Work is being done in Dinan Bay to prevent contaminants from reaching rivers where sockeye salmon run
A Haida-owned forestry company spilled an estimated 4,500 litres of diesel in Dinan Bay, in the Masset Inlet, off the coast of Haida Gwaii, B.C. Photo: Keith Levit / Shutterstock
Crews are responding to a spill of an estimated 4,500 litres of diesel off the coast of Haida Gwaii, B.C.
The spill was reported to the province at 8:11 a.m. on Wednesday, according to the Ministry of Environment and Climate Change Strategy.
A valve feeding diesel to an electrical generator on a barge failed overnight on April 22, between 1 a.m. and 5 a.m., causing fuel to leak onto the deck and into the water near the mouth of Dinan Bay (Diinan Kahlii), according to Taan Forest, the local forest products company responsible for the spill.
Taan Forest, which is owned by the Haida nation, is taking the lead in managing the spill by doing preventive work to protect the mouths of nearby rivers, especially those where sockeye salmon are expected to return, Jason Alsop (Gaagwiis), elected president of the Haida, told The Narwhal.
“There’s a lot of concern with any contaminants that go into the ocean or any risks to our river system, to our salmon and food,” he said.
“But we’re a lot more prepared than we have been in years past working on building up our local [spill response] capacity.”
As soon as the spill was discovered, Taan Forest said booms and sorbent pads were deployed onto the water. Additional booms, pads and protective equipment have also been sent to the spill site by the Coast Guard on a floatplane. Spill response contractors are also on site cleaning up, an Environment Ministry spokesperson told The Narwhal via email.
In a statement, Taan Forest said “diesel is non-persistent, meaning it dissipates rapidly” and the company estimated as much as 75 per cent of the spill evaporated after roughly 12 hours.
The company is part of a virtual command unit established to respond to the spill. Members of the unit, which also includes the Council of the Haida Nation, the Canadian Coast Guard and the B.C. Environment Ministry, are meeting via teleconference due to the coronavirus, the company stated in the release. Federal authorities from Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada are also involved.
Biologists will be on site collecting ongoing samples of water, soil and marine life to assess impacts and target clean-up efforts, which will likely last weeks.
The National Aerial Surveillance Program is conducting daily flights over the spill location to continue monitoring and according to Taan Forest, “current modelling shows that the full plume is expected to last until approximately Sunday.”
The Dinan Bay diesel spill is small compared with the 2016 diesel spill off the coast of Bella Bella, B.C., in the territory of the Heiltsuk First Nation, which saw more than 220,000 litres of diesel fuel released into the water. The Bella Bella spill launched calls for greater spill response capabilities in remote communities along the B.C. coast.
Karen Wristen, executive director of Living Oceans Society, said diesel spills are common along the B.C. coast and although this one is minor in comparison to catastrophic incidents on waters in the past, it doesn’t mean its impacts won’t be felt.
“Because [diesel] floats on the surface almost entirely, any creature that uses the surface of the water could be impacted, so the concern would be for feathered friends and for insects that are hatching off,” she said. “It may interfere with herring spawn if they had been so fortunate to have any.”
One main concern she noted is tracking where the diesel is carried off, which is hard to pinpoint without accurate ocean currents and wind data. It’s also possible for diesel to travel rivers with the tide and make contact with the gravel bottom, which can prevent evaporation.
Wristen also said the public must be warned of all potential contamination of food resources in the area.
SkeenaWild Conservation Trust executive director Greg Knox’s primary worry is the salmon. Dinan Bay is a part of the Masset Inlet, which contains the Yakoun River, known to be the biggest salmon producing system in Haida Gwaii.
“Those young salmon will be coming up the river right now and use that inlet to grow before they head out to the open ocean [to Alaska], so they will be exposed to that,” he said, adding it’s naive to think diesel will just evaporate like gasoline.
“The biggest concern is how toxic this is during their early-life stages. It can impact their sense of smell and potentially growth rates, which could make them more susceptible to predators.”
Misty MacDuffee, wild salmon program director at Raincoast Conservation Foundation, shared similar fears. She said young salmon are currently under a lot of stress from smoltification (moving from fresh water to salt water) and are vulnerable to exposure, which can lead to death, lowering their numbers and putting their species at risk.
“Even though diesel is less persistent than crude oils, that doesn’t mean it can’t do damage in the short term. The lighter components are acutely toxic,” she said in an email to The Narwhal.
