Americas

Bolivia: Contribution of Indigenous people to fighting climate change hanging by a thread

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Earth’s forests oxygenate the atmosphere and store vast quantities of planet-warming carbon dioxide (CO₂). But research suggests that the health of these vast ecosystems in large part depends on the work of indigenous people.

Indigenous territories and protected areas cover 52% of the Amazon forest and store 58% of its carbon. A recent study found that these areas had the lowest net loss of carbon between 2003 and 2016, with 90% of net emissions coming from outside these protected lands. read more

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Toward Freedom: a progressive perspective on world events.

Toward Freedom

1 day 3 hours ago

April 7 is the date that marks the beginning of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. This story provides an in-depth look at how opponents of President Paul Kagame are faring today.

"On February 17, the world woke up to the disturbing news of the death of Kizito Mihigo, 38, a Rwandan gospel music artist and arguably the country’s most visible cultural figure. Mihigo was found dead in a prison cell in Kigali, the country’s capital, after being detained for three days.

Mihigo’s problems with the Rwandan government began following the uploading of a new song titled Igisobanuro Cy’urupfu (The Meaning of Death) to YouTube.

The Meaning of Death called out the official line of the government: that the Tutsi community alone suffered the April 1994 genocide, while Hutu people are made to appear as the sole perpetrators of the fratricide.

But Mihigo, who was a Tutsi, said members of both communities suffered in the genocide and should be accorded recognition. His version clearly contradicts the official version, promoted during the 26-year old regime of President Paul Kagame, 62."

Toward Freedom

2 days 5 hours ago

This essay, just translated to English, looks at the coronavirus crisis devastating Guayaquil, Ecuador, from a feminist perspective. Originally published by Revista Amazonas.

"But the masks, gloves, and gel are not only lacking for families in Isla Trinitaria. Public hospitals have been abandoned. On March 24th the government of Ecuador decided to pay the external debt, disbursing $324 million, all the while refusing to disburse new funds to supply the public health system. In our interview, Lenny mentioned conditions of the workers in the health sector:

'The doctors are scared because they’re human beings. They don’t have the equipment and they don’t have the medicine. In the health centers of Daule, they say there is no one. People are lining up outside the health centers and they have no one to attend to them. Most health centers are abandoned because they have no pills… We must disseminate this information: nurses, doctors, and stretcher bearers are completely unprotected, putting their families at risk, as the pandemic continues.'"

Toward Freedom

5 days 2 hours ago

This story from The Conversation US argues that protections for farmworkers must be introduced to ensure they can stay healthy and work with dignity through the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition, farmworkers should be granted legal status to work and live in the US, and to bring their families up too.

"Widespread infections among farmworkers could make it difficult for farmers to harvest crops. Even before the pandemic, farmers in many agricultural areas were already struggling with labor shortages.

The coronavirus could make this problem worse, potentially causing the loss of crops that cannot be harvested in time. Demand for farmworkers peaks in the summer, so this problem is only a few months away.

Another concern is that fewer workers, fearful of the coronavirus, will apply for H-2A visas to work on U.S. farms, instead seeking work in their home countries. Farmers in hard-hit Italy are already grappling with a similar issue. And on the other side of this issue, the suspension of visa services at U.S. embassies and consulates may restrict the number of H-2A visas given out.

Eventually, consumers could begin to see the impact of any labor shortages in the form of higher prices or shortages of products ranging from strawberries and lettuce to meat and dairy."

Toward Freedom

6 days 4 hours ago

Sharing a story from The Appeal on the imperative to decarcerate, for the health of all.

"In response to coronavirus, daily civilian life has shifted significantly in an effort to slow the spread of disease and “flatten the curve.” At the beginning of the U.S. outbreak, the criminal legal system generally operated under business-as-usual protocols, jeopardizing the health of incarcerated individuals, correctional officers, and the general population at large.

Now, some jurisdictions are leading the way by holding mass plea hearings to reduce jail populations, halting incarceration for misdemeanor and traffic offenses, shifting to virtual court proceedings, and making plans to release the most vulnerable prisoners.

