Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Bolivia passes “Law of Mother Earth” which gives rights to our planet as a living system


The Law of Mother Earth (“Ley de Derechos de La Madre Tierra”) holds the land as sacred and holds it as a living system with rights to be protected from exploitation, and creates 11 distinguished rights for the environment. It was passed by Bolivia’s Plurinational Legislative Assembly. This 10 article law is derived from the first part of a longer draft bill, drafted and released by the Pact of Unity by November 2010. Can we please spread this law? There has to be a way for the free market to interoperate with reverence for this planet. Period.

In accordance with the philosophy of Pachamama, it states, “She is sacred, fertile and the source of life that feeds and cares for all living beings in her womb. She is in permanent balance, harmony and communication with the cosmos. She is comprised of all ecosystems and living beings, and their self-organisation.”

“It makes world history. Earth is the mother of all,” said Vice-President Alvaro GarcĂ­a Linera. “It establishes a new relationship between man and nature, the harmony of which must be preserved as a guarantee of its regeneration.”

The law enumerates seven specific rights to which Mother Earth and her constituent life systems, including human communities, are entitled to:
  • To life: It is the right to the maintenance of the integrity of life systems and natural processes which sustain them, as well as the capacities and conditions for their renewal
  • To the Diversity of Life: It is the right to the preservation of the differentiation and variety of the beings that comprise Mother Earth, without being genetically altered, nor artificially modified in their structure, in such a manner that threatens their existence, functioning and future potential
  • To water: It is the right of the preservation of the quality and composition of water to sustain life systems and their protection with regards to contamination, for renewal of the life of Mother Earth and all its components
  • To clean air: It is the right of the preservation of the quality and composition of air to sustain life systems and their protection with regards to contamination, for renewal of the life of Mother Earth and all its components
  • To equilibrium: It is the right to maintenance or restoration of the inter-relation, interdependence, ability to complement and functionality of the components of Mother Earth, in a balanced manner for the continuation of its cycles and the renewal of its vital processes
  • To restoration: It is the right to the effective and opportune restoration of life systems affected by direct or indirect human activities
  • To live free of contamination: It is the right for preservation of Mother Earth and any of its components with regards to toxic and radioactive waste generated by human activities

Friday, May 15, 2015

Incentives to conserve agricultural biodiversity – Peru at the forefront

By Biodiversity International

Peru is developing an incentive scheme for the conservation of its rich crop diversity, with scientific support from Bioversity International.

With 184 native domesticated plant species and hundreds of varieties, Peru is one of the most important centres of crop diversity and domestication in the world. This diversity has a value that goes beyond Peruvian borders. Agricultural biodiversity is the basis of human survival and well-being – safeguarding it is crucial to providing future food growing options for us all.

While the benefits of agricultural biodiversity are increasingly recognized, its full value is often not fully accounted for by individuals and society. This is because many components of agricultural biodiversity provide a mixture of private benefits to the farmer – for example the production of food, fodder and fibres – and public benefits to wider society – such as the provision of ecosystem services and options to adapt to climate change and face new pest and disease outbreaks. Markets capture only a part of this total economic value and thus underestimate the true value of these genetic resources.

Mechanisms to help farmers capture the private value of these resources include the development of value chains and niche market products for some species and varieties. However, this strategy is inadequate to conserve the full range of genetic resource diversity that exists, for example, in Peru. Many varieties may not currently have market potential, yet can still contain valuable and often unexplored genetic potential to help future-proof our food systems.

With no market incentive to conserve agricultural biodiversity on farm, much genetic resources conservation often occurs as a result of farmer socio-cultural preferences. Yet we increasingly risk losing these precious resources, as poor smallholder farmers cannot be expected to alone incur the costs of their maintenance for the public good. A solution to this dilemma may be found in the provision of incentives to farmers who conserve agricultural biodiversity on their farms – a form of payment for ecosystem services applied to crop diversity (known as RACS, Rewards for Agrobiodiversity Conservation Services). The importance of the design and implementation of such positive incentives for the conservation of biodiversity has been explicitly recognized by the Convention on Biological Diversity (Aichi Target 3) as well as in Peruvian national legislation.

