007, the rate had fallen by 50 per cent.  

But environmentalists said the measures were half-hearted and insufficient and some could even increase deforestation. 'It's a positive first step, but only a drop in the ocean,' said Paulo Moutinho, coordinator at the Environmental Research Institute of the Amazon.

Applying restrictive measures where deforestation already occurred would force loggers and ranchers to neighbouring municipalities, said Roberto Smeraldi, head of Friends of the Earth in Brazil. 

Brazil Unwilling To Stop Destruction Of Amazon: Experts

More health warnings...

The world's rubbish dump: a garbage tip that stretches from Hawaii to Japan

By Kathy Marks, Asia-Pacific Correspondent, and Daniel Howden
Tuesday, 5 February 2008

A "plastic soup" of waste floating in the Pacific Ocean is growing at an alarming rate and now covers an area twice the size of the continental United States, scientists have said.

The vast expanse of debris – in effect the world's largest rubbish dump – is held in place by swirling underwater currents. This drifting "soup" stretches from about 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, across the northern Pacific, past Hawaii and almost as far as Japan.

Charles Moore, an American oceanographer who discovered the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" or "trash vortex", believes that about 100 million tons of flotsam are circulating in the region. Marcus Eriksen, a research director of the US-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation, which Mr Moore founded, said yesterday: "The original idea that people had was that it was an island of plastic garbage that you could almost walk on. It is not quite like that. It is almost like a plastic soup. It is endless for an area that is maybe twice the size as continental United States."

crack down on Brazil's illegal loggers...

April 19, 2008
With Guns and Fines, Brazil Takes On Loggers

ALTA FLORESTA, Brazil — A convoy of six black sport utility vehicles pulled into a lumberyard unannounced here one recent morning. Out popped about two dozen members of Brazil’s security and police forces, packing sidearms and rifles. But the weapon the foreman feared most was carried by a separate group of agents of Brazil’s national environmental agency: bright yellow tape measures.

“Thirty-eight! Seventy!” the agents shouted from the logs clustered in the thick mud as they quickly went to work. One agent, Mario Rubbo, jotted down the volume of each log for comparison with what the lumberyard had declared to state authorities. Discrepancies could mean fines or criminal charges.

This is Operation Arc of Fire, the Brazilian government’s tough campaign to deter illegal destruction of the Amazon forest. It is intended to send a message that the government is serious about protecting the world’s largest remaining rain forest, but so far it has stirred controversy for its militaristic approach to saving trees, and the initial results have been less than promising.

The operation began in February after new satellite data showed that deforestation had spiked in the second half of 2007 after three consecutive years of declines. The new data rattled the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, which has been trying to play a bigger role in discussions about global climate change amid mounting scientific evidence that some 20 percent of annual global greenhouse emissions come from the clearing of tropical forests, including the burning, decay and decomposition of the land.


see toon at top 

cancer of the lungs...

Brazil's new environment minister faces challenging expectations

Brazil's new environment minister Carlos Minc, has taken up his post amid international concern about pressure inside the country to approve development in the Amazon rainforest.

Mr Minc is a prominent environmental campaigner but has admitted he is not an expert on the Amazon.

There has never been any doubt that Mr Minc would face a range of sensitivities in his new post.

He was taking over from Marina Silva, an internationally respected figure who resigned in frustration over the limits to what she had felt able to achieve within government.

Carlos Minc says he wants to maintain the priorities of his predecessor, but it is clear there are other competing claims.


Gus: see toon at top 

another bad idea...

Nature's not sacred, let's use our national parks

Bob Beale
June 13, 2008

Before hardline greenies go dying in a ditch over this week's proposal to expand commercial tourism in NSW national parks, it would be helpful if they paused to consider exactly what they would be dying for.

Many people baulk at the concept of conservation through sustainable use. This apparently contradictory strategy seeks to maintain a natural resource by exploiting it: a use it or lose it thing that reflects the truth that - as my colleague Mike Archer points out - we tend not to conserve what we do not value. Rwanda, for example, now earns millions of precious tourist dollars by exploiting world fascination with its few remaining mountain gorillas, which at least has given the gorillas a lifeline.

Gus: I disagree totally with this very pernicious view.

I had my fierce arguments with "xxx", the grand-daddy at the Australian Museum in the early 1980s, when because of shortage of funds, the scientists there were talking of letting subspecies disappear to concentrate at saving the main endangered species. To me, the subspecies were the keys of understanding evolution. The scientific position, formulated just because of lack of money was revolting to me. Why loose the subspecies that represented some small but specific steps of nature?

What is left of nature, especially forest, is hardly enough... The mountain gorillas got saved by "accident" and dedication by a few people, rather than proper planning. Rwanda is bloody lucky there are still a few to be seen... But let's not call that sustainability. It might bring money but for how long? The preservation of these animals is very precarious and now has to rely to a great extend on human intervention to survive. This is not sustainability.

National Parks such as the Royal National Park south of Sydney was created by visionaries who saw the "necessity" of total preservation and non human intervention in beautiful natural spaces, in opposition to the mercenaries who see dollars in them — sustainable or not.

