EPN:银行浆纸业环境政策评估报告发布

The Environmental Paper Network (EPN)* has published In the Redan assessment of bank policies for financing pulp and paper companies worldwideThis assessment reveals that the banks most deeply involved in the pulp and paper sector do not have public policies that will ensure they avoid financing projects and companies that cause environmental and social harm.
 
EPN日前在全球范围内公布了有关浆纸企业融资的银行政策评估报告In the Red。该报告表明深度涉足浆纸业的银行并没有相关公共政策来避免该融资项目和纸张公司所引起的环境和社会危害。

The assessment studied how ready the financial sector is to manage the environmental and social risks of financial involvement with the pulp and paper industry. It is a benchmark assessment carried out by a team of researchers from several countries, which evaluated the pulp and paper policies of 42 private banks against the requirements set out in 2016 in Green Paper, Red Lines.

该报告还研究了金融部门是否准备好应对浆纸业项目带来的环境与社会风险。这份由来自数个国家的研究者产出的准基报告,认定有42家私营银行的浆纸政策不符和2016年发布的《Green Paper, Red Lines》报告所提出的要求。

The Red Lines are regulatory, environmental and social criteria, which articulate minimum requirements that pulp and paper companies must meet before investment in them is considered. Unless pulp and paper mills and their financiers fulfil these requirements, they are highly likely to cause social and environmental harm and become the target of campaigns by civil society organisations.  Member organisations of EPN therefore expect financiers to stay clear if their client pulp and paper companies are unable to meet the minimum requirements. The unacceptable level of relevant policies in financial institutions clearly demonstrates a lack of accountability and commitment regarding these issues.

报告所列涉及管理、环境保护与社会影响的标准,是浆纸公司符合融资条件的最低要求。如果浆纸工厂和投资者不能履行这些条款,他们极有可能造成社会与环境危害并成为公民社会组织的众矢之的。EPN的成员组织因此希望投资者对他们的浆纸业客户是否能够达到最低标准保持清醒的认知。金融机构相关环境政策的水平令人难以置信,恰好说明了对环境责任感与承诺的缺失。

Mandy Haggith, co-ordinator of the Environmental Paper Network’s pulp finance working group, said: “The results of our assessment reveal that bank policies are extremely disappointing. Unfortunately none of the banks we assessed manages to thoroughly protect itself from clients breaching the Red Lines. Indeed for most of the Red Lines, the vast bulk of banks are at best only partly protected. We can only conclude that the banking sector does not have policies that are fit for purpose to avoid irresponsible investment in damaging pulp and paper projects and companies. We urge all banks to review and strengthen their policies for involvement in this sector.”

EPN浆纸金融工作组的协调人 Mandy Haggith说:“我们这份报告结果显示,银行的环境政策是极度令人失望的。我们评估的银行中,很不幸地,没有一家能够保证他们的客户能够达到Green Paper, Red Lines的标准。实际上报告中的多数标准,大部分银行顶多只是部分涉及。我们只能推断,银行业没有相适应的政策来避免浆纸类项目中不负责任的投资。因此,我们迫切希望银行能够重新审视和加强他们的相关政策。”

* EPN is a global network of more than 140 non-governmental organisations, working on pulp and paper sustainability issues, all of which endorse the Global Paper Vision.

* EPN是一家超过40家非政府组织组成的全球网络,致力于浆纸业的可持续发展。所有成员组织均签署了Global Paper Vision

Links

–      In the Red: report on the assessment of bank policies – http://www.environmentalpaper.eu/in-the-red/
–      The Green Paper, Red Lines criteria – http://www.environmentalpaper.eu/red-lines-for-pulp-mill-finance/
–      Global Paper Vision – http://www.environmentalpaper.eu/our-common-vision/
 

EPN:银行浆纸业环境政策评估报告发布

The Environmental Paper Network (EPN)* has published In the Redan assessment of bank policies for financing pulp and paper companies worldwideThis assessment reveals that the banks most deeply involved in the pulp and paper sector do not have public policies that will ensure they avoid financing projects and companies that cause environmental and social harm.
 
EPN日前在全球范围内公布了有关浆纸企业融资的银行政策评估报告In the Red。该报告表明深度涉足浆纸业的银行并没有相关公共政策来避免该融资项目和纸张公司所引起的环境和社会危害。

The assessment studied how ready the financial sector is to manage the environmental and social risks of financial involvement with the pulp and paper industry. It is a benchmark assessment carried out by a team of researchers from several countries, which evaluated the pulp and paper policies of 42 private banks against the requirements set out in 2016 in Green Paper, Red Lines.

