Friday, December 19, 2008

Message from the Heart of the World

Recent reports detail how Latin America is taking a leadership role on climate change. New data from the Word Bank quantifies this region’s leadership in reducing the level of greenhouse gases pumped into the atmosphere. Latin America’s efforts go beyond many government’s efforts, including most G-7 nations; and, notably, the world’s two largest emerging economies.

Carbon dioxide emissions in Latin America are 74% lower, per unit of power, than China & India’s emissions. Why? Hydroelectric power and bio fuel usage are two areas where Latin America has pioneered advantages. It is with enlightened self-interest that countries like Brazil and Mexico tackle environmental challenges. Brazil’s Amazon Basin and Mexico’s Gulf Coast are critical habitats threatened by global warming.

Such habitats are critical because their disappearance would trigger greater global warming. Already the conversion of Amazon rainforest habitat to farms represents 50% of Brazil’s total emissions. The world average for emissions from deforestation is 17%. New World Bank data predicts crop failures caused by global warming will cut farm revenue in half as soon as the year 2100.

Two other critical habitats in Latin America are the glaciers in Patagonia and the barrier reefs along C. America’s Caribbean coast. In Belize, the rising ocean temperature is causing coral in the world’s second largest reef system to emit algae that threaten the coral that produce them. Honduras is experiencing similar degradation off the coast of the Bay Islands.

The world’s most powerful economies are being invited by Latin American nations to lead developing economies on issues related to climate change. For now, Latin America is providing much needed leadership by way of example.
Climate change warnings have been coming from Latin America for decades. . The Kogi sounded this alarm in 1990, long before Al Gore redefined the problem. Columbia’s Kogi civilization has avoided contact with industrialized society (much like the Amish). A typical Kogi village appears in the photo above. Like the Amish, the Kogi seek balance with nature.

The Kogi view themselves as “elder brothers” to modern man, having descended from the Tairona civilization which dates back to the 1st Century. They existed and thrived long before their lands were decimated by “younger brothers” of colonizing civilizations arriving in the region more than 1,000 years later. The Kogi see themselves as custodians of our planet and meditate on its future. They see climate change because their mountain is dying. Their mountain lies in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta near Columbia’s border with Venezuela, the highest coastal mountain in the world.

The Kogi do not see us as sleeping (as some Hindu and Oriental religions do); they see their little brothers as dead or dying, as “shadows of the energy of what they could be”, according to Drunvalo Melchizedek. This is because the Kogi have witnessed the destruction of mother Earth caused by industrialized cultures. The Kogi invited NPR to broadcast their message which translates as "Younger brother, you are killing our mother".

The Bush Administration ignored the climate change alarm, while Latin American governments continued to take and recommend actions that will heal the ecology that sustain us. To learn more, see the BBC film “Message from the Heart of the World” by making a donation to the Tairona Heritage Trust. Also, read the book “The Heart of the World” for the story told by The Kogi Mamas (priests) to Alan Ereira.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Brazil & Mexico Emerging on Global Issues of Climate & Economic Growth

The President of Brazil recently proposed a framework for establishing new global financial systems in the face of global failures by the G-7 industrialized nations. He presented this proposal at last month’s G-20 summit. President Lula wants to see the G-7 expanded to include Brazil, the world’s 10th largest economy, along with Mexico and other developing nations.

Brazil is also requesting greater say with the International Monetary Fund and World Bank. “Brazilians view the current economic crisis as an opportunity” according to Brazil expert Jeffery Carson. They want to see Brazil “in a leadership position on behalf of poor countries. Brazil has a strong fiscal standing with $200 billion in foreign reserves to address the global meltdown.

After towing the line with IMF guidelines for decades, many Latin American economies are at least as solid as the USA’s nose diving economy. In addition to fiscal strength, Latin American countries are important producers feeding much of world demand for food and fuel.

Brazil is the world’s #1 exporter of orange juice, bio fuels, poultry, beef and coffee. It produces more iron ore than the USA and is fast approaching our levels of grain exports. Mexico is the fruit and vegetable basket of the USA. Venezuela is the world’s #5 oil exporter with a proposal to create an alternative to the World Bank.

Brazil also wants more influence within the United Nations. President Lula is quick to point out that it has one of the world’s largest stable democracies.

Mexico has recently taken a global warming leadership role with a plan to cut greenhouse gas emission levels in half by 2050, making it the only developing country to set emissions caps below existing levels. The plan is intended as a wakeup call to the G-7 and includes emissions limits on its main polluting industries which produce cement and electricity and refine oil. Companies will be able to sell unused emission allowances.

Rich industrial countries are facing growing criticism for damaging international financial markets and the environment through their unwillingness to address the interwoven nature of the global economy and ecosystems that draw their own borders. Brazil and Mexico won praise at recent UN talks in Poland attended by 145 environment ministers. Meanwhile, the USA and UK remain focused on their financial catastrophes with the notable exception of California.

California just adopted the USA’s most comprehensive climate plan. Gov. Schwarzenegger believes “these regulations will spur the state’s economy and serve as a model for the rest of country. When you look at today’s depressed economy, green tech is one of the bright spots out there, which is yet another reason we should move forward on our environmental goals.” California’s cap and trade system is similar to Mexico’s in that it provides companies financial incentives for reducing carbon emissions.

President Bush circumvented California’s tough 2006 restrictions on auto pollution by blocking the law from taking effect, but California officials trust that President-Elect Obama will remove this obstacle to clean air and growth in the state’s green economy industries. According to environmental ministers to the UN, “the attitude of rich countries borders on the immoral and is counterproductive”.

Brazil and Mexico are seeking a larger role in convincing an expanded G-7 that they can aid ailing international markets and reduce havoc from carbon emissions. The UN Secretary-General urged leading economies to provided real leadership on these two issues by answering the calls of emerging economies. He stating in Poland, “The economic crisis is serious; yet when it comes to climate change, the stakes are far higher.”