Opinion: Renewable Energy – How to Make It More Bird-Friendly

Installation of bird flight diverters by helicopter on a high voltage power line in Germany. Credit: © RWE Netzservice

Installation of bird flight diverters by helicopter on a high voltage power line in Germany. Credit: © RWE Netzservice

By Jacques Trouvilliez and Patricia Zurita
BONN, May 9 2015 (IPS)

Climate change is one of the greatest risks to human societies, but also to biodiversity, often creating a “snowball effect” exacerbating existing pressures such as habitat fragmentation.

Consequently, the conservation community, including inter-governmental treaties such as AEWA and NGOs such as BirdLife International, is strongly advocating genuine attempts to address its causes and mitigate its effects. We can square this particular circle: producing renewable energy to help combat climate change without inadvertently hammering another nail in the coffin of our endangered wildlife.

Alongside cutting energy demand and increasing energy efficiency, developing renewable sources of energy is essential in order to reduce the amount of fossil fuels burned and the emission of greenhouse gases. There is little doubt that the development and deployment of renewable energies are vital if we are to end our dependency on traditional fuels.

However, appropriate planning, assessment and monitoring of renewable infrastructure are necessary in order to prevent adverse effects to wildlife.  All the innovative technologies being developed – wind turbines, solar panels, tidal, wave and hydropower – can have distinct drawbacks as far as wild animals – and particularly migratory birds – are concerned, if not sited correctly.

One thing that conventional and renewable energies often have in common is the need to transfer power from the point of production to the consumers.  Natural habitat is sacrificed so that power lines can be constructed.

The pylons and cables form a barrier to migration – and large birds are most vulnerable – perching on the structures, their long wing span can often lead to short circuits; this is fatal to the electrocuted bird but also inconvenient for the customer whose electricity supply is interrupted. The birds that most commonly fall victim are from long-lived, slow-breeding species that cannot sustain these losses.

Power lines are not the only hazard – wind turbines take a toll too.  The Spanish Ornithological Society says that more than 18,000 wind turbines in Spain are causing significant mortality of raptors and bats, including threatened species.

It would be foolish for conservationists to oppose all forms of renewable energy just as it would be foolish to welcome any proposal to build a windfarm, barrage or solar plant unquestioningly.  What needs to be done is to find the right balance.

The Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), under which AEWA was concluded, adopted a resolution calling for appropriate Strategic Environment Assessments and Environmental Impact Assessments procedures to be put in place, which would mean applying rigorous planning guidance.

It would involve following a simple sequence: first, developments should be avoided in the most sensitive locations, e.g. bottlenecks on birds’ migration routes.  Everywhere else, mitigation measures should be taken and a last resort compensatory actions should be considered.

And some mitigation measures bring large gains at little cost– shutting off wind farms when migrating birds are passing has proven to have reduced the mortality rate of the Griffon Vulture by 50 percent in Spain – while lost electricity production was less than 1.0 percent.

The design and placement of the pylons are also very important – in forested landscapes for example, it is best if the structures do not protrude above the canopy.  Monitoring in France over the past 20 years has shown that attaching spirals to power lines at regular intervals to make them more visible can lead to a reduction in the fatalities as a result of collisions.

The next few decades will see a massive increase in demand for power in developing countries in Africa – and this will be matched by expansion of both renewable generation capacity and grid connections.  The danger is that if the design and location are not right, further devastating losses to the continent’s birdlife will be inevitable.

We need to increase our knowledge and to share it once it has been acquired.  This will entail close cooperation between conservationists on the one hand and the power companies on the other.

CMS and AEWA have produced the first version of a set of guidelines on the appropriate deployment of renewable energy technology and the BirdLife International network can provide the expertise on the ground to ensure that we can square this particular circle: producing renewable energy to help combat climate change without inadvertently hammering another nail in the coffin of our endangered wildlife.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

‘Je Suis Favela’ – Bringing Brazilian Books to the French

By A. D. McKenzie
PARIS, May 9 2015 (IPS)

Long before the attack in Paris that inspired the slogan “Je Suis Charlie”, a young French publisher had released a collection of stories titled je suis favela about life in Brazilian slums.

In an ironic twist of history, sales of the collection have taken off since Jan. 7, when gunmen targeted the offices of satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo, leaving 12 people dead.

French publisher Paula Anacaona

French publisher Paula Anacaona

Some readers apparently thought the je suis favela stories were an attempt to shed light on the situation of marginalised communities in France, but instead they learned about marginalised populations in South America, where similar forces of exclusion may push young people into crime.

“We can all learn from what is happening elsewhere in the world, because we’re all affected by similar social and economic issues,” says Paula Anacaona, the publisher of je suis favela and founder of Éditions Anacaona, whose mission is to publish Brazilian books in France.