“It’s very discouraging when these events happen in places where people are trying to protect or restore salmon populations.”SOURCE
CAPP asked the federal government to suspend pollution monitoring and methane leak detection — requests that ‘have little to do with the COVID crisis,’ according to critics
The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers issued a series of requests to relax regulations in Alberta’s oilsands. Photo: Chris Kolaczan / Shutterstock
As communities across the country braced for the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada’s oil and gas lobby was pushing the federal government to suspend pollution monitoring requirements and delay forthcoming measures to fight climate change in an effort to prop up the flagging industry.
In a 13-page letter to cabinet ministers late last month, the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) asked the government to “adopt a do no harm principle with respect to regulations and the costs they impose on industry.”
But some observers say the proposed measures could in fact cause serious harm to Indigenous communities, the environment and public health.
“I was gobsmacked,” said Dale Marshall, the national climate program manager with Environmental Defence, which posted a leaked copy of the letter online last week. It has since been posted on CAPP’s website.
While Marshall said some of the requests, such as a recommendation to defer greenhouse gas emissions reporting by a few months, are more reasonable given the challenges posed by the pandemic, he said others are “quite frankly, ludicrous.”
Among more than 30 recommendations, CAPP asked the federal government to suspend methane leak detection surveys for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, defer monitoring required under the Fisheries Act for 2020 and suspend stack testing until non-essential workers return to work sites.
The association also requested the federal government defer legislation on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP), hold off on changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, defer increases to the carbon tax until the recovery is underway, postpone additional climate measures, defer implementation of the clean fuel standard for three years, and exclude offshore exploration drilling and in-situ oil sands projects from federal environmental assessments.
A number of these requests “have little to do with the COVID crisis, aren’t imminent and are really offensive,” said Marshall.
Some could pose a health risk.
“When they ask for a suspension of monitoring pollution that’s coming from smokestacks or a suspension of leak detection for methane, those are public health issues,” he said.
In a statement, CAPP said oil and gas companies have postponed non-essential work to limit the number of people at work sites and ensure social distancing to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and protect their workers.
“With fewer people on-site, it has been a challenge to meet all of the existing regulatory requirements in order to be compliant,” the association said. “Implementing temporary changes for certain low-risk regulatory requirements allows companies to focus on critical areas of operations and continue to ensure effective protection of the environment and our neighbours.”
CAPP added that it’s asking the government to “suspend, delay or reconsider” regulations or policies that could increase costs to industry.
For the oil industry, which has struggled under depressed prices for the last few years, 2020 brought another major hit. Oil prices plunged to record lows, at one point dropping below $0, driven by a decline in demand due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a price war that led to a glut in supply.
“Increasing the costs of operating will inflict further damage to our economy as we struggle to weather this crisis,” CAPP’s statement said. “Support for the industry now can position us to be a part of the foundation of recovery and the long-term rebuild of Canada’s social and economic structure.”
Observers expressed major concerns, however, that the industry association’s approach to economic recovery runs contrary to Canada’s commitments on climate change and Indigenous rights.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, director of the Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre at the University of British Columbia, said the organization’s letter was “very disturbing.”
In particular, CAPP’s recommendation that the federal government delay legislation on UNDRIP is both “unwise” and “very aggressive,” she said.
CAPP said there needs to be a full understanding of how UNDRIP fits with Canada’s economic recovery “to ensure alignment with the do no harm principle” and asked the federal government to hold off on legislation until “meaningful consultation” is possible.
But Turpel-Lafond said “it’s not going to be possible to rebuild the economy if it means that you do not respect that Indigenous people on their territory have significant rights that need to be appropriately respected.”
“We need to make significant progress on supporting First Nations governments, addressing land issues, making some fundamental shifts in Canadian society to make it a more fair and just society, and to say that that’s a project that we can’t do because of a pandemic is really a concern.”
Dayna Scott, an environmental law professor at York University, noted the irony in CAPP urging the federal government “to adopt this do no harm principle.”
“Certainly, I think Indigenous people experience harm when projects are approved over their objections and without their consent,” she said.
The industry association is using the COVID-19 crisis as cover to push forward longstanding demands, Scott added.
“The most blatant example is they took a shot at getting the offshore exploration drilling and the in-situ oilsands (projects) taken out of the environmental assessment regime and they don’t even offer a COVID-related rational,” she said.
CAPP argues in-situ projects, which involve injecting steam through horizontal wells to pump oil to the surface, are already subject to provincial legislation and makes the case that offshore exploratory drilling is “routine” and the risks and mitigations are well known.
“I don’t think people want to see oil companies using the excuse of the pandemic to be able to have projects approved without public input,” Scott said.
“If anything, I think people have come to see this period of shut down as an opportunity for us to pause and think carefully about what kinds of activities we want to continue once it’s finished,” she said.