"Exploiting" National Parks in a sustainable way would be fraught with problems, from people accidentally importing exotic seeds or new diseases in these areas in greater numbers than ever before, to accidental degradation that could ravage the natural balances (bush fires, often deliberately lit, are bad enough). Relaxing the rules of exploitations will self generate a few notches at a time to make NPs more exploitable as primary sustainable exploitation may have changed the character of the park, and would eventually destroy the original concept of "National Parks"... Furthermore, animal species, often shy and barely surviving in these remaining pockets would be further disturbed by the "sustainable" exploitation or by the invasion by more and more people in the most remote of corners. "Sustainable" exploitation of National Parks is a very very bad idea and should be nipped in the bud.

When will we ever learn? 

as old as Christianity

Researchers confirm age of oldest tree

Friday, 13 June 2008 Ari Rabinovitch

Israeli researchers who grew a sapling from a date seed found near the Dead Sea, have confirmed the seed was about 2000 years old.

Carbon dating has confirmed that the seed - named Methuselah after the oldest person in the bible - was the oldest ever brought back to life.

Dr Sarah Sallon, a researcher at the Hadassah Medical Centre in Jerusalem, and her team report their finding in the latest edition of Science.

The seed came from the Judean date palm, a species that once flourished in the Jordan River Valley and has been extinct for centuries, Sallon says.


Good for the seed, but I still believe that the "oldest" tree is located in Tasmania. A few year go, some scientists examined the tree (a large thick bush) and noticed that the tree had re-rooted and regenerated itself for over 10,000 years. The original seed had produced a long-lived and still living organism.

the "dreaded" word versus pious porkies

Missing link's gospel truth

When it comes to matters of evolution, Dr Karl is no old fossil. He's always thrilled to hear about any newly unearthed find.

By Karl S. Kruszelnicki

Even in these supposedly enlightened times, the word "evolution" still raises some hackles, and in some pious circles is considered the equivalent of a four-letter word.

It was only as recently as February 2008, that the Florida State Board of Education finally allowed (by a close 4–3 vote) the use of this dreaded word, rather than previous euphemisms such as "change over time".

Mind you, the vote was very close, even though the teachers are specifically forbidden to use the terrifying word "evolution" by itself — instead "evolution" always has to be preceded by the mollifying phrase "theory of", as in "theory of evolution".

Evolution is the process of change, from one generation to the next, of inherited characteristics. The microbiologists see it happening all the time, as bacteria evolve to beat the antibiotics that we have so painstakingly developed.

A part of this process of evolution is the 'Missing Link' (or to give it the proper technical name, Transitional Fossil). A missing link would have characteristics of both its ancestors, and its descendants.

In the USA, the anti-evolution creationists are dead-set against acknowledging the very concept of the missing link. They claim that no missing link has ever been found, anywhere in the world.

Would you believe it, but their claim is actually a wicked fib.


Gus: I would add if I may to Dr Karl exposé of the great pious lies — since there are copious "missing" links  — that there are also "subspecies" living well and showing strong relationships with their branch of origins, in evolution (or change)... The dreaded Genetic Manipulation is also a strong proof of evolution — albeit not a good reference when considering gene splicing and its "enforced" commercial usage by profiteers — but a good example when looking at the evolution of crops such as modern and ancient wheat through breeding selection (accidental and human intervention). The dogs, the horses and many of our domesticated animals are "evolved" (changed) animals. Dogs are wolves. We also know that evolution is not necessarily "improvements" on a theme and that evolution can regress in its changes.

A strong example of evolution gone wrong lies with the present lame duck misleading the United States.

brazil's nut

Brazil government 'worst logger'

Brazil's government has been named as the worst illegal logger of Amazon forests by one of its own departments.

The Environment Ministry has drawn up a list of the 100 worst offenders and says all of them will be charged.

Topping the list was the Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (Incra), a government department which distributes land to the poor.

The revelation came after an official report revealed that deforestation in the Amazon region was gathering pace.

The six largest deforested areas since 2005 all belonged to Incra, Environment Minister Carlos Minc said.

read more at the BBC and see toon at top....

deforestation in the Amazon

A Protected Forest's Fast Decline
Despite Brazilian Policy, Park in Amazon Falls Prey to Farming, Logging and a Lack of Government Resources

By Joshua Partlow
Washington Post Foreign Service
Friday, February 6, 2009; A10

BOM FUTURO NATIONAL FOREST, Brazil -- Antonio Elson Portela had already passed acres of charred stumps and rows of corn and coffee plants when he drove up behind a flatbed truck hauling logs out of this Amazonian forest.

It was yet another affront to Portela, an environmental official responsible for protecting this rapidly dwindling national forest from settlers and loggers, but both Portela and the truck driver knew where things stood. The driver leaned out and smiled and waved, casually. Portela gripped the steering wheel and flushed.

"I want to do something," he said. "But there is nothing I can do."

Brazil is considered a world leader in conserving its environmental bounty. The federal government late last year set ambitious goals to reduce deforestation by 70 percent over the next decade. It has demarcated more than 300,000 square miles as federally protected areas, a territory more than twice the size of the U.S. national park system.

But as the case of Bom Futuro National Forest shows, such designations do not always prevent, or even slow, the destruction of the rain forest. Here, across 700,000 acres of Amazon rain forest in the western Brazilian state of Rondonia, poverty pushes settlers in search of new lands, and any attempt by the government to interrupt their destiny has met with resentment and an adamant refusal to leave.


see toon at top...

