Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In this occasional series, Human Nature shares three recent stories of interest in our world.
The story: For the first time in international climate discussions, agriculture is appearing front and center in countries’ plans to cut carbon emissions and curb climate change. Previously, countries’ emissions reductions plans focused on areas such as clean energy and transportation. But at the 2015 climate talks in Paris, according to InsideClimate News, “nearly 80 percent of the countries said they would use agricultural practices to curb climate change, and more than 90 percent said they would use those practices in addition to changes in forestry and land use linked to farming.”
What’s next: Agriculture has emerged as a critical sector within which each country can — and must — take immediate climate change action. The article suggests this is because agriculture is “existentially linked to a country’s very survival and increasingly under threat from weather extremes, drought and floods.”
Many sustainable farming practices, such as growing more crops on existing land to reduce the need for further deforestation, can support both climate change adaptation and mitigation goals. Crucially, changes to agriculture that have climate change benefits can also benefit farmers by increasing yields.
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The story: Recent research suggests whole populations of cheetahs could be wiped out as early as this year. The Zoological Society of London’s Dr. Sarah Durant, who leads the research, told The Telegraph that these populations are “hanging by a thread.” The situation is equally dire for a large portion of the rest of Earth’s animals: By 2020, the number of wild animals living on this planet is predicted to fall by two-thirds. The cause of this catastrophic loss can be traced back to “[d]estruction of wild habitats, hunting and pollution,” with poaching taking a terrible toll on charismatic megafauna such as rhinos and elephants.
What’s next: This research may paint a dismal picture, but it’s not all doom and gloom. Conservationists are working around the world to protect and restore critical habitats so that species can thrive, working with governments and communities on rigorous anti-poaching policies and incentivizing the protection of endangered species to allow their numbers to recover. And with certain species, it’s working; for example, giant panda populations in China are rebounding thanks to decades of conservation efforts. As the Telegraph article emphasizes, in order to replicate these successes, it’s critical for humans to develop better ways to coexist with animals.
The story: According to Ecosystem Marketplace, a report released jointly by the World Resources Institute, the Rights and Resources Initiative and Woods Hole Research Center found that “indigenous people manage forests containing more than 55 trillion metric tons of carbon, and that deforestation rates inside forests legally managed by indigenous peoples and communities are two to three times lower than in other forests.” However, the research also shows a disappointing “slowdown in the recognition of forest tenure rights” for these groups, many of whom have acted as forest guardians for generations. As deforestation continues in countries such as Indonesia and Brazil, indigenous peoples worldwide are facing an uphill battle to gain and maintain control of their ancestral lands.
What’s next: Despite much evidence of indigenous peoples’ success at managing and conserving forests, many governments are hesitant to grant them full ownership over those lands. Where ownership offers certain legal rights, such as the right to due process and the right to compensation, designated lands usually deny indigenous groups and communities the authority to manage their lands or exclude outsiders. The limitations of designation can even “undermine incentives to invest in conservation and reforestation, and can also make it harder for communities to establish and maintain enterprises based on natural resources.” Many conservation groups are working within the United Nations’ Sustainable Development goals to support more indigenous forest ownership and management in the coming years.
Sophie Bertazzo is a staff writer for CI.
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- Why do we need species? Fighting climate change, for one
- What on Earth is ‘land tenure’?
- To improve crop yields, just add trees
- Earth’s last stewards