Things That Matter

Under Bolsonaro, The Brazilian Amazon Has Reached Record-Breaking Levels Of Deforestation

Brazil’s right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro is largely responsible for Amazon deforestation reaching an 11-year high. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) determined deforestation reached 3,769 square miles, an increase of 29.5 percent over the course of a year. 

According to Al Jazeera, that’s the worst its been since 2008. Bolsonaro has been accused of weakening IBAMA, Brazil’s environmental agency in favor of further monetizing the Amazon region. The president’s rhetoric has allowed illegal felling of the forest to thrive without impunity by nefarious loggers, miners, and farmers. 

Activists hold Bolsonaro singularly responsible for deforestation.

“The Bolsonaro government is responsible for every inch of forest destroyed. This government today is the worst enemy of the Amazon,” Marcio Astrini, public policy coordinator for Greenpeace, said in a statement. 

According to Brazil’s Climate Observatory, the recent increase is the fastest it has been seen since the ’90s and the third-fastest ever. 

“In a break with what occurred in previous years during which the rate rose, this time the government did not announce any credible measures to reverse the trend,” the group told the New York Times. 

Bolsonaro used executive power immediately upon taking office to ensure that Brazil’s Ministry of Agriculture oversees the regulation and creation of indigenous reserves. The decision, many believed, gave the agricultural industry a significant expansion of power to determine where new indigenous reserves could be located. 

Within months, the INPE noted an increase in fires across the Amazon from January to August 2019, more than in the agency’s history of tracking the fires which began in 2013. 

“It is no surprise this is happening because the president has defended environmental crime and promoted impunity,” Adriana Ramos of the Socio-environmental Institute told The Guardian.

Bolsonaro lashed out against the head of INPE, Ricardo Galvao by firing him after Galvao called the president a coward for attempting to undermine the legitimacy of deforestation satellite imagery. Bolsonaro has repeatedly called the agency’s figures false. This year, following the G7 summit in France, Bolsonaro rejected $20 million in aid to fight the forest fires. 

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles finally acknowledged the issue.

Environment Minister Ricardo Salles has often deflected or dismissed evidence of the deforestation increase, but finally acknowledged it, according to Reuters

“[The level of deforestation] is far from what we wanted, but it’s also far from the three-digit numbers that had been reported,” Salles said. 

He blamed the deforestation on the illegal acts of miners, ranchers, and loggers rather than the president, adding that Brazil needs “a sustainable economy alternative for that region of the Amazon.” Salles did not present any course of action to address the issue. Experts are not hopeful that Bolsonaro will improve the situation. 

“Proposals like legalizing land-grabbing, mining and farming on indigenous lands, as well as reducing the licensing requirements for new infrastructure will show that the coming years will be even worse,” Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of the Climate Observatory, said. “The question is how long Brazil’s trading partners will trust its promises of sustainability and compliance with the Paris agreement, as forests fall, indigenous leaders are killed and environmental laws are shattered.”

Brazil and the rest of the planet need the Amazon.

The Amazon is the largest rainforest and largest river basin on the planet. There are more species there than anywhere else on Earth. Roughly 20 percent of the Amazon has disappeared in just 50 years due to agriculture, illegal logging and urbanization. Brazil’s draconian policy that allows farmers to burn down the forest to clear land, and now under Bolsonaro to due so illegally without being fined has contributed to this. 

“Fires mark one of the last stages in deforestation,” said Raoni Rajão, an environmental professor at the Federal University of Minas Gerais told the Washington Post. “First, the expensive wood is removed. Then, the bush is left to dry. Finally, fires are set to clear the land before grass can be planted for pasture.”

However, scientists note that whether you are an indigenous person displaced by the fires or in an entirely different country, this issue affects you directly. 

“Reforestation is essentially a way of removing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The existing forest is absorbing some carbon dioxide already,” Dr. Thomas E. Lovejoy, a tropical and conservation biologist told National Geographic. “In terms of the global carbon cycle, tropical forests have a carbon sink roughly equal to half of what is in the atmosphere. About half of that is in the Amazon. This means to lose the Amazon would dramatically increase climate change.” 

