Planet Watch

UN report: ‘unprecedented’ biodiversity collapse

Biodiversity is declining globally at rates “unprecedented” in human history, and the rate of species extinction is accelerating, warns a landmark report from the UN Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The Global Assessment, approved at the 7th session of the IPBES in Paris, foresees grave impacts for people around the world. “The overwhelming evidence of the IPBES Global Assessment, from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” said IPBES chair Sir Robert Watson. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.” (Photo: Wikipedia)

South Asia

Himalayan glaciers could be mostly gone by 2100

Rising temperatures in the Himalayas will melt at least one-third of the region's glaciers by the end of the century even if the world's most ambitious climate change targets are met, according to a new report. If those goals are not reached, the Himalayas could lose two-thirds of their glaciers by 2100, according to the Hindu Kush Himalaya Assessment, released by the Kathmandu-bsed International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development. Under that scenario, the Himalayas could heat up by 8 degrees Fahrenheit (4.4 degrees Celsius) by century's end, bringing radical disruptions to food and water supplies, and mass population displacement. Glaciers in the Hindu Kush-Himalayan Region, which spans over 2,000 miles of Asia, provide water to nearly a quarter of the world's population. (Photo via Nepali Times)

The Andes

Forgotten voices in Venezuela crisis

Trump, the great enthusiast for dictators, suddenly develops a touching concern with democracy in Venezuela, grasping at the opportunity for long-sought regime change. Predictably overlooked in the world media's Manichean view of the crisis are voices of Venezuela's dissident left that takes a neither/nor position opposed to both the regime and the right-wing leadership of the opposition. Also unheard are voices of indigenous dissent and resistance. In an episode that received little coverage, December saw protests in the remote Orinoco Basin after a leader of the Pemón indigenous people was killed in a confrontation with elite Military Counterintelligence troops. The military operation was ostensibly aimed at clearing the region of illegal mining—while the Pemón themselves had been protesting the mining. The indigenous leaders view the militarization of the region as intended to make way for corporate exploitation under the Orinoco Mineral Arc plan. (Photo: EcoPolitica Venezuela)

Africa

Economic protests across Sudan turn violent

Protests have been mounting across Sudan in response to the nation’s acute economic crisis. Inflation reached 70% in November and many have been forced to spend significant portions of their income on bread, leading to local media designating the demonstrations as "bread protests." Protesters have repeatedly called for President Omar al-Bashir, who has been in power since 1993, to step down. The protests have been organized by professional organizations and trade unions as well as Sudan's principal opposition group, the Umma Party. Sudan's government has shut off internet access to prevent the protesters from organizing via social media. According to Amnesty International, at least 37 protesters have been killed so far as Sudanese authorities attempt to quell the demonstrations by releasing tear-gas and firing live ammunition. (Photo via Middle East Eye)

Planet Watch

Climate change report draws UN call for action

UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment David Boyd issued an urgent call for accelerated action to combat climate change. The statement comes after the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report on the impacts of global warming of 2°C—the increase permitted under the Paris Accord. Boyd said that climate change is "one of the greatest threats to human rights" and will have devastating effects on the "rights to life, health, food, housing, and water, as well as the right to a healthy environment." In order to meet human rights obligations, Boyd called on counties to exceed their Paris Agreement obligations. If the temperature increase is allowed to increase to 2.0°C, it would result in "human rights violations upon millions of people." (Photo via Jurist)

North Africa

Anti-austerity protests rock Tunisia

At least one is reported dead as angry protests have spread across Tunisia in response to an austerity package imposed by the government under pressure from the International Monetary Fund. Under the new budget, which took effect Jan. 1, fuel prices are hiked, and new taxes imposed on housing, cars, phone calls, Internet services, and several other items. Hamma Hammami, leader of the opposition Popular Front, pledged to keep up the pressure, telling reporters: "We will stay on the street and we will increase the pace of the protests until the unjust financial law is dropped." (Photo: North Africa Post)

Africa

Harsh repression as bread riots rock Sudan

Sudanese authorities carried out mass arrests and confiscated newspapers as protests exploded over rising bread prices and severe economic austerity. One student was killed amid demonstrations in Geneina, capital of West Darfur state. Protests were also reported from the cities of Nyala, al-Damazin and the capital Khartoum. The unrest broke out as bakeries doubled the price of bread following a government decision to increase the price of flour nearly fourfold. The decision was part of a package of austerity measures issued under the country's 2018 budget, seeking to address the spiralling inflation rate.

Iran

Iran: uprising against austerity —and clerical rule?

A wave of protests across Iranian cities began as a response to inflation and economic pain, but shows signs of escalating to a popular repudiation of clerical rule. Spontaneous protests first broke out in the northeast city of Mashhad, where security forces responded with tear-gas and water cannons. Since then, protests have been reported from Kermanshah and Hamadan in the west, Rasht and Sari in the north, Ahvaz in the southwest, and Qom and Isfahan in central Iran. Arrests are also reported from the capital, Tehran, where a group of demonstrators attempted to occupy a public square. Protests began with the slogan "Death to high prices!" But as repression mounted, demonstrators began chanting "Death to the dictator," in apparent reference to President Hassan Rouhani and the ruling mullahs. (Photo: Center for Human Rights in Iran)

The Andes

Venezuela: is the problem really ‘socialism’?

There is an unseemly tone of gloating to conservative commentary on the crisis in Venezuela, with pundits pointing to the current chaos as evidence that "socialism" doesn't work. But a case can be made that, contrary to conservative and mainstream assumptions, the problem is precisely that the Bolivarian Revolution has been insufficiently revolutionary and socialist.

Greater Middle East

Middle East may become uninhabitable: FAO

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization warned that the Middle East and North Africa risk becoming uninhabitable in a few decades, with water reserves falling dramatically.