People don’t want to see a return to “a ramped-up version of an oil-based economy” coming out of the COVID-19 crisis, Scott added.
On the same day the federal government announced $1.7 billion to help clean up oil and gas wells and create thousands of jobs, Global News asked Prime Minister Justin Trudeau about CAPP’s letter.
In response, he said “just because we are in one crisis right now doesn’t mean we can forget about the other crisis, the climate crisis that we are also facing as a world, as a country.”
The federal government remains committed to exceeding its 2030 emissions targets and reaching net zero by 2050, added Moira Kelly, a spokesperson for Environment and Climate Change Minister Jonathan Wilkinson, in a statement to The Narwhal.
While Scott said Trudeau’s comments offer some comfort that the government won’t compromise on its high-profile commitments, such as the carbon tax, she worries about concessions on some of the more complex, lower-profile issues CAPP raised.
It’s a concern Marshall shares. “We’re going to have to keep an eye on a lot of these,” he said.
As it stands,Canada is projected to miss its 2030 target by 77 million tonnes — roughly the emissions produced by 16.6 million cars in a year — without new measures to reduce greenhouse gases.
“The (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) has made it crystal clear major GHG reductions are needed before this decade concludes or the world will find it exceedingly difficult, if not impossible to keep warming to 1.5 C,” said Jeffrey Brook, the scientific director of the Canadian Urban Environmental Health Research Consortium, in an email to The Narwhal.
He noted Canadians are already experiencing the consequences of climate change at the current level of warming.
“It seems a shame that CAPP would thus try to gain three years of time in meeting critical clean fuel objectives and also weigh in on national carbon pricing plans,” said Brook, who is the lead author of a paper published last year that found some oilsands air emissions are underestimated.
That day I was researching food insecurity and soaring rates of metabolic disease as an often overlooked reason for the high risk of Covid-related illness and death among African-Americans, Hispanics and people in poor communities.
The article told of staggering food waste — tens of millions of pounds of fresh food, including 3.7 million gallons of milk a day, that farmers cannot sell because restaurants, hotels and schools were closed in a belated effort to squelch the pandemic. Some of the surplus food was donated to food banks and feeding programs that have been overwhelmed by demands to nourish the needy but have limited ability to store and distribute perishable food.
Despite our nation’s ability to produce so much healthful food, fewer than one American adult in five is metabolically healthy, Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, dean of the Freidman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, had told me the week before. He cited a recent national report describing poor diet as “now the leading cause of poor health in the U.S.” and the cause of more than half a million deaths per year.
Dr. Mozaffarian explained that poor metabolic health was the immunity-impairing factor underlying cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and obesity-related cancers that left so many nutritionally compromised Americans especially vulnerable to the lethal coronavirus now all but paralyzing the country.
“Only 12 percent of Americans are without high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes or pre-diabetes,” he said in an interview last week. “The statistics are horrifying, but unlike Covid they happened gradually enough that people just shrugged their shoulders. However, beyond age, these are the biggest risk factors for illness and death from Covid-19.”
The characteristics of what doctors call the metabolic syndrome — excess fat around the middle, hypertension, high blood sugar, high triglycerides and a poor cholesterol profile — suppress the immune system and increase the risk of infections, pneumonia and cancers. They’re all associated with low-grade, body-wide inflammation, Dr. Mozaffarian explained, “and Covid kills by causing an overwhelming inflammatory response that disables the body’s ability to fight off pathogens.”
Alas, the metabolic well-being of many Americans is now further endangered by currently advised limits on shopping trips, an increased reliance on canned and packaged foods high in fat, sugar and salt, and emotional distress that prompts some people to turn to nutritionally questionable “comfort foods.”
The Covid pandemic has cast a glaring light on longstanding costly and life-threatening inequities in American society. Those living in economically challenged communities, and especially people of color, are bearing the heaviest burden of Covid-19 infections. But while diet-related disorders increase vulnerability to the virus, limited national attention has been paid to lack of access to nutritionally wholesome foods that can sustain metabolic health and support a vigorous immune system.
Clearly, when this pandemic subsides, a lot more attention to the American diet will be needed to ward off future medical, economic and social calamities from whatever pathogen next comes down the pike.
The report Dr. Mozaffarian cited, issued in March in honor of the 50th anniversary of the White House Conference on Food, Nutrition and Health, was unexpectedly timely. It pointed out that “severe malnutrition has largely been replaced with food insecurity — the limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods and beverages,” a circumstance that in 2018 affected 14.3 million American households.
