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            [post_content] => Bangkok. Mongolia should diversify its economy in the face of climate change and other stresses, as reliance on mining at the expense of its livestock industry has put people at risk of commodity price shocks and rising unemployment, an international aid group said.

Ramesh Singh, Mongolia director for Mercy Corps, said strengthening rural livestock markets and establishing centers of economic activity outside the overstretched capital would enrich the nation's coffers, provide work for young people, and boost the country's resilience.

Mongolia has struggled with an economic crisis since 2016 due to government overspending and declining revenues from its exports, which include copper and coal.

"We have reached a tipping point," Singh said, whose United States-based organization has worked in Mongolia since 1999.

Youth unemployment, climate change and heavy urbanization in the capital city of Ulaanbaatar are key issues that must be tackled, he added.

A Mercy Corps report issued last week said the mining sector employs only 3.6 percent of Mongolia's total workforce.

"There's a realization among government and development partners that it was a big mistake to focus solely on a single sector," Singh said, noting how a 17 percent growth rate in 2012 has nosedived to a projected 1.4 percent in 2017.

Meanwhile, around 30 percent of Mongolia's 3 million people live off herding horses, goats, sheep, camels, yaks and other cattle, according to the World Bank, and meat is the primary source of food for the population.

Those unable to make ends meet in rural areas — especially young people working in low-paid animal husbandry or unpaid family jobs  usually move to the capital.

There, many end up living in "ger districts," makeshift neighborhoods named after Mongolia's traditional yurt dwellings, where pollution, poverty and domestic violence are rife, aid agencies say.

Meat Market

In February, the Red Cross appealed for $654,000 to support thousands of Mongolian herder families suffering from a second consecutive "dzud" in which a summer drought is followed by harsh winter conditions, leading to widespread livestock deaths.

Climate change could lead to more erratic rainfall and increase the frequency of droughts and dzuds, the Mercy Corps report said. But Singh said a profitable, modern herding system attractive to young people could be developed.

"There is a huge market potential from China and Russia which are ready to buy meat from Mongolia. There's an opportunity to develop another export market here," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

Mercy Corps is supporting a law to protect grazing land, and hopes to join planned efforts to map how many animals the country's pastures can support.

Its report also recommends educating herders to keep fewer, better-quality livestock, as well as developing financing to protect herders from climate threats, including insurance.

The world's first index-based livestock insurance was launched in Mongolia in 2005 but take-up has been slow due to a lack of awareness and affordability.

Reuters
            [post_title] => Climate-Stressed Mongolia Urged to Put Yaks Before Mines
            [post_excerpt] => Mongolia should diversify its economy in the face of climate change and other stresses, as reliance on mining at the expense of its livestock industry has put people at risk of commodity price shocks and rising unemployment, an international aid group said.
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            [post_content] => Bangkok. It was Thailand's historically devastating floods of 2011 that prompted Supachai Tantikom, a soft-spoken civil engineer, to confront Bangkok's vulnerability to natural disasters.

Working as an advisor to then Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra, Supachai witnessed public anger mount.

The city lacked models that could predict which parts were at risk of flooding, and places like Dong Muang airport, used by budget airlines and freight carriers, had not flooded before, he said.

"We never had that kind of experience. Everybody was stressed," the Bangkok native said, recalling how images of airplanes in water sent shockwaves around the world.

People were evacuated and then forced to move again as the floods spread. "We just worked on a daily basis," Supachai said.

Freewheeling Bangkok has always seemed able to cope with events that would cripple other thriving capitals – airport closures, prolonged protests and multiple military coups.

Yet the 2011 floods, caused by factors including an unusually heavy monsoon, urbanization on flood plains and changes in water management, affected millions of people across the country and paralyzed the capital city and its administration.

"The criticism  we have to accept that sometimes," Supachai told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in his bare office on the top floor of an ageing, low-rise government building.

A year or so later, with the flooding still fresh in his mind, Supachai persuaded the governor to let Bangkok apply to become part of the 100 Resilient Cities initiative, set up by the Rockefeller Foundation to help cities globally create strategies to tackle climate change and other pressures.