该报告还研究了金融部门是否准备好应对浆纸业项目带来的环境与社会风险。这份由来自数个国家的研究者产出的准基报告,认定有42家私营银行的浆纸政策不符和2016年发布的Green Paper, Red Lines报告所提出的要求。

The Red Lines are regulatory, environmental and social criteria, which articulate minimum requirements that pulp and paper companies must meet before investment in them is considered. Unless pulp and paper mills and their financiers fulfil these requirements, they are highly likely to cause social and environmental harm and become the target of campaigns by civil society organisations.  Member organisations of EPN therefore expect financiers to stay clear if their client pulp and paper companies are unable to meet the minimum requirements. The unacceptable level of relevant policies in financial institutions clearly demonstrates a lack of accountability and commitment regarding these issues.

报告所列涉及管理、环境保护与社会影响的标准,是浆纸公司符合融资条件的最低要求。如果浆纸工厂和投资者不能履行这些条款,他们极有可能造成社会与环境危害并成为公民社会组织的众矢之的。EPN的成员组织因此希望投资者对他们的浆纸业客户是否能够达到最低标准保持清醒的认知。金融机构相关环境政策的水平令人难以置信,恰好说明了对环境责任感与承诺的缺失。

Mandy Haggith, co-ordinator of the Environmental Paper Network’s pulp finance working group, said: “The results of our assessment reveal that bank policies are extremely disappointing. Unfortunately none of the banks we assessed manages to thoroughly protect itself from clients breaching the Red Lines. Indeed for most of the Red Lines, the vast bulk of banks are at best only partly protected. We can only conclude that the banking sector does not have policies that are fit for purpose to avoid irresponsible investment in damaging pulp and paper projects and companies. We urge all banks to review and strengthen their policies for involvement in this sector.”

EPN浆纸金融工作组的协调人 Mandy Haggith说:“我们这份报告结果显示,银行的环境政策是极度令人失望的。我们评估的银行中,很不幸地,没有一家能够保证他们的客户能够达到Green Paper, Red Lines的标准。实际上报告中的多数标准,大部分银行顶多只是部分涉及。我们只能推断,银行业没有相适应的政策来避免浆纸类项目中不负责任的投资。因此,我们迫切希望银行能够重新审视和加强他们的相关政策。”

* EPN is a global network of more than 140 non-governmental organisations, working on pulp and paper sustainability issues, all of which endorse the Global Paper Vision.

* EPN是一家超过40家非政府组织组成的全球网络,致力于浆纸业的可持续发展。所有成员组织均签署了《Global Paper Vision》。

Links
–      In the Red: report on the assessment of bank policies – http://www.environmentalpaper.eu/in-the-red/
–      The Green Paper, Red Lines criteria – http://www.environmentalpaper.eu/red-lines-for-pulp-mill-finance/
–      Global Paper Vision – http://www.environmentalpaper.eu/our-common-vision/
 

Researchers discover two tiny new primate species in a far-flung forest

Researchers discover two tiny new primate species in a far-flung forest
by Bruno Vander Velde   May 4, 2017

Two species of tarsier — including Tarsius supriatnai, pictured — were recently discovered on Indonesia’s Sulawesi island. (© Conservation International/photo by Russ Mittermeier)

Two new species of tarsier — a tiny, nocturnal primate found only in parts of Southeast Asia — have been discovered on an island in Indonesia, a new study confirms.

With their adorably large eyes and prominent ears, tarsiers are rumored to have been the inspiration for Yoda from the “Star Wars” films. The new study, cannily published in the journal Primate Conservation on “Star Wars Day” — “May the Fourth be with you!” — raises a new hope for future forest conservation efforts in one of the world’s most exquisitely biodiverse regions.

“These two new species are the 80th and 81st primates new to science described since 2000 — this represents about 16 percent of all primate species known, and is indicative of how little we know of our planet’s unique and wonderful biodiversity,” said Russ Mittermeier, a primatologist with Conservation International (CI) and one of the study’s co-authors. “If we haven’t even gotten a handle on the diversity our closest living relatives, which by comparison are relatively well-studied, imagine how much we still have to learn about the rest of life on Earth.”

Tarsiers may as well have come straight out of a science-fiction film.

An adult male tarsier weighs about as much as a stick of butter. Its massive eyes — each as large as its brain, and the largest relative to body size of any mammal — are fixed in their sockets. (Helpfully, tarsiers can turn their head more than 180 degrees in either direction, like an owl.) The long-legged, long-tailed creatures can leap as many as 3 meters (10 feet) in a single bound. And rare among primates, they are completely carnivorous, eating only live food (mostly insects).

