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Peru’s lawmakers continue to block titling for Indigenous Peoples



Indigenous communities in Peru must clear 27 bureaucratic hurdles to obtain official recognition and formal land titles, a costly process that can take more than a decade, while concessionaires face between three and seven bureaucratic steps, depending on whether they seek permits for logging or mining, and can obtain their paperwork in less than a year, according to a new study released today at an event in Paris.

The study, by non-governmental organization Rainforest Foundation US and the Interethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP), reports that Peru has one of the highest rates of deforestation in Latin America, losing an area twice the size of Hong Kong each year.

This is despite the Peruvian government announcing in the lead-up to last year’s climate change conference in Lima that it would reduce net deforestation to zero by 2021, and increase by at least five million hectares the areas titled to Indigenous Peoples.

Indigenous-owned lands in the Peruvian Amazon hold large carbon stocks, and other studies have shown that they have significantly lower rates of deforestation compared with the national average and that Indigenous ownership is therefore vital for addressing climate change.

“Continued forest destruction directly contradicts the Peruvian government’s climate change commitments,” said Tom Bewick of RFFUS.

“By dragging its feet on Indigenous land titles, the government is making it almost impossible to achieve its own stated goals,” he continued.

AIDESEP, which represents Indigenous forest communities in Peru, estimates that 1,240 communities are seeking recognition of, or titles or extensions to, their lands in Peru. Indigenous and native communities formally own 15 million hectares of the Peruvian Amazon, but progress is stalled on Indigenous land-titling applications covering an additional 20 million hectares of forestland.

“The government’s excessive bureaucracy for issuing Indigenous and native land titles is in stark contrast to its streamlined approach to the granting of logging, mining and oil concessions, the awarding of which will only exacerbate greenhouse-gas emissions,” said Bewick.

Margoth Quispe, co-author and legal representative for the Ashéninka community of Saweto said the solution is simple: “What we need is for the government to demonstrate political will at the highest levels, and to insist that titling Indigenous lands be made a priority at every level of government.”

According to the new report, 50 campesino and Indigenous/native land titles have been approved since 2007; by comparison, 556 logging concessions were approved in a two-year period from 2002 to 2004 covering almost 7 million hectares of the Peruvian Amazon.

A total of 35,658 mining concessions have been approved since 2007, many of which overlap with Indigenous territories. Other studies have found that nearly 84% of the Peruvian Amazon is covered by oil blocks, many overlapping with Indigenous territories, while a rush for gold mining is having a devastating effect on the forests of Madre de Dios, leading to a tripling of deforestation there since 2008.

“This is a system that benefits resource concessions, encourages corruption and land-grabbing, and inevitably leads to social unrest,” said Bewick. “The ultimate victims of this government red-tape are Indigenous Peoples, many of whom are subject to immense intimidation and even murder in their forest homes.”

New high-resolution mapping data have shown that when governments grant and enforce forest rights, indigenous and other local communities can succeed in stopping loggers, extractive companies, and settlers from illegally destroying the forests and releasing carbon pollution into the atmosphere. The same study estimated that Indigenous Peoples and local communities have legal or official rights to more than 500 million hectares of forests worldwide, representing 37.7 billion tons of carbon.

The report on Peru was released in Paris, two weeks before the UN event known as COP21, during an informal briefing that brought together indigenous leaders from Indonesia, Central America and the Amazon. Their goal is to tell of their efforts to save the forests that are fundamental to the battle for slowing climate change.

Peru’s Human Rights Ombudsman documented 1,935 social conflicts of opposition to mining projects between 2006 and 2014, and Global Witness has found that 80% of the deaths of environmental and land defenders in Peru in 2002–2014 are related to protests against extractive-sector projects.

Death as a price for legal recognition

Perhaps nowhere has the conflict over land been more vicious than in Alto Tamaya-Saweto, a small Indigenous forest community in the Peruvian Amazon, whose plight is documented in a new report. The 80,000-hectare area is the ancestral home of 32 Ashéninka families, who have maintained small farms and fished and hunted in their forest for generations. The Peruvian government approved Forest Law 27308 in the early 2000s, opening the floodgates for logging concessions. Three such concessions overlapped with Saweto’s native territory, bringing with it both legal and illegal logging.

To protect Saweto’s territory from these threats, community leaders submitted a land title application in 2003 and denounced the illegal logging happening on their land. Between 2003 and 2004, Saweto leaders placed four complaints with authorities, but these were ignored and the land title requests went unheeded.

As the conflict intensified, community leaders requested government protection from loggers, but were ignored. Tragically, illegal loggers murdered four Saweto leaders – Edwin Chota, Jorge Ríos Pérez, Leoncio Quincima Meléndez and Francisco Pinedo – in September 2014. Even then, the government dragged its feet in granting land title to the community, doing so only in September 2015 after a 12-year battle

“If it hadn’t been for the murders, the State wouldn’t have ever paid attention to what was happening in our community,” said Diana Rios, daughter of one of the murdered leaders and a leader herself of the Saweto Community in the Peruvian Amazon.

