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Ireland Will Plant 440 Million Trees By 2040 To Combat Climate Change

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Ireland Will Plant 440 Million Trees By 2040 To Combat Climate Change
Photo Credit: www.pexels.com

The Irish government has announced an ambitious plan to fight climate change, setting a planting target of 440 million trees by 2040, The Irish Times reported Saturday.

A spokeswoman for the government’s Department of Communications Climate Action and Environment told the local newspaper that the “climate action plan commits to delivering an expansion of forestry planting and soil management to ensure that carbon abatement from land-use is delivered over the period 2021 to 2030 and in the years beyond.”

 “The plan sets out key actions to be taken by the Department of Agriculture,” she continued, adding: “The target for new forestation is approximately 22 million trees per year. Over the next 20 years, the target is to plant 440 million.”

According to the newspaper, the government’s new plan has been met with some opposition from local farmers, who officials reportedly need to persuade to dedicate some of their holdings for new forestry in order for the country to reach its ambitious goals. 

The move comes after Scotland’s forestry agency announced earlier this year that the country surpassed its tree planting goals last year, making what it called a “critical contribution to the global climate emergency.”

The agency said 11,200 hectares, or some 43 square miles, of planting was carried out in last year — a jump from the government’s yearly planting target of 10,000 hectares, which would be approximately 39 square miles. Reports say the planting led to more than 22 million new trees

As Collective Spark reported in July, around 350 million trees were planted in a single day in Ethiopia, according to officials, in what could possibly be a new world record.

According to the new study published in the journal Science, planting trees is one of the best ways to help the environment. The authors of the study noted that planting about a billion trees across the globe could remove two-thirds of all carbon dioxide emissions worldwide.

Researchers believe that the Earth has room for over one trillion additional trees that can be planted in abandoned lots, woodlands and parks all over the world.

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Animal World

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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Environment

‘Surprised, No. Disgusted, Yes’: Study Shows Deepwater Horizon Oil Spread Much Further Than Previously Known

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BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster
Photo Credit: Common Dreams

Julia Conley, Common Dreams

Ten years after BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster sent hundreds of millions of gallons of oil across the Gulf of Mexico, researchers say the reach of the damage was far more significant than previously thought.

In a study published Wednesday in Science, Claire Paris-Limouzy and Igal Berenshtein of the University of Miami revealed that a significant amount of oil was never picked up in satellite images or captured by barriers that were meant to stop the spread.

“Our results change established perceptions about the consequences of oil spills by showing that toxic and invisible oil can extend beyond the satellite footprint at potentially lethal and sub-lethal concentrations to a wide range of wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico,” said Paris-Limouzy.

The “invisible oil” spread across an area roughly 30% larger than the 92,500 square miles experts previously believed it had reached, the study says.

“Researchers dubbed it ‘invisible oil,’ concentrated below the water’s surface and toxic enough to destroy 50% of the marine life it encountered.” https://t.co/NlXYNsDiq2

— Wallace McKelvey (@wjmckelvey) February 12, 2020

“I think it kind of changes the way you think about oil spills,” Berenshtein told the Washington Post. “People have to change the way they see this so that they know there’s this invisible and toxic component of oil that changes marine life.”

The ocean protection group Blue Frontier Campaign expressed “disgust” at the revelation—but not surprise.

“Are we surprised, no. disgusted, yes. Time to get off fossil fuel and on to renewables.” Sea Party 2020! https://t.co/mdjYVchv6t

— Blue Frontier Campaign (@Blue_Frontier) February 12, 2020

Since the 2010 blowout and platform explosion, which killed 11 people, scientists have estimated that the disaster spewed 210 million gallons of oil over the course of five months, with oil reaching Florida and Texas.

Much of the spilled oil that Berenshtein and Paris-Limouzy detected in their research, using a model that allowed them to trace oil in the Gulf from its source, spread below the water’s surface and became toxic enough over time to destroy 50% of the marine life it came across.

