Constant Flooding In Brazil Displacing Citizens, Causing Climate Migration

Ongoing flooding in southern Brazil has displaced nearly half a million people who are now considering moving to higher ground to avoid future devastation. This “climate migration” is one of the biggest Brazil has experienced.

Two weeks ago the southern part of the nation experienced flooding brought on by torrential rains. The Guaiba River, which runs near the state capital of Porto Alegre, has begun flooding again, surpassing previous flooding records. 

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Researchers estimate that in the area around Porto Alegre alone, there is about 1,500 square miles of land that have now been flooded. Hundreds of thousands of families have evacuated the flooded areas, and the severe weather has caused around 147 deaths with 127 people still missing. 

This recent flooding is adding further damage to the floods that Rio Grande do Sul experienced during the entire second half of last year, according to reports. Around 538,000 people are currently displaced from their homes from the months of ongoing flooding. 

Local businessman Cassiano Baldasso spoke to Reuters about the frustration he’s been experiencing having his home filled with mud every time it floods, forcing him to take the mud out by wheelbarrow. He lives in Muçum, which is 90 miles upriver from Porto Alegre. 

“I have no idea where I’m going, but it will be somewhere far from the river, where our lives will not be at risk,” Baldasso told Reuters.

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Mayor of Muçum, Mateus Trojan, stated that a majority of the town’s 5,000 residents will have to relocate. The mayor’s office is already planning on rebuilding 40% of the town in another location where it will ideally not be as vulnerable to flooding. 

Governor Eduardo Leite has stated that Rio Grande do Sul will need at least 19 billion reais (USD $3.7 billion) to rebuild all the infrastructure that’s been damaged. The government is offering to freeze 11 billion reais of debt payments for three years to support the nation as it recovers. 

Environmental experts have stated that the new reality for a lot of the towns in Brazil is a need to relocate entire neighborhoods.

“We need to move urban infrastructure away from high-risk environments and return space to the rivers … so they no longer impact cities with such magnitude,” said ecologist Marcelo Dutra, professor at the Rio Grande Federal University.

“We can’t oppose nature. We have to wake up to this force that is telling us we need to adapt and respect nature,” he said.


Bogotà, Colombia Starts Rationing Water For 9 Million People

Bogotà, Columbia is currently experiencing a severe drought due to El Niño, as reservoirs have been pushed to record lows, according to reports. The city’s authority announced this week that residents would have to start rationing water as a result. 

The rationing itself came into effect on Thursday, with Bogotà and dozens of surrounding towns being divided into nine zones. Domestic running water is cut off for 24 hours in each zone on a specific rotation that resets every 10 days. This new rationing system is set to impact around 9 million people. 

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There are additional plans to ensure that hospitals and schools have a continuous water supply, according to authorities. 

The Chuza and San Rafael reservoirs, part of the Chingaza System which provides 70% of the city’s drinking water, are in critical positions according to local authorities. 

“Let’s not waste a drop of water in Bogotá at this time, that will help us so that these restrictions can be lifted more quickly or reduced,” Mayor Carlos Fernando Galán said in a news conference.

According to Stefano Pozzebon, writer for CNN, “It’s not unusual for cities in Latin America to face water crises. Bogotá joins Mexico City to its northwest, which could also be on the brink of running out of water, as the combination of climate change, El Niño, geography and rapid urban development put immense strain on its water resources. But this marks the first time in recent history that Bogotá has been forced to implement water rationing measures.”

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“Most cities around the world depend on aquifers for their water supplies. Bogota is different in that almost all our supply comes from surface waters like reservoirs, which are more susceptible to rain patterns,” said Armando Sarmiento, an ecology professor at Bogotá’s Javeriana University.

“It’s this dependence on rain that makes Bogotá particularly vulnerable to drought,” Sarmiento told CNN.

“Since last year, the city has experienced long dry periods due to the impact of El Niño,” according to local authorities.