Deforestation in Brazil

from the NYT
Paying to Keep Trees Up in Brazil


QUERENCIA, Brazil — José Marcolini, a farmer here, has a permit from the Brazilian government to raze 12,500 acres of rain forest this year to create highly profitable new soy fields.

But he is struggling with his conscience. A Brazilian environmental group is offering him a yearly cash payment to leave his forest standing to help combat climate change.

Mr. Marcolini says he cares about the environment. But he also has a family to feed, and he is dubious that the group’s initial offer in the negotiation — $12 per acre, per year — is enough for him to accept.

“For me to resist the pressure, surrounded by soybeans, I’ll have to be paid — a lot,” said Mr. Marcolini, 53, noting that cleared farmland here in the state of Mato Grosso sells for up to $1300 an acre.

Mato Grosso means thick forests, and the name was once apt. But today, this Brazilian state is a global epicenter of deforestation. Driven by profits derived from fertile soil, the region’s dense forests have been aggressively cleared over the past decade, and Mato Grasso is now Brazil’s leading producer of soy, corn and cattle, exported across the globe by multinational companies.

Deforestation, a critical contributor to climate change, effectively accounts for 20 percent of the world’s carbon dioxide emissions and 70 percent of the emissions in Brazil. It creates carbon emissions through fires and machinery that are used to fell trees, and it also destroys the plant life that helps absorb carbon dioxide emissions from cars and factories around the globe. Halting new deforestation, experts say, is as powerful a way to combat warming as closing all the world’s coal plants.

read more at the New York Times and see toon at top...

oil spill in the kimberleys...


picture by Gus — Kimberleys

An employee on the rig that is spewing oil into seas off the coast of Western Australia says the spill may cover eight kilometres of ocean.

The oil worker, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, was one of 69 people evacuated to Darwin yesterday from the West Atlas Offshore drilling rig, 250 kilometres north of Truscott.

Crude oil began spilling from the rig about 4:00am (AEST) yesterday.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA) says it is investigating the incident and is unsure of how extensive the problem is.

But the worker told the ABC that rig workers detected a gas leak before they saw bubbling around one of the 1,200-metre-deep drilling holes.

Poisonous hydrogen sulfide began leaking from the area and sparked the evacuation, he said.

He says the plug blocking the hole released soon after and within two hours he could see the slick had grown to eight kilometres as he was being flown to the Truscott airbase.


Exxon Valdez' (now the Mediterranean) spill could be surpassed by miles...

The coast of the kimberleys is one of the most beautiful, pristine in the world (so far) due to many factors including big tides, rugged terrain, harsh seasons and of all things "earthquakes"... It is Gus' opinion that drilling at sea in that region is dicey.


picture by Gus —Truscott

still leakinnnnnnnng...

from Unleashed

For more than a month gas and oil condensate have been gushing into the Timor Sea from the West Atlas rig, about 250km off the Kimberley coast. The Federal Minister for the Environment Peter Garrett says that between 300 and 400 barrels of oil is escaping each day. NASA satellite imagery shows the spill has spread over 15,000 square kilometres.

Journalists and other observers describe it as a national emergency and one of the largest oil leaks in Australia's history. The spill's contribution to the atmosphere of greenhouse gases can only be guessed.

Within days of the disaster occurring, environmental organisations were calling for a judicial inquiry into its causes — the Thai-based owner, PTTEP, has so far been unable to provide any explanation — and the company's rescue plans.

A main concern was that PTTEP, with the approval of the Australian Government, chose to deploy a drill rig that had to be towed from Singapore, rather than a local one, resulting in a three-week wait before efforts could begin to plug the leak.


see toon and pictures above

leeeeeeaaaaaking stil...

A third attempt to plug a leaking oil and gas well off the north coast of Western Australia has failed.

Oil from the West Atlas rig has been leaking into the Timor Sea for eight weeks, spreading oil across thousands of square kilometres of ocean.

PTTEP Australasia today tried unsuccessfully to intercept the leak more than two kilometres below the sea bed.

The company says it hopes to find out by tonight how close the attempt was, before deciding on when the next attempt can be made.

The news is likely to reignite calls from environment groups for Federal Government intervention.


see comments above...

only 7000 square kilometres destroyed...

Amazon deforestation at record low

By Richard Reynolds

Brazil has announced that deforestation in the Amazon basin has fallen to its lowest level since records began 21 years ago.

The report comes from Brazil's space agency, which monitors deforestation with satellites.

The organisation is considered credible and often contradicts the Brazilian Government when it makes outlandish claims about deforestation.

The agency claims that in the year to August, only 7,000 square kilometres of forest has been cut down.

That level is a 45 per cent reduction on the previous year.


see toon at top...

damn the dam...

A Brazilian court has overturned a ruling that could have delayed building a massive dam on an Amazon tributary.

A judge ruled bidding can go ahead next week for contracts to build the Belo Monte dam on the River Xingu. It would be the third largest dam in the world.

The dam is opposed by indigenous groups and environmentalists.

They say thousands of indigenous people will be displaced and a sensitive ecosystem damaged. The government says it is crucial for economic development.

