Remembering Rogeliano Solís, Indigenous Rights Advocate

Rogeliano “Rogge” Solís was a man of small stature with a big voice. Strong and clear in three languages — Spanish, Guna and English — Rogge’s voice commanded an audience on the topics that were his passions, including his Guna indigenous community, indigenous rights and conservation.


Rogge Solís advises CI and partners while visiting the Socio Bosque project in Ecuador in 2010. (© Conservation International)

Rogge spoke up for what he believed in in a powerful way, sharing his wisdom and knowledge with CI and so many others around the world. In February he passed away after a struggle with cancer, but not without leaving the conservation community with many inspiring lessons.

As delegates to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues have been gathering for their annual meeting in New York City this month, many are reflecting on how to implement the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. I have found myself often thinking of Rogge, remembering how he spoke with purpose and conviction for the rights of his community and indigenous peoples everywhere.

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Mountain Bull, Legendary Kenyan Elephant, Found Dead

The full text of this post by CI Executive Vice President and Senior Scientist Dr. M. Sanjayan can be found on the CBS News website

elephant, South Africa

The ivory trade poses an enormous threat to the world’s elephants, including this one in South Africa. The death of Mountain Bull proves that even elephants with partially removed tusks are not protected from poaching. (© Megan Seman)

Mountain Bull, the magnificent six-ton elephant, featured prominently in our reporting on the poaching crisis in Africa for CBS Evening News and CBS Sunday Morning, has been discovered dead.

Perhaps he had been living on borrowed time, but the manner and place of his death is shocking and deeply disheartening to conservationists and Kenyans.

He was a troublesome elephant at least according to human standards — intelligent, wide ranging, and fence breaking with his massive, perfectly matched tusks. During the dry season he would often retreat to the protected and secluded cool forests of Mount Kenya, but in the wet season, he would strike out for undiscovered country far to the north. Fences were but a minor nuisance for him. He knocked them down with his tusks and neighboring crops became a tasty snack for his journeys.

In October of 2012, CBS News producer Jack Renaud and cameraman Wim de Vos travelled with me to Kenya to film a risky capture and partial de-tusking operation on Mountain Bull. Kenya Wildlife Service vets undertook a dynamic operation to dart him and while he rumbled in an anesthetic slumber they fired up a chain saw and sawed off the ends of his tusks while we, awed by his might, crowded in for a gentle touch.

For the full story, visit CBS News.

Urban Jungle: Jakarta’s Green Wall

This is the third post in Human Nature’s “Urban Jungle” series, which explores the inextricable connections between intact ecosystems and thriving cities.

Jakarta, Indonesia

Panoramic view of Jakarta, Indonesia’s capital city. Jakarta’s more than 12 million residents depend on fresh water that flows from nearby forests. (© Warren Goldswain)

These days, Jakarta is defined by polluted waterways, smoky air and traffic congestion. Over the past few decades, the environment surrounding Southeast Asia’s largest city has been quickly deteriorating due to rapid population growth and the lack of proper urban planning.

After spending a few years as one of Jakarta’s more than 12 million residents, I moved to Bogor, a smaller city near the forested Gedepahala region. In fact, many city dwellers often spend weekends and holidays in Gedepahala, as it’s the closest area we can visit to get fresh air, enjoy the rivers’ cold, clean water and see wildlife.

But forests do much more than provide a weekend refuge for urbanites. They also store fresh water cities depend on — and keep it from descending on those cities all at once.

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Reviving ‘Lost’ Stream of Lānaʻi Could Be Good News for Coral Reefs

The warm sun greeted us on a clear March day on the Hawaiian island of Lānaʻi. At the edge of a parking lot, we gazed at the cool blue of Hulapoeō Bay and waited to be welcomed onto the beach by our host for the day, Uncle Sol Kaho‘ohalahala.

Uncle Sol singing traditional songs, Lanai, Hawaii

Uncle Sol sings traditional songs during CI’s 2014 seascapes workshop in Hawaiʻi. (© Conservation International/photo by Edgardo Ochoa)

Kēhau Springer, from CI’s Hawaiʻi Fish Trust, performed an ʻoli, a traditional Hawaiian chant, to announce our intentions. Uncle Sol responded in a deeper, stronger yet softer voice. Though the words were foreign to my ears, the gestures he made while chanting his ʻoli were clear: You are welcome here.

Uncle Sol was born on Lānaʻi. He is what Hawaiians call a kupuna, or elder. He and other kūpuna keep alive the traditional history, stories and practices of Native Hawaiians. Standing under the cover of a kiawe tree, Uncle Sol told us the story of how the son of a great chief of Maui, Kaululāʻau, banished all the evil spirits from the island and made it habitable for his people.

He then sang us the songs that accompany this tale. One of the songs was given to him from another kupuna. It was about the only stream that flowed year-round on Lānaʻi, in the watershed of Maunalei. The song called for the stream to flow strongly down the island slopes once more.

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World’s Largest Company Asks Suppliers to Shrink Environmental Impact

Ten years ago, on a diving trip to Cocos Island with my friend Rob Walton, the chairman of Walmart, we began discussing how his company could impact global conservation efforts. Rob thought it would be important for me to speak with Lee Scott, Walmart’s then-CEO. A few weeks later we flew to Bentonville, Arkansas, and began a conversation that quickly morphed into a decision by Walmart to investigate how it could shift toward more sustainable practices.

strawberry harvest

Strawberry fields at harvest time. (© F. Schussler/PhotoLink)

Fast forward to last week in Bentonville, where Walmart held its first Sustainable Product Expo. In front of a full auditorium, I watched the CEOs of some of the worlds most powerful companies stand on stage and make commitments to green their supply chains — recognizing that what is good for humanity is also good for business.

