Category Archives: Economic Justice

Virginia shines as solar hot spot in Catholic Energies expansion

In July, a 421-kilowatt solar system was installed at St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church, in Falls Church, Virginia. The rooftop solar array is projected to offset almost 90% of the parish’s energy use and save it upwards of $1.3 million over 25 years. (Catholic Energies)

A quick scan of the parishes and groups partnering with Catholic Energies reveals a noticeable geographic pattern: Virginia is a growing hotbed of solar activity.

Last month, three parishes in the Arlington Diocese powered up new solar installations, each developed and financed through Catholic Energies, the burgeoning program of the Catholic Climate Covenant that helps church institutions find outside funding to take on energy initiatives without the initial burden of hefty upfront costs.

With the new installations, the parishes — St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Falls Church, St. Bernadette Catholic Church in Springfield and Nativity Catholic Church in Burke — will collectively offset the carbon dioxide emissions produced by powering 3,500 homes for a year or burning 15,000 tons of coal. Just as attractive to their finance councils, the solar projects came at no cost and forecast sizeable savings.

At St. Anthony of Padua, the 421-kilowatt rooftop solar system — the largest of the three parishes — is expected to cover almost 90% of the parish’s energy demand. The solar panels, along with LED lighting upgrades, are projected to save St. Anthony upwards of $1.3 million over the 25-year term of the power purchase agreement.

The rooftop panels at Nativity are part of several green initiatives under way at the parish. Its creation care ministry has also begun a community vegetable garden, and its school is developing an outdoor learning space with native plants and species. In bulletins this summer, the ministry team and pastor Fr. Robert Cilinski included reflections on “Laudato Si’, on Care for Our Common Home” to mark the fifth anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical. While the panels will save the parish money — more than $200,000 — they also reflect Christian values to safeguard creation.

“Our solar panels are on the rooftop shouting the wisdom of Laudato Si’, the social teaching of the church,” Cilinski recently told the Arlington Catholic Herald, the diocesan newspaper.

With each Richmond parish, none paid any upfront costs, an arrangement made possible by Catholic Energies.

The program first works with groups to determine if solar is a fit, then seeks funding, primarily through power purchase agreements. In those deals, an outside investor finances the project and sets a fixed rate for energy usage, often lower than local utility rates, which is paid directly to the investor.

Since launching in fall 2017, Catholic Energies has completed 11 solar projects in the past 13 months. Eleven more are under contract and expected to be completed by the end of 2020. By then, the program will have footprints in eight states, along with Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C.

But the biggest business for Catholic Energies so far has been the region around Virginia. Of the 22 solar installations in all it expects to have completed by the end of the year, 10 are in the Old Dominion and two are in the Washington, D.C., area, where it is also working to finalize contracts with three more Catholic clients.

The completed projects include the 2-megawatt solar installation for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, the largest solar project in the city and to date the largest completed by Catholic Energies, which is based in the District of Columbia. The array’s 5,000 panels began producing power in April. Since then, the electricity it has generated from the sun has offset roughly 1 million pounds of carbon emissions, or the equivalent of planting 25,000 trees, according to Catholic Energies.

https://www.ncronline.org/news/earthbeat/virginia-shines-solar-hot-spot-catholic-energies-expansion

IS UNDERGROUND FARMING THE FUTURE OF FOOD?

A subterranean farm deep inside a South Korean subway station may unlock the secret to food sustainability.

More than seven million passengers ride Seoul’s metro system every day. But since September 2019, those who descend underground at the city’s Sangdo Station and push through the ticket gate are met with an unusual site: behind a glass-panelled facade, leafy shoots, sprouts and microgreens have sprung up from under bright LED lights as part of a subterranean, organic farm.

The concept, known as Metro Farm, uses hydroponic growing trays and an automated tech network to control the underground ecosystem’s temperature, humidity and CO2 levels. The result is a highly productive “vertical” farm that produces some 30kg of vegetables per day at a rate that is 40 times more efficient than traditional farming. In the adjacent cafe, as many as 1,000 customers a day now purchase salads, smoothies and edible flowers grown next door in a full seed-to-table operation.

