Category Archives: Environment

South Sudan’s Women Deminers Brave Danger to Change Their Children’s Future

All Africa (Thomas Reuters Foundation)
By Stefanie Glinski

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Photo: PHOTOESSAY: South Suday’s Deminers Brave Danger to Change Their Children’s Future. A growing number of women deminers are clearing up bomb and unexploded ordnance – most of them mothers wanting to provide safety for their families, writes Stephanie Glinski for Thomson Reuters Foundation. Margaret J…..

11 July 2017: Juba — A growing number of women deminers are clearing up bomb and unexploded ordnance – most of them mothers wanting to provide safety for their families

Margret has decided that South Sudan is not a place to raise children, but she is changing this for future generations.

That’s why – 10 years ago – the mother of two joined the country’s 400 to 500 deminers, digging up remnants of past and present wars – bombs, unexploded ordnances and landmines.

She’s one of a growing number of women to take up the risky business, most of them mothers wanting to provide safety for their families.

“It’s my way of contributing and making this country better,” she said. “I sent my children to Uganda, but I want them to come back one day. It’s a sacrifice for me, but a gain for those returning when the war is over.”

Landmines have a long history in South Sudan, the world’s youngest nation that won independence from Sudan in 2011 after a long and violent liberation struggle. After just two years, a political squabble escalated into renewed civil war in late 2013, fracturing the new nation along ethnic lines.

More than four million mines and explosive devices have been found and destroyed in South Sudan over the last decade, says the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS). While some accidents are recorded, UNMAS believes that at least 90 percent go unreported.

WAR REMNANTS
Margret currently works around Kolye village, a 30 minute drive on unpaved bumpy roads from the South Sudanese capital Juba in a lush setting of green fields and mango trees.

The area saw heavy fighting between the Sudanese army and southern rebels during Sudan’s long civil war which ended in 2005, paving the way for the South’s independence.

Deadly anti-personnel fragmentation mines were laid by Khartoum’s forces to protect their barracks.

More than a decade later, they are still killing civilians.

“Soldiers placing mines think carefully about how humans behave, where they go and what they do. That is why mines are found alongside roads, in market places or by water points,” said Jan Møller Hansen of DanChurchAid’s demining project, the organisation that also employs Margret.

While mines are easy to place, they are hard to remove. After an eight-week training course, Margret has dug out hundreds of them throughout her career and – on a good day – she can cover up to 30 square metres (320 square feet).

“We can use the safe land to build roads, hospitals and schools and that’s what excites me the most,” she smiled.

According to UNMAS’s demining chief, Tim Lardner, it will take at least another 10 years to clear up the whole country that is roughly the size of France.

South Sudan signed the Mine Ban Treaty less than six months after independence in 2011, deeming anti-personnel mines illegal and their removal mandatory.

Renewed war has complicated efforts to remove mines from previous conflicts, while rebel forces, without providing evidence, have accused the government of laying new explosives in violation of the treaty, a charge it denies.

Continue reading South Sudan’s Women Deminers Brave Danger to Change Their Children’s Future

2 Billion People Don’t Have Access To Clean Water, Opens up Fissures of Inequality

IPS News
by Roshni Majumdar

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On 9 February 2016 in central Ethiopia, children and women from a semi-pastoralist community wait their turn to fill jerrycans with clean water at a water point in Haro Huba Kebele in Fantale Woreda, in East Shoa Zone, Oromia Region. Credit: © UNICEF/UN011590/Ayene

UNITED NATIONS, Jul 13 2017 (IPS) – More than two billion people lack access to clean and safe drinking water, according to a new report released by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

Although significant progress to ensure access to drinking water has been achieved, there is still a long way to go to ensure its quality—deemed free from pollutants and safe for drinking.

“Clean water and sanitation is central to other outcomes, for example, nutrition among children. While many countries like India have made it a top priority, many others haven’t been able to emphasise the issue yet,” Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF, told IPS.

As many as 400 million people still rely on distant water sources—travelling to and fro from their homes to pick it up. Some 159 million people, according to the report, rely on untreated water from lakes and streams. This puts lives, especially of young children, at great risk.

“Every day, 800 children under the age of five die from waterborne diseases like diarrhoea. In fact, diarrhoea is the second biggest cause of death in the world.” Wijesekera added.

A lack of access to clean drinking water is also bad news for hygiene and sanitary levels. In many countries, open defecation due to the lack of in-house toilets poses a significant challenge.

“The sheer indignity of openly defecating, especially among young girls, takes a toll on other aspects of their lives—such as their poor attendance in school where there aren’t toilets,” Wijesekera explained.

