This Island Nation Had Zero Covid Cases as of June. Now It’s Overwhelmed.

“They’re our family. They’re our friends. They’re our neighbors. They’re our partners,” Scott Morrison, Australia’s prime minister, said last week. “This is in Australia’s interests, and it is in our region’s interests,” he added.

Covax, a global health initiative designed to make access to inoculations more equal, began rolling out doses of vaccines to developing nations last month, and it has said it will deliver 588,000 to Papua New Guinea by June.

But in some cases, wealthier nations have failed to honor contracts, reducing the number of doses the initiative can buy, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director of the World Health Organization, said in a statement last month. He warned that the pandemic would not end until everyone was vaccinated.

“This is not a matter of charity,” he said. “It’s a matter of epidemiology.”

Until then, officials in Papua New Guinea will be left to combat not only the virus itself but also a tide of misinformation about the pathogen and the vaccines, carried largely through social media channels.

“Even for the educated health worker, it’s causing a lot of doubt,” said Dr. Nou, the Port Moresby-based physician, who has conducted a survey of health care workers’ views about the pandemic.

Some public health experts said they worried that the redirection of resources to fight the coronavirus could come at a lethal cost to those with other severe health conditions, such malaria or tuberculosis. Papua New Guinea has some of the highest rates of tuberculosis in the world.

“It’s not good enough to just respond to Covid and then have someone die of another cause,” said Dr. Suman Majumdar, an infectious diseases specialist at the Burnet Institute, an Australian medical research facility. “We have feared the worst,” he added, “and this is happening.”

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The pandemic shifted the Dutch voting process, though politics still took center stage.

As Dutch voters go to the polls for parliamentary elections this week, the pandemic has changed the usual dynamic.

To help maintain social distancing, the voting process was spread over three days, ending on Wednesday. Voters over 70 were encouraged to vote by mail. And campaigning mainly took place on television, making it hard for voters to spontaneously confront politicians as is typical practice.

Coronavirus cases are again surging in the Netherlands, prompting the authorities to warn of a third wave. Last year, it took the government of Prime Minister Mark Rutte until November to get the country’s testing capabilities in order, and the vaccination process is also going slowly.

Yet during the campaigning, more localized issues managed to overshadow the government’s handling of the coronavirus.

resigned in January over a scandal involving the tax authorities’ hunting down people, mostly poor, who had made administrative mistakes in their child benefits requests. Many were brought to financial ruin as a result.

Broader policies put forward by Mr. Rutte, who has been in power since 2010, were also a focus on the campaign trail. While his party is ahead in the polls, it has lost some support in recent weeks.

Neighboring Germany is also entering a packed election season, with national and state votes coming in a year that will bring to an end the 16-year chancellorship of Angela Merkel.

In other developments around the world:

  • After nine months of negotiations, New Zealand and Australia intend to commence a quarantine-free travel bubble between the two countries in April, according to local reports. New Zealand and Australia have all but eliminated community transmission, responding to occasional clusters with highly localized restrictions or lockdowns.

  • Australia will send 8,000 coronavirus vaccine doses to Papua New Guinea in an attempt to curb a rapidly growing outbreak in the country, which is Australia’s closest neighbor, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Wednesday. Australia will also ask AstraZeneca to divert to the small island nation a million vaccine doses that were bound for Australia. And it is suspending all charter flights from Papua New Guinea, where about half of the nation’s total reported 2,351 coronavirus cases have been recorded in the past two weeks.

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There’s a Global Plan to Conserve Nature. Indigenous People Could Lead the Way.

With a million species at risk of extinction, dozens of countries are pushing to protect at least 30 percent of the planet’s land and water by 2030. Their goal is to hammer out a global agreement at negotiations to be held in China later this year, designed to keep intact natural areas like old growth forests and wetlands that nurture biodiversity, store carbon and filter water.

But many people who have been protecting nature successfully for generations won’t be deciding on the deal: Indigenous communities and others who have kept room for animals, plants and their habitats, not by fencing off nature, but by making a small living from it. The key to their success, research shows, is not extracting too much.

In the Brazilian Amazon, Indigenous people put their bodies on the line to protect native lands threatened by loggers and ranchers. In Canada, a First Nations group created a huge park to block mining. In Papua New Guinea, fishing communities have set up no-fishing zones. And in Guatemala, people living in a sprawling nature reserve are harvesting high-value timber in small amounts. In fact, some of those logs could end up as new bike lanes on the Brooklyn Bridge.

several scientific studies. Indigenous-managed lands in Brazil, Canada and Australia have as much or more biodiversity than lands set aside for conservation by federal and other governments, researchers have found.

That is in stark contrast from the history of conservation, which has a troubled record of forcing people off their land. So, it is with a mixture of hope and worry that many Indigenous leaders view this latest global goal, known as 30×30, led by Britain, Costa Rica and France. Some want a higher target — more than 50 percent, according to Mr. Díaz Mirabal’s organization — while others fear that they may once again be pushed out in the name of conservation.

