Thursday, February 20, 2014

Deforestation can be monitored online with new Global Forest Watch system…

Data from Global Forest Watch, an online forest monitoring system is now available on Esri’s ArcGIS cloud service. By using an Esri portal to access GFW satellite data and crowd-sourced information, people can add maps, datasets, and applications to their forest projects and analyze indicators of forest change.

A partnership of more than 40 organizations led by the World Resources Institute, GFW uses GIS maps and data to promote sustainable forest management and policy.

“Thanks to dramatic advances in technology, we can see what is happening in forests in near real-time,” said WRI’s Nigel Sizer. “GIS helps us take very powerful data and make sense of it. The analytical capabilities of GIS enrich our understanding of the earth’s forests.”

WRI launched the GFW website today. People can use the service to track deforestation throughout the world. “Monitoring forest health and designing sustainable solutions is a challenging task,” said Esri president Jack Dangermond. “The Global Forest Watch initiative demonstrates the capacity of open data, shared systems, and platform technologies to bring experts together to design solutions.”

To promote transparency in forests around the world, GFW combines near real-time satellite monitoring technology, forest management and company concession maps, protected-area maps, mobile technology, crowd-sourced data, and on-the-ground networks.

The GFW platform is intended for use by stakeholders including concerned citizens, government leaders, buyers, and suppliers of sustainable forest products who seek to better manage forests.

Update: Here's an article I wrote about what the Global Forest Watch website shows for Armenia (click here).

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Georgia takes lead in assessing natural capital…

Georgia is one of the pilot countries that have volunteered to assess its natural capital with the ultimate objective of valuing the services provided by the country’s ecosystems. “Bringing the wealth of the natural world to the attention of decision-makers will pave the way to better informed choices and policies,” said Pavan Sukhdev, chair of the TEEB Advisory Board at the launch of The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity Scoping Study in Tbilisi.

The TEEB Scoping Study for Georgia--a joint effort of the Ministry of Environment, UN Environment Program, and WWF Caucasus--is an important step in valuing ecosystems and biodiversity. Identifying five core sectors of Georgian economy--energy, tourism, agriculture, mining, and forestry--the study highlights their dependence on natural capital and related services.

“Considering the rapid development of Georgia’s economy, the TEEB initiative is an effective instrument to help conserve ecosystems while promoting sustainable growth,” said environment minister Khatuna Gogaladze at the launch event on Oct. 1.

Georgia’s agriculture sector employs 53 percent of the workforce and is a main vehicle for rural development. The sector’s long-term sustainability, however, faces challenges associated with reduction of genetic diversity, land degradation due to salinization, and soil erosion. Crop yields are at risk if incentives are not provided to promote, for example, limited pesticide and chemical fertilizer use, soil conservation, and crop rotation.

This first scoping exercise recommends the development of TEEB for Agriculture, a sectoral examination that addresses policies to ensure food security, improve agricultural biodiversity, reduce the extent of land degradation, and maintain agriculture as a strong economic sector, according to a news release from UNEP.

“Nature plays a vital role in sustaining Georgia’s important economic sectors and policy priorities. For example, with its abundance of rivers and varying terrain, the hydropower sector has immense potential. The sector depends, however, on both quality and quantity of freshwater, guaranteed by forests upstream. This is another call for protected ecosystems that would benefit us all,” said Yolanda Kakabadse, president of WWF International.

There have been steps taken toward ecosystem service valuation in neighboring Armenia, with pilot programs initiated by UNEP and REC Caucasus. Some of the areas targeted for Georgia were the subject of my capstone research which focused on the link between natural capital and the tourism, beverage, and hydropower sectors of Armenia’s economy. The main concepts were outlined in my 2011 talk at TEDx Yerevan on Redefining Our Economic Systems.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Wangari Maathai remembered in Armenia…

This fir tree at the Armenia Tree Project nursery in Karin Village is dedicated to the memory of Wangari Maathai. Dr. Maathai was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize for empowering rural women to plant millions of trees with the Green Belt Movement. Today is the second anniversary of her passing...her vision and perseverance continues to be a great source of inspiration worldwide.

Wangari Maathai was an inspiration for ATP in 2003-2004 when the team in the field designed the backyard nursery micro-enterprise program for impoverished rural families to grow tree seedlings in Aygut. She was one of the leading voices raising awareness about the strong link between poverty and deforestation.

ATP made job creation and rural empowerment a strong element of that program, which was selected for a National Energy Globe Award for Sustainability at the European Parliament in 2008.

ATP founder Carolyn Mugar and director Jeff Masarjian published an op ed, The Planting of Ideas, in the Boston Globe on the occasion of Dr. Maathai's visit to Boston in 2006. The three had a chance to meet at a reception hosted by Boston’s Urban Forest Coalition, before her speech at First Church in Cambridge.