According to Farm8, the tech startup behind the underground venture, Sangdo Station is just the first of many sustainable urban farming ventures that the company hopes to introduce across South Korea. The company believes that by developing these high-tech ventures in high-density areas, consumers will spend less on food transportation costs, C02 emissions associated with food delivery will drop and people will have a sustainable, year-round alternative to crops increasingly affected by pollution and climate change.

Farm8 is hoping to expand its flagship farm to three more Seoul metro stations later this year. If successful, the innovative venture may not only offer a more sustainable solution to urban farming, but also has the potential to be rolled out in environments where traditional farming isn’t feasible, such as deserts and Arctic climates.

http://www.bbc.com/travel/story/20200723-is-underground-farming-the-future-of-food?referer=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.bbc.com%2F

Catholic Charities serves families facing food insecurity in DC

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington at the National Shrine, Friday July 10, 2020. Credit: Catholic Charities.

Washington D.C., – In the shadow of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington distributed food to families in need Friday, as the nation’s capital continues to battle the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Today we provided food to hundreds of people who have been impacted by the pandemic,” Joe Dempsey, director of special projects for Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington, told CNA. 

“This shows that this crisis is still very much affecting the D.C. area, and it continues to hit struggling families the hardest. But we are committed to meeting our clients’ needs for as long as this situation lasts,” said Dempsey. 

The distribution was held in the parking lot in front of the basilica, a Washington landmark and the largest church in North America. In addition to the 500 grocery boxes, Catholic Charities also distributed boxes that contained a hot meal for a family of four. 

DC Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie, who represents the district’s Ward 5, where the basilica is located, praised Catholic Charities for their work in feeding the hungry. 

“Here in Ward 5 we have the second highest number of COVID-19 positive cases in the District,” Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie told CNA on Friday. 

“A large number of our businesses have had to close temporarily, leaving many of our residents without employment. Catholic Charities has been committed to serving some of our most vulnerable residents in the District and I am immensely appreciative of their continued service during this difficult time,” he added. 

According to research done by Northwestern University, Black and Hispanic families are particularly struggling with food insecurity in the wake of the economic shutdown caused by the pandemic. Approximately 40% of Black and Hispanic families say that they are having trouble feeding their children. 

Ward 5 is approximately 56% Black, and about 11% of the ward’s population identifies as Hispanic or Latino. About 16% of the residents in Ward 5 live below the poverty line. 

These numbers are a stark increase compared to previous years. In 2018, which was the last time a national survey was held concerning food insecurity, 25% of Black households with children and 17% of Hispanic households with children said that they were food insecure. Those figures are now 39% and 37%, respectively. 

For white households with children, 22% report food insecurity, which researchers say is more than double the previous figure prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach, an economist and the director of the Institute for Policy Research at Northwestern University, told POLITICO that these numbers are “uncharted territory.” 

“We’ve never seen food insecurity rates double, or nearly triple–and the persistent race gaps are just appalling,” she said.

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/catholic-charities-serves-families-facing-food-insecurity-in-dc-22571

Urgency of Changing Food Systems

More than ever, covid 19 has created or deepened awareness of the importance and safety of producing and consuming locally. This awareness has increased a growing global consensus on the need to reform food systems to achieve sustainable development goals. From this perspective, agro-ecology is central to the fact that it contributes to the achievement of many sustainable development goals. It enables agricultural production to be increased where necessary and contributes to the fight against hunger, malnutrition and poverty in rural areas. It also helps to combat environmental degradation, reduce greenhouse gases and adapt agriculture to climate change.