Dr. Lovejoy notes that all hope is not lost if the nine Amazon nations take a proactive approach the Amazon can be restored to 90 percent of what it was. Bolsanaro’s critics are not as hopeful.

Diego, The 100-Year-Old Giant Tortoise Who Fathered Nearly 1,000 Offspring Is Going Into Retirement

Things That Matter

Diego, The 100-Year-Old Giant Tortoise Who Fathered Nearly 1,000 Offspring Is Going Into Retirement

Rodrigo Buendía / Getty

After 40 years of giving his all for a good cause, Diego the tortoise is getting to do what so many of us dream of – he’s heading into retirement. Diego, noted for his next level sex drive, is credited with fathering enough baby tortoises to bring his species back from the brink of extinction. 

Diego, who is more than 100 years old, boosted his species’ population from just 15 to well over 2,000 on the island of Española, a part of the world-famous Galápagos Islands. He had been shipped over from the San Diego Zoo as part of a breeding program, and was one of 15 tortoises to take part in the program at the Fausto Llerena Tortoise Center on the island of Santa Cruz. Now he’ll finally be returning to his island of origin. Mission accomplished.

The Galápagos National Park has announced it is ending a captive breeding program for giant Española tortoises, after one tortoise produced more than 800 offspring, helping save the species.

Credit: Rodrigo Buendía / Getty

A giant tortoise whose rampant sex life may have single-handedly saved his entire species from extinction has retired from his playboy lifestyle, returning to the wild with his mission accomplished.

Diego’s unmatched libido was credited as a major reason for the survival of his fellow giant tortoises on Española Island, part of the Galapagos Islands, after being shipped over from the San Diego Zoo as part of a breeding program.

It’s been nearly eight decades since Diego was extracted from his natural habitat. With his mission accomplished, he will now be released into the wilderness on the island where he was born.

When he started his campaign of promiscuity, there were just two males and 12 females of his species alive on the island.

Credit: Rodrigo Buendía / Getty

But the desirable shell-dweller had so much sex he helped boost the population to over 2,000. The Galapagos National Parks service believe the 100-year-old tortoise is the patriarch of around 40% of that population

The program started with only two male tortoises until a third, named Diego, was found in the San Diego Zoo. He had lived in the zoo for about 30 years before joining the breeding program on the Galápagos’ Santa Cruz island. Diego, now over 100 years old, had a big impact on the program; he has a strong personality and isn’t shy about sex, which earned him a reputation online. Now, he and the 14 other tortoises in the breeding program are preparing to return home.

“He’s contributed a large percentage to the lineage that we are returning to Espanola,” Jorge Carrion, the park’s director, told AFP. “There’s a feeling of happiness to have the possibility of returning that tortoise to his natural state.”

The recovery of the Española tortoises has been a decades-long battle.

Credit: Galapagos National Park

The giant tortoises were depleted from the island, hunted by sailors, whalers, and pirates for food, and goats were introduced. So before young tortoises could be restored on the island, conservationists had to contend with goats between the 1970’s and 1990’s. But cohorts of young turtles were released once or twice each year, with a survival rate of over 50 percent. By 2010, tortoises were once again a common sight on the island, Rory Carroll reported at the time for the Guardian

“During the expedition we found nests, recently hatched tortoises, and adults born on Española, which indicates that the tortoise population is doing well,” Washington Tapia, director of the Galápagos Tortoise Restoration Initiative, told Carroll in 2010.

The decision to end the breeding program comes after the 2019 census of Española island. The census and models of the next 100 years of tortoise population on the island found that “the island has sufficient conditions to maintain the tortoise population, which will continue to grow normally — even without any new repatriation of juveniles,” Tapia, said per a translation of the original statement.

The Pilots Who Bombarded School Children With Jet Fuel Are Now Under Investigation For The Incident

Things That Matter

The Pilots Who Bombarded School Children With Jet Fuel Are Now Under Investigation For The Incident

Delta.com

Believe it or not, it’s quite common for airplanes to dump jet fuel when they’re facing an emergency landing. They do this so that if anything happens during landing – like a blown out tire – the likelihood of an explosion or major fire is much less.

