Hope and innovation for conservation

There are great examples of successful conservation and sustainability efforts around the world that give us hope (Balmford, 2012; Bernard, 2010) and demonstrate that things can get better and will get better.IMG_0880 However, it is time to be honest in tackling the root causes of the problem from a conservation perspective.

Waste and our current consumption and production patterns are the major drivers for biodiversity loss, pollution, poverty, climate change (Orr, 1994).

What if we think  out-of the box for substituting something with nothing (Pauli, 2010)? and we create solutions that move away from pollution and waste and that use the resources that we already have?

The Blue Economy (Pauli, 2010) is a great example  showing that it IS possible to do so. In a nutshell, Gunther Pauli proposes the use of the waste produced by the coffee industry to grow mushrooms to feed vulnerable communities. Producers could grow coffee in a way that is compatible with biodiversity and responsible with the producer’s wellbeing. Responsible coffee drinkers could pay a fair price to producers, and in addition, new entrepreneurs could use the coffee waste to grow mushrooms to feed people (Pauli, 2010). The result would be that we wouldn’t need more land to grow more coffee or more resources for the creation of more goods, more jobs and more money. Check out more about this idea here.

With the same reasoning , there are many other examples of innovation in conservation. It is essential that we keep innovating our actions to tackle waste, production and consumption in the Anthropocene era (Steffen et al., 2011).  Keep checking the blog!!! new ideas coming soon… 🙂

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No estaba muerto… andaba de parranda ;)

Increíble pero cierto! El Jambato negro del páramo de Ecuador que se pensaba estaba extinto fue recientemente encontrado! Lee más sobre la historia del Atelopus ignescens que resucitó aquí 

“Un apasionado cura Salesiano y una familia campesina, llenos de fé, sonaron las campanas que anunciaban la presencia del Jambatiug, Caballito de Dios o Castillo en tierras que por ahora conviene mantenerlas en el anonimato y que oportunamente serán conocidas. A su llamado acudimos, incrédulos, Giovanni Onore y el autor de este artículo, luego se sumó Elicio E. Tapia. Ahí estaba el jambatito negro azabache, tal y como lo vimos en aquellos tiempos de juventud” (Coloma, 2016).

 

 

‪#‎conservacion ‪#‎Ecuador

 

‘While the rainforest is politically divided, the biome is one’ – Kakabadse

by: Miren Gutierrez, CDKN Global | on: 8am, June 11, 2015

Find the original version at CDKN website

Yolanda Kakabadse – the indefatigable defender of sustainability – is a former Ecuadorian Minister of Environment and the current International President of WWF. Kakabadse also founded CDKN alliance partner Fundacion Futuro Latinamericano, is a member of CDKN’s Network Council and has been involved in the Amazon Security initiative. In this interview with Miren Gutierrez, she explores the challenges facing Amazonian countries in managing this key resource.

You have been reported as saying that people, and more importantly decision-makers, pay more attention to sudden weather-related disasters than to biodiversity loss in Amazonian countries? Is that so? What can be done?

Sudden weather related disasters create a sense of urgency. They usually come along with casualties, people’s losing their housing and livelihoods, damaged infrastructure and many other impacts that affect a society’s dynamic. These events create commotion and the need for immediate government action; there is no discussion about the importance for decision-makers to pay close attention to weather disasters since they are becoming more frequent and intense with climate change. Implementing adaptation plans that reduce their population’s risk and vulnerability is a priority and action is needed now

The need to urgently tackle biodiversity loss is equally important. Yet, this issue seems to be a laggard in the government priority agenda. Most people do not realise the direct relation between biodiversity and our well-being. Biodiversity plays a key role in creating resilient ecosystems and providing vital services such as water, clean air and climate regulation. Additionally, for thousands of years, species have inspired our cultures and helped us build our identity. A world only inhabited by humans is unviable.Erotylidae- Yasuni National Park

The Stockholm Resilience Centre has identified 9 planetary boundaries within which humans can live safely. According to their studies, we have transgressed the biodiversity boundary to such point that we might be entering the sixth extinction phase in the planet. Sadly, humans drive this one. The latest Living Planet Report by WWF affirms that the state of the world’s biodiversity is worse than ever: during the last 40 years vertebrate species have halved. Most of these losses are occurring in the most biodiverse regions in the world. In the Amazon continent, the report showed an 83% loss of the species analyzed. So if you look at scientific evidence, you will see that it is truly dramatic what is happening with biodiversity and the ecosystems on which they depend; this destruction is one of the most important causes of the devastating sudden weather events we are experiencing. Unfortunately, we are still unable to feel the urgency and this inaction will bring irreversible consequences.

