Activists in Brazil are fighting to protect the environment — and their lives

July 30, 2014

Gerry Hadden – PRI, 7/29/2014

908. That’s the number of environmental and land-reform activists assassinated worldwide between 2003 and 2013, according to a study by the NGO Global Witness. The number might shock you, but perhaps even more shocking is that nearly half of those murders — 448 — took place in one country: Brazil.

What is it that makes Brazil the most dangerous place in the world to be an activist?

You’ll find clues in the story of Guarabana Bay. The bay, just minutes from downtown Rio’s world famous beaches, is a study in pollution and filth. Dark sludge cakes the shoreline. Garbage floats everywhere. It’s so bad that some sailors set to compete here in the 2016 Summer Olympics are warning colleagues not to let this water touch their skin.

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Drought Watch: One Of Brazil’s Biggest Cities Only Has 100 Days Of Water Supply Left

July 30, 2014

Greg Morcroft – International Business Times, 7/29/2014

São Paulo, one of Brazil’s largest cities, has only 100 days of water remaining and government officials cautioned the city needs to begin rationing or face a major crisis. Bloomberg News reported Brazilian federal prosecutors have given the city fathers and its water utility, Sabesp, 10 days to implement crisis measures or face legal action to compel it.

The news agency reported the utility disagrees with the assessment and told Bloomberg, “That measure would penalize customers and may have the opposite effect.” The utility has already succeeded in getting customers to cut water consumption by what it said were policies having the equivalent effect of a rationing plan that would allow water use for 36 hours, followed by a ban on use for the following 72 hours.

According to the report Sabesp in April began offering 20 percent discounts for customers who cut their consumption by at least 20 percent from their 12-month average.

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Charity fights for the rights of street children in Brazil

July 30, 2014

Natricia Duncan – The Guardian, 7/30/2014

Claudia Cabral, founder of Terra dos Homens, on the social workers and psychologists trying to help 24,000 children in appalling conditions.

Why did you start Terra dos Homens in 1996?
While studying for my degree in psychology, I spent some time at my grandmother’s shelter and I saw children facing some incredibly difficult situations. I decided then that I would try to do something to help.

After starting my career in a large government shelter, I worked for the Swiss-based Terre des Hommes in international adoption. I convinced the organisation to develop a national adoption programme and to invest in the prevention of family separation. After 15 years, they asked me to create a local, independent non-governmental organisation. Because Terre des Hommes [literally "land of people"] was already well established in Rio de Janeiro, I kept the name and translated it to the Brazilian.

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Appalachian’s Energy Center will help improve life for Brazil’s catadores

July 29, 2014

ASU News, 7/28/2014

A community-based landfill gas project in Brazil piloted in 2009 by the Appalachian Energy Center located at Appalachian State University will soon become reality.

The Green Methane Committee in Fortaleza/Maracanaú, Brazil, which the Appalachian Energy Center helped form and train, will receive approximately $750,000 from the Brazilian Ministry of the Environment – National Fund on Climate Change to construct a system to collect and utilize methane gas from the Maracanaú Landfill. The Appalachian Energy Center also helped plan this landfill gas collection and utilization system.

The gas will be used at an Energy Park that will be constructed adjacent to the landfill where catadores (Brazilian waste pickers) will gather plastic and glass recyclables from the waste stream before they end up in the landfill, providing more profit for these workers.

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Though not a ‘diplomatic dwarf,’ Brazil lacks clout

July 29, 2014

Ben Tavener – Al Jazeera America, 7/29/2014

Brazil woke from a foreign policy slumber last week and waded into the world’s most complex geopolitical conflict.

As the number of civilian deaths in Gaza continued to climb to disturbing levels, Brazil’s Foreign Ministry issued a short statement saying it considered the “escalation of violence” between Israel and Palestine “unacceptable” and “strongly condemned the disproportionate use of force by Israel in the Gaza Strip.”

Brazil said it would recall its ambassador in Israel for consultation — an act of protest in diplomatic terms — which effectively fractured ties with Israel. The Palestinians praised Brazil for the strong diplomatic gesture, but Israel’s Foreign Ministry said, “Such steps do not contribute to promote calm and stability in the region,” provide a “tailwind to terrorism” and affect “Brazil’s capacity to wield influence.”