There are many major social and environmental challenges related to the way we produce, process and consume food. Despite abundant food production, hunger and malnutrition in the world are increasing. Agroecological approaches can play an important role in ensuring food and nutrition security for all. In the dimensions of availability,[1] accessibility (poverty alleviation), stability (increasing resilience) and utilization (diversified diets), agro-ecology has significant potential to improve food security. Many studies have found strong relationships between diverse farming systems (one of the key principles of agroecology), diversity of household diets and nutrition.[2]

The covid-19 pandemic has reinforced this transformation imperative. First of all; scientists have in the past linked the emergence of epidemics such as the Covid-19 pandemic, to the loss of habitat and biodiversity worldwide. But more importantly, this particular pandemic reveals the importance of strengthening the resilience of food systems and the autonomy of agricultural producers. There is ample evidence that agro-ecological systems, which are less dependent on inputs and major globalized value chains, are more resilient to the shocks of the pandemic on food systems. Here is one farmer’s testimony:

« At a time like this when there is no more movement, I continue to thrive because most of the inputs I need are on my farm; otherwise it would be difficult, if not impossible, to get them.  We produce a variety of crops and animals on the farm, so that has helped to spread the risk. With COVID-19, I can get income from different businesses: banana prices are currently very low, but in the near future, I will get income from cowpeas, onions and garlic. Also, as a family, we have enough food.»

We urgently need to reform our food systems so that they become socially equitable and no longer harm the planet. According to many international institutions, scientists, farmers’ movements and NGOs, this can be done by supporting an agro-ecological transition of food systems. In contrast to the proliferation of large-scale investments in agriculture, developed countries must strongly support the necessary agro-ecological transformation of food systems in developing countries. Recently (March 2020), a study on ” The share of agroecology in Belgian official development assistance: an opportunity missed” by UCLouvain (M. Vermeylen & O. De Schutter) showed that agroecology is not a priority for Belgian development cooperation. Indeed, it devotes only 16% of its budget dedicated to agriculture to support agro-ecology. This is an interpolation for other countries that intervene in one way or another in the development of the countries of the South.

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Good for planet and people? Renewable energy firms urged to clean up act on human rights

Workers walk at a solar power station in Tongchuan, Shaanxi province, China December 11, 2019. Picture taken December 11, 2019. REUTERS/Muyu Xu

BARCELONA, – Companies that produce clean energy are crucial for curbing climate change – but they’re not always the “good guys”, according to a report that tracks their human rights record for the first time.

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (BHRRC) says 16 of the world’s largest publicly-traded wind and solar producers are not doing enough to protect their workers and the local communities affected by their operations.

Here are the key takeaways:

What’s the bigger picture?

A push to use less fossil fuel and curb climate change has seen nearly $2.7 trillion invested in renewables – mainly in solar and wind power – in the past decade, and the sector employed 11 million people in 2018.

Many of the companies are seen as saviours when it comes to tackling global warming – but the same can’t be said of how they treat human rights, according to Phil Bloomer, BHRRC executive director

That is a particular concern for indigenous people whose land has in some cases been used for clean energy projects without their agreement or fair compensation.

Which companies have been assessed and what are the key results?

Spanish energy corporations Iberdrola and Acciona, followed by Denmark’s Orsted and Italy’s Enel, had the best human rights record overall, with French and German firms dominating the middle tier – but no company scores above 53% on the benchmark.

The worst performers are Chinese and North American companies, as well investors Brookfield and BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, which own many renewable projects.

Companies, on average, scored better on indicators covering the basic human rights responsibilities, including having policies and grievance mechanisms in place, similar to other high-risk industries like apparel, agricultural products and tech manufacturing.

But they scored zero across the board when it came to commitments such as respecting local land rights and relocating or compensating communities affected by renewables projects.

The companies scored well in some areas, including anti-corruption due diligence and health and safety disclosures.

So big renewable energy firms are doing the right thing for the planet but the wrong thing for people?

The centre has tracked allegations of abuse against renewables companies over the past decade, and says complaints increased 10 times between 2010 and 2018.

Since 2010, the centre has identified 197 allegations of human rights abuses related to renewable energy projects, and asked 127 companies to respond to those allegations.

