Planet Watch
tongass

Alaska Native tribes challenge Tongass logging

Five Alaska Native tribes filed a lawsuit to challenge the Trump administration’s move to allow logging in the 17 million-acre Tongass National Forest.¬†In October, the Trump administration announced that it would exempt the Tongass from the Clinton-era Roadless Area Conservation Rule, or the “roadless rule.” The roadless rule blocks logging and road construction in specified forests. Alaskan state leadership petitioned for the reversal, which puts nine million acres of the Tongass at risk. According to the United States Forest Service, the Tongass is the “largest intact temperate rainforest in the world.”¬†The complaint details the environmental criticality of the Tongass as a carbon sink and sole habitat of rare endemic species, as well as its importance to indigenous groups. The suit states:¬†“The Tongass National Forest is central to the life ways of the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian people who have lived in and depended on the forest since time immemorial.” (Photo via EBEB)

Planet Watch
Line 3

Global petro-resistance greets 2021

As the year comes to a close, Native American activists and their allies in Minnesota are launching a weekly protest vigil against the planned Line 3 pipeline, that would bring more Canadian shale-oil to US markets. The¬†self-proclaimed “water protectors” pledge to continue the campaign into the winter. The Conservation Council of Western Australia¬†meanwhile launched¬†legal challenge against approval of the new Burrup Hub liquified natural gas facility,¬†asserting that¬†it is¬†the “most polluting fossil fuel project ever to be proposed in Australia,” and “undermines global efforts [to mitigate climate change] under the Paris Agreement.”¬†While Denmark has pledged to end North Sea oil exploitation by 2050 as a step toward meeting the Paris accord goals, other Scandinavian governments remain intransigent. The Supreme Court of Norway¬†has¬†upheld¬†a judgment allowing the government to grant oil licenses in new sections of the country’s continental shelf. The decision was challenged by environmental groups including¬†Nature & Youth Norway, who claimed that it violates the European Convention on Human Rights. (Photo: Stop Line 3)

Planet Watch
maori

New Zealand declares ‘climate emergency’

The New Zealand parliament has passed a motion declaring a “climate emergency,” joining a growing number of nations that have formally acknowledged the crisis and approved similar declarations. The motion was supported by the Labour Party, the Greens and Te PńĀti MńĀori, while the National Party and ACT opposed it. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern moved the motion, calling climate change “one of the greatest challenges of our time,” and citing the “devastating impact that volatile and extreme weather will have on New Zealand and the wellbeing of New Zealanders.” The motion also notes “the alarming trend in species decline and [the] global biodiversity crisis, including the decline in Aotearoa‚Äôs indigenous biodiversity.” (Photo: Shutterstock via The Conversation)

Iran
ahwaz women

Iran: sweeps target Ahwazi women activists

Rights advocates in Iran’s Khuzestan province, homeland of the marginalized Ahwazi Arab people, report another wave of sweeps and incommunicado detention of local activists. Among those detained in raids by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) are Zeinab Sawari, a teacher and prominent Ahwazi advocate for women’s and children’s rights, who had recently been involved in fundraising for victims of the severe flooding that devastated the region this year. Also detained by IRGC agents were Maryam Ameri and Fatema Tamimi, whose homes were searched and ransacked, with computers and extensive archival material confiscated. Maryam and Fatema had worked on Ahwazi cultural programs together, cataloguing traditional folk songs and producing short documentaries about Ahwazi music, lore and history. Azhar Alboghbiesh, a young activist volunteer for the project, was likewise arrested in a raid on her home, in which agents reportedly fired in the air to intimidate her family. All remain in detention at undisclosed locations. (Photo of Azhar Alboghbiesh and Maryam Ameri via Dur Untash Studies Center)

Watching the Shadows
Kremlin

Katie Halper: ‘Useful Idiot’ or Russian ‘infiltrator’?

Popular vlogger and comedian Katie Halper, whose journalistic take-downs of the Democratic Party establishment have been deftly exploited by the Kremlin propaganda machine, wears the accusation that she is a “useful idiot” for Russia as a badge of pride‚ÄĒ”Useful Idiots” is actually the sarcastic name of the podcast she co-hosts with the equally problematic Matt Taibbi. We’ve always wondered if such figures really are useful idiots, or something more sinister‚ÄĒknowing propagandists for Vladimir Putin’s reactionary global ambitions. The debate has suddenly exploded onto the left-wing vlogosphere. (Photo: Wikipedia)

Planet Watch
poverty

COVID-19 could deepen global poverty: UNDP

Severe long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic could push an additional 207 million people into extreme poverty, bringing the total to over 1 billion by 2030, according to a study¬†by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The “Baseline COVID” scenario, based on current mortality rates and the most recent growth projections by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), would result in 44 million more people living in extreme poverty by 2030 compared to the development trajectory the world was on before the pandemic. Under a “High Damage” scenario, where the recovery is protracted, COVID-19 is likely to push an additional 207 million people into extreme poverty by 2030, compared to that baseline. (Photo of youth in Uganda: Dazzle Jam via Photos for Class)

