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Brazilian Indigenous Resistance Movement Wins Prominent UN Environmental Prize



Last Monday, the Munduruku indigenous people’s resistance movement Ipereg Ayu was awarded the 2015 United Nations Development Program’s (UNDP) Equator Prize. The announcement recognizes the Munduruku’s tireless and innovative struggle to preserve the Amazon’s Tapajós River and its vast forests from destruction.

The Equator Prize aims to shine a spotlight on outstanding community efforts to reduce poverty, protect nature, and strengthen resilience in the face of climate change. In addition to providing financial support to Ipereg Ayu, the prize invites two Munduruku leaders to travel from the Tapajós to this year’s COP 21 conference in Paris to represent the key role of indigenous people in defending the global climate. Ipereg Ayu are part of a narrow field of 21 winners out of 1,461 nominees from 126 countries.

“We would like to thank those who have awarded this prize to our movement,” said Munduruku Chief Juarez Saw. “Our leaders are grateful for this attention to our struggle.”

During last week’s announcement at the UNDP, actor and activist Alec Baldwin singled out the Munduruku awardees for their efforts to block the planned Tapajós Complex, a series of dams that would submerge their lands and deforest one million hectares of primary forests. “Looking through the list, I was particularly inspired by the Munduruku Ipereg Ayu movement in Brazil,” said Baldwin. “This indigenous group of 13,000 people in the Brazilian Amazon launched a movement called Ipereg Ayu which in local language means ‘I am strong and I know how to protect myself.’”

According to UNDP special advisor on indigenous issues Hans Brattskar, traditional people are among the most drastically affected by climate change. “The world needs to know their stories,” said Brattskar. “These people are part of the solution and therefore it’s essential that their rights be guaranteed. If their rights are not consolidated, forests are placed in danger. Working directly with indigenous peoples is one of the most effective ways to protect forests.”

“This week’s announcement brings crucial international visibility to the Munduruku’s struggle for their rights while directing further awareness towards the Rousseff government’s reckless plans for the Tapajós,” said Christian Poirier of Amazon Watch. “It also guarantees that the voices of key Amazonian indigenous leaders will be heard in Paris, deflating the myth that large dams represent a clean energy solution to climate change.”

Established to organize unified resistance to a spate of threats facing Munduruku territories including illegal deforestation and mining, the Ipereg Ayu movement has forged a determined response to the Dilma Rousseff government’s plans to dam the Tapajós River. Directly defying the government’s refusal to demarcate the Sawré Muybu territory, the Munduruku have determined to auto-demarcate and shield their land from these threats.

The movement also recently took the groundbreaking initiative to submit a protocol on the right to free, prior, and informed consent to federal representatives in Brasilia, demanding that the government adhere to its legal obligation to consult them about plans related to the dam construction, as enshrined in the Brazilian Constitution and ILO Convention 169.


Build, Buy, Or Retrofit? 3 Green Housing Considerations



green housing techniques

Green housing is in high demand, but it’s not yet widely available, posing a serious problem: if you want to live an eco-friendly lifestyle, do you invest in building something new and optimize it for sustainability, or do you retrofit a preexisting building?

The big problem when it comes to choosing between these two options is that building a new home creates more waste than retrofitting specific features of an existing home, but it may be more efficient in the long-run. For those concerned with waste and their environmental footprint, the short term and long term impacts of housing are in close competition with each other.

New Construction Options

One reason that new construction is so desired among green living enthusiasts is that it can be built to reflect our highest priorities. Worried about the environmental costs of heating your home? New construction can be built using passive solar design, a strategy that uses natural light and shade to heat or cool the home. Builders can add optimal insulation, build with all sustainable materials, and build exactly to the scale you need.

In fact, scale is a serious concern for new home buyers and builders alike. Individuals interested in green housing will actively avoid building more home than they need – scaling to the square foot matter because that’s more space you need to heat or cool – and this is harder to do when buying. You’re stuck with someone else’s design. In this vein, Missouri S&T’s Nest Home design, which uses recycled shipping containers, combines the tiny home trend with reuse and sustainability.