In a statement, campaign group Amazon Watch said "the battle is not over".

"We are committed to supporting Brazilian indigenous peoples who have vowed to fight to stop the Belo Monte dam.


Gus: still destroying the forest... this time with water... see picture at top...

illegal timber

from the BBC

Police in Brazil have arrested at least 70 people suspected of illegal logging in the Amazon - including officials employed to protect the rainforest.

Several environmental officials in Mato Grosso state are accused of providing false licences for the extraction of timber from protected areas.

Loggers, landowners and forest managers have also been charged.

Police estimate that the illegal logging operation has caused damage amounting to about $500m (£345m).

The arrests followed a two-year investigation in six Amazon states.


see toon at top...

unfading memories...

MAROANSETRA, Madagascar — Exploiting a political crisis, Malagasy timber barons are robbing this island nation of its sylvan heritage, illegally cutting down scarce species of rosewood trees in poorly protected national parks and exporting most of the valuable logs to China.

For a decade or more, this illicit trade existed on a small scale. But in the past year, it has increased at least 25-fold, according to environmental groups that have been tracking the outgoing shipments. They estimate the value of trees felled this past year at $167 million or more.

This accelerated plunder of the rainforest coincided with a military coup in March 2009. Andry Rajoelina, the mayor of Antananarivo, Madagascar’s capital, was installed as president and he has since led a weakened and tottering government that is unable — and perhaps unwilling — to stop the trafficking.

“The government does nothing because it shares in the money,” said Ndranto Razakamanarina, president of an association of Malagasy environmental groups and a policy officer with the World Wildlife Fund. “Many of the ministers think they’ll be in office only three or six months, so they decide to make money while they can. The timber mafia is corrupt, the ministers are corrupt.”

Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island, is a place of extraordinary botanical abundance, with perhaps 14,000 species of plants, 90 percent of which exist nowhere else on earth. Saving the rosewood trees is now an international cause. Environmentalists check the manifests of outbound vessels, calculate the amount of timber in each container, and try to embarrass the owners of the wood and the participating shipping companies.

Repeatedly, the government has announced new policies to halt the trade. “The exporters are strong, but so are we,” Prime Minister Camille Vital said in a recent interview. “Just last week, we arrested 52 of the people involved.”


When I was working in Africa, I spent some time in Madagascar... I remember artifacts made from the rare rosewood — one of the most beautiful woodgrain in the world. But I also remember the people, one of the best in the world too. If my memory is correct, they called the island — the "mamy" island, the Sweet Island. Not because there was a bit of sugar cane growing in parts, but because it was easy "sweet" living... Pictures are fading but not my memories...






(All photographs by Gus, circa 1960s. Top: Near Maroansetra; middle: Kids in Antananarivo; bottom: Street market in Antananarivo...)

going, gone like the dodo...

One more step in what scientists are increasingly referring to as the Sixth Great Extinction is announced today: the disappearance of yet another bird species. The vanishing of the Alaotra grebe of Madagascar is formally notified this morning by the global conservation partnership BirdLife International – and it marks a small but ominous step in the biological process which seems likely to dominate the 21st century.

Researchers now recognise five earlier cataclysmic events in the earth's prehistory when most species on the planet died out, the last being the Cretaceous-Tertiary extinction event of 65 million years ago, which may have been caused by a giant meteorite striking the earth, and which saw the disappearance of the dinosaurs.

But the rate at which species are now disappearing makes many biologists consider we are living in a sixth major extinction comparable in scale to the others – except that this one has been caused by humans. In essence, we are driving plants and animals over the abyss faster than new species can evolve.

Birds species alone now seem to be disappearing at the rate of about one per decade, and the extinction of the Alaotra grebe is announced in the BirdLife-produced update to the Red List of threatened bird species maintained by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

A handsome bird not dissimilar to our own little grebe or dabchick, it inhabited a tiny area in the east of Madagascar, and declined after carnivorous fish were introduced into the freshwater lakes where it lived, and fishermen began using nylon gillnets which caught and drowned the birds. Its demise brings the total number of bird species thought to have become extinct since 1600 to 132.


forest moratorium...

Indonesia to suspend deforestation for two years

Indonesia will place a two-year moratorium on new concessions to clear natural forests and peatlands under a deal signed with Norway aimed at reducing greenhouse gases.

Norway will invest $1.2 billion in forest conservation projects in Indonesia under a deal struck by Indonesian president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and Norwegian prime minister Jens Stoltenberg in Oslo.

"In the second phase of the partnership, Indonesia is prepared to suspend for two years new concessions for the conversion of peat and natural forest lands," a statement said.

"Sufficient non-forest lands exist for Indonesia to accommodate the growth of its vitally important plantation industries, a major source of livelihoods in Indonesia."

The suspension will encourage the development of new plantations "on degraded lands rather than vulnerable forests and peatlands".

Previous concessions already granted to clear forest land are likely to still be honoured, since the statement only referred to new concessions.

Palm oil firms such as Wilmar and Indofood Agri Resources have big expansion plans in Indonesia, already the largest producer of an oil used to make everything from biscuits to soap.

colossally destructive...

