The Echo – Climate Newsletter # 4: Crises, Forests and Online Climate Action

Welcome to the Weekly ECCO  —  A roundup of local, regional and international climate and environmental news. 

As Eswatini registers swift increases in COVID-19 cases (currently 65) we find ourselves entering stricter national lockdown measures. Please observe the correct social distancing precautions – stay safe, and stay home wherever possible. 

Treat Every Crisis like a Crisis

  • Brazilian president Jair Bolsanaro is reacting to COVID 19 the same way he reacts to the climate crisis – terribly. Bolsonaro has been accelerating the deforestation of the Amazon with blatant disregard for all the human and animals that call it home. Meanwhile, he has dismissed the coronavirus pandemic as a “little flu” and “hysteria”, an attitude that has resulted in his nation projected to become the next COVID-19 hotspot. The deforestation of the Amazon and pandemics are at first glance unconnected, but Greenpeace’s Unearthed writes that cutting down the amazon could significantly drive the next pandemic risk
  • According to the World Food Programme, the global spread of COVID-19 has sparked “the worst humanitarian crisis since World War Two.” They point to further crises with more frequent and intense natural disasters and changing weather patterns — “we’re already facing a perfect storm.”

Climate and COVID Anxiety 

An Environmental Opportunity 

  • The International Support Network for African Development has created the Environmental Education Program and they’re calling for applications from high school environmental groups – and Eswatini is eligible! “The programme seeks to provide youth with action competences that will enable them to develop capacity and long-term commitment to sustainability for everyday life, career engagement or voluntary service as environmentalists or influencers for the environment at the local and international levels.

Valuable Forests 

  • Money doesn’t grow on trees, so it seems big banks are unfortunately going to keep on cutting down the world’s forests. This short, informative video explains how major banks across the world are continuing to finance agribusiness to deforest natural ecosystems — one of the main contributors to biodiversity loss and global heating.
  • Three supertrees —from the Congo, Brazil and Indonesia — have superpowers like making rain, keeping carbon trapped and being a forest caretaker. This beautifully visually interactive article will make you appreciate the world’s forests like never before…
The Congo rain forest, home to the African teak tree, one of the supertrees featured in the article referenced above. Image sourced from Coordenação-Geral de Observação da Terra/INPE.    

Focus on sub-Saharan Africa: Climate and COVID Economics

  • Due to coronavirus, economic estimates are showing that sub-Saharan Africa’s economic growth will “decline from 2.4 percent in 2019 to -2.1 to -5.1 percent in 2020, the first recession in the region in 25 years.” In turn, this could lead to a further 40 to 59 million people living in extreme poverty in the region. Stay up to date on the economic impact of COVID around the world here. 
  • There are key investments governments can (and need to) make to increase our resilience to both pandemics and the climate crisis. First, investing in healthcare infrastructure (with an emphasis on surge capacity) is vital. Secondly, bolstering disaster risk & response mechanisms with bigger national disaster funds and more efficient loan options must be put in place in addition to stronger social safety nets. 

A Silver Lining? Unfortunately not. 

“We were never going to be able to sacrifice our way out of climate change, especially not on the backs of the people who have historically done most of the sacrificing. There is an entrenched system that extracts CO2 from the ground and pumps it into the atmosphere, one that results not from inherent human badness but from the choices of a few humans with power. Confronting that system will take work. We need to build things: wind turbines, solar panels, public transportation, denser cities, fairer societies. We don’t need purification. We don’t need absolution. We need to get to work.”

Locusts in East Africa

  • Earlier this year, a swarm of locusts devastated crops in countries in East Africa such as Ethiopia, Kenya and South Sudan. A second, even larger wave of these destructive insects is now expected – threatening to absolutely devastate most of East-Africa if urgent interventions are not strengthened. This outbreak, many believe, is caused and exacerbated by the climate crisis. Outbreaks like this are one of the most crippling impacts of human-caused climate change as they directly threaten food security and lives.  

Solutions 

  • During seemingly endless disasters — from coronavirus to locusts to the ever-present threat of the climate crisis, it’s necessary to focus on solutions that work. Here are twelve practical grassroots interventions that sustainably use water and energy – from rainwater harvesting to solar street lights to ceiling insulation, read about these solutions and the communities where they’ve been implemented.  
Image sourced from ICLEI Africa

Climate Solutions =  Pandemic Solutions 

  • This excerpt from the Huffington Post neatly summarises the nexus of approaches towards pandemics, the environment and society:

Financial & Economic Responses

“The fight against climate change isn’t going away; it’s going online” 

  • While anti-lockdown protesters are hitting the streets in potentially dangerous crowds, climate activists are unwilling to do the same. An effective response to both COVID-19 and the climate crisis means listening to scientists. Movements such as Extinction Rebellion and Fridays for Future have moved their protests into the virtual realm. The voices of young climate activists around the world need to be heard. Here’s how to engage in climate activism during a pandemic. 
  • As the Eswatini Climate Coalition, we have been participating in #ClimateStrikeOnline – You can too, just post a picture of yourself with your message related to climate action and tag #ClimateStrikeOnline.

Petitions and Online Events 

  • Ethiopia is veering towards introducing genetically modified crops – potentially ending their long-standing, anti-GMO stance. Sign this petition to put pressure on PM Abiy Ahmed to protect Ethiopia’s gene bank and biodiversity.

Send feedback or ideas to eswatini.climate@gmail.com. Let us know if you’re interested in contributing to articles (particularly Eswatini-focused news and information). Stay safe and healthy by continuing to follow the WHO guidelines for correct personal and public health measures

— All the best, 

Maru & Dane

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