World Wetlands Day – Hope for a better future

Beasts-of-the-Southern-Wild-33538_3The whole universe depends on everything fitting together just right. If one piece busts, even the smallest piece…the whole universe will get busted”.
(Hushpuppy – Beasts of the Southern Wild)
The movie Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012) portraits a story of a six-year-old Hushpuppy and her unhealthy, hot-tempered father, Wink, who are optimistic about their life and their future as a storm approaches a southern Louisiana bayou community called the “Bathtub” (a community cut off from the rest of the world by a levee).
It’s interesting that the movie points out that despite the circumstances of the characters, there is still hope. Hope that one day their life and future will be better.
The movie reminded me of the hurricane Katrina in 2005. Hurricane Katrina’s disastrous flooding of the Gulf Coast confirmed three decades of warnings by scientists. Most of New Orleans is below sea level, and South Louisiana’s coastal wetlands (where the movie takes place), which once helped buffer the city from giant storms, have been disappearing at a spectacularly fast pace.
One of the causes of Katrina’s catastrophe was wetland loss. An average of 34 square miles of South Louisiana land, mostly marsh, has disappeared each year for the past five decades, according to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). As much as 80% of the nation’s coastal wetland loss in this time occurred in Louisiana. From 1932 to 2000, the state lost 1,900 square miles of land to the Gulf of Mexico. By 2050, if nothing is done to stop this process, the state could lose another 700 square miles, and one-third of 1930s coastal Louisiana will have vanished. Importantly, New Orleans and surrounding areas will become ever more vulnerable to future storms. Craig E. Colten, a geographer at Louisiana State University (LSU) (1), on a report about Louisiana’s wetlands once said:
New Orleans can’t be restored unless we also address coastal and wetland restoration too.”
Another cause was building and maintaining levees and dams along the Mississippi River also leading to wetland loss. Another geographically widespread cause was voracious grazing by nutria, a nonnative species, which destroyed wetland vegetation (1).
Lastly, but not least important, activities by the oil and gas industry is another cause. Peaking during the 1960s through the 1980s, oil and gas companies dredged canals for exploration. There are currently 10 major navigation canals and 9,300 miles of pipelines in coastal Louisiana serving about 50,000 oil and gas production facilities. These canals, which are perpendicular to the coast, have created new open water areas, drowning wetlands and allowing salt-water intrusion into freshwater ecosystems. The result—land loss hot spots.
Further land loss would also endanger oil and gas facilities, the huge port complex, and the gulf’s valuable fishing industry. South Louisiana’s wetlands are critical nursery areas for commercially important marine species, including shrimp, blue crabs, oysters, redfish, and menhaden.
In the last few years some researchers have been calling for restoration of wetlands and barrier islands to help protect New Orleans the next time a hurricane strikes.
So why are wetlands important?
Wetlands are essential for humans to live and prosper. They provide freshwater and ensure our food supply. They help sustain the wide variety of life on our planet, protect our coastlines, provide natural sponges against river flooding, and store carbon dioxide to regulate climate change.
If the wetlands in the state of Louisiana were protected, Katrina would have had a different impact. It has taken a major hurricane to show the nation that it’s necessary to rebuild the wetlands and barrier islands of Louisiana.
The goods news is that 10 years later after Katrina (last August of 2015), efforts have been taken to address those issues. Wetlands restoration projects have been in the agenda (2).
I hope that one day all wetlands around the world can be restored with the same hope the six-year-old Hushpuppy had in the movie about her life and future even in the face of storm. The hope that the Bible in Romans 8:19-22 that “creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but  because of him who subjected it, in hope that  the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to corruption and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.”
If you want to find out more about wetlands and how to help, see further information at


(1) Tibbetts, J. (2006). Louisiana’s wetlands: A lesson in nature appreciation. Environmental Health Perspectives, 114(1), A40.(2)

Your ideas can help combat climate change

Hello followers,


MIT’s Climate CoLab recently launched 16 contests, seeking a wide variety of ideas and proposals on what can be done to address climate change, and we want to make sure your community has the opportunity to participate.

At MIT’s Climate CoLab you can join a global community working to develop ideas on what we can do about climate change, right now.

If you submit one of the winning ideas, you’ll be able to present it before government officials, business executives, NGO leaders and scientists who can help move proposals toward implementation, as well as share it at an MIT conference, where a $10,000 Grand Prize will be awarded.

Even if you don’t have new ideas yourself, you can help improve other people’s ideas and support the ones you find most promising.

Current contests address low-carbon energy, building efficiency, adaptation, geoengineering, shifting public attitudes and behaviors, and over a dozen other topics.  Entries are due July 20, 2014.

Can crowdsourcing save the planet?  Join the crowd and find out at the Climate CoLab (

Paulo Brito

Climate CoLab Catalyst

First-ever World Wildlife Day


3 March 2014: World Wildlife Day was recognized by the UN as a day for the international community to celebrate wildlife, its relationship with people, and to find pathways for a sustainable future where people and wildlife can coexist harmoniously. The first-ever World Wildlife Day is being celebrated on 3 March 2014.

Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, urged all sectors of society to end illegal wildlife trafficking and commit to trading and using wild plants and animals sustainably and equitably. John Scanlon, Secretary-General, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) stressed the importance of this day to draw global attention to the collective responsibility of bringing illegal wildlife trade to an end.