But a recent incident in the skies over Los Angeles highlight the dangers of the practice – particularly when done over populated communities.

A Delta Airlines aircraft headed to Shanghai faced an emergency landing and dumped a huge amount of fuel over LA-area communities.

Delta Air Lines said the fuel came from Flight 89, which had just taken off from LAX bound for Shanghai, China, when it “experienced an engine issue requiring the aircraft to return quickly to LAX.””The aircraft landed safely after a release of fuel, which was required as part of normal procedure to reach a safe landing weight,” the airline said.

The fuel was dropped in populated communities – including an area containing six different schools.

Credit: AP / USA Today

Sixty people were treated after a plane dumped jet fuel while returning to the Los Angeles International Airport on Tuesday, hitting five elementary schools and one high school.

The incident happened just after noon Tuesday, inspector Sean Ferguson of the Los Angeles County Fire Department told CNN. The most heavily affected school was Park Avenue Elementary in Cudahy, where 20 children and 11 adults reported minor injuries. The school is about 19 miles east of the airport.

After checking all of the affected schools later Tuesday, hazardous materials experts said there was no more danger, fire department officials said. All schools will be open and operating on their normal schedules Wednesday.

“With the monitoring devices that we have, there are no explosive limits that are being detected at all, as well as solid or liquid products remaining,” Battalion Chief Jason Robertson said in a news conference, adding that the fire department believes all of the jet fuel has evaporated.

More than 60 people were treated on the scene and dozens more needed to be decontaminated.

Firefighters allow parents into the school where 26 people, 17 children and 9 adults, were treated for jet fuel exposure at Park Avenue Elementary School in Cudahy on Tuesday, Jan. 14, 2020. A jet returning to LAX dumped its fuel over the neighborhood and the school. Affected people at the school were treated for skin and eye irritation. No patients were transported to hospitals. (Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

Some people who were hit by the jet fuel Tuesday were decontaminated with soap and water, but no one at any site needed to be taken to the hospital, Sgt. Rudy Perez with the Los Angeles School Police Department said. The schools briefly went through shelter-in-place procedures, but there were no evacuations.

The children were given gowns so they could change out of their clothes, fire department inspector Sky Cornell said, adding there were no reports of injuries from other people in the area.

Miguel Cervantes, a sixth grader, was hit. He said his skin was itchy afterward.”I thought it was smoke,” he said. “But when it went down, I felt it and it smelled like gas.”

According to the FAA, the pilots failed to notify them of the fuel drop.

“A review of yesterday’s air traffic control communications shows the Delta Flight 89 crew did not tell air traffic control that they needed to dump fuel,” said the U.S. regulator. “In this emergency situation, the fuel-dumping procedure did not occur at an optimal altitude that would have allowed the fuel to atomize properly.”

Fuel jettisoned higher than 5,000 to 6,000 feet will vaporize before hitting the ground, according to Boeing Co.The altitude of the Delta plane when it dropped the fuel hasn’t been disclosed.

While there is no regulation requiring such notice, it’s common practice so that flight controllers can direct the plane to an appropriate area to drop the fuel, the FAA said in an email Wednesday.

Now authorities are investigating why the pilots decided to drop fuel so urgently if they weren’t faced with a serious crisis.

The Boeing 777-200 suffered an engine compressor stall after leaving Los Angeles International for Shanghai, and the pilots notified air traffic control that the aircraft would need to return to the airport. The FAA continues to investigate the incident. Delta said it helped clean up the fuel at the schools, but declined to comment on the FAA statement or any aspect of the probe.

While it’s unclear how serious the emergency on the Delta flight was, pilots have discretion to ignore some FAA rules while faced with a dangerous situation. The crew members told controllers their situation was “not critical,” according to a recording posted by LiveATC.net.

Jetliners dump fuel in an emergency to lower their weight for landing. While the plane was capable of taking off, its weight with a full fuel load would have made it heavier than optimal for landing. Landing at higher weights causes stress on brakes and tires that can trigger fires or other issues.