David Suzuki: Women’s rights offer best solution to world’s woes


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What’s the top solution for resolving the human-caused climate crisis?What’s the top solution for resolving the human-caused climate crisis? According to Paul Hawken, it’s educating girls and improving family planning.

Hawken is the author of Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming. “Drawdown” is “the point at which levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere stop climbing and then steadily decline, ultimately reversing global warming.”

For the book, now grown into a project and website, Hawken and a team of researchers used peer-reviewed evidence to find the top 100 solutions to climate disruption under seven categories: energy, food, women and girls, buildings and cities, land use, transport, and materials. Solutions range from solar and wind power to farmland restoration and marine permaculture.

The study looked at three scenarios. “Plausible” solutions “are adopted at a realistically vigorous rate over the time period under investigation, adjusting for estimated economic and population growth.” “Drawdown” considers adoption of solutions optimized to achieve drawdown by 2050. “Optimum” is when “solutions achieve their maximum potential, fully replacing conventional technologies and practices within a limited, competitive market”.

Although the top single solution is, surprisingly, refrigerant management, the best result comes from combining two related solutions, educating girls and family planning, which fall at six and seven, respectively, on the list. Drawdown finds these measures could reduce atmospheric greenhouse gases by 120 gigatonnes and human population by one billion by 2050.

According to Project Drawdown: “Access to education and voluntary family planning are basic human rights and should be secured simply because they are, yet significant gaps remain around the world today.” Advancing these rights affects fertility rates and population growth, which drive “demand for food, transportation, electricity, buildings, goods, etc., all with attendant emissions”. In addition to education and family planning, Project Drawdown includes addressing inequity in agriculture, mainly through equal access for women smallholders to “a range of resources, from land rights and credit to education and technology”.

Educating girls would result in “improved livelihoods, delayed onset of marriage, delayed childbearing, and fewer children than peers with less education”. Family planning, “including access to contraception and reproductive health resources”, would reduce fertility rates and slow population growth. Providing “resources, financing, and training to women smallholder farmers around the world” would improve agricultural yields and reduce deforestation.

Drawdown team member Katharine Wilkinson notes that climate change disproportionately affects vulnerable people, including women. “There’s greater risk of displacement, higher odds of being injured or killed during a natural disaster,” she said at a TEDWomen talk in California last year. “Prolonged drought can precipitate early marriage, as families contend with scarcity. Floods can force last-resort prostitution as women struggle to make ends meet. These dynamics are most acute under conditions of poverty.”

Education, family planning, and women’s rights are extremely important for many reasons—avoiding climate catastrophe is just one—but many forces worldwide, especially religious, have prevented women from being treated equally and with respect. In many parts of the U.S., a growing backlash against all forms of birth control, including abortion, is threatening hard-fought rights women have gained over many years.

Over the past 50 years, as exponential population growth has increasingly strained Earth’s resources, the globally influential Catholic Church has remained steadfast in its opposition to all but “natural” birth control. That’s despite Pope Francis’s powerful 2015 encyclical regarding the need for change in the face of ecological crises such as human-caused global heating.

We’ve seen progress, but some is more in word than deed. The UN notes 143 countries had recognized constitutional equality between women and men by 2014, but 52 countries had not and, “Stark gender disparities remain in economic and political realms.” MORE

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Liberal Government Accepts Pro-Oil Amendments to Bill C-69

Liberal Government Accepts Pro-Oil Amendments to Bill C-69

REGULATORS CAN NOW CHAIR REVIEW PANELS!

K’jipuktuk/Halifax: The federal government has rejected a number of amendments from the Senate, but not all. Life cycle regulator appointees can now chair review panels. The four life cycle regulators mentioned in the Bill C-69 are the Newfoundland and Nova Scotia Petroleum Boards, the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission and the new Canadian Energy Regulator.

“These regulators are biased, “ says Gretchen Fitzgerald, National Program Director with Sierra Club Foundation of Canada. “In Atlantic Canada, petroleum boards are widely viewed as too close to the oil industry and we have been adamantly opposed to their appointees sitting on panels, let alone chairing.”

This story began when the federal government as a result of pressure from Newfoundland MPs allowed panel members appointed by the petroleum boards–2 appointees on a 5 person panel—to chair review panels. This change provoked widespread opposition from fishing and tourism organizations, Indigenous leaders, and environmental groups in Atlantic Canada.

In response, Senator Jane Cordy introduced an amendment to prevent petroleum board appointees from chairing panels. This amendment was defeated. Instead, the amendment allowing appointees from all four life cycle regulators to chair, was approved by Senators. The federal government has chosen to accept this amendment thereby weakening the integrity and independence of the environmental assessment process in Canada.

“Although we were encouraged by government’s decision to reject many of the Senate amendments, the appointment of petroleum board members to review panels threatens the integrity of the process by undermining its independence.  Allowing those members to chair these panels enables a level of influence that is unacceptable,” says Lisa Mitchell, Executive Director of East Coast Environmental Law.

