Tag Archives: Peru

Environment  Mongabay: Climate mitigation has an ally in need of recognition and land rights: indigenous peoples in tropical countries

Wayne Walker, a Woods Hole Research Center scientist, in the forest with indigenous peoples. Photo courtesy of Woods Hole Research Center

In advance of the Global Climate Action Summit in San Francisco from Sept. 12-14, 2018, Mongabay special projects editor Willie Shubert encouraged me to attend and cover the event. In several phone discussions, we decided I should focus my coverage mainly in an area of climate mitigation I have not written about previously: the impact of indigenous peoples on the forests in which they live, and the injustice that so many live on ancestral land to which they no longer hold title.

The story is here. It’s a story that resonated with readers and was retweeted widely, including by the Ford Foundation, which has 157,000 followers. An excerpt:

“Economic analyses make it fairly clear that indigenous peoples’ lands that are titled and secured, especially in Latin America where the data is most abundant, have deforestation rates that are three to four times lower than similar lands not held by indigenous peoples,” Peter Veit, director of the Land and Resource Rights initiative at the World Resources Institute, told Mongabay. “Having title to the land is critical.”

 

 

 

 

Environment  Mongabay: In Peru, a new president is faced with old conservation challenges

A giant otter in Cashu Lake at Cocha Cashu Biological Station in Manu National Park, Peru. Photo by Jason Houston

In early May 2018, I called Mongabay special project editor Erik Hoffner with a vague idea.  I would be spending six weeks in Peru between May 25 and July 5. Most of it would be in the Amazon, save for a week in Lima at the outset. I wanted to write a story that somehow captured the majesty of the Peruvian Amazon and what’s at stake as climate change and assaults such as mining, timbering and extraction put large swaths of the rainforest at risk. I’d be working with environmental photographer Jason Houston.

“I don’t exactly know what I’ll come up with, but I think we have a shot at something unique and interesting.” Erik was familiar with Jason’s extraordinary photography. He said, in essence, go for it.

We did. Here’s the result.

And an excerpt: Eavesdropping on nature from above is an unparalleled thrill. Even more thrilling is understanding the interconnectedness of the forest below, and everything in it; the mutual support and subtle language of various species that keep the forest thriving. Every living thing has a role to play, and it all adds up to provide ecosystem services such as carbon sequestration and cloud production that the developed world depends on, whether we know it or not.

The story turns on a simple premise: A new Peruvian president took power in Lima in April 2018 after the fourth consecutive president had been felled by corruption and scandal. Each promised to protect the Amazon, seeing sweeping environmental laws passed. Yet with only sporadic enforcement in limited areas, Peru has some of Latin America’s highest rates of deforestation. Much is at stake for biodiversity and the health of the planet. That’s the story Jason and I sought to tell in both my words and his powerful photos. Special thanks to Mongabay editor Genevieve Belmaker for her careful editing and layout.

This gigantic mahogany is Cocha Cashu is a rich target for illegal timbering. That’s me in the background. Photo by Jason Houston

 

Environment  Mongabay: Pope’s message to Amazonia inspires hope, but will it bring action?

Indigenous people from the jungles of Peru line up in Puerto Maldonado to see Pope Francis. Photo by Luis Fernandez

My story here about the visit of Pope Francis to the Peruvian Amazon city of Puerto Maldonado was historic in every sense. It was the pope’s first visit to Amazonia, a region of South America the size of the continental United States. While he spoke largely about conservation of the Amazon’s great and important ecosystems, he mostly gave voice and inspiration to the forgotten, oppressed and shoved-aside peoples who live in those far-off places — the rightful owners of the land, the indigenous tribes of multiple nationalities.

Pope Francis clearly called on the Catholic Church of South America to live up to and live out the promise of his encyclical, Laudato Si, On Care for Our Common Home, and called on the tribes for their guidance. This is a critical time for church leaders to step up, as my story discusses.

