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Brazil’s Bolsonaro Unveils Bill To Open Indigenous Lands To Mining, Oil And Gas Exploration

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Brazil’s Bolsonaro Unveils Bill To Open Indigenous Lands To Mining, Oil And Gas Exploration
Photo Credit: Truth Theory

Jan Rocha, Guest Writer

This week, President Jair Bolsonaro pressed forward with a “dream” initiative sending a bill to the Brazilian Congress that would open indigenous reserves in the Amazon and elsewhere to development, including commercial mining, oil and gas exploration, cattle ranching and agribusiness, new hydroelectric dam projects, and tourism — projects that have been legally blocked under the country’s 1988 Constitution.

Justifying the legislation, Bolsonaro explained that “The Indian is a human being exactly like us. They have hearts, feelings, a soul, desires, needs and they are just as Brazilian as we are,” so they will welcome economic exploitation inside their territories. Bolsonaro and the bancada ruralista agribusiness and mining lobby, which is very strong in Congress, have eyed the off-limits indigenous lands for decades. Indigenous territories have the best record for forest conservation and land stewardship in Brazil.

“Marcio Santilli, a former head of FUNAI, Brazil’s indigenous affairs agency, sees Bolsonaro’s “dream” legislation very differently. It will “not promote the economic development of the Indians, but guarantee the exploitation by third parties of their natural resources. It would encourage Indians to live from royalties while watching the dispossession of their lands.”

While the legislation would allow impacted indigenous populations to be consulted, they would lack the power of veto, except in cases of garimpo or wildcat mining. The right of consultation on development projects is assured under the International Labour Organization Convention 169, of which Brazil is a signatory.

Though the bancada ruralista is strong in Congress, it remains to be seen whether the bill will gain passage. House of Deputies leader Rodrigo Maia has said he will not bring the legislation to a vote.

Conservationists are convinced that the opening up of indigenous lands to economic exploitation would inevitably lead to extensive deforestation of what are the most densely forested areas of the Amazon, and to the contamination of Amazonian rivers. That sort of wholesale deforestation could lead to far greater Amazon drought and to a rainforest-to-savanna tipping point that would greatly endanger Brazilian agribusiness as a driver of Brazil’s economy.

Onyx Lorenzoni, Bolsonaro’s chief of staff, praised the bill, claiming it was a “Lei Aurea” for indigenous people — a reference to the 1888 royal decree which freed the slaves in Brazil. From the government’s point of view, the legislation is freeing indigenous people, allowing their lands to be invaded by mining, oil and gas companies; cattle ranchers; soy farmers and dam builders, while compensating indigenous communities monetarily.

Under the Brazilian constitution, demarcated indigenous territories belong to the state, and are for the permanent possession and exclusive use of the indigenous people who have always lived there. Only they can decide what activities are allowed on their lands.

Bolsonaro’s new law is therefore an attempt to override the Constitution, say legal experts. It is almost certain to be greatly modified in Congress, if it passes at all. But, say analysts, the message contained in the bill — that indigenous lands are up for grabs — is what matters.

Since Bolsonaro’s election, conflicts between ruralists and indigenous people have soared. The latest report from CIMI, the Indigenous Missionary Council, shows a steady growth in the number of invasions of indigenous areas, up from 111 in 2018 to 160 in 2019; indigenous leaders say Bolsonaro’s speeches and comments have contributed to the increase. Five murders due to indigenous and traditional land conflicts occurred in the first weeks of 2020.

Uncontacted Indigenous Groups At Risk

The new bill as written would allow economic projects even in areas where there are known to be uncontacted Indians. The existence of 28 such groups in the Amazon region has been confirmed, out of 115 believed to exist.

But the bill isn’t the only potential threat to uncontacted tribes. The day before Bolsonaro announced his legislation, FUNAI appointed an evangelical preacher and agency outsider to head the Department for Isolated and Recently Contacted Indigenous Peoples (CGIIRC). To accomplish this, FUNAI had to revoke its own long-established rule that only a qualified staff member could be chosen to head such a sensitive bureau.

