Climate Heroes and the Laws of Ecocide

Thank you for reading the Happy Eco News Weekly Top 5 newsletter for December 7, 2020. This week, we have an article by climate scientist, author, and climate commentator Gerald Kutny explaining what you can do to help stop the climate crisis. Dr. Kutney, a former adjunct professor in Environmental Sciences also has many years of executive business management in the private sector. He studied the politics of the Kyoto Protocol and climate-change negotiations and in his 2015 book “Carbon Politics and the Failure of the Kyoto Protocol” he searches for an answer to the failure of the international community to act on climate change. A timely topic as we move toward the COP26 meeting in Glasgow next year. He is currently writing another book which will I am sure have an equally interesting perspective on the world we live in, especially considering the events and changes of the last 5 years.

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Guest Blog – A Personal Guide to the Climate Crisis

By Gerald Kutney, PhD, Researcher, Author

What can ordinary folks do about the climate crisis? The climate crisis will not be resolved by complaining about China, Big Oil, global capitalism, the political elites, or something else that we have no control over. While it is essential that governments and corporations take significant and immediate action, we have a major part to play as individuals also. The Dalai Lama has stressed the power of the individual’s participation in climate action:

Every individual has a duty to help guide our global family in the right direction. Prayers and good wishes alone are not enough. We have to assume responsibility. Large human movements spring from individual human initiatives…

The 7 billion human beings on Earth need a sense of universal responsibility as our central motivation to rebalance our relations with the environment. [read more]


The Happy Eco News – Weekly Top 5:

1) Climate heroes: the countries pioneering a green future

What do Spain, South Korea, Uruguay, and Kenya all have in common? They are the leaders in the transition to a green future. Spain leads the pack, not only in Europe but worldwide. They are decommissioning 69% of their coal power plants in the next 2 years a rate of which has never before been seen anywhere. By 2050, the decarbonization strategy will achieve a 90% reduction in emissions, reforestation of 50,000 acres of land, and the rehabilitation of 125,000 acres of wetlands. Renewable power, meanwhile, will rise from 20% of the energy mix to 97%. South Korea, Uruguay, and Kenya are all on similar trajectories for decarbonization and regreening of their countries.

Why it’s important: These countries are all leaders in a space that will soon come to dominate the world in terms of economics and quality of life. It is interesting to note that the Spanish government says its decarbonization plan will increase the workforce by 1.6% compared to the jobs loss mantra that is so often placed as a roadblock to green progress. The follow-on results are expected to be similar in the other three as well. Korea’s industrial manufacturing sector has been hit hard by the recent economic downturn and will benefit from manufacturing and deploying 45,000 electric vehicle charge points and 450 hydrogen fuel stations around the country. Uruguay’s business incentive plan for investment in clean technology transitioned the country from burning oil to generate electricity, to completely clean energy in 20 years. These incentives brought billions in investment and reduced the cost of electricity for its citizens. In Kenya, the green economy is set to leapfrog the fossil fuel economy and already the lives of rural and urban Kenyans have been impacted directly by greatly improved access to reliable electricity. A full 75% of Kenyans now have electricity in their homes.

Most importantly though, and from a global perspective, it appears the Climate Race is on. Larger economies like China the UK and others have also pledged to decarbonize. When president Biden recommits the USA to the Paris Accord decarbonization plan, others like India will likely follow suit and the entire world will breathe a lot easier. [read the article]

 

2) A Philippine community sees life-saving payoffs from restoring its mangroves

In the central Philippine province of Aklan, the mangroves had been decimated. Cut for firewood and to enable illegal fishing, the massive mangrove forests had all but disappeared. Who could blame a poverty-stricken population of local people living a subsistence existence? Certainly, the government was not going to enforce the rules; locals at least have some form of income this way. But then in 1990, a visionary local mayor decided to reforest the area after learning from local historians that the area was once healthy, prosperous, and full of wildlife – a result of the mangroves that had been subsequently cleared for illegal fishing activities. The mangrove reforestation project started with 50 hectares that were planted by local residents. For their efforts, they were paid about $0.04 per tree, financed by micro-loans. 30 years later, more than 450 acres around the region have been reforested and the area is now a protected national park drawing tourists from around the world.

Why it’s important: Mangroves have some pretty amazing benefits. From a global perspective, they are extremely important as carbon sinks. In this regard, they are highly productive, with carbon sequestration rates equivalent to tropical humid land forests. They account for 14% of the carbon sequestration of the global ocean. If mangrove carbon stocks are disturbed, resultant gas emissions are very high. Biodiversity also benefits; unique species found nowhere else live in mangroves and are often at risk due to habitat loss. The aquatic insects, shellfish, and fish that are found in the roots and waters around the trees are also an important source of food for other, larger species of fish and birds.