ATP was also one of the very first international organizations to make a pledge to plant trees as part of the Billion Tree Campaign initiated by Dr. Maathai and the United Nations Environment Program in 2006.

What's all the fuss about? I hope you can take some time to watch Wangari Maathai's lecture from Concordia University (her remarks start at 18:30). She is truly a bold leader and advocate for social justice and sustainable development at the grassroots level.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Social media campaign launched in support of Sosé & Allen Memorial Forest…

Sosé & Allen’s Legacy Foundation and Armenia Tree Project have announced plans to establish a forest in honor of Sosé Thomassian and Allen Yekikian. The young couple lost their lives as a result of a tragic car accident four months ago.

Vaché Thomassian launched the Legacy Foundation with several close friends to support the couple’s core values: education, repatriation, volunteerism, and democratic development. “The Forest will serve as a living, breathing memorial to Sosé and Allen, and will have a positive effect on Armenia’s environment,” said Vaché.

Here’s how the campaign will work. For every new “Like” on ATP’s Facebook page, five trees will be planted in the forest:

“This is a collaborative and interactive campaign, highlighting the great work Armenia Tree Project does, and we’re asking the public to spread the word to grow the forest. The social media aspect emphasizes Sosé and Allen’s focus on utilizing technology and encouraging direct participation,” continued Vaché.

The organizations hope that the effort will attract at least 10,000 “Likes” in order to plant 50,000 trees and raise awareness of ATP’s mission. Contributions may be made via ATP’s website (indicate that the gifts are “In memory of Sosé and Allen”).

Friday, May 24, 2013

Prince Charles discusses forests & the value of natural capital...

We learned recently that the Prince of Wales will pay a visit to Armenia next week. It will be a first-ever visit by a member of the British MonarchyPrince Charles is an outspoken leader on the issue of global forest and biodiversity protection, so I decided to post his latest statement on the link between forests and sustainable development. It was recorded for the World Forest Summit hosted by The Economist.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

What happened to the environmental movement?

On the eve of Earth Day 2013, the New Yorker ran a lengthy review of Adam Rome’s new book, “The Genius of Earth Day: How a 1970 Teach-in Unexpectedly Made the First Green Generation.” There has been no major environmental legislation in the US since 1990 when President George H.W. Bush signed a bill aimed at reducing acid rain. “Today’s environmental movement is vastly bigger, richer, and better connected than it was in 1970. It’s also vastly less successful. What went wrong?” asks Nicholas Lemann.

According to Rome, the original Earth Day held on April 22, 1970 remains a model of effective political organizing. Senator Gaylord Nelson’s idea of a “teach-in” was more than just sixties jargon, writes Lemann. It defined Earth Day as educational, school-based, widely distributed, locally controlled, and participatory. This is contrasted with Earth Day 1990 which was better funded and more elaborately orchestrated but had fewer lasting effects. Earth Day 1990 was more top-down and attuned to marketing than to organizing.

The more the US environmental movement becomes an established presence in Washington, the less it has been able to win legislative victories, notes Lemann. “It has concentrated on the inside game at the expense of broad-based organizing,” he writes, citing an example from his research for the Scholars Strategy Network. “The forces behind the climate change bill [in the US Congress] directed their money to the inside game in Washington and to messaging, rather than to organizing.”

Earth Day is now celebrated around the world, including Armenia (see poster from 2010 campaign). Yet the lessons from the US environmental movement should be of interest for Armenia’s nascent environmental movement, which organized mass protests against industrial air pollution in the late 1980s. Today’s movement is smaller, visibly younger, and focused around unsustainable mining with some attention to issues such as green spaces, threatened ecosystems, and biodiversity.

Armenia’s environmental movement has not been able to organize at the national level or at the grassroots, so it faces serious challenges ahead in terms of effectiveness and growth. We hope Rome’s account will provide at least some useful advice about organizing a generation of environmental leaders.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

A simple, healthy dish from India…

Readers of this blog may know it is named after one of my favorite foods, chickpeas, or Cicer arietinum. This legume is high in protein and it’s one of the earliest cultivated legumes. Remains dated more than 5,000 years old have been found in Anatolia and in Europe.

(Photograph by Jaymi Heimbuch, TreeHugger)

So I try to post about chickpeas whenever the opportunity arises. Today I came across a TreeHugger recipe for chickpeas simmered in masala sauce. Kelly Rossiter explains that this simple Indian recipe takes very little effort and the results are quite tasty.

Jaymi Heimbuch says, “I knew I'd love this dish just by looking at the ingredients--it has so many fantastic spices with simple chickpeas and tomatoes to soak them all up and provide texture--but I had no idea that it would come together so easily.”