Bogotá’s water rationing plans have been endorsed by the nation’s president. A civil authority tasked with protecting civil and human rights in Columbia, issues a statement this week that stated “a long-term reliable water supply is a basic human right, and the environment ministry in February launched a campaign with the hashtag #ElNinoNoEsUnJuego (El Niño is not a game) to warn Colombians not to underestimate the crisis.”

“We got to a point where we can’t expect water to come down like it used to be if we don’t respect the reservoirs’ natural supply cycle, if we don’t respect water’s natural cycle,” Sarmiento, the ecologist, told CNN.


Thailand Likely To Legalize Same-Sex Marriage After Bill Passes In Parliament 

Lawmakers in the lower house of parliament in Thailand have approved a marriage equality bill that would make the nation the first south-east Asian country to legalize same-sex marriages for partners of any gender. 

400 out of 415 lawmakers voted in favor of the bill on Wednesday. Video footage was released from inside parliament after the decision showing people standing and applauding the vote. 

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Danuphorn Punnakanta, a spokesperson for the majority Pheu Thai Party and president of the committee overseeing the marriage equality bill, posted to social media after the vote celebrating the bill’s passing. 

“The right to equality in Thailand has begun today. It is the beginning, and further legislation for people’s rights and freedom will follow.”

The bill will now need to be approved by the senate and endorsed by the Thai king. After the endorsement, the bill would be published in the Royal Gazette and become law after 60 days. If this were to happen, Thailand would join Taiwan and Nepal as the only Asian countries to legalize same-sex marriage. 

“Today is considered a good sign that Thailand will be the first country in south-east Asia to have equal marriage laws. It raises the level of Thailand in the eyes of the world,” The Pheu Thai post stated.  

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Mookdapa Yangyuenpradorn, human rights associate at Fortify Rights, said in a statement:

“Thailand is close to becoming the first country in south-east Asia to ensure marriage rights for LGBTI+ couples, which is a cause for celebration; however, certain shortcomings in the current draft must be addressed to ensure all rights extend to LGBTI+ persons.”

“Before the final reading of the bill by the lower house, it is imperative that parliamentarians eliminate the presence of gendered language in the current draft that may limit rights for LGBTI+ persons, particularly rights for LGBTI+ couples with children,” Yangyuenpradorn said. 

“[Punnakanta’s committee in charge of consolidating the draft bills] considered that some sections of the motion contain wording that is inconsistent with the current social context. Therefore, the wording has been adjusted to be appropriate for gender equality,” according to the Pheu Thai post.


France Becomes World’s First Country To Make Abortion A Constitutional Right 

This week, France became the first country in the world to make getting an abortion a constitutional right. The effort to do so in the nation began as a direct response to the US Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v Wade, which removed federal protections for abortion rights. 

According to reports from CNN, lawmakers from both houses of the French Parliament voted 780 to 72 in favor of the measure; in order to amend the French constitution they needed a three-fifths majority. 

Monday’s vote also marked the final step in the legislative process to approve the amendment. The French Senate and the National Assembly both “overwhelmingly approved the amendment earlier this year,” according to Joshua Berlinger and Xiaofei Xu of CNN. The gathering took place at the Palace of Versailles. 

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The amendment itself guarantees citizens the freedom to abortion in France, with some groups and lawmakers calling on stronger language to be used to call abortion a “right.” France is also hoping that this history-making decision will steer other nations towards a similar direction. 

Abortion rights are currently under threat in the US as well as other parts of Europe under far-right party power, like Hungary. 

Following the decision, the Eiffel Tower lit up in celebratory fashion with the words “my body my choice.” Prime Minister Gabriel Attal stated that lawmakers in general had a “moral debt” to all women who were forced to get an illegal abortions in the past. 

“Above all, we’re sending a message to all women: your body belongs to you.”

To celebrate the new amendment’s addition to the constitution, French President Emmanuel Macron said the government would be throwing a formal ceremony this Friday, which is International Women’s Rights Day. 

