Syria
Raqqa

Survivors struggle four years after battle of Raqqa

Children in Raqqa, northeast Syria, are still living among ruins, with limited water, electricity, and access to education, four years after the city was taken from ISIS, according to a new report by Save the Children. Thousands of people have returned to Raqqa since the battle for the city ended in 2017. But levels of rebuilding and rehabilitation of housing remain low, with children living in constant fear of their homes collapsing on top of them. Research estimates that 36% of the city’s buildings remain entirely destroyed. At the peak of the bombing campaign, Raqqa faced 150 air-strikes a day. (Photo: Mahmoud Bali/VOA via Wikimedia)

Planet Watch
greenland

Greenland suspends oil exploration, citing climate crisis

The government of Greenland announced that it will suspend all oil exploration, saying the territory “wants to take co-responsibility for combating the global climate crisis… The future does not lie in oil. The future belongs to renewable energy, and in that respect we have much more to gain.” The US Geological Survey estimates there could be 17.5 billion undiscovered barrels below the territory’s lands and waters. Many had hoped potential reserves could allow Greenland to acheive independence, compensating for the annual subsidy of 3.4 billion kroner ($540 million) the territory receives from Denmark. (Photo: Pixabay)

The Amazon
Amazon Fires

Brazil’s Amazon is now a net carbon source: study

The Amazon has long played a vital role in balancing the global carbon budget, but new evidence suggests the climate scales are tipping in the world’s largest rainforest. Now, according to a study published in Nature, the Brazilian Amazon is emitting more carbon than it captures. Southeastern Amazonia, in particular, switched from being a carbon sink to a carbon source during the study period. Emissions were high in 2010, when the study began, because of a dry El Niño year, and researchers expected to see emissions return to normal afterward. But this never happened. The reason: emissions from forest fires—which have accelerated dramatically under President Jair Bolsonaro. (Photo via Mongabay)

Planet Watch

Podcast: climate change and the global struggle

In Episode 81 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of the fast-mounting manifestations of devastating climate destabilization—from Oregon to Siberia, from Germany to Henan. In Angola, traditional pastoralists are joining the ranks of “climate refugees” as their communal lands are stricken by drought. In Iran’s restive and rapidly aridifying Ahwazi region, protests over access to water have turned deadly. These grim developments offer a foreboding of North America’s imminent future. Yet media commentators continue to equivocate, asking whether these events are “linked to” or “caused by” climate change—rather than recognizing that they are climate change. And the opportunity for a crash conversion from fossil fuels that was posed by last year’s pandemic-induced economic paralysis, when already depressed oil prices actually went negative, is now being squandered. Oil prices are again rising, with the return to pre-pandemic dystopian “normality.” Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Photo of Ahwazi protesters in Iran: Ahwazna)

Africa
mumuila

Angola: drought threatens traditional pastoralists

Millions of people in southern Angola are facing an existential threat as drought continues to ravage the region, Amnesty International said. The organization highlighted how the creation of commercial cattle ranches on communal lands has driven pastoralist communities from their territories since the end of the civil war in 2002. This shift has left huge sections of the population food-insecure, and especially vulnerable as the acute drought persists for over three years. As food and water grow increasingly scarce, thousands have fled their homes and sought refuge in neighboring Namibia. (Photo of Mumuila woman: Pixabay)

Iran
Ahwazis protest

Iran: protests over water rights in Ahwazi region

Two were killed as Iranian security forces opened fire on Ahwazi Arab protesters in Ahvaz, capital of southwestern Khuzestan province. The deaths came after days of demonstrations in the Arab-majority region, which is stricken by withering drought. Hundreds of sheep, cattle, buffalo and other livestock have died over the past weeks. The protests began a week ago, with a peaceful vigil outside the governor’s office, demanding that authorities open the sluice gates on the network of massive hydroelectric dams built upstream on the region’s main rivers, which divert some 90% of the waters to other regions of Iran. Protesters held up placards in Arabic, Persian and English, with messages including: “Water is a human right”, “We are thirsty–give us water!”, “Stop killing our environment!”, and “Stop drying out the Ahwazi rivers and marshlands!” The protesters also chanted slogans condemning Iran’s central government, such as “The regime keeps us in poverty in the name of religion!” (Photo: Dur Untash Studies Center)

