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Environment Gets A Helping Hand From Philanthropists

The Paris climate agreement, adopted by almost 200 nations in 2015, set a goal of limiting warming to "well below" a rise of 2 degrees Celsius.

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Scattered trees dot the once densely forested land, seen from an airplane, in South Sudan. VOA

Leading philanthropists pledged hundreds of millions of dollars to rescue shrinking tropical forests that suck heat-trapping carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, on the eve of a global climate change summit in San Francisco.

Nine foundations announced the $459 million commitment, to be delivered over the next four years, a day ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit, which is expected to draw about 4,500 delegates from city and regional governments.

“While the world heats up, many of our governments have been slow — slow to act. And so we in philanthropy must step up,” Darren Walker, president of the Ford Foundation, told journalists at an event announcing the pledge.

The commitment roughly doubles the funds the groups currently dedicate to forest protection, said David Kaimowitz, a director at the Ford Foundation, one of the donors.

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The Lonar Lake is an exceptional ‘bowl of biodiversity’ and a wildlife sanctuary. Wikimedia Commons

Charlotte Streck, director of Amsterdam-based think tank Climate Focus, said the size of the commitment makes the groups major players in supporting anti-deforestation programs.

Norway has led donor efforts by pledging up to $500 million a year to help tropical nations protect their forests, Streck said.

But the new money committed by foundations could prove more “flexible and nimble” than money from governments, she said.

“The money that has been pledged by the governments like Norway and Germany, the UK, sits mostly in trust funds with the World Bank and the U.N. and it doesn’t get out so quickly,” she said.

Often “there is $20,000 missing here or $50,000 missing here, just to do one thing or develop one study or work with one person or have one consultation — and that the foundations can do,” Streck said.

Other groups that are part of the new initiative include the MacArthur Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

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Climate Change Fuels California Fires. Flickr

Help for indigenous people

Funds will mostly assist indigenous people who are forest dwellers, including by helping them secure titles to land they live on so it cannot be sold to private companies without their agreement, said Walker.

“Companies come to our village, our forests and say: ‘You have to leave because I have the license from the government,'” said Rukka Sombolinggi, who heads the Indonesia-based Indigenous People’s Alliance of the Archipelago (AMAN).

The world loses the equivalent of 50 soccer fields’ worth of forest every minute, organizers said.

Yet forests absorb a third of the annual planet-warming greenhouse gas emissions produced — and those emissions need to be slashed substantially more to meet the goals set in the Paris agreement.

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The Mangroves of Sunderbans Forests. Wikimedia

The Paris climate agreement, adopted by almost 200 nations in 2015, set a goal of limiting warming to “well below” a rise of 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial times while “pursuing efforts” for the tougher goal of 1.5 degrees C.

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The three-day Global Climate Action Summit was organized by Californian authorities and the United Nations to support the leadership of mayors, governors and other sub-national authorities in curbing climate change. (VOA)

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World’s First Female Spacewalking Team Makes History High above Earth

As NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir emerged one by one, it marked the first time in a half-century of spacewalking

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In this photo provided by NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir exits the International Space Station on Oct. 18, 2019. VOA

The world’s first female spacewalking team made history high above Earth on Friday, floating out of the International Space Station to fix a broken part of the power network.

As NASA astronauts Christina Koch and Jessica Meir emerged one by one, it marked the first time in a half-century of spacewalking that a woman floated out without a male crewmate.

America’s first female spacewalker from 35 years ago, Kathy Sullivan, was delighted. She said It’s good to finally have enough women in the astronaut corps and trained for spacewalking for this to happen.

NASA leaders – along with women and others around the world – cheered Koch and Meir on. At the same time, many noted that this will hopefully become routine in the future.

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In this photo released by NASA on Oct. 17, 2019, U.S. astronauts Jessica Meir, left, and Christina Koch pose for a photo in the International Space Station. VOA

“We’ve got qualified women running the control, running space centers, commanding the station, commanding spaceships and doing spacewalks,” Sullivan told The Associated Press earlier this week. “And golly, gee whiz, every now and then there’s more than one woman in the same place.”

Tracy Caldwell Dyson, a three-time spacewalker who watched from Mission Control, added: “Hopefully, this will now be considered normal.”

NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine watched the big event unfold from NASA headquarters in Washington.

“We have the right people doing the right job at the right time,”he said. “They are an inspiration to people all over the world including me. And we’re very excited to get this mission underway.”

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NASA originally wanted to conduct an all-female spacewalk last spring, but did not have enough medium-size suits ready to go. Koch and Meir were supposed to install more new batteries in a spacewalk next week, but had to venture out three days earlier to deal with an equipment failure that occurred over the weekend. They need to replace an old battery charger for one of the three new batteries that was installed last week by Koch and Andrew Morgan.

“Jessica and Christina, we are so proud of you. You’re going to do great today,” Morgan radioed from inside as the women exited the hatch.

Meir, making her spacewalking debut, became the 228th person in the world to conduct a spacewalk and the 15th woman.

It was the fourth spacewalk for Koch, who is seven months into an 11-month mission that will be the longest ever by a woman. (VOA)