In December 2013, Bangkok was chosen among the first crop of the 100 Resilient Cities. But it wasn't until two months ago that the city unveiled its strategy aimed at making Bangkok "safe, livable and sustainable."

Supachai, 59, now Bangkok's chief resilience officer, is tasked with coordinating activities to realize this ambition.

Leave No One Behind

The new resilience strategy represents a commitment by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, or BMA, that the city "not only grows but that it brings all residents along on that journey," according to the document.

Before designing the strategy, consultations were held with Bangkok inhabitants, civil society and academics. Supachai and BMA staff then took nearly a year to put it together.

The end result is a list of 57 projects  around three-fifths of them new  focused on three areas: improving the quality of life, reducing risk and boosting adaptation to evolving challenges such as climate change, and driving a strong, competitive economy.

The projects range from healthcare provision for migrant workers and savings schemes for the elderly, to a master plan for an integrated mass transport system and developing driver-less vehicles.

There are also plans for new parks, a waste-to-energy plant, a disaster database, a roadmap for tourism, and help for marginalized communities with education, technology and finance.

Some projects will take up to eight years to implement, while others can be completed in six months.

Lost in Translation?

When Bangkok became Thailand's capital in 1782, it was a backwater village crisscrossed by canals. By 2010, the number of registered residents reached 8 million, but many unregistered people also live in and commute to Bangkok.

The city has the second worst traffic congestion in the world after Mexico City, according to a global traffic index compiled by navigation company TomTom.

Government figures show 870 new private cars and more than 1,100 motorcycles were registered every day in 2014.

Supachai remembers a time when the city was adorned with tree-lined canals, before they were filled in to accommodate an ever-increasing number of cars.

Bangkok now has the lowest percentage of green space of any major Asian capital, and produces nearly 10,000 tons of solid waste each day.

Over-pumping of ground water has caused land to subside. And despite its dazzling skyline, some charities say up to a fifth of Bangkok residents live in slums.

The city's location on the eastern bank of the Chao Phraya River means it is no stranger to floods or droughts - but these are expected to worsen with climate change, experts warn.

One of the biggest challenges in coping with all of this is the term "resilience" itself, Supachai said.

There is no Thai word for it, save a long, convoluted description that confuses people, he explained.

"I use the English word. I want Thai people to get used to [the term] like they do with some English words," he added.

Political leaders must also be on board for the strategy to work. The current governor, appointed by the military junta that seized power in a 2014 coup, has been supportive, said Supachai.

The previous governor, Sukhumbhand, was suspended and later dismissed over corruption allegations.

Supachai believes the goal of making Bangkok "safe, livable and sustainable" can only be realized if the concept of "urban resilience" – the ability of a city's people and systems to survive, adapt and grow amid shocks and stresses – is instilled in government officials.

Rather than setting up a separate department charged with this work, Supachai is seeking to train BMA's middle management.

"When this group of people gets promoted, they will carry [the thinking] with them," said Supachai, who does not yet know if his two-year term funded by 100RC will be extended beyond August.

But he cautioned against hoping a city can ever become "100 percent resilient." "We just want to be better. It's a process of constant improvement," he said.

Reuters
            [post_title] => Freewheeling Bangkok Lays Path to Safer, More Livable City
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            [post_content] => Rome. A new Google-powered online tool that uses satellite data to map water consumption in Africa and the Middle East aims to help farmers produce more crops with less water, the United Nations said on Thursday (20/04).

WaPOR, an open-access database developed by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) enables countries to easily monitor how efficiently farms use water, allowing for improvements in irrigation and food production, the agency said.

Climate change and a growing global population, set to reach more than 9 billion by 2050, are putting additional pressure on the world's ever scarcer water resources.

As agriculture is responsible for 70 percent of all water used on the planet, it will be critical to increase "crop per drop," experts say.

"Water use continues to surge at the same time that climate change  with increasing droughts and extreme weather  is altering and reducing water availability for agriculture," FAO's deputy director general, Maria Helena Semedo said.

"That puts a premium on making every drop count," she said in a statement.

WaPOR uses complex satellite data on weather, temperature, soil and vegetation to calculate how much crop yield is produced per cubic meter of water consumed.