In the Brazilian Amazon, Awapu Uru Eu Wau Wau puts his life on the line to protect the riches of his ancestral lands: jaguars, endangered brown woolly monkeys, and natural springs from which 17 important rivers flow. His people, the Indigenous Uru Eu Wau Wau, have legal right to the land, but must constantly defend it from armed intruders.

murdered last April, part of a chilling pattern among land defenders across the Amazon. In 2019, the most recent year for which data is available, at least 46 were murdered across Latin America. Many were Indigenous.

The community’s efforts have outsized benefits for the world’s 7.75 billion people: The Amazon, which accounts for half the remaining tropical rainforest in the world, helps to regulate Earth’s climate and nurtures invaluable genetic diversity. Research shows Indigenous property rights are crucial to reducing illegal deforestation in the Amazon.

Nature is under assault because humans gobble up land to grow food, harvest timber and dig for minerals, while also overfishing the oceans. Making matters worse, the combustion of fossil fuels is warming up the planet and making it harder for animals and plants to survive.

conservationists, has been taken up by a coalition of countries. It will be part of diplomatic negotiations to be held in Kunming, China, this fall, under the United Nations Convention on Biodiversity. The United States is the only country, apart from the Vatican, that has not joined the convention, though President Biden has ordered up a plan to protect 30 percent of American waters and lands.

Indigenous communities are not recognized as parties to the international agreement. They can come as observers to the talks, but can’t vote on the outcome. Practically though, success is impossible without their support.

They already protect much of the world’s land and water, as David Cooper, deputy executive secretary of the United Nations agency for biodiversity, pointed out. “People live in these places,” he said. “They need to be engaged and their rights respected.”

agreement to protect at least half of the planet. Scientific research backs them up, finding that saving a third of the planet is simply not enough to preserve biodiversity and to store enough planet-warming carbon dioxide to slow down global warming.

A half century ago, where boreal forest meets tundra in Canada’s Northwest Territories, the Łutsël K’é’ Dene, one of the area’s Indigenous groups, opposed Canada’s efforts to set up a national park in and around its homeland.

“At that time, Canada’s national parks policies were very negative to Indigenous people’s ways of life,” said Steven Nitah, a former tribal chief. “They used to create national parks — fortress parks, I call it — and they kicked people out.”

But in the 1990s, the Łutsël K’é’ Dene faced a new threat: Diamonds were found nearby. They feared their lands would be gutted by mining companies. So they went back to the Canadian government to revisit the idea of a national park — one that enshrined their rights to manage the land, hunt and fish.

The park opened in 2019. Its name, Thaidene Nëné, means “Land of the Ancestors.”

Collaboration among conservationists, Indigenous nations and governments holds a key to protecting biodiversity, according to research.

Without local support, creating protected areas can be useless. They often fail to conserve animals and plants, becoming so-called “paper parks.”

Researchers have found that biodiversity protection often works best when local communities have a stake.

On islands in Papua New Guinea, for example, where fish is a staple, stocks had dwindled in recent decades. Fishers ventured farther from shore and spent more time at sea, but came back with smaller catches. So they partnered with local and international nonprofit groups to try something new. They changed their nets to let smaller fish escape. They reduced their use of a poison that brings fish to the surface. Most critically, they closed some waters to fishing altogether.

Meksen Darius, the head of one of the clans using these measures, said people were open to the idea because they hoped it would improve their livelihoods.

It did.

“The volume, the kinds of species of fish and other marine life, they’ve multiplied,” Mr. Darius, a retired lawyer, said.

Recent research from around the world shows that marine protected areas increase fish stocks, ultimately allowing fishing communities to catch more fish on the edges of the reserves.

To Iliana Monterroso, an environmental scientist at the Center for International Forestry Research in Lima, Peru, what matters is that people who live in areas of high biodiversity have a right to manage those areas. She pointed to the example of the Mayan Biosphere Reserve, a territory of two million hectares in Guatemala, where local communities have managed the forest for 30 years.

Under temporary contracts with the national government, they began harvesting limited quantities of timber and allspice, selling ornamental palms and running tourism agencies. They had an investment to protect. “The forest became the source of livelihood,” Dr. Monterroso said. “They were able to gain tangible benefits.”

Jaguars, spider monkeys and 535 species of butterflies thrive there. So does the white-lipped peccary, a shy pig that tends to disappear quickly when there’s hunting pressure. Community-managed forests have fewer forest fires, and there is almost zero rate of deforestation, according to researchers.

Erwin Maas is among the hundreds of Guatemalans who live there, too. He and his neighbors run a community-owned business in the village of Uaxactún. Mahogany is plentiful, but they can take only so much. Often, it’s one or two trees per hectare per year, Mr. Maas said. Seed-producing trees are left alone.

“Our goal is to sustain ourselves with a small amount and always take care of the forest,” he said.

Nic Wirtz contributed reporting.

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