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Latin American Leaders Call On Governors To Protect Forests



Forest by Sergey Galyonkin via Flickr

Latin American indigenous and community leaders call on governors at climate meeting to partner with forest peoples to protect forests.

GUADALAJARA – With the fate of the vast forests their peoples call home threatened by the combined blows of climate change and large-scale development, Latin American indigenous leaders today warned governors meeting here this week that unless forest communities are drawn into the conservation process, efforts to address climate change will falter.

Speaking outside a conference of the Governors Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF), a collaboration between the governments of 29 states and provinces on four continents to address the impact of carbon emissions and deforestation on the planet’s largest tropical forests, the indigenous leaders said proposals for such collaboration are noticeably lacking from the agenda of the conference held by the governors.

The message came out of a panel discussion held in Guadalajara this week by high level indigenous leaders in advance of the GCF:

The tropical forests of the world are in danger. Science has shown that the inhabitants of tropical forests, we who have lived on these lands and kept them safe for millennium, outperform all other forest managers, when our rights are strengthened and guaranteed.

In a declaration released today in Guadalajara, the indigenous leaders called on the governors to adhere to the principles contained in International Work Organisation Article 169 as well as the Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

By establishing a direct relationship with the guardians who protect their forests, the governors can ensure their conservation strategies will actually work – now and in the future

“All initiatives, actions, projects and programs led by the GCF that concern indigenous peoples and traditional communities must have the participation and direct involvement of local communities through a process of free, prior and informed consent,” the statement notes.

“By establishing a direct relationship with the guardians who protect their forests, the governors can ensure their conservation strategies will actually work – now and in the future,” said Cándido Mezua, Secretary for International relations of the MesoAmerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB). “They must listen to us, because we are the ones who are putting our lives on the line to protect tropical forests in Mesoamerica, the Amazon and other regions of the world.”

That message is amply backed by science. Since 2014, when a major joint report published by the World Resources Institute and the Rights and Resources Initiative found that legal recognition of community forest rights in 14 nations with large tropical forests led to reductions in carbon emissions, the research has piled up.

In Brazil alone, the WRI/RRI report found that strengthening the land rights of forest communities could help prevent the projected deforestation of 27.2 million hectares of land by 2050. That much forest staves off an estimated 12 billion tons in carbon dioxide emissions; the same amount emitted every three years in all of Latin America and the Caribbean.

A 2015 analysis, commissioned by indigenous organizations from Latin America, Africa and Indonesia, and carried out by the Woods Hole Research Center and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), found that indigenous lands hold more than 20 percent of the carbon stored in the world’s tropical forests.

The researchers illustrated the findings using a map of the tropical forest regions as an infographic to show that when governments improved and enforced forest rights, communities were more successful in preventing loggers, mining companies and settlers from illegally destroying forests and increasing greenhouse gas emissions.

But although indigenous communities practicing traditional ways of life have a much lower impact on tropical forests than Westernized cultures, their ability to prevent illegal development and protect their territories from high-impact uses is often limited by a lack of legal and financial support, including a lack of title to their lands.

More than nine percent of tropical forests in the Amazon Basin, Mesoamerica, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Indonesia are considered highly threatened because they are in indigenous territories that lack legal recognition, the analysis found.

Nowhere are indigenous land rights and efforts to stave off deforestation and climate change more intertwined than in the states and provinces from Brazil, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mexico, Nigeria, Peru, Spain, and the United States, many of which are represented at the GCF.

More than 25% of the world’s tropical forests are in GCF states and provinces, including more than 75% of Brazil’s and more than half of Indonesia’s.

The GCF was conceived to make its member states and provinces early movers in building robust jurisdictional programs for low emissions development. But, in practice, the governors have been slow to reach out to their own indigenous communities for help.

In their declaration, the indigenous leaders called on the GCF to, “respect the social and environmental safeguards recommended by the Amazon Working Group, the Coordinator of Organizations of the Amazon River Basin (COICA), and other civil society organizations representing indigenous peoples and traditional communities.

“Among these principles are: a) compliance with the law, b) recognition and guarantee of rights, c) distribution of benefits, d) economic sustainability, improved quality of life and reduction of poverty, e) conservation and environmental restoration, f) participation, g) monitoring and transparency, and h) governance.”