Educated as a translator of technical texts, Paris-born Anacaona, 37, became a literary translator and publisher by chance. On holiday in Rio de Janeiro in 2003, she happened to start chatting with a woman who revealed she was a writer and who promised to send her a book.

Back in Paris, Anacaona received the book two months later and “loved it”, as she told IPS in an interview. She translated the work, written by Heloneida Studart and later called Le Cantique de Meméia, and managed to get a Canadian company to publish it.“To understand the favela, you have to understand the grandparents who came to the cities from rural areas, often with nothing and unable to read or write” – Paula Anacaona, founder of Éditions Anacaona

Studart, who died in 2007, was also an essayist, journalist and women’s rights activist, and the book caught the attention of French-speaking readers in several countries.

Other writers got in touch, and Anacaona found herself becoming a literary translator. But by sending out the works to publishing companies, she was also taking on the role of agent, a time-consuming task.

“With all that was involved, I thought why not publish the books myself?” she recalls. She set up Éditions Anacaona in 2009 and decided to focus initially on literature from and about the ghetto or favela in Brazil, because “no one else was doing it.”

The first published book under her imprint was le Manuel pratique de la haine (Practical Handbook of Hate), a very violent and dark work set in the favela and launched in 2009.

Two years later came je suis favela, published in 2011. Anacaona selected the writers for the collection, choosing authors from both the favela and the “middle class” and translating the works written in Portuguese into French.

Her motivation, she says, was to try to change perceptions of those considered to be living on the fringes of society. The cover of je suis favela features a young black woman sitting on a balcony and doing paperwork, possibly homework, with the city in the background.

“As you can see, she’s not dancing, so this isn’t about stereotypes,” Anacaona says.

Cover of ‘je suis favela’

Cover of ‘je suis favela’

The book has since been published in Brazil, with the title Eu sou favela, giving Anacaona a certain sense of accomplishment. “In Rio, twenty percent of the population lives in the favela, so the book is relevant to many readers,” she says.

In France, where there has been national soul-searching since the Charlie Hebdo attacks – with Prime Minister Manuel Valls calling the social exclusion of certain groups a form of “apartheid” – the book provides insights into the reasons and consequences of marginalisation, albeit from a distance of 8,620 kilometres.

“French readers have responded to the book because people really are trying to understand the space we all share and the reasons for radicalisation,” says Anacaona.

Now representing more than 15 authors, she has widened her company’s scope to include “regionalist” authors such as the late Rachel de Queiroz and José Lins do Rego, from the northeast of Brazil, who wrote about characters outside urban settings.

“To understand the favela, you have to understand the grandparents who came to the cities from rural areas, often with nothing and unable to read or write,” Anacaona says.

Her company’s contemporary writers include the award-winning Tatiana Salem Lévy, named one of Granta’s Best Young Brazilian Novelists, and the stand-out Ana Paula Maia, who began her career with “short pulp fiction” on the Internet and now has numerous fans.

Both writers were part of the contingent of 48 Brazilian authors invited to this year’s Paris Book Fair, which took place from Mar. 20 to 23.

Billed as “un pays plein de voix” (a country full of voice), Brazil was the guest of honour, and the writers discussed topics ranging from the depiction of urban violence to dealing with memory and displacement. Anacaona had a central role as a publisher of Brazilian books, with her stand attracting many readers.

Brazilian writer Ana Paula Maia. Credit: Marcelo  Correa

Brazilian writer Ana Paula Maia. Credit: Marcelo Correa

She has translated and published two titles by Maia – Du bétail et des hommes (Of Cattle and Men) and Charbon animal (Animal Coal) – which focus on characters not normally present in literature. Maia writes about a slaughterhouse employee and a worker at a crematorium, for instance, in an unsentimental manner with minimal dialogue and almost no adjectives.

“She really can’t be categorised,” says Anacaona, who adds that despite Maia’s fashion-model appearance, the writer identifies with those living on the margins because she grew up among people who did not fit into the mainstream.

Both publisher and writer bear a resemblance and even have a name in common, and Anacaona acknowledges that she is attracted to Brazil and its literature because of her own mixed background – her French mother is white and her South American father is of African descent.

“In Brazil, it’s possible to be both black and white, and that’s something that is important to me,” she says.

As for the books, she has recently published a boxed set of 14 Brazilian plays, with the translation sponsored by the Brazilian Ministry of Culture, in an attempt to make Brazilian theatre more known in France.

There is also a second favela collection, titled je suis toujours favela (I am still favela), that includes literature as well as journalistic and sociological articles about the slums.

Between the first and second collections, Anacaona says she has found that the “favela has changed so much”, which she credits to the impact of policies to diminish inequality, launched by former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva  – perhaps a lesson for France and other countries.

Edited by Phil Harris