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On rhino horns, banking nature and climate hope

Muthukumara Mani's picture
It is not often that as an economist, you find yourself surrounded by creative artists! I found myself in such a situation recently when I was invited to be a panelist for the Dominican Republic Environmental Film Festival. It presented me with an opportunity to witness firsthand how the issues of environment and climate change are perceived and interpreted in the community of artists and filmmakers.

The festival criteria read that “by screening a diverse selection of high quality films that deal with pressing issues, and by organizing discussion panels with environmental experts, filmmakers and other stakeholders, the Festival seeks to promote dialogue and inspire Dominican viewers to adopt practices that will ensure the country’s environmental sustainability and health.” For a small Caribbean nation to take these issues seriously and attempt to educate its people using cinema was indeed commendable.
Gambling on Extinction, directed by Jakob Kneser

What I witnessed on landing in Santo Domingo was truly remarkable. There were filmmakers from all over the world, but also organizers of similar festivals from other countries. That is when I realized that environmental film festivals have now become a global movement with the intention of informing, influencing, and galvanizing people on critical environmental issues. While the first “environmental” films were produced back in the 1960s when the global environmental movement was in its infancy, there are now 30 or more international environmental film festivals held all over the world attracting hundreds of films and thousands of people. They cover issues such as clean water, sanitation, forests, biodiversity, sustainable consumption and climate change. Even more remarkable, most of these short films or documentaries are often produced on a shoe-string budget, but with an enormous degree of passion and perseverance to get the message across.  What really impressed me was that although they dealt with critical issues facing us today, in most cases the messages were of hope and optimism!

I want to share with you some of the films that I watched:

Human wellbeing depends on a functioning planet—the Pope’s call

Paula Caballero's picture
Children in Bhutan look out on terraced fields. (Photo by Curt Carnemark / World Bank)The papal encyclical “on care for our common home” reflects the kind of insightful and decisive leadership that will be needed to reverse trends that will affect humanity’s capacity to feed itself and provide for collective well-being. The encyclical is not only a sobering call to address climate change, but also a manifesto for environmental stewardship and action. It touches on topics that we, as earth’s dominant species, need to urgently care about if we are to keep millions out of poverty today and tomorrow, and deliver on the rising expectations of a global middle class.

At the core of the encyclical is both a concern for the health of the planet and for the earth’s poor, reflected in a commitment to social values and integrity, environmental resilience, and economic inclusion.

The stock-taking begins, aptly, with pollution: “Some forms of pollution are part of people’s daily experience. Exposure to atmospheric pollutants produces a broad spectrum of health hazards, especially for the poor, and causes millions of premature deaths.” The World Bank’s latest edition of the Little Green Data Book finds indeed that in low and middle-income countries, 86% of the residents are exposed to air pollution levels (measured in exposure particulate matter less than 2.5 microns in diameter) that exceed World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines. The WHO last year made headlines when it calculated that 7 million people had died prematurely from indoor and outdoor air pollution in 2012. From safer cookstoves in rural areas, to better air quality management in fast growing cities, this is an area where solutions are known and must be urgently applied.

How forensic intelligence helps combat illegal wildlife trade

Samuel Wasser's picture
Also available in: Español | العربية
 Diana Robinson / Creative Commons Over the past decade, illegal poaching of wildlife has quickly caught up to habitat destruction as a leading cause of wildlife loss in many countries.
Poaching African elephants for ivory provides a case in point. Elephant poaching has sharply increased since 2006. We may now be losing up to 50,000 elephants per year with only 450,000 elephants remaining in Africa.  In short, we are running out of time and unless we can stop the killing, we will surely lose the battle. Decreasing demand for ivory is vital over the long term, but the scale of current elephant losses makes this strategy too slow to save elephants by itself. The ecological, economic and security consequences from the loss of this keystone species will be quite severe and potentially irreversible. 

Five reasons to act now to #endpollution

Paula Caballero's picture
Did you know that about 3.7 million people worldwide died in 2012 from diseases related to ambient air pollution? That is nearly the population of the city of Los Angeles expiring every year from preventable causes.

When you combine death-by-smog with deaths related to exposure to dirty indoor air, contaminated land and unsafe water, the grand total of deaths from all pollution sources climbs to almost 9 million deaths each year worldwide. That’s more than 1 in 7 deaths and makes pollution deadlier than malnutrition.
Photo via Shutterstock

This fact deserves to be better known, as there are ready solutions. Inaction is not an option.


Why We’re Making a Stand for Resilient Landscapes in Lima

Magda Lovei's picture
Photo by Andrea Borgarello / TerrAfrica, World Bank)​World leaders and land actors are in Lima this week to help advance climate action. Climate resilience—including the resilience of African landscapes—will be at center of the agenda as they define the role of sustainable, resilient landscapes for a new development agenda.
Why should the world—and Africa in particular—care about resilience?
The importance of resilience as an imperative for development is nowhere as obvious as in Africa. Fragile natural resources—at the core of livelihoods and economic opportunities—are under increasing pressure from unsustainable use, population pressure, and the impacts of climate change.
Sustainable development will only be possible in Africa if natural resources are valued and protected. It will only be possible if their resilience to shocks such as climate change is improved. ​Resilient landscapes—where natural resources and biodiversity thrive in interconnected ecosystems that can adapt to change and protect people from losses—are important to the work of ending poverty and boosting prosperity.