They include: killings, threats, and intimidation; land grabs; dangerous working conditions and poverty wages; and harm to indigenous peoples’ lives and livelihoods.

Allegations have been made in every region and across the wind, solar, bioenergy, geothermal and hydropower sectors, with the highest number in Latin America.

https://news.trust.org/item/20200701164637-rk6o4/

Domain sale could do ‘irreparable harm’ to millions of charities, NGOs warn

Screenshot_2020-01-23 Domain sale could do 'irreparable harm' to millions of charities, NGOs warn
Archive Photo: A man stands at a computer terminal at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos January 29, 2010. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

DAVOS, – Top NGOs including Greenpeace and Amnesty International called for the $1.1 billion sale of the .org internet domain to a private company to be blocked on Wednesday, saying it could do “irreparable harm”.

Registrations for the millions of nonprofits whose websites end in .org are overseen by the Internet Society (ISOC), but in November the U.S. nonprofit announced it was selling control to a year-old private equity firm called Ethos Capital.

Since then, hundreds of organisations have objected, worried that Ethos will raise registration and renewal prices, cut back on infrastructure and security spending, or make deals to sell sensitive data or allow censorship or surveillance.

On Wednesday, the directors of 10 leading NGOs published an open letter at the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos urging ISOC and ICANN, the internet’s governing authority, to stop the sale, to stop the sale.

“Should the governance and stewardship of .ORG end up under the control of private or other actors that could lead to financial or other barriers that would irreparably harm global civil society,” the letter read.

Brett Solomon, executive director of digital rights group Access Now, said the sale risked pricing smaller organisations off the internet. But he said that was “really just a symptom of a broader issue around control”.

“The entity that is responsible for the stewardship of the Public Interest Registry has access to everything,” he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

“They have a capacity to take somebody off the .org domain, which means they can censor, they can monitor, they can deny.

“And all these issues are very, very important for organizations who are challenging governments and are challenging powerful interests.”

ICANN, which has the power to veto the deal, did not respond to a request for comment.

The Internet Society said in a joint statement with Ethos that the company had committed to limiting any cost increase to an annual average of 10%.

It said agreements in place with ICANN contained strict limitations to prevent a domain registry from regulating content or selling information about registered organisations.

Concerns about the sale have also been raised by the United Nations special rapporteurs for freedom of expression, assembly and association and a group of U.S. lawmakers including presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren.

“Certain public goods should never be for sale,” Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“We don’t auction off the town square. Similarly, ICANN shouldn’t approve the sale of .ORG, which is the essential haven where civic groups gather the world over.”

 

 

http://news.trust.org/item/20200122160437-mnqzb/

 

Traditional crops puff hopes for climate resilience in Kenya

Screenshot_2020-01-09 Traditional crops puff hopes for climate resilience in Kenya
Workers wash millet to prepare it for popping in Embu, Kenya, September 9, 2019. Thomson Reuters Foundation/Wesley Langat

EMBU, Kenya,  Two years ago, Michael Gichangi launched a business he hopes will help his rural community better cope with climate change stresses: making puffed cereal from climate-hardy traditional grains.

Using a $1,000 machine he bought, he pops millet – a drought-tolerant grain, but one not as widely eaten as staple maize – and turns it into a popular snack.

Over the last two years he has sold about $1,500 worth of the popped grain, and is the first in the district to have one of the machines, he said.

“I started popping millet to produce very delicious snacks, by mixing it with groundnuts, turmeric, ginger, cinnamon powder and simsim (sesame) oil”, he said.

The combination has won particular approval from students looking for an after-school snack, he said, and is now sold at the local Embu market.

As many households in sub-Saharan Afria struggle with poverty and food insecurity, climate change is hitting harvests and making life even harder.

But finding new markets for hardy grains that can better stand up to extreme weather and changing pests, and produce a reliable harvest, can help, agricultural scientists say.