“When you have oil combined with ultraviolent sunlight it becomes two times more toxic than oil alone,” Paris-Limouzy told the Post. “Oil becomes toxic at very low concentrations.”

Experts vastly underestimated the extent to which marine life was harmed, the researchers said.

The research was released as the Trump administration prepares to open up the Arctic, Atlantic, and Pacific Oceans to oil and gas leases and to expand leasing in the Gulf.

Time to get off fossil fuel and on to renewables,” wrote the Blue Frontier Campaign.

About the Author

Julia Conley is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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Environment

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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Environment

Photographer Captures One Of The Last Female Eagle Hunters Of Mongolia

While golden eagle hunters were historically male, women did eventually break through but now the number of female hunters has plummeted to only ten.

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Photographer Captures One Of The Last Female Eagle Hunters Of Mongolia
Photo Credit: The Mind Unleashed

Jade Small, The Mind Unleashed

The nomadic tribes of western Mongolia have used the golden eagle to hunt for some 4,000 years. Today, only 10 women still practice the skill of hunting with eagles.

The tribes of the Altai region have trained young men and women in the art of hunting with golden eagles for centuries. While training to master this rare skill the hunters form a strong bond with their eagles.

Known as burkitshi, golden eagle hunters were historically male—the ancient art being handed down from father to son. Women did eventually break through the cultural “glass ceiling” and became excellent burkitshi.

However, the number of female hunters has plummeted to only ten.

Zamanbol, a member of the Kasakh tribe, is one of these female hunters and understands that she is part of a dying breed. She is not a full-time hunter like the rest of her family but spends her weeks in the city at school and trains as a hunter on weekends.

The training hasn’t changed since it started millennia ago, and the hunters dress in traditional handmade furs and leather while riding on horseback with their eagles.

The eagles are captured at around four years old. They are old enough to be able to hunt and young enough to adapt to human contact and form a bond with their human hunter. The eagles are treated as part of the family, fed by hand, and live in the family home in comfortable quarters.

From as young as 13, children will be given young female eagles to begin the bonding process which will continue for 10 years.

Zamanbol and her brother Barzabai have established strong bonds with their eagles, demonstrated by an ability to communicate with their birds during the hunt—a physically and mentally demanding process.

The hunters trek high up into the mountains and find a suitable vantage point from where to survey the valleys and plains below. They release the eagle perched on their arm once a target is spotted (usually a small mammal like a hare or a fox).

The eagle then swoops down and captures the prey and soars back up to the mountaintops to give it over to its hunter. Female eagles are always used as they are larger and more adept hunters than males.

The hunters only keep the birds captive for a 10 year period of their expected lifespan of 30 years or more, allowing them to live free and hopefully breed a new generation of golden eagles.

Letting them go is not an easy task with the strong bond formed. As one hunter recalled of letting his eagle go, “It was as if a member of my family had left. I think about what that eagle is doing; if she’s safe, and whether she can find food and make a nest. Have her hunts been successful? Sometimes I dream about these things.”

German photographer Leo Thomas recently visited Western Mongolia’s Altai region to capture this fascinating culture and Zamanbol, dressed in her traditional handmade hunting garb.

Thomas’ images capture Zamanbol on horseback and dressed in handmade fur clothing, radiating with free spirit, strength, and a strong bond with her eagle.

Thomas says of Barzabai (Zamanbol’s 26-year-old brother of the same age as Thomas), “While he’s living in the outdoors surrounded by family, incredible nature and animals, I’m sitting more than 60% of my time in front of a screen. A pretty basic comparison, but it made me think.”

Thomas managed to capture the unique beauty of the ancient—and possibly vanishing—culture of the Kasakh tribe’s kirbitshi, featured below.

See more of Thomas’ work at: Facebook | Instagram

By Jade Small | Creative Commons | TheMindUnleashed.com

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