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Brazil probes $10 million embezzled from Red Cross

July 28, 2014

Anastasia Moloney – Thomson Reuters Foundation, 7/28/2014

Brazilian authorities are investigating the embezzlement of 10 million dollars of humanitarian funds from the Brazilian Red Cross.

The ongoing investigation comes after an audit, commissioned by the Brazilian Red Cross last year, which revealed millions of dollars in voluntary contributions and donor funding had been siphoned off.

“The funds collected from two years of campaigning by the Brazilian Red Cross from 2010 to 2012 for four campaigns, including Somalia, the Japan tsunami, floods in Rio de Janeiro and a national dengue campaign did not reach where they were supposed to go. The funds were diverted,” said Paulo Roberto Costa, secretary general of the Brazilian Red Cross.

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Brazil is set to become the world’s biggest soy producer — and that might be bad news for its forests

July 28, 2014

Gerry Hadden – Public Radio International, 7/28/2014

It’s covered by millions of acres of industrial farms and deep green soy fields. If this year’s harvest — the best in Brazilian history — comes in as expected, Brazil is poised to surpass the US and become the world’s largest soy producer. Soy beans have boosted Brazil’s economy and even brought President Dilma Roussef to Mato Grosso to congratulate farmers in person.

But in a nearby indigenous village, no one is celebrating. The boom in soy production coincided with a spike in deforestation. And Hiparidi Toptiro, an activist from the indigenous Xavante people, says local soy farmers are willing to do anything for a chunk of the forest where the Xavante live.

“Throughout our lands, people show up wielding false deeds to the area,” Toptiro says.  “And they have begun to plant soybeans inside our lands. They pay off one of our villages with a little money, which complicates the relationship between all of us in the reserve. “ He calls it dividing and conquering with trinkets.

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Brazil’s indigenous tribes: The low cost solution to climate change?

July 28, 2014

Fabíola Ortiz – RTCC, 7/28/2014

“Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change: How Strengthening Community Forest Rights Mitigates Climate Change” was launched jointly by World Resources Institute (WRI) and Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) last week.

It says indigenous territories (ITs) in Brazil stand as a successful model for a deforestation resistance.

The study reveals that strengthening community forest rights is a low cost strategy to preserve at least 37 billion tonnes of carbon “safely stored” around the world.

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Brazil: Reforms Fail to End Torture

July 28, 2014

Human Rights Watch, 7/28/2014

Torture remains a serious problem in Brazil despite recent measures to curb the practice, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to the Brazilian Congress. Congress should approve a bill that would safeguard against ill-treatment of detainees by requiring officials to physically present them before a judge for a “custody hearing” within 24 hours of arrest.

Human Rights Watch found compelling evidence in 64 cases of alleged abuse since 2010 that security forces or prison authorities engaged in cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment against people in their custody. In 40 of these cases, the evidence supported the conclusion that the abuse rose to the level of torture. While these abuses often occur in the first 24 hours in police custody, detainees typically must wait for three months or more before they see a judge to whom they can directly report the abuse.

“Brazil has taken important steps to confront the problem of torture, but much more is needed,” said Maria Laura Canineu, Brazil director at Human Rights Watch. “So long as detainees wait months to see a judge, they’re far less likely to report the abuses they’ve suffered – and by then, the physical evidence may well have disappeared.”

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Brazil’s Newly Contacted Tribe Already Has the Flu, and It Could Wipe Them Out

July 25, 2014

Jason Koebler – Motherboard, 7/22/2014

It has happened many times before, and it’s happening again: Members of apreviously uncontacted tribe that recently made contact with the outside world have gotten sick. Now, they’ve retreated back into the Amazon Rainforest, which is very bad news, as it puts the entire tribe at risk of infection—and possibly death.

Last month, seven members of an unnamed, uncontacted tribe in northwestern Brazil became the first of its kind to interact with the Brazilian government in nearly 20 years after reportedly being driven out of the forest by a traumatic event—perhaps the invasion of their land by illegal loggers in Peru. The tribe had been living in the forest completely uninterrupted and without communication with the world outside of the Amazon Rainforest, which is one of the reasons they’re often referred to as “isolated” tribes.

In any case, each of the seven tribe members got the flu, according to FUNAI, the Brazilian agency that deals with indigenous populations. That’s what happens when uncontacted tribes are contacted, because its members haven’t spent hundreds of years being exposed to the diseases that most people’s bodies have become accustomed to.

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