8 years ago Norway gave Brazil $1 billion. Here's how they used it to save the rainforest.

Rainforests are f***ing amazing.

They look cool, they sound cool, they even smell amazing. Like a combination of roses and fresh-cut grass. No, seriously, I spent the night in a rainforest once, and I swear the air smelled like sugar and hugs.


Plus mornings look like this. Photo by me.

Rainforests also do incredible things for the climate.

They're natural carbon filters. All that nature packed into one area basically makes them giant CO2 vacuums that pump out fresh oxygen.

When it comes to clean, breathable air, rainforests have our backs.

Unfortunately, deforestation all over the world threatens to make rainforests a thing of the past.

According to National Geographic, at the current rate of deforestation, rainforests will disappear completely within a hundred years. Which would be terrible for a lot of reasons.

Deforestation in northern Brazil. Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/Getty Images.

It would hurt the environment, it could wipe out the homes of millions of animals, and it would definitely make the world a less awesome place.

The biggest rainforest in the world is the Amazon, and it's been shrinking scarily fast.

From 1970 to 2015, the Amazon lost 768,935 square kilometers (296,887 square miles) of forest — about the size of Turkey. The worst year for Amazon deforestation was 2004, when 27,000 square kilometers of forest was lost.


Time-lapse of deforestation in the state of Rondônia in Brazil from 2000 to 2010. GIF via NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center.

Overall, deforestation has slowed, but a lot of work needs to be done to slow it further. Luckily, Brazil, which hosts about 60% of the Amazon rainforest, got some help.

Back in 2008, Norway pledged $1 billion to Brazil's Amazon protection fund to help it fight deforestation.

"We support Brazil's government and its efforts to preserve the forest and stop deforestation," said then-Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

The funds were to extend through 2015 on the condition that Brazil provide definitive proof that deforestation was being reduced. It was a worthy challenge and an incredible call to action from a country on the other side of the world.


The Amazon River in Brazil. Photo by Christophe Simon/Getty Images.

The best part is...

Brazil crushed it.

In the seven years since the pledge, Brazil managed to reduce deforestation by a stunning 75%, which translates to about 33,000 square miles of forest saved and 3.2 billion tons of carbon dioxide kept out of the atmosphere. According to National Geographic, that's three times bigger than the effect of taking all the cars in the U.S. off the road for a year.

So yeah. Ca-rushed it.

Norway applauded Brazil's absolute home run and paid up the final $100 million in September, with Norwegian Climate and Environment Minister Tine Sundtoft saying "Brazil has established what has become a model for other national climate change funds."

Photo by Ian Waldie/Getty Images.

Brazil plans to continue its work and has even pledged to eliminate deforestation completely by 2030.

It's going to take the whole world coming together to fight climate change effectively.

Brazil stepped up to the plate and knocked it out of the park with the help of a country that is over 6,000 miles away and doesn't have an inch of the Amazon on its soil. But Norway knows we're all on this planet together.

Photo by Jerome Vallette/Getty Images.

"This is an outstanding example of the kind of international collaboration we need to ensure the future sustainability of our planet," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said of the Brazilian deal.

It's the type of international cooperation I know I'd like to see more of. Norway saw an opportunity to help — not themselves, but the whole world. And they helped Brazil do something amazing.

Heroes

Comedy legend Carol Burnett once said, "Giving birth is like taking your lower lip and forcing it over your head." She wasn't joking.

Going through childbirth is widely acknowledged as one of the most grueling things a human can endure. Having birthed three babies myself, I can attest that Burnett's description is fairly accurate—if that seemingly impossible lip-stretching feat lasted for hours and involved a much more sensitive part of your body.

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via SNL / YouTube

Christopher Walken is one of the greatest actors of his generation. He's been nominated for an Academy Award twice for best supporting actor, winning once for 1978's "The Deer Hunter" and receiving a nomination for 2002's "Catch Me if You Can."

He's played memorable roles in "Annie Hall," "Pulp Fiction," "Wedding Crashers," "Batman Returns," and countless other films. He's also starred in Shakespeare on the stage and began his career as a dancer.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

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