The new head, Ricardo Lopes Dias, has strong views regarding the conversion of indigenous people to Christianity. He is a former missionary for the controversial New Tribes Mission, a Florida-based evangelical organization, and worked from 1997 to 2007 in the Vale do Javari indigenous reserve, in Amazonas state. There, according to Matsés indigenous leaders — who protested his presence — he “manipulated part of the Matsés population to found a new village” where an evangelical church would be built. The New Tribes Mission has been accused of causing death and disease among the tribes it worked with in the 1970s, subjecting them to enforced conversion to evangelical Christianity. Lopes Dias has a degree in anthropology.

Isolated or uncontacted indigenous peoples are usually survivors of larger groups which were decimated by disease or violence when the military dictatorship (ruling from 1964-1985) forced roads through ancestral lands in the Amazon during the 1960s and 70s. In some cases up to 90% of local populations died. This led FUNAIi, in the 1980s, after the dictatorship ended, to introduce a policy of non-contact, designating a “no go” zone protecting the survivors, who became known as “isolated Indians.”

The choice by the Bolsonaro administration of an evangelical missionary to head the department, according to experts, indicates a shift in this policy, and has been greeted with dismay by indigenous organizations, who regard it as a means of opening up uncontacted tribes under the protection of FUNAI, and putting their cosmological and ethical belief systems at risk from religious fundamentalism.

Well known anthropologist Manuela Cunha said, “the mission of the CGIIRC is to protect these peoples from invasions of loggers, miners, drug traffickers and any others, like missionaries, who do not respect their way of life. To choose a missionary — above all one who has tried to convert indigenous people — to head the CGIIRC is totally contradictory to what the law says.”

However, the choice of Lopes Dias is only the latest example in what seems to be FUNAI’s deliberate policy over the last year of replacing experienced, qualified staff with military officers and evangelical preachers. Twenty of FUNAI’s 39 regional coordinators have been removed under the new administration — almost all were replaced with serving or retired military officers.

Bolsonaro, this week decided to enlarge his “dream” world even further, extending it to fishing. Apparently still smarting from the fine he received in 2012 (and which he never paid) for being caught illegally sport fishing in a protected reserve in Rio. Police Colonel Homero Cerqueira, head of ICMBio, the agency in charge of Brazil’s 334 conservation units, has just authorized “recreational fishing” in all of them, including the most environmentally sensitive preserves.

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Drone Captures One of the Largest Swarms Of Sea Turtles Ever Filmed

“This is the only time I’ve seen a video capturing this phenomenon in the water.”

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Drone Captures One of the Largest Swarms Of Sea Turtles Ever Filmed
Photo Credit: National Geographic

Jade Small, The Mind Unleashed 

Nature has the most amazing sights and surprises to offer and being in the right place at the right time while being able to capture it on film is every wildlife photographer’s dream.

Thankfully, wildlife photographers share their amazing work with those who can only dream of experiencing the unique and extraordinary bounty nature has to offer for themselves.

Biologist Vanessa Bézy was studying the olive ridley sea turtles and their reproduction. While flying her drone over the Costa Rica coastline, she captured what is likely to be the largest swarm of sea turtles on film.

Thousands of turtles were swimming across a region off the Ostional National Wildlife Refuge.

Bézy said:

“I immediately knew there was something special going on. To this day I’m still blown away by the video. They look like bumper cars out there.”

Ostional National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1983 specifically for the turtles. Although the olive ridley is the most abundant sea turtle of the seven turtle species in the world, they are considered a vulnerable species and conservationists fear that swarms of this size may be the last ever seen.

Roldán Valverde, scientific director of the Sea Turtle Conservancy in Florida, said:

“This is the only time I’ve seen a video capturing this phenomenon in the water. Most of the photography documenting this occurs on the beach.”

Bézy’s wish is to raise awareness of the importance of protecting the olive ridley and that her footage will help in the efforts to maintain healthy population numbers.