Disaster in the Amazon


BP’s calamitous behavior in the Gulf of Mexico is the big oil story of the moment. But for many years, indigenous people from a formerly pristine region of the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador have been trying to get relief from an American company, Texaco (which later merged with Chevron), for what has been described as the largest oil-related environmental catastrophe ever.

“As horrible as the gulf spill has been, what happened in the Amazon was worse,” said Jonathan Abady, a New York lawyer who is part of the legal team that is suing Chevron on behalf of the rainforest inhabitants.

It has been a long and ugly legal fight and the outcome is uncertain. But what has happened in the rainforest is heartbreaking, although it has not gotten nearly the coverage that the BP spill has.

What’s not in dispute is that Texaco operated more than 300 oil wells for the better part of three decades in a vast swath of Ecuador’s northern Amazon region, just south of the border with Colombia. Much of that area has been horribly polluted. The lives and culture of the local inhabitants, who fished in the intricate waterways and cultivated the land as their ancestors had done for generations, have been upended in ways that have led to widespread misery.

Texaco came barreling into this delicate ancient landscape in the early 1960s with all the subtlety and grace of an invading army. And when it left in 1992, it left behind, according to the lawsuit, widespread toxic contamination that devastated the livelihoods and traditions of the local people, and took a severe toll on their physical well-being.

A brief filed by the plaintiffs said: “It deliberately dumped many billions of gallons of waste byproduct from oil drilling directly into the rivers and streams of the rainforest covering an area the size of Rhode Island. It gouged more than 900 unlined waste pits out of the jungle floor — pits which to this day leach toxic waste into soils and groundwater. It burned hundreds of millions of cubic feet of gas and waste oil into the atmosphere, poisoning the air and creating ‘black rain’ which inundated the area during tropical thunderstorms.”

The quest for oil is, by its nature, colossally destructive. And the giant oil companies, when left to their own devices, will treat even the most magnificent of nature’s wonders like a sewer. But the riches to be made are so vastly corrupting that governments refuse to impose the kinds of rigid oversight and safeguards that would mitigate the damage to the environment and its human and animal inhabitants.

read more of Bob Herbert

saving the planet...

British scientific experts have made a major breakthrough in the fight to save the natural world from destruction, leading to an international effort to safeguard a global system worth at least $5 trillion a year to mankind.

Groundbreaking new research by a former banker, Pavan Sukhdev, to place a price tag on the worldwide network of environmental assets has triggered an international race to halt the destruction of rainforests, wetlands and coral reefs.

With experts warning that the battle to stem the loss of biodiversity is two decades behind the climate change agenda, the United Nations, the World Bank and ministers from almost every government insist no country can afford to believe it will be unaffected by the alarming rate at which species are disappearing. The Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, later this month will shift from solely ecological concerns to a hard-headed assessment of the impact on global economic security.

The UK Government is championing a new system to identify the financial value of natural resources, and the potential hit to national economies if they are lost. The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity (Teeb) project has begun to calculate the global economic costs of biodiversity loss. Initial results paint a startling picture. The loss of biodiversity through deforestation alone will cost the global economy up to $4.5trn (£2.8trn) each year – $650 for every person on the planet, and just a fraction of the total damage being wrought by overdevelopment, intensive farming and climate change.

The annual economic value of the 63 million hectares of wetland worldwide is said to total $3.4bn. In the pharmaceutical trade, up to 50 per cent of all of the $640bn market comes from genetic resources. Anti-cancer agents from marine organisms alone are valued at up to $1bn a year.

Last week, a study by the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the Natural History Museum in London and the International Union for Conservation of Nature suggested more than a fifth of the world's plant species are threatened with extinction. The coalition hopes that linking the disappearance of biodiversity to a threat to economic stability will act as a "wake-up call".

Caroline Spelman, the Environment Secretary, believes the UK has a crucial role in bringing countries together to agree on action. In an exclusive interview with The Independent on Sunday, Mrs Spelman warned: "We are losing species hand over fist. I would be negligent if I didn't shout from the rooftops that we have a problem; that the loss of species will cost us money and it will undermine our resilience in the face of scientific and medical research. We are losing information that we cannot re-create that we may need to save lives and to save the planet as we know it."


Gus: "even for profit", saving the planet is worth doing... We have to reduce our rat like breeding... We have to protect nature from our destructive wants which we make believe as "needs", etc. See image at top and read all articles below it.

drought in the amazon...

The River Amazon at Manaus has fallen to its lowest level since 1963.

Scientists say the region is facing its worst drought since that year.

In Amazonas state 27 municipalities have declared a state of emergency because of the dry spell.

Several tributaries of the Amazon have almost completely dried up, paralysing river transport and the fishing industry.

The rainy season in the region usually begins in November.

The Peruvian Amazon, 2,000km (1,240 miles) upstream has also been affected.

The rainy season in the region usually begins in November.

Environmental groups say severe droughts are likely to become more frequent in the Amazon as a result of global warming, putting further strain on the rainforest.


Indonesia has sent hundreds of fire fighters to battle blazes on Sumatra island which have enveloped Singapore and Malaysia in choking haze, officials said.

Many of the fires smouldering across Sumatra have been lit by small landholders to clear trees from areas of peatland in order to grow oil palm or other crops.

"We have been making efforts to contain the fires. It's very difficult in the peatland areas," Indonesian forestry minister Zulkilfi Hasan said.