Unlike BC and the Arctic, most of Atlantic Canadian waters are open to oil and gas drilling. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador has set a goal of doubling its offshore oil production and drilling a hundred new exploratory wells by 2030.

“The federal government pledged to restore credibility to the environmental assessment process. In Atlantic Canada they have done the opposite when it comes to offshore drilling”, says Mark Butler, Policy Director, Ecology Action Centre. MORE

5G Resistance: Concern grows over European rollout

Resistance to 5G is rapidly increasing, especially in Europe where many are unwilling to roll over for a 5G rollout. Fifth generation wireless threatens to massively increase electromagnetic radiation, affecting people and the planet.


@ University of Liverpool

Resistance to 5G is rapidly increasing, especially in Europe where many are unwilling to roll over for a 5G rollout. Fifth generation wireless threatens to massively increase electromagnetic radiation, affecting people and the planet.

On March 31, Brussels (Belgium) became the first major city to stop a 5G pilot project because of health concerns. Refusing to increase allowable radiation limits, Celine Fremault, Environment Minister for the Brussels-Capital Region, told the press: “I cannot welcome such technology if the radiation standards, which must protect the citizen[s], are not respected, 5G or not. The people of Brussels are not guinea pigs whose health I can sell at a profit.”

A scientific NGO called the Planetary Association for Clean Energy (PACE) – which has “special consultative status” at the United Nations Economic and Social Council – submitted a statement to the UN in February, revealing that allowable international “radiation limits will have to be increased by 30 to 40%” in order to make 5G deployment technologically feasible.

This move by Brussels was one of a number of steps taken in Europe to stop 5G during a recent three-week period.

Other actions include:

• Florence, Italy applies the precautionary principle, refusing permissions for 5G
• A district in Rome votes against 5G trials
• The Russian Ministry of Defence refuses to transfer spectrum frequencies for 5G use
• The Belgian Environment Minister announces that Brussels is halting its 5G rollout plans.
• Germans sign a petition en masse to force the Bundestag to debate 5G.
• Dutch Members of Parliament insist that radiation research must be carried out before approval of 5G
• Four Swiss cantons adopt resolutions calling for a pause on 5G, pending an environmental report

These events may have been influenced by major petitions that have received attention in Europe since 2015.

But in an extraordinary move, telecom giant Swisscom defied local Swiss ordinances and on April 17 began activating 5G antennas in 102 locations. PACE’s Main UN Representative in Geneva, Olivier Vuillemin, told me by email that Swisscom’s action has caused “a huge backlash against 5G” across the country.

Guinea pigs?

In February 2019, US Senator Richard Blumenthal grilled wireless industry representatives during a Senate hearing. Industry spokesmen admitted that the industry “has done no health and safety studies on 5G.” Senator Blumenthal memorably concluded: “We’re kind of flying blind here, as far as health and safety is concerned.”

In January the FCC removed the public notice requirement – 5G would be installed “without public notice, hearings or appeals”

PACE considers this “an experiment on humanity that constitutes cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment” in violation of more than 15 international treaties and agreements.

In the US, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has taken extraordinary steps to ram through 5G over the past year. First, its unelected officials amended FCC rules in March 2018 so that deployment decisions regarding 5G infrastructure would no longer require public participation and environmental review. MORE

Green New Deal tour seeks hope and reconciliation in Canada


David Suzuki and Naomi Klein discussed a Green New Deal for Canada at the Bloor Street United Church in Toronto on June 11, 2019. Photo by Chris Katsarov

The Canadian version [of the Green New Deal] is adding more emphasis on the inclusion of Indigenous practices.

The Green New Deal “must be based on Indigenous knowledge and science and cut Canada’s emissions in half in 11 years,” according to the Council of Canadians, one of many partnering groups.

Pam Palmater, Maria Menezes, and supporters of the Our Time organization listen during the Green New Deal town hall at Bloor Street United Church in Toronto on June 11, 2019. Pam Palmater, Maria Menezes, and supporters of the Our Time organization listen during the Green New Deal town hall at Bloor Street United Church in Toronto on June 11, 2019. Photo by Chris Katsarov

The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a report last October saying global warming requires “rapid and far-reaching” infrastructure transitions. The UN report, completed by leading climate scientists, warns that without serious action to lower CO2 emissions within 11 years, there will be more catastrophes to come, including floods, droughts, extreme heat and poverty.

The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) has not been implemented in Canada, which defines Indigenous rights and grants free prior informed consent to the policies that affect them, such as climate change and natural resource development.

On June 11, the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples passed Bill C-262 to implement UNDRIP in Canada. It is not yet federal law. Conservative senators objected over fears about its potential impact on resource development and have been accused of stalling. If the bill is not made federal law by the end of the month, new legislation will have to be tabled.

The Green New Deal attempts to align the principles of UNDRIP and traditional Indigenous knowledge with scientific inquiry.