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In 1975, the Health Minister at the time, Simone Veil, who was an Auschwitz survivor, was able to get abortion legalized in France after a massive campaign. Veil has long been hailed as one of France’s most famous feminist icons. 

France has widely supported the right to an abortion. In fact, reports state that the lawmakers who voted against the amendment didn’t do so because they opposed abortion, but instead thought it was an unnecessary measure due to the nation’s overall support for reproductive rights.

With the US’s overturning of Roe v Wade and the overall debate over reproductive rights in America, France wanted to move quickly to guarantee abortion rights by putting it in the constitution. Before 2022, President Macron’s government held the same position as the lawmakers on the opposition of the recent amendment vote, they thought it was just unnecessary. 

When the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, France was pushed to do something official. 

French Justice Minister Eric Dupond-Moretti had argued before 2022 that history is full of examples of “fundamental rights” being taken away when they were believed to be permanently protected. 

“As we were recently reminded by the decision of the US Supreme Court, we now have irrefutable proof that no democracy, not even the largest of them all, is immune,” he stated. 


Junior Doctors In South Korea Risking Medical License Suspension And Prosecution Due To Walkouts

Around 9,000 medical interns and junior doctors in South Korea have walked out of their jobs last week to protest a new government plan that would increase medical school admissions by around 65%. The government has now responded and given the walkout participants four days to return to work or they will potentially face consequences.


Death Toll From Chile Wildfires Surpasses 130 With More Than 300 People Still Missing

Chile is currently in a massive rescue and recovery effort after the nation has been enduring what the United Nations disaster agency is calling the deadliest wildfires on record. The fires have unfortunately claimed over 130 lives with hundreds of others still missing. 

Officials have stated more than 30 bodies have been identified, and the death toll is expected to rise, according to the UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction. 

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The wildfires have taken over central and northern Chile, and have destroyed thousands of homes, buildings, and neighborhoods which are now covered in ash. 

President Gabriel Boric on Tuesday stated that the wildfires have been the “biggest tragedy” in Chile since the deadly 2010 earthquakes, which had a magnitude of 8.8 that killed hundreds. 

“The inhabitants of Viña del Mar, of Quilpué, of Villa Alemana, have gone through and are experiencing a situation that has been tremendously catastrophic, exceptional, unprecedented and painful.”

President Boric also declared an official state of emergency on Sunday while coastal cities including Viña del Mar and Valparaiso were overtaken by smoke. The fires moved from forested areas to more of the urban landscapes of Chile. 

The president also declared Monday and Tuesday as days of national mourning for the victims of the wildfire as well as the devastated neighborhoods that have been burned down. 

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El Niño, a natural climate fluctuation that has a global heating effect, has been driving the major impacts of the wildfires in Chile. That, combined with the long term effects of global warming, which is fueling more intense and more frequent drought, heat waves, and general natural disasters around the world. 

For the last decade, Chile has been dealing with what’s been called a “mega-drought,” and according to reports it’s been the longest drought in at least 1,000 years, which has only further fueled the recent wildfires.

The nation has also been experiencing extremely high temperatures in combination with the wildfires. Capital of Chile, Santiago, hit 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit at the end of January, which is the third-highest recorded temperature in the nation in more than a century, according to the World Meteorological Agency. 

According to a study published in the journal Nature, a total of 1.7 million hectares have burned in Chile within the last decade due to increased wildfire activity.


European Union Leaders Pushing For Palestinian Statehood To Bring Peace To Middle East 

European Union foreign ministers have made the argument this week that the creation and implementation of a statehood for Palestine could be the “only credible way to achieve peace in the Middle East,” according to reports.


Deadly Earthquake Hits Japan On New Year’s, Thousands Forced To Leave Their Homes 

On New Year’s Day, Japan was hit with a massive 7.6 magnitude earthquake that has left thousands of citizens without a home. The earthquake hit the western coast of Japan, and at least 168 people have died with dozens still missing, according to reports from the Associated Press.

Thousands of troops, police, and firefighters have traveled to join the rescue efforts on the coast of the country to go through collapsed buildings in hopes of finding survivors. 