The two new species were discovered on the northern arm of Sulawesi, a large, orchid-shaped island in Indonesia. Their scientific names — Tarsius spectrumgurskyae and Tarsius supriatnai — honor prominent scientists: Sharon Gursky, a tarsier expert at Texas A&M University, and Jatna Supriatna, a biology professor at the University of Indonesia and a former director of CI Indonesia. While the two new tarsier species appear similar to each other (and to other tarsiers), they were isolated as new species through their distinct vocalizations and genetic data.

“Slash and burn” deforestation practices have degraded the area closest to the Nantu site on Sulawesi, home of Tarsius supriatnai. (© Conservation International/photo by Russ Mittermeier)

The study’s authors write that their research highlights the “conservation crisis” facing the region. As recently as 2014, Indonesia had the highest rate of deforestation in the world; habitats of unique and endemic species — including orangutans, Sumatran rhinos and tigers — have shrunk rapidly due in large part to unsustainable agricultural expansion.

The study’s lead author, Western Washington University researcher Myron Shekelle told the website MongaBay: “Sulawesi, like many regions in the tropics, is facing a conservation crisis. The big difference between Sulawesi and elsewhere is that owing to the complex geological history of the island, we have likely underestimated the true diversity of species there by an order of magnitude or more. Thus, each time habitat loss causes the extinction of what we might have thought was one species, the actual number of extinctions might be 10 times greater than that.”

He continued: “Primates, such as these two tarsier species, serve as flagships for conservation awareness. And if we set aside habitat for these two species, then as a result, we will also have set aside for the myriad other species of plants, insects and everything else that no one has the time, money, or interest to study, but which one day we may see as valuable, perhaps because they provide a drug to cure your child’s cancer, or perhaps just because we value it all as a part of the web of life to which we, ourselves, are connected.”

Bruno Vander Velde is CI’s editorial director.

中国首个物流环保公益基金成立

3月17日,中国首个物流环保公益基金——菜鸟绿色联盟公益基金在京成立。
 
基金是由菜鸟网络、阿里巴巴公益基金会、中华环保基金会发起,并联合圆通、中通、申通、韵达、百世、天天等六家快递公司,共同出资成立。
 
基金将专注于解决日趋严重的物流业污染现状,推动快递包装创新改良,促进快递车辆使用清洁能源,引导运用大数据技术减少资源浪费,更好的保护生态环境。
 
环保部副部长赵英民在致辞中给菜鸟绿色联盟基金点赞:
 
“菜鸟网络、阿里巴巴公益基金会与中华环保基金会的这次合作,从推动物流行业转型发展,开发绿色供应链和循环发展、低碳发展方面来说,是一次非常有力的尝试。用自己的行动,在行业中开了一个好头。”
 
打造绿色经济新时代
阿里巴巴一直在路上
 
2016年6月,阿里巴巴公益基金会与菜鸟网络、中华环保基金会一起,联合国内外32家物流合作伙伴成立了“菜鸟绿色联盟”,共同启动了物流业迄今为止最大的一次环保联合行动——绿动计划。截至目前,已经进行多项环保创新改进,推出了100%可生物降解的快递包装袋和无胶带环保纸箱。截止目前已经有近50万绿色包裹送达消费者手中。
 
比如“绿动计划”研发的包装袋,真正做到了100%生物降解,正常在自然环境下几个月之内就会完全分解被土壤吸收。
 
还有无胶带的快递纸箱,完全不用容易产生污染的传统胶带,通过使用更耐压耐破的新型纸板和设计,免去了使用透明胶带加固封箱的必要。
 
正如阿里巴巴集团CPO、菜鸟网络董事长童文红所说,阿里是中国最大的电商平台,菜鸟是中国最大的大数据物流平台,所以牵头解决物流业的环保化,阿里巴巴和菜鸟网络是责无旁贷。
 
“绿色物流是一项系统工程,绝非一个平台、一家企业能够独立完成,需要政府、快递企业、商家和消费者的共同努力和担当。”
 
阿里巴巴公益基金会秘书长王瑞合则提到:
 
电子商务通过“让数据多跑路”实现了“让人少跑路”,对于减少公众经济活动对环境的负面影响,降低治理污染成本,体现了巨大的环保价值。2015年,网络零售因节省能耗与物耗,而减少排放约3000万吨二氧化碳,相当于新增鄱阳湖面积大小的森林。
“我们希望,不光是电商领域,与其紧密相连的物流产业也在绿色环保领域有所突破。”
 
