I blog about environmental and social justice issues because I am very concerned about the health of the interdependent web of life of which we are a part.

Melting Arctic ice.......beautiful and frightening!

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Sunday, February 3, 2013

Your Right To A Healthy Environment

I just listened to a teleconference on the right to a healthy environment.

Do countries with the right to a healthy environment actually have healthier environments and people?   
In general, these countries have smaller ecological footprints, rank higher on comparisons of environmental performance and have done a better job of addressing issues such as air pollution and climate change than countries like Canada whose constitutions lack this right. If you look at the environmental records of countries in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, which includes most of the world's wealthy industrialized nations, you find 14 of the top 15 nations have constitutional provisions mandating environmental protection. Six of the seven countries with the worst environmental records lack constitutional protection for the environment.  
  What is it going to take to convince our government to change the constitution?

 An amendment needs to gain the support of Parliament and seven out of 10 provinces in a three-year period. So while it will be a challenge to change the constitution, it's not impossible—especially since a recent poll found that nine out of 10 Canadians support protection of the right to a healthy environment.
It's also heartening to see how other countries have embraced such constitutional change. In France a few years ago, President Chirac demonstrated tremendous commitment in promoting a Charter for the Environment, and the people of France were overwhelmingly supportive. In Ecuador and Bolivia, Indigenous people played a key role in constitutional reforms that not only recognized the right to a healthy environment but also the rights of Nature.  http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/docs-talk/2012/10/a-healthy-environment-should-be-a-basic-human-right/
Dr David R Boyd is hoping a movement to enshrine this right in the Canadian constitution will gather momentum and become a non partisan issue in the next three years.  He wrote a book on this topic called  The Right to a Healthy Environment.  You can buy it at http://www.ubcpress.ca/search/title_book.asp?BookID=299173851  but it's $ 85.00 - let's hope local university libraries  have bought it!

Sign up for more information on this topic at Ecojustice at 


Crude Reality

Alberta's oilpatch is anxious to mine the tar sands and sell dilbit. It would be good for the economy, news media states.
Stymied by insufficient pipeline capacity, Alberta’s oil patch is facing problems in getting its product to market. The resulting glut has driven the price for Western Canadian Select oil more than $30 (U.S.) a barrel below that for West Texas Intermediate crude...However, a new report from RBC Economics says that oil patch investment will continue to provide a bright spot for the Canadian economy. It also argues that there is good reason to think that the spread between Western Canadian oil and West Texas crude will narrow in the years ahead.The report notes that swelling production from the oil patch has outpaced pipeline expansion, creating a bottleneck that will be tough to unplug without a direct southbound corridor (think Keystone XL) and an east-west pipeline (Saint John’s enormous oil refinery says hello). The good news is that the current $30-plus discount on every barrel of Canadian oil provides powerful motivation to build the needed pipelines. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/globe-investor/investment-ideas/the-bright-side-of-canadas-weak-oil-prices/article8123055/
There's another crude reality out there, however.  It's discussed in Scientific American.
To avoid passing tipping points, such as initiation of the collapse of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, we need to limit the climate forcing severely. It's still possible to do that, if we phase down carbon emissions rapidly, but that means moving expeditiously to clean energies of the future," he explains. "Moving to tar sands, one of the dirtiest, most carbon-intensive fuels on the planet, is a step in exactly the opposite direction, indicating either that governments don't understand the situation or that they just don't give a damn."  http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=tar-sands-and-keystone-xl-pipeline-impact-on-global-warming
The reality of climate change has sunk in: ome very surprising sources  and institutions are worrying about the effects of climate change.

With energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) representing the majority of global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the fight against climate change has become a defining factor for energy policy-making – but the implications are daunting. Meeting the emission goals currently pledged by countries under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) would still leave the world some 13.7 billion tonnes of CO2 – or 60% – above the level needed to remain on track with the 2°C goal in 2035. Much additional investment will need to be directed towards lower- CO2 technologies, on supply and end-use sides alike. The benefits that society would reap from these measures, beyond avoided climate impacts, would be of an equal if not larger magnitude than the cost to the energy sector. Meanwhile, energy policy-makers need to start thinking about the impact of committed climate change on the security of the energy sector . http://www.iea.org/topics/climatechange/
 The International Energy Association isn't exactly an environmental group!
A 4°C warmer world can, and must be, avoided – we need to hold warming below 2°C," said World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim. "Lack of action on climate change threatens to make the world our children inherit a completely different world than we are living in today. Climate change is one of the single biggest challenges facing development, and we need to assume the moral responsibility to take action on behalf of future generations, especially the poorest.  http://climatechange.worldbank.org/

The World Bank hasn't had the environment on its mind either in the past.  Perhaps we should pay attention to climate scientists - and very conservative institutions such as the World Bank and the IEA.

The real crude reality is that either we quit burning fossil fuels or  kill off millions of people and ecosystems.