“It shouldn’t take the murder of activists before the government acts,” Rios said. “But the Saweto tragedy could be repeated elsewhere if land-titling processes are not greatly speeded up.”

Saweto’s fight for land rights is emblematic of a global struggle. Indigenous peoples and local communities claim or have customary use of as much as 65 percent of the world’s land area, yet a study by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) showed that only 10 percent of land in 64 countries is actually owned by Indigenous People and local communities. Legal recognition of Indigenous lands and management systems therefore represents an important opportunity to protect forests worldwide and mitigate climate change.

Image: Peru Flag by Joseph Villanueva vua Flickr


These 5 Green Office Mistakes Are Costing You Money




eco-friendly green offices
Shutterstock Licensed Photo - By Stokkete |

The sudden interest in green business is very encouraging. According to recent reports, 42% of all companies have rated sustainability as an important element of their business. Unfortunately, the focus on sustainability will only last if companies can find ways to use it to boost their ROI.

Many businesses get so caught up in being socially conscious that they hope the financial aspect of it takes care of itself. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to go green and boost your net income at the same time.

Here are some important mistakes that you will want to avoid.

Only implementing sustainability on micro-scale

The biggest reason that brands are going green is to improve their optics with their customers. Too many businesses are making very minor changes, such as processing paperwork online and calling themselves green.

Customers have become wary of these types of companies. If you want to earn their business, you are going to need to go all the way. Bring in a green business consultant and make every feasible change to demonstrate that you are a green organization from top to bottom.

Not prioritizing investments by long-term ROI

It isn’t realistic to build an entirely green organization overnight. You will need to allocate your capital wisely.

Before investing in any green assets or services, you should always conduct a long-term cost benefit analysis. The initial investment for some green services may be over $20,000. If they don’t shave your cost by at least $3,000 a year, they probably aren’t worth the investment.

Determine which green investments will have the best pay off over the next 10 years. Make these investments before anything else. Then compare your options within each of those categories.

Implementing green changes without a plan

Effective, long-term planning is the key to business success. This principle needs to be applied to green organizations as well.

Before implementing a green strategy, you must answer the following questions:

  • How will I communicate my green business philosophy to my customers?
  • How will running a green business affect my revenue stream?
  • How will adopting green business strategies change my monthly expenses? Will they increase or decrease them?
  • How will my company finance green upgrades and other investments?

The biggest mistake that too many green businesses make is being overly optimistic with these forecasts. Take the time to collect objective data and make your decisions accordingly. This will help you run a much more profitable green business.

Not considering the benefits of green printing

Too many companies believe that going paperless is the only way to run a green organization. Unfortunately, going 100% paperless it’s not feasible for most companies.

Rather than aim for an unrealistic goal, consider the option of using a more environmentally friendly printer. It won’t be perfect, but it will be better than the alternative.

According to experts from Doranix, environmental printers have several benefits:

  • They can process paper that has been completely recycled.
  • They consume less energy than traditional printers.
  • They use ink that is more environmentally friendly.

You want to take a look at different green printers and compare them. You’ll find that some will meet your needs as a green business.

Poorly communicating your green business strategy to customers

Brand positioning doesn’t happen on its own. If you want to run a successful green business, you must communicate your message to customers as clearly as possible. You must also avoid the appearance that you are patronizing them.

The best approach is to be clear when you were first making the change. I’ll make an announcement about your company‘s commitment to sustainability.

You also want to reinforce this message overtime by using green labels on all of your products. You don’t have to be blatant with your messaging at this stage. Simply provide a small, daily reminder on your products and invoices.

Finally, it is a good idea to participate in green business seminars and other events. If your community has a local Green Chamber of Commerce, you should consider joining as well.

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2017 Was the Most Expensive Year Ever for U.S. Natural Disaster Damage



Natural Disaster Damage
Shutterstock / By Droidworker |

Devastating natural disasters dominated last year’s headlines and made many wonder how the affected areas could ever recover. According to data from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the storms and other weather events that caused the destruction were extremely costly.

Specifically, the natural disasters recorded last year caused so much damage that the associated losses made 2017 the most expensive year on record in the 38-year history of keeping such data. The following are several reasons that 2017 made headlines for this notorious distinction.

Over a Dozen Events With Losses Totalling More Than $1 Billion Each

The NOAA reports that in total, the recorded losses equaled $306 billion, which is $90 billion more than the amount associated with 2005, the previous record holder. One of the primary reasons the dollar amount climbed so high last year is that 16 individual events cost more than $1 billion each.