而如今建立的专项基金,将成为“绿动计划”良好的奠基石。一座通往绿色经济时代的桥梁,正在跨越现在与未来,连接着现实与梦想。
 
 
未来计划投入三亿
推动绿色物流升级
 
未来,基金共计划投入3亿元,用于开展绿色物流、绿色消费、绿色供应链等方面的研究、倡导和推动。
 
 “只要大家都主动参与到节约资源,保护环境的行动中来,我们的环境改善就会指日可待,蓝天就会一年比一年多,全面建成小康社会的生态文明新时代也就会早日到来。”中华环境保护基金会理事长傅雯娟对未来充满了希冀。
 
“专项基金的成立只是一个开始。”王瑞合说道,“阿里基金会承诺未来五年直接投入会达到一亿,更希望以此为支点,撬动更多的企业和公众参与到绿色消费升级中,让更多的物流企业有意愿、有能力采用更环保的包装和运输方式,让更多的消费者有意识、有动力选择使用绿色包裹,让整个物流行业效能再度提升,并且对环境更加友好。”。
 
下一步,阿里巴巴不仅会推动绿色物流的升级,更要继续在淘宝、天猫上推动绿色消费,在蚂蚁金服推动绿色金融,在阿里云推动绿色计算,还将为中国的绿色消费升级打造一个更广阔、更高效的商业基础设施平台,提供更智能、更人性的绿色服务。
 
未来,还有更多可能。也许无需多久,一个全新的绿色经济时代,就将到来。

本文引自 阿里巴巴公益公众号

EPN“杯之言”——倡导减少一次性纸杯的宣言

 

全球每年消耗数以亿计的一次性纸杯,不仅浪费,而且破坏森林、水资源和全球气候。我们呼吁商界和政府部门停止鼓励一次性用品文化,并且促进杯子的循环利用。对使用一次性纸杯说不!

简而言之,一次性杯子损害环境。从石器时代起,人类就使用陶瓷、木制、金属和其它可水洗的杯子饮用。一次性杯子的发明导致了全球垃圾增多、毁林和环境污染。我们呼吁速食餐饮公司和政府监管部门能确保每位消费者有选择使用可复用杯子饮茶喝咖啡的权利。我们的倡议很简单 — 不用一次性杯子。

一次性杯子,不管是纸的、泡沫聚苯乙烯的还是塑料的,都是在浪费资源。这种随用随弃式杯子产量的不断增加,在市场接受度上其实也有欠考虑。作为环境纸张网络,我们理所当然格外关注纸杯的问题。全球使用的纸杯数量简直就是天文数字——Betacup组织声称,世界每年使用580亿个纸杯,但是据其它机构估算则为多达两倍于此的数字。纸张消费模拟计算显示,生产这个数量的纸杯需要至少100万吨的纸,320万棵树和1000亿升的水(相当于43000个奥运会游泳池),并且排放出相当于50万辆汽车尾气的温室气体!造成如此诸多破坏之后,纸杯在人们常常仅是小抿几口以后就被丢进垃圾桶,即使它们可以再循环使用或再回收,这种损耗仍令人扼腕。对此,解决之道很明显 — 不用一次性杯子。

本宣言不仅仅是有关个人的行动。政府官员与商界人士也需要为可持续性的纸张消费担起责任。既然很多一次性用品有完美的可重复使用的替代品,我们就应该朝向更绿色的社会迈进。放弃美丽的陶瓷杯、结实的硬塑杯、优雅的不锈钢杯,却使用一次性纸杯本应该是遭受抵制的行为。因为我们不需要一个充斥着一次性杯子的世界。

为了纸制品生产和使用拥有可持续性未来,包括145个成员组织的环境纸张网络共享《全球纸张愿景》,其中的第一要领就是减少全球的纸张消费。我们
· 鼓励高效低耗的纸张使用方式;
· 主动与消费者沟通,教育他们减少不必要的纸张浪费;
· 了解以及避免塑料和其它纸张替代品带来的负面影响。

至此,环境纸张网络所提倡的,您也应该猜到了:不用一次性纸杯!

如果您同意加入,请点击 No throwaway cups.
更多信息请联系 Mandy Haggith hag@environmentalpaper.eu +441571844020 

A Life-or-Death Hunt for Tree Thieves

The rangers were slogging their way up the mud-slick mountainside in Thap Lan National Park when a hand signal brought our patrol to a sharp halt. A scout up ahead had found a letter “K” carved into the side of a tree. It was the signature of a timber poacher, rumored to be Cambodian, who had evaded capture for months, taunting them each time he pushed deeper into protected Thai territory.