Singapore foreign minister George Yeo phoned his Indonesian counterpart Marty Natalegawa earlier today to formally raise the city state's concerns about severe air pollution and offer its help to control the fires.

Mr Natalegawa "assured Minister Yeo that Indonesia would address the haze problem, adding that many Indonesians in Sumatra are also affected", a Singapore foreign ministry statement said.

Air pollution in Singapore spiked to unhealthy levels on Thursday.

Indonesia's forest fire chief Noor Hidayat says an extra 300 firefighters have been sent to the worst-affected area, Sumatra's Riau province, which lies opposite Singapore across the Malacca Strait.

The fires peaked on Sunday when 351 hotspots were recorded on Sumatra, including 144 in Riau.

Only 51 fires were recorded across all of Sumatra on Thursday.

The haze hit its worst level in 1997 to 1998, costing the South-East Asian region an estimated $US9 billion.

damn the dam...

A Brazilian judge has blocked plans to build a huge hydro-electric dam in the Amazon rainforest because of environmental concerns.

Federal judge Ronaldo Desterro said environmental requirements to build the Belo Monte dam had not been met.

He also barred the national development bank, BNDES, from funding the project.

The dam is a cornerstone of President Dilma Rousseff's plans to upgrade Brazil's energy infrastructure.

But it has faced protests and challenges from environmentalists and local indigenous groups who say it will harm the world's largest tropical rainforest and displace tens of thousands of people.

Judge Desterro said the Brazilian environmental agency, Ibama, had approved the project without ensuring that 29 environmental conditions had been met.

In particular, he said concerns that the dam would disrupt the flow of the Xingu river - one of the Amazon's main tributaries - had not been met.

His ruling is the latest stage in a long legal battle over Belo Monte. Previous injunctions blocking construction have been overturned.

The government says the Belo Monte dam is crucial for development and will create jobs, as well as provide electricity to 23 million homes.

The 11,000-megawatt dam would be the biggest in the world after the Three Gorges in China and Itaipu, which is jointly run by Brazil and Paraguay.


See toon at top...

vanishing forests...

Not even Brazil's environmental minister can explain the cause of a sudden and unexpected surge in deforestation of the Brazilian Amazon. All Izabella Teixeira could say was that the 27% spike between August 2010 and this year was "alarming."

Indeeed, the news came as a shock to Texeira, who was probably celebrating with caiprinhas and cachaça last December as Brazil publicly announced "the lowest level of deforestation in the history of Amazonia."

Now, she's had no option but to announce a "crisis cabinet," coinciding with a heated debate surrounding Brazil's forest code, an environmental legislation under which farms and settlements have to conserve 80% of the forest on their land as 'Legal Reserves'.

Read more:

murdering more than trees...

Brazilian police have confirmed the killing of yet another Amazon environmental campaigner.

Adelino Ramos was known for openly denouncing those who illegally fell trees in the rainforest. His is just the latest in a long line of murders of such activists. 

Al Jazeera's Gabriel Elizondo reports.

the amazon of global warming...

The US space agency Nasa warned this week that the Amazon rainforest may be showing the first signs of large-scale degradation due to climate change.

A team of scientists led by the agency found that an area twice the size of California continues to suffer from a mega-drought that began eight years ago.

The new study shows the severe dry spell in 2005 caused far wider damage than previously estimated and its impact persisted longer than expected until an even harsher drought in 2010.

With little time for the trees to recover between what the authors describe as a "double whammy", 70m hectares of forest have been severely affected, the analysis of 10 years of satellite microwave radar data revealed.

The data showed a widespread change in the canopy due to the dieback of branches, especially among the older, larger trees that are most vulnerable because they provide the shelter for other vegetation.

"We had expected the forest canopy to bounce back after a year with a new flush of leaf growth, but the damage appeared to persist right up to the subsequent drought in 2010," said study co-author Yadvinder Malhi of Oxford University.

The Amazon is experiencing a drought rate that is unprecedented in a century, said the agency.

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The destruction of tropical rainforests is having an even greater impact on the environment than was previously thought, a study suggests.

Scientists have found that deforestation in Brazil is causing trees to produce smaller, weaker seeds that are less likely to regenerate.

They believe this has been triggered by the loss of large birds from the forests, which have beaks big enough to feed on and disperse the seeds.

The study is published in Science.

Pedro Jordano, from the Donana Biological Station in Seville, Spain, said: "One of our major surprises was how rapidly deforestation could not only be influencing the disappearance of the fauna, but to observe how deforestation could influence the evolution of the plant traits so rapidly - within a few generations."

destruction of the world's largest rainforest...

Deforestation in the Amazon increased by nearly a third over the past year, according to Brazilian government figures released on Thursday.

The data confirms a feared reversal in what had been steady progress over the past decade against destruction of the world's largest rainforest.

Satellite data for the 12 months through the end of July 2013 showed that deforestation in the region climbed by 28% compared with a year earlier.

Although scattered, the total land cleared during the period amounted to 2,250 sq miles (5,850 sq km).

The figure, boosted partly by expanding farms and a rush for land around big infrastructure projects, fulfilled predictions by scientists and environmentalists that destruction was on the rise again.

