Editor’s note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a new feature, Human Nature shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.
The story: In this striking video essay, Times reporters visit a district in southern India that has become nearly uninhabitable due to ever-hotter weather and failing crops. Beset by debt and suicide, communities in the region are slowly emptying as residents flee to find work elsewhere.
The big picture: If you thought climate change was a problem for the future, this story shows it’s already here. “Change is the new normal,” Shyla Raghav, director of climate change policy at Conservation International, told Human Nature last year. Rather than lurking behind the headlines, climate change is already having clear and direct effects on humans’ very survival.
This harrowing account follows a small team of investigators seeking to put a dent in the “vast scale” of illegal logging in the Peruvian Amazon; Richard Conniff (@RichardConniff) reports for Wired magazine. Read more here.
The story: For decades, shiploads of Peruvian lumber made their way into the floors, doors and decks of American homes. But much of the paperwork to show that the lumber was legally harvested was completely fabricated. This story reveals the lengths to which the Environmental Investigation Agency went to stop a single shipment of illegal wood — and how deeply the problem runs.
The big picture: The illegal logging problem in Peru is an open secret, Conniff writes, despite a seemingly endless number of measures, big and small, to detect and monitor it. For every victory, defeats loom, from the potential rollback of the U.S. ban on importing of illegally harvested lumber, to the diversion of such timber to China, which has fewer qualms about its origins.
Meanwhile, a swath of trees the size of Los Angeles is lost in Peru every year.
GET THE LATEST
Stay up to date on CI’s global efforts to protect forests.
The story: The study analyzed satellite data collected between 2000 and 2015 over a heavily deforested area on the island of Sumatra. It found that overall, average mid-morning surface temperature increased by more than 1 degree Celsius in the region, but increased only 0.45 degrees C in untouched forest areas. Land freshly cleared of trees was up to 10 degrees C — more than 20 degrees Fahrenheit — warmer than forest areas. The differences in surface temperature remained when plantations had replaced the old vegetation.
The big picture: It’s no secret that forests help to keep tropical areas cool. What’s worrisome about this study is that it confirms that fields of oil palm trees don’t have the same effect as a natural forest in keeping temperatures down.
Bruno Vander Velde is CI’s editorial director.