Uncategorized  Elle.com: Emmylou Harris Is Ready to Do Something About the Worst Humanitarian Crisis Since World War II

Emmylou listens as JRS officials explain the plight of EU refugees. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Emmylou Harris listens as JRS official Jill Drzewiecki explains the plight of EU refugees. Photo by Justin Catanoso

My dead friend and editor Lisa Chase, a senior editor and writer at Elle, the glossy women’s fashion magazine out of New York City, opened the door for me for one last Emmylou Harris story. This one is very different, mostly a Q&A of a more personal nature for Elle.com. The link is here.

Excerpt: As we walk the Roman streets that tourists avoid, Emmylou shares with me her motivation to get involved, the wellspring of her humanitarianism, and her everlasting belief in the power of music to change the world.

Environment  Mongabay: Emmylou Harris links climate change to refugee crisis, lends her voice

Emmylou Harris, humanitarian.

Emmylou Harris, humanitarian. Photo by Jacquelyn Pavilon, courtesy JRS.

Glenn Scherer, my superlative editor at Mongabay.com, never wavered when I told him I could get him a story from my interview in Rome with Emmylou Harris that would work on the site. After all, the Americana music icon was in Rome to learn about the European refugee crisis and what she could do to help. Because it’s becoming increasingly clear that mass migration in Africa and the Middle East is being driven to some degree by drought, severe weather, and sea-level rise — all under the umbrella of climate change — Emmylou just needed to say a bit about the connection and I’d have my story. She did. Here’s the link.

 

Uncategorized  Global Post Magazine: Singer-songwriting legend Emmylou Harris puts ‘mercy in motion’ for EU refugees

 

Emmylou Harris, wringing her fingers as she learns more and more abou thte EU refugee ciris. Photo by Justin Catnoso

Emmylou Harris, wringing her fingers as she learns more and more abou thte EU refugee ciris. Photo by Justin Catnoso

This is a little outside my specialty of climate change, but I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to spend time with and interview Emmylou Harris, one of the greatest voices in American music. She’s also a great humanitarian, as my story tries to explain. Here’s the link.

I met her in Rome, Italy, on June 3 thanks for the herculean efforts of my good friend Jill Drzewiecki with the Jesuit Refugee Service. She organized the three-day visit, which included a private concert for about 60 invited guests at the residence of David Lane, US ambassador to UN Agencies.

Emmylou trying to take in all the information being tossed her way by members of the Jesuit Refugee Service.

Emmylou trying to take in all the information being tossed her way by members of the Jesuit Refugee Service. Photo by Justin Catanoso

My good friend with JRS, Jill Drzewiecki, telling Emmylou about the discrimination encountered daily by refugees in Italy.

My good friend with JRS, Jill Drzewiecki, telling Emmylou about the discrimination encountered daily by refugees in Italy. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Emmylou Harris performing at at private concert on June 2 at the residence of David Lane, US ambassador to UN Agencies.

Emmylou Harris performing at at private concert on June 3 at the residence of David Lane, US ambassador to UN Agencies. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Environment  Mongabay: Climate negotiators focus on carbon credits, underplay human rights

 

The opening session of the UN midyear climate conference in Bonn, Germany.

The opening session of the UN midyear climate conference in Bonn, Germany. Photo by Justin Catanoso

My second and final story from my four days covering the UN Midyear Climate Conference in Bonn, Germany, in mi-May 2016 focused on a policy recommendation on human rights and Third World development proposed by my Wake Forest colleague John Knox, the UN Special Rappatour on Human Right and Climate Change. The link to the story is here.

John Knox WFUJohn’s proposal sounds so sensible, I write, “That is until you realize that CDM projects were established by the Kyoto Protocol as a way for wealthy industrialized countries to earn carbon-emission credits against their pollution caps by investing in clean energy or efficient energy projects in developing countries. Millions if not billions of dollars are at stake in CDM projects financed by the World Bank. It’s not hard to imagine how these complex international business transactions might be slowed or even undermined by adding local human rights requirements into the future project mix.”

Environment  Mongabay: Warming far outpacing climate action, as UN negotiators meet in Bonn

Celia Gautier

This story for Mongabay.com, one of two that got posted from Bonn, complements the previous blog post with far more details and graphics, thanks to my editor Glenn Scherer. The story link is here.

An excerpt: “And so, the declarations bounced to and fro, through the week, ranging between glowing optimism and gloom. The conference, which opened May 16, ranthrough May 26. Policies and complex particulars of the Paris Agreement, like financing for REDD+ (dealing with deforestation), and the Clean Development Mechanism (dealing with emissions reductions projects in the developing world), are all being debated in Bonn, though no real decisions will be made. Those must wait until November 7-18 and COP22 in Marrakesh, Morocco.”

I hope to be in Marrakesh.

 

Environment  Patience runs thin at UN mid year climate conference in Bonn, Germany

 

Top officials celebrate after the Paris Agreement was signed in December. But critics see no acceleration.

