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Before cyclone hit, Burmese delta was stripped of defenses

Michael Casey The Associated Press via IHT
When Cyclone Nargis struck Myanmar, it pushed a wall of water through the Irrawaddy Delta, a low-lying, densely populated area that had been stripped of its protective trees.

The delta had lost most of its mangrove forests along the coast to shrimp farms and rice paddies over the past decade. That removed what scientists say is one of nature’s best defenses against violent storms.

… Jeff NcNeely, chief scientist for the International Union for Conservation of Nature, said the cyclone’s devastation was “an expensive lesson, but it has been one taught repeatedly.”

“If you look at the path of the one that hit Myanmar, it hit exactly where it was going to do the most damage, and it’s doing the most damage because much of the protective vegetation was cleared,” he said. “You just wonder why governments don’t get on this.
(9 May 2008)
Related from Wall Street Journal: Forest Clearing May Have Worsened Toll.

UN Says 1.5 Million People “Severely Affected” By Myanmar Cyclone

Louis Charbonneau, Reuters via PlanetArk
The United Nations estimated 1.5 million people have been “severely affected” by the cyclone that swept through Myanmar, with the United States expressing outrage on Thursday at delays in allowing in aid.

In Myanmar, desperate survivors cried out for food, water and other supplies nearly a week after 100,000 people were feared killed by Cyclone Nargis as it swept across the farms and villages of the low-lying Irrawaddy delta region.
(9 May 2008)

Germany Warns Of Economic Risks From Species Loss

Nations must act to slow extinction rates, German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel said on Thursday, arguing the loss of species threatened food supplies for billions of people.

Just 10 days before the start of a UN summit on biodiversity in the western city of Bonn, Gabriel told the German parliament that both industrialised and developing countries had to step up their efforts.

“When we talk about biodiversity, we are talking about an instruction manual for the planet,” Gabriel said. “There are a huge number of examples to show this is about the survival of billions of people.”

Gabriel, due to open the Bonn summit, pointed to marine life as an example.

“If we don’t do anything, there won’t be any more commercial fishing by 2050. Imagine what that means for the world’s food supplies,” Gabriel said, noting several billion people rely on protein from fish to survive.

UN experts say human activity, including the emission of greenhouse gases, threatens to cause the worst spate of extinctions on earth since the dinosaurs died out 65 million years ago. Some experts say three species disappear every hour.
(9 May 2008)

For the Love of Trees
(audio, video)
Peak Moment via Global Public Media
Though born and raised elsewhere, Jerry Becker is now a de facto indigenous member of Oregon’s Elk River watershed. The credo he lives by is Respect.

He and his family have lived lightly “long before it was cool.” An ecoforester, Jerry manages the woods sensitively with an eye to its wholeness. For the past thirty years he has worked with Friends of Elk River to protect wilderness regions in the watershed.

In the last decade he formed the Elk River Land Trust, working with private landowners to protect agricultural and forest lands from development. Ripples of his gentle respectfulness permeate an entire watershed. (, Episode 105.
(13 April 2008)

Conservationists make most of real estate crisis

Haya El Nasser, USA Today
Plummeting real estate values and demand for new housing are hammering developers but helping conservationists, enabling land trusts to buy thousands of acres that were slated for development and preserve them as open space.

Land prices are dropping and there is more land for sale when developers halt plans to build.

“You can call it a green lining in the cloud of real estate distress across the country,” says Will Rogers, president of the Trust for Public Land. “Some properties that were headed for development can now be purchased for conservation.”
(9 May 2008)