Gichangi’s effort began when he joined a women-led agribusiness group in his village and started buying and selling traditional cereals such as millet, sorghum and green gram, all more drought-resilient alternatives to maize.

Previously, maize dominated farming in the area – but that dominance is gradually declining as weather extremes linked to climate change make getting a harvest more difficult, he and others said.

Patrick Maundu, an ethnobotanist at the National Museums of Kenya and an honorary fellow with Bioversity International, an organisation that promotes agricultural biodiversity, said millet is a traditional Kenyan crop – just one that, over the years, lost ground to maize.

The change came as a result of the intense promotion of maize production by governments, research groups and multinational companies selling products in Africa, he said.

“Millet is well adapted to dry parts of Africa but has been neglected because of … key policies focused on maize, taking over indigenous cereals,” he said in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

But in the recent years, wilder weather linked to climate change and the high cost of farm inputs – which farmers can struggle to pay if harvests fail – has made maize farming less reliable, particularly for small-scale farmers like those in Embu, Maundu said.

That has pushed many farmers to diversify back into drought-resistant traditional crops.

The amount of farm acreage planted with maize in Kenya has fallen by about a quarter in recent years, according to data from Kenya’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Still, finding a ready market for crops like millet – and getting people to resume eating them – can be a challenge.

Gichangi, an entrepreneur and millet farmer, said he realised that the key to making the new crops pay was adding value to what was harvested – hence the popping machine.

MORE JOBS, MORE RESILIENCE?

The puffed millet, besides being tasty, has boosted employment opportunities in Embu and helped reduce food waste because it can be stored longer, he said.

Stella Gathaka 30, who formerly worked as a food vendor, is now one of four workers at Gichangi’s small factory.

She said that, besides earning a salary, her new job allows her children to eat the millet snacks, which are more nutritious than their previous snack of sweet wheat biscuits.

These days, “I’m very knowledgeable on the importance of millet as a nutritious crop,” she said.

Daniel Kirori, operations director at DK Engineering Ltd., which assembles the popping machines, said his company had sold about 15 of them so far to women’s groups and other entrepreneurs around Kenya.

According to a 2017 United Nations report on the state of food security and nutrition, climate change pressures, from worsening droughts to floods, heatwaves and storms, are a key reason about 800 million people still lack access to enough food.

Liz Young, a senior researcher with the International Food Policy Research Institute noted in an interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation that Africa’s farmers urgently need help to adapt to the threats and grow enough to feed the continent’s rising population.

Producing more millet and other traditional hardy crops, and finding ways to process them to produce more income, is one way of doing that, Young said.

Emily Wawira, a small-scale millet farmer in Embu who sells her produce to Gichangi, said she sells 10 to 20 sacks of grain each year, each weighing 90 kilos, and earns $25 to $30 per sack.

That income “is enough to pay school fees,” she said – and an improvement on her former loss-making maize farming.

Gichangi’s millet snacks are slowly gaining ground on traditional favourites such as sugary wheat biscuits, his sales team said.

“It wasn’t easy popularising the products,” admitted Lucy Njeru, one of Gichangi’s saleswomen – though free samples helped.

Now, however, Gichangi has partnered with four local schools and an agricultural show to offer his healthier snacks.

Anthony Sawaya, Embu County’s director of trade and chief executive of the county Investment and Development Corporation, said his office is keen to help innovators like Gichangi access markets.

The county government, for instance, is promoting local foods at nearby and international trade fair exhibitions, he said.

 

Farmers in Zimbabwe facing severe droughts, hunger crisis, CRS says

FoodYoung girl in Zimbabwe. Credit: milosk50 / Shutterstock

.- As severe drought conditions continue in Zimbabwe, close to 7 million people are facing food shortages, a Catholic aid agency warned this week.

“Families have run out of options to put food on their tables,” said Dorrett Byrd, Catholic Relief Services’ (CRS) regional director for Southern Africa.

