Environment

National efforts to strengthen food security have an impact far beyond any single country’s borders.

The Atantic
Date: FEBRUARY 15, 2020
By: MELISSA CHAN & HERIBERTO ARAÚJO

A worker in Brazil cleans the ground to prevent the fire from reaching their farm.CRISTINA DE MIDDEL / MAGNUM PHOTOS

This article is a collaboration between The Atlantic and the Pulitzer Center.

The Amazon tends to evoke an Edenic vision—of a mysterious and impenetrable land, pregnant with beasts from jaguars to anacondas, rich with undiscovered flora. But parts of it are incongruous with this reputation, where big rig trucks rumble past dilapidated, grime-covered gas stations, and where land once thick with brambly trees and the promise of jungle adventure has become cattle pasture or soy field.

 

We are traveling on a road unimaginatively named BR-163. Pull up Google Maps and zoom in to the state of Mato Grosso, and find the thin strand of highway wending up across the state.  Branching out are perpendicular brown lines, all of them unmistakably cleared land, cutting into and contrasting with the dark green forest. This highway is where agriculture and the Amazon jungle meet.

The rain forest here in Brazil has progressively fallen victim to global demand for soy and beef. And the country’s biggest customer for both is China. The story of the Amazon has become entangled not simply with the story of Brazil’s poor protection of its forest frontier but also with that of the rise of this new superpower and its food-security strategy. Soy is China’s weak link, the main food commodity it needs from the outside world. The country imports the crop, which it mostly uses to feed its pigs, and Chinese state-owned companies also invest directly in Brazil’s supply chain so the South American country can increase its own exports. This growing hunger for soy has incentivized Brazilian prospectors to keep pace by razing pristine jungle, thereby accelerating deforestation.

This dynamic highlights some of the tensions inherent in the challenge of combatting climate change. China’s middle class has a growing hunger for meat, leading to a rise in demand for soy. For a country that has pledged to honor the Paris Agreement, China’s food-security measures run counter to its environmental efforts, yet while the climate deal aims to reduce national carbon emissions, it doesn’t account for the activities and responsibilities of signatories in other countries. And Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, argues that the country must prioritize economic growth, even if it comes at the cost of destroying the planet’s largest tropical rain forest.    [FULL  STORY]

Lu Guang’s images have shown the world China’s dark side.

The New York Times
Date: Dec. 8, 2018
By: Robert Y. Pledge

Wastewater flowing into the sea from a chemical factory in the Touzeng Coastal Chemical Industrial Park near Binhai City, Jiangsu Province in 2008.


For five weeks, the world has had no idea where Lu Guang is.

Lu Guang is an internationally acclaimed photographer from China, and he has been my friend for more than 15 years. I’m proud that the agency I co-founded represents and distributes his work. We first met in Beijing in 2002. He was already a well-known and widely awarded documentary photographer in his country, and he would soon win a slew of international awards, including some of the world’s most prestigious.

Rivers and ponds in Guiyu Town in Guangdong Province were severely polluted in 2005.

Yang Xinrun, 15, photographed in 2005, came to work in the Heilonggui Industrial District with his parents after he finished second grade. He earned about 16 yuan a day.

Five weeks ago, he was invited to travel to Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, in Western China. He went there to share his passion for photography by leading an informal, weeklong workshop with local photographers. The Chinese government has been conducting what it describes as a large-scale antiterrorism campaign in Xinjiang, targeting the Uighur ethnic group.

According to local sources, the security services detained Lu Guang, along with his local host, on or about Nov. 3. He was supposed to travel a day or two later to Sichuan Province, where he regularly does charity work. He never made it.

Lu Guang lives with his wife, Xu Xiaoli, and their son, Michael, in New York, where they are

A sheepherder along the bank of the Yellow River. Shizuishan City, Ningxia, in 2006.

permanent United States residents. Xu Xiaoli has attempted multiple times to learn about her husband’s status and his health from the Chinese authorities, calling officials both in Xianjing and in Lu Guang’s hometown province, Zhejiang. The Chinese authorities have not responded to her.

Lu Guang is a deeply concerned citizen. He works almost solely in China, for both linguistic and cultural reasons. His photographs have depicted some of the harsher sides of life in China — AIDS, environmental destruction, pollution and poverty.

Lu Guang photographed pollution in Hainan, the industrial district of Wuhai City, in Inner Mongolia, in 2005.    [FULL  STORY]

 

The New York Times
Date: Nov. 3, 2018
By: Chris Buckley

A refrigerator factory in Shandong Province, China. Officials in Beijing have vowed to crack down on rogue factories. CreditCreditGilles Sabrié for The New York Times

BEIJING — An environmental group says it has new evidence showing that China is behind the resurgence of a banned industrial gas that not only destroys the planet’s protective ozone layer but also contributes to global warming.

The gas, trichlorofluoromethane, or CFC-11, is supposed to be phased out worldwide under the Montreal Protocol, the global agreement to protect the ozone layer. In May, however, scientists published research showing that CFC-11 levels in the atmosphere had begun falling more slowly. Their findings suggested significant new emissions of the gas, most likely from East Asia.

Evidence then uncovered by The New York Times and the Environmental Investigation Agency pointed to rogue factories in China as a likely major source.

Now, the E.I.A. has prepared a report that it says bolsters the finding that Chinese factories are behind the return of CFC-11.    [FULL  STORY]