Editor's note: News about conservation and the environment is made every day, but some of it can fly under the radar. In a recurring feature, Conservation News shares three stories from the past week that you should know about.
Have climate “doomers” become the new denialists?
The story: Yes, the headlines are scary: Our climate targets are slowly slipping out of reach with potentially catastrophic results. But experts say eco-anxiety can fuel paralysis, preventing humanity from making the transformative changes needed to stem the climate crisis — like urgently shifting away from fossil fuels. Don’t let feelings of powerlessness perpetuate the status quo, they warn.
“After decades of trying to get the public’s attention, spur action by governments and fight against organized movements denying the science, climate researchers say they have a new fight on their hands: doomism,” Seth Borenstein writes in the Associated Press. “It’s the feeling that nothing can be done, so why bother.”
The big picture: Countries are not taking enough action to prevent a dangerous rise in global temperatures, according to the latest report from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). But that’s only half the story. The IPCC report lays out many solutions to limit climate change before it spirals out of control. And it points to nature as an important ally. It finds that three actions — reducing the destruction of forests and other ecosystems, restoring them, and improving the management of working lands, such as farms — are among the top five most effective strategies for mitigating carbon emissions by 2030.
“The future we fear is not inevitable,” Conservation International climate scientist Bronson Griscom writes in the World Economic Forum. “Oceans, forests and other ecosystems already absorb and store about half of global carbon emissions. The despair we feel from climate projections must turn into action.”
“Change won't be easy, but we have no other choice,” he adds. “Either we allow our planet to be destroyed, or we fight — clear-eyed — for a better world.”
Read more here.
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- IPCC report: Countries miss the mark on climate action, but nature could help get us back on track
- Study: Nature has saved us from worst climate impacts — for now
Forests managed by Indigenous peoples are powerful carbon sinks.
The story: Strengthening the land rights of Indigenous communities living in forests across Brazil, Colombia, Mexico and Peru is critical to achieving the Paris Agreement’s climate goals, according to a new report. Researchers compared the net amounts of carbon dioxide released and stored on Indigenous and local communities’ lands to other forested lands, between 2000 and 2020, and found that Indigenous-held forests absorbed twice as much carbon, Katie Surma writes for Inside Climate News. When compared to emissions from passenger vehicles, the results were staggering:
“Brazil and Colombia would have to retire 80 percent of their vehicle fleet and Mexico would need to retire 35 percent of its vehicle fleet to account for the loss of carbon sequestration services provided by Indigenous peoples and local communities’ lands,” according to the report.
The big picture: Ambitious climate goals must be predicated on recognizing Indigenous peoples’ stewardship over their lands. They are the custodians of more than a quarter of Earth’s land and seas and protect 80 percent of global biodiversity. Studies have shown that forested areas managed by local communities see less deforestation than protected forests.
“Success will only be possible if there is full and effective participation of Indigenous peoples in the decision-making process,” Minnie Degawan, director of Conservation International’s Indigenous and Traditional Peoples Program , told Conservation News.
“The first step is to officially recognize Indigenous territories by establishing formal, legally binding land rights,” she added. “This enables Indigenous communities to practice their own systems of resource management, which in turn helps to protect lands and water — and support global conservation goals.”
Read more here.
In the Amazon, scientists are abuzz about the health benefits of honey.
The story: Indigenous communities in tropical forests have long used the honey and wax of stingless bees, known as meliponines, to treat a range of ailments — from respiratory infections and skin conditions to diabetes and arthritis. Now scientists in the Peruvian Amazon are working to better understand the bees — and the biochemical contents in their honey, writes Douglas Main for National Geographic.
“Stingless bees make honey with chemicals that ward off microbial and fungal growth, an adaptation to keep the substance from spoiling in the tropics,” Main writes. “Given the wide variety of plant biodiversity in the Amazon, and the incredible range of botanical chemicals the bees mix into their honeys and wax, it’s also no surprise it has medicinal value. Indeed, some call such honey a “miracle liquid.”
Scientists are also looking into the bees’ value as pollinators, particularly for plants that are native to the Amazon. A study found that stingless bees kept next to fields of camu camu, a bushy tree with tart berries that are high in vitamin C, increased its yields by nearly 50 percent.
The big picture: “When we protect tropical forests, we also maintain ‘nature’s medicine cabinet’ — in other words, the wildlife and plants that could offer clues to solving illnesses such as cancer and cystic fibrosis,” Dr. Neil Vora, a practicing physician and Conservation International’s pandemic prevention fellow, told Conservation News.
However, widespread biodiversity loss and deforestation could threaten reserves of medicine in the wild — including remedies that have yet to be discovered.
Read more here.
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