Liberia, Norway and the World Bank Partner for Sustainable Forest Management

Paola Agostini's picture
Photo by Flore de Preneuf / PROFOR
​It’s not very often that the end of a talk is as exciting as its beginning. Perhaps that should be expected when one witnesses historical moments in time—what can be called true game changers.  Harrison Karnwea, the managing director of Liberia’s Forestry Development Authority (FDA), recently joined us at the World Bank, just days after the UN Climate Summit in New York and the signing of a $150 million grant Letter of Intent for a Forests REDD+ program between his country and Norway to be facilitated by the World Bank.

Under the agreement, Liberia and Norway will work together to improve the framework for forest governance, strengthen law enforcement and support efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in Liberia. Improved governance and adequate law enforcement in the forest sector and agriculture impede further destruction of Liberia’s rainforests and aim to avoid illegal logging and unsustainable agricultural practices. In a country where timber was once used to purchase weapons and helped fuel a devastating civil war, the partnership holds promise to reduce carbon emissions related to deforestation and forest degradation, facilitate green growth and enhance livelihoods.

Liberia has a population of approximately 3.5 million people and 4.5 million hectares of lowland tropical forests—one of the largest contiguous forest blocks that remains in West Africa. Liberia’s forests are also widely recognized as a global hotspot of diversity, boasting flora and fauna (like pygmy hippos) that is both rare and at risk.

Liberia plans to conserve 30 percent or more of its forests as protected areas with the remainder to be used for sustainable forest management and community forestry.

Empowering new generations to act

Paula Caballero's picture
Also available in: العربية | Español | Français | 中文
Photo by CIAT via CIFOR FlickrWhen I look at the rate of resource depletion, at soil erosion and declining fish stocks, at climate change’s impacts on nearly every ecosystem, I see a physical world that is slowly but inexorably degrading. I call it the "receding reality"—the new normal—slow onset phenomena that lull us into passivity and acceptance of a less rich and diverse world.

In my lifetime, I have seen waters that were teeming with multi-colored fish, turn dead like an empty aquarium. I have seen the streets of Bogota, my home town, lose thousands of trees in a matter of years.

It’s tempting to feel demoralized. But as the world’s protected area specialists, conservationists and decision makers gather in Sydney, Australia, this week for the World Parks Congress, there is also much to hope for.


5 Ways Marine Parks Benefit People

Amanda Feuerstein's picture
Photo via Shutterstock​Marine Protected Areas will be a topic for discussion at the IUCN World Parks Congress, which is opening today in Sydney.  And it should be: MPAs—which are marine spaces that restrict human activity and manage resources to achieve long-term conservation of nature—are one of the many tools for better ocean management.  This is one of the reasons the World Bank Group supports efforts to establish MPAs in countries including Indonesia and Brazil.

Every MPA is not created the same; some allow fishing and some do not, some are small and some are large, some are connected and some stand alone. When they are well planned and well executed, MPAs can help feed communities, protect jobs and boost biodiversity in the ocean. Here are the top five reasons why MPAs can be GREAT!

1. Spill Over Effects

The benefits of an MPA extend far beyond the boundaries of protection. When well planned, MPAs act as the home base for migratory species. These species use the protected area to reproduce, feed or congregate. But they do not stick around for long. This is called the “spill over effect” and it is hugely beneficial to local fishing communities. Even if fishing is restricted inside the MPA, just outside the border the fish are more numerous and far larger. For example, in Indonesia, community income increased 21 percent in 258 villages near a network of six protected areas.

The birds and the bees (and how they connect to agricultural economics)

Julian Lee's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français | Español

No, this blog post isn’t about what you think. It actually is about birds and bees. Mostly the latter, actually.
The dramatic decline in honeybee populations has received wide media coverage, and not just because it imperils honey production. Agricultural production is also at risk, due to the important role bees play as pollinators. In fact, the value of the services they and other insects provide for the main global food crops has been estimated to amount to $209 billion a year, or 9.5 percent of the value of total global agricultural food production.

Conservation and Economic Development: Is it a Forked Road?

Anupam Joshi's picture

It was getting dark and the mist engulfing the jungle made the challenge of spotting the stripes even harder. My guide, a trained local tribal youth, was excited and kept telling stories about the sights and sounds of the jungle. In all fairness, I had enjoyed the trek. Every turn or straight path presented a beautiful landscape, majestic trees, bamboo thickets, gurgling streams, colorful birds, distant animal calls and the gentle fresh breeze. Sighting a tiger would only complete the experience. Will we? Won’t we, see one?
In many ways, the experience of sighting a tiger reflects the challenge its very survival is facing! Will it? Won’t it, survive? But more importantly, will someone notice if it is not around? Fortunately, I was in Periyar Tiger Reserve in the southern Indian State of Kerala, a turnaround success story where the World Bank’s India Ecodevelopment Project significantly increased income opportunities for the locals, improved reserve management and encouraged community participation in co-managing the reserve. Though this happened a decade ago, even today the incomes are sustained and communities are closely engaged! But such success stories are few and far between.