Tag Archives: environmental justice

Division, not consensus, may be the key to fighting climate change

By Razmig Keucheyan, May 5, 2014. Source: The Guardian

A toxic waste dump in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. 'With climate change, a long-standing form of inequality is becoming more and more visible: environmental inequality.' Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP

A toxic waste dump in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. ‘With climate change, a long-standing form of inequality is becoming more and more visible: environmental inequality.’ Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP

With the release of the fifth report by the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change, calls for the international community to once and for all transcend its divisions and get serious at last about climate change have multiplied. The content of the report is nothing less than frightful: global warming has been occurring since the middle of the 20th century at an unprecedented rate, already engendering all sorts of disasters. No doubt is permitted as to the principal cause of the phenomenon: mankind. This changes everything, to quote the title of Naomi Klein’s forthcoming book. Because climate change will affect all of humanity, it renders past conflicts and traditional political categories – left and right among them – obsolete.

Well, this widespread ecological consensus isn’t getting us anywhere, and it will certainly not help us fight climate change effectively. The environmental crisis is not brought about by an endless proclivity of mankind to destroy its environment and deplete natural resources, as Jared Diamond, among others, would make us believe in his neo-Malthusian bestsellers. It finds its origin in the logic of a quite recent system, one that was born in the 19th century: industrial capitalism.

Capitalism is productivist, ie it seeks to increase productivity indefinitely (it has no embedded self-limiting mechanism). Moreover, it is predatory, programmed to exploit and exhaust natural resources and biodiversity. Finally, it is irreparably tied to a carbon – coal, oil and gas – energy system. To use the words of German Marxist Elmar Altvater, industrial capitalism is necessarily fossil capitalism. All three features combine to give way to the dreadful situation described by the IPCC report.

This is exactly why the environmental crisis doesn’t render past conflicts and divisions obsolete, but on the contrary reinforces them. Climate change doesn’t change anything, it rather worsens existing problems. To paraphrase a famous dictum by Lenin, it is the highest stage of capitalism.

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Pollution, Solutions

Norwich Declaration on Environmental Justice: Money can’t buy environmental justice

10 July 2013

THIS DECLARATION EMERGED FROM A WORKSHOP HELD AT THE UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA IN NORWICH, ENGLAND ON JUNE 20-22, 2013, ON GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE.

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Women’s march at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, June 2012. Women were marching against the Green Economy and the commodification of life.

WE, AN INTERNATIONAL GROUP OF ACTIVISTS, ACADEMICS AND RESEARCHERS, OBSERVE THAT ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICES ARE PROLIFERATING ACROSS THE GLOBE.

CASES OF ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE ARE HOWEVER FREQUENTLY BEING ADDRESSED BY GOVERNMENTS, MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS AND MULTILATERAL INSTITUTIONS AS PROBLEMS THAT CAN BE RESOLVED THROUGH TECHNICAL OR MONETARY MEANS.

SUCH NARROW UNDERSTANDINGS OF ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE NORMALISE THE PERPETRATION OF INJUSTICE. INSTEAD WE BELIEVE IT IS ESSENTIAL TO ADVANCE AN APPROACH TO ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FOUNDED ON FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF CITIZENSHIP, POLITICAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS, DEMOCRATIC DECENTRALISATION, RULE OF LAW, ACCESS TO DUE JURIDICAL PROCESSES AND TRANSPARENT, DEMOCRATIC AND ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNANCE.

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Events, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Land Grabs, REDD, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Heat waves, as climate change increases, prove more deadly for poor, minorities

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project has always maintained that climate change has a disproportionate impact on people of color, Indigenous Peoples, people in the global south and other marginalized communities.  Unless we simultaneously address issues of racism, colonialism, patriarchy and economic domination while finding solutions to climate change, those solutions will only benefit the lives of the minority elite while the masses continue to suffer.

-The GJEP Team

By Lynne Peeples, June 7, 2013. Source: Huffington Post

Photo: EPA/Peter Foley

Photo: EPA/Peter Foley

Heat waves offer no dramatic images of flying debris or surging seawater. Yet each year torrid temperatures take more lives in the U.S. than tornadoes, hurricanes, floods and lightning combined.