The tool allows users like governments or farmers to spot areas where water is used inefficiently and take action by changing the irrigation system or switching to a more water-efficient crop, FAO said.

"You can compare with your neighbor and say: 'Look he is planting his wheat field one month ahead of me or using this kind of irrigation system or fertilizer and he is doing much better'," FAO technical officer Livia Peiser, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

The project funded by the Netherlands went live with data on Africa and the Middle East. FAO said more detailed information on countries facing water scarcity, including Mali, Ethiopia, Jordan and Egypt, will be made available later this year.

Two-thirds of the world's population live in areas experiencing water scarcity at least one month a year, according to the United Nations.

Reuters
            [post_title] => UN Tool Uses Satellite Data to Help Farmers Save Water
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            [post_content] => Shanghai. The amount of electricity wasted by China's solar and wind power sectors rose significantly last year, environment group Greenpeace said in a research report published Wednesday (19/04), despite government pledges to rectify the problem.

China has promised to improve what it called the "rhythm" of grid and generation capacity construction to avoid "curtailment," which occurs when there is insufficient transmission to absorb power produced by renewable projects.

But Greenpeace said wasted wind power still reached 17 percent of the total generated by wind farms last year, up from 8 percent in 2014, and was as high as 43 percent in the northwestern province of Gansu. The amount that failed to make it to the grid was enough to power Beijing for the whole of 2015, it added.

Solar curtailment across China rose 50 percent over 2015 and 2016. More than 30 percent of solar power in Gansu and neighboring Xinjiang failed to reach the grid.

Greenpeace said earlier that total solar and wind investment between now and 2030 could hit $780 billion.

But, rising levels of waste cost the industry as much as 34.1 billion yuan ($4.95 billion) in lost earnings over 2015-16, it said Wednesday.

China's energy regulator said late on Tuesday that it aims to raise the share of non-hydro renewable electricity delivered to the grid to 9 percent of the total by 2020, up from 6.3 percent last year and 5 percent in 2015.

It said renewable capacity hit 34.6 percent of the national total in 2016, while actual generation from renewable sources  including major hydro projects  stood at 25.4 percent of the total last year.

China produced 12.3 billion kilowatt-hours of solar power in the first quarter of 2017, up 31 percent year-over-year but accounting for just 1.1 percent of total generation over the period, official data showed on Monday. Wind hit 62.1 billion kilowatt-hours, 4.3 percent of the total and dwarfed by the 77.9 percent share occupied by thermal electricity.

Grid construction has slipped behind, with China focusing on expensive ultra-high voltage routes that better suit large-scale power generation projects.

"Upgrades to the system are urgently needed, including a more flexible physical structure of the grid, efficient cross-region transmission channels and smart peak load operation," Greenpeace climate and energy campaigner, Yuan Ying said.

Many regions have used renewables as back-up electricity sources during peak periods, and it falls idle when power use drops. Provinces are now lobbying for ultra-high voltage connections allowing them to sell surplus power to other regions.

Executives at a Shanghai conference on Wednesday said curtailment was eroding cash flows and discouraging investment, and while China was looking for solutions, the answer was likely to be technological.

"If you are in remote areas and there's no grid around, you build storage – transformer stations and storage plants that can make the energy available at a later stage," Andreas Liebheit said, president of Heraeus Materials Technology Shanghai, which produces specialist materials for solar panels.

Reuters
            [post_title] => China Renewable Power Waste Worsens in 2016: Greenpeace
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            [post_content] => Seattle. Rising sea levels caused by climate change may drive coastal residents in the United States to areas far from the seaboard, not just to adjacent inland regions, according to a study published online in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Even landlocked states such as Arizona and Wyoming could see significant increases in population because of coastal migration by 2100, and may be unprepared to handle the surge, said the analysis from a University of Georgia researcher.

"We typically think about sea-level rise as being a coastal challenge or a coastal issue," Mathew Hauer, author of the study and head of the Applied Demography program at the University of Georgia, said in an interview on Tuesday (18/04).

"But if people have to move, they go somewhere."

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted in January a 1-to-8-foot (0.3-2.5 meter) increase in sea levels by the year 2100. Previous research by Hauer and others has put the number of Americans displaced by rising seas over the same period as high as 13.1 million.