The government spends about $70 billion a year to support food insecure individuals and families through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps). But other than disallowing purchases of alcohol, tobacco, pet foods, hot prepared foods and foods eaten in the store, SNAP does not restrict the kinds of foods people can buy with their state-issued allowance.
Rather than limiting peoples’ food choices with SNAP dollars, experts are devising programs that can prompt people to choose foods and beverages that can enhance, rather than impair, their health. For example, under an expanded version of SNAP, in some states recipients who use the supplement to buy foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains get $1.30 on the dollar. But under a proposed disincentive, if the benefit were spent on sodas and snacks, they would get only 70 cents on the dollar.
For those relying on their own funds to buy food, tax strategies could be used to increase the cost of foods and beverages that are less healthful, with the resulting tax revenues used to lower prices for healthy foods.
There have also been several successful pilot programs demonstrating the cost savings and health benefits of actually providing healthy foods to people with diet-related disease.
The Pennsylvania-based Geisinger Health System began a program in 2016 called Fresh Food Farmacy to give free nutritious food to food-insecure people with Type 2 diabetes and their families.
The organization created a food pantry in its Shamokin, Pa., clinical center that provides enough fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins to feed each family two healthy meals a day five days a week, along with weekly menus and recipes.
In 2018, John Hancock replaced its usual life insurance policies with John Hancock Vitality providing financial incentives to foster healthier lifestyles, including up to $600 per year to purchase healthier foods.
Last October, Kaiser Permanente launched Food for Life to enhance access to affordable, healthy food, which the organization estimates could reduce medical care costs by about 45 percent. As a first step, residents eligible for California’s SNAP benefits will be offered medically tailored meal delivery options for patients and their families.
Touting the benefits of providing free medically tailored meals to food-insecure patients and their families, they noted that diet-related diseases lead to “suboptimal school and work performance, increased health costs and lower productivity and wages.”
In other words, consuming a more wholesome diet is a win-win investment. And there’s no better time to make it than now, as the country begins the struggle to get back on a healthful footing. SOURCE
Our world knows four international crimes: war crimes, genocide, torture and crimes against humanity. Spanish examining magistrate Baltasar Garzón and Scottish lawyer Polly Higgins believe that this list of serious violations of international law should be expanded with a fifth: ecocide. Will Higgins and Garzón eventually succeed in gaining enough support to get recognition for ecocide?
Scottish Polly Higgins was laughed at when she first proclaimed that the Earth needs a lawyer. That those who cause ecological destruction should be held accountable, and therefore be sued, summoned and punished. Originally a trial lawyer, Higgins now entirely devotes her life and work to the Earth, as a legal eco-activist. Since 2011, she has been leading the international movement against ecocide. This is the large-scale destruction of our ecosystems.
VPRO Backlight follows Polly Higgins and her ‘earth guardians’ on their missions throughout 2015, a year that, more than any other year, offers a ‘window of opportunity’. Including Baltasar Garzón (jurist), Michael Baumgartner (campaign manager Greenpeace Switzerland), Bronwyn Lay (environmental lawyer, Australia).
The COVID-19 emergency has exposed our societies’ failure to address the needs of billions of people. Simultaneously, we are witnessing a fundamental truth about human nature: There are those among us eager to exploit the suffering of others for personal gain. We can be reassured, however, by how few of them there are. Their actions contrast starkly with the far greater numbers at all levels of society demonstrating their willingness, even eagerness, to cooperate, share, and sacrifice for the well-being of all.
The pandemic has also exposed extreme vulnerabilities in the global market economy, including its long and highly specialized linear supply chains, corporate monopolies shielded from market forces, privatized technologies, and ruthless competition without regard for its impact on people and the Earth.
This is an unprecedented opportunity to rethink how our beliefs, values, and institutions shape our relationships. We can create a world that works for everyone or face a future that no longer works for anyone.
Discussions now underway in many community, national, and global forums suggest a significant widening of what is known as the Overton Window: the range of public policies that the mainstream population is prepared to consider at a given time.
This is an unprecedented opportunity to rethink how our beliefs, values, and institutions shape our relationships.
While there is an almost universal desire to move rapidly beyond the COVID emergency, the spectrum of what we want post-pandemic is broadening. Many are articulating that they do not want to simply return to business as usual. In the United States, for example, we see the need for:
• A system of health care accessible to everyone regardless of income or documentation;
• Just compensation and job security for those who do our most essential but often least-rewarded work; and
• A guarantee that if your job evaporates, you won’t starve.
At a deeper level, this emergency is reminding us that we are living with another emergency—climate change. The combination of the two emergencies is helping us awaken to the profound implications of the simple truth that we are living beings born of and nurtured by a living Earth. Our well-being depends on Earth’s well-being. Life is the goal, community is essential, and money is only a tool.