CDKN has reported a ‘human security crisis’ caused by climate change and ‘mismanagement of natural resources’ in the Amazon. As habitat destruction trends interact with climate change, the concern is that the Amazon will be caught up in a set of “feedback loops” that could dramatically speed up the pace of forest loss and degradation and bring the Amazon Biome to a point of no return, reports WWF. How are initiatives such as Amazon Security initiative going to contribute to improving the situation?

Climate change is the greatest challenge we will face in this century. Especially, because it will impact health, water, food and energy security and will increase vulnerability and risk for the region’s growing economies and populations. Climate change will transform the Amazon ecosystem. If climate impacts are not managed to avoid getting caught in a set of feedback loops, the transformation will be amplified until there is a point of no return. If we do nothing, climate change will bring devastating consequences and neither the Amazon nor the world will be as we know it. If we avoid this scenario and work together to build a resilient ecosystem, Amazonia can help us adapt better to climate change.

A rainforest not only stores carbon, it has a natural ability to regulate and stabilise the climate. Just imagine the power of Amazonia, the largest rainforest on Earth. Protecting the Amazon can protect the climate. yasuni 169In fact, that is precisely what the Amazon Vision seeks: to strengthen the Protected Areas Systems of Amazonia shared by Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Venezuela, in order to increase the ecosystem’s resilience to the effects of climate change and to maintain the provision of environmental goods and services benefiting biodiversity, local communities and economies. The Amazon Security agenda will contribute to tackling climate change since it intends to guarantee water, food, health, energy and of course, climate security throughout the Amazon biome.

What are the concrete obstacles right now to guarantee water security and protection in the Amazon? You have stressed the need to protect and guarantee access to water.

Water is the central and most important resource to guarantee health, energy and food security. A healthy water system is vital for providing clean drinking water, agricultural production and fishery, hydropower generation and regulation of water borne diseases. Water is the nexus that bounds everything. However, agriculture, cattle ranching and energy generation threaten water security through pollution and flow disruption. Hence, all securities are interdependent: If one of them is at risk, probably all of them are.

The Amazon is the largest river system in the world with more than 100.000 km of rivers and streams. The Amazon River on its own discharges an average of 6,300 km3 of water to the Atlantic Ocean annually, nearly 20% of global freshwater that flows into the oceans. Additionally, the rainforest releases 8 trillion tons of water vapor into the atmosphere each year and transports it thousands of kilometers away. Because of that, the Amazon plays a key role regulating the climate system around the continent.

In the midst of abundance, one would think that water security is not an issue but in fact, it is a serious one. Increasingly, water is facing more and more threats. Currently, more than 250 new hydropower dams are planned for the Amazon region. If they all go forward as planned, only three free-flowing tributaries of the Amazon River will remain, compromising the river network and the provision of ecosystem services to the societies and economies in the region. Besides, mining exploitation and pesticides from agriculture pollute the river system with heavy metals and toxins that are ingested by fish and later by humans. Furthermore, increased deforestation and land use change impact water availability since the forest recycles nearly 25% of the water it receives. All of these pressures are the main obstacles to guarantee water protection in the Amazon and hence, all other vital securities.

Specifically, how does the initiative recommend responding to extreme droughts that were once unthinkable in this region?

Extreme droughts that were once unthinkable in the region are now more frequent, intense and unpredictable. They are exacerbated by climate change and by the fact that the forest can no longer respond to this phenomenon and regenerate itself in the same way it used to. Future scenarios are less optimistic: it is projected that if warming trends continue, Amazonia will suffer from severe droughts every other year by 2025.

In the last decade the most severe droughts occurred in 2005 and 2010. During the first, 1.9 million km2 of the Brazilian Amazon were affected causing crop losses of 139 million USD, an 18.5% increase in healthcare costs due to more respiratory diseases and other environmental and social losses valued in 100 million USD. During the latter, 3 million km2 of rainforest were severely affected and economic losses were even worse. Forests fires increased dramatically (200% in 2010) accelerating forest degradation and leaving the Amazon even more vulnerable to mitigate the drought.

