The various challenges of French Guiana

It is one of the French districts located in South America – French Guiana not only shares a border with Brazil and Surinam, but also a part of the Amazonian rainforest.

This rainforest covers 20,300 square kilometers, which roughly corresponds to a fourth of French Guiana’s total surface.

With the growing concerns for the preservation of the “lungs of the world”, due to intensive agriculture and deforestation in neighbouring areas, French Guiana has taken action to protect the forest and biodiversity including animals and communities living there. To do so, the authorities created the Amazonian Park of French Guiana in 2007, a year after this area was legally labelled as a French National Territory.

The measures taken since 2015 for the protection of this area include surveillance on the national park’s activities where police invigilates any suspicious and fraudulous activity such as gold panning and poaching.  

The national park is organized in a way that people are allowed to explore it and some areas are strictly protected to host living communities and protected species. I have had the chance to explore pathways in the forest of French Guiana where I could spot species I had never seen nor heard before. 

Indeed, people who go on these pathways are required not to litter, to avoid damaging the beauty of the place. Plants are also protected so cannot be plucked out. 

Recently, the local authorities have issued a document in order to decrease the use of hard copies for formalities, in favour of digital forms. 

Of course it raises the question of the existence of data centers, and even though awareness is raised regarding the preservation of the Amazon rainforest, the question regarding the protection of the ocean is also at stake.

Gold mining has remained an issue for the local populations. In effect, gold mining and gold panning have been performed in French Guiana since the 19th century in certain areas. In 2018, a project named “The Gold Mountain Project/ Le projet Montagne d’or”, a governmental project in the area of Saint Jean du Maroni, which consisted in extracting gold from a preserved area, was abandonned in May 2019 after associations of citizens including local populations living in the forest disagreed upon the matter. Such a project implies excavating the ground and deforestation, endangering ecosystems and local communities living in these areas. Still, the project was not completely left aside : a new project named “Esperance” has been voted for by the mining commission of French Guiana in April 2020. Local representatives of Indigenous tribes as well as associations such as WWF have voted and been fighting against it, yet the project is said to start in 2025. The surface to be excavated would correspond to 1,5 km and 300 meters deep. The process of excavation involves the use of dynamite and cyanure, both means being extremely lethal.

Sources : Guyane Soir, parc-amazonien-guyane.fr, Une Saison en Guyane by Guillaume Feuillet, www.la-croix.com by Pierre Garrigues on May 3, 2020, France TV Info, manufacture.paliens.org

Written by Adélaïde Uppal

SUSTAINABLE IDEAS : WHEN OLD IS THE NEW TREND

Have you ever thought, in a corner of your mind, if single use objects could have a better fate than being thrown in the recycle bin
Actually, lots of people around the world already have thought about new ways to stop single use objects and give a new purpose to such things.

Pinterest, is an enlighting and thrilling mine of easy and fun ideas for those who try to change their daily lifestyle for a more sustainable one. 

The Bead Weaver, a project that started three years ago, is the result of a blend of ideas from my exploration of Pinterest as well as what I did during some of my free time : Stitching seed beads as well as miyuki beads into patterns to design funky jewelry.
At the very beginning, the designs were to become simple necklaces, bracelets and earrings. But with the growing debates on the environment, sustainability and eco-friendly actions, I somehow tried to find a way to be a part of it. First, collecting Sta-Tabs from tins of all types, were necessary to fix the flimsy woven designs into making sturdy earrings. It became a sort of signature. After some time, I considered keeping fused light bulbs and, having studied carefully some talented Russian designs used to create seed bead brick stitched Fabergé eggs, I thought that my old lamps could then become new fashionable Christmas decorations. Similarly and for a while, I had decorated little glass pots for festivals such as Diwali and the Lyonnaise Feast of Lights, simply by sticking the designs. It is a small scale project, but ultimately, I reduced wasting material

Many bloggers and online food platforms such as Marmiton also tend to suggest new ideas to be more responsible when consuming, especially when it comes to food, using the whole ingredients people buy from the markets : transforming lemon zest into powder to flavour dishes, making carrot tops soups etc… In a nutshell, anyone can reduce their carbon footprint, even if it is a small step, let’s hope for a giant leap… 

Written by Adélaïde Uppal

(Portuguese 🇧🇷) 2020: VEGETARIANISMO NA CRISTA DA ONDA

Não é novidade para ninguém que o consumo de carne e proteína de origem animal vem sendo reduzido cada vez mais.

