We make frequent links and comment on topics meant to raise awareness about innovative, fun and sometimes loony efforts—from the humble to the grand– to avert environmental collapse. The dangers are real enough that we assume readers get enough of the doom and gloom elsewhere, so that we can focus our efforts on evidence of potential solutions, and encourage collective action.
The photo above accompanies a story in the Guardian worth a read, to put in perspective why it is that the Mayan calendar doomsdate hoopla, or at least some of the accompanying history, was worth a bit of attention:
…Today, much of the Mayans’ ancient homeland is a 7,700-square mile protected area in Guatemala called the Maya Biosphere Reserve. With an area greater than the states of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined, the reserve protects the largest remaining forest in Central America. Beneath the canopy, monumental vestiges of temples and palaces attest to past splendour. Similar magnificence is found in the reserve’s wildlife. The jaguar, once a symbol of Mayan royalty, still roams free in one of Central America’s last wild places.
Until a few years ago, the reserve, like its ancient inhabitants, was also on the edge of collapse. Since its establishment in 1990, it has lost an average of 50,000 acres per year to deforestation – 14% of its land area. Between El Niño events and global climate change, dry seasons have become hotter and drier than ever before, triggering major forest fires in 1998, 2000, 2003 and 2005…
…Despite these challenges, the Guatemalan government began working with civil society groups like Asociación Balam, the Association of Forest Communities of Petén (ACOFOP), and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) to reverse these trends. In the past four years, the government recovered more than 290,000 acres seized by landowners tied to organised crime and removed 10,000 cattle from illegal ranches. To prevent future threats, the government established 13 new Protection and Control Centres to restrict access and increased patrols by army, police, and park guards. Communities in the reserve initiated fire early warning systems and anti-poaching patrols.
As a result, the reserve has seen a 60% reduction in annual deforestation since 2008 and a major decline in forest fires. Archaeological sites are better guarded, timber is under sustainable management, and communities have seen progress in nature-based businesses, education and health services. The reserve’s wildlife is rebounding, with record numbers of chicks of the beautiful scarlet macaw fledged this year. Today, civil society groups including WCS are assisting the Guatemalan government to secure the Maya Biosphere Reserve’s future.
These successes have instilled renewed hope for the reserve’s future. Yet just as the ancient Mayans discovered, fragility in the absence of strong leadership can quickly lead to disaster. Today, continued civil society engagement and strong state commitment are needed to ensure that one of the new world’s most spectacular landscapes is conserved for future generations…
Read the whole story here.