Captain Morokot and his scout rushed forward hoping to catch the loggers by surprise, only to find a makeshift abandoned camp. Red Bull energy drink cans and cigarette butts littered the ground.

“The poachers have their own lookouts, so it’s getting harder to sneak up on them,” Morokot sighed. “We know some of them were soldiers [because] when we get close, they have no problem shooting at us.”

In the mountain jungles of eastern Thailand, a shadowy war is ramping up between poachers and the ill-equipped rangers tasked with stopping them. Surging Chinese demand for so-called “red timbers”—Tamalan, Padauk, Siamese rosewood—has fueled the destruction of forests across Southeast Asia’s backcountry and now threatens to drive some tree species to extinction.

Picture of a ranger in Cambodia examining a mark left on a tree

ENLARGE 

Captain Morokot, a ranger in Thailand’s Thap Lan National Park, hunts for signs of timber poachers. Many of them target valuable Siamese rosewood.PHOTOGRAPH BY JASON MOTLAGH

Thap Lan and adjoining parks—part of a complex that has UNESCO World Heritage status—are home to everything from black bears and crocodiles to elephants and tigers. Nearly 150 bird species have been documented in Thap Lan alone, including the green imperial pigeon and stork-billed kingfisher. By cutting down trees and hunting for bush meat, timber thieves are threatening one of the most biodiverse corners of Asia.

Linked to multinational criminal syndicates that have systematically clear-cut swathes of neighboring Cambodia, the logging gangs operating in Thailand are well armed, coordinated, and prepared to kill. In 2014, seven Thai rangers died in gun battles with illegal loggers. Two more were killed in a late-night ambush following a November raid on an illegal logging site.

“These trees belong to our people,” said Morokot, who first came to Thap Lan as a tourist and was so moved by the richness of the place that he applied for a job to protect it. Now he’s one of dozens of rangers who patrol the 860-square-mile (2,235 square kilometers) reserve, teams so ill-equipped that some men don’t even have guns, and bullets are always in short supply.

As timber elsewhere in Thailand runs out, loggers are making more brazen incursions deep into Thap Lan to steal the most prized timber of all: Siamese rosewood. With its darkly rich hues, density, and fine grain, rosewood has long been a favorite in China, where it’s carved into elaborate furniture and religious statues known as hongmu, an antique style that originated centuries ago.

Reproduction hongmu furniture has become a status symbol of China’s new rich. A 2011 report by the Environmental Investigation Agency, a U.K.-based NGO, says demand for Ming and Qing dynasty-era replica products soared in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 and has stayed high. Prices hover around $20,000 a ton, with some varietiesspiking as high as $80,000.

A smaller, but significant, amount of illegally harvested rosewood makes its way from Southeast Asia via China to the U.S. These exports range from hongmu items sold in Asian furniture emporiums to name brand mail-order coffee tables.

Picture of a Thai ranger walking through a stream

ENLARGE 

Protecting trees is a dangerous job for ill-equipped Thai rangers, who lack sufficient guns and bullets to defend themselves against brazen poachers.PHOTOGRAPH BY JASON MOTLAGH

“For the last two or three years, it’s just grown out of control,” says Tim Redford, of the Freeland Foundation, an organization funded by the U.S. government that monitors wildlife and trains rangers to combat rosewood poachers. “They’re going in with AK-47s, M-16s, hand grenades detonators.” As rosewood becomes scarcer, he adds, the risks the timber thieves are willing to take are increasing.

“What most consumers don’t understand in America is that this wood came from an illegal source,” says Redford, who acknowledges the difficulty of tracing a product’s origins. “People have risked their lives for that timber.”

Poachers Without Borders

In Thailand, Laos, and Myanmar massive tracts of virgin forest have been razed to sustain the rosewood trade, but no country has lost more than Cambodia. By some estimates, more than a third of its forests disappeared during the past four decades, despite a moratorium on logging and a 2013 ban on the harvesting, sale, and export of Siamese rosewood.

In Cambodia, poverty drives many men to timber poaching. One veteran smuggler, who declined to give his name, said he logged rosewood on the Cambodian side for years until the trees ran out. (We were introduced by a local journalist, and he agreed to talk because he was frustrated over the lack of economic opportunities in Cambodia.) Then, under cover of darkness, he began making forays into Thailand, hacking down trunks and selling whatever planks he managed to haul out to army soldiers.