Top officials celebrate after the Paris Agreement was signed in December. But critics see no acceleration.

Acceleration? It depends on who you ask. That’s why the irony of this celebratory photo, taken immediately after the Paris Agreement was approved by 196 nations in mid-December, is so apparent here in Bonn, Germany, at the United Nations annual mid year climate conference.

On Monday, May 16, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), proclaimed the Paris Agreement as “a historic achievement.”

“Today marks a new era for all of us,” she declared with great hope and enthusiasm to a plenary of national leaders. “With the support of thousands of non-Party stakeholders, you were able to make the seemingly impossible possible. You have brought down the many barriers that divided you. You have opened many opportunities that now unite you.”

Christana Figueres, UNFCCC, at the opening session in Bonn

Christana Figueres, UNFCCC, at the opening session in Bonn

It sounds good. In many ways, it is good.  Never before had virtually every nation on earth pledged to set voluntary goals to reduce their carbon emissions. They pledged also to fight deforestation and promote reforestation in vitally important tropical countries. Most critically, they pledged to hold the rise of global temperatures by 2100 to another 0.5-degree C, instead of a full 1-degree C.

The Paris Agreement got the world drunk on hope. But the buzz has worn off here in Bonn. Impatient activists and NGOs, particularly from poor, vulnerable nations now suffering the ravages of global warming, deride the lack of progress since Paris among the world’s most powerful nations and largest carbon polluters — China, the U.S., India, Russia, Japan and the EU.

They are rightfully impatient. They have already waited too long. Paris was COP21 (Conference of the Parties). Simply put, that means the first 20 UN climate summits ended in failure. Two decades of possible progress were lost to climate denial and political skittishness.

Thus, the claim in the top photo — We’re Accelerating Climate Action — looks like a lie to the critics here as it greets them each morning upon arriving at this modern conference facility made of glass and steel.

“Immediately after the UK signed the Paris Agreement, officials returned home and approved $3.3 billion in dirty energy subsidies for oil and gas companies,” said Asad Rehman with Friends of the Earth-UK. “Those subsidies should have been canceled given the Paris Agreement. We see a huge disconnect between what is said here (in Bonn) and what is happening here and at home.”

Rehman spoke at a May 18 press conference that assessed the Paris outcome and international action over the last five months. Impatience ran high among the panelists. So I posed  a devil’s advocate-type question: “Global leaders in Paris agreed in December that the agreement did not go far enough. They all pledged to revise the strengthen the document in the months and years ahead. Don’t they deserve a little more time?”

“Our people are already dying,” retorted Lidy Nacil with the Asia Peoples Movement on Debt & Development, told me. “Fossil fuel projects should have been canceled right after Paris.”

Rehman added: “You must understand. It’s not just been five months. Governments have willingly failed to act for more than 20 years. The UN has called for carbon reductions in 1990. Since then, carbon emissions have increased globally by 60 percent.”

Celia Gautier with Reseau Action Climate of France said the recent French government’s ratification of the Paris Agreement “Is not not sufficient. There will not be a magic wand to Celia Gautierchange climate action around the world that will keep temperatures around 1.5-degree C.

“Countries need to phase out fossil fuels now. The G8 must take the lead. But they are still reluctant to provide a road map on how the money will be raised to achieve of the goals of the agreement. Rhetoric needs to be matched with action. And we are not seeing it.”

Tamar Lawrence-Samuel, associate research director at Corporate Accountability International in Boston, said the U.S. managed to take credit as a stalwart hero of the Paris Agreement while continuing to send contradictory messages at home. No to Atlantic Ocean oil drilling and the XL Pipeline; yes to increased oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic.

“The United States continues to pollute itself between a rock and a hard place,” she said.

In covering this grim and dire story of international climate change since 2013, I have tried to remain open to the possibilities that nations, states, cities, faith groups led by Pope Francis and other faith leaders, and innovators funded by Bill Gates and Elon Musk can and will bring about the change necessary to stave off the worst effects of climate change.

What choice do we have but to cling to hope?

Yet I am reminded every day in Bonn that optimism comes with a price and the expectation of uncompromising political will. And that despite the Paris Agreement being exactly what Christiana Figueres hailed — “a historic achievement ” — turning rhetoric into meaningful action remains a complex and daunting task.

The UN meeting here in Bonn runs through May 26.

My reporting in Bonn is being sponsored by funds provided by Wake Forest University, where I am a professor of journalism and director of the journalism program. 

 

Environment  Mongabay: Last best place on earth: Who will save the Caribbean’s great coral reef?

Healthy coral at the Blue Hole in Lighthouse Reef Atoll off the coast of Belize.