To avoid a climate catastrophe, we must use this opportunity to join in creating an economy that:
• Meets our basic needs while simultaneously healing and securing the health of the human community and Earth’s living systems; and
• Prepares us to respond rapidly and appropriately to the array of significant future emergencies likely to arise with alarming frequency.
From these insights, many additional imperatives follow, including the need to:
• Shift power from profit-maximizing corporations to self-organizing, self-reliant, life-serving communities;
• Achieve an equitable distribution of power and resources among and within these communities; and
• Limit the human use of resources to those applications (such as recycling and regenerative agriculture) that increase the well-being of people and nature while eliminating those (such as war and financial speculation) that consume massive resources to no beneficial end.
The expanding Overton Window may allow us to consider vast new possibilities. Here are two:
1. We may see growing recognition of the distinctive social benefits of shopping in locally owned stores, operated by neighbors who pay local taxes and are in business to make a decent, but modest, living serving their neighbors. This contrasts starkly with the experience of impersonal corporate chains such as Amazon.com and Walmart that are in business solely to maximize the extraction of money from our local communities while leaving as little as possible behind.
2. For those of us able to work at home and meet remotely via the web, the many benefits of doing so may make this form of working and meeting the new norm. We reduce the time devoted to long commutes in heavy traffic or sitting in crowded airports and planes. This change in our behavior carries the potential for a dramatic reduction in the need for cars and airplanes and the pollution that their production and operation create, while increasing opportunities to get to know our family and our neighbors. Better for the health of people, family, community, and Earth.
But would such changes mean lost jobs? Actually, a vast amount of work must be done. Among the needs that will become more important in a post-COVID world are:
• Converting to wind and solar energy.
• Growing nutritious food locally in ways that restore the health of the soil.
• Eliminating waste by recycling everything.
• Assuring everyone access to affordable high-speed internet.
• Caring for and educating our children.
• Preparing for the inevitable emergencies ahead.
• Providing care and housing for the homeless while helping those who can transition back to community life.
• Providing health care for everyone.
The COVID-19 crisis has imposed immense hardship on billions of people. But that hardship is dwarfed by what lies ahead if we continue on our current path. Now we must step up to prevent the collapse of the regenerative systems by which Earth creates and maintains the conditions we need to exist.
This current emergency provides the possibility for a new emergence—the birthing of a truly civil civilization dedicated to the well-being of all people and the living Earth. SOURCE
DAVID KORTENis co-founder of YES! Media, president of the Living Economies Forum, a member of the Club of Rome, and the author of influential books, including “When Corporations Rule the World” and “Change the Story, Change the Future: A Living Economy for a Living Earth.” His work builds on lessons from the 21 years he and his wife, Fran, lived and worked in Africa, Asia, and Latin America on a quest to end global poverty.
The pandemic has exposed his contradictory claims and true priority.
Illustration for The Tyee by Bob Krieger.
Last September, Jason Kenney was welcomed like a favourite son at the New York headquarters of the Manhattan Institute, which describes itself as “a leading voice of free-market ideas, shaping political culture.” The think tank has helped mould the views of Republican presidents like George W. Bush and received millions of dollars from the oil refiner-funded Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation, ExxonMobil, and the family foundation of Breitbart News funder and pro-Donald Trump billionaire Robert Mercer.
This night the premier of Alberta was lionized for his “character” and “largeness of vision and a fearsome work ethic,” by Manhattan Institute president Reihan Salam. Thanks to Kenney, Alberta was a case study of the Institute’s ideas put into practice, including “restrained government spending, a more modest tax burden.” The conservative movement, Salam said, should be paying close attention. “Across the English-speaking world, few conservatives have done as much to adapt time-honoured principles to new realities as the premier.”
Kenney could barely contain a smile. “I am really deeply honoured by this invitation,” he told the grey-haired, well-heeled group. “I grew up as a kid reading Manhattan Institute studies and books and articles.” To approving chuckles, he described Alberta as “sort of Canada’s Texas. We are the beating heart of free enterprise values in the Canadian political culture. We are the heart of Canada’s enormous energy industry.”
In that summation lay certain contradictions left unspoken by the Manhattan Institute and other think tanks in its right-wing network, and by Kenney himself as he campaigned for premier by claiming to champion, all at once, the oilsands industry, fiscal conservatism, free market values, and jobs, jobs, jobs for Albertans.
