Three things we’re reading about hurricanes

Hurricane Irma

This visible light image of Hurricane Irma was captured by NOAA’s GOES East satellite as it strengthened to a Category 5 hurricane in the Central Atlantic Ocean on September 5, 2017. (© NASA)

As recovery efforts ramp up in Houston, all eyes are on the latest predictions for Hurricane Irma, one of the most powerful storms ever recorded, as it churns toward Florida.

But in a changing climate, up-to-the-minute storm tracks can mask a bigger picture about the role of climate change in hurricanes, and in how humans work with nature — or not — to mitigate the worst impacts.

Here are three stories you may have missed.

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Coalition maps the future of coffee in an uncharted climate

coffee farmer, Colombia

A coffee farmer picks fresh coffee cherrries in Colombia’s coffee producing zone, which is suffering the effects of climate change. (© Niel Palmer, CIAT)

Editor’s note: September 29 marks National Coffee Day in the U.S. Throughout the month of September, Human Nature is publishing a special series of reports on the Sustainable Coffee Challenge, a coalition working to make coffee the world’s first sustainable agricultural product. This post is the first in the series.

By 2050, the world’s area suitable for coffee production is projected to be cut in half.

It’s a statistic you’ve likely heard before, and one the coffee sector struggles with because of its devastating effects on not only the quality and quantity of coffee available to us, but the lives of the farmers who grow it.

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Sustainability heavyweights take aim at environmental impacts of soy, beef, palm oil

A worker harvesting oil palm fruit in Malaysia. (© Benjamin Drummond)

They are on supermarket shelves everywhere. They have some of the largest environmental footprints anywhere. Now, a new effort is aiming to minimize the environmental impacts of soy, beef and palm oil — by bringing together some of the world’s most significant players in sustainability.

Announced today in New York, the Good Growth Partnership brings together the U.N. Development Program, the Global Environment Facility, the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation and the U.N. Environment Program, along with environmental nonprofits and some of the world’s largest agricultural exporters. Conservation International (CI) joins the World Wildlife Fund as the initiative’s two founding NGO participants.

Representing a combined investment of US$ 300 million, the initiative is one of the largest efforts to date to ensure that production of these products does not come at the expense of nature.

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On Amazon Day, the 5 stories you need to read


An aerial view of the Amazon. (© Johnny Lye)

Editor’s note: Today is Amazon Day, created to commemorate the founding of what is now known as the State of Amazonas in Brazil. True to its name, the state — which is nearly four times the size of California — is home to the Amazon rainforest, the world’s largest tropical forest. To celebrate, peek under the rainforest canopy with five of Human Nature’s most popular Amazon stories.

crew carry anaconda filmed for CI's new virtual reality film in Yasuni National Park, Ecuador1. Mud, parrots and parasites: Filming the rainforest in virtual reality

Go behind-the-scenes with the camera crew of CI’s latest virtual reality film, “Under the Canopy,” on their 26-day expedition to two of the most pristine areas in the Amazon: southern Suriname and Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park.

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On a typhoon-swept island, one town rebuilds its coast guard: nature


Mangroves in the village of Silonay, Philippines. (@ Conservation International/photo by Kimberly Hoong)

Editor’s note: In 2011, the Philippines town of Silonay — a fishing village situated on a small island in the province of Oriental Mindoro — established a mangrove “ecopark.” The effort, supported by Conservation International (CI), local governments and other non-profit partners, aims to protect and restore mangrove coastal forests that had been degraded by years of unsustainable wood harvesting. (Mangroves, which store outsized amounts of carbon in their root systems, are a critical nature-based solution to climate change). Since the park was established, the village has worked to replant mangroves, improve fishing and support livelihoods through ecotourism.

As coastal communities face the effects of overfishing and sea-level rise, restoring mangroves has never been more important. In this series of photos, Human Nature looks at one community’s efforts to rebuild what has been lost.

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My ‘aha!’ moment: Fishers are not the enemies of healthy oceans

spiny lobster

Spiny lobster in the Galápagos Islands. (© photo by Les Williams/Flickr)

Editor’s note: In honor of Conservation International’s (CI) 30th anniversary, this is the latest post in an occasional series called “My ‘aha!’ moment.” CI staff reflect on moments of insight or discovery that paved the way for their careers in conservation. For Mauricio Castrejón, fisheries manager for CI’s Americas field division marine program and a Lui-Walton Fellow, his ‘aha!’ moment was sparked when the 2007 financial crisis hit the Galápagos Islands — and presented unexpected opportunities for change. Read other posts in this series.

