Second Act

Forest ecologist Robin Chazdon is helping show that secondary tropical forests aren’t wastelands

By Elizabeth Pennisi

EcoLogic Board member Robin Chazdon

EcoLogic Board member Dr. Robin Chazdon’s research on secondary forests—in other words, what grows back after trees are logged or burned down—was recently profiled in Science magazine.(Photo: Joanna B. Pinneo)

When it came to studying forests, ecologist Robin Chazdon took the road less traveled. In the 1990s, when many tropical researchers were scrambling to study tropical forests before they disappeared, she focused on what grew back once the trees were burned or logged. Many colleagues worked in the forest’s shaded understory, an ecosystem celebrated in Hollywood films. She labored in less charismatic deforested plots in the broiling sun, covered head to toe to keep prickly bushes and biting chiggers at bay. For decades, Chazdon worked in relative obscurity on long-term studies of these so-called secondary forests. She took issue with some prevailing views: that tropical forests wouldn’t regenerate, and that second growth was a biological wasteland. Chazdon and like-minded colleagues argued that, while protecting intact forest was essential, second growth couldn’t be ignored in efforts to protect the environment and human livelihoods. Now the rest of the world is beginning to see her point.

Read more about how Dr. Chazdon’s pioneering research is changing the way we look at secondary forests

Homegrown Expertise Could Be the Missing Link to Saving Mexico’s Largest Intact Rainforest

Mexico aims to slow climate change by saving its forests—an approach that’s traditionally meant good work for external companies who know how to measure the carbon content of trees. But Felicia Line of EcoLogic says locals can handle the job even better.

By Felicia Line, CarbonPlus Field Coordinator

This article was originally published on Ecosystem Marketplace, and is re-posted here with permission. View the original here.

Sara Camacho and her two-man team had been leading their brigades, made up of local community members, into the forest for weeks, leaving at dawn and returning at dusk, mosquito-bitten, snake-bitten and—in the case of team member Yoni Sima—feverish on the night I met them, but full of bonhomie.

“I’m starting to feel like I’m married to you guys,” joked Camacho, a fireplug of a woman in her mid-20s who Sima and their third colleague, the burly Manuel Arana, address with affection as la jefa—“the boss lady”.

Community brigades measure forest carbon in Mexico

A local community brigade is trained to measure carbon stored n trees in Chiapas, Mexico. (Photo: Carlos Herrera)

The three young mestizos had come to the old Mayan district of Calakmul to help marginalized communities learn how to measure the carbon stored in their forest—a task that requires identifying the forest’s trees by species, measuring their circumference, estimating their height, and then applying formulas to determine their biomass, half of which is carbon. If they get the species wrong, the carbon inventory will be off even if the measurements are right. And the same thing will happen if they get the species right but are sloppy about their measurements. Such errors could accumulate to add more uncertainty to the already difficult science of measuring carbon in forests, which is critical in efforts to slow climate change and earn international funding for REDD+, which stands for Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation.

Read more about how local people are key to saving Mexico’s rainforests.

Enoughness: Restoring Balance to the Economy

A conversation with Rebecca Adamson of First Peoples Worldwide

Rebecca Adamson, an indigenous economist, is Founder and President of First Peoples Worldwide in New York. A leader, activist, and ground-breaking Indigenous woman, Rebecca has a distinct perspective on how Indigenous Peoples’ value and economic systems can transform today’s business models. She holds a MS in Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University, where she has also taught a graduate course on Indigenous Economics within the Community Economic Development Program. Rebecca has worked directly with grassroots tribal communities, and nationally as an advocate of local tribal issues, since 1970. She started First Nations Development Institute in 1980 and First Peoples Worldwide in 1997. Rebecca co-authored The Color of Wealth, published in 2006.

Rebecca will facilitate a table conversation at EcoLogic’s 2015 fall benefit, “Turning the Tables: Nurturing Resilience” on October 1. At her table, she will be leading a discussion focused on exploring the concept of Enoughness: Restoring Balance to the Economy. Get a sneak preview of what she will be talking about at dinner here!

Rebecca Adamson, First Peoples Worldwide

Rebecca Adamson, Founder and President of First Peoples Worldwide

What will you be talking about with the guests at your table?

I want to talk about why if we don’t reform the economic system, we will never save the planet. Most of my work has been using indigenous principles from a subsistence economy and taking indigenous wisdom to reform our Western economy. But we need to get a handle on what true sustainability is. You can’t have these exponentially growing economies and sustainability; we have to emphasize sustainability over growth. I want to put the economics stuff I’ve done more into the framework of climate change and talk about what it’s going to take for us to get where we need to be.

