Our Rainforests Are In Peril. Here’s What Needs To Be Done

Our Rainforests Are In Peril. Here’s What Needs To Be Done

Most experts say that over 80,000 acres of rainforest are being destroyed every day, with an additional 80,000 being significantly damaged as a result of logging, agriculture, farming, mining, and dam building. Commercial deforestation occurs on a staggering scale globally, and scientists estimate that we lose 50,000 species of plants and animals annually to extinction due to deforestation.

A few specific industries are causing widespread upticks in deforestation rates, which the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization notes are 8.5 percent higher this decade than they were in the 1990s. Further, researchers estimate that the loss of primary tropical rainforest, which is the wildest and biologically diverse category, has increased by as much as 25 percent since the 1990s.

As many developing nations grow at a rapid rate, their appetite for raw materials as well as land to farm and develop is threatening rainforests around the globe. However, there are still plenty of ways that we can save rainforests, which will save species from disappearing forever while also alleviating other devastating global issues including the water crisis.

The Rainforest Makes it Rain

One of the most interesting and potentially devastating effects of deforestation is the way deforestation creates a ‘negative feedback loop.’ The same trees that absorb carbon dioxide and regulate moisture levels in the air suddenly release CO2 when they are chopped down, and they are no longer there to constantly filter the air. The Amazon rainforest’s massive network of trees creates a natural cycle that causes rain clouds and moisture to accumulate nearby.

Without this cycle, the Amazon region could quickly trend towards arid, further disrupting global weather patterns which have already created a dangerous water shortage in many regions across the planet.

National Geographic Magazine has explained the interaction of the world’s rainforests as creating a “giant flowing river in the sky” as different regions’ rainy seasons push and pull moisture through the air. Rainforests have a profound effect on the weather, and until conservation efforts begin researching and prioritizing the devastating, drought-inducing effects of deforestation, the water crisis will only intensify.

This is particularly true of many developing nations which happen to be located in tropical regions which are currently home to large swaths of rainforest which are being harvested for wood to use in construction and land to farm as these nations’ populations boom.

Food-Hungry Nations Drive Deforestation

shutterstock 511745713

Oftentimes, deforestation is spurred on by a demand for food products that grow in tropical regions. In West Africa, the cocoa trade has spurred on massive deforestation in the Ivory Coast, where rainforest cover has been reduced by more than 80% in the last sixty years.

The global demand for cocoa has created a rampant black and grey market for cocoa beans that has caused enforcement agencies in countries like Ghana and the Ivory Coast to turn a blind eye to the illegal practices that account for up to 40% of the cacao in the global supply chain.

Because it is so difficult to discern the provenance of cocoa once it is gathered in bulk for processing, industry giants like Nestle and Hershey are fueling the demand for the illegal cocoa, which is farmed primarily in freshly-deforested areas, where local farmers believe the “fresh” soil and ashes from burned down trees produce the highest crop yields.

However, deforested areas end up drought-stricken and infertile due to their inability to naturally self-regulate, which only fuels further demand for the illegally-procured deforested farming plots.
Similarly, palm oil farmed in deforested sections of Sumatra is causing major ecological crises and loss of already-threatened species like elephants, tigers, rhinos, and orangutans. Much like the cocoa industry, palm oil is aggregated at processing plants which effectively obscure the oil’s origin, thus “absolving” buyers of direct responsibility for illegal deforestation.

However, the demand for these products is created by major international companies which are acutely aware of the practices required to create large amounts of palm oil and cacao, both of which incentivize farmers to operate illegally in order to boost production and have access to a profitable market.

Sumatra’s deforestation rate is among the world’s highest alongside Indonesia and Brazil, and the deforestation also contributes to drought and unusual wildfires which, in 2015 alone, created more CO2 emissions than the entire United Kingdom combined.

The logging-induced fires that year destroyed over 8,000 square miles of rainforest and contributed to over 100,000 premature deaths caused by exposure to smog or fire. Palm oil is a common vegetable oil that is used in foods, cosmetics, cleaning products, and fuels; it is a biological alternative to petroleum in many instances, but its harvesting is often similarly destructive to fossil fuel production.

Palm oil is the cheapest and most efficient vegetable oil to produce, which is why it’s in a staggering half of all consumer products on the market today. But just because it offers good economic incentives for major corporations, its environmental costs may make it among the most costly commonly-used ingredients today.

In addition to being obscured behind the generic name “vegetable oil,” palm oil is also frequently masked in consumer goods using names like “sodium lauryl sulphate, stearic acid, and palmitate,” all of which do little to betray their origins or allow consumers to make informed decisions.