Bioversity International has been working in Peru and other countries since 2009 to test the potential of such incentives to conserve priority threatened species/varieties, while also supporting indigenous farmer livelihoods and existing community institutions of collective action.

In 2014, the Peruvian Ministry of Environment, in collaboration with the Ministry of Economics and Finance's Euro Eco-Trade Programme, called on Bioversity International's expertise to outline the steps required for the adoption of a PACS scheme at the national level.

“Building on our previous work on RACS, we have identified a number of key steps necessary to establish such a programme, and designed an implementation plan”, said Adam Drucker, Senior Ecological Economist at Bioversity International, who led the work in Peru. “These steps include: deciding what to conserve; how much to conserve and in what configurations; identifying farmer communities willing to participate in conservation activities in a cost-effective and socially-equitable manner; ensuring that the rewards used are appropriate and conditional on the conservation service actually being delivered; as well as the identification of sustainable funding sources for the long-term implementation of an incentive scheme, including though engagement with the private sector”.

“Bioversity International scientific support has been key in designing the specific incentive schemes we are planning to use to conserve our rich crop diversity”, commented Tulio Medina, Genetic Resources Specialist, Ministry of Environment. “During the 2015-2016 agricultural season we plan to implement a RACS project for two key crops in our country, quinoa and amaranth, before undertaking a much larger-scale programme, potentially covering other crops too, in 2016-2017.”

This week, Bioversity International is carrying out an expert workshop with the National Agricultural Research Institute (INIA) and other national partners to define the scientific parameters – such as the conservation goals and the underlying threat and diversity measures needed to prioritize in a cost-effective manner the species and varieties to be targeted by the interventions. This information will be used to inform the incentive mechanism programme.

“Peru is very well placed to successfully implement an incentive scheme to support the conservation of agricultural biodiversity. Even though other countries have adopted incentive mechanisms (not always successfully), Peru can learn from these experiences and has the opportunity to apply them within the context of an innovative strategic approach, and under very favorable conditions given that high levels of genetic diversity and traditional knowledge still exist”, concluded Drucker.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Earth-bag building still standing after Nepal quake

They say earthquakes don't kill people, but buildings do – no more so than in Nepal where entire villages have been flattened.

But in the rural village of Sangachok, there is one building that is still standing, all thanks to the handiwork of a team half a world away.

In Sangachok, there is destruction as far as the eye can see, but among the rubble and crumbled buildings there is some good news, and what could be a lesson for Nepal in earthquake resilience.

Nelson-based First Steps Himalaya raised money to build the training centre for teachers to improve education in rural Nepal. The building remains standing even after the earthquake.

Volunteers from New Zealand and Nepal used rice bags filled with soil, which are laid out like bricks, covered with chicken wire and then plastered over.

The Auckland company that helped construct it hopes it can deliver much more than that.

"We could try and get these earth-bag buildings moving forward to the villages, and get them to start to use that simple product," says Cameron Court of Court Construction.

"The real kicker is that it can wobble a little bit, and so you've got a bit of earthquake resistance as opposed to sheer mud walls, mud brick walls, or most of the buildings are done out of the Kathmandu brick, which is terribly bad for the environment."

The building was only finished six days before the earthquake, and is a welcome sight in the village of 3000 where accommodation is now scarce.

"We know they are using it as a shelter because 90 percent of the area around there is flattened," Mr Court says.

For First Steps Himalaya charity founder Durga Aran it is a glimmer of hope for a nation in crisis that, with enough fundraising, the Nepalese might now be able to construct safe buildings, one earth-bag at a time.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Pope Summons Scientists to Shape Climate Change Debate

By , Bloomberg Business

Pope Francis summoned scientists, government officials and religious leaders to a villa in the manicured Vatican Gardens on Tuesday as he stepped into the heated climate-change debate.