The pope greeting the people in the streets of Puerto Maldonado. Photo by Luis Fernandez

 

Environment  Mongabay: Global climate change increasing risk of crop yield losses and food insecurity in the tropical Andes

I met the author behind the important research that makes up this story of mine during my first trip to the Peruvian Amazon in summer 2013. Richard Tito is a Quechua Indian who grew up poor and isolated in the remote Andean Mountains in the Amazon basin. We could not speak because his second language was Spanish, which I don’t speak, and he had no English.

But his determination to rise above any and all obstacles and become a biologist was apparent in the short time we spent together. I didn’t realize he was the author of this report until after I concluded its newsworthiness (as did my Mongabay.com editors). Richard is now Dr. Tito with a PhD from a reputable university in Brazil. His own story is as good as his research on the impact of rising temperatures on high-elevation tropical farming (shown above).

“I am a member of the local community and I know the study area, the local farmers and their rich traditional knowledge,” said Tito, who recently received his PhD from the Instituto de Biologia at the Universisdade Federal de Uberlandia in Brazil. “Because the population is skyrocketing, climate is changing and the impact on food production is a real threat, a real motivation for me in this research is to recommend effective management strategies.”

Environment  Mongabay: Peru’s new environmental policies: What are they and will they work?

The reality of illegal gold mining: total environmental devastation in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Rhett Butler of Mongabay.com

The reality of illegal gold mining: total environmental devastation in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Rhett Butler of Mongabay.com

In the waning days of President Ollanta Humala’s administration in July 2016, Peru’s National Congress approved a set of innovative climate change-related policies designed to reduce deforestation, protect watersheds and biodiversity, and provide the tools needed to leverage international investment through UN programs such as REDD+ and the Green Climate Fund.

But a new administration has taken over and lawlessness is often the rule in the Amazon basin. My story for Mongabay.com looks at the new policies and the challenges for implementation. First time with with Mongabay editor Morgan Erickson-Davis, who did a great job with my story.

Environment  Mongabay.com: Papal encyclical draws harsh critique from Peru’s private sector

Elena Conterno, who heads Peru's fisheries group, is a fierce critic of the papal encyclical. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Elena Conterno, who heads Peru’s fisheries group, is a fierce critic of the papal encyclical. Photo by Emilia Catano

He may be beloved in his home region of Latin America. He may enjoy 82 percent approval ratings in Peru, where three out of four people are Catholic.  But Pope Francis has some fierce critics. And Elena Conterno is one of them.  As Glenn Scherer summed up at mongabay.com:

  • Peru’s commercial fishing industry is sustainable, productive and well regulated, says Elena Conterno, but the illegal “artisanal” fleet of the poor is “growing too fast and unsustainable.”
  • “Why blame business?” Conterno asks of the Pope’s encyclical, when “the public sector is really lagging,” failing to regulate the environment and the climate, and provide for the poor.
  • “Who are the ones doing the most illegal activities? It’s the poor. Not the big companies,” she says. The Pope’s encyclical “is more than naïve. It lacks institutional analysis.”

A tense, compelling interview, start to finish with a the head of the Peru’s fishing industry,

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Environment  Mongabay.com: Pope’s encyclical draws support from Peru’s #1 environmental official

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal is Peru's minister of the environment, and among the most most influential climate change policy makers. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Manuel Pulgar-Vidal is Peru’s minister of the environment, and among the most most influential climate change policy makers. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

I remember Manuel Pulgar-Vidal well from the UN Climate Summit in Lima in December 2014. He was seemingly everywhere, certainly at every press conference. He was friendly and accessible. I was offered to interview him the day COP20 opened, but declined; I could not get to Lima so soon.

In mid-July, 2015, through the high-level connections of Enrique Ortiz, my fixer and interpreter for two weeks in Puru, I got an hour with the minister. He had studied he encyclical and had a lot to say about it. He was less keen on discussing the Tia Maria copper mine in southern Peru. It was a great interview, linked here, and I’m glad mangabay.com chose to run this and two others.