In Indonesia, Malaysia, and Sumatra, the equivalent of 3oo football fields per hour of rainforest are cleared to make way for palm oil plantations. The impacts of deforestation are alarming and widespread, but many developing nations are slow to legislate or enforce environmental action as they prioritize economic growth, even when it comes at the expense of human rights or global ecological well-being. The island of Borneo has lost more than 16,000 square miles of ancient rainforest to palm oil plantations, which has threatened thousands of species of tropical flora and fauna.

To put this in the context of one species which is quite closely related to humans, almost 150,000 critically endangered Bornean orangutans were killed between 1999 and 2015, all lost to deforestation, which occurs in large part due to demand for palm oil.

Local Solutions to Global Problems

shutterstock 278836112

The unfortunate reality is that concerned environmentalists have little to no direct impact or power over the local governments which would theoretically protect rainforests. However, consumers, corporations, and environmental organizations can have a large impact through education initiatives and incentivizing viable alternatives to environmentally harmful products like palm oil and single-use paper goods.

Whether it’s public information campaigns that share the destructive backstory of palm oil with consumers in an effort to pressure major manufacturers or it’s small tech companies and nonprofits offering tools to help local enforcement agencies monitor and protect the forests under their jurisdiction, there are ways we can protect the fragile ecosystems of the world even if we do not have direct voting power in the nations they are located in.

The Rainforest Connection is using machine-learning and second-hand smartphones to create a network of “eyes and ears” in the Amazon rainforest to listen for noises associated with (illegal) logging activity as well as animal chatter that indicates the presence of certain critically-endangered and internationally-protected species.

This project solves a series of problems in protecting rainforests–when forests are still standing, they are extremely dense and difficult to navigate and monitor, which is both a challenge and an excuse for many local agencies. It also gives international watchdog groups credible evidence that CITES-listed endangered species are being directly threatened by logging activity in specific areas, which is a far more directly actionable data point than even the most thorough and credible research hypotheses.

Final Thoughts

Deforestation in global rainforests effects every one of us, no matter where we live. The good news is that every one of us can directly protect the rainforest by reducing the demand for products that contribute to deforestation, all while providing major corporations economic incentive to be transparent and support ecological initiatives instead of turning a blind eye to ecological and environmental catastrophes.

The Ocean Cleanup Project: What It Is and What You Can Do

The Ocean Cleanup Project: What It Is and What You Can Do

You may have seen that the internet has been buzzing about The Ocean Cleanup Project. However, even if you’re familiar with the term, it can take a lot of research to truly understand what the Ocean Cleanup Project really is.

We’ve done that work for you and gathered all the information you need to get up to date on The Ocean Cleanup Project, discuss the garbage issues plaguing our oceans, and decide how you can help with this issue.

If you’re interested in learning about the Ocean Cleanup Project, its origins, what it does, how you can be a part of it, and in gaining a better understanding of the seriousness of the issue of trash in our oceans, read on!

What Is The Ocean Cleanup Project?

The Ocean Cleanup Project

In 2013, the Ocean Cleanup Foundation was established by an 18-year-old dutch inventor named Boyan Slat. According to the foundation’s site, it was begun with the goals of creating ways to clear the Pacific Ocean of Pollution and educating people on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The idea, Slat hypothesized, was to use the ocean’s currents to our advantage, allowing our passive drifting systems to clean up over half of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in about 5 years’ time. Slat proposed that it would be nearly impossible to go after the garbage in the ocean with nets and vessels, and more than that, it would be costly and time-consuming.

With this in mind, he devised an Ocean Cleanup Passive System that would be comprised of a floater with a solid screen underneath that would concentrate debris and lead them to a collection system. Then, that system would be slowed to the point that it moved less quickly than the plastic, which would result in the plastic being trapped.

The technology behind the Ocean Cleanup Project is fairly simple, but compelling. With their solid screens underneath floating pipes, debris can be caught both on and under the surface. These systems will be drifting freely about the Pacific Ocean and will help to concentrate plastic towards a central point for collection by vessels, where it can be easily removed.

For a visual representation of how the system will work, watch this short video:

Again, according to the Ocean Cleanup Project’s site, the foundation believes that by deploying a fleet of systems, they can clean up an estimated 50 percent of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in just five years, and that the concentrated plastic can be retrieved for recycling purposes. Then, the money that’s made from recycling the plastic can be used to help fund the project’s expansion to the other four ocean systems.