While a movement of residents from low-lying coastal regions to adjacent inland communities will likely occur, Hauer said that according to his model, even landlocked states such as Nevada, Arizona and Wyoming will see an influx.

Nevada's Clark County, home to Las Vegas, is projected to see an influx of up to 117,000 climate migrants by the end of the century, and nearly every county in Wyoming is predicted to see some increase, as are many counties in western Montana, central Colorado and northern Utah, the study found.

Hauer said previous studies had shown that people permanently leaving their homes often choose destinations where they have family connections or better job prospects, even if those locations are far away.

"A lot of these places, although they might seem like they’re very far [from the coast], people may have kin ties or economic ties or economic reasons for moving," he said.

"People could go to school in an area and they come back years later, maybe that’s closer to family."

Although municipalities typically are not considering climate migrants in their long-term planning, Hauer said, they should start to do so because the effects of sea-level rise were already being felt.

"It’s not like we go from zero feet of sea-level rise to 6 feet right at the end of the century  it’s an incremental process," he said.

Reuters
            [post_title] => Rising Seas Could Push Some US Migration to Areas Far From Coast: Study
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            [post_content] => Beijing. China and the European Union should promote a "positive signal" of economic globalization and free and fair trade, Premier Li Keqiang told the EU's top diplomat Federica Mogherini.

Some European officials say that China has launched a charm offensive with the EU since US President Donald Trump took office, in an effort to find allies amid fears Trump could undermine it with his protectionist "America First" policies.

"China and the EU, as two great forces in the world, should...respond to global challenges, reform and improve the international governance system, promote a positive signal of economic globalization and free and fair trade," Li told Mogherini on Tuesday (18/04), according to a statement on China's Foreign Ministry website on Wednesday.

The two sides should "respond to changes and uncertainty in the international situation with the cooperation and stability of China-EU relations," he said to Mogherini, who is visiting China for a China-EU strategic dialogue.

Speaking to reporters later on Wednesday, Mogherini said both would support the World Trade Organisation.

"We both recognize the need of support for WTO and to avoid any protectionist policy or attitude," she said.

Standing next to Mogherini, China's top diplomat State Councillor Yang Jiechi said China values its relations with the EU.

"No matter how the situation in Europe will change, China will always firmly support the path of integration that the EU has chosen," Yang said.

The Chinese statement on the earlier meeting with Li cited Mogherini as saying that China and the EU shoulder the duty to safeguard international order, respond to terrorism and climate change and other global challenges.

Europe's climate commissioner said last month that China and the EU could not expect the same leadership from the Trump administration, after the US president moved to undo the climate change regulations of his predecessor, Barack Obama.

But the EU remains cautious about the direction of its second-largest trading partner, concerned by China's massive steel exports, its militarization of islands in the South China Sea and a turn towards greater authoritarianism under President Xi Jinping.

Xi has made a vigorous defense of globalization and painted a picture of China as a "wide open" economy, but foreign business groups complain vociferously that China discriminates against them with policies that limit their access to the Chinese market and support domestic competitors.

The EU is looking to conclude a bilateral investment treaty with Beijing which would make it easier for European companies to do business in China. 

Reuters
            [post_title] => China's Li Says EU and China Must Promote Free and Fair Trade
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            [post_content] => Chennai. One of the worst droughts in decades across south India is forcing tens of thousands of farmers and laborers to take out loans to survive, pushing them into debt bondage and increasing the risk that they may be exploited for work, activists said.

Villages across southern states of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh have been declared drought affected by the government, following the failure of the 2016 monsoon rains.

With soaring temperatures, parched reservoirs and little agriculture-based employment, villagers are being forced to take loans to buy food, water and pay for school and medical fees, activists said, calling it the "point of no return" for farmers.

"The debts are mounting across villages," said Gladston Xavier, professor at Chennai's Loyola College, who is monitoring the impact of the drought in Tamil Nadu.

"People are being pushed into demeaning labor and more routes for trafficking have opened up. The risk has never been so severe or obvious."

Debt bondage is the most prevalent form of forced labor in India where an estimated 18 million people live in some form of modern slavery, according to the latest Global Slavery Index by Walk Free Foundation.