The silent killer also discriminates, as low-income communities of color often start with poorer underlying health than other communities, and have fewer tools and resources to combat a heat that can be further intensified by their immediate environment.

“It’s a deadly mix,” said George Luber, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Climate and Health Program. “Those most vulnerable are those that incur the most exposure. And these exposures are going to increase in magnitude, and in frequency, with climate change.”

The annual death toll from extreme heat is already on the rise, according to a report released by the CDC on Thursday, with the number of heat-related deaths predicted to jump from the current annual rate of around 700 to between 3,000 and 5,000 by 2050.
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Biomass battle casts spotlight on environmental justice

By Josh Schlossberg, March 28, 2013. Source: Energy Justice Network/Biomass Monitor

Alison Guzman (center) and Lisa Arkin (left) of Beyond Toxics in Eugene, Oregon

Alison Guzman (center) and Lisa Arkin (left) of Beyond Toxics in Eugene, Oregon

Sometimes what seems like defeat in the short term can actually turn out to be victory in the long run. One such case involves the opposition to the construction of Seneca Sawmill’s biomass power incinerator in Eugene, Oregon. While the facility fired up its smokestacks for the first time in 2011, the effort to educate neighborhood residents about the health threats of the industrial polluter morphed into a powerful environmental justice movement in the low-income community surrounding the facility.

When Eugene-based Beyond Toxics (formerly Oregon Toxics Alliance) set out to question the “green” credentials of Seneca Sawmill’s biomass power plant in 2010—an 18.8 megawatt facility adjacent to the timber corporation’s existing lumber mill—they knew the deck was stacked against them. In a state where the timber industry still commands a great (some say disproportionate) amount of political influence, the organization wasn’t under any illusions that the corporation would voluntarily scrap its plans to profit off the sale of excess electricity to Eugene Water and Electric Board.

Surprisingly, despite Seneca Jones Timber Company’s dismal track record of clearcutting hundreds of thousands of acres of Oregon forests—including old growth—and dousing them with toxic herbicides—including in Eugene’s drinking watershed—few local or state environmental groups spoke out against the biomass incinerator.

In 2009, the Lane County Health Advisory Committee concluded that “biomass plants would add to our already overburdened air pollution problem in Eugene,” in a county that had been stuck with a “D” in air quality from the American Lung Association. This reality encouraged Beyond Toxics to zero in on the air pollution impacts of the proposed facility to the local community.
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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Justice, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Pollution, Youth

Within mainstream environmentalist groups, diversity is lacking

By Darryl Fears, March 24, 2013. Source: The Washington Post
Of at least 200 riverkeepers in the nation, Fred Tutman is the only one who's black.  "I do think we're invisible," he said.  "The [environmental] movement is inauthentic if it remains all white."  Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Of at least 200 riverkeepers in the nation, Fred Tutman is the only one who’s black. “I do think we’re invisible,” he said. “The [environmental] movement is inauthentic if it remains all white.” Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post

Fred Tutman was a lonely man when he picked up the telephone that day.He was the tough-talking protector of Maryland’s Patuxent River, a courtroom brawler who took on anyone who contaminated water, but he couldn’t shake a nagging hurt that he was nearly invisible within his own profession.
He called Marc Yaggi, director of the Waterkeeper Alliance in New York, last May. “Am I the only African American riverkeeper?”The answer was yes. Of at least 200 riverkeepers in the world, Tutman is the only African American.“We have a lot of work to do” in the area of diversity, Yaggi said in a recent interview. He said he has reached out to Tutman, who was certified by the alliance in 2004, “to try to figure out ways to increase our diversity.”But Tutman is not unique in his feelings of isolation. Minorities in the nation’s largest environmental organizations said in interviews that they feel the same way.

In fact, they say, the level of diversity, both in leadership and staff, of groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the Sierra Club and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is more like that of the Republican Party they so often criticize for its positions on the environment than that of the multiethnic Democratic Party they have thrown their support behind. Continue reading

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Tire-burning power plants in Michigan prompt concerns

Associated Press, March 5, 2013. Source: timesunion.com

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Photo: Detroit Free Press, Kimberly P. Mitchell

Power plants in several Michigan cities are burning millions of tires each year to make electricity, prompting some pollution concerns as state officials and plant operators defend the practice.

