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TOPIC: nature

Green Or Gone

Deep Inside The Ecological Devastation Of Mexico’s Avocado Production

As avocado production stifles biodiversity, depletes water reserves and takes over once-forested land, farmers and environmentalists in Jalisco warn that Mexico’s “green gold” may not be so green after all.

ZAPOTLÁN EL GRANDE — Ten minutes away from downtown Ciudad Guzmán, the municipal capital of Zapotlán el Grande, is a small century-old ranch, where fruits and vegetables sprout from the ground and fall from the trees. It’s a picture of biodiversity fast fading from Mexico's western state of Jalisco.

Ranch owners Rogelio Trejo and Yaskara Silva, who inherited the land from Trejo’s parents, have seen the change take place. Once upon a time, sage would turn surrounding mountains into a sea of blue-green. Now, there are avocado farms as far as the eye can see.

“They’ve destroyed our natural forests,” Trejo says.

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The Noble Absurdity Of Granting Constitutional Rights To Nature

Giving nature rights, as South American nations are keen to do these days, is well-intentioned, but far too limited in scope to make sense.

-OpEd-

BOGOTÁ — The Webb space telescope's extraordinary ability to "see" has allowed us to observe what was previously hidden by cosmic dust.

Thanks to cameras catching infrared light, which humans cannot see, a new universe has unfolded, thousands of millions of light years away: with unknown galaxies, stars that are born and collapse, cosmic precipices, magnificent explosions and black holes that swallow stars.

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Plight Of Maasai Reveals Racism Of Africa's Conservation Policy

Thousands of Maasai people in Tanzania met brutal police repression when they demonstrated against being expelled from their land, laying bare both how ineffective and inhumane the conservationist movement can be.

LOLIONDO — "Loliondo is bleeding..."

An SMS woke me up on the morning of June 10. Scrolling through my phone were dozens of horrifying images of Maasai men and women with wounds on their legs, their backs and their heads. Lots of blood. And then, videos of Maasai running away from the Tanzanian police, who were shooting at them.

The pictures looked like war images. Like so many other people in the Global North, I was shocked. How could the idyllic images of zebras, giraffes and lions that the Serengeti ecosystem evokes in Western minds be transformed into this scene of brutal violence?

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Mongolian Herbal Medicine, A COVID Revival Takes Root

Traditional medicines, once banned, have regained favor. Government and health officials are endorsing them alongside COVID-19 vaccinations.

ERDENET, ORKHON PROVINCE, MONGOLIA — The water steams, then bubbles to a boil. Bayarjargal Togmid takes the pot off the stove and stirs in a bright yellow grass, known as manjingarav.

“This plant is excellent against coughing,” she says. “I drink it now and mix it with water so that my children often gargle their throats and mouths with it. It is far more effective than regular medicines.”

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Ideas
Thomas Lewton

Artificial Satellite Pollution, Perils For Biodiversity In Space And On Earth

Exploiting space resources and littering it with satellite and other anthropogenic objects is endangering the ecosystem of space, which also damages the earth and its creatures below.

Outer space isn’t what most people would think of as an ecosystem. Its barren and frigid void isn’t exactly akin to the verdant canopies of a rainforest or to the iridescent shoals that swim among coral cities. But if we are to become better stewards of the increasingly frenzied band of orbital space above our atmosphere, a shift to thinking of it as an ecosystem — as part of an interconnected system of living things interacting with their physical environment — may be just what we need.

Last month, in the journal Nature Astronomy, a collective of 11 astrophysicists and space scientists proposed we do just that, citing the proliferation of anthropogenic space objects. Thousands of satellites currently orbit the Earth, with commercial internet providers such as SpaceX’s Starlink launching new ones at a dizzying pace. Based on proposals for projects in the future, the authors note, the number could reach more than a hundred thousand within the decade. Artificial satellites, long a vital part of the space ecosystem, have arguably become an invasive species.

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Green
Brigitte LG Baptiste

Biophilia Or Bust? Ecology Is Not About Empathy For Other Living Creatures

When humans care about the natural world, it means revising our place in it and acting accordingly, not giving nature "rights and concessions" that are figments of our self-serving imagination.

-Essay-

BOGOTÁ — One of the most contradictory elements in the human condition is the dual ability to be moved by or remain indifferent to the suffering of creatures. The poverty starkly evident on city streets for as long as there have been cities prompted the creation of welfare systems just as soon as institutions emerged. Today, those systems fall short of the needs of our collective welfare, which we now recognize as vulnerable for depending on the state of natural ecosystems.