"You can't argue with numbers," said Marcio Astrini, co-ordinator for the Amazon campaign at the Brazilian chapter of Greenpeace. "This is not alarmist – it's a real and measured inversion of what had been a positive trend."

Brazil tracks the amount of land cleared each year as part of its efforts to protect the Amazon, a jungle the size of western Europe.

The Amazon is an abundant source of the world's oxygen and fresh water and considered by scientists to be a crucial buffer against climate change.

The measurement year for the satellite data starts each August, during the Amazon dry season, when the skies are cloud-free and clear aerial images can be recorded.

criminal destroyer of the Amazon rainforest...

The authorities in Brazil say they have dismantled a criminal organisation they believe was the "biggest destroyer" of the Amazon rainforest.

The gang is accused of invading, logging and burning large areas of public land and selling these illegally for farming and grazing.

In a statement, Brazilian Federal Police said the group committed crimes worth more than $220m (£134m).

A federal judge has issued 14 arrest warrants for alleged gang members.

Twenty-two search warrants were also issued and four suspects are being called in for questioning.

The police operation covers four Brazilian states, including Sao Paulo.

Five men and a woman have already been arrested in Para state in the north of the country, Globo news reported.


The BBC's Wyre Davies in Rio de Janeiro says details are still sketchy, partly because the police operation is focused on one of the most remote and inaccessible parts of the Amazon region.

Political and police corruption is still rife in Brazil's interior, our correspondent adds.

That problem coupled with alleged ineptitude on the part of the federal government means that loggers and illegal miners are able to operate with impunity, he says. 

allow abortions...

A Brazilian group of lawyers, activists and scientists is to ask the country's supreme court to allow abortions for women with the Zika virus.

Zika, a form of microcephaly, is linked to brain defects in unborn children.

Abortions are illegal in Brazil, except in health emergencies or cases of rape or, since 2012, another brain condition known as anencephaly.

Three to four million people could be infected with Zika in the Americas this year, experts have warned.

Meanwhile, Thomas Bach, the head of the International Olympic Committee, said steps were being taken to protect this year's Games in Rio de Janeiro.

The IOC will issue guidelines later on Friday for athletes and visitors taking part in the games.

The new petition is to be delivered to the supreme court in two months' time. The BBC has learned that it argues that "the Brazilian state is responsible for the Zika outbreak" for not having eradicated the Aedes aegypti mosquito which carries it.

Brazilian women "should not be penalised for the consequences of flawed policies", it says.

The group behind the microcephaly supreme court plea also won the exception for anencephaly in 2012.

of unwelcome toads...

Rustling branches and a canopy cacophony – part howl, part screech, part snigger – proclaim the presence of black-and-white ruffed lemurs as visitors enter Ivoloina zoological park in eastern Madagascar.

The raucous primate is one of several critically endangered species in this biological refuge, which breeds and protects rare wildlife from the growing pressures on this island’s unique ecology.

But having kept the poachers, loggers and developers at bay, the park’s operators now fear the advance of a very different threat: Duttaphrynus melanostictus, widely known as the Asian common toad.

Nobody knows precisely how this toxic amphibian arrived in Madagascar. The most credible theory is that a small number were accidentally shipped inside a container from Vietnam that was unloaded at Toamasina port and opened at the giant Ambatovy nickel and cobalt processing plant. But what is certain is how quickly they have overrun the local habitat.

Villagers near the Ambatovy plant say they first noticed the creature around 2008. They had never seen a toad because Madagascar’s island evolution has only produced frogs. Locals considered the new arrival so strange and repellent they called it radaka boka (leprous toad).


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delusions of the hard right in brazil...



Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous leader who stood as vice-presidential candidate for the Socialism and Freedom party (PSOL) tweeted her opposition. “The dismantling has already begun,” she posted on Tuesday.

Bolsonaro defended the measure in a tweet on Wednesday. “More than 15% of national territory is demarcated as indigenous land and quilombos. Less than a million people live in these places, isolated from true Brazil, exploited and manipulated by NGOs. Together we will integrate these citizens,” he posted.

Previously, demarcation of indigenous reserves was controlled by the indigenous agency Funai, which has been moved from the justice ministry to a new ministry of women, family and human rights controlled by an evangelical pastor.

Separately, the incoming health minister, Luiz Henrique Mandetta, suggested on Wednesday that there would be spending cuts on healthcare for indigenous people. “We have figures for the general public that are much below what is spent on healthcare for the indigenous,” he said, without providing details.

During last year’s election campaign, Bolsonaro promised to end demarcation of new indigenous lands, reduce the power of environmental agencies and free up mining and commercial farming on indigenous reserves. His measure also gave the agriculture ministry power over new quilombos – rural settlements inhabited by descendants of former slaves.

“We have to take out the ideology and look wisely at how we discuss global warming,” the new agriculture minister, Tereza Dias, told the Guardian.

Silas Malafia, an influential televangelist and close friend of Bolsonaro, said developed countries who centuries ago cut down their own forests should pay if they wanted Brazil to preserve the Amazon.

“We’re going to preserve everything because the gringos destroyed what they had?” he said.


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See also: falling asleep at the wheel or finding new ways to steal? in global warming is but a simple process of planetary reactivity...


satellite data shows a rise in amazon deforestation...

