Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for January 2023

Mongabay’s What-To-Watch list for January 2023

  • Mongabay’s December videos covered an investigation of land grabbing in Brazil, a biomass producer outed by a whistleblower in the U.S., farmers facing drought in India, rising seas in Sierra Leone, and more.
  • While the Chasing Deforestation episode shows us how a religious group is clearing the Amazon in Peru, the latest Mongabay Explains episode throws light on why bottom trawling is so controversial.
  • Watch how monoculture has degraded the soil in Brazil, how the government means to secure fast-eroding islands in India, how cocoa plantations in Brazil helped recover degraded land, and India’s experiments with cage-based aquaculture.
  • Get a peek into the various segments of the environment across the globe. Add these videos to your watchlist for the month and watch them for free on YouTube.

In December, Mongabay released videos of several important environmental stories from across the world: an investigation of land grabbing in Brazil, a religious group clearing the Amazon in Peru, a biomass producer outed by a whistleblower in the U.S., sugarcane harvests during drought in India, rising seas in Sierra Leone, and more.

Indigenous communities in many countries have increasingly had their land snatched away by big industries. Mongabay’s contributing editor Karla Mendes released an investigation into how over half of palm oil industry Agropalma’s agricultural land was derived from fraudulent land titles. In another story of uncovering false statements by big industries, biomass company Enviva in the U.S. was found to be contributing to large-scale deforestation.

In the latest episode of Chasing Deforestation, host Romi Costagnino shows us how Mennonites in Peruvian Amazon have been illegally deforesting land and encroaching upon Indigenous territories. Another Mongabay seires Mongabay Explains throws light on why bottom trawling is controversial in the latest episode.

In India, Mongabay-India covered the issues faced by sugarcane farmers and harvesters in Maharashtra state. The water-intensive crop stays popular even in the face of climate change and demanding labor. In Brazil, monoculture has degraded soil in Mato Grosso do Sul state, leaving local biodiversity and Indigenous population to suffer the aftermath.

Climate change continues to wreak quiet havoc on communities sharing a close relationship with their environment. In Sienna Leone, Mongabay’s staff features writer Ashoka Mukpo shows us how coastal communities are building seawalls to keep the rising seas at bay, even as they work on mangrove restoration projects. Similarly, in India’s Sundarbans, the government has made building embankments a priority to stop erosion.

Add these videos to your watchlist for the month and watch them for free on Mongabay’s YouTube channel.

Whistleblower exposes top biomass producer’s empty promises

A biomass industry insider tells Mongabay in exclusive interviews that Enviva, the world’s largest maker of wood pellets for energy, is disingenuous in its green, eco-friendly claims to the public and stockholders. It says it doesn’t use big, whole trees, but only uses wood waste, “tops, limbs, thinnings, and/or low-value smaller trees” in the production of woody biomass burned in former coal power plants in the U.K., EU and Asia. It says it only sources wood from areas where trees will be regrown, and that it doesn’t contribute to deforestation. However, in first-ever interviews with a whistleblower who worked within Enviva plant management, Mongabay contributor Justin Catanoso has been told that all of these Enviva claims are false.

Read more: Whistleblower: Enviva claim of ‘being good for the planet… all nonsense’

Water migrants of Maharashtra, India | Sugarcane farming

Every year, during the sugarcane harvest season, thousands of workers from Maharashtra state’s drought-prone Marathwada region in western India, migrate within the state to work as sugarcane cutters. They work for low wages and in poor working conditions. Sugarcane farming is water intensive. Moreover, India is keen to boost its ethanol production from sugarcane in the region. This process requires large amounts of water in addition to sugarcane farming. In a water-stressed region, this could further strain the natural resource.

Read more: India aims to go big on sugarcane-based ethanol, but water intensity of the crop throws up concerns

In Brazil’s agricultural heartland, rivers run dry as monoculture advances

The Paraná River Basin has suffered an unprecedented drought since 2021, affecting hydropower generation, river-borne food shipments, and freshwater supplies for 40 million people across Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. In Brazil, the prolonged drought has hit some of the region’s most important reserves, including Várzeas do Rio Ivinhema State Park, which houses one of the last slices of forest in Mato Grosso do Sul state and acts as a refuge for hundreds of species. The drought has drained lagoons in the park, made parts of the reserve more prone to wildfires, and disrupted the breeding cycles of native birds. Environmentalists blame the advance of large-scale monoculture in the region, which has cleared most of the forests and ushered changes in rain patterns and droughts.