The coronavirus pandemic is a public health crisis unlike any we have seen in decades. It also exposes the inherent injustices of our criminal legal system, including the unconscionable number of people held in jails and prisons in inhumane conditions. The majority of people in jails are being held pretrial, many for misdemeanor charges. We must act now to release as many people from jails as we can, while recognizing that our system harms public health, even under normal circumstances."

Toward Freedom

1 week 1 day ago

Sharing a new story by Joshua Collins that looks at how the emerging cannabis industry is shaping up in Colombia.

“'The process [of certification] is incredibly complex,' said Carlos Rodriguez Vives, a grower and local partner with Canadian company Avicanna. 'And even once we had our licenses, we had to negotiate with the local government to demonstrate we had proper security, a credible source of financing and prove we were employing workers from the region.'

There have also been accusations that Canadian conglomerates bought their way into the process before the oversight was formalized. Toward Freedom reported in October that Canadian companies PharmaCielo and Cannavida were granted licenses to grow medical marijuana even before regulations connected to legalization were fully approved by Colombia’s congress.

In the 1980’s, 80 per cent of farmers on the Atlantic coast of Colombia were growing small amounts of marijuana alongside food crops according to a 2019 study by the Transnational Institute.

Restrictions on exportation have excluded small farmers and community groups from impoverished regions. 'To export, a farmer needs to be able to produce pharmaceutical grade [THC] extract. It doesn’t matter if a community holds a license to cultivate if they can’t sell their product to a buyer,' says Juliana Salazar, a risk-consultant and analyst in the Cannabis industry.

'What we’re seeing are communities locked out of the process because they don’t have the money to build the necessary infrastructure,' she says. 'Internationals are dominating the market.'"

Toward Freedom

1 week 2 days ago

Sharing a story from Mada Masr English on the situation for prisoners and their families in Egypt, where thousands of dissidents remain behind bars.

"Magda Adli, a doctor with the Al-Nadeem Center for Rehabilitation of Victims of Violence and an activist for prison health conditions, told Mada Masr: 'There is extreme overcrowding and very poor ventilation. People sleep propped on their sides and sometimes sleep in shifts because of the crowding. The food is bad too, especially when visits are banned. This is on top of the risk to elderly and sick prisoners and the lack of healthcare and testing capabilities inside prisons.'

In 2015, a report from the National Council for Human Rights said that detention facilities face 'alarming concentrations of defendants.' According to the report, prisons were operating at 160 percent of their holding capacity and police stations at nearly 300 percent. A report issued by the EIPR in March 2016 pointed to the unprecedented deterioration of prison infrastructure and the absence of health care. 'Inmates lack the most basic means for a healthy, sanitary existence,' the report said. 'At the same time, they and their visitors are subject to mistreatment, and visitors are not permitted to bring clothing, bedding, and food for them from outside the prison, although what prisons provide to inmates is inadequate. In some cases, conditions are akin to those of the Middle Ages.'

Adil says that prisoners: 'are vulnerable to high rates of infection if anyone transmits the illness. The virus could then spread to prison guards, prison police, courts, prosecutors’ offices, and lawyers. We’re vulnerable to a viral outbreak in prisons, and it will spread outside prisons if there is no intervention.' Adli echoes the demands for the immediate release of all people awaiting trial as well as prisoners who have served half their sentence, elderly prisoners, and prisoners with chronic illnesses. This would reduce crowding, after which prisons should be routinely sanitized, he says."

Toward Freedom

1 week 5 days ago

Sharing a new translation of a powerful, timely reflection on illness, individualism & the collective good by Yásnaya Elena Aguilar Gil.

"When an extraordinary event takes place, in the form of an earthquake, or the state fails, as it constantly does, the lie of individualism is revealed: it becomes necessary to talk to a neighbor, to congregate and collectively face the extraordinary situation that brings to the table a notion that is negated but whose rhythm undergirds being human: we need each other. Even in very individualistic societies, the need for collectivity reveals itself in periods of breakdown: stopping the COVID-19 pandemic requires that we all participate, keeping a safe distance and washing our hands can save the lives of people we don’t know, and the actions of others can save the life of our octogenarian mother. If the propagation of the virus shows us the insides of the interrelated structures in which we live, it also shows that only collective care that can stop the pandemic.