With repeated droughts over the past five years, many of Zimbabwe’s small farmers have found themselves unable to feed their families. The United Nations estimates that nearly half of the 16 million people in the country are urgently in need of food aid, and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network ranks the country as experiencing a “Phase 3 food crisis,” signifying widespread acute malnutrition.

The droughts have increased in frequency and intensity due to climate change, Byrd said. In addition to widespread crop failure, inflation has decimated many families’ savings.

Byrd warned that the struggle to find food has led many young people to leave the country, adding, “Migrating parents often leave their young children behind with grandparents who struggle to provide for them.”

Catholic Relief Services is working with farmers in Zimbabwe to teach soil and water conservation methods. The agency is also offering drought-resistant crops to farmers and is cooperating with the government in a notification system warning farmers about threats to their harvest.

Even with these steps, however, Byrd warned that more action needs to be taken in order for the people of Zimbabwe to recover.

Other countries in the region are also facing an escalating hunger crisis. The Food and Agriculture Organization reports that more than 45 million people in Southern Africa are currently faced with food insecurity.

“This area of the world needs help and it needs help now,” Byrd said. “We hope the economic situation improves soon, but if climate change is not addressed, countries like Zimbabwe will continue to suffer.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/farmers-in-zimbabwe-facing-severe-droughts-hunger-crisis-crs-says-56240

Top Global Scientists Call for ‘Profound Food System Transformation’ to Combat Extreme Malnutrition

malutrition
A new multi-paper World Health Organization report published Monday in The Lancet details the need to overhaul global food systems to address mass malnutrition. (Photo: Bartosz Hadyniak/Getty Images)

A multi-part World Health Organization report published Monday in the British medical journal The Lancet detailed the need to urgently transform the world’s failing food systems to combat the coexistence of undernourishment and obesity—or the “double burden of malnutrition.”

Based on global data from recent decades, the WHO report estimated that more than 150 million children are stunted worldwide while nearly 2.3 billion children and adults—about 30% of the planet’s human population—are overweight.

Dr. Francesco Branca, the report’s lead author and director of the WHO’s Department of Nutrition for Health and Development, said that “we can no longer characterize countries as low-income and undernourished, or high-income and only concerned with obesity.”

As he put it: “We are facing a new nutrition reality.”

This new reality “is driven by changes to the food system, which have increased availability of ultra-processed foods that are linked to increased weight gain, while also adversely affecting infant and pre-schooler diets,” said co-author and University of North Carolina professor Barry Popkin. “These changes include disappearing fresh food markets, increasing supermarkets, and the control of the food chain by supermarkets, and global food, catering and agriculture companies in many countries.”

Considering these changes, Branca explained that “all forms of malnutrition have a common denominator—food systems that fail to provide all people with healthy, safe, affordable, and sustainable diets.”

“Changing this will require action across food systems—from production and processing, through trade and distribution, pricing, marketing, and labeling, to consumption and waste,” he added. “All relevant policies and investments must be radically re-examined.”

This is especially true for the more than a third of low- and middle-income countries that face “the two extremes of malnutrition.” A WHO statement highlighted the following regions: sub-Saharan Africa, south and east Asia, and the Pacific.

Authors of the WHO report urged world governments, the United Nations, civil society, academics, the media, donors, the private sector, and economic platforms to pursue fundamental changes to global food systems with the aim of ending mass malnutrition. Doing so, according to the authors, means seeking assistance from grassroots groups, farmers and their unions, faith-based leaders, advocates for planetary health, leaders of green companies, local politicians, and consumer associations.

“Given the political economy of food, the commodification of food systems, and growing patterns of inequality worldwide, the new nutrition reality calls for a broadened community of actors who work in mutually reinforcing and interconnected ways on a global scale,” said Branca. “Without a profound food system transformation, the economic, social, and environmental costs of inaction will hinder the growth and development of individuals and societies for decades to come.”

The report acknowledged that fighting malnutrition requires successfully promoting healthier diets, which WHO defines as: optimal breastfeeding practices in the first two years; a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fiber, nuts, and seeds; and limited amounts of animal products—particularly processed meats—as well as foods and beverages high in sugar, saturated fat, trans fat, and salt.