Healthy coral at the Blue Hole in Lighthouse Reef Atoll off the coast of Belize. Photo by Justin Catanoso

This represents my first ocean-related climate change story, based on reporting in early March 2016 some 50 miles off the coast of Belize. Invited by my friend and mentor Miles Silman, a Wake Forest tropical ecologist, I joined his coral ecology students over Spring Break and snorkeled every day. My story for Mongabay.com is here.  Summary by my editor Glenn Scherer:

  • Lighthouse Reef Atoll in Belize is part of the Caribbean Sea’s Mesoamerican reef system, the world’s second largest. It is stubbornly resilient, and one of the last best places in the western Atlantic in need of total preservation. But virtually no action is happening to conserve it.
  • To save it, the entire reef needs to be a “no take zone,” allowing minimal livelihood fishing by local families, but banning the Guatemalan fishermen who the government of Belize has licensed to legally fish for sharks — exported for shark fin soup to China, at $100 per bowl.
  • The only thing that can save this World Heritage site is full protection: a ban on all large-scale commercial fishing, and the encouragement of eco-tourism to support the local people economically and to generate the funds needed for enforcement and high-tech monitoring.
  • Belize cannot, and will not likely, do the job alone. If this aquatic treasure is to be preserved for the future, the international conservation community will need to awake to its likely loss, and rally vigorously to the cause of permanently protecting it — now, before it is gone.
Miles Silman snorkeling.

Miles Silman snorkeling. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Starfish in the sea grass. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Starfish in the sea grass. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Queen angelfish. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Queen angelfish. Photo by Justin Catanoso

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Environment  Mongabay: Naomi Oreskes on climate change: “We’ve blown it… but pessimism is not acceptable”

Naomi Oreskes. Photo by Harvard University photographer Claudio Cambon

Naomi Oreskes. Photo by Harvard University photographer Claudio Cambon

Naomi Oreskes, a Harvard professor of the history of science, and an outspoken champion of the climate science surrounding global warming, spoke at Wake Forest on Feb. 16, 2016, in a high-energy panel discussion moderated by MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry. When i told my Mongabay editor Glenn Scherer about the event, he recommended I interview Oreskes for an online Q&A. I did. With so many similar interests (tobacco industry malfeasance to climate change science), we had a long, intense discussion. The result is a very readable and insightful Q&A, linked here.

Excerpt regarding climate denial: It’s a cliché to say that knowledge is power. It’s not true actually. Knowledge is knowledge. In our society, knowledge resides in one place, and for the most part, power resides somewhere else. And that disconnect is really the crux of the challenge we face right now.

Environment  Mongabay: Top Vatican official: climate change action is a “moral imperative”

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From my Mongabay.com interview with Cardinal Peter Turkson, who oversaw the writing of Laudato Si, and who may well succeed Francis as pope: “[A]t the time Pope Francis took over, the church had a lot of very serious challenges. It’s not that they’ve all gone away. Pedophilia [among priests] was at its raging height. Ok? And a whole lot of accusations and all of that. The church Pope Francis inherited had a lot of bruises. It’s not that the bruises are gone. But his own sense of leadership, simplicity, authenticity, credibility have helped to shove a whole of this bad stuff into the background.”

Thus, he said, climate change can take center stage. The full story is here.  The Q&A comes from an hour-long interview I had with him exclusively at his Vatican reception room. I took the photo above months earlier during the press conference at the Vatican in mid-June when Laudato Si was released.

Environment  Mongabay: The Paris climate talks ended in elation — now the real work begins, say Faith leaders

Statue at the entrance to Le Bourget Airport near Paris, honoring Charles Lindbergh, the first to solo the Atlantic, and Frenchmen Charles Nungesser and François Coli, who attempted the crossing two weeks earlier and disappeared without a trace. Each day during the Paris climate change conference, participants passed by the statue — a tribute to the Lindbergh Moment, which resonated with many COP21 attendees. Photo by abac077 on Flickr licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Statue at the entrance to Le Bourget Airport near Paris, honoring Charles Lindbergh, the first to solo the Atlantic, and Frenchmen Charles Nungesser and François Coli, who attempted the crossing two weeks earlier and disappeared without a trace. Each day during the Paris climate change conference, participants passed by the statue — a tribute to the Lindbergh Moment, which resonated with many COP21 attendees. [Cutline by Glenn Scherer]

Glenn Scherer, my exemplary editor at mongabay.com sums up my “faith community’s moment” story this way: The story link is here.

  • Catholic Pope Francis, with his climate change encyclical, and Islamic leaders with their Declaration on Climate Change, both helped to rally their billions of followers to set the stage for a successful Paris climate agreement.
  • Now, the world over, Faith leaders are discussing and debating the best strategies and tactics for avoiding climate chaos, adapting to global warming, and protecting the world’s poorest and must vulnerable from continuing environmental degradation.
  • “This is the moment the spirit is trying to work. We need to be there, in all corners of the world, to carry out the message as best we can. We believe in it. We believe in it!” — Sister Sheila Kinsey