A land mine blew off half of his right leg, but with no other way to earn a living, he still crosses the border to search for rosewood, at times taking fire from Thai rangers. “Everybody knows it’s a dangerous job,” he said, “but there’s no choice.”

Although Thap Lan rangers haven’t taken any casualties, Wichai Pomleesansumon, the park’s superintendent, says Cambodian poachers operating inside Thailand have been helped out with arms and logistics support from members of the Cambodian military.

Picture of a man carving timber

ENLARGE 

Valuable “red timber” planks await export in a Cambodian warehouse. Soaring Chinese and U.S. demand for the wood feeds the illicit trade.
PHOTOGRAPH BY JASON MOTLAGH

“A few years back, our rangers were finding Cambodian soldiers’ cards left in the jungle, which led us to believe they were the ones doing the logging,” he said. “Now it appears they’re hiring out labor to log for them.” (Cambodia’s military command didn’t respond to requests for comment, but authorities have arrested some soldiers for poaching.)

Freeland’s Redford says that stolen wood smuggled on the backs of amphetamine-addled workers or packed in secret truck compartments makes its way to private depots run by a politically connected timber mafia, where it’s mixed in with domestically harvested timber. Paperwork is then issued for export, mainly to China.

“Daylight Robbery”

Ouch Leng, an independent Cambodian investigator who tracks the illicit rosewood trade, says the Cambodian government has bent its own rules to accommodate timber tycoons who in turn provide hefty kickbacks. The first strategy is for officials to grant land concessions, nominally for agriculture purposes, that allow timber to be clear-cut and sold in the process.

The second is to convert state public property to private property under the pretext of using it for development. Here again, timber is razed and sold off by the companies. “The country is for sale,” Ouch Leng said.

According to Global Witness, a U.K.-based nonprofit that tracks resource exploitation, a timber tycoon named Try Pheap is “at the helm of an illegal logging network that relies on the complicity of officials from government, the military, police and customs to clear rare trees like Siamese Rosewood, traffic logs across the country and load them onto boats bound for Hong Kong” in what amounts to “daylight robbery.” This includes the exclusive right to buy timber seized by any enforcement agencies

Picture of rangers patrolling in Thailand

ENLARGE 

Rangers in Thap Lan National Park search for traces of illegal loggers, who’ve become increasingly organized.PHOTOGRAPH BY JASON MOTLAGH

A February 2015 report alleges that Pheap and his companies have grown rich with illicit logging profits thanks to close ties with Prime Minister Hun Sen, for whom he once served as a personal adviser. Pheap has donated tens of thousand of dollars to the ruling party and holds a royally conferred honorific title—oknha—as a result.  

Based on the findings of an unpublished 2012 investigation by an international environmental group, the Phnom Penh Post alleged thatPheap made some $220 million trafficking illegally logged rosewood during a recent three-year period.

Last month, Pheap was singled out again when a provincial governor told officials gathered at the first meeting of a new anti-logging task force that Pheap had been granted illegal concessions on property inside a wildlife sanctuary—land previously confiscated from companies that had violated the law.

Local journalists and investigators who cover logging say they face death threats and have lived in constant fear since the 2012 murder of Chut Wutty, a prominent activist who helped expose a government sell-off of national parkland. He was shot dead by military police. “No one can do anything against the timber mafia because it belongs to Try Pheap,” Ouch Leng said. “He’s the rosewood king.”

Prak Vuthy, a Try Pheap Group spokesman, dismissed the allegations.“Maybe all of these accusations are not true,” he said, adding that his boss has operated his businesses within the law, with official paperwork to back it up.

Picture of rosewood furniture

ENLARGE 

Workers in China’s Fujian Province craft furniture made from rosewood, long favored for its darkly rich hues, density, and fine grain.
PHOTOGRAPH BY WEI PEIQUAN, XINHUA/CORBIS

Pheap is secretive and avoids interviews, but a museum he’s putting up on the outskirts of Phnom Penh offers a vivid illustration of his wealth and priorities. Made almost entirely out of wood, it rises several stories atop columns of giant rosewood trunks, with a vaulted tile roof and ornate hand-carved molding—a temple to an allegedly tainted fortune.

In a separate complex behind the museum, a large anteroom full of polished rosewood furniture—king-size beds, thrones, busts of Khmer kings—opens up to a warehouse stacked high with raw planks of red timber. At first Vuthy denied that any of it was rosewood, calling it “ordinary wood.” But when pressed, he conceded that some was rosewood, handing over documents with Cambodian forestry department stamps confirming its legal provenance.

The museum is supposed to open this year, but Try Pheap’s staff says it may be delayed by a shortage of large rosewood trunks.