Seven months later, the garbled incoherence to such claims cannot be ignored as a pandemic strains a public sector where jobs were slashed by budget cuts, market forces this week drove the price of bitumen below zero and, nevertheless, Kenney risks billions of taxpayer dollars funding more pipeline infrastructure to move oilsands crude.
Toilet paper may be on our minds, but it’s still not on store shelves. Could you ever have imagined such high demand for TP? Just as you may be experiencing varying levels of TP shortages, so too have retailers and suppliers. They’re having a tough time meeting the surge in demand, but there is a huge opportunity the industry has yet to seize.
U.S. tissue giants like Kimberly Clark, Georgia-Pacific, and Great Lakes Tissue all produce commercial lines of toilet paper containing recycled fiber that are supplied to offices, stores, and restaurants. Now that millions of people are home, the demand for these is pretty low compared to the at-home hiney wipe. That’s why we’re telling these companies that WE want 100% recycled TP, and asking them to use their commercial line paper mills to produce more 100% recycled, at-home TP.
Think about all the beautiful trees that are being cut down en masse to produce more toilet paper at a higher pace. If these last few years have taught us anything, we need intact forests to fight against climate change. And studies have shown that there is a clear link between deforestation and pandemics. So, if protecting wildlife habitat is our best defense against future disease outbreaks, why log thousands of acres of forests for loo rolls?
The tree-to-toilet pipeline that most of the industry is on cannot continue. On average (pre-COVID times) Americans use three rolls 🧻🧻🧻 a week, and they’re the biggest consumers of TP in the world. Many US toilet brands, (like Charmin) rely on virgin tree fiber from the Canadian boreal. There is more: about 30% of boreal forest tissue fiber comes from whole trees from clearcut forests. The impact of this is truly devastating, because that 30% is enough to endanger threatened species like the woodland caribou, and release shocking amounts of carbon into the atmosphere.
Working towards large-scale protection of majestic forested areas like the boreal is just the work Stand.earth was created to take on. Protecting forests is in our DNA, back from when we were founded more than 20 years ago as ForestEthics. Over the years we’ve been proud to help protect millions of acres from logging in the Great Bear Rainforest, Inland Temperate Rainforest, Northern boreal forest, and in Chile.
Thank you standing up for wildlife, forests and our future.Our team is fewer than 50 people, but this community is more than 300,000 people strong and growing – and together, we’re using our collective power to fight climate change, protect wild spaces, stand with impacted communities, and say no to new fossil fuels.
Naomi Klein, bestselling author of Shock Doctrine, This Changes Everything, and most recently, On Fire: The (Burning) Case for Green New Deal, discusses ways the coronavirus crisis is already remaking our sense of the possible. In both good and bad ways. “In times of crisis, seemingly impossible ideas suddenly become possible,” says Klein. “But whose ideas? Sensible, fair ones, designed to keep as many people as possible safe, secure, and healthy? Or predatory ideas, designed to further enrich the already unimaginably wealthy while leaving the most vulnerable further exposed?”
As the Trump administration and a Republican Congress push for corporate bailouts and sneak in regulatory rollbacks, progressive activists are demanding a #PeoplesBailout and shoring up of the social safety net.
“The world economy is seizing up in the face of cascading shocks,” Klein reminds us. “If there is one things history teaches us, it’s that moments of shock are profoundly volatile. We either lose a whole lot of ground, get fleeced by elites and pay the price for decades. Or we win progressive victories that seemed impossible just a few weeks earlier.”
“This is no time to lose our nerve,” she says. SOURCE
The discussion on criminalising behaviour that harms the environment goes back to 1970s; particularly when former Prime Minister of Sweden, Olof Palme mentioned ecocide in the context of the Vietnam war and the use of Agent Orange. In 1991, when discussions about setting up a permanent court for international crimes were underway, twelve crimes were introduced. Here, the International Law Commission’s (ILC) 1991 Draft Code of Crimes Against Peace and Security of Mankind included the crime of ecocide, which was then described as the “wilful and severe damage to the environment”.
The Big Bully States
When the Draft Code and its articles were later submitted to states for consideration, three states initially spoke out against it. The United States, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands cited concerns about the vagueness and “novelty” of the proposed crime. Coincidentally enough, these three countries would have had a lot to lose if the crime of ecocide were introduced. It is worth noting that there were more countries in support of the crime of ecocide. As this seemed like an adversarial issue, with outspoken “powerful” states against the inclusion of such a crime, a Working Group was set up in 1995 at the General Assembly. This time, a majority of states voted to recognise ecocide as a crime but France, Brazil and the United States called for its exclusion.
In 1996, based on the majority vote above, the ILC again considered whether environmental damage should be included in the Draft Code as a standalone offence, a war crime or a crime against humanity. France was quoted as saying that the ILC was going out of its way to interfere with making a national “offense” an international crime. China and the United States agreed with this statement while some continued to support including environmental damage as a standalone offence.
Despite other countries in favour of ecocide as a standalone crime, the lopsided debate by a few strong states led to the exclusion of the crime of ecocide as a separate provision. Any mention of the damage to the environment only appears in a very narrow provision under war crimes in the Rome Statute. This means that environmental damage inflicted during peacetime will not be covered. One could say that the states who effectively blocked this laughed all the way to the bank. Today, they might have to think twice.
Shell, a Dutch-UK oil company, knew about serious climate risks posed by their business of burning fossil fuels in the 80s. In fact, #ShellKnew that its business as usual would bring about climate refugees, famine and floods but they chose to continue to explore for more oil and gas. If it were not for leaked documents about their internal scientific reports on the effects of increased CO2, the general public would have been taken on a longer ride of misinformation through the expensive use of lobbying groups to cast doubts and downplay the climate science. The small group of oil companies colluded to keep the real threat of increased CO2 emissions to themselves as they continue selling fossil fuel products. Consumer awareness of their dirty deeds, boosted with thanks to the internet, has shifted these companies into renewables. But guess what? Renewables only make up 1% of the big oil companies’ portfolio. The oil and gas companies of the world intends to spend 4.9 trillion dollars over the next 10 years in extracting more oil. All this while the United Nations Secretary General Antonio Gueterres, scientists, youths, indigenous peoples and more call for the extraction and subsidies to stop.
Climate “villains” also come in the form of political figures. If you don’t know yet about Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, please stop reading and ask everyone’s friend, Google. When one looks at how natural resource-rich countries were colonised in the past, it is easy to see how the poor were victimised and ultimately left with nothing. These were governmental policies headed by those in power to attain more wealth by promising their hosts wealth in return under the guise of “economic development”. In my opinion, abuse of this false “promise” is euphemism for international state capture.
Climate change is here. The crisis is upon us. In some parts of the world, the effect has been an existential humanitarian crisis. In the Pacific, small island countries have been experiencing the loss of some of their low-lying atolls through sea-level rise. The Solomon Islands have lost five islands and is at severe risk of losing six more. Major coastal cities have been hit by more intense and frequent climatic events and are also inundated with sea-level rise. The sinking of Jakarta, the capital of Indonesia, is forcing the government to relocate the city from the island of Java to the island of Borneo. Naturally-occurring wildfires in other parts of the world are becoming bigger and more out of control as dried vegetation act as the perfect tinder – no, I’m not talking about the dating app! At the time of writing, Australia’s yearly wildfires have become out of control. Precious biodiversity, more than a million animals and human lives have perished in the uncontrollable inferno. Twenty-two million people living in New Delhi breathe in polluted air that is 20 times the safe limit. Extreme heat, droughts and flooding have brought intense suffering to people all over the world. Unexpected rain is becoming a common phenomenon in the “deserts” in the Middle East. When this happens, cities like Dubai come to a standstill as their infrastructure is not equipped with drains for excess water to flow.
Unfortunately, climate change adaptation and mitigation require a lot of money. The Netherlands was lucky to have the resources to bounce back from the devastating 1953 flooding of the North Sea. In contrast however, for the people of Puerto Rico, access to financial resources is proving to be very difficult. Indigenous peoples in the Amazon have protested against big industries only to be threatened and killed. There is no effective remedy or justice for the most vulnerable groups. The poor and helpless have been pitted against the rich and the powerful in a modern-day survival of the fittest. It does not have to be this way.
The Law: Ecocide Crime
There is a missing law that the international community needs. Existing laws do not go far enough to stop serious ecological and climatic harms. The level of damage and destruction that the people and the environment have suffered and will suffer, at the hands of dangerous industrial activities, warrants criminalisation at the international level. The world needs ecocide to become an internationally recognised crime – a crime at par with genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes and the crime of aggression, four serious crimes prosecutable at the International Criminal Court (ICC). With the introduction of ecocide crime, we outlaw that which is dangerous. By formally having it on paper at the ICC draws a legal line for unacceptable behaviour and in turn prohibits, prevents and pre-empts dangerous industrial activities that are exacerbating the global climate crisis. The way in which criminal law works is this: without the law, there can be no crime and without a crime, there can be no penalty. I would even go as far as to say that without a penalty, there can be no reparations or restitution, and in cases where the environment suffers, no restoration.
Under international criminal law, individuals of superior responsibility can be held responsible for international crimes. They can include individuals in the government or military, and companies. As with all forms of crime, the intent and knowledge of the individual must be proven. Intent can come in the form of an act or an omission that is supported with the requisite knowledge about the serious consequences of one’s act.
Extinction Rebellion in the Global North has been exercising their right to protest by breaking the law out of necessity. Civil disobedience is a tried and tested method of enacting the right laws. By operating from a position of conscience, they are also exercising their freedom of conscience under Article 9 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Ecological Defence Integrity, an NGO co-founded by the late Polly Higgins, aims to make ecocide crime an international crime. As a crowd-funded organisation, people sign up as Earth Protectors to help fund the work of taking ecocide law forward. The fund is used to help get the government representatives of small island states to the ICC Assembly of States Parties so that they may be able to call for the crime of ecocide to be introduced. In return for their contribution, Earth Protectors gain access to a Trust Document that can be used in court as documentary evidence to show that they are trustees of the earth and conscientious Earth Protectors. That document is evidence to say that one is seeking to have ecocide law in place to protect the earth. Are you with us?
The science is simple. Carbon dioxide is when 1 carbon joins 2 oxygen atoms: C + O2 = CO2. Burn any organic matter and its content of carbon combines with oxygen. A litre of petrol is equal to 2.4kg of CO2. To drive 100km, an average of 5 litres of petrol is needed. This means, 120g of CO2 is released into the atmosphere for every kilometre driven. At the industrial level, the amount of CO2 released into the air, as a result of refining or burning crude oil into commercial products, is gargantuan. As much as 1 million barrels, each containing 160 litres of crude oil, can be processed at a single refinery daily. There are as many as 700 refineries in the world.
It comes as no surprise that when you add up the CO2 emissions from regular cars and the burning of tropical forests and peatlands (which by the way is also plenty), and other gases, such as nitrogen oxide that is released from other high-performance and diesel cars, methane from livestock and rice fields, and chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) from refrigerators and air-conditioning, the result is a sharper increase in the overall number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Such a concentration of greenhouse gases is catastrophic as it surpasses the natural ability of the planet to achieve a harmonious liveable equilibrium.
Lead image courtesy of Matthew Lloyd / Getty Images / Clipart / designed by Green Queen Media.
A leading English barrister has recently voiced out that the government should implement stricter laws to make illegal activities that destroy the environment – including the consumption of meat. Scientists across the world agree that the world urgently needs to reduce carbon emissions in order to avert climate disaster, and animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of greenhouse gases and mass ecological degradation.
Michael Mansfield QC, the head of chambers at Nexus Chambers and dubbed “the king of human rights work” by The Legal 500 has said that the consumption of meat could be banned in the future due to its massive environmental impact. Mansfield went further even, suggested regulation was needed.
“It is time for a new law on ecocide to go alongside genocide and the other crimes against humanity,” said Mansfield, adding that there are already “plenty of things that were once commonplace that are now illegal, such as smoking inside.”
Citing a United Nations report that finds that the meat and dairy production companies rank amongst thetop 3,000 companies that are responsible for US$2.2 trillion worth of environmental damage, the leading barrister says that it is clear that governments must enact legislation relating to meat consumption in order to combat the climate crisis.
“I think when we look at the damage eating meat is doing to the planet it is not preposterous to think that one day it will become illegal,” he explained.
According to the United Nations, the globallivestock industry drives 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions, a major cause of global heating. Industrial animal agriculture also relies on fossil fuels to manufacture fertiliser and power machinery to harvest animal feed and transport animals. In a study conducted by nonprofits Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and GRAIN, researchers found that meat and dairy companies could overtake the oil industry as the world’s largest polluters by 2050.
Aside from contributing enormous amounts of carbon emissions, animal agriculture is also responsible for water contamination and wastage and high land-use that incentivises deliberate deforestation, driving mass biodiversity loss.
The director of British animal welfare organisation Viva agreed with Mansfield’s comments, saying: “30 years ago people didn’t bat an eyelid if you lit a cigarette in a pub or restaurant. But now society accepts smoking is harmful and totally unnecessary and so we legislated against it. The same could happen with eating meat.”
Given the huge environmental cost of meat consumption, scientists and experts have called for a dramatic change in the current food system. Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said that on our current trajectory, the planet will no longer be able to sustain humanity. The report called on a global shift towards plant-based in order to avert total climate collapse.
Similar recommendations were echoed by the experts at the EAT-Lancet commission, who drew up guidelines for a “planetary health diet.” The diet envisages a dramatic reduction in meat consumption alongside a doubling in plant-based foods such as grains, vegetables, fruits, pulses and nuts. SOURCE