Já passa de 10% o número de Brasileiros que se declaram vegetarianos. A Sociedade Vegetariana Brasileira (SVB) estima que dos 30 milhões de brasileiros são vegetarianos e cerca de 7 milhões veganos.

O Vegetarianismo tem se tornado cada vez mais estilo de vida indo além de simplesmente não comer carne mas também excluindo o consumo de produtos não alimentícios provenientes de animais, como lã, couro, seda e pele.

Para uns se trata de questão de saúde pública e consideram o consumo de carne como nocivo.

Existem aqueles que se tornam vegetarianos por razões éticas, considerando os direitos dos animais. Estes discordam de práticas como circos com animais, rodeios, produtos testados em animais e qualquer outra forma de atividade em que o animal seja explorado.

Outro motivo que leva uma pessoa a se tornar vegetariano seria também para diminuir os impactos ambientais (redução na emissão de gás metano) ou ate mesmo questões religiosas.

De um jeito ou de outro, verdade é que o vegetarianismo se encontra na Crista da onda, e cada vez mais se mostra um mercado bem atrativo. Mas será que essa tendência é o futuro?

Assim como o cigarro era largamente consumido nas década de 50/60 e hoje é visto como péssimo vicio, há quem acredite que no futuro comer carne sera julgado da mesma forma.

Desconsiderar este mercado não seria nada inteligente! Num futuro bem próximo o que as empresas deverão fazer é tentar reposicionar sua marca a valores mais responsáveis e conscientes com as mudanças climáticas, voltados para o tema ambiental e com viés de diminuir testes em animais. Mais farmers market e menos industrialização dos alimentos.

Será que se fôssemos todos veganos, essa atual pandemia existiria? Boa pergunta! não são poucas as evidências científicas que ligam o início do surto de COVID-19 ao consumo humano de animais. E esta não é a primeira vez que uma pandemia tenha sido, iniciada pela transmissão de animal não-humano para humano (ex. Gripe Suína, Gripe Aviária, Ebola etc). No artigo de Janaina Chiaradia para o site Parana Portal ela ressalta que: ˝Os animais não têm culpa pelas pandemias: culpada é a nossa insistência em explorá-los. Por isso, parece que as condutas veganas e as dietas vegetarianas não são mais apenas questões éticas, mas verdadeiras exigências de saúde pública global.˝ (paranaportal.uol.com.br)

Ampliar o mercado e a aceitação de produtos vegetarianos e veganos se tornará necessário e a discussão de assuntos como este estão cada vez mais presentes em grupos de amigos e almoços familiares.

É, ainda, responsabilidade dos pais educar as crianças de hoje para um futuro onde o consumo de carne não deva ser quase obrigatório como nossa geração foi educada. Formar um paladar ˝plant base˝é a chave para que gerações futuras naturalmente não se vejam reféns da carne para sobreviver.

Para quem não se sente estimulado a radicalmente cortar o consumo de carne 100% do seu dia a dia, a boa dica é escolher um dia da semana (ex. Segunda-sem carne) e fazer a sua contribuição (que embora pareça pequena, é muito importante) para o planeta. Façamos cada um, a nossa parte!

PRINCE WILLIAM LAUNCHES ‘PRESTIGIOUS’ ENVIRONMENT PRIZE

YouTube: AFP News Agency

(AFP)

Britain’s Prince William on Thursday launched a “prestigious” environmental prize aimed at turning “pessimism into optimism” by rewarding innovative solutions to the planet’s biggest problems.

The Earthshot Prize will present five £1 million ($1.3-million, 1.1-million-euro) awards each year for the next 10 years, to “incentivise change and help to repair our planet,” said his office in London.

The jury will include a host of high-profile global figures, including Queen Rania of Jordan, Australian actress Cate Blanchett, British naturalist David Attenborough and the Colombian singer Shakira.