The foundation has been working on testing and trials for this project for a great deal of time, launching expeditions over the ocean gyres in the last few years. The first cleanup system deployment is schedule to take place in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in May of 2018.

How Big is the Threat, Really?

To get a better understanding of the Ocean Cleanup Project, it’s important to get a firmer grasp on how big the problem of pollution in the ocean truly is. First, it’s vital to know what the term “garbage patch” refers to.

Seemingly self-explanatory, a garbage patch is a conglomeration of trash, plastic, and pollution that forms into a giant patch and litters our oceans. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the very spot the Ocean Cleanup Project intends to reduce and hopefully eliminate, is also known as the Pacific Trash Vortex.

It’s composed of trash and litter that spans an area from the West Coast of North America all the way to Japan. It’s so large, in fact, that it even has east and west sections.

This issue is an increasingly hazardous one, as most of the trash in the garbage patch is not biodegradable, causing a massive buildup that’s dangerous for not only ocean climate, creatures, and marine life, but for the human race as well. Much of this trash is visible, but a lot of it is made up of microplastics, non-biodegradable bits of plastic that can’t be seen without a microscope. In short, they’re tiny, but they’re terribly dangerous.

But trash isn’t just clogging up the Pacific Ocean, it’s plaguing our oceans and waterways everywhere. For example, Lagos, Nigeria produces about 600,000 metric tons of plastic trash annually, and approximately 100,000 tons of that ends up in the ocean. The result is landfills brimming with plastic garbage and coastlines strewn with trash.

About 5.25 trillion pieces of trash and litter are clogging up our oceans. To put that in perspective, that’s about 14 billion pounds of garbage dumped into our oceans annually, or about 1.5 million pounds of trash dumped in the ocean every hour. Even more disturbing is the about 269 tons of that trash are floating on our oceans’ surfaces. This trash ends up on islands like Henderson Island, a remote island that has millions of pieces of garbage wash ashore every year.

shutterstock 643898890

Those facts alone should be troubling, but when you take into account the harmful effects that trash can have on the oceans’ climate, marinelife, and creatures, it’s more than just troubling. With the entry of trash into our oceans comes the entry of toxins and pollution that poison marine life. Additionally, plastic debris in the ocean is said to kill fish, seabirds, and other marine mammals, impacting at least 267 species worldwide.

More than that, it affects the lives of humans as well. With toxic chemicals entering our oceans via pollution, it’s unsafe for people to consume marine life that’s been impacted by the pollution. In fact, doing so can result in dangerous health problems.

What Can You Do To Help?

So, what’s the next step you can take to help the Ocean Cleanup Project, or just to help clean up our waterways, bodies of water, and expanses of fresh and saltwater? While it may seem unlikely, small efforts by individuals can make go a long way toward decreasing the garbage in our oceans.

When speaking specifically about the Ocean Cleanup Project, there are a few specific ways to help this foundation inch their way toward success.

  • First, you can simply help fund the cleanup. The foundation needs help bridging the gap between their first-system and the full-scale development of the plans they have to clean up the Pacific Garbage Patch. The foundation states that any amount helps to further their mission, so donating is certainly a great way to get involved.
  • Second, you can volunteer your time, skills, and efforts to the cause. According to their site, there are plenty of career, as well as volunteer, opportunities to work with the foundation.

Speaking generally, though, you can help reduce the amount of garbage in the ocean and contribute to solving the trash problem by making small dedicated efforts.

  • Recycle
  • Support bans
  • Reduce your use of single-use plastics
  • Avoid microbeads in cosmetic products
  • Back organizations that work to fight pollution and encourage ocean cleanup

Conclusion

As you can see, the massive amount of garbage conglomerating in the oceans is harmful — not just for the creatures and environments under the water, but also for marine mammals, birds, fish, turtles, and even human beings.

Though there’s an estimated 5.25 trillion pieces of trash in our world’s oceans, it’s nearly impossible to determine how much debris is making up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, because the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre is too large for scientists to trawl. Even worse, it’s harder to tell because not all of the trash in the area is floating on the surface, and much of it made up of tiny, microplastics you can’t see with the naked eye.

Much of this trash comes from everyday pollution or land-based activities that take place in Asia and North America, but a percentage of it also comes from boaters, cargo ships, and offshore oil rigs.

The Ocean Cleanup Project, and other organizations like it, are doing their part to help rid the world and its oceans of the rubbish that plagues it, but you can help, too. By increasing your recycling habits, reducing your single-use plastic activities, and dedicating yourself to encouraging friends and family to do the same, you too can reduce the impact of garbage that’s clogging up our oceans.