Few nesting sites remain globally and Bézy is concerned that the booming tourism industry around nesting beaches will have a devastating effect on their numbers, especially since regulations to protect the nesting sites don’t seem to be enough.

Unfortunately, the olive ridley hatchlings survival rate into adulthood is very low which means that any additional threats to the population will likely have a negative impact.

Bézy is investigating the reason for the great numbers of olive ridley sea turtles gathering in that particular area between August and October which could include factors such as the type of sand, the beach orientation, and sea currents. Finding the answer could help put measures in place to increase the survival rate of the species.

Sea turtles swim thousands of miles through our oceans during their lifetimes. They are only able to reproduce after decades and females return to the same beaches where they were born to lay their eggs. Although females often lay hundreds of eggs in one nesting season, few hatchlings will survive their first year of life and those who do face growing human caused threats such as being caught in commercial fishing gear, illegal trade, consumption, climate change, and pollution.

Diminishing numbers in sea turtle populations have devastating effects on marine ecosystems. WWF (World Wildlife Organization) explains their importance:

“Sea turtles are a fundamental link in marine ecosystems. They help maintain the health of seagrass beds and coral reefs that benefit commercially valuable species such as shrimp, lobster, and tuna. Sea turtles are the live representatives of a group of reptiles that have existed on Earth and travelled our seas for the last 100 million years. Turtles have major cultural significance and tourism value. Five of the seven species are found around the world, mainly in tropical and subtropical waters. The remaining two species, though, have relatively restricted ranges: Kemp’s ridley is found mainly in the Gulf of Mexico and the flatback turtle around northern Australia and southern Papua New Guinea.”

By Jade Small | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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Morgan Freeman Turns His 124-Acre Ranch Into Huge Honey Bee Sanctuary To Save The Bees

Morgan Freeman converted his 124-acre Mississippi ranch into a gigantic honeybee sanctuary to save threatened bee colonies.

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Morgan Freeman Turns His 124-Acre Ranch Into Huge Honey Bee Sanctuary To Save the Bees
Photo Credit: Truth Theory

Morgan Freeman has long been known for having a voice of gold, using his clout and vocal talents for such worthy causes as environmental conservationist group One Earth. But it has also become apparent that the beloved actor also has a heart of gold–especially now that he has devoted his ranch to helping save honeybees.

The 81-year old actor took up beekeeping on his 124-acre Mississippi ranch as a simple hobby in 2014, largely in reaction to the mass die-offs that were occurring and continue to this day.

To kick off his efforts, he had 26 bee hives shipped to his ranch from Arkansas, where they are fed a healthy diet of sugar and water while surrounded by a wide variety of pollinator friendly plants and flowers.

In an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Kimmel, he explained that his relationship with the bees was one of mutual respect.

Freeman explained:

“I have not ever used the beekeeping hat with my bees. They haven’t stung me yet, as right now I am not trying to harvest honey or anything, but I just feed them … I also think that they understand, ‘Hey, don’t bother this guy, he’s got sugar water here.’”

Continuing, Freeman stressed the vital importance of bees to our eco-system and the need to increase efforts to save them. He added:

“There is a concerted effort for bringing bees back onto the planet … We do not realize that they are the foundation, I think, of the growth of the planet, the vegetation … I have a lot of flowering things, and I have a gardener too.”

“As she takes care of the bees too, all she does is figure out, ‘OK, what would they like to have?’ so we have got acres and acres of clover, and we have some planting stuff like lavender, I have got like, maybe 140 magnolia trees, big blossoms.”

Government agencies like the EPA and the scientific community in general have been sounding the alarm in recent years over Colony Collapse Disorder–a situation many fear could become an existential crisis for bee populations around the globe. Studies have largely blamed the overuse of toxic pesticides called neonicotinoids for the crisis, among other factors.

Just this week, Forbes noted:

“Research, published in the journal Science, links the declining bee populations to a combination of parasites, pesticides and habitat loss. While there is no evidence that bees are going to become extinct anytime soon, the decline of bee populations will continue to have ripple effects on wild vegetation and agricultural crops around the world.”