Kensington Palace described it as the “most prestigious global environment prize in history” and said it was inspired by US president John F. Kennedy’s “Moonshot” project in the 1960s to put a man on the moon.

Copyright © AFP

What is “OxForest”? towards animal welfare in our industrial agriculture

What is “OxForest”? 

 It is a coined word meaning “cow (= ox) forest”. The name is based on the ideal image of cows, which are often recognized as mere livestock animals, running around freely in a forest. It contains our hope that the world’s deforestation and climate change will be stopped, while animal welfare will be enhanced.

OxForest


 The burner logo of OxForest Web Magazine is designed with the motif of a baobab tree that grows widely on the African continent. In the savanna of East Africa, where many giant baobab trees are found, the Massai value their cows and are known as “cow herders” who live with them, unlike how our industrial agriculture treats cows and produces greenhouse gas emissions.

Kouprey

 In Southeast Asia, the word “forest ox” actually exists, and in Khmer language it is called Kouprey[1], which was once distributed in the forest areas of Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Thailand. However, due to poaching and depletion of forests as their habitat, it is now said that about 250 forest oxen live in Cambodia or are already extinct. Since 1996, it has been listed on the IUCN Red List as “Critically Endangered[2].

Animal Liberation

 The fate of cows including forest oxen in Southeast Asia is just an unaccetable reality. Australian philosopher Peter Singer wrote a 1975 book “Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals[3] and called “speciesism” which refers to the differing treatment or moral consideration of individuals based on their species membership.

 After 40 years from Animal Liberation, Yuval Noah Harari, the author of the bestseller “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (2014)”[4], wrote a 2015 Guardian article under the title “Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history”[5] and called “the fate of industrially farmed animals is one of the most pressing ethical questions of our time.”


 Some recommended documentaries to get to know behind the scenes in our industrial agriculture

Written by Takeshi Inagawa


References:
1. Wikipedia: Kouprey
2. Timmins, R.J.; Burton, J. & Hedges, S. (2016). “Bos sauveli”. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2016: e.T2890A46363360.
3. Singer, Peter (1990) [1975]. Animal Liberation, New York Review/Random House.
4. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (London: Harvill Secker, 2014) ISBN 978-006-231-609-7
5. “Industrial farming is one of the worst crimes in history”, Yuval Noah Harari. The Guardin: 25 September 2015

From Asia to rural Africa – my journey through the forests and the development sector

Xue Weng, our new Deputy Editor-in-Chief, wrote an excelente article along with photos from Nairobi, Kenya (read her profile).

 My name is Xue, and I am honored to join the OxForest Editing Team as a Deputy Editor-in-Chief. On this unique web platform, I look forward to sharing my work with like-minded people in Japan and abroad, and to exchanging innovative ideas about conservation, rural development and green economy. I hold a BA in International Politics and Economics from Middlebury College, Vermont, U.S.A., a MSc in Environmental Change and Management from University of Oxford, U.K. I am also currently working toward a PhD at the School of Environment and Natural Resources at University of Freiburg, Germany in conjunction with my work at the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) Nairobi.

 Below, a little bit about myself, and my journey through rural communities in Asia and Africa and how I ended up in Nairobi.

 First, my childhood surrounded by rice paddies and mountains in rural Japan sits at the heart of my connection with nature, and my passion for conservation. I grew up in Kyushu, Japan where my Chinese parents had moved for their PhDs and research work. Looking back, even though I was young, I think the abundance of greenery, clean air and water along with the rural Japanese culture of stewardship of nature – which contrasted greatly with the grey and polluted landscapes of my Chinese hometown going through rapid industrialization at the time — planted an idea for my future: I would like to help preserve such beauties of rural landscapes in places going through rapid economic changes.

 Fast forward twenty years. By a twist of fate, for my master’s dissertation at the Environmental Change Institute (ECI) of University of Oxford, I had the privilege to travel to Cameroon to conduct field research on illegal logging. That was my first time setting a foot in a tropical rainforest. It was also my first time in Africa. The cacophony of noises, colors and scents inside the rainforests and in urban Yaoundé astonished me – and I think I have been ‘hooked’ ever since by their contrasting beauties between the serene nature and the vibrant society. It wasn’t just these colorful impressions. In fact, my research in Cameroon flipped my world view upside down – on what is illegal, and what is legitimate.