How to deal with extreme natural phenomenon such as droughts? Not difficult: protect the ecosystem so it can regenerate itself without fatigue. In order to do so, we must halt deforestation. Currently, the Amazon is the biggest deforestation front in the world and interventions are urgently needed to prevent a large-scale, irreversible ecological disaster. WWF estimates that 27 per cent of the Amazon biome will be without trees by 2030 if the current rate of deforestation continues. Without forest cover, droughts will increase and its devastating effects will worsen.

The majority of the Amazonian forest is contained within Brazil (60% of the rainforest), followed by Peru with 13%, Colombia with 10%, and with minor amounts in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. Is this variety a political challenge? Is there a good level of cooperation between these countries? Do they share similar concerns or competing demands?

While the rainforest is politically divided, the biome is one. What happens in a country will have an impact in all Amazonia. Therefore, it is a common interest of all Amazonian nations to manage the rainforest sustainably since they have a joint dependence on its natural resources and a joint exposure to regional-scale risks.yasuni 152

We know that water, health, food and energy security are interdependent and that they are all vulnerable to what happens in nine different countries. This seems as a huge challenge. Actually, it is. However, it is also an opportunity to strengthen public policies at a regional level. The atmosphere, rivers, species are indifferent to political boundaries and that is why all nine countries must have a Pan-Amazon vision rather than a narrow country focused one. This means, sharing information to help informed decision making, mapping and monitoring areas where water, energy, food or health security are most vulnerable, creating a regional development agenda, strengthening protected areas systems, having common basin management policies and a joint zero net deforestation target, among others. Only by having a common and coherent agenda they will be able to overcome all the pressures the Amazon is facing and ensure the wellbeing of the region.

Climate change acting in combination with biodiversity loss has had social impacts already. One of the conclusions of a report called ‘Amazonia Security Agenda’, published by CDKN and Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, is that ‘widespread inequity in Amazonia will be exacerbated by threats to the securities, and is likely to lead to increased social conflict unless addressed.’ Is there any plan to address this challenge?

A huge amount of wealth is being produced in the Amazon: oil extraction, mining, agriculture production, cattle ranching and hydropower produce billions of dollars in revenues annually. For instance, in 2012 Brazil received US$8.8 billion a year from iron extraction in the Pará state, Bolivia US$3.8 billion for natural gas and Ecuador US$8.9 billion for oil in 2010. Yet, little of that wealth stays in the Amazon. Ironically, in the land of plenty, local communities suffer from high insecurity. Despite being surrounded by water, few Amazonians have access to a proper water supply, treatment and a basic sanitation infrastructure. Hence, they are particularly vulnerable to pollution and to everything that comes along with it: disease, malnutrition, among others.

According to a report published by A Articulação Regional Amazônica (ARA) http://araamazonia.org/: 60% of people in the Bolivian Amazon, 37% in Ecuador, 23% in Peru and 17% in Brazil were estimated to be below the extreme poverty line in 2011. Inequity and vulnerability will accentuate if increasing threats to food, health water and energy securities are not properly addressed. Changing this trend without shifting the development paradigm will be impossible. All Amazon countries should adopt policies that secure equal and sustainable access to food, water, energy and land. Indigenous consultation rights should be respected before approving a development project that will impact directly or indirectly their territories. According to the Amazon Environmental Information Network (RAISG), 11% of oil blocks and 18% of mining concessions overlapped recognised indigenous territories in 2012.

If these challenges are not taken serious at a local, national and regional level, land conflicts will increase, inequity will rise and the Amazon ecosystem will have to bear even more pressures affecting everyone who benefits from its services but especially the most vulnerable and poor.

This is a crucial year in the life on this planet: in December we will see the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris and the UN summit for the adoption of the post-2015 development agenda in New York. What do you expect, realistically speaking?

We are witnessing a great and inevitable transition towards a sustainable development model. Indeed, 2015 will be a landmark year in this process. In September, countries will adopt the post-2015 development agenda and the sustainable development goals at the UN Summit. Three months later, Paris will host the Climate Change Conference (COP21) where a new global agreement will be signed. These two historic events will set a roadmap for that great transition.