In a joint editorial with Bradnee Chambers, Executive Secretary, Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), Scanlon emphasized the role of wildlife conservation in bringing together states that may be in conflict. In another joint editorial, Chambers and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), highlighted the relationships between migratory species and climate change.

Also on the Day, UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, Achim Steiner, drew attention to wildlife crime and illegal logging. UNEP noted the estimated US$19 billion in illicit trade derived from wildlife crime, as well as current efforts to combat it, especially in regard to elephants, rhinoceros, apes and forests. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Executive Secretary, Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, highlighted the benefits provided by wildlife, noting also, efforts under the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity to halt biodiversity loss.

The International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) stressed the role of tropical forests as an important habitat for wildlife to mark the Day. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) called for holistic policies to protect wildlife as an important part of dryland ecosystems and to save endangered species from extinction. Finally the International Council for Game and Wildlife Conservation (CIC) underscored that legal, well-regulated and sustainable hunting is important for conservation. The World Bank also emphasized connections between wildlife and sustainable development.

For more information look at and

Greenhouse Gas Mitigation: “Food” for Thought

Since the dawn of industrialization, our Earth has faced substantial increases in the concentrations of greenhouse gases (GHG), an issue that ultimately results in global climate change. Minimizing the negative effects of greenhouse gases has become a significant concern, and has brought the mitigation proposals such as carbon sequestration and reforestation practices to the table.

Reduction of GHG emissions through sustainable agricultural practices and waste management has come to the forefront of many of these conversations. The practice of composting organic material, for example, reduces GHG emissions.

June 5 is World Environment Day today. This year the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) has selected the theme “Think.Eat.Save,” an anti-food waste and food loss campaign that encourages us to reduce our “foodprint”. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), every year 1.3 billion tones of food are wasted. This is equivalent to the same amount produced in all of sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, 1 in every 7 people in the world go to bed hungry and more than 20,000 children under the age of 5 die daily from hunger.[1]

The UN’s choice of theme gave me some food for thought (forgive the pun) about what all of us, ordinary people, can do both to reduce our foodprint and our (carbon) footprint.

Waste to Food: Yard and vermi-composting as local solutions

You may recall my post about the community garden that my wife and I decided to lead three years ago in our church. We had no expertise in gardening, and we had never gardened before. We also decided to take a step towards sustainability efforts in our local church with one of our main goals this year being to reduce our organic matter and yard waste. We had no idea how to start; we are all ordinary people with rudimentary knowledge (at best) about how to do this in a practical sense.

Last year, however, we established great partnerships with local organizations to help us improve our efforts. As a result, we were able to install both a compost bin and a worm bin. As I said before, that was a big step for us in terms of sustainability efforts since none of us had the know-how for neither compost nor dealing with little creatures called worms. Our local partners helped us install the bin in the appropriate spot, near the garden, with enough sunlight as shown in the picture below:


I always thought composting was just throwing your food scraps in the back and eventually it would turn into good dirt. An educational component was obviously in order. We had some capacity building and training with how to compost, what kind of materials, appropriate ratio of materials, etc. I learned that the compost process is mainly based on materials with a ratio of carbon and nitrogen. Brown materials, such as fallen leaves and branches, are thought as “carbon rich”. We collected and used fallen branches as part of our carbon ratio and some organic soil to complement it.

Green materials are thought as “nitrogen rich”. For the green material, we planted Heirloom winter rye in our raised beds right after our last harvest. I learned that planting this as a “cover crop” adds fertility to soil by contributing organic matter.[2] We used it as the green part of the compost as we cut them off the bed when the growing season came in early May.

We also added some fallen tree branches and we used the acceptable carbon to nitrogen ratio between the range 20:1 – 40:1 to start our compost pile as you can see on the pictures below:

compost pic for blog

After each layer, we watered and came up with our first pile of compost shown on our picture below:


The second project we’ve decided to implement was a worm bin. What a challenge! But it’s been so rewarding to see those little amazing creatures moving around. We received a grant through our partner organizations to get the worm bin installed near our community garden. Once we got the grant approved, there was an educational piece with our main volunteers and leaders as below:


We had a few challenges with the worm bin as you might expect. First, we needed a place that got sun exposure in the winter to keep the worms freezing since the bin is outside. We also needed volunteers to feed them and open the bin during the winter to get some sunlight. We forgot to do this process a few times and we were worried we were going to open up a bin full of dead, stinky worms. However, in the beginning of this growing season we saw the worms under the carpet of the worm bin, happy as worms, I suppose. They are very resilient creatures, thank God and they survived our naïveté.

With the worm bin installed we are able to use our kitchen waste to feed the worms. During this growing season, we ‘ve been already able to use the “worm compost” as a bedding plant mix with the soil. That ‘s been exciting to use something that we didn’t even know how to deal with few months ago.

What great practical ways to mitigate greenhouse gases and food waste into our planet. Just a few practical things that we never thought would be possible with our budget and knowledge base. But God provides us with all the necessary resources, be it time, money, people, or knowledge. One of the greatest moments in this whole process was to see that we can use worms to reduce our kitchen waste and that results in something that can be used to produce food for us again. When I do it, I also feel that I am doing my part in reducing GHG emissions and my foodprint.


For more information about organic and vermi-composting: