Latin American Countries Aim to Curb Amazon Deforestation
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Latin American Countries Aim to Curb Amazon Deforestation

Brazil’s president hosts regional leaders as rainforest risks losing ability to help offset climate change

By SAMANTHA PEARSON
Thu, Aug 10, 2023 8:00amGrey Clock 4 min

SÃO PAULO—The Latin American countries that share the Amazon rainforest embarked on a two-day meeting Tuesday in the Brazilian jungle city of Belém with an aim to halt the deforestation that many scientists blame for accelerating climate change.

Brazil, home to 60% of the world’s biggest rainforest, held a meeting for presidents and top officials from countries that are home to the rest of the Amazon: Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Guyana and Suriname. The summit is the first in 14 years for the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization, a group that arose from a treaty Amazonian nations signed in 1978 to promote harmonious development of the region. France, which oversees French Guiana on South America’s northeast shoulder, was represented by the French ambassador in Brasília.

The meeting comes as Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva seeks to position his country as a leading voice in the global fight against deforestation, and facilitator of cross-border environmental cooperation on the continent through the 45-year-old treaty.

“It’s never been more urgent to resume and widen this cooperation—it’s the challenge of our era,” said da Silva in his opening speech Tuesday.

Other countries with large tropical forests, such as Indonesia, Republic of Congo and the Democratic Republic of Congo, were expected to join the meeting along with Norway and Germany, which contribute to deforestation programs. The United Arab Emirates, which will host this year’s United Nations climate summit in Dubai, was also to attend.

Twice the size of India, the Amazon rainforest has long absorbed more carbon than it releases, acting as a vital brake on global climate change. But with close to 20% of the original forest now gone, scientists tracking the forest say the Amazon could be close to its so-called irreversible tipping point, at which it would dry out and eventually become savanna. The effects could be global. Climate scientists have blamed forest loss for contributing to global warming, which the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has said explains why heat waves in countries such as the U.S. are becoming more common.

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon has hit its lowest level in four years since da Silva’s administration started in January, dropping about 34% in the first six months of this year compared with the same period last year, according to preliminary data from Brazil’s National Institute of Space Research, known as INPE. While da Silva has vowed to bring jungle destruction down to zero by 2030, he has argued that this can’t be done at the cost of the livelihoods of the some 30 million people who live in Brazil’s Amazon.

Instead, Brazil must build a new green economy in the Amazon with financing and investment from abroad, da Silva argues, as well as develop a regulated carbon market. Brazil relies on foreign donations to help operate its underfunded environmental enforcement agencies, which use helicopters, drones and other equipment to monitor illegal deforestation across the vast area.

“What we want is to tell the world what we’re going to do with our forests and what the world has to do to help us,” da Silva said in a government statement. Da Silva said he plans to pressure wealthy nations to fulfil the pledge they made during the 2015 Paris climate accord to provide $100 billion a year to help developing countries fight climate change.

Other Latin American countries, including Colombia and Peru, have set deforestation targets but face serious challenges from illegal mining and drug gangs that have tightened their grip over the forest in what the U.N. recently referred to as “narco-deforestation.”

Tackling deforestation is one of the most urgent tasks facing South America, scientists say.

Heavily-deforested parts of the Amazon’s southeastern region have already ceased to function as a carbon absorber and are now a carbon source, according to a study published in 2021 by Luciana Gatti, a researcher for INPE, which uses satellites to track deforestation.

The Amazon rainforest influences weather patterns around the world and as deforestation advances, this could make extreme weather events more common, said Daniel Nepstad, who heads the California-based Earth Innovation Institute and has worked in the Amazon for more than 30 years.

“The forest is a global air-conditioning unit…an enormous heat processing machine that influences weather around the world,” said Nepstad, adding that the willingness of all leaders to meet to discuss the issue was in itself a “hugely positive outcome.”

Deadly heat waves have upended daily life in large parts of the U.S., Europe and Asia this year, while unusually high temperatures in South America’s winter have melted snow in the Andes mountains.