“Climate change is a defining issue of our time,” United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon told attendees at the Vatican conference. “It is a moral issue, it is an issue of social justice, human rights and fundamental ethics.”

The conference, which is being held under the auspices of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, precedes a papal encyclical scheduled for publication in June. The encyclical, a letter to the world’s bishops but with broader resonance because of the pope’s moral and political authority, will aim to influence a UN summit in Paris at the end of the year, at which nations may pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The pontiff’s action on climate change “is the most aggressive of any pope,” John Thavis, author of “The Vatican Diaries”, said in a telephone interview. “Francis won’t just repeat platitudes in the encyclical about our being stewards of creation, he wants to engage scientific and political leaders, and influence public policy.”

“Corporations and financial investors must learn to put long-term sustainability over short-term profit and to recognize that the financial bottom line is secondary to and at the service of the common good,” Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told the scientists, government representatives, religious leaders and business figures attending Tuesday’s conference.
Secret Encyclical

Although the encyclical is so far secret, the official program for the Vatican conference offers some clues as to what the leader of 1.2 billion Roman Catholics will write.

The notes say the meeting’s goal is to raise awareness “with a special focus on the most vulnerable” and “to elevate the debate on the moral dimensions of protecting the environment”. It also seeks to build “a global movement across all religions for sustainable development.”

The outcome, the notes add, will be a joint statement on “the moral and religious imperative” of sustainable development, underscoring “respect for people - especially the poor, the excluded, victims of human trafficking and modern slavery, children and future generations.”

These themes echo the 78-year-old pope’s call for “a poor church for the poor” just after his election in March 2013, and his choice of the papal name “Francis,” itself harking back to Saint Francis of Assisi. The saint lived in poverty and was declared the patron saint of ecology by Pope John Paul II in 1979 for his love of animals and the environment.

According to Vatican watchers, the pope is expected to insist that both rich and developing nations have an obligation to act and fund measures against climate change, despite several developing countries blaming richer nations for the problem.
Moral Issues

“For Francis climate change has a scientific side, but we all have to discuss the moral issues too. He sees climate change weighing the most on the poorest people, and he’ll likely say that developing countries have the political and economic power to act,” Thavis said.

Even before he publishes his encyclical the pope - who trained as a chemist before entering the priesthood - has drawn fire from critics who say he has no business meddling in a scientific issue like climate change.

“The Pope has no special knowledge, insight or teaching authority pertaining to matters of empirical fact of the sort investigated by, for example, physicists and biologists,” Robert George, a professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University, wrote in the Christian journal First Things in January.
High Hopes

For Jesuit Father Thomas Reese, senior analyst with the National Catholic Reporter newspaper, the pope has very high hopes for his encyclical. “The pope wants to make the environment one of the signature issues of his papacy,” Reese wrote last week.

Reese recalled the pope’s comments to journalists shortly after his election. The pope explained he had chosen the name Francis partly because St Francis was “the man who loves and protects creation.” The pope added: “These days we do not have a very good relationship with creation, do we?”

In January 2014, he told diplomats at the Vatican: “God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature -- creation -- is mistreated, she never forgives.”


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The planet’s e-waste problem is out of control — and getting worse | SALON

By Lindsay Abrams

The world generated 41.8 million metric tons of e-waste in 2014 alone

Humans generated an astounding 41.8 million metric tons (Mt) of electronic waste in 2014. And we recycled less than 14 percent of it.

A new report from the United Nations University puts new, shocking numbers on our growing production of “e-waste,” which is defined as all electrical and electronic equipment, from cell phones to appliances, that’s tossed away as trash. Figuring out what to do with these products, it stresses, is a massive problem for both developing and developed countries. And it’s projected to get worse.