“Buying More Time”

Some of the last virgin rosewood tracts lie just across the Cambodian border in Thailand. Park authorities in Thap Lan confirmed that poachers are coming across in unprecedented numbers, gauged by the volume of arrests and numbers of poachers recorded by camera traps.

On the third day of Morokot’s mountain patrol in Thap Lan park, slowed by driving monsoon rains, his scout spotted another “K” carved into a tree. The red hue of the cut indicated it was fresh. Their nemesis might be at hand.

Once again, the two men charged ahead in pursuit, with rifles at the ready. They slashed through thorny vines and razor-edged palm leaves the loggers had cut down to slow their advance until a river cut them off.

Had the poachers walked upstream, then doubled back in the direction the rangers had just come from? Or had they crossed to the opposite side? Perhaps just one poacher had crossed, as a diversion, while the others double backed up the river.

With the trail going cold, and unsure of which way to go, the rangers stuck to their planned route alongside the river, which eventually brought them to a dirt track: the end of another patrol. Dog tired and empty-handed, they were demoralized.

At this rate of destruction, Morokot reckoned, all the rosewood trees in Thap Lan would disappear. “Right now we’re just buying more time,” he said.

By Jason Motlagh

Wildlife watch
PUBLISHED

Jason Motlagh is a multimedia journalist and filmmaker. He has won a National Magazine Award for News Reporting and has been a finalist in the reporting category. Follow him on his website and on Twitter.

The forest is crying

The forest is crying

Fighting deforestation in the Congo Basin by giving voice to indigenous people

Samuel Nnah Ndobe Indigenous hunter-gatherers of the Congo Basin in Central Africa rely on the rainforest for their livelihood.


“One does not sell the earth upon which the people walk.”

The quote is attributed to Crazy Horse in the late 19th century, as he fought to keep the federal government off the land his Sioux ancestors had been living in for generations. A war that centuries of indigenous populations across the globe before and after him have fought, both violently and more often peacefully, from myriad Native American tribes to the people of the Amazon rainforest to the hill tribes in South-East Asia to hunter-gatherer tribes in Africa. Yes, Africa.

Although many consider everyone in Africa to be indigenous with the same ethnicity as their pre-colonial ancestors, there are groups of hunter-gatherers deep in the rainforests of the Congo Basin who are marginalized and underrepresented because of their way of life.

“In Africa, you’ll find pygmies, as they are called in the literature, and these are the original inhabitants of the forest,” says Samuel Nnah Ndobe, an environmentalist working with the hunter-gatherer Baka populations in his native Cameroon and throughout Central Africa. “They have stayed strong to their culture for ages. They’ve remained attached to the forest for ages.”

And it’s these people that are largely feeling the effects of environmental degradation that is a result of international companies’ operations in the Congo Basin. With a degree in agriculture engineering, Ndobe collaborates with community and grassroots organizations to document what’s happening in the region, i.e., deforestation, mining and wildlife poaching, while also working with local governments and international NGOs on forest issues, specifically “ensuring there is forest governance,” he says via Skype from Yaounde. “Ensuring the rights of the people who live in the forest are respected.”

As part of that work, Ndobe has been a volunteer advisor for the Boulder-based nonprofitGlobal Greengrants Fund for the last decade, helping to connect grassroots organizations and activists on the ground in Central Africa with small grants to fund their efforts.

Samuel Nnah Ndobe in the forests of Cameroon he is working tirelessly to protect. Samuel Nnah Ndobe
Samuel Nnah Ndobe in the forests of Cameroon he is working tirelessly to protect.

“He’s an extremely passionate environmentalist and at the same time a really dedicated scholar,” says Terry Odendahl, the executive director at Global Greengrants Fund. “We really value local knowledge… and we know that he knows what’s going on in Central Africa. There’s no way that from Boulder we can have the depth of understanding of environmental and human rights in the region.”

Assuredly, the situation of the Baka people is complicated. Indigenous people make up an estimated 1 percent of the population in Cameroon, but it’s difficult to obtain precise numbers as the groups are largely nomadic and they have never been adequately represented during censuses. Needless to say, they don’t hold much sway when it comes to setting both conservation and economic policy.

As with most colonized countries, the current governmental and legal structures in Cameroon and elsewhere in Africa are adapted from European culture and don’t recognize the rights of indigenous people, nor do they require or even leave room for adequate consultation with the communities still living in the forest. “The pygmies are not recognized. Their whole mode of life is not recognized by the bureaucrats, by central government. Their land rights aren’t recognized,” Ndobe says. “All the land belongs to the state, but who is the state? The state are people sitting in Yaounde, in the capitals, who don’t know the issues that are happening on the ground.”

