Friday, October 2, 2020

Amazon at a tipping point (Oct. 2, 2020)

 The introduction to the New York Times' Opinion series on the Amazon is damning: "We've been talking about 'saving the rainforest' for decades, but trees are still burning, oil is still spilling, and dams are still being built. Today the people of the Amazon are living through the most extreme versions of our planets most urgent problems." The series features opinion pieces by a dozen experts on what is going on in the rainforest and what to do. Here are a few:

  • Climate change -- rising temperatures and more extreme droughts -- are combining lethally with fires used to clear land for cattle and agricultural use. As a result, the previously fire-resilient Amazon rainforest is burning, and may be approaching the tipping point when large portions of the forest turn into tropical savannas, write Bruno Carvalho and Carlos Nobre.
  • Indigenous tribes could effectively fight the fires, if the government would cooperate with them, write Marcia Nunes Macedo and Valéria Paye Pereira in their contribution. "Instead of learning from Indigenous people, the Brazilian government has left them out of discussions about how to manage their own territories. It continues to treat them as “wards of the state” rather than people with the simple right to occupy their land and maintain their way of life. The international community has followed Brazil’s lead."
  • "The question is not how to extract more resources from the Amazon, but how to empower its people," according to Chris Feliciano Arnold.
  • There is an evangelical conquista happening across Latin America and, in the struggle for religious hegemony, Amazon indigenous peoples are a sought-after prize, according to Manuela Lavinas Picq.
  • Oil sustains Peru's economy, but the price is paid by the country's Amazon indigenous tribes, writes Joseph Zárate.
More on climate
  • Fires in Brazil’s Amazon increased 13% in the first nine months of the year compared with a year ago, as the rainforest region experiences its worst rash of blazes in a decade, according to satellite data. (Guardian)
  • Bolivia is struggling to contain fires that have ripped through more than a million hectares of farmland and forests, reports Reuters.
  • Drought and high temperatures have also caused devastating wildfires in Paraguay, reports the Guardian.
News Briefs

  • Migrants crossing Central America towards the U.S. face an ever-changing kaleidoscope of physical and legal obstacles. Carlos Dada traces the haunting and ill-fated journey of Cameroonian migrants who fled violence at home, trekked from Ecuador to Mexico and drowned trying to get past Mexican authorities trying to choke-off migrant flows to the U.S. "Had the Mexican authorities observed their own laws, the three men would probably still be alive." (London Review of Books)
  • The second of three ships loaded with gasoline from Iran approached fuel-starved Venezuela earlier this week, as protests over lack of goods and services in the country increased, reports the Associated Press.
  • Venezuela's government insisted that legislative elections must be held on Dec. 6, following European Union calls to postpone in order to ensure a free and fair vote, reports Reuters. (See Tuesday's briefs.)
  • Amid growing perceptions that Venezuela National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó’s confrontational tactics have failed to loosen Nicolás Maduro’s grip on power, opposition leader Henrique Capriles is positioning himself to once again lead resistance to the regime. And if his latest gambit pays off, he might just succeed, writes Félix Seijas Rodríguez in Americas Quarterly.
El Salvador
  • About 600 journalists and intellectuals from 47 countries condemned attacks against El Faro and Salvadoran independent media by President Nayib Bukele and his administration. (El Faro, see last Friday's briefs.)
  • Colombia has recorded at least 42 massacres since the start of 2020, according to the United Nations, and another 13 incidents are being verified. It is already the highest number of massacres since the 2016 signing of a peace agreement with the former FARC fighters, reports Al Jazeera. Indepaz tallies 50 massacres so far this year. (AFP)(See Wednesday's briefs and yesterday's.)
  • Historian and Colombia Humana local leader Elías Galindo was killed in Medellín, his family believes the murder was related to his political activity. (Nodal)
  • A sudden and spectacular appreciation in Haiti’s national currency, the gourde, is creating havoc across the country, reports the Miami Herald.
  • Concern over how smaller countries in the region, particularly in the Caribbean, will access an eventual coronavirus vaccine prompted Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves to ask whether "only rich lives matter" at the U.N. General Assembly. The play on "Black lives matter" is relevant, writes Pedro Brieger in Nodal, and emphasizes the relevance of Caribbean demands for slavery reparations from the U.K.
  • The Mexican Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s proposal for a non-binding referendum on investigating his five living predecessors for corruption and filing charges if warranted, reports EFE. (See Wednesday's briefs, among others.)
  • National anthems in the Americas "tell a story of our region as a whole: who we are; how we reached independence; and how we have changed. They are, in short, a microcosm of what the Americas represent and how they have evolved," writes Jeffrey Zinsmeister in a review of how the region's anthems have changed over the years and what they say about us. (Global Americans)
  • Coronavirus cases and fatalities are slowing down, on average, in Latin America, prompting hopes of a respite in the hard-hit region, reports the Wall Street Journal. Infectious-disease experts warn it is too early to draw major conclusions, but they say most countries in the region appear to have either passed the worst of the outbreak or at least the worst of the first wave of infections.
  • Argentina and Colombia were lauded for implementing rapid and strict coronavirus lockdowns in March -- but virus cases and deaths are now surging in both countries. "As a result, policymakers in both countries face a difficult balancing act, attempting to bring about economic recovery, and prevent social and political unrest, while keeping the virus at bay," according to the Wilson Center's Weekly Asado.
  • Peru, which has the world’s highest per capita death rate from coronavirus, will carry out a nationwide study to gauge the prevalence of Covid-19 antibodies -- officials believe a third of the population has probably already been exposed to the coronavirus. (Bloomberg)
Zoom legislative etiquette
  • Recent scandals in Paraguay and Argentina show that transitioning to virtual congressional sessions is more challenging than it seems. Paraguayan lawmaker Roberto González appeared shirtless (or more, the footage is blurry) in the midst of a virtual legislative session -- a blip he attributed to a domestic accident with tereré. (Perfíl) In Argentina, lawmaker Roberto Ameri resigned his seat in Argentina's Chamber of Deputies last week, after he bared and nuzzled his girlfriend's newly enhanced breasts during a virtual session of congress. (New York Post) Another lawmaker in Argentina, Esteban Bullrich, starred in a more PG scandal earlier this year when it appeared he had posted a backdrop picture of himself to appear to listen to a legislative session rather than actually sit in front of the camera. Página 12 talks about lawmakers' "digital unalfabetism."
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always. 


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