Regional coordination is vital, environmentalists say. Deep in the Amazon, where indigenous communities often straddle borders and loggers and criminal groups move freely, one country’s efforts can easily be rendered ineffective by those of its neighbour.

Such a summit seemed a distant possibility just a year ago, when da Silva’s right-wing predecessor Jair Bolsonaro was president. Bolsonaro, who jokingly referred to himself as “Captain Chainsaw,” cut funding for environmental enforcement and bristled at attempts from foreign countries to influence his stewardship of the Amazon even as he called on them to fund deforestation efforts.

Under the conservative leader, a swath of forest bigger than Vermont was destroyed in four years, according to INPE data.

Da Silva’s election in October last year put much of South America in the hands of a group of loosely allied leftist leaders, easing regional talks on an issue, the Amazon, that had never resulted in tangible cooperation, political scientists said.

Points of conflict, to be sure, exist among the countries participating in the Belém summit.

While da Silva has mulled plans to develop offshore oil finds near the mouth of the Amazon River to help lower domestic fuel costs, his Colombian counterpart, Gustavo Petro, called last month for all new oil developments to be blocked in the region.

“As heads of state, we must assure the end of new oil and gas exploration in the Amazon,” Petro wrote last month in the Miami Herald. “We must exhibit courage, even as we address fundamental social issues within our countries, exacerbated by a cost of living crisis and rampant inflation.”

Marcio Astrini, who heads a coalition of environmental groups called the Brazilian Climate Observatory, said Amazonian countries are likely to find common ground on the need to protect indigenous communities, combat crime at the borders and support scientific research to better understand the forest.

“These countries are in different political situations…but they all found space in their agendas to agree to this and get together to discuss these sensitive issues,” said Astrini.

The biggest point they have in common, though, is their desire to get richer nations to help pay for all of this, said Astrini.

“Show me the money—that’s one thing they’ll all be saying in unison,” he said.



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A Killer Golf Swing Is a Hot Job Skill Now

Companies are eager to hire strong players who use hybrid work schedules to schmooze clients on the course

By CALLUM BORCHERS
Fri, Jun 14, 2024 5 min

Standout golfers who aren’t quite PGA Tour material now have somewhere else to play professionally: Corporate America.

People who can smash 300-yard drives and sink birdie putts are sought-after hires in finance, consulting, sales and other industries, recruiters say. In the hybrid work era, the business golf outing is back in a big way.

Executive recruiter Shawn Cole says he gets so many requests to find ace golfers that he records candidates’ handicaps, an index based on average number of strokes over par, in the information packets he submits to clients. Golf alone can’t get you a plum job, he says—but not playing could cost you one.

“I know a guy that literally flies around the world in a private jet loaded with French wine, and he golfs and lands hundred-million-dollar deals,” Cole says.

Tee times and networking sessions have long gone hand-in-golf-glove. Despite criticism that doing business on the course undermines diversity, equity and inclusion efforts—and the fact that golf clubs haven’t always been open to women and minorities —people who mix golf and work say the outings are one of the last reprieves from 30-minute calendar blocks

Stars like Tiger Woods and Michelle Wie West helped expand participation in the sport. Still, just 22% of golfers are nonwhite and 26% are women, according to the National Golf Foundation.

To lure more people, clubs have relaxed rules against mobile-phone use on the course, embracing white-collar professionals who want to entertain clients on the links without disconnecting from the office. It’s no longer taboo to check email from your cart or take a quick call at the halfway turn.

With so much other business conducted virtually, shaking hands on the green and schmoozing over clubhouse beers is now seen as making an extra effort, not slacking off.

Americans played a record 531 million rounds last year. Weekday play has nearly doubled since 2019, with much of the action during business hours , according to research by Stanford University economist Nicholas Bloom .

“It would’ve been scandalous in 2019 to be having multiple meetings a week on the golf course,” Bloom says. “In 2024, if you’re producing results, no one’s going to see anything wrong with it.”