Under the Trump administration, the EPA has opened the floodgates on the use of bee-killing neonicotinoids by big agriculture, clearing sulfoxaflor–an insecticide considered “very highly toxic” to bees by the agency–for use on over 16 million acres of crops that attract bees. In combination with the proliferation of insect resistant GMO crops, bee populations have continued to plummet worldwide.

While Freeman’s efforts may not be enough on their own to turn back the tide of adverse factors facing bees, his example is an inspiring signal that people are beginning to grow more conscious of the winged pollinators’ importance to humanity.

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A Simple Recipe For A Homemade Non-Toxic Fabric Softener

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A Simple Recipe For A Homemade Non-Toxic Fabric Softener
Photo Credit: Collective Evolution

Fabric softeners are one of the most unnecessary dangerous chemicals that you may be using in your home, and it’s important that you stop right away. There are much better, safer, all natural alternatives that will keep you, your family, and the environment safe. The natural alternatives can also prolong the life of your clothes. Really, we have no reason to have ever invented such a toxic product in the first place.

Fabric softener is one thing, among many household items, that absolutely must go, and hopefully from the awareness that is raised from this article and many others that are exposing these harmful chemicals for what they are, we will continue to see the decline in their use as people continue to opt for safer, cleaner alternatives.

So, What Is So Bad About Conventional Fabric Softeners?

First of all, the majority of conventional cleaning and personal care products can essentially be thrown in the garbage as they are absolutely loaded with chemicals, many of which are completely banned in other countries. We have many safer, all-natural alternatives to these types of things and we simply do not need to be using these to clean ourselves, our home, or our clothes. People sometimes assume that our governments have our best interests in mind and wouldn’t allow ingredients that are toxic to our health into the products that we use on a regular basis, and while that’s a nice thought, it is a naive one.

Fabric Softeners are among the worst offenders in terms of toxicity and it really makes one wonder how these chemical pollutants were approved by the U.S. Environmental Agency in the first place. The purpose of Fabric Softeners is to free your clothes from wrinkles and static cling and of course leave them smelling mountain fresh or like a field of lavender, but at what cost is this “fresh” smell?

According to the Environmental Working Group, fabric softeners contain chemicals and fragrances that can cause skin irritation and respiratory irritation. The fragrance element alone can come from hundreds of different chemical compounds, and yes many of them are toxic.

Interestingly, according to what Anne Steinmann, Ph.D., professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia and a world expert on environmental pollutants and their health effects, said in an interview with New Scientist, “Most exposure to hazardous pollutants occurs indoors, and a primary source for these pollutants is our everyday consumer products.”

New Scientist also has stated that there are no legal requirements that all the ingredients, including potential toxins be listed for most of the products we use every day. While the compounds they contain have been tested individually for toxicity, scientists admit it’s hard to say how dangerous they might become when some are mixed.

Conventional fabric softeners are either a liquid that you pour into the rinse cycle of your washing machine, or a sheet that is thrown into the dryer with your clothes. Both contain compounds that are especially harmful to children. Toxic chemicals can easily enter your body through the skin. One of the worst is phthalates, which are added to emit a fake fresh fragrance, the University of Illinois Cancer center had the following to say about phthalates;

“Phthalates (are a) synthetic preservative that’s carcinogenic and linked to adverse reproductive effects (decreased sperm counts, early breast development and birth defects) and live and kidney damage.”

Steinmann also noted,

“Using a liquid fabric softener? You are pouring these toxic chemicals into the ocean every time you use it. Even worse than liquid fabric softeners are dryer sheets, whose chemicals are heated and then shot into the air for you to breathe into your lungs.

That ‘fresh-from-the-dryer’ smell that fabric softeners impart to your clean load of laundry? Don’t breathe it in, if you like your lungs to function. That super floral smell is masking a seriously unhealthy chemical stench.

So, What Are The Alternatives?

Luckily, there are lots, which begs the question, why did we ever start using these horrible toxic products in the first place? Every chemical product that is in use today for personal care or home cleaning could essentially vanish from the Earth and you know what? We would make do.