 For an academic detailed version of the story, you can read here (cifor.org). But the gist of the story, with a personal take, is this. I went to Cameroon looking for ‘illegal loggers’ trashing the precious forests of the Congo Basin, the world’s second biggest rainforest after the Amazon. What I found in the forests were local community members desperately trying to stake a claim on the resources about to be snatched away by corrupt politicians. To get some economic benefits on trees and land that have been passed down through generations, to pay for school fees for their children, to avoid hunger…and to simply ‘survive.’ These people were labeled as ‘illegal loggers’ by their own government, international development workers, and conservation activists. The reasons behind this cannot be elaborated fully due to lack of space, but you can search for an abundance of writing on elite capture, state corruption, legal pluralism in Africa’s natural resources sector.

A giant 100-year old ‘bubinga’ trees standing in 2013 – possibly already cut down and sold to Asia.

And those magnificent large trees when they are converted to timber for export

 Suffice to say that this mind-twisting reality that I encountered on the ground, where I went to look for the ‘bad guys’ and to save rainforests but instead came out wanting to help them secure their claim but feeling helpless about the fate of the glorious tress I had seen, was the beginning of my journey on sustainable rural development in Africa. Over the last 7 years, I travelled to rural communities in Cameroon, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Uganda and Tanzania for research and worked with various African NGOs, researchers and policymakers in those countries, China and other countries for a sustainable future. The longer I work on this continent, the more questions I encounter and the solutions I have in mind for the community, the continent and the world keep changing. But I suppose that’s a good thing – it is a humbling reminder to me, as a development worker on a foreign soil, that every time I enter a community, they teach me something new, something unique about preserving natural beauties in the midst of economic changes. Those are the favorite moments in my job.

Interviewing rice farmers in Uganda

Working with local researchers in cotton-farming communities in Zambia

During a fieldwork on illegal logging research  in Zambia

Women in mining communities in Tanzania

 I am currently a Research Fellow with the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR), based in Nairobi where I continue to learn and grow as a researcher, development worker and a multi-cultural person. I still call Kyushu my home and trace my environmentalism to those rice paddies and mountains, but years of study, work and travels through North America, Europe, Southeast Asia and now Africa continue to broaden and transform my identity. In my spare time, I enjoy cooking, yoga and learning new languages – currently learning German and Kiswahili to add to my repertoire of English, Chinese and Japanese.

Written by Xue Weng

Writers Needed!

Our web magazine consists of three key sections: ENVIRONMENTSustainable Development (every target and indicator for all 17 of the SDGs), and GO GLOBAL (culture, travel, studying abroad and language learning) for a general audience to change the way we see the world from different perspectives.

We are a world-class professional network for the Environment and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs): 58 members with 21 nationalities mostly in their thirties (including 11 PhD holders, eight PhD candidates, and a MD) among them working for; the United Nations (UNDP, UNEP, WFP), World Bank, JICA, universities (UK: Oxford, Reading, US: Harvard, Maryland, and Japan: Tokyo), scientific institutions (CIFOR, NBER), local governments, NGOs, as well as the private sector (such as Deloitte, BNP Paribas, and entrepreneurs). See the OxForest.org Members

Currently, we are looking for new members who can write about climate change, deforestation, biodiversity, food and water scarcity, as well as SDGs (Poverty, Hunger, Health and Well-being, Education, Gender equality, Innovation, Inequalities, and Peace and Justice), renewable energy, organic and Fairtrade products, animal welfare, vegetarian recipes, yoga, Boy/Girl Scouts, camping, ecotourism, cross-cultural understanding (your experience from travelling, volunteering or studying abroad) and language learning (such as French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, Russian, Arabic, Indonesian/Malaysian, Thai, Swahili) and more. We would appreciate just one short article from you! If you are interested, get in touch with us. We will send the writing guideline to your email (please be aware of spam filter).