The Simple Retrofit

From an environmental perspective, there’s an obvious problem with building a new home: it’s an activity of mass consumption. There are already 120 million single-family homes and duplexes in the United States; do we really need more?

Extensive development alone is a good enough reason to intelligently retrofit an existing home rather than building new green structures, but the key is to do so with as little waste as possible. One option for retrofitting older homes is to install new smart home technology that can automate home regulation to reduce energy use.

Real estate agent Roxanne DeBerry sees clients struggle with issues of efficiency on a regular basis. That’s why she recommends tools like the Nest Thermostat, which develops a responsive heating and cooling schedule for the home and can be remotely adjusted via smartphone. Other smart tools for home efficiency include choosing Energy Star appliances and installing water-saving faucets and low-pressure toilets. These small changes add up.

Big Innovations

Ultimately, the most effective approach to green housing is likely to be aggressive retrofitting of everything from period homes to more recent construction. This will reduce material use where possible and prevent further aggressive land use. And finally, designers, activists, and engineers are coming together to develop such structures.

In the UK, for example, designers are interested in finding ways to adapt period houses for greater sustainability without compromising their aesthetics. Many have added solar panels, increased their insulation levels, and recently they even developed imitation sash triple glazed windows. As some have pointed out, the high cost of heating these homes without such changes will push these homes out of relevance without these changes. This is a way of saving existing structures.

Harvard is also working on retrofitting homes for sustainability. Their HouseZero project is designed for near-zero energy use and zero carbon emissions using geothermal heating and temperature radiant surfaces. The buildings bridge the gap between starting over and putting up with unmanageable heating and cooling bills.

It will take a long time to transition the majority of individuals to energy efficient, green housing but we’re headed in the right direction. What will your next home be like? As long as the answer is sustainable, you’re part of the solution to our chronic overuse – of land, energy, water, and more.

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How the Auto Industry is Lowering Emissions



auto industry to clean air pollution

Currently, the automotive industry is undergoing an enormous change in a bid to lower carbon emissions. This has been pushed by the Government and their clean air plans, where they have outlined a plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel cars by 2040.

Public Health Crisis

It is said that the levels of air pollution lead to 40,000 early deaths in the UK, with London being somewhere that is particularly bad. This has led to the new T-Charge, where heavy polluting cars will pay a new charge on top of the existing congestion charge. Other cities have taken action too, with Oxford recently announcing that they will be banning petrol and diesel cars from the city centre by 2020.

Eco-Friendly Vehicles

It is clear that the Government is taking action, but what about the auto industry? With the sale of petrol and diesel plummeting and a sharp rise in alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is clear that the industry is taking note and switching focus to green cars. There are now all kinds of fantastic eco-friendly cars available and a type to suit every motorist whether it is a small city car or an SUV.

Used Cars

Of course, it is the cars that are currently on the road that are causing the problem. The used car market is enormous and filled with polluting automobiles, but there are steps that you can take to avoid dangerous automobiles. It is now more important than ever to get vehicle checks carried out through HPI, as these can reveal important information about the automobile’s past and they find that 1 in 3 cars has a hidden secret of some kind. Additionally, they can now perform recall checks to see if the manufacturer has recalled that particular automobile. This allows people to shop confidently and find vehicles that are not doing as much damage to the environment as others.

Public Perception

With the rise in sales of alternatively fuelled vehicles, it is now becoming increasingly more common to see them on UK roads. Public perception has changed drastically in the last few years and this is because of the air pollution crisis, as well as the fact that there are now so many different reasons to switch to electric cars, such as Government grants and no road tax. A similar change in public opinion has happened in the United States, with electric car sales up by 47% in 2017.


The US is leading the way for lowering emissions as they have declined by 758 million metric tons since 2005, which is the largest amount by far with the UK in second with a decline of 170 million metric tons. Whilst it is clear that these two nations are doing a good job, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in order to improve the air quality and stop so many premature deaths as a result of pollution.

With the Government’s plans, incentives to make the change and a change in public perception, it seems that the electric car revolution is fully underway.

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