The 17 Sustainable Development Goals will set targets for governments and redirect public policies and investment towards accomplishing them. The same will occur with the new climate agreement. We expect the Paris agreement to set commitments ambitious enough to ensure we stay below 2ºC warming, the temperature limit for a safe climate future. It will send a clear message to all the stakeholders in the world: climate change is a top priority in the world and everyone must do its fair share to address this global problem. Governments must take seriously the path towards a low carbon economy, business must lower their emissions while becoming energy efficient, investors must divest from fossil fuels and civil society must engage and change their carbon intensive lifestyle. That is what I expect: for everyone to be aware that the world is changing and that we must take part in that inevitable transition.

Community Resilience and Biodiversity conservation

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I was lucky to co-facilitate the Second Dialogue on Finance for biodiversity of the Convention for Biological Diversity held in Quito, last 9-12 April 2014. A variety of national and international experiences in dealing with biodiversity and ecosystem services, including views from intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, development agencies, social movements, farmer organizations, indigenous and local communities organizations, scientists and the private sector enriched the understanding about mechanisms to finance biodiversity.

In my opinion discussing the variety of mechanisms to finance biodiversity is necessary: taxes, compensations, offsets, paying for ecosystem services, all very interesting, BUT, are we really mainstreaming biodiversity in the development agenda? or are we just planning development at the expenses of biodiversity as usual? how can we make sure that the interconnections between biodiversity and human communities, are at the heart of all sustainability discussions? The reality is that the links between human beings and the nature we depend upon, are not yet respected and not even recognized as fundamental.

For me it is clear, biodiversity is life, and life on earth shapes all the environmental, social and economic process. Losing biodiversity means to weaken the basis for sustainable development by reducing ecosystems and community resilience, and the capacity for adaptive responses in a rapidly changing world. Biodiversity should be mainstreamed in all discussions of the new Sustainable Development Goals and the agenda post 2015. When we discuss about poverty eradication, food security, disaster risk management, health etc… we are intrinsically depending on biodiversity to meet these goals. Acting in biodiversity IS development!

Finally, how do I think we can contribute to biodiversity conservation?, well…inspiring, leading by example and INNOVATING! We need to get more creative in finance and legal mechanisms to make this happen. Many initiatives around the world have shown it is possible to preserve biodiversity and at the same time improve people´s livelihoods. Better application of  evidence and technology, working with others outside the environmental sectors, empowerment of local communities in decision making and good governance, private sector partnerships in financing biodiversity conservation are some examples of the things we can do.

“We are the first generation to understand the harmful impact of our lives and our actions on the planet. This knowledge comes with great responsibility that cannot be delegated to anyone. Everyone should take their own responsibility from the area where they work,” Christina Figueres

The Web of Life World Tour: Ecuador

Do you remember what is “The Web of Life world Tour? ” mmmmmm… nop? a quick reminder for everybody. While in Germany at D&F Academy, the 13 fellows (including myself) of the Engage in Conservation Project mentored by Jane Goodall, organized the “The Web Of Life World Tour: Hamburg” to share our findings from collaborating at D&F Academy and to engage in an open exchange with guests from our host city Hamburg. We aimed to raise questions about the nature of the Web of Life and what can be done to preserve and restore it worldwide. We dreamed of organizing the Web of Life in our countries and encourage all Roots & Shoots groups to do the same. That is how The Web of Life World Tour: Ecuador was born. I decided to organize with the community of El Malton an event on the 27th of July 2012 to offer a variety of activities to engage community members and guests in biodiversity conservation, providing a space to discover the community’s needs and assets and meet youth talents. A traditional community fair provided a framework for many conversations and allowed guests to interact with community members and understand their social and economic situation. There we had the chance to taste delicious traditional snacks from the area, including pineapple mermelade, sugar cane syrup, home made cookies, green plantain chips and more.

Then, we all had the chance to experience the unique ambiance created by the theatrical performance of the Council of All Beings, which was hosted by children from the school of El Maltón. Children represented many animals from the Otonga forest and speak out from their perspective. They shared their concerns with their human fellows.

The bees, the armadillo, the golden beetle, the frog and many more raise their voice during the event.
Finally, to close The Web of Life World Tour: Ecuador, a professional group of acrobates and theatre performers, engaged everybody in a highly interactive discussion about biodiversity conservation.