Planet Watch
ecocide

Legal experts present definition of ecocide to ICC

After six months of deliberation, a panel of 12 independent legal experts from across the globe unveiled a working definition of “ecocide” that they hope will be adopted by the International Criminal Court (ICC). The panel was organized by the Stop Ecocide Foundation, an NGO whose stated focus is facilitating the adoption of ecocide by the ICC in order to “protect future life on Earth.” The panel recommends adding section “(e) the crime of Ecocide” to Article 5(1) of the Rome Statute, with the following definition: “unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment.” (Photo: Stefan Müller via Wikimedia Commons)

Planet Watch
colonial pipeline

Podcast: lessons of the Colonial Pipeline disaster

In Episode 75 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines distorted reportage on the shutdown of the Colonial Pipeline by Russian hackers. The disaster illustrates the urgent need for a crash conversion from fossil fuels—but also from digital technology. Signs of hope are seen in the cancellation of the Keystone XL pipeline, the recent indigenous-led protests against the Line 3 Pipeline in Minnesota, and the gas bill strike launched by Brooklyn residents to oppose the North Brooklyn Pipeline that would cut through their neighborhoods. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Map: US Energy Information Administration)

Planet Watch
lakota

Keystone XL pipeline cancelled —struggle continues

Calgary-based TC Energy Corporation (formerly TransCanada) confirmed that it has terminated the Keystone XL Pipeline Project. Construction on the project was suspended following the revocation of its presidential permit in January. The pipeline, which was to transport tar sands oil from western Canada, has been a critical concern in the fight against climate change. It has been especially opposed by Native American peoples whose lands lie along the project’s path. Dallas Goldtooth  of the Indigenous Environmental Network reacted to the announcement on Twitter: “We took on a multi-billion dollar corporation and we won!!” However, Canadian oil exports to the US are still expected to rise to over 4 billion barrels per day in the next years—a fourfold increase over levels in 2004, when Canada surpassed Saudi Arabia as the top US foreign supplier. (Photo of Lakota protest against Keystone pipeline: Victor Puertas/Deep Roots United Front via Intercontinental Cry)

Africa
bududa

Uganda to hear first rights case concerning climate change

A case has opened before a court in Uganda, brought by citizens charging the central government with failing to uphold its human rights obligations to protect threatened communities from the effects of climate change. Forty-eight survivors of a deadly landslideassert that the Ugandan government violated their “rights to life, property, and the right to a clean and healthy environment.” Following torrential rains in December 2019, the landslide killed more than 30 people and destroyed hundreds of homes in the Bududa district of Uganda, in the Mount Elgon region. The suit alleges that the government knew of the risk of life-threatening landslides for years. In the Mount Elgon region alone, there were more than 400 landslides recorded between 2008 and 2018. (Photo via The Watchers)

Planet Watch
air pollution

Biden: cut US carbon emissions in half by 2030

President Joe Biden announced at the Leaders Summit on Climate that the US will aim to reduce carbon emissions by 50 to 52 percent by 2030. Climate experts have urged world leaders to cut carbon emissions in order to limit the warming of the planet to 1.5 degrees Celsius. The Paris Agreement sets a 2 C rise within the current century as a maximum, but urges countries to work toward a 1.5 C rise. Recent studies have found that the 1.5 C rise will be reached within five years. (Photo: Ralf Vetterle, Pixabay)

Africa
somalia

Somalia: drought compounds political crisis

The political heat is rising in Somalia over the determination of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, known as Farmajo, to cling to power despite his term having ended in February. He’s embraced a decision by the lower house of the Federal Parliament to extend his (and their) stay in office for an extra two years, to allow the running of delayed elections. The move was rejected by the Senate as “unconstitutional. The Senate called on Farmajo to rejoin UN-led talks—which he has rejected. As the crisis deepens, there are reports of a troop build-up in the capital and the fragmentation of the security forces. Yet this political tussle is being played out in the Mogadishu bubble. In the countryside, where the government holds little sway, a new drought emergency is underway. Almost 40,000 people have been forced from their homes in the first three months of the year due to poor rains, joining the 1.3 million displaced in 2020 by combined humanitarian disasters. (Photo: Joe English/UNICEF)