Job Creation and Energy Savings through a Transition to Modern Off-grid Lighting

Job Creation and Energy Savings through a Transition to Modern Off-grid Lighting

Why are job creation and access to clean energy so important to us here at Business Connect?

 

Protable Solar Generator – 250whrA market transformation from inefficient and polluting fuel-based lighting to solar-LED systems is well underway across the developing world, but the extent of net job creation has not previously been defined. An article written by Evan Mills from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory at the University of California/Berkeley, Job Creation and Energy Savings through a Transition to Modern Off-grid Lighting, finds that current worldwide employment associated with fuel-based lighting represents approximately 150,000 jobs.

New jobs will accompany the replacement technologies. A survey of major solar-LED lighting companies finds that 38 such jobs are created for each 10,000 people living off-grid for whom stand-alone solar-LED lights are suitable. Applying this metric, the number of new jobs already created from the current uptake of solar-LED lighting has matched that of fuel-based lighting and foreshadows the potential creation of 2 million new jobs to fully serve the 112 million households globally that currently lack electricity access, are unlikely to be connected to the major grid, micro-grids, or are able to afford more extensive solar systems.

A likely greater number of additional jobs and employment income will be indirectly created or preserved via indirect employment, re-spending of energy savings, conservation of foreign exchange, enhanced literacy, and improved working conditions. In contrast, central grid expansion is unlikely to provide any net increase in jobs. The case of solar-LED lighting demonstrates that policymakers have tools to increase the pace of in-country job creation in the context of sustainable development, while minimizing job displacement, and improving the quality of employment. These tools include stimuli for domestic manufacturing or assembly of products; supporting peripheral businesses and services, such as training, recycling, financing, and impact assessment; and removing market barriers that slow the uptake of emerging technologies.

This might be more information than you need to know but it solidifies the reasons why we are focusing on creating employment opportunities in the developing world through our robust distribution network. It is a win-win situation in our eyes, more jobs and more clean resources that will help children that have to now study by a toxic kerosene lantern. Access to solar lighting will allow women to save needless hours spent gathering firewood — and spend those hours on opportunities for themselves and their families.

So what can you do about this? We’re glad you asked! Join our team, sponsor a student or entrepreneur, help us fundraise or make a tax-deductible donation through our partnership with Partners Worldwide. We need you as a Champion today and tomorrow for a better, cleaner world.

#CreatingHope

“You have to believe in yourself. Without that, you will not go far.”

“You have to believe in yourself. Without that, you will not go far.”

“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”On my recent trip to Africa, I asked iKhaya Lodge to have someone meet us as we arrived in Cape Town.  His name was Frank Mountanda.  We have used him to get around Cape Point, Table Mountain, Kirstenbosch Gardens, the Water Front, and other similar places in this area.  He has been incredibly helpful, reasonable, and knowledgeable.  He is married to a South African woman, has two young daughters, and his own tour guide business.  What is interesting is that he is from the Republic of Congo and is a refugee.  He has a history so similar to those people we are attempting to assist.

When the Republic of Congo was in the midst of civil war, he was a young man and being forcefully recruited to join the war.  As his name and language were a dead giveaway as to where he was from, he fled for his life. He came to South Africa as a refugee. Over a period of time he was able to obtain legal status and finally citizenship. He met a local girl and married and their two daughters now attend a private school.

Over the years he has built up his business. He speaks French, Italian, English, and two tribal languages. He said to me, “You have to believe in yourself. Without that, you will not go far.”  He has returned to the Congo more than once and has brought his mother to South Africa.  He has taken a bad experience and turned it into an asset where he can relate to many nationalities, languages, and circumstances.

His status as a refugee is not unusual nor uncommon.  What seems to be uncommon is how well he has been able to turn tragedy into something extraordinary.  What we have to determine as we think about our future engagement and partnership with the UNHCR Maratane Refugee Camp in Mozambique, is how can help empower refugees to push forward.  I am convinced that giving people hope in the refugee camp to move on with their lives within the country they find themselves is far more productive than waiting for a foreign visa that is highly unlikely to ever arrive.  Living in the false hope of someone assisting, embracing a victim attitude, blaming circumstances will never bring about the kind of productive life God wants each of us to have.