Here’s the breakdown of our most recent year in e-dumping, according to UNU:

12.8 million metric tons of small equipment (such as vacuum cleaners, microwaves, toasters, electric shavers and video cameras);

  • 11.8 million metric tons of large equipment (including washing machines, clothes dryers, dishwashers, electric stoves, and photovoltaic panels);
  • 7.0 million metric tons of temperature-exchange (cooling and freezing equipment);
  • 6.3 million metric tons of screens;
  • 3.0 million metric tons of small ICT equipment; and
  • 1.0 million metric tons of lamps.

By 2018, the amount of e-waste is expected to surge 21 percent, to 50 million Mt, the report finds — a product of the many new electronic products being sold coupled with their shortening lifespans. We’re not building electronics to last, is the implication, and yet we’ve failed to come up with a sufficient strategy for dealing with outdated products once we’ve moved on to the next, newer model.

There are two ways of looking at these mountains of waste. One is as what UNU calls an “urban mine”: The 2014 e-waste stream, according to the report, represents $52 billion in “potentially reusable resources,” boasting 16,500 kilotons of iron, 1,900 kilotons of copper and 300 metric tons of gold — equivalent to 11 percent of the world’s total gold production in 2013.

But our e-waste can also be seen as what UNU calls a “toxic mine”: it contains metals and chemicals that can leach into the environment from landfills. The report estimates that we discarded 2.2 Mt of lead glass, 0.3 Mt of batteries, along with mercury, cadmium, chromium, which are potentially carcinogenic, and are associated with other health problems like impaired mental development and liver and kidney development. It documented some 4,400 tonnes chlorofluorocarbon (CFCs), which harm the ozone layer, as well.


Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Why Lack Of Toilets Is Killing Millions | Test tube

Over 1 billion people are forced to defecate in the open due to a severe lack of toilet facilities, and the consequences are deadly. Could this be the world's next major public health crisis?

Saturday, April 4, 2015

`Ghost nets’ causing immense damage to marine life | IndiLeak

Kochi: Even if this is being done unintentionally or out of sheer ignorance , the fact remains that the same is causing immense damage to marine fauna.

Predatory species like turtles are lured into the nets by the fish already caught and then become entangled themselves

Sample this: A report states that fishing nylon nets lost or abandoned, that are also called “Ghost Nets” which drift in the sea are actually harming sea life especially the highly endangered Olive Ridley Turtle of Odisha.

According to a report prepared by a citizen science-based ‘Olive Ridley Project’ to overcome the problem of ‘ghost nets’ in the Indian Ocean states that during the north-east monsoon thousands of Olive Ridley sea turtles migrating for nesting on Odisha coast are at risk owing to these ghost nets.

“Predatory species like turtles are lured into the nets by the fish already caught and then become entangled themselves. Often unable to break free from the mesh, they drown or slowly starve to death,” the report stated.

“The nets are made out of strong plastic-type material and persist in the water for a very long time, killing and killing again,” says the report published by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

It states that the ‘ghost nets’ are pushed mostly from India’s waters across the Indian Ocean by East-West or West-East currents – depending on the monsoon – and many end up on the islands of the Maldives archipelago which spreads along a North-South line.
“Ghost nets from the Maldives have been found to have the same measurements of nets used in India,” says the report.

Here it may be noted that in the Maldives, the nets are totally banned and fishing is done by pole and line –a traditional, eco-friendly fishing method.

These floating ghost nets trap other nets, plastic and organic debris, as well as a range of fish, turtles, sea birds and marine mammals.

“Between July 2013-July 2014, at least 107 nets were found (in the Indian Ocean) and 74 analysed (in the Maldives, India and Sri Lanka). It is likely that many more floated by unseen,” the report further said.

These nets will often travel by ocean currents to considerable distances and have devastating effect on marine life.

“This means that their detrimental effects can be prevalent far from their original point of entry into the water. They will entangle many threatened animals along the way,” the report added.