The biodiversity emergency

A note from the editor

Dinyar Godrej

Nature’s restoration

Probably by mistake, a tiny bird flies up to my balcony in the busy, restless city and looks me in the eye. Is it sheer sentimentality that floods me with joy? Why does it feel like a visitation?

I haven’t taken the train anywhere in months due to the Covid-19 pandemic and I find myself filled with irrational longings for the inquisitive, iridescently speckled starlings that used to dart about my feet at the station, threading the cavernous space with their silvery song.

Many of us who live in urban areas feel a periodic yearning, an ache sometimes, for the wild. Even a cultivated green space becomes a refuge from daily stresses. And the scientific knowledge is piling up about all the ways simply being in nature helps our mental health, our immune systems, our wellbeing.

Nature restores, but is itself in need of restoration. Due to our constant commodification of the natural world we are erasing huge chunks of its awe-inspiring variety and damaging ourselves in the process. This edition’s Big Story amplifies some of the concerns of those who live closest to nature, while attempting to get to grips with the complex challenges involved if we want to stop biodiversity’s catastrophic decline. In the words of author Lucy Jones, we can no longer view nature as ‘a luxury, an extra, a garnish’.

Our continuing Food Justice series dovetails into the biodiversity theme with articles on the virulent consequences of Big Agriculture and forest farming in Ethiopia, a country in the news for reasons of conflict. Elsewhere we report on relatives’ agonizing search for Syria’s missing and what Finland has done to make its citizens so content.

Dinyar Godrej for the New Internationalist co-operative.
www.newint.org

The big story

 Another chunk of the Amazon rainforest goes up in smoke. In the last 10 years alone, 38,600 km2 (equal to 8.4 million football fields) has been deforested for ranching, logging, soy and oil-palm cultivation. Photo: Loren McIntyre/Stock Connection Blue/Alamy

Another chunk of the Amazon rainforest goes up in smoke. In the last 10 years alone, 38,600 km2 (equal to 8.4 million football fields) has been deforested for ranching, logging, soy and oil-palm cultivation.

Photo: Loren McIntyre/Stock Connection Blue/Alamy

The case for nature

We have brought the natural world and its diversity to a breaking point. Dinyar Godrej surveys the damage and explores how we need to act to repair it.

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The Big Story

Action & info

Action & info

Action, information, and advocacy groups to support on biodiversity.

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Photo: USGS/Unsplash

Why I matter

Seirian Sumner gives voice to a creature of amazing ecological value that humans usually consider a pest and the stinging scourge of summer picnics.

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Tourists and photographers zoom in on wildlife at the Mara river during the great wildebeest migration, Maasai Mara National Reserve, Kenya.Photo: Eric Baccega/Alamy

Beyond the tourist trail

Graeme Green speaks with local experts about why wildlife protection in Africa and Asia must push beyond relying on international visitors and foreign professionals towards sustainable, locally led initiatives.

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Machiguenga children at play in Manu’s spectacular wilderness, while their pet spider monkey explores a tree.Photo: Charlie James/National Geographic/Alamy

The limits of Eden

Peru’s Manu National Park is a biodiversity success story. But its management has left its ancestral peoples without voice and agency. Could that be about to change? asks Jack Lo Lau.

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Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim.

‘Indigenous people respect all species’

Hindou Oumarou Ibrahim is an environmental activist and member of Chad’s pastoralist Mbororo community who believes in twinning traditional knowledge with science to tackle ecosystem challenges.

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From left to right: A conservationist demonstrates to a class of schoolchildren the whooping crane costume used to rear chicks; Bullseye harlequin poison dart frog from the rainforest of Colombia; Andatu, the first Sumatran rhinoceros born in captivity in Indonesia.Photos from left to right: Nature and Science/Alamy; Dirk Ercken/Alamy; Reynold Sumakyu/Alamy.

What it takes

Around the world thousands of conservation projects are trying to rescue wildlife species in peril, often against huge odds. Each of them will face unique challenges, as these brief case histories demonstrate. Words: Dinyar Godrej.

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Industrializing pathogens? Cattle pictured in a feedlot in South Africa.Photo: Martin Harvey/Getty Images

Planet Farm

As industrial agriculture encroaches into the last wild places of the Earth, it’s unleashing dangerous pathogens. Time to heal the metabolic rift between ecology and economy, suggests Rob Wallace.

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An ingenious agroforestry farming system, which combines trees, shrubs and crops is practiced throughout Ethiopia’s lush southern highlands.Photo: Olivier Bourguet/Alamy

The sheltering forest

Tesfa-Alem Tekle travels to meet the Ethiopian farmers whose unique agroforestry system has kept hunger at bay for millennia.

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Wafa Ali Mustafa holds up a picture of her father during a demonstration on the International Day of the Disappeared, at Alexanderplatz, Berlin.Photo: Ahmad Kalaji

The search for Syria’s missing

The families of the disappeared are not giving up their search until they have answers. Jan-Peter Westad reports.

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Finntopia

Finntopia

Danny Dorling and Annika Koljonen explain how Finland has come to be so equal, peaceful and happy – and sketch out the lessons we might learn from its example.

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Opinion

View from Africa

View from Africa

The assault on journalists is an assault on democracy. Chin’ono’s crime was using Twitter to criticize Zimbabwe’s government, writes Nanjala Nyabola.

