If You Are Not Already Vegetarian, Know Your Beef Source

logoProgress is slow on the route to vegetarianism, so we monitor what we can about the meat we continue to consume. Thanks to Mighty Earth for this scorecard:

Beef Scorecard: Global Food Brands Failing to Address Largest Driver of Deforestation

WASHINGTON, DC – The world’s top supermarket and fast-food companies are largely ignoring the environmental and human rights abuses caused by their beef products, a new scorecard by Mighty Earth finds. The scorecard evaluates the beef sourcing practices of fifteen of the world’s largest grocery and fast-food companies that have pledged to end deforestation across their supply chains. Despite beef’s role as the top driver of global deforestation, only four companies- Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Carrefour, and McDonald’s – have taken some action to stop sourcing beef from destructive suppliers. Continue reading

Counting Illegal Logging As Progress

Amid the Plunder of Forests, a Ray of Hope

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A sawmill in Peru, where more than half of the logging operations are illegal. Credit Tomas Munita for The New York Times

Strange as it may sound, we have arrived at a moment of hope for the world’s forests. It is, admittedly, hope of a jaded variety: After decades of hand-wringing about rampant destruction of forests almost everywhere, investigators have recently demonstrated in extraordinary detail that much of this logging is blatantly illegal.

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Mar-a-Lago, Entrance to Master Suite from Cloister, 1967,
United States Library of Congress’s Prints and Photographs

This recent op-ed has a perfect final thought, and the photo here to the left is our way of offering a preview to that point. Richard Conniff, the op-editorialist, has frequently been featured in our pages, linking this type of story. You might also click the green cover below to go to one example of how this progress has been years in the making), but read this editorial all the way through before being distracted by the side stories, though they are equally relevant and important. Conniff continues:

Honduras Logging

And surprisingly, people actually seem to be doing something about it. In November, the European Court of Justice put Poland under threat of a 100,000-euro-per-day fine for illegal logging in the continent’s oldest forest, and early this month Poland’s prime minister fired the environment minister who authorized the logging.

In Romania, two big do-it-yourself retail chains ended purchasing agreements with an Austrian logging giant implicated in illegal logging there. And in this country, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, normally dedicated to free trade at any cost, has barred a major exporter of Peruvian timber from the American market after repeated episodes of illegal shipments. Continue reading

Farmers, Loggers & Biodiversity

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Serro Ricardo Franco is in one of the world’s biggest and most diverse ecological reserves. But reality on the ground is different, putting many animals at risk, such as Yacare caiman and giant river otters. Photograph: Angelo Gandolfi/Getty Images/Nature Picture Library

Sometimes, sitting in a glass house, reading the news makes me want to throw a stone. The glass house where I live includes a farm in an extremely biodiverse area. It is surrounded by nearly half a million acres where logging happens. But there is farming, as you can read about in the news below, and there are plenty of better ways of farming; there are loggers like those in the news below, and there are forests where extraction happens according to standards such as those set and enforced by the Forest Stewardship Council.

Instead of throwing a stone, I get up every day and make sure the glass around here is as transparent as possible, because we can demonstrate a better way of supplying food, of harvesting wood, and doing so with the protection of wildlife in constant view. Meanwhile, I do read the news from elsewhere and continue to share it here (thanks to the Guardian’s Jonathan Watts in Vila Bela da Santíssima Trindade for this one):

Wild Amazon faces destruction as Brazil’s farmers and loggers target national park

The Sierra Ricardo Franco park was meant to be a conservation area protecting rare wildlife

To understand why the Brazilian government is deliberately losing the battle against deforestation, you need only retrace the bootmarks of the Edwardian explorer Percy Fawcett along the Amazonian border with Bolivia.

During a failed attempt to cross a spectacular tabletop plateau here in 1906, the adventurer nearly died on the first of his many trips to South America. Back then, the area was so far from human habitation, the foliage so dense and the terrain so steep that Fawcett and his party came close to starvation.

He returned home with tales of a towering, inaccessible mesa teeming with wildlife and irrigated by secret waterfalls and crystalline rivers. By some accounts, this was one of the stories that inspired his friend Arthur Conan Doyle to write The Lost World about a fictional plateau jutting high above the jungle that served as a sanctuary for species long since extinct elsewhere. Continue reading

Leading Legumes To A Better Place

 

Anthropocene’s Emma Bryce has summarized the science of Building a better soybean:

What will it take to build crops that can withstand future climate changes? A group of plant biologists think they might be on to a solution for soybeans. Using genetic engineering, they’ve created a plant whose yields remain unaffected by high-stress conditions. The key lies in a genetic tweak that makes the plant overexpress a particular enzyme, which is thought to boost the efficiency of their photosynthesis cycle and enhance seed production. Continue reading

Oh Amazon, Where Art Thou?

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By The New York Times

It is a heavy read, but now is not the time to shrink away from the tough news. Something can be done, and something must be done. Soon. Thanks to the New York Times for the reporting on this topic:

Amazon Deforestation, Once Tamed, Comes Roaring Back

A decade after the “Save the Rainforest” movement captured the world’s imagination, Cargill and other food giants are pushing deeper into the wilderness. Continue reading

Reserva Los Cedros, Ecuador & Photos

Reserva Los Cedros  is a place of hidden beauty, starting with it’s location. Although only 60km from Quito, it takes a full day, about four modes of transportation, and a bit of very muddy hiking to get there. There reserve just feels distinctly…hidden. It can be reached only by a ~2 hour hike on a smally, unmarked trail, and from its center you can’t see past the nearest hillside. The rest of the surrounding landscape is hidden by forest and clouds. Even from Google Earth it’s invisible ( 0.308390°, -78.779466°).

Los Cedros has good reason to hide. Continue reading