Global Warming Contributed to Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey, one of two Category-4 hurricanes that made landfall in 2017, was a particularly expensive natural disaster. Nearly 800,000 people needed assistance after the storm. Hurricane Harvey alone cost $125 billion, with some estimates even higher than that. So far, the only hurricane more expensive than Harvey was Katrina.

Before Hurricane Harvey hit, scientists speculated climate change could make it worse. They discussed how rising ocean temperatures make hurricanes more intense, and warmer atmospheres have higher amounts of water vapor, causing larger rainfall totals.

Since then, a new study published in “Environmental Research Letters” confirmed climate change was indeed a factor that gave Hurricane Harvey more power. It found environmental conditions associated with global warming made the storm more severe and increase the likelihood of similar events.

That same study also compared today’s storms with ones from 1900. It found that compared to those earlier weather phenomena, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall was 15 percent more intense and three times as likely to happen now versus in 1900.

Warming oceans are one of the contributing factors. Specifically, the ocean’s surface temperature associated with the region where Hurricane Harvey quickly transformed from a tropical storm into a Category 4 hurricane has become about 1 degree Fahrenheit warmer over the past few decades.

Michael Mann, a climatologist from Penn State University, believes that due to a relationship known as the Clausius-Clapeyron equation, there was about 3-5 percent more moisture in the air, which caused more rain. To complicate matters even more, global warming made sea levels rise by more than 6 inches in the Houston area over the past few decades. Mann also believes global warming caused the stationery summer weather patterns that made Hurricane Harvey stop moving and saturate the area with rain. Mann clarifies although global warming didn’t cause Hurricane Harvey as a whole, it exacerbated several factors of the storm.

Also, statistics collected by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 1901-2015 found the precipitation levels in the contiguous 48 states had gone up by 0.17 inches per decade. The EPA notes the increase is expected because rainfall totals tend to go up as the Earth’s surface temperatures rise and additional evaporation occurs.

The EPA’s measurements about surface temperature indicate for the same timespan mentioned above for precipitation, the temperatures have gotten 0.14 Fahrenheit hotter per decade. Also, although the global surface temperature went up by 0.15 Fahrenheit during the same period, the temperature rise has been faster in the United States compared to the rest of the world since the 1970s.

Severe Storms Cause a Loss of Productivity

Many people don’t immediately think of one important factor when discussing the aftermath of natural disasters: the adverse impact on productivity. Businesses and members of the workforce in Houston, Miami and other cities hit by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma suffered losses that may total between $150-200 billion when both damage and sacrificed productivity are accounted for, according to estimates from Moody’s Analytics.

Some workers who decide to leave their homes before storms arrive delay returning after the immediate danger has passed. As a result of their absences, a labor-force shortage may occur. News sources posted stories highlighting that the Houston area might not have enough construction workers to handle necessary rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Harvey.

It’s not hard to imagine the impact heavy storms could have on business operations. However, companies that offer goods to help people prepare for hurricanes and similar disasters often find the market wants what they provide. While watching the paths of current storms, people tend to recall storms that took place years ago and see them as reminders to get prepared for what could happen.

Longer and More Disastrous Wildfires Require More Resources to Fight

The wildfires that ripped through millions of acres in the western region of the United States this year also made substantial contributions to the 2017 disaster-related expenses. The U.S. Forest Service, which is within the U.S. Department of Agriculture, reported 2017 as its costliest year ever and saw total expenditures exceeding $2 billion.

The agency anticipates the costs will grow, especially when they take past data into account. In 1995, the U.S. Forest Service spent 16 percent of its annual budget for wildfire-fighting costs, but in 2015, the amount ballooned to 52 percent. The sheer number of wildfires last year didn’t help matters either. Between January 1 and November 24 last year, 54,858 fires broke out.

2017: Among the Three Hottest Years Recorded

People cause the majority of wildfires, but climate change acts as another notable contributor. In addition to affecting hurricane intensity, rising temperatures help fires spread and make them harder to extinguish.

Data collected by the National Interagency Fire Center and published by the EPA highlighted a correlation between the largest wildfires and the warmest years on record. The extent of damage caused by wildfires has gotten worse since the 1980s, but became particularly severe starting in 2000 during a period characterized by some of the warmest years the U.S. ever recorded.

Things haven’t changed for the better, either. In mid-December of 2017, the World Meteorological Organization released a statement announcing the year would likely end as one of the three warmest years ever recorded. A notable finding since the group looks at global land and ocean temperature, not just statistics associated with the United States.

Not all the most financially impactful weather events in 2017 were hurricanes and wildfires. Some of the other issues that cost over $1 billion included a hailstorm in Colorado, tornados in several regions of the U.S. and substantial flooding throughout Missouri and Arkansas.

Although numerous factors gave these natural disasters momentum, scientists know climate change was a defining force — a reality that should worry just about everyone.

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