Furthermore, the indigenous people don’t see the land as something to own but rather a partner in survival, a resource to be used symbiotically but not abused.

“They don’t want to possess [the land],” Ndobe says, “but they want to have access. I was talking to [an older pygmy man] and he said, ‘The forest is crying because of the number of ancient souls that you find there. It is no longer our forest, it has become the forest of orders because we don’t have access.’”

Ndobe first became interested in the indigenous people while working on his final paper for a degree in agricultural economy. “This took me deep into the forests where I was so disappointed by the level of discrimination these people were going through,” he says. “I’ve been very passionate about the issue because of the injustice — the social, the environmental injustices — that I experienced.”

Ndobe is no stranger to discrimination. Present day Cameroon was colonized by both the French and the British, with roughly 20 percent of the population identifying as Anglophone compared to the majority francophone population. Although the two populations remained more or less autonomous for the first decade after independence, the 1972 constitution united the two populations and Ndobe says the Anglophones, like himself, were widely discriminated against.

After spending time with the hunter-gatherers, he started working on forest issues with the Center for Environment and Development and quickly realized that perhaps the largest threat to the Baka people is the ongoing deforestation across the Congo Basin that threatens the very existence of these tribes who depend on biodiversity for their survival.

Industrial logging has been the largest contributor to deforestation in the tropical forests of Central Africa, threatening the culture of the indigenous people who live there. Samuel Nnah Ndobe
Industrial logging has been the largest contributor to deforestation in the tropical forests of Central Africa, threatening the culture of the indigenous people who live there.

Ndobe says the level of deforestation in the Congo Basin is low when compared to the larger Amazon rainforest, but his country is the most deforested in the region, and Ndobe expects it to escalate in the near future. Industrial logging is the historic cause of deforestation. As the industry searches out rare wood, forest is fragmented, which makes way for poachers and others to come by road and hunt wildlife, limiting the availability of food for the indigenous people due to national hunting quotas.

Plus, as the area is further fragmented and degraded, the government allows agriculture and other industrial uses on the land. But as the indigenous people are given more of a voice, the deforestation can be curbed. Recently, activists saw a huge victory as the government of Cameroon significantly reduced the size of proposed oil palm operation by New York-based Herakles Farms. The company had plans to turn 170,000 acres into the country’s largest oil palm plantation when it began operations in Cameroon in 2009. With funding from the Global Greengrants Fund and help from Ndobe, local activist Nasako Besingi and his grassroots organization, the Struggle to Economize Future Environment, was able to draw the attention of large environmental players.

“The small grant that we could give made his voice heard to the big environment groups like Greenpeace…” Ndobe says. Greenpeace then launched a huge investigation into Herakles Farms, which drew the attention of the president of Cameroon, who in turn reduced Herakles’ lease to 20,000 acres while increasing rent 1,400 percent.

Ndobe has also been very active in documenting the Chad-Cameroon Pipeline Project, which was funded by International Finance Group and the World Bank as a new paradigm for sustainable development with environmental and social regulations attached. Although Ndobe fundamentally disagrees with the pipeline model of development and has been outspoken about the project from the very beginning, he is using the international regulations to push for national reform.

“We are building capacity for communities and groups to understand how the international financial institutions function and how they can use their compliance mechanisms to make their voices heard,” Ndobe says.

Indigenous women in Penzele, Democratic Republic of the Congo, reflecting on how to use hi-tech GPS systems to map their lands. Samuel Nnah Ndobe
Indigenous women in Penzele, Democratic Republic of the Congo, reflecting on how to use hi-tech GPS systems to map their lands.

“International policies, in principle, inform the national policies,” he continues. “And the national policies should reflect what is happening on the ground. So, if people don’t raise their voices, if we don’t document what is happening, then it becomes very, very difficult for national policies to shift international policies.”

And this is where the situation in Cameroon adds to the global environmental conversation. The issues surrounding the indigenous people in the Congo Basin rainforest are similar to problems happening in other countries, and through his work with Global Greengrants, Ndobe is able to share the challenges and successes of his work with others outside his region.

“The governments [in Central Africa] aren’t doing any thing to understand their culture and propose development scenarios that are adapted to these people’s culture,” he says. “Which I think this is a problem happening all over the world.”

On the agenda: Protecting Africa’s Last Rainforests: A Google Hangout Q&A with Samuel Nnah Ndobe. 12:30 p.m Tuesday, Feb. 22.