Forests can not only suck climate-heating carbon out of the atmosphere, they are also an important source of food for many Indigenous peoples.
“Western food is making our people sick. Our bodies are adapted to eating bush foods,” said Seith Fourmile of the Gimuy-Walubarra Yidinji Nation of Cairns.
Australia’s Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander peoples suffer from rates of diabetes three to four times greater than other Australians. Rates of high blood pressure, cardiovascular, and kidney diseases are also higher. Similar health problems have been found among Alaska’s Eskimo and Canada’s Inuit peoples.
The world’s forests “offer a cornucopia of 80,000 species of plants as foods,” writes botanist and medical biochemist Diana Beresford-Kroeger in her book The Global Forest. Western foods rely on just a few species, while oral knowledge of the other thousands of species is rapidly being lost, according to Beresford-Kroger.
Here’s a thoughtful article written by my son who is working on a farm in Tasmania. Normally he is a historical tour guide in Europe. He’s not part of any organization but just decided to take action for sake of his generation’s future. It is amazing what he and his friends are up to. — Stephen
By Derek Leahy
I sat down in a café in Franklin, Tasmania the other day trying to sort out all that has transpired these past few weeks. You see, May 5thcould very well become a massive day of action. A lot of people from all over the world want to make their voices heard the week of May 5th. International Stop the Tar Sands Day’s circle of friends just got bigger.
Anyway, I sat down in an practically empty café (Franklin is a pretty small town), opened up my journal to a blank page and took out a pencil. With the pencil I drew four separate thought bubbles on the page for four different campaigns or movements or whatever you want to call them.
The first was for 350.org’sClimate Impacts Day, which will take place the exact same day as ISTSDay; May 5th. The second thought bubble was for the Occupy Movement because members of Occupy in Canada and the UK have stepped up recently to help us out.
The last two bubbles were for International Stop the Tar Sands Day and forEcocide. I threw in Ecocide because of an email I had received earlier in the day (thank you Kirstie for the inspiration!). We have not talked to these guys about working together on May 5th. Yet.
“Planning is not part of our culture. You just get up in the morning and do what you need to do for the day,” said Marilyn Wallace of the Kuku Nyungka ‘mob’ (aboriginal nation) in northern Queensland, Australia.
In what may be a ‘clash of worldviews,’ representatives from indigenous and local communities are holding a climate workshop with physicists, computer modellers, and other climate scientists from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in Cairns, Australia 26-28 March.
This is a unique opportunity for Native peoples to discuss their traditional knowledge and experiences as it relates to climate change.
Indigenous peoples are amongst the most affected by current and future climate change but their experiences and knowledge have largely been ignored by science experts at the IPCC. The workshop, Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous Peoples: Practices, Lessons Learned and Prospects, is a significant effort to change this.
There are an estimated 350 million indigenous peoples according to the United Nations. They legally own more than 11% of the world’s forests and those coincide with areas that hold up to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. Traditional knowledge is a different but no less valid way of understanding the world. However, very few scientists of the thousands who have worked with the IPCC have any experience with traditional knowledge.
The IPCC is working on its next big report (to be released in 2014) and has acknowledged that its Fifth Assessment Report needs to look at how climate change will impact indigenous peoples, their role in reducing carbon emissions (mitigation) and what barriers they face in adapting to current and future climate impacts.
The Cairns workshop will focus on how indigenous peoples can help reduce global carbon emissions. It is being held in collaboration with the IPCC, indigenous organizations, the United Nations University (UNU), the Australian government and others.
“Warmer air contains more moisture and leads to more extreme precipitation,” said Francis Zwiers of the University of Victoria.
Extreme precipitation and flooding over the entire northern hemisphere increased by seven percent between 1951 and 1999 as a result of anthropogenic global warming. That represents a “substantial change”, Zwiers told IPS, and more than twice the increase projected by climate modeling.
Fires already burn an area larger than India every year.
By Stephen Leahy
VANCOUVER, Feb 29, 2012 (IPS)
Rising temperatures are drying out northern forests and peatlands, producing bigger and more intense fires. And this will only get much worse as the planet heats up from the use of ever larger amounts of fossil fuels, scientists warned last week at the end of the major science meeting in Vancouver.
“In a warmer world, there will be more fire. That’s a virtual certainty,” said Mike Flannigan, a forest researcher at the University of Alberta, Canada.
“I’d say a doubling or even tripling of fire events is a conservative estimate,” Flannigan told IPS.
While Flannigan’s research reveals forest fire risk may triple in future, a similar increase in peat fires will be far more dangerous. There are millions of square kilometres of tundra and peatlands in the northern hemisphere and they hold more than enough carbon to ramp up global temperatures high enough to render most of the planet uninhabitable if they burn.
A forest fire in Indonesia that ignited peatlands in 1997 smouldered for months, releasing the equivalent of 20 to 40 percent of the worldwide fossil fuel emissions for the entire year, he said.