Central America
Guatemala congress

Guatemala: protesters set fire to Congress building

Thousands protested in Guatemala’s capital¬†against a newly approved 2021 national budget that imposes deep cuts in funding for health care, education and programs to combat malnutrition‚ÄĒat a time when the country is hit hard by natural disasters and COVID-19. One breakaway group of protesters hurled improvised incendiary devices at the Congress building, setting it on fire. Police used batons and tear-gas to push protesters back, attacking not only the some 1,000 in front of Congress but also a much larger demonstration in front of the National Palace. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned what it called an “excessive use of force” by the National Civil Police, while the government of President Alejandro Giammattei accused the protesters of “terrorist acts” that will be “punished with the full force of the law.” (Photo via Prensa Libre)

Planet Watch
Alaska

Trump admin opens bids for ANWR drilling

The Trump administration¬†announced formal proceedings to sell oil and gas leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The Bureau of Land Management¬†Alaska State Officeissued a call for “nominations” on several lease tracts considered for the upcoming Coastal Plain Oil & Gas Lease Sale, covering approximately 1.5 million acres of the refuge along the coast of the Arctic Ocean. Lease sales could begin by January‚ÄĒbut will likely face legal challenge, or reversal by the incoming Biden administration. President-elect Joe Biden’s differing approach to public land management includes “permanently protecting” ANWR and “banning new oil and gas permitting on public lands and waters.” (Photo: USGS via Flickr)

The Amazon
amazon

Brazil carbon emissions rise as Amazon burns

Brazil’s carbon emissions surged last year due to rising deforestation in the Amazon, jeopardizing the country’s commitments under the Paris climate accord, an environmental group warns in a new study. Brazil spewed a total of 2.17 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere in 2019, an increase of 9.6% over 2018, according to the Brazilian Climate Observatory. That coincided with the first year in office for President Jair Bolsonaro, a far-right climate-change skeptic who has presided over a sharp increase in forest-clearing and wildfires in the Amazon. (Image via Veganist)

Central America
Hurricane Eta

Villagers abandoned in Eta’s deadly aftermath

Some 150 are dead, with remote indigenous and campesino communities left stricken and without aid, a week after Hurricane Eta tore through Central America. Eta made landfall south of Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua, as a Category 4 storm. Two g√ľiriseros, or artisanal gold-miners, were among the first killed, as a landslide inundated the mining camp of Tigre Norte in Bonanza municipality of Nicargua’s North Caribbean Coast Autonomous Region. Far worse was follow in Guatemala, where officials have called off the search for dozens believed to have been buried when a mountainside collapsed, engulfing the hamlet of Queja. Ovidio Choc, mayor of San Cristobal Verapaz municipality, said the site of Queja will probably be declared a cemetery. Elsewhere in Guatemala’s Maya Highlands, villagers have had to mobilize their own rescue and recovery efforts, effectively abandoned by the government. (Map: National Hurricane Center)

Planet Watch
climate

United States formally exits global climate pact

The United States formally left the Paris Agreement, the nearly-universal global accord to reduce carbon emissions in an attempt to slow climate change. The US began the exit process a year ago, when it notified the United Nations of its intent to leave, triggering the effective date of withdrawal. Following the official withdrawal, the United Nations issued a statement expressing regret that the United States chose to leave the agreement. It noted that December marks the fifth anniversary of the pact, that “the science is clear,” and that it is imperative the world “take renewed action to hold the temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius.” Of the 197 signatories to the agreement, the US is the only country to have left. The withdrawal could be temporary, however. Former vice-president Joseph Biden has pledged to recommit the US to the Paris Agreement if he is elected. Unlike leaving, rejoining the agreement would only take 30 days. (Image: blende12/Pixabay)

The Amazon
santacruz

Protests break out in Bolivia’s Oriente

In Bolivia’s eastern lowlands, known as Oriente, the regionally powerful right-wing social networks have responded rapidly to the victory of socialist candidate Luis Arce in the presidential elections. Thousands filled the streets of the region’s principal city, Santa Cruz, waving Bolivian flags, honking car horns and chanting “¬°Anulaci√≥n, Anulaci√≥n, Anulaci√≥n!”However, the protesters’¬†accusation¬†of “fraud” was explicitly rejected by Manuel Gonz√°lez, head of the OAS mission in Bolivia. He said in a statement: “The people voted freely and the result was clear and overwhelming, which gives great legitimacy to the incoming government, the Bolivian institutions, and the electoral process.” (Photo: Nuevo Sur Bolivia)