“Today’s publication of the WHO Series on the Double Burden of Malnutrition comes after 12 months of Lancet articles exploring nutrition in all its forms,” wrote The Lancet editor-in-chief Dr. Richard Horton in an editorial accompanying the report.

“With these and other articles across Lancet journals throughout 2019, it has become clear that nutrition and malnutrition need to be approached from multiple perspectives,” Horton continued, “and although findings have sometimes converged, there is still work to be done to understand malnutrition’s multiple manifestations.”

In January, as Common Dreams reported, more than three dozen experts with the EAT-Lancet Commission called for a “global agricultural revolution” and people worldwide to adopt a “planetary health diet” to tackle the harmful nutritional and environmental impacts of the world’s unhealthy, unsustainable food system.

Co-lead commissioner Dr. Walter Willett of Harvard University explained at the time that “to be healthy, diets must have an appropriate calorie intake and consist of a variety of plant-based foods, low amounts of animal-based foods, unsaturated rather than saturated fats, and few refined grains, highly processed foods, and added sugars.”

 

 

 

 

https://www.commondreams.org/news/2019/12/16/top-global-scientists-call-profound-food-system-transformation-combat-extreme

Rubio: Blocking aid to Venezuela is a ‘crime against humanity’

Rubio photoSen. Marco Rubio. Credit: Rich Koele_Shutterstock

Washington D.C., (CNA) – Sen. Marco Rubio has called the humanitarian and political impasse in Venezuela “unsustainable,” and compared a blockade stopping food and medical aid from entering the country to a war crime.

The senator said leaders of the country’s security forces must choose between their orders and the needs of their families, neighbors and fellow citizens.

In a Feb. 8 interview with CNA, Rubio said that orders to prevent aid from crossing the border are illegitimate and should be refused by officers.

“They are being asked to do something that is illegitimate, they are being asked to do something that – if this were an armed conflict – would be a war crime,” Rubio said.

“Under the Geneva Conventions, the denial of the transit of food and medicine to civilian populations would be a war crime – that’s what they are being asked to participate in.”

The Republican senator from Florida is a key strategist and advisor to the Trump administration on the U.S. response to the political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.

Rubio said that while international support is important, the escalating humanitarian and political crisis can only be ended by Venezuelan leadership.

“Ultimately it falls upon the Venezuelan people, and by that I include members of the National Guard, the armed forces, and the police forces, to decide their own destiny and their own future.”

“The international community is here to help and support, but this is their cause.”

On Jan. 23, President Donald Trump recognised opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate interim president of the country. Nicolas Maduro has refused to recognize Guaidó, and clings to power through his control of the military.

Maduro succeeded Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in 2013. In 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department called Maduro “a dictator who disregards the will of the Venezuelan people.”
Rubio told CNA that Maduro must relinquish power to bring stability to a country that has seen more than 3 million people flee the country since 2015 amid spiralling inflation, food shortages and mass demonstrations.

The circumstances under which Maduro might be persuaded to abandon power are unclear, the senator said.

“Do I think Maduro is going to exit power eventually? Absolutely. Do I think he is going to do it willingly? I don’t know. But a lot of that depends on the people holding him up,” the senator said.

“Here’s the bottom line: the rank and file military does not support Maduro, but they are not willing to face the very grave consequences of breaking with him.”

These leaders, Rubio said, have the opportunity and responsibility to allow aid into the country.

“There are four or five senior military leaders, starting with the defense minister [Vladimir Padrino López], who if they were to recognize the interim government, that would be the end of the Maduro regime.”

If military leaders recognize the interim government, Rubio told CNA, they could also benefit from amnesties offered by the interim government but “that window is closing, on them and on the country.”

“The further this goes, the likelier it is that senior military leaders like [defense minister Vladimir] Padrino will disqualify themselves from the ability to receive domestic and international amnesty: because they deny food and medicine and thereby commit a crime against humanity; because they try to follow orders and attack unarmed protestors and civilians.”