In India, borrowing from moneylenders and labor agents at high interest rates forces debtors into offering themselves for work in brick kilns, rice mills or farms as security against the loan they have taken or have inherited from a relative.

They spend months – or more – working to pay it back and are trapped in the cycle of debt bondage, rights activists say.

R. Murali of the rights charity People's Union for Civil Liberties, which is preparing a report on drought in the Delta region of Tamil Nadu, said existing government safety nets, such as guaranteed employment schemes, weren't enough.

"Villagers are being forced to pick up all kinds of loans, knowing very well that it will mean a lifetime of some form of bondage to repay it. Or they are just killing themselves."

Suicides

Hit by consecutive years of drought, unseasonal rains and fluctuating global commodity prices, more than 12,600 farmers and agricultural laborers committed suicide in 2015, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

According to the National Human Rights Commission, over 100 farmers committed suicide in Tamil Nadu in January 2017.

Most suicides are related to bankruptcy and indebtedness or farming-related issues, the NCRB said.

K. Srinivas, head of drought management in the Indian agriculture ministry said teams had assessed needs in the drought-hit areas and greater assistance would be offered to rural workers.

"Funds are being released and 50 additional days of work under the rural employment guarantee scheme has been approved by the Indian government to provide more livelihood," he said.

But with payments for the livelihood program being delayed and a cash crunch in the rural economy, many are desperately looking for jobs, campaigners say.

Many from the marginalized Dalit and tribal communities who worked as agricultural laborers are suddenly without work, leaving them to turn to village moneylenders.

"In Nagapattinam district, there are over 300,000 agricultural laborers who have lost an entire year's livelihood," Prema Revathi of non-profit Vanavil Trust told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Across the region, young men and their wives have left their homes in search of employment on construction sites and as day laborers in towns and cities.

"They are traveling very far from home, away from familiar places of work. It puts them at great risk of exploitation," she said.

Reuters
            [post_title] => South India's Scorching Drought Forces Farmers Into Debt Bondage
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            [post_content] => Kigali/Nairobi. Jean Bosco Nzeyimana's company, Habona, employs 25 young people who collect garbage, separate out plastics and metals, and use organic waste to produce fuel briquettes for cooking.

With the remains from the briquette process, they make organic fertilizer, which is then sold to farmers.

"This is a very smart agricultural technology, because this is the place where farmers can get compost that helps them restore the soil quality lost through applying chemical fertilizers," Nzeyimana said, adding that Habona is producing 50 tons of fuel a month.

Managing the waste also reduces the greenhouse gases that would be emitted into the atmosphere if the garbage were destroyed by burning it on an open fire, as often happens around markets.

The Rwandan entrepreneur is just one example of young Africans seeking to transform agriculture by using new technologies, while contributing to food security and employment.

Their innovations were showcased at the MasterCard Foundation’s Young Africa Works Summit 2017, held in Kigali in February, aimed at putting young people at the center of a "green revolution" for Africa that can help equip agriculture to thrive amid climate change.

"The increasing severity of climate change is already amplifying existing stress on water availability and food security in many African countries," said Anne Miles, the foundation’s director for youth livelihoods and financial inclusion.

"A growing youth population means this group will be particularly vulnerable," she added.

At the same time, young people are uniquely poised to understand the problem, and to use new methods to make farming sustainable, efficient and profitable even as the planet warms, the foundation believes.

Help for Women Farmers

Pilirani Khoza founded the Bunda Female Students Organization in 2014 to help pay fees for disadvantaged women students on science courses at Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources in Malawi.

In return, the sponsored students act as agricultural extension workers, training poor women farmers to survive harsh climatic conditions.

The students are sent to rural counties, where they each train around 30 women farmers for a month.

They provide the farmers with the inputs and knowledge they need to implement relatively simple methods, such as using small plastic bottles filled with water and pierced at both ends which are tied onto the crop, irrigating it for six months.

So far the project has reached 360 rural farmers, who are making progress in planting trees, growing vegetables and crops that are tolerant of drought and floods, and conserving water in the soil, Khoza said.

In Kenya, meanwhile, 23-year-old Brian Bosire is the brain behind UjuziKilimo, which means "knowledge farming" in Swahili.