According to plant operators, tire-derived power is cheaper and cleaner than burning coal or wood, the Detroit Free Press reported (http://on.freep.com/XJJkeE ). They say that they are keeping tires out of landfills and helping the state clean up dump sites.

Wyandotte’s municipal power plant creates electricity for about 10,000 households and 3,000 businesses. Two boilers run off natural gas and the third uses tire shreds and coal. According to officials, tires contain more energy than coal, pound-for-pound.

“We burn about 300 tons of fuel per day in this boiler. It generates less waste, lower emissions and more-efficient combustion,” said James French, the former director of the city’s power supply.

Some who live near the eight plants that burn tires to make power in Michigan, however, have challenged them because of pollution concerns.
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Filed under Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing, Pollution

Burning issue: ‘Waste-to-energy’ plants take off in bid to cut garbage, fuel use

By Nate Seltenrich, February 11, 2013.  Source: The Daily Climate

Community activists rally against a proposed trash incinerator in Gonzales, Calif. Nearly 100 such projects have been proposed nationwide recently as states and communities struggle to reduce trash and find alternatives to fossil fuels. Photo: Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice.

Community activists rally against a proposed trash incinerator in Gonzales, Calif. Nearly 100 such projects have been proposed nationwide recently as states and communities struggle to reduce trash and find alternatives to fossil fuels. Photo: Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice.

The farm town of Gonzales, in the center of the Salinas Valley, has been known throughout its 140-year history as “Little Switzerland,” the “heart of the salad bowl,” and, today, the “wine capital” of Monterey County.

Now a proposal from a Canadian energy company could change Gonzales’ moniker yet again: It hopes to build a commercial-scale plant for harvesting energy from trash – the first of its kind in the United States.

The project’s future is decidedly uncertain. But roughly 100 similar proposals to turn trash to energy have cropped up nationwide the past six years, as local and state officials scramble to meet mandates to divert waste from landfills and find more renewable energy sources.

The Gonzales plan, led by Ottawa-based Plasco Energy Group, seemed like a sure thing until last fall, when a state board ruled that the technology cannot qualify as green energy because it does not operate with zero emissions, eliminating a financial incentive. The decision, while not necessarily enough to kill the project, may have alerted developers to steer clear of California, the nation’s largest and most lucrative renewable-energy market.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing, Pollution, Waste

BREAKING NEWS: Farm supporters lock down to giant pig, blockade Shell fracking site

January 27, 2013.  Source: Shadbush Environmental Justice Collective

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Bessemer, PA – This afternoon, residents of Western Pennsylvania and friends of Lawrence County farmer Maggie Henry locked themselves to a giant paper-mache pig in the entrance to a Shell natural gas well site in order to protest the company’s threat to local agriculture and food safety. The newly-constructed gas well is located at 1545 PA Route 108, Bessemer, PA , 16102, less than 4,000 feet from Henry’s organic pig farm.

The farm has been in the Henry family for generations and has been maintained as a small business despite pressure from industry consolidation. The Henry’s made a switch from dairy to organic pork and poultry production several years ago as part of their commitment to keeping the operation safe and sustainable for generations to come. Joining Maggie Henry at the well site are residents from other Pennsylvania counties affected by natural gas drilling and Pittsburgh-area residents of all ages who support Henry’s fight. Many are customers who buy her food at farmers’ markets and grocery stores who do not want to see the integrity of their food source compromised.

The Henry farm is especially vulnerable to the risks associated with fracking because it is located in an area riddled with hundreds of abandoned oil wells from the turn of the 20th century. According to hydro-geologist Daniel Fisher who has studied the area, “Each of these abandoned wells is a potentially direct pathway or conduit to the surface should any gas or fluids migrate upward from the wells during or after fracking.” Methane leaks from gas wells have been responsible for numerous explosions in or near residences in Pennsylvania in recent years. Migrating gas and fluids also threaten groundwater supplies, on which Henry and her animals depend for their drinking water. Last summer a major gas leak in Tioga County, PA caused by Shell’s own drilling operations, produced a 30 ft geyser of methane and water, which spewed from an unplugged well and forced several families to evacuate.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, BREAKING NEWS, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Hydrofracking