This is especially true in rural areas. While the global drop in open defecation from 20 to 12 percent between 2000 and 2015 is a welcome fact, the rate of decline, at just .7 percent every year, puts pressure on governments to do more. To eliminate open defecation by 2030, for example, the rate of decline has to double.

Still, some countries like Ethiopia have combatted the issue of open defecation successfully.

“In Ethiopia, the percentage has dropped from 80 to 27 percent between 2000 and 2015. Critical building blocks like stronger policies at the government levels and dutiful allocation of funds can go a long way,” Wijesekera said.

These issues—from access to safe drinking water to sanitation supplies—mostly affect the poorest families. For example, Angola, which has performed better than other sub-Saharan African countries and achieved overall basic access to water for its citizens, still shows a gap of 40 percent between people who live in urban and rural areas.

Similarly, Panama’s capital city has achieved universal access to clean drinking water, but other sub regions in the country remain marginalized.

Meanwhile, the report has drawn criticism from other NGOs for being incomplete.

“The report is a good starting point but the current data only reflects 35 percent of the global population across 92 countries. Big countries like China and India have been left out,” Al-Hassan Adam, the international coordinator at End Water Poverty, a coalition organisation that campaigns for water rights and sanitation, told IPS.

“Bigger industries have to do more to protect water resources. In countries like Mexico, water is still contaminated. In other poorer countries, infrastructure to ensure safely managed water is missing in the first place,” he added.

The 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the UN strongly focus on reducing inequality between and within countries, and commit member states to “leave no one behind.”

 

Just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, study says

The Guardian (July 10, 2017)
by Tess Riley
@Tess Riley

Just 100 companies responsible for 71% of global emissions, study says.

A relatively small number of fossil fuel producers and their investors could hold the key to tackling climate change

oil rig from the guardian
An oil rig exploring for oil and gas. A new report says more than 50% of global industrial emissions since 1988 can be traced to just 25 companies. Photograph: Dazman/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Just 100 companies have been the source of more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988, according to a new report.

The Carbon Majors Report (pdf) “pinpoints how a relatively small set of fossil fuel producers may hold the key to systemic change on carbon emissions,” says Pedro Faria, technical director at environmental non-profit CDP, which published the report in collaboration with the Climate Accountability Institute.

Traditionally, large scale greenhouse gas emissions data is collected at a national level but this report focuses on fossil fuel producers. Compiled from a database of publicly available emissions figures, it is intended as the first in a series of publications to highlight the role companies and their investors could play in tackling climate change.

The report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 – the year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was established – can be traced to just 25 corporate and state-owned entities. The scale of historical emissions associated with these fossil fuel producers is large enough to have contributed significantly to climate change, according to the report.

ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are identified as among the highest emitting investor-owned companies since 1988. If fossil fuels continue to be extracted at the same rate over the next 28 years as they were between 1988 and 2017, says the report, global average temperatures would be on course to rise by 4C by the end of the century. This is likely to have catastrophic consequences including substantial species extinction and global food scarcity risks.

While companies have a huge role to play in driving climate change, says Faria, the barrier is the “absolute tension” between short-term profitability and the urgent need to reduce emissions.

A Carbon Tracker study in 2015 found that fossil fuel companies risked wasting more than $2tn over the coming decade by pursuing coal, oil and gas projects that could be worthless in the face of international action on climate change and advances in renewables – in turn posing substantial threats to investor returns.

CDP says its aims with the carbon majors project are both to improve transparency among fossil fuel producers and to help investors understand the emissions associated with their fossil fuel holdings.

A fifth of global industrial greenhouse gas emissions are backed by public investment, according to the report. “That puts a significant responsibility on those investors to engage with carbon majors and urge them to disclose climate risk,” says Faria.

Investors should move out of fossil fuels, says Michael Brune, executive director of US environmental organisation the Sierra Club. “Not only is it morally risky, it’s economically risky. The world is moving away from fossil fuels towards clean energy and is doing so at an accelerated pace. Those left holding investments in fossil fuel companies will find their investments becoming more and more risky over time.”

There is a “growing wave of companies that are acting in the opposite manner to the companies in this report,” says Brune. Nearly 100 companies including Apple, Facebook, Google and Ikea have committed to 100% renewable power under the RE100 initiative. Volvo recently announced that all its cars would be electric or hybrid from 2019.

And oil and gas companies are also embarking on green investments. Shell set up a renewables arm in 2015 with a $1.7bn investment attached and a spokesperson for Chevron says it’s “committed to managing its [greenhouse gas] emissions” and is investing in two of the world’s largest carbon dioxide injection projects to capture and store carbon. A BP spokesperson says its “determined to be part of the solution” for climate change and is “investing in renewables and low-carbon innovation.” And ExxonMobil, which has faced heavy criticism for its environmental record, has been exploring carbon capture and storage.

