Eyeing coffee’s climate impact, new initiative seeks sustainability for entire crop

(© UN Photo/Martine Perret)

Coffee’s environmental impact is as large as its impact on people, with 25 million small-scale farmers producing 90% of the global coffee supply. (© UN Photo/Martine Perret)

The world’s most valued tropical crop could be its first sustainable crop under a new initiative being launched at the Paris climate talks.

The Sustainable Coffee Challenge, launched by Conservation International (CI), aims to make coffee the first sustainable global agricultural product, transforming coffee production and moving specialty and mainstream producers toward sustainability. The Challenge will convene industry, conservation and agricultural development partners to develop a common framework for sustainability in the coffee sector. In the coming months, CI will engage partners and finalize plans, to be unveiled at the 4th World Coffee Conference in March in Ethiopia — the birthplace of coffee. Continue reading

Turning the tide on manta slaughter: A story in pictures

Editor’s note: A growing body of evidence is showing that we are in the midst of a mass extinction event, the sixth such event in the history of Earth, and that humans are responsibleThe indiscriminate killing of certain species is also driving many toward extinction — including mantas.

In this photo essay, photojournalist and conservationist Shawn Heinrichs, a previous contributor to Human Nature, takes us inside a grisly manta hunt in eastern Indonesia. Though Indonesia recently enacted widespread protections for manta populations, the regulations can be difficult to enforce.

Heinrichs’ work is featured in “Racing Extinction,” a new documentary that will air on the Discovery Channel on Dec. 2. The film, from director Louie Psihoyos, assembles a team of artists and activists on an undercover operation to expose the hidden world of endangered species and the race to protect them against mass extinction.

Baby reef manta, Wayag Bay, Indonesia

© Shawn Heinrichs

Indonesia — with its 17,000 islands, healthy reefs, strong currents and productive seas — offers the perfect habitat for manta rays to thrive. This baby reef manta in Wayag Lagoon, eastern Indonesia, could live up to 50 years. But when I visited Lamakera, a small village on the island of Solor around 800 miles [almost 1,300 kilometers] to the southwest of Raja Ampat, I uncovered different fates for these intelligent and gentle creatures.

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Ready for REDD? 3 questions about forests and climate change for Steven Panfil

man holds seedling, Gunung Palung National Park, Indonesia

A man holds up a seedling that will be transplanted in an effort to offset the destruction caused by illegal logging surrounding Gunung Palung National Park, Indonesia. (© Christopher Beauchamp/Aurora Photos)

Stop cutting down trees, stop climate change?

It’s not quite that simple, but halting deforestation — the source of more than a tenth of global greenhouse gas emissions — would help to limit the increase in average global temperatures and the associated impacts of a changing climate.

As world leaders gather in Paris to hammer out a final agreement for confronting climate change, a nature-based initiative known as REDD+ looms large — and momentum is already building. On the first day of the conference, Germany, Norway and the U.K. announced plans to support and expand REDD+ — committing up to US$ 5 billion between now and 2020.

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To solve climate change, it’s time to get business on board

© Conservation International/photo by Miguel Ángel de la Cueva

Nature-based strategies, such as protecting forests like this one in Chiapas, Mexico, can provide up to 30% of the solution to climate change — but only with the support of the business sector. (© Conservation International/photo by Miguel Ángel de la Cueva)

As we mourn the devastating impact and loss of life from the recent terrorist attacks in Paris, leaders and representatives from 190 nations will soon gather in the City of Lights for final negotiations in the hope of reaching a global agreement on climate change. I am cautiously optimistic that the Paris conference will move us forward in meeting the challenges that climate change presents to our economic and global security, and to our well-being.

Governments can only go so far in addressing climate change. Lasting solutions will require involvement by all of us. Leadership from the business sector is a crucial part of the equation. Continue reading

How an accidental forest saved a village from a storm for the ages

villagers planting mangroves in Silonay, Philippines

Community members in Silonay, Philippines plant mangrove seedlings to expand the natural barrier protecting their village from the sea. (© Nandini Narayanan)

It all started with an earthquake.

It was not out of the ordinary when the ground began to tremble in the fishing barangay (village) of Silonay, Philippines, on November 15, 1994: Part of the Pacific Ocean’s “Ring of Fire,” the Philippines is no stranger to earthquakes. But in the months after the temblor, something strange happened: Mangrove seedlings began to sprout up along the muddy banks of the nearby river that emptied out to the ocean.

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To fight deforestation, one country changed the equation

(© Conservation International/photo by Katrin Olson)

A program in Ecuador provides direct economic incentives to landowners and rural communities who voluntarily commit to protecting forests. (© Conservation International/photo by Katrin Olson)

It was the mid-2000s, and Ecuador had some tough choices to make.

The country’s economy — fueled by oil and agricultural exports — was growing, but poverty persisted. Meanwhile, its mega-diverse rainforests were rapidly being lost, endangering rural livelihoods and biodiversity while contributing to climate change.

What to do?

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How nature can help us adapt to a changing climate: 3 questions for David Hole

blue parrot fish

Blue parrot fish in Honduras. These fish browse on algae and keep coral reefs in better health — which, in turn, helps buffer coastal communities from wave energy that causes erosion and flooding. (© Davey6585/Flickr Creative Commons)

It’s difficult to explain and even harder to measure — yet it may be one of our best hopes of tackling climate change. So-called “nature-based solutions” may just be one of our best bets to brace ourselves for the future climate. Climate scientist Dr. David Hole explains why these solutions — known as ecosystem-based adaptation or simply EbA to scientists and climate policy wonks alike — are taking on a greater role in the climate change dialogue and what that means for us.

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Ahead of climate talks, a crucial voice is missing

sunrise, Mozambique

A man walks through the shallows at sunrise in Mozambique. More than 500 million people depend directly on reefs for coastal protection, food and sustained livelihoods. (© William Crosse)

In early December, world leaders will gather in Paris to hammer out a pact to confront climate change.

But one voice representing nearly 75% of the Earth’s surface is being left off the agenda: the ocean.

This has drawn the attention of renowned ocean champions such as Dr. Sylvia Earle, oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence, who is calling for a voice for oceans at climate change negotiations.

Giving decision-makers the benefit of the doubt, how can they begin to combat climate change across the world’s vast oceans? One way is by better understanding the links between major climate-induced impacts.

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Roots from rubble: On Philippine coasts, rebuilding nature’s barriers to stormier seas

aerial footage of coast of Concepcion, Philippines

In the Philippines’ more than 7,000 islands, people’s lives are intimately connected to the ocean. (© Conservation International/photo by Tim Noviello)

After days of anxiety-filled storm preparation, it was midmorning when a voice on Susset Enolva’s radio relayed an urgent message: The typhoon approaching her beachside home on the tiny Philippine island of Polopiña (also known as Igbon) had hit “Signal 4,”  promising intense typhoon conditions and winds of more than 185 kilometers (115 miles) an hour.

Enolva and her mother gathered her three young sons and ran through the rain to her uncle’s house nearby. “We took our pots with cooked rice and then our uncooked rice container and some pillows — nothing else … No clothes. Because we were panicking. I couldn’t think straight anymore.”

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