Wanda Whitebird, an elder of the Mi’kmaq Nation from Afton, N.S., welcomed the crowd of a few hundred to the inaugural town hall in Toronto.

Large banners calling for 100 per cent renewable energy and the recognition of Indigenous rights were draped from the second floor of the church. From the front pews to the back, attendees chanted for “climate justice.” MORE

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How this Ontario cemetery is going green

In the green-burial section of Glenwood Cemetery, in Picton, there’s no steel, no concrete, and no formaldehyde — just bodies, sometimes blankets, and earth

A person crouching down in a green space
Helma Oonk, general manager of Glenwood Cemetery, examines a young wildflower in the new green-burial section. (David Rockne Corrigan)

PICTON — Most of Glenwood Cemetery’s 25 hectares are manicured and marked with gravestones, but not those in its southern end. They’ve been left in their natural state: sunlight pokes through towering maples; deer graze on flowers on the forest floor. But sticking out through the underbrush are 35 orange flags, each one marking a future burial lot — and signalling that, at Glenwood, interment is going green.

On this day in early June, Helma Oonk, the cemetery’s general manager, and Sandra Latchford, its board chair, are surveying the section and explaining why it represents the next chapter in the cemetery’s 136-year history.

“Number one and two are gone,” says Oonk. “And, last week, I sold grave number seven. And number 17, in the corner, is on hold for someone from Kingston.”

In May, Glenwood became the second Ontario cemetery to receive certification from the Green Burial Society of Canada, a national non-profit organization that sets standards for green burials, and announced that it would be adding more environmentally friendly burial options.

“People realize, ‘Oh, I don’t need a vault’ or ‘Oh, I don’t need embalming,’ and it’s actually not allowed [in this section]. No concrete, no steel casket. If you just want to be rolled in your blanket, that’s fine, too,” says Oonk. MORE

6 Glimmers of Climate Optimism for the End of a Dark Year

It was a year of frightening reports on the future of our planet. But sustainability experts are still feeling optimistic about some of the strides we’ve made this year.


Photo: Victor Rodriguez/Unsplash

In 2018, we learned from the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that we have around 30 years to fully decarbonize or risk widespread global devastation from warming and sea-level rise. We also learned that current emissions patterns are nowhere near in line with that goal. Even though the Trump administration tried to bury the U.S.’s own findings on climate, the 1,656-page National Climate Assessment backed up the IPCC report, and called for a doubling down on climate protection policies to prevent damage (which is already underway) to the environment and the country’s infrastructure.

The consensus among scientists, researchers, and sustainability experts following this years’ reports is that while stopping climate change will require an undoubtedly Herculean effort, the biggest hurdle is political, not technical. In other words, if all the innovations in sustainable technology and science were harnessed and directed at reducing emissions and environmental collapse, we might stand a chance at meeting the goals laid out in the reports.

Don’t get us wrong: It will take a heroic, global effort if we’re even going to come close to limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius–the point after which, according to the reports, large swaths of the planet will become uninhabitable, and issues like mass starvation will become widespread. And the lack of leadership from the United States, under climate change denier Donald Trump, is making cohesive political action difficult.

But underneath all this, activists, scientists, and business leaders are working to advance progressive climate action, and despite everything, have hung onto a sense of optimism as we move into 2019. Here are some reasons why:

1. We Have the Potential to Radically Shift the Way We Eat

Image result for burger

On the heels of the IPCC report, the World Resources Institute released research tracking global meat consumption, and found that food production, especially animal agriculture, accounts for around a quarter of all emissions. It’s the single-largest driver of climate change. This makes a pretty compelling case for wide-scale adoption of vegetarianism and veganism, but far more importantly, should clue in food distributors, like restaurants and grocery stores, that they need to change their offerings. That’s already happening. This year, the plant-based Impossible Burger started appearing everywhere from airline menus to fast-food restaurants, and is preparing to launch in grocery storesJust, another startup, is growing real meat in bioreactors, which dramatically reduces emissions and the environmental footprint of meat production. It’s possible, now, to imagine a future where factory-farm-produced meat is replaced by plant-based versions, or meat grown in labs.

2. We Can Grow More Food Without Damaging the Environment

“Over the last century, we’ve relied heavily on fertilizer to meet the food demands of a growing population,” says Karsten Temme, CEO of the startup Pivot Bio. Fertilizer is most commonly made from synthetic nitrogen, which is easy to produce and distribute, but releases a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Synthetic nitrogen alone is responsible for around 5% of global warming. Next year, Temme’s startup will begin delivering a new, natural alternative to synthetic nitrogen fertilizer to farmers. Pivot Bio’s product consists of natural, nitrogen-producing microbes that adhere to plants’ roots, supporting plant growth while eradicating the need for environment-damaging synthetic versions. Especially as populations grow and land constricts due to climate change, well-fertilized crops will be necessary to meet food demands. MORE