Our Earth is currently out of balance. The combined impacts of climate shifts, ecosystem collapse and huge population growth require that we take a new approach to development — and as we have begun to see, development that does not take the health of nature into account will fail. It will fail to meet the daily needs of the more than 7 billion of us who depend on it, and it will eventually make business as we know it grind to a halt.

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Vote to Help CI-Brazil’s “+ Sustainable Fisheries” Project Win a Google Grant

(UPDATE: We won! CI-Brazil’s project was one of several selected as winners for the Google Social Impact Challenge. Thanks to all who voted!)

We’re proud to announce that a project proposal from CI-Brazil is among the top 10 finalists for the Google Social Impact Challenge | Brazil. The contest aims to help nonprofits that are using innovation and technology to promote social change and positively impact local communities. Chosen from a pool of almost 800 applications, four of the 10 finalists will receive 1 million reals (about US$ 400,000) each to pursue their project. One of the four will be chosen by popular vote.

Today on Human Nature, CI-Brazil Marine Program Director Guilherme Dutra explains CI’s proposed project, “+ Sustainable Fisheries,” which aims to use smartphone technology to track fish from net to table. (Vote for it here by this Wednesday, May 7th!)

fisherman freediving for fish, Brazil

Freediving for reef fish in Brazil’s Abrolhos region. (© Paul Nicklen)

Q:  Why are sustainable fisheries so important to local communities?

A: Coastal communities around the world are directly dependent on fisheries as their main food and income source. Making fish stocks sustainable is an issue of survival for them.

There are around 60,000 families of traditional fishermen living in Brazil’s 22 marine extractive reserves. Our project will begin working with those who are among the most dependent on local fisheries, eventually expanding to other communities nationally and internationally.

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New Caledonia Establishes World’s Largest Marine Park

Last week, the government of New Caledonia legally established the world’s largest marine managed area, which will cover 95% of the French territory’s waters. CI-New Caledonia Program Director Jean-Christophe Lefeuvre answers some questions about this important milestone.

fisherman, New Caledonia

A fisherman in New Caledonia. The French territory has just established the world’s largest marine park, which will cover an area more than three times the size of Germany. (© Conservation International/photo by Lily Clarke)

Q: Why should this area be protected?

A: The waters within Le Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail (Natural Park of the Coral Sea) were chosen for protection because of several outstanding features, including deep sediment basins, seamounts and coral reefs. The Chesterfield and Bellona barrier reefs — which form one of Earth’s largest reef structures — cover an area of 1,324 square kilometers (511 square miles). The park also includes the deepest site in France: 7,919 meters (25,980 feet) below sea level.

These unique formations and geological diversity create habitat for an extraordinary number of species. So far, scientists have recorded 48 species of shark, 25 marine mammal species, 19 species of nesting birds and five kinds of sea turtle.

High levels of biodiversity are indicators of healthy ecosystems, which provide direct benefits for New Caledonia’s people, such as fish catch and income from tourists visiting the island’s scenic beaches.

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Climate Scientists Are People, Too

scientist at weather station in Malaysia

Researcher Christine Fletcher stands atop a weather station in Malaysia’s Pasoh Forest Reserve. (© Benjamin Drummond)

I’m a correspondent for Showtime’s new series “Years of Living Dangerously — in good company with a range of other dedicated climate change advocates, including Harrison Ford, Jessica Alba, Thomas Friedman and Don Cheadle.

As I’ve been going around the U.S. speaking about the series at venues from South by Southwest to the World Bank, audiences repeatedly ask me one question: “What have you learned about climate change from working on this series?”

My answer is simple: When it comes to science-laden topics like climate change, the messenger is as important as the message.

Take Dr. Kim Cobb, an all-star climatologist from Georgia Tech. Her work routinely takes her to far-flung destinations 10,000 miles away from her husband and kids in Atlanta. Viewers will meet her this Sunday, when my “Years of Living Dangerously” episode (the third in the series) debuts, and they will love her.

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Ocean Health Is Human Health

The largest place on the planet is in trouble.

Oceans cover 71% of the Earth’s surface, and ocean ecosystems generate at least US$ 21 trillion in economic benefits each year.

fisherman in Benin

A fisherman casts a net in Benin. (© Art Wolfe/

But a perfect storm of massive challenges, from collapsing fisheries to plastic pollution to ocean acidification, is threatening the integrity of marine ecosystems. These threats put at risk the essential benefits people receive from healthy oceans: sustainable fisheries, coastal protection, carbon sequestration, coastal economies and livelihoods, tourism and recreation and many others.

This week, I was one of 700 leaders from governments, business, civil society and communities attending the Global Oceans Action Summit in The Hague, Netherlands. I am encouraged by the fact that many countries and businesses attending the summit have moved beyond the point of talking about problems to taking immediate action for ocean health and begin the transition toward a more sustainable society.

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Companies Place Greater Value on Natural Capital

coffee farm in Chiapas, Mexico

A coffee farm in Chiapas, Mexico. Shade-grown coffee cultivation not only keeps forests standing, it’s more economically and environmentally viable in the long term compared with “sun-grown” plantations. (© Cristina Mittermeier)

Here’s a pop quiz: Do you know what “natural capital” is?

This term — used to describe the resources and services, from timber to pollination to oxygen production, that nature provides all of us — may not have made its way into the lexicon of most dinnertime conversations just yet. Yet businesses are increasingly embracing the fact that protecting and restoring the ecosystems that impact their production is not only essential for the long-term viability of their companies, but for the future of humanity.

Yesterday, Dr. Pavan Sukhdev — a CI board member and environmental economist — published a blog on The Huffington Post on this very topic. The blog is part of a series from The Huffington Post and The B Team, a new initiative that aims to encourage the business sector to become a driving force for the well-being of people and the planet.

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