The epidemics of the Sixteenth Century had a material historical, economic and political context, COVID-19 has appeared in the midst of a crisis of capitalism and this context will give it particular characteristics and will lead it to have specific consequences. Capitalism has needed the idea of individual success and personal merit, capitalism has held up the idea of the individual who fears a communist or communal plot which takes away his property, acquired with jealous zeal. But a virus is not private property."

Toward Freedom

2 weeks 6 hours ago

Sharing a story from Diálogo Chino that looks at the ways forward for China's economy as the shutdown related to Covid-19 begins to ease.

"Tens of trillions of yuan of investment is planned in major projects across China this year, according to figures in the Economic Information Daily. The latest figures indicate that among the batch of special-purpose bonds (SPBs) issued by local governments earlier in the year than usual, about 67% has gone to the infrastructure sector.

SPBs are designed to help local governments inject funds into specific projects, such as irrigation and toll roads, to help boost their economies. Since January, local governments have issued about 950 billion yuan (US$136 billion) of SPBs, accounting for about 73.6% of the front-loaded SPB quota for this year.

Transport and energy infrastructure – including gas pipelines, oil refineries and nuclear power plants – are well represented in the project lists that some provinces have published. For example, Jiangsu province plans to invest 220 billion yuan (US$30 billion) in infrastructure out of the 540 billion yuan that is going into 240 major projects.

Of the 233 major projects listed by Shandong province, 25 are road or rail construction and 16 are building projects. Meanwhile, Yunnan province announced an infrastructure construction plan at a recent press conference on Covid-19, including 100 billion yuan for high-speed rail.

Economic analysts expect to see infrastructure investment in China climb by as much as 8% to 9% this year.

A nalyst Lauri Myllyvirta has calculated that the extended holiday cut China’s carbon emissions in the first two weeks of the lunar new year by a quarter year-on-year. These climate savings may be offset by a government stimulus package favouring infrastructure projects."

Toward Freedom

2 weeks 1 day ago

In February, Guatemala's new president used the threat of COVID-19 to pass a law restricting human rights activities. Jeff Abbott reports from Guatemala City.

"'The worry is that [the reform] gives the state the possibility and capacity to have control over its critics and groups that are not related to them,' Marielos Chang, an independent political analyst, told Toward Freedom. 'If the state considers that an organization breaks the public order –say protesting outside of congress– then that can be the justification to close that organization.'

On March 2nd, Guatemala’s highest court temporarily suspended the controversial reform of the NGO Law, which was known as Initiative 5279 prior to its approval. In its decision, the Constitutional Court stated that the reform “carries a threat of the violation of human rights.”

The court’s decision to suspend the reform is widely seen as a victory for various movements across Guatemala. It comes after various organizations and individuals, including current congressional representatives, including Aldo Davila and other members of leftist Winaq party. Former representatives like Leocadio Juracán, who served in congress from 2016 to 2020, also issued challenges to the reform in the court. The Constitutional Court case argues that the reform limits freedom of expression, of the right of association, and freedom to protest.

While the Constitutional Court’s decision temporarily suspends the reform from being implemented, it now must go to a public hearing where supporters will present their arguments. A full decision will take time."

Toward Freedom

2 weeks 2 days ago

Sharing this dispatch on Covid-19 and Palestine from Independent Jewish Voices Canada.

“'I have a 9-year old son now, and we’ve been having conversations about Palestine and the Coronavirus, especially since his school closed yesterday for the next two weeks. We’ve been talking about what to do around the house.'

'Yesterday I was telling him about how the Coronavirus’ impacts of not being able to go to work or school remind me of home in Palestine when I was a kid. We used to not go to school because of military curfew or invasion. And when I was a kid, I really liked that — not going to school, despite the fact that it was due to military invasion. It was only later that I learned it was an awful thing. So my son told me that he was really excited there was no school, but it’s also bad there’s this virus and people are getting hurt. It was interesting to compare my experiences as a kid in Palestine to my son’s experience with the Coronavirus.'

I asked Ashraf if he could count the amount of times he was under Israeli military curfew in his lifetime. He said he couldn’t.

'I was under curfew so many times growing up that it’s impossible to count. A military curfew could be just a few hours, or days, a quick invasion.'