#CreatingHope

To learn more about Business Connect and read the rest of Lou’s reflections in our monthly newsletter, visit this link: http://eepurl.com/bA-KYH

Help Us Achieve Goal 11: Create Sustainable Cities and Communities

Help Us Achieve Goal 11: Create Sustainable Cities and Communities

GGPoster-11SustainableCities1As we continue to share the Sustainable Development Goals adopted by the United Nations, we need to ask. How do you think we can create more sustainable cities and communities to achieve Goal 11?

The challenge behind Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 11 — make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe and sustainable — is that it affects a multitude of levels. The long list of requirements include:

  • ensuring access for all to safe and affordable housing;
  • meeting people’s needs for basic services including energy and water;
  • developing sustainable public transport systems;
  • creating a built environment that can minimize the impacts of natural disasters; and
  • reducing the adverse environmental impact of cities by investing in renewable energy, managing scarce resources, and improving waste and recycling systems.

Almost half of the world’s population currently lives in cities, and by 2050 that is projected to increase to over 70 percent. Research from the London School of Economics (PDF)  shows us that cities currently make up 2 percent of the world’s surface area — but produce 70 percent of the global economic output.

According to UN Women, the world today is urbanizing at rates unprecedented in history. For many men and women, the chance to move to a city is a chance for a better life—a larger income, more interesting employment, a more comfortable residence and ready access to modern amenities. Yet cities are also places of deep inequality and despair. New migrants, many of them women, can end up in overbuilt slums, poorly connected to public transport or essential services such as clean water. Life becomes dangerous and unhealthy, with many obstacles to gaining a secure foothold in the urban economy.

For women, gender discrimination magnifies and adds to the risks. Not being able to take a bus to a clinic to deliver a child can result in permanent disability or death. In general, natural disasters kill more women than men and kill women at a younger age than men. If she survives a disaster such as a flood or earthquake, a woman will likely have fewer options to recover.

At Business Connect, we believe that to create more sustainable communities, we need to provide more business opportunities — focusing on those at the base of the socio-economic pyramid or the world’s most under-resourced people.  And by providing access to basic essential services, such as clean water and light, we hope to move quickly to help the world achieve this goal. We are collaborating with Partners Worldwide to accept donations that will fund the start-up costs for a new business owner — providing a basic assortment of products for them to sell within their own communities. With the right training and resources, we hope to empower more  women to open up their own sustainable business. too. Want to help? Contact us for details!

#CreatingHope

Global Goal 10: Reduce Inequalities

Global Goal 10: Reduce Inequalities

GGPoster-10ReducedInequalities1As the United Nations Foundation launches the Sustainable Development Goals today to provide the opportunity for a generation for people and the planet, we at Business Connect are clearly focused on Global Goal 10, Reduce Inequalities as we have the opportunity to make an active contribution through our mission, Creating Hope Through Business.

Since the UN began taking note, there’s been a reduction in extreme poverty by half, which means 700 million fewer people living on less than $1.25 per day, and gains in gender equality with more girls enrolled in education and greater political participation of women in the developing world. But data shows that income inequality is on the rise, in developed and developing countries alike. According to the OECD, income inequality is at its highest level for the past half century. The average income of the richest 10% of the population is about nine times that of the poorest 10% across the OECD, up from seven times 25 years ago.

And this is a problem for all of us.

Some income inequality is inevitable, even welcome. It helps drive progress and incentives for those who work hard, develop skills and take risks. But high and growing levels of income inequality are a significant threat to stability both within and across countries. The World Economic Forum’s report: Outlook on the Global Agenda 2015ranks deepening income inequality as the most significant trend of 2015. According to those surveyed, inequality is closely related to challenges including “poverty, environmental degradation, persistent unemployment, political instability, violence and conflict”.

What can you do to help?

A $300.00 donation will provide funds to help start a new business opportunity in the developing world. Business Connect is a social enterprise (L3C) committed to providing citizens living in developing countries with affordable and easy access to essential resources, such as water and light, to strengthen education, health and economic growth opportunities within the communities it serves. We now have an international network of distributors in almost 40 countries and we work at the “bottom of the pyramid” to help bring an end to global poverty with the poorest of the poor.  Why there you ask?  Because we believe every citizen has a right to basic, clean and green resources. We are focusing on women and young people with donated funds as they are known to stay within their communities to help provide basic resources needed for their families.

Your donation does not stop there. It is only the beginning as we set out on a relational journey to empower, teach and train new entrepreneurs basic business skills including accounting and impact investing. We promote empowerment to help our representatives grow their business from community to community.  If you would like more information on how you can get involved, contact us today.

#CreatingHope

 

 

× WhatsApp