Having seen farmers in his village suffer from poor yields due to droughts, floods and erratic rains, Bosire developed a handheld electronic sensor that gathers data on soil quality and helps farmers decide what to grow.

"My first dream was to have some device that any farmer  like my mother or a village woman  could just stick into the ground, and within a few minutes get the precise information about what kind of inputs they need, what kinds of crops will do well, and where can they get those inputs," he said.

The service is operated by extension agents who test the soil and send information and advice to farmers on their mobile phones, which they also use to pay for their subscription.

In 2015, Bosire's company won an award from the American Society of Mechanical Engineers, recognizing its work in developing technology to improve the livelihoods and yields of small-scale farmers.

"One of the 250 farmers who were getting 10 bags of maize from one acre is now earning $300 per month from vegetable farming," Bosire said. "We are proud that at least the farmer is getting the right knowledge to drive him to profitability."

In the next two years, the company aims to reach 200,000 Kenyan farmers, he added.

Ending Hunger

Bosire said climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing Africa, because its agriculture is mainly rain-fed.

One of the best ways to make farmers more resilient is to create solutions that are tailored to smallholders, he said.

Nzeyimana said climate change is "for real."

"Young people, because of the skills they have, must take a lead in trying to make sure that we mitigate the climate change risks before they hit us the hard way," he said.

Currently, the fuel briquettes his company produces are sold only in southern Rwanda, but it is planning to build a bigger plant to be able to supply the whole country.

Khoza said young Africans are the drivers of agricultural transformation. "We give hope to other youth that without them, we cannot [meet] the sustainable development goals of ending hunger and poverty," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

New Jobs

Richard Munang, regional climate change coordinator with the UN Environment Programme, said agriculture is the key to tackling poverty in Africa.

He cited World Bank figures showing that a 10 percent increase in agricultural productivity on the continent translates into a 7 percent reduction in poverty.

Agriculture has the potential to reduce African poverty two to four times faster than any other sector, he noted. That is because it employs nearly two thirds of the population on average, with women producing up to 80 percent of the food.

Through the agricultural value and supply chains, the sector interacts with technology, logistics and energy – where it can create new income opportunities, Munang said via email.

The best way to achieve this is to consider the full supply chain, not just on-farm production, he said. For example, information and communications technologies can be used to link producers with markets, and clean energy deployed to power food processing, adding value and employment on both sides.

"This is the sector youth need to engage in to create jobs for themselves and future generations," Munang said.

Reuters
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            [post_content] => Chukut Kuk, Arizona. The impacts of climate change stretch from the loss of polar bear habitat to African crop failures to threatening a seasonal festival among Native Americans that they believe is critical to keep the world in balance.

The traditional calendar of the Tohono O'odham nation, whose reservation straddles the US-Mexican border, starts with the summer solstice. The ensuing months follow the pace of nature.

"Right now, the seasons are offset because of global warming," Verlon Jose, vice chairman of the nation of 34,000 people, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation during a recent visit to the reservation.

"The weather is crazy. So is the calendar," he said.

Now is the calendar's month of yellow in the desert, when the Palo Verde trees and brittlebush flowers bloom. It is time to harvest the edible cholla cactus buds and, soon, the pulpy red fruit of the tall Saguaro cactus.

At the height of summer comes one of the Tohono O'odham's most sacred and secret ceremonies, its timing now at the mercy of the unpredictable climate, Jose said.

The ceremony, once a full two weeks, is already endangered as fewer people can find time to attend, he said.

"An elder told me if this ceremony ceases to exist, the world will be no more. In order for the world to be in balance, we do this for the world," he said.

The Tohono O'odham people of the Sonoran Desert still live on their ancestral lands, although their territory once stretched hundreds of kilometers further than it does today. They take cues from nature to decide when to hunt, sow crops and harvest food.

"We watch the plants. We watch the elements, the rain, the wind. All of those things are messages to us," Jose said.

Now, "in the winter the snakes are confused because November and December when they are usually hibernating, they are still out," he said.

"The plants, the flowers, they don't know when to bloom because the weather is changing," he said.

Reuters
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