The structural inequities and injustice we see require political decisions, but also pose challenges of coexistence in our day-to-day lives. We must thus act on the basis of compassion and empathy, even if such concepts may be understood differently, as the histories of the great religions and their critics illustrate.

Talking of compassion from the scientific perspective (always said to be heartless) or from the perspective of social ideologies are not the same.

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Weird

Why These 7 Eternal Flames Around The World Keep On Burning

The president of Turkmenistan announced plans this year to extinguish the country's famous "Gates of Hell" gas crater. But it's by no means the only one of its kind. We rounded up the eternal flames still burning in all corners of the globe.

On Jan. 8, Turkmenistan’s leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, known for his authoritarian tendencies, announced on television that he had set his sights on the Darvaza Gas Crater, also known as the “Gates of Hell”, a mysterious vat of flames that has been spewing fire for over 50 years in the Karakum Desert.

The burning crater is one of the central Asian country’s few tourist attractions, yet President Berdymukhamedov has ordered it extinguished once and for all, saying the methane-belching pit was bad for the environment and locals’ health, while also representing a lost opportunity for the impoverished nation to capture marketable gas.

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Green
Gaspard Koenig

Grinch Or Green? It’s Time To Stop Buying Christmas Trees!

Each year, millions of trees are sacrificed for the sake of Christmas — an ecological disaster and a denial of what trees represent for humanity. There are, however, some green alternatives to buying (and killing) your own private tree each year.

-OpEd-

PARIS — In the street, on the sidewalks, the corpses pile up in the cold, stacked one above the other — victims of mutilation. Passers-by glance at them carelessly, sometimes fiddling with their broken limbs. The executioners stand guard around their victims, kicking them back into a pile.

The execution is recent: the bodies still wear their natural colors. But soon the last drops of life will recede. They will start to turn pale and decompose, leaving scorched flakes around them. A foul odor will take hold of the city.

This vision of horror is the Christmas spectacle, with its six million trees in France alone that are cut, sold, decorated for a few days and then discarded. In order to grasp the full extent of this massacre, we must first admit that trees are not simple pieces of wood, but individuals in their own right, who are leading unique lives.

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Green
Carl Karlsson

Sustainable Hunting? How To Fix Environmental Targets For Hunters

Facing biodiversity loss, hunting can be seen as not only cruel but also damaging to natural ecosystems. Yet hunters argue that their activity is a natural way to “replace” animal predators and a tradition that should be preserved. Can there be a happy hunting medium?

Gazing through binoculars, hunters and environmental activists might appear to be natural enemies.

Particularly as the world is facing challenges that include biodiversity loss and species extinction, hunting can be viewed in ecological terms as not only unnecessary but also cruel, barbaric and damaging to natural ecosystems. In March, for example, the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg banned a traditional French bird-hunting practice that consisted of using “glue traps.”

Still, hunters argue that their activity is a natural way to “replace” animal predators by culling herds of prey species and re-establishing a balance in the ecosystem. Hunting is also seen by some as a tradition that should be preserved, having been embedded in natural human culture for thousands of years.

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Society
Hannah Steinkopf-Frank

Old Folk v. Nature: 6 Endurance Conquests By World's Most Amazing Seniors

M.J. "Sunny" Eberhart just became the oldest person to complete the Appalachian Trail...at the ripe young age of 83. He is just one of many of the graying outdoor pioneers to set mind-boggling records that redefine staying power.

At 83, M.J. "Sunny" Eberhart has just become the oldest person to complete the Appalachian Trail, a 2,193-mile journey in the Eastern United States, setting off much well-deserved amazement among Americans.

Of course Eberhart is far from the first senior citizen to tackle a natural feat that virtually everyone, of any age, would never think of even trying. From mountain climbers to long-distance swimmers, here's a look at six hardcore adventurers to inspire young and old to get off the couch, and conquer the world...or at least go for a walk!

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THE CONVERSATION
Marc Abrams

Autumn Foliage, A Bright Sign Of Global Warming

Climate change is visible in many ways across the world. In the U.S., tree species are migrating north and changing colors of their leaves as temperatures warm each year.

Fall foliage season is a calendar highlight in states from Maine south to Georgia and west to the Rocky Mountains. It's especially important in the Northeast, where fall colors attract an estimated $8 billion in tourism revenues to New England every year.

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Ideas
Stefano Lupieri

Saving The Planet Is Really A Question Of Dopamine

Our carelessness toward the environment could be due, in part, to the functioning of a very primitive area of our brain: the striatum.

PARIS — Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

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