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View from Brazil

View from Brazil

With Trump’s defeat, Bolsonaro loses his imaginary friend. Bolsonaro’s desperate pledges to Trumpism have not paid off, argues Leonardo Sakamoto

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View from India

View from India

Adding pain to the pandemic. Nilanjana Bhowmick on the recent legislation steamrolled through parliament that has disadvantaged working people and gripped India’s farmers in protest.

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Currents

Robert Kyagulanyi, also known as the popstar Bobi Wine, speaks during a rally in Hoima in the west of Uganda.Photo: OPA Images/SIPA USA/PA Images

‘Let them own their country’

‘Let them think for themselves’, says the ‘ghetto president’, Bobi Wine.

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‘We’re coming for them’

‘We’re coming for them’

Police profiling in Nigeria by Shayera Dark.

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We dance

We dance

Update on queer tango from Argentina by Nina Meghji.

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Socorro Aguilar de-spines a cactus pad in Real de Catorce, Mexico. She likes to cook it up with onions, tomato and chillies or drink it in smoothies.Photo: Antonio Cascio

Return to the wild

Sustainable living in Mexico, report by Antonio Cascio.

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Around 50 people were arrested trying to protect this sacred Directions Tree, eventually felled to make way for a road.Photo: Sean Paris

‘We've lost too much’

Another day of mourning for First Nations people in Australia, reports Will Higginbotham.

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Another war over

Another war over

The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, report by Jan-Peter Westad.

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Reasons to be cheerful

Reasons to be cheerful

Coal mines out; Cleaners in; Park life.

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Regulars

Letters

Letters

Praise, blame and all points in between? Give us your feedback.

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Illustration: Sarah John

A homecoming

Iris Gonzales joins a repatriation flight bringing home Filipino workers – a bittersweet rite of passage.

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Citizenship for sale

Citizenship for sale

A scheme that was dreamed up by Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean.

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Seriously?

Seriously?

Transparency in food marketing.

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Inequality Watch

Inequality Watch

Empty homes vs homeless people in the US.

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Photo: Peter Byrne/PA Wire/PA Images

Sign of the times

Manchester Metropolitan University students protest the handling of Covid-19.

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Illustration: Omar Al Abdallat

Open Window

President Trump is defeated by Omar Al Abdallat (Jordan).

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Photos (clockwise from top left): The Mothers of Plaza de Mayo during their weekly demonstration to establish the fate of their disappeared children and grandchildren during the 1976-83 dictatorship; statues of footballer Carlos Tevez and revolutionary icon Che Guevara in the La Boca quarter of Buenos Aires; colourful houses and artwork also in La Boca, which is famous for the Argentine tango; harvesting the traditional way near the village of Juella in the northwest of the country.All photos from Majority World: Julio Etchart, Julio Etchart, Jeremy Jowell, Andres Lofiego.

Country Profile: Argentina

The photos, facts, and politics of Argentina.

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The debate: Reparations for transatlantic slavery

Is it time for reparations for transatlantic slavery? Kehinde Andrews and KA Dilday deliberate.

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Amazon for the Amazon? Founder Jeff Bezos at his firm's HQ in Seattle.Photo: Ted S Warren/AP

Temperature check

Can Amazon deliver a zero-carbon future? Words by Danny Chivers.

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Photo: Nyani Quarmyne / Majority World

Southern Exposure: Nyani Quarmyne

Nyani Quarmyne’s bird’s-eye view of a community gathering in Ghana.

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Hall of Infamy: Carrie Lam

Big Momma Carrie Lam is on a mission in Hong Kong.

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Betty Bigombe with the late General Robert Aronda Nyakairima, a Ugandan military commander who led the fight against Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army.Photo: Uganda People's Defense Forces

The Interview: Betty Bigombe

The intrepid Betty Bigombe talks about her immersive way of negotiating peace with the ultra-violent Lord’s Resistance Army. 

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When alcohol causes so much damage is it unethical to set up a brewery?

When alcohol causes so much damage is it unethical to set up a brewery?

Ethical and political dilemmas abound these days. Seems like we’re all in need of a New Internationalist perspective. Enter stage: Agony Uncle.

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Illustration: Andy Carter

What if…

What if we got real about sustainability? It might reverse the UN’s order of holiness, Vanessa Baird finds.

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The Puzzler

Crossword Puzzle, Association Words and Wordsearch

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Illustration: Marc Roberts

Only Planet

Trickle down, by Marc Roberts.

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Film, Book & Music Reviews

Mixed Media: Books

Mixed Media: Books

Theatre of War by Andrea Jeftanovic;  Untraceable  by Sergei Lebedev; How to Blow Up a Pipeline by Andreas Malm; Imagining Orwell by Julio Etchart.

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Mixed Media: Film

Mixed Media: Film

The Mole Agent (El agente topo)  directed and written by Maite Alberdi; African Apocalypse directed and co-written by Rob Lemkin.

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Mixed Media: Music

Mixed Media: Music

Freedom by Yvette Janine Jackson; Kologo by Alostmen.

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Nour SokhonPhoto: Myriam Boulos

Spotlight: Tse Tse Fly Middle East

Louise Gray turns her attention to the anti-slavery musical activism of Tse Tse Fly Middle East.

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