Childen, youth and adults shared a beautiful moment and committed to protect the Otonga cloud forest. People live the forest, respect the forest and help each other to build a better future for their families.

Thank you to all Vivamos al Bosque Team, Giovanni Onore and to Otonga Foundation for their support! It was an unforgettable day 😉

Time time time to catch up! Photography workshop 1

I can finally take a deep breath and share with you all about the last two months of Vivamos el Bosque! July and August have been very intense, busy and really great for the project!

As planned… Vivamos el Bosque team has organized and completed successfully its first photography workshop in collaboration with our friends from Tropical Herping. From July 24th to July 29th, 11 participants received 6 hours of theory in Quito about the basics of photography; and they spent two days in the Cloud Forest, where they discovered the magic of the Otonga Forest and had the chance to share a special time with the community of El Maltón. It was a pleasure for me to receive 9 participants from Quito and two special guests from Chile that were travelling in Ecuador when they found out about the workshop. Thank you very much to all the participants, the instructors and our friend and volunteer Celina Perez-Beck for getting involved with Vivamos el Bosque fundraising activities.

The photography workshop had three main objectives. To raise awareness about the importance of protecting the cloud forest in Ecuador; to engage more people in biodiversity conservation through Vivamos el Bosque and to fundraise for the project. I am glad that our 11 participants had the chance to learn from the experts about nature photography while getting to know about Vivamos el Bosque initiative and its close connection with the communities surrounding the otonga cloud forest.

Thank you to all of you for your support and keep in mind that more workshops are coming soon!!

Here, a picture taken by one of our participants, Alejandro Miranda.

Bridging Hearts, Opening Minds and Doing Things Together

Tertulia Científica with Giovanni Onore

Yesterday, we shared a wonderful moment with about 30 friends of Otonga at the “Café Libro” coffee shop in Quito. The objective of the night? to grab a cup of coffee and be part of a lively discussion about the Value of Biodiversity. Giovanni Onore was the perfect ingredient for a fun and informational night full of inspiration, annecdotes, and great insights.
“It is like going back in time and been in one of his lectures” said one of the participants. And it really was like going back in time! Dr. Onore has an amazing power to bring people together and inspire youth. His particular style keep people’s attention and touches everybody’s heart. The message of the night was really straightforward and clear. Ecuador has an incredible biodiversity which make us all proud BUT most important Ecuador has an enormous responsibility to manage and preserve such important biodiversity. How to do that? Onore strongly beleive in the importance of providing education and equal opportunities to everybody so new cutting-edge alternatives can emerge to improve the quality of life of people in total harmony with nature. As part of the night we shared experiences about how to help and how to work for biodiversity conservation. Some good examples of how inspired youth have started great initiatives is the case of FLOARE an enterprise started by Gabriel Iturralde, one of many Onore ex-students. Floare´s main iniciative is the commercialization of baby orchid plants presented as part of an original design, adaptable to urban spaces. Overall, the project is based on borrowing the richness of nature and adapting it to vanguard designs that will provide funds necessary for the social development and conservation of natural Ecuadorian species.
A great initiative with lots of potential considereing that Ecuador has near 4000 species of orquids wich are admired worlwide!!! Congratulations FLOARE!

Another inspiring example is the Centro Jambatu and Wikiri initiative. In one hand, Centro Jambatu is an institute dedicated to research and conservation of Ecuadorian amphibians. It has successfully been implementing the Strategic Plan to safeguard amphibians from extinction by conducting long term monitoring and research, managing amphibians at high risk of extinction in their natural habitat and in the laboratory, providing free access information about the status of Ecuadorian amphibians and promoting outreach and education initiatives. WIKIRI on the other hand, commercialize amphibians and other related products for the pet and educational markets, fighting the illegal wildlife trade and allocating its income to fund research, forest conservation, and education of children and youth in “frog-diverse” areas. Great job Wikiri!

It was a really nice night! Dr. Onore officially invited everybody the event at the communities for the coming 27 of July 2012. The event is called the “Web of Life World Tour: Ecuador”, and we really hope all our friends will come.
Finally, I would like to thank everybody for sharing with us such a lovely night!

A big Hug,

Caro