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Brazil opens massive reserve in Amazon for mining

A community on the Rio Araguari in the state of Amapá, Brazil. (© Conservation International/photo by Bailey Evans)

Editor’s note: This post was updated Friday, September 1, 2017. On August 30, the government of Brazil reversed the decree opening the area to mining and put the issue up for public discussion. Watch this space for further details.

Brazil last week announced that it had opened a strategic mineral reserve in the Amazon to mining, the BBC reported. The area, spanning the states of Amapá and Para in the northern heart of the Amazon rainforest, is massive — about the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined — and is believed to be rich in gold, iron and other minerals.

Amapá, explained Rodrigo Medeiros, vice president of Conservation International (CI) Brazil, is one of the conservation states of the Amazon. “Removing restrictions on mining in one of the richest areas of the Amazon, without proper discussion with society, is quite foolhardy. It is putting nature and people at risk.” There are several other activities suited to this region, he continued, such as agro-extractivism and sustainable forestry management. “These other activities have economic potential as great as industrial extractive activities, but they do not receive the attention and investment they need.”

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Agency recommends reductions to some U.S. national monuments, parks

Green sea turtle, Papahānaumokuākea

Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. (© Greg McFall/NOAA)

Editor’s note: News from the U.S. Department of the Interior indicates that Papahānaumokuākea and America’s other marine national monuments are not safe yet. Join Conservation International’s action campaign to raise your voice in support for these critical ocean areas.

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday recommended reductions to some of the 27 national monuments and parks under review by the Trump administration, The Washington Post reported.

Zinke did not say what changes were recommended nor which of the conservation areas would be affected.

His recommendation — which now goes to the White House — did not completely eliminate any of the national monuments or parks under review, including Hawaii’s Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, which was extended just last year to create the world’s largest marine protected area.

Whether U.S. President Donald Trump adopts the secretary’s recommendation remains to be seen.

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5 things to know about Trump’s review of national monuments and parks

Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, one of the conservation areas under threat from the Trump Administration's review.

Rose Atoll Marine National Monument, one of the conservation areas under review by the Trump Administration. (© Ian Shive/USFWS/Flickr Creative Commons)

Editor’s note: With national monuments and parks in the news, Human Nature answers five questions you’ve wanted to ask about the conservation areas and what the Trump Administration’s review means for their protection.

What exactly is happening?

In April, U.S. President Donald Trump directed the interior secretary to review a set of national monuments — conservation areas similar to national parks — for possible alteration or elimination. The list under review includes the desert expanse of the Vermillion Cliffs, home to the world-famous Wave; the rare grasslands of the Carrizo Plains, subject of last spring’s Instagram-friendly super bloom; and the untouched marine life of Papahānaumokuākea, a sacred area for Native Hawaiians.

As part of these reviews, Americans have submitted more than 3 million comments to the administration, the overwhelming majority of which have been in support of maintaining protections. At Conservation International, the review has received unprecedented response from our community, which submitted 31,000 comments in support — our largest campaign action to date.

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New pact enlists locals to help protect a jewel of South America

Giant leaf frog

The giant leaf frog (phyllomedusa bicolor) secretes chemicals that may combat AIDS, cancer and other diseases. The species was discovered during a series of biological surveys in Suriname. (© Trond Larsen)

All is not well in the “greenest country on Earth.”

So-called because it retains more than 94 percent of its rainforest cover, tiny Suriname is facing development pressures that could chip away at its green heart. In response, a groundbreaking effort aims to conserve this region with the help of the people who know the land better than anyone else, before it’s too late.

The Central Suriname Nature Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, makes up about 11 percent of the country’s territory and is home to diverse plants and wildlife including jaguars, sloths and scarlet macaws. Illegal logging and mining — the latter a crucial source of income for the South American country — are encroaching on the forest. In the past decade alone, Suriname has seen deforestation “skyrocket” due to soaring gold prices and weak governance, according to John Goedschalk, executive director of Conservation International’s Suriname office. Meanwhile, a newly constructed road is enabling people to reach previously inaccessible parts of the region.

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