Mongabay Edior Glenn Scherer’s summary: 

1, Peruvian Environmental Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal hosted COP20 in Lima, and will play a leading role at Paris COP 21 in December.
2. He praises the Pope’s controversial encyclical written in “the language of a poet, with the precision of an engineer, and by a leader with the moral authority to have influence.”
3. “We [will] have an agreement in Paris,” says the minister. Obama, China, France, Peru, many nations want it. “The political moment is key, and this papal document is very helpful.”
More photos by Emilia Catanoso from the interview and just before:
Hanging out with an Indian tribe outside his office. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Hanging out with an Indian tribe outside his office. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

During the interview. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

During the interview. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Not too happy in the direction change of the interview. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Not too happy in the direction change of the interview. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Environment  Mongabay.com: Pope and Peru’s top mining CEO agree and at odds on environment

Roque Benavides, CEO of BuenaVentura, Peru's largest precious metals mining company. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Roque Benavides, CEO of BuenaVentura, Peru’s largest precious metals mining company. Photo by Emilia Catanoso

Through the good fortune of meeting TV producer Luis Moray in Lima, I was able to spend the last morning of my reporting during my first of two trips to Peru last summer interviewing one of the country’s most influential businessmen — Roque Benavides, CEO of BueanaVentura Mining. He read the encyclical before our interview so he would be prepared.  Mongabay.com, with expert editing by Glenn Scherer, published a series of three of my Q&A stories during the week of Pope Francis’ history visit to the United States in late September 2015.  My first Q&A is here.

Glenn Scherer wrote as an intro to my interview: 

  • Roque Benavides makes no apologies for Peru’s extraction industry, noting that it employs tens of thousands, and gives much back to the communities in which it works.
  • The CEO fears that the Pope’s encyclical is overly simplistic, putting too much of the blame for the environmental crisis on industry and business.
  • He argues forcefully that government has failed in its role as environmental protector, and that the poor are more destructive to the environment than industry.

Emilia Catanoso took a series of amazing photographs. Her best of the entire two-week experience.

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Environment  Sunday News & Observer: Pope gets pushback on environment

"The life of the plant is more important than anything the pope says." Photo by Jason Houstin

Emel Salazar in La Oroya, Peru: “The life of the plant is more important than anything the pope says.” Photo by Jason Houston

Every Pulitzer Center journalist must ensure that his or her work will be published or broadcast before a grant is considered. That’s the model. They pay expenses so that your work can fill the gaps of news organizations that want foreign reporting, but no longer have staff abroad. When my Pulitzer turn came around around again last spring, I called an editor I’ve long admired but never had the opportunity to work for: John Drescher of the New & Observer in Raleigh, N.C. After explaining my project, he readily agreed to take one of my stories. I was thrilled.

So on Sept. 20, 2015, I had my first page 1 story in a Sunday daily newspaper since I left the News & Record in Greensboro in May 1998. That’s a long time before Sunday fronts, but given that the N&O practically cleared page 1 for me and published all 1,900 words I wrote, plus several photos, it was worth the wait. It’s funny, but in buying papers in Chapel Hill, I felt the same thrill I did when I was a kid, seeing my first byline in print.

Front page, The Sunday News & Observer, Sept. 20, 2015. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Front page, The Sunday News & Observer, Sept. 20, 2015. Photo by Justin Catanoso

Breaking News  WGHP Fox 8 TV — The importance of Pope Francis in America

WGHP

My friend and news anchor Neill McNeill at WGHP Fox 8, the highest-rated TV news program in the Triad, called early Monday to see if I would come on the program in the early evening. Why? Pope Francis‘ first-ever visit to the U.S., which is getting wall-to-wall coverage. Three minutes flew by, but we covered some ground in this segment, including a bit about my Peru reporting. I’ll be back on Thursday to discuss the pope’s speech to Congress.