Read more: In Brazil’s agricultural heartland, rivers run dry as monoculture advances


Major Brazil palm oil exporter accused of land grabbing over Quilombola cemeteries

Agropalma, the only Brazilian company with the sustainability certificate issued by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), is accused of a wide range of land grabbing allegations in Pará state. The claims point that over half of the 107,000 hectares (264,000 acres) registered by Agropalma was derived from fraudulent land titles and even the creation of a fake land registration bureau, which is at the center of a legal battle led by state prosecutors and public defenders. Quilombola communities say that part of the area occupied by Agropalma overlaps with their ancestral land, including two cemeteries visited by Mongabay. In one of them, residents claim that just one quarter of the cemetery remains and that the company planted palm trees on top of the graves, which the company denies.

Read more: Major Brazil palm oil exporter accused of fraud, land-grabbing over Quilombola cemeteries

Behind the scenes: Investigating land grab claims against major Brazil palm oil exporter

Go behind the scenes with Karla Mendes, Mongabay’s Contributing Editor in Brazil, as she investigates fraud and land-grabbing claims against Agropalma, the only Brazilian company with the sustainability certificate issued by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) and second-largest palm oil exporter in the country.


How did a religious group take over part of the Amazon?

Host Romi Castagnino travels to the central Peruvian Amazon Rainforest, where a deeply conservative religious group, known as Mennonites, has been illegally deforesting land and encroaching upon Indigenous territories to expand their agricultural fields. Satellite data show that Mennonite colonies are now the leading cause of large-scale deforestation in the Peruvian Amazon. Romi talks with leaders and members of two Indigenous communities affected by the Mennonite-led deforestation and also visits the Mennonite colony of Masisea, the one responsible for the illegal clearing.

Read more: Mennonites deforest Peruvian Amazon, encroach on Indigenous lands | Chasing Deforestation


Rising seas and climate aid in Sierra Leone

Mongabay’s Ashoka Mukpo visited the Sherbro estuary, a sprawling riverine ecosystem of mangroves among coastal fishing villages on the coast of Sierra Leone in April of this year. It is suffering the impacts of climate change, much like other coastal communities in West Africa. A USAID project financing the replanting of mangroves and the construction of makeshift seawalls between 2016 and 2021, and the struggles it has faced, are an example of the challenges climate aid efforts contend with when meeting the economic and social needs of people who live in vulnerable areas like the town of Bonthe.

Read more: In Sierra Leone’s fishing villages, a reality check for climate aid

Land and homes fall apart as people wait for stronger embankments | Sundarbans coastal erosion

Erosion is a slow disaster playing out across the Indian Sundarbans landscape. Of the 104 islands, all ten islands facing the sea are shrinking in size at different paces. Erecting embankments on the banks of Sundarbans’ fast-eroding islands “should be treated as a priority project,” says an expert committee report of the West Bengal state government. However, acquiring land and money is a challenge. Concerns have been raised about the kind and quality of embankments that are being constructed as residents bear the brunt of embankments getting continuously breached.

Read more: Lack of resources slow embankment construction in the Sundarbans


Why you should care about bottom trawling?

A new episode of “Mongabay Explains” examines the controversial fishing method known as bottom trawling, in which vessels drag a net across the seafloor to scoop up bottom-dwelling marine life. Ever since the 14th century, fishers who use other gear types — later joined by conservationists and scientists — have objected to bottom trawling, saying the gear takes too many fish and destroys seafloor habitat that’s essential to the functioning of marine ecosystems. Proponents of bottom trawling, however, argue that the practice provides an important share of our seafood as well as numerous jobs, and cannot be abandoned. In this video, Mongabay takes a look at bottom trawling and the reasons it’s so controversial.


A new generation of local cocoa producers in the Amazon

Cocoa plantations in the Brazilian state of Pará have helped to recover about 150,000 hectares (370,660 acres) of degraded land in the last 25 years. The Brazilian government has supported agroforestry within key commercial crops, such as cocoa, to fight rampant deforestation in the Amazon and offset carbon. By 2030, another 250,000 cocoa trees are expected to be planted in the region, according to some sources, increasing cocoa’s currently cultivated area by 25%. One hectare of cocoa plantation under an agroforestry system can remove 165 tons of carbon from the atmosphere, Brazilian research shows, which could make carbon markets an attractive opportunity for farmers in the Amazon.

Read more: Amazon-produced cacao offers climate solutions


Using a dam’s reservoir for cage-based aquaculture

Odisha, India, has introduced cage-based aquaculture in a dam reservoir. The growing demand for inland fish has pushed the government to utilise its dam reservoirs and freshwater sources. While it’s a viable business opportunity, a market for cage-bred fish needs to be developed.

Read more: To increase fish production, Odisha turns to cage aquaculture

Banner image: Women carry water next to sugarcane crops in Mahrashtra, India. Image by Daniel Bachhuber via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).


This story first appeared on Mongabay

South Africa Today – Environment

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