Read more about Rebecca Adamson’s perspectives on “Enoughness,” indigenous rights, and a sustainable economy.

Pope Francis’ Encyclical Reminds Us Who Climate Change Hurts the Most

By Tessa Peoples, Communications Intern

Laudato Si, the Pope’s landmark encyclical, has ignited an international conversation about climate change. But no conversation about climate action can ignore the fact that the world’s poor—including the rural and indigenous communities that EcoLogic works with every day—are already being hit the hardest by the impacts of climate disruption.

“We are not faced with two separate crises, one environmental and the other social, but rather one complex crisis which is both social and environmental.”

So wrote Pope Francis in Laudato Si, his landmark encyclical on climate change and the environment, released June 18. An encyclical is a letter generally used to address a significant issue and is addressed to all bishops—or in this case, as Francis put it: all of mankind. Through the letter, the Pope wishes to “enter into a dialogue with all people about our common home.” He emphasizes the undeserved effect of climate change on the world’s poorest populations and wealthy countries’ obligation to push forward and find solutions to the issue that he asserts was caused by excessive industrialization.

Pope Francis, who wrote about climate change

Pope Francis, who released an encyclical about climate change, will visit the US in September

The encyclical was published just a few months before the Pope’s September trip to the United States, when he will address a joint session of Congress and, separately, the United Nations General Assembly. President Obama responded to the encyclical, saying, “We must also protect the world’s poor, who have done the least to contribute to this looming crisis and stand to lose the most if we fail to avert it.”

Read more about the Pope, climate change, and the world’s poor.

Nish Acharya, Global Entrepreneur

On October 1, EcoLogic will be bringing 10 experts on topics from indigenous rights to climate change together for Turning the Tables: Nurturing Resilience, a dinner party with a twist. Here, Nish Acharya, one of the experts we have invited to dinner, reflects on his career journey, sustainability, and a preview of what guests at his dinner table can plan to discuss.

Learn more about our October 1 event here!

Nish Acharya

Nish Acharya

Nish Acharya is CEO of Citizence, a firm that consults with some of the world’s leading universities, governments, foundations and companies to assist them with innovation, entrepreneurship and globalization strategies. Mr. Acharya is currently leading a social enterprise investment fund for the Calvert Foundation, and is as a Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress, a Visiting Fellow with Gateway House: The Indian Council on Global Relations, and a contributor to Forbes.

His topic at Turning the Tables is “Global Innovation and Entrepreneurship Ecosystems.”

Read more about Nish’s perspectives on entrepreneurship and sustainability!

Stoves Are Not One Size Fits All

Don’t underestimate the impact a stove can have on a woman’s life. In rural communities in Guatemala, Belize, Honduras, and Mexico, women do most, if not all, of the cooking for their families. In many homes, this means spending hours bent over an open fire, breathing in damaging smoke and carbon monoxide. Cooking over an open fire is detrimental both to women’s health and to forests. Harvesting firewood for cooking is a driver of deforestation in many rural areas in Central America and Mexico. By building fuel-efficient, clean-burning stoves in our project communities, EcoLogic helps improve the health of both families and forests. All of the stoves that we use reduce families’ fuel wood consumption about 60 to 70%, compared to traditional open-fire cooking methods. This saves women and children time and energy harvesting wood, and also reduces pressure on forests.

Building a new Justa stove in Honduras

Volunteers in Honduras build the base of a new Justa stove

Stoves, however, are not one size fits all.

Read more about how EcoLogic builds different stoves to fit the needs of each community we work in!

Fighting Climate Change and Saving Forests Doesn’t Mean Ignoring Indigenous Rights

With the COP21 international climate talks in Paris rapidly approaching, Mexico merits attention. In March, Mexico made news by becoming the first developing country to commit to reducing its carbon footprint at a national level ahead of the upcoming talks—including an ambitious goal to bring deforestation rates to zero by 2030.

These latest commitments aren’t the first time Mexico has been a step ahead of much of the world on climate. In 2010, Mexico released a vision document laying groundwork for a national strategy for REDD+—a United Nations program that stands for “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation.”

Carbon Brigade in Chiapas measures trees

Community members in Chiapas learn how to measure carbon stored in trees (Photo: Felicia Line)

Read more about how EcoLogic is using people-powered conservation to help Mexico meet its climate goals!