The indigenous leaders noted as well that industrial interests around the world, driven by rising consumer demand for timber, palm oil and minerals, are pushing deeper than ever before onto indigenous lands, and killings of activists seeking to protect native lands from destructive industries are on the rise.

In the wake of the murder of environmental leader Berta Caceres early this year, the watchdog group Global Witness documented 185 similar killings across 16 countries in 2015, the highest annual death toll of environmental activists on record.

Participants in the panel included leaders from the Mesoamerican Alliance of Peoples and Forests (AMPB); the Coordinator of Organizations of the Amazon Basin (COICA), and, from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Indigenous Peoples and Local Network for the Sustainable Management of Forest Ecosystems (REPALEF).

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Two Ancient Japanese Philosophies Are the Future of Eco-Living



Shutterstock Photos - By Syda Productions |

Our obsession with all things new has blighted the planet. We have a waste crisis, particularly when it comes to plastic. US scientists have calculated the total amount of plastic ever made – 8.3 billion tons! Unfortunately, only 9% of this is estimated to have been recycled. And current global trends point to there being 12 billion tons of plastic waste by 2050.

However, two ancient Japanese philosophies are providing an antidote to the excesses of modern life. By emphasizing the elimination of waste and the acceptance of the old and imperfect, the concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi have positively influenced Japanese life for centuries.

They are now making their way into the consciousness of the Western mainstream, with an increasing influence in the UK and US. By encouraging us to be frugal with our possessions, (i.e. using natural materials for interior design) these concepts can be the future of eco-living.

What is Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai??

Wabi-Sabi emphasizes an acceptance of transience and imperfection. Although Wabi had the original meaning of sad and lonely, it has come to describe those that are simple, unmaterialistic and at one with nature. The term Sabi is defined as the “the bloom of time”, and has evolved into a new meaning: taking pleasure and seeing beauty in things that are old and faded. 

Any flaws in objects, like cracks or marks, are cherished because they illustrate the passage of time. Wear and tear is seen as a representation of their loving use. This makes it intrinsically linked to Wabi, due to its emphasis on simplicity and rejection of materialism.

In the West, Wabi-Sabi has infiltrated many elements of daily life, from cuisine to interior design. Specialist Japanese homeware companies, like Sansho, source handmade products that embody the Wabi-Sabi philosophy. Their products, largely made from natural materials, are handcrafted by traditional Japanese artisans – meaning no two pieces are the same and no two pieces are “perfect” in size or shape.


Mottainai is a term expressing a feeling of regret concerning waste, translating roughly in English to either “what a waste!” or “Don’t waste!”. The philosophy emphasizes the intrinsic value of a resource or object, and is linked to hinto animism, the notion that all objects have a spirit, or ‘kami’. The idea that we are part of nature is a key part of Japanese psychology.

Mottainai also has origins in Buddhist philosophy. The Buddhist monastic tradition emphasizes a life of frugality, to allow us to concentrate on attaining enlightenment. It is from this move towards frugality that a link to Mottainai as a concept of waste can be made.

How have Wabi-Sabi and Mottainai promoted eco living?

Wabi-Sabi is still a prominent feature of Japanese life today, and has remained instrumental in the way people design their homes. The ideas of imperfection and frugality are hugely influential.

For example, instead of buying a brand-new kitchen table, many Japanese people instead retain a table that has been passed through the generations. Although its long use can be seen by various marks and scratches, Wabi-Sabi has taught people that they should value it because of its imperfect nature. Those scratches and marks are a story and signify the passage of time. This is a far cry from what we typically associate with the Western World.

Like Wabi Sabi, Mottainai is manifested throughout Japanese life, creating a great respect for Japanese resources. This has had a major impact on home design. For example, the Japanese prefer natural materials in their homes, such as using soil and dried grass as thermal insulation.

Their influence in the UK

The UK appears to be increasingly influenced by thes two concepts. Some new reports indicate that Wabi Sabi has been labelled as ‘the trend of 2018’. For example, Japanese ofuro baths inspired the project that won the New London Architecture’s 2017 Don’t Move, Improve award. Ofuro baths are smaller than typical baths, use less water, and are usually made out of natural materials, like hinoki wood.

Many other UK properties have also been influenced by these philosophies, such as natural Kebony wood being applied to the external cladding of a Victorian property in Hampstead; or a house in Lancaster Gate using rice paper partitions as sub-dividers. These examples embody the spirit of both philosophies. They are representative of Mottainai because of their use of natural resources to discourage waste. And they’re reflective of Wabi-Sabi because they accept imperfect materials that have not been engineered or modified.