“It’s in their hands, they can decide to change the trajectory of Venezuela.”

In the meantime, protests continue in the country and, according to Rubio, the Venezuelan people “are well aware” that the Maduro and his loyalists stand between them and the flow of foreign aid into the country.

“There is no way, if current trends continue, that Maduro holds on to power,” Rubio said. “The question becomes: how does he leave? Does he leave through a negotiated exit or does some other even occur that forces his hand?”

Earlier this week, Maduro issued a request for Pope Francis to act as a mediator in resolving the political standoff.

While the pope said that such a request for mediation would have to come from “both sides,” Cardinal Baltazar Enrique Porras Cardozo, Apostolic Administrator of Caracas, appeared to pour cold water on the notion of papal intervention, telling Argentina’s Radio Continental Feb. 6 that the suggestion was “non-viable.”

Rubio told CNA the request for papal mediation is a delaying tactic on the part of Maduro.

“He’s already done this before, the Vatican tried to mediate [in 2016] and it was a fiasco – they walked away from it knowing that he wasn’t sincere.”

“Maduro has a very simple plan: to buy time until he can fracture the opposition and the world’s attention is diverted to some other crisis and away from Venezuela.”

“That’s the model he has followed and he’s trying to pull it off one more time.”

The Venezuelan standoff began Jan. 10, when Maduro was inaugurated at the start of his second term. Both the National Assembly and the Venezuelan bishops’ conference declared at that time Maduro’s 2018 reelection to be invalid. Guaidó declared himself the nation’s interim leader Jan. 23.
Rubio paid tribute to Guaidó and other opposition leaders in the country, noting the real dangers they face.

“I have tremendous admiration for the risk that they are taking,” Rubio said. “They have always been at risk, there are a significant number of opposition leaders dead, in jail, or in exile as a result of this regime.”

But, he said, those committed to seeing genuine democracy in Venezuela recognize that they have had no other practical option than to put themselves at risk.

“As they themselves will tell you, the alternative would be for them to surrender and give in and live under this tyranny or have to leave their country.”

The senator told CNA that direct intervention by U.S. personnel – military or otherwise – remains “a controversial concept.”

“What there is a strong international consensus behind is that Maduro should not stand in the way of humanitarian relief reaching people who are literally dying,” Rubio said, but the moral imperative lay primarily on those carrying out Maduro’s orders.

“If Maduro is going to order that aid be blocked, then it is incumbent upon those that he is ordering not to follow those orders.”

“The military and its leaders are going to have to choose: do we follow these illegitimate orders that are hurting our own people or do we actually help them to reach the starving people of Venezuela, in many cases their own parents, their own siblings, their own families, their own neighbors.”

Rubio said that direct intervention is not something currently being contemplated in Washington. But, the senator noted, it remains an option to protect American personnel, including those trying to deliver food, medicine, and other aid to the country.

“Any U.S. personnel who comes in danger as a result of actions of the Maduro security forces- there will be grave consequences for it, they are well aware of it and they should govern themselves accordingly.”

“The plan here is not to have a caravan of American soldiers or aid workers entering Venezuela, the plan is to hand this over to whoever the interim government directs so that they can distribute in a non-political way.”

“The goal is to distribute the aid through non-governmental, non-political organizations inside Venezuela, for them to distribute through Caritas for the Catholic Church, the Red Cross and other NGOs that are operating within the country.”

Maduro’s security forces, who have erected roadblocks to prevent aid from entering the country, stand between food and medicine stockpiled across the Colombian border and Venezuelan organizations ready to distribute it.

Rubio said that while international pressure and consensus is important, responsibility for resolving the impasse lies with the soldiers blocking aid from entering the country. The senator suggested they should stand down.

“The choice is theirs.”

 

 
https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/rubio-blocking-aid-to-venezuela-is-a-crime-against-humanity-21754