“There is the potential for significant releases of carbon and other greenhouse gases (from future peat fires),” Flannigan said.
If peat fires release large amounts of carbon, then temperatures will rise faster and higher, leading to further drying of forests and peat, and increasing the likelihood of fires in what is called a positive feedback, he said.
When the increased fire from global warming was first detected in 2006, Johann Goldammer of the Global Fire Monitoring Center at Germany’s Freiburg University called the northern forest a “carbon bomb”.
“It’s sitting there waiting to be ignited, and there is already ignition going on,” Goldammer said according to media reports in 2006.
Please put something in the tip jar before reading on.
This is how I make my living.
Canadian media coverage of climate change has fallen by 80 percent
By Stephen Leahy
VANCOUVER, Canada, Feb 21, 2012 (IPS)
Amid revelations of a well-funded U.S. organisation’s plans to deliberately distort climate science, scientists and journalists at a major scientific conference called on the Canadian government to stop its muzzling of scientists.
For the past four years, the Canadian government has been denying timely access to government scientists even when their findings are published in leading scientific journals, said scientists and journalists in a special session of the American Academy for the Advancement of Science meeting here in Vancouver, British Columbia.
“The Canadian public doesn’t know as much as they could about science and climate change,” said Margaret Munro, who is a science writer for Postmedia News, based in Vancouver.
“The more controversial the story, the less likely you are to talk to the scientists,” Munro told IPS.
Last year, journalists from around the world were denied access to Canadian government scientist Kristi Miller, who had published a groundbreaking paper on the decline of salmon populations in western Canada in the journal Science.
However, lobbyists for the oil and gas industry appear to have direct access to scientists, according to emails obtained under access to information legislation. Internal government documents reported an 80-percent decline in Canadian media coverage of climate change since 2007 when the new Stephen Harper Conservative government put restrictive policies into place.
“It is unacceptable that the Canadian public sits back and allows access to the science they’re funding to be denied them,” said Andrew Weaver, a climate scientist at the University of Victoria. Continue reading →
But promises by world leaders will not halt the heat-trapping carbon emissions that are dialing-up global temperatures and altering the climate, say critics and climate researchers meeting in this U.S. Midwestern city.
As evidenced at the U.N. leader’s summit on climate change in New York Tuesday, the world’s big economies are refusing to commit to actions that will prevent this and future generations from inheriting a hostile climate no other humans have ever faced.
“Do we have the social and political will to deal with a problem that we will only see partially in our lifetimes?” wonders Don McConnell, president of Battelle Energy Technology, the world’s largest non-profit research centre.
“What most don’t realise is that the biggest impact from climate change will be shifts in precipitation, not temperature increase,” McConnell told IPS at…
Civil society has warned of the danger of turning Africa’s food-producing lands into “carbon farms” so that rich countries can avoid making cuts in their carbon emissions.
On Friday, they called on host country South Africa to refrain from forcing so-called “climate smart” agriculture into the United Nations climate treaty negotiations known as the 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17).
South African President Jacob Zuma has stated that agriculture should be part of a new climate treaty. South African officials have previously told IPS they want it included so there will be “specific funds and specific actions” for agriculture under the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change.
“Putting agriculture into a future climate treaty is supposedly a consolation prize to Africa for failure by rich countries to agree to legally binding targets,” said Teresa Anderson of the Gaia Foundation, an international non-governmental organisation based in London.
“This consolation prize is a poisoned chalice. It will lead to land grabs and deliver African farmers into the hands of fickle carbon markets,” Anderson told IPS.
Agriculture is a major source of global warming gases like carbon and methane – directly accounting for 15 percent to 30 percent of global emissions. When the entire food production system is included, total agriculture emissions represent nearly half of all emissions. For those reasons there have been previous efforts to incorporate agriculture under a new climate treaty.
“We need to have a ‘constitutional moment’ in world politics, akin to the major transformative shift in governance after 1945 that led to the establishment of the United Nations and numerous other international organisations,” said Frank Biermann of VU University Amsterdam and director of the Earth System Governance Project.
“Humanity is facing major challenges…urgent actions are needed,” Biermann told IPS.
Those challenges include, but are not limited to, increasing poverty, food, water and energy security, the financial crisis, climate change, ocean acidification, the loss of biodiversity. All of these challenges and their solutions are interconnected.
Normally, the complex, mutually dependent systems of the Earth can self-correct and are remarkably stable. However, they can reach thresholds or tipping points and then unexpectedly and abruptly shift, Gaffney said in an interview.
“We need only recall how the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis nearly collapsed the global financial system,” he said.
The upcoming Rio+20 conference on sustainable development needs to be the moment in human history when the nations of the world come together to find ways to ensure “the very survival of humanity”, he said. Continue reading →