A simple recipe for a homemade fabric softener is as follows:

Ingredients

2 Cups Epsom Salts or 2 Cups Coarse Sea Salt
20-30 Drops Essential Oil
1/2 Cup Baking Soda

Simply mix all ingredients together and store in a container with tight-fitting lid, add ½ cup directly to your load of laundry.

Some even more simple ideas are as follows,

One half cup pure baking soda added to your laundry.

One cup of distilled white vinegar and about 15 drops of your favourite essential oil shaken in a spray bottle, give your wet clothes a spritz after they are washed, before you put into the dryer.

Don’t worry the vinegar smell will go away.

A crumpled up ball of aluminium foil tossed in the dryer with your clothes can help to get rid of the static cling.

Another great alternative, that is simple, cost-effective, economical and environmentally friendly is the use of dryer balls. You can get the plastic kind that can cut your drying time in half and reduce the static cling in your clothes, but to be more environmentally conscious there are also wool dryer balls that you can purchase or easily make your own.

Final Thoughts

Here’s what it comes down to, as consumers we have been gravely misinformed and maybe we have believed that there are some kind of standards set in place by our governments, unfortunately, it seems that these protection agencies, for the most part, don’t have our best interest in mind. So, with that in mind, it is up to us to be aware of what we are purchasing, if we stop purchasing these conventional products which contain harmful ingredients such as phthalates and fragrances, then the big corporations will either change their recipes, stop using these chemicals or simply go out of business. As the consumer, we have a direct vote for the types of products that are being produced by how we are choosing to spend our money. If WE don’t want chemicals in our products, we must simply stop buying them and start making our own. We must take responsibility for our own lives and create the type of world we want to live in. It is up to each and every one if us.

This article (A Simple Recipe For A Homemade Non-Toxic Fabric Softener) was originally created for Collective Evolution and is published here under Creative Commons.

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In Great Barrier Reef, Amazing Photos Captured Of World’s ONLY Pink Manta Ray

The rose-tinted manta ray is named Inspector Clouseau.

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In Great Barrier Reef, Amazing Photos Captured Of World’s ONLY Pink Manta Ray
Photo Credit: Unilad

Elias Marat, The Mind Unleashed

An underwater photographer has captured rare images of the world’s only known pink manta ray, dazzling online observers and marine biologists.

The rose-tinted manta ray is named Inspector Clouseau—in homage to the detective from the Pink Panther films—and is known to dwell near Lady Elliot Island in the Great Barrier Reef, Australia.

Finnish photographer Kristian Laine was fortunate enough to get within touching distance of the rare creature, which was first spotted in 2015 by diving instructor Ryan Jeffery, reports Australian Geographic.

The photographer Kristian Laine bumped into a bubblegum pink manta ray on the Great Barrier Reef – probably a rare mutation, like albinism but oh wow, how beautiful! Follow Kristain on Instagram @kristianlainephotography
for more underwater marvels. pic.twitter.com/BfCBK0jg9a

— Lucy Cooke (@mslucycooke) February 13, 2020

Laine took the brilliant photos some time last year.

He explained to Daily Mail:

“It is very rare because I think there has only been around eight to 10 sightings since the first sighting in 2015.

I felt amazed afterwards but also felt like when I was in its eye level, I felt like he was smiling at me.

He was big and I got into a touch range but obviously didn’t touch, I was super close, about a meter at best.

The whole encounter lasted for about 20 to 30 minutes and he was part of a mating manta train that was just circling around a cleaning station.”

While scientists had initially believed that the manta ray’s pink belly was perhaps a result of a skin infection, the University of Queensland’s Project Manta believes that “the coloration is just an unusual and unique expression of the skin’s melanin.” However, other theories have been floated about why the ray has its unusual pink color.

Laine continued:

“I have read multiple different answers, they have analysed a sample of his skin and they have changed their theories many times and still don’t seem to know for sure.

I think the latest theory is that it’s some sort of a genetic mutation causing a pink of melanin to be expressed.”

By Elias Marat | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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