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The danger is unfortunately still present for Japan, however, with authorities warning citizens of potential landslides, which there is an increased risk of due to heavy snowfall around the epicenter of the earthquake located on the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture. 

AP reported that the death tolls included 70 people in Wajima, 70 in Suzu, and 18 in Anamizu, the remaining deaths were among other surrounding towns. At least 323 people are still unaccounted for, with 565 people being treated for injuries. Around 1,390 homes were either seriously damaged, or completely destroyed. 

After the initial earthquake, Japan was also hit with a tsunami which added to the damage, and aftershocks have been continuous daily. 

Meteorological officials in Japan also warned that strong earthquakes could persist for up to another month. Recovery efforts have barely begun for residents due to the ongoing aftershocks. 

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Wajima, a tourist town that is known for its retail shopping street, had a lot of its parts destroyed due to fires that erupted from the earthquake. 

Around 30,000 people are currently staying in schools, auditoriums, and other evacuation centers throughout the area. However, many officials are worried about the additional risk of Covid-19 and other illnesses spreading within these centers. 

Shelters are struggling with the influx of struggling citizens who need shelter, food, water, and overall safety. People are sleeping on cold floors, and were initially only able to have a piece of bread and a cup of water a day. More aid is helping the centers and are actively working to get to those who need help to offer hot food and additional sleeping options. 

Soldiers have been able to set up some temporary bathing facilities with hot water for citizens who have been without for days. More stoves, clothing, bedding, food, water, and more are on the way to these evacuation centers, and rescue efforts are still ongoing. 


Vatican Approves Blessings For Same-Sex Couples 

The Vatican announced this week that Roman Catholic priests can administer blessings to same-sex couples as long as they’re not a part of regular Church rituals or liturgies. The “landmark ruling” was approved by Pope Francis and released to the public in a document from the Vatican’s doctrinal office. 

This declaration reversed a previous ruling from 2021 that said blessings for same-sex couples would not “legitimize irregular situations but be a sign that God welcomes all,” according to reports from Reuters

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The declaration also added that this new ruling should not be confused with the Catholic Church’s sacrament of heterosexual marriage. Reuters reported that “priests should decide on a case-by-case basis and should not prevent or prohibit the Church’s closeness to people in every situation in which they might seek God’s help through a simple blessing.”

The Church teaches that while same-sex attraction is not sinful, homosexual acts are. Pope Francis has made various proclamations since his election in 2013 in support of the LGBT community. 

Father James Martin, an American Jesuit priest who ministers for the LGBT community, called the document “a major step forward in the church’s ministry” to them.

Martin said “the document recognizes the deep desire in many Catholic same-sex couples for God’s presence in their loving relationships, along with many priests, I will now be delighted to bless my friends in same-sex unions.” 

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According to Francis DeBernardo, an executive director of a group that advocates for LGBT rights in the church known as New Ways Ministry, said that “the document’s importance cannot be overstated. 

The document said the “form of the blessing should not be fixed ritually by ecclesial authorities to avoid producing confusion with the blessing proper to the Sacrament of Marriage.

It can be applied to those who do not claim a legitimation of their own status, but who beg that all that is true, good, and humanly valid in their lives and their relationships be enriched, healed, and elevated by the presence of the Holy Spirit.”

“Ultimately, a blessing offers people a means to increase their trust in God, which must be nurtured, not hindered.”

The document also stated that “the blessing should not be linked to or timed with a civil marriage ceremony and be performed with none of the clothing, gestures, or words that are proper to a wedding.

Places for such blessings might be in other contexts, such as a visit to a shrine, a meeting with a priest, a prayer recited in a group, or during a pilgrimage”.

global warming

Scientists Warn Of Multiple Tipping Points In Climate Change

A new scientific report has warned that the continued warming of the planet could trigger not only the collapse of the Greenland ice sheet, the single largest contributor to global sea levels rising, but also multiple environmental “tipping points” that will be irreversible.