When we learned that Berta Cáceres, a leader of the indigenous Lenca people, was murdered in Honduras, we were shocked but not surprised. A violent death is the all-too-frequent fate of indigenous activists who defend their rivers and lands against dams, logging and other forms of destructive development.
On February 5 the power utility of California's capital Sacramento decided to cancel the $1.5 billion Iowa Hill Dam, a pumped storage project in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada. The decision may not be remarkable by itself, but marks a watershed moment and signals the early beginnings of an exciting development away from large dams.
Support from climate initiatives is one of the reasons why more than 3,700 hydropower dams are currently under construction and in the pipeline. Yet large hydropower projects are a false solution to climate change. They should be kept out from national and international climate initiatives for the following reasons.
We've come up with creative ways to fight these bad projects -- we target the financiers, the governments, the companies. We work with local residents to publicize their stories, support their struggle and win them a place at the table so they have a say over decisions that could change their lives.
The member states of the World Heritage Committee have so far declined to declare Lake Turkana a World Heritage in Danger. They have instead asked the Ethiopian government to avert the destruction of Lake Turkana by carrying out a strategic environmental assessment of the projects in the Omo Valley. Yet so far, the Ethiopian government has thumbed its nose at the UN body.
Sustainable water and energy development requires public participation in decision making just as much as money and technical expertise. The Nature Conservancy makes a strong case that smart planning needs to address the systems level rather than just individual dams. It now needs to expand its approach and give the rights of affected communities the place they deserve.
By empowering poor farmers, reviving traditional knowledge and building small rainwater ponds, Indian activist Rajendra Singh has brought five rivers and a thousand villages back to life over the past 30 years. On August 26, Sweden's King Carl Gustav will present the highly reputed Stockholm Water Prize to the rainwater pioneer.
Floods and droughts in many parts of the world are getting ever more frequent and intense. Scientists have long warned that a changing climate is making such weather events more extreme. What is often neglected in the public debate is that the impacts of climate change on flood and drought disasters are exacerbated by environmental destruction.
The Chinese river dolphin has disappeared before our eyes within only two generations. Will we change course before other branches on the tree of life die off? It would be foolish to assume that we can somehow maintain our prosperity and our very future without the rich biodiversity on Planet Earth.