The director of Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE) has been sacked in the midst of a controversy over its satellite data showing a rise in Amazon deforestation, which the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has called “lies”.

Ricardo Galvão, who had defended the institute and criticised Bolsonaro’s attack, was dismissed on Friday after a meeting with the science and technology minister, Marcos Pontes.

“The way I expressed myself in relation to the president has caused an unsustainable embarrassment,” Galvão said on Friday morning, according to the Folha de S Paulo newspaper site.

“Sacking the director of INPE is just an act of vengeance against someone who showed the truth,” said Greenpeace Brasil’s public policy coordinator, Márcio Astrini, in a statement.

Available on a government website, data from the Deter satellite showed an alarming rise in deforestation in recent months: it soared 88% in June compared with a year earlier.

Bolsonaro and has ministers have called its release irresponsible and an attempt to stain Brazil’s image abroad. Last month he calledINPE numbers “lies” and implied that Galvão was in “the service” of a foreign non-profit group. The next day Galvão said the president behaved “like he is in a bar” and defended the institute’s data.

The most accurate data on deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon is collected by the Prodes satellite system and released annually. The Deter satellite system has a lower resolution and is primarily used for deforestation alerts, said Tasso Azevedo, a former head of Brazil’s forest service. But over the last 12 years, whenever annual Deter data showed deforestation increasing, Prodes confirmed the trend and calculated an even higher rate. 

Azevedo is the coordinator of MapBiomas, an initiative from NGOs, universities and technology companies that monitors changes in land use. He said that from January to July, accumulated Deter numbers showed a 62% increase in deforestation compared with the same period last year, and that three other international satellite monitoring systems had also shown rising deforestation. “All have different methodology, so the data is different, but all of them point to a rise in deforestation,” he said.

On Thursday, Bolsonaro and the environment minister, Ricardo Salles, criticised the release of data as irresponsible and sensationalist. “The numbers were thrashed out, it seems to me, with the aim of striking at the name of Brazil and the government,” Bolsonaro said.

In a presentation, Salles said his team had found hundreds of areas of deforestation included in the July figures from previous months or years. He did not explain the methodology used. INPE defended its numbers in a statement and said it had not been given prior access to Salles’s study.

The government fears that the alarming data could prejudice an important trade deal between the South American trade bloc, Mercosur, and the EU. Environmentalists said the damage had already been done.



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the importance of subspecies...

Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary science, published 'On The Origin of Species' in 1859. His work has since shaken up the way in which we observe natural science but until this week, one of his theories had remained unproven.

A University of Cambridge PhD student has found that one of Darwin's hypotheses, which 140-years after his death had not yet been proven, has turned out to be true.

In a research paper published on Wednesday, Laura van Holstein, a PhD student in Biological Anthropology at St John’s College, has demonstrated the validity of Darwin's hypothesis - that a genus with more species also has more subspecies - using data modelling.

"My research investigating the relationship between species and the variety of subspecies proves that subspecies play a critical role in long-term evolutionary dynamics and in future evolution of species", van Holstein said.

"And they always have, which is what Darwin suspected when he was defining what a species actually was."

Darwin referred to groups within a species with distinct traits and breeding ranges as "varieties". For example, there are three subspecies of northern giraffe and 45 subspecies of the red fox, which is the largest number of any animal variation.


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Should you read articles on this subject on this site, you would find out that Gus Leonisky has battled politicians and even scientists on the importance of subspecies, when these lunatics — under the pretext of reduced budgets — would be prepared to sacrifice some species against others...


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bolsonaro lies...

Brazil accused of 'greenwashing' the Amazon's deforestation



Deforestation in the Amazon region has risen for the fourth straight year, despite international pressure and pledges from Brazil's government to preserve the rainforest. The EU aims to take a stand with an import ban.


Despite recent headline-grabbing promises to protect its rainforest before the end of the decade, Brazil has once again seen a jump in deforestation.

The latest figures released by Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE), which tracks the state of the Amazon rainforest, showed a 22% increase from last year. Some 13,235 square kilometers (5,110 square miles) disappearing between August 1, 2020 and July 31, 2021. The new statistics were dated October 27 — before the start of the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow — prompting environmental organizations like Greenpeace to accuse the Brazilian government of trying to clean up its image during the crucial talks.

"There is no amount of greenwashing that can hide what [President Jair] Bolsonaro is doing to destroy the Amazon. If anyone believed Bolsonaro's government's empty promises at COP, the truth is in these numbers. Unlike Bolsonaro, the satellites don't lie," the group said in a press statement.


A pledge to save the rainforest?

Brazil, along with more than 100 other global leaders, pledged during the UN climate conference in Glasgow to stop and reverse deforestation by 2030. Its Amazon rainforest represents about a third of all the tropical forests left on Earth.

This huge, biologically rich region is key to helping absorb planet-warming CO2; forests absorb roughly 30% of the world's carbon dioxide emissions, according to the World Resources Institute.

But, despite a significant drop in deforestation from a high of 27,700 square kilometers (10,700 square miles) in 2004 to just over 4,500 square kilometers in 2012, illegal logging, agricultural expansion and damaging wildfires have slowly pushed that rate back up over the last decade — especially since President Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019.


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