But all those aside, the human benefits on their own are enough to justify the replanting of these forests. Intact mangrove forests on coastal areas such as those at Bakhawan Eco-Park are now known to protect the shore and the structures that are built there in extreme weather events like hurricanes and typhoons. The mangroves act as a shock absorber, reducing the effects of high winds, waves, and storm surges. Lastly, the people who live near the park have experienced ongoing, sustainable prosperity as their community has benefitted economically from eco-tourism in the area. [read the article]

 

3) An Unlikely Alliance of Farm and Environmental Groups Takes on Climate Change

The Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance was formed to help the agriculture industry address its role in climate change and decarbonization. The newly formed organization represents an unlikely alliance of the big agriculture industry representative The American Farm Bureau Federation and some of the most influential environmental organizations. The country’s largest and most powerful agricultural lobbying group, the AFBF has been lobbying against climate change measures for decades. At the other end of the political spectrum, the alliance also includes the Environmental Defense Fund and the Nature Conservancy. Additional members include the National Council of Farm Cooperatives and the National Farmers Union, among others. The organizations have been meeting for the better part of the last year and formally unveiled their partnership last month.

Why it’s important: The importance of big ag finally moving to take action on environmental issues cannot be understated. Soil health, greenhouse gas emissions, management of toxic waste, chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, rampant antibiotic use, feed standards, and animal welfare are all areas where the industrialization of the modern food supply has really been lacking in self-governance. This association will have its work cut out for it, but with established and powerful environmental organizations helping to steer, the future of American food production might become a lot greener. [read the article]

 

4) Eco-friendly diamonds made from the sky

Sky Diamonds are a new manufactured diamond made from carbon pulled from the atmosphere. Manufactured in Stroud, Gloucestershire, the company uses a “sky mining” facility to pull carbon out of the atmosphere. Wind and solar provide the energy, and the process reuses collected rainwater for a low-as-possible environmental impact. In fact, the process is so efficient, and due to the fact that it is pulling carbon out of the atmosphere, it is in fact, carbon negative. The gems are of high quality and have the same chemical composition as real diamonds. They are certified by the International Gemological Institute.

Why it’s important: For centuries humans have scoured the earth looking for these rare and beautiful stones. They are so prized for their beauty, that people will strip away fertile soil, dig massive pits, poison the earth, and even kill one another in wars to obtain them. Many of the Western-owned companies that continue these exploitive practices in developing nations benefit from lax or corrupted environmental laws and take most of the wealth out of the countries where diamonds are found. Diamonds are expensive, but the cost to the planet and humanity has never been fully accounted for in their price at the cash register. The fact that we can now create diamonds from atmospheric carbon in a Western country makes all of the damage no longer justifiable. [read the article]

 

5) Ecocide: Should killing nature be a crime?

Should the destruction of the environment be a crime? Many leading and influential environmentalists think so. So do civic leaders in Western cities on the oceans, and most desperately, in low lying island nations like the people of Vanuatu. Climate change is an imminent threat to the country but they have done almost nothing to cause it. Most of the damage was caused by the actions of people and companies in countries on the other side of the world. This crisis has been known by the international community for a long time, but until very recently nothing has been done to prevent it. In fact, there have been coordinated efforts by certain individuals and companies to prevent action, lest it negatively affects their profits and growth in any way. The crisis is so real and those who perpetuate the actions that cause it are so obviously lobbying to continue it for immoral reasons, that the International Criminal Court in the Hague has been recommended to change the law. An amendment to a treaty known as the Rome Statute, which established the International Criminal Court, could criminalize acts that amount to ecocide. Pope Francis has called for ecocide to be recognized as a crime, and in July, Greta Thunberg donated $135,000 to the Stop Ecocide Foundation.

Why it’s important: Doing something we know is morally wrong, just because it is legal doesn’t make it right. If companies knowingly destroy a resource owned by all of humanity, or the knowing actions of society on one side of the world have negative, even deadly consequences on the other side of the world, then should these organizations and the people who run them not be held responsible? The days of old, where resources seemed endless, or the repercussions of actions were not clearly known are over. Modern science has made perfectly clear the effects of our actions. To ignore or discredit them for personal gain is egregious in greed and lack of morality and should be punished. It is the only way to ensure that the people who profit from these actions will begin to do what is right. They have shown that they will go to no limit of effort to find a loophole if it means some profit, regardless of the cost to future generations or to people in places far away. The severity of punishments must match the seriousness of the crimes. [read the article]

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