In a world that is plagued by mass over-consumption and an incessant need for novelty, the ancient concepts of Mottainai and Wabi-Sabi provide a blueprint for living a more sustainable life. They help us to reduce consumption and put less of a strain on the planet. This refreshing mindset can help us transform the way we go about our day to day lives.

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How to be More eco-Responsible in 2018



Shutterstock / By KENG MERRY Paper Art |

Nowadays, more and more people are talking about being more eco-responsible. There is a constant growth of information regarding the importance of being aware of ecological issues and the methods of using eco-friendly necessities on daily basis.

Have you been considering becoming more eco-responsible after the New Year? If so, here are some useful tips that could help you make the difference in the following year:

1. Energy – produce it, save it

If you’re building a house or planning to expand your living space, think before deciding on the final square footage. Maybe you don’t really need that much space. Unnecessary square footage will force you to spend more building materials, but it will also result in having to use extra heating, air-conditioning, and electricity in it.

It’s even better if you seek professional help to reduce energy consumption. An energy audit can provide you some great piece of advice on how to save on your energy bills.

While buying appliances such as a refrigerator or a dishwasher, make sure they have “Energy Star” label on, as it means they are energy-efficient.

energy efficient

Shutterstock Licensed Photo – By My Life Graphic

Regarding the production of energy, you can power your home with renewable energy. The most common way is to install rooftop solar panels. They can be used for producing electricity, as well as heat for the house. If powering the whole home is a big step for you, try with solar oven then – they trap the sunlight in order to heat food! Solar air conditioning is another interesting thing to try out – instead of providing you with heat, it cools your house!

2. Don’t be just another tourist

Think about the environment, as well your own enjoyment – try not to travel too far, as most forms of transport contribute to the climate change. Choose the most environmentally friendly means of transport that you can, as well as environmentally friendly accommodation. If you can go to a destination that is being recommended as an eco-travel destination – even better! Interesting countries such as Zambia, Vietnam or Nicaragua are among these destinations that are famous for its sustainability efforts.

3. Let your beauty be also eco-friendly


Shutterstock / By Khakimullin Aleksandr

We all want to look beautiful. Unfortunately, sometimes (or very often) it comes with a price. Cruelty-free cosmetics are making its way on the world market but be careful with the labels – just because it says a product hasn’t been tested on animals, it doesn’t  mean that some of the product’s ingredients haven’t been tested on some poor animal.

To be sure which companies definitely stay away from the cruel testing on animals, check PETA Bunny list of cosmetic companies just to make sure which ones are truly and completely cruelty-free.

It’s also important if a brand uses toxic ingredients. Brands such as Tata Harper Skincare or Dr Bronner’s use only organic ingredients and biodegradable packaging, as well as being cruelty-free. Of course, this list is longer, so you’ll have to do some online research.

4. Know thy recycling

People often make mistakes while wanting to do something good for the environment. For example, plastic grocery bags, take-out containers, paper coffee cups and shredded paper cannot be recycled in your curb for many reasons, so don’t throw them into recycling bins. The same applies to pizza boxes, household glass, ceramics, and pottery – whether they are contaminated by grease or difficult to recycle, they just can’t go through the usual recycling process.

People usually forget to do is to rinse plastic and metal containers – they always have some residue, so be thorough. Also, bottle caps are allowed, too, so don’t separate them from the bottles. However, yard waste isn’t recyclable, so any yard waste or junk you are unsure of – just contact rubbish removal services instead of piling it up in public containers or in your own yard.

5. Fashion can be both eco-friendly and cool

Believe it or not, there are actually places where you can buy clothes that are eco-friendly, sustainable, as well as ethical. And they look cool, too! Companies like Everlane are very transparent about where their clothes are manufactured and how the price is set. PACT is another great company that uses non-GMO, organic cotton and non-toxic dyes for their clothing, while simultaneously using renewable energy factories. Soko is a company that uses natural and recycled materials in making their clothes and jewelry.

All in all

The truth is – being eco-responsible can be done in many ways. There are tons of small things we could change when it comes to our habits that would make a positive influence on the environment. The point is to start doing research on things that can be done by every person and it can start with the only thing that person has the control of – their own household.

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