A financial adviser at a major Wall Street bank who competes on the amateur circuit told me he completes 90% of his tasks by 10 a.m. because he manages long-term investment plans that change infrequently. The rest of his workday often involves golfing with clients and prospects. He’s a member of a private club with a multiyear waiting list, and people jump at the chance to join him on a course they normally can’t access.

There is an art to bringing in business this way. He never initiates shoptalk, telling his playing partners the round is about having fun and getting to know each other. They can’t resist asking about investment strategies by the back nine, he says.

Work hard, play hard

Matt Parziale golfed professionally on minor-league tours for several years, but when his dream of making the big time ended, he had to get a regular job. He became a firefighter, like his dad.

A few years later he won one of the biggest amateur tournaments in the country, earning spots in the 2018 Masters and U.S. Open, where he tied for first among non-pros.

The brush with celebrity brought introductions to business types that Parziale, 35 years old, says he wouldn’t have met otherwise. One connection led to a job with a large insurance broker. In 2022 he jumped to Deland, Gibson Insurance Associates in Wellesley, Mass., which recognised his golf game as a tool to help win large accounts.

He rescheduled our interview because he was hosting clients at a private club on Cape Cod, and squeezed me in the next morning, before teeing off with a business group in Newport, R.I.

A short time ago, Parziale couldn’t imagine making a living this way. Now he’s the norm in elite amateur golf circles.

“I look around at the guys at the events I play, and they all have these jobs ,” he says.

His boss, Chief Executive Chip Gibson, says Parziale is good at bringing in business because he puts as much effort into building relationships as honing his game. A golf outing is merely an opportunity to build trust that can eventually lead to a deal, and it’s a misconception that people who golf during work hours don’t work hard, he says.

Barry Allison’s single-digit handicap is an asset in his role as a management consultant at Accenture , where he specialises in travel and hospitality. He splits time between Washington, D.C., and The Villages, Fla., a golf mecca that boasts more than 50 courses.

It can be hard to get to know people in distributed work environments, he says. Go golfing and you’ll learn a lot about someone’s temperament—especially after a bad shot.

“If you see a guy snap a club over his knee, you don’t know what he’s going to snap next,” Allison says.

Special access

On a recent afternoon I was a lunch guest at Brae Burn Country Club, a private enclave outside Boston that was the site of U.S. Golf Association championships won by legends like Walter Hagen and Bobby Jones. I parked in the second lot because the first one was full—on a Wednesday.

My host was Cullen Onstott, managing director of the Onstott Group executive search firm and a former collegiate golfer at Fairfield University. He explained one reason companies prize excellent golfers is they can put well-practiced swings on autopilot and devote most of their attention to chitchat.

It’s hard to talk with potential customers about their needs and interests when you’re hunting for errant shots in the woods. It’s also challenging if you show off.

The first hole at Brae Burn is a 318-yard par 4 that slopes down, enabling big hitters like Onstott to reach the putting green in a single stroke. But to stay close to his playing partners and keep the conversation flowing, he sometimes hits a shorter shot.

Having an “in” at an exclusive club can make you a catch. Bo Burch, an executive recruiter in North Carolina, says clubs in his region tend to attract members according to their business sectors. One might be chock-full of real-estate investors while another has potential buyers of industrial manufacturing equipment.

Burch looks for candidates who are members of clubs that align with his clients’ industries, though he stresses that business acumen comes first when filling positions.

Tami McQueen, a former Division I tennis player and current chief marketing officer at Atlanta investment firm BIP Capital, signed up for private golf lessons this year. She had noticed colleagues were wearing polos with course logos and bringing their clubs to work. She wanted in.

McQueen joined business associates on the golf course for the first time in March at the PGA National Resort in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. She has lowered her handicap to a respectable 26 and says her new skill lends a professional edge.

“To be able to say, ‘I can play with you and we can have those business meetings on the course’ definitely opens a lot more doors,” she says.

MOST POPULAR
11 ACRES ROAD, KELLYVILLE, NSW

This stylish family home combines a classic palette and finishes with a flexible floorplan

35 North Street Windsor

Just 55 minutes from Sydney, make this your creative getaway located in the majestic Hawkesbury region.

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