But for many the sums involved and pace of change are nowhere near enough. A research paper published last year by Paul Stevens, an academic at think tank Chatham House, said international oil companies were no longer fit for purpose and warned these multinationals that they faced a “nasty, brutish and short” end within the next 10 years if they did not completely change their business models.

Investors now have a choice, according to Charlie Kronick, senior programme advisor at Greenpeace UK. “The future of the oil industry has already been written: the choice is will its decline be managed, returning capital to shareholders to be reinvested in the genuine industries of the future, or will they hold on, hoping not be the last one standing when the music stops?”

A list of the world’s Top 100 Polluters is available on line at The Guardian.

Climate Change-Poverty-Migration: The New, Inhuman ‘Bermuda Triangle’

by Baher Kamal
IPS News Service

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Unprecedented levels of population displacements in the Lake Chad Basin:  Cameroon, Chad, the Niger and Nigeria. Credit: FAO

ROME, Jul 7 2017 (IPS) – World organisations, experts and scientists have been repeating it to satiety: climate change poses a major risk to the poorest rural populations in developing countries, dangerously threatening their lives and livelihoods and thus forcing them to migrate.

Also that the billions of dollars that the major industrialised powers—those who are the main responsible for climate change, spend on often illegal, inhumane measures aiming at impeding the arrival of migrants and refuges to their countries, could be devoted instead to preventing the root causes of massive human displacements.

One such a solution is to invest in sustainable agriculture. On this, the world’s leading body in the fields of food and agriculture has once again warned that climate change often leads to distress-driven migration, while stressing that promoting sustainable agriculture is an essential part of an effective policy response.

The “solution to this great challenge” lies in bolstering the economic activities that the vast majority of rural populations are already engaged in,” José Graziano da Silva, director-general of the Rome-based UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) on 6 July said.

The UN specialised agency’s chief cited figures showing that since 2008 one person has been displaced every second by climate and weather disasters –an average of 26 million a year– and suggesting the trend is likely to intensify in the immediate future as rural areas struggle to cope with warmer weather and more erratic rainfall.

For his part, William Lacy Swing, director-general of the UN International Organization for Migration (IOM), also on July 6 said “Although less visible than extreme events like a hurricane, slow-onset climate change events tend to have a much greater impact over time.”

“Since 2008 one person has been displaced every second by climate and weather disasters”

Swing cited the drying up over 30 years of Lake Chad, now a food crisis hotspot. “Many migrants will come from rural areas, with a potentially major impact on agricultural production and food prices.”

FAO and IOM, chosen as co-chairs for 2018 of the Global Migration Group –an inter-agency group of 22 UN organisations– are collaborating on ways to tackle the root causes of migration, an increasingly pressing issue for the international community.

Drivers of Rural Migration
“Rural areas of developing countries, where often poor households have limited capacity to cope with and manage risks, are forecast to bear the brunt of higher average temperatures. Such vulnerabilities have been worsened by years of under-investment in rural areas.” Continue reading Climate Change-Poverty-Migration: The New, Inhuman ‘Bermuda Triangle’

When women have land rights the tide begins to turn

IPS
By Manipadma Jena

This story is part of special IPS coverage of the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on June 17.

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Women’s secure tenure rights lead to several positive development outcomes for them and their families, including resilience to climate change shocks, economic productivity, food security, health, and education. Here a young tribal woman works shoulder to shoulder with her husband planting rice saplings in India’s Rayagada province. Credit: Manipadma Jena/IPS

NEW DELHI, Jun 12 2017 (IPS) – In Meghalaya, India’s northeastern biodiversity hotspot, all three major tribes are matrilineal. Children take the mother’s family name, while daughters inherit the family lands.

Because women own land and have always decided what is grown on it and what is conserved, the state not only has a strong climate-resistant food system but also some of the rarest edible and medicinal plants, researchers said.

While their ancient culture empowers Meghalaya’s indigenous women with land ownership that vastly improves their resilience to the food shocks climate change springs on them, for an overwhelming majority of women in developing countries, culture does not allow them even a voice in family or community land management. Nor do national laws support their rights to own the very land they sow and harvest to feed their families.

The importance of protecting the full spectrum of women’s property rights becomes even more urgent as the number of women-led households in rural areas around the world continues to grow.

Continue reading When women have land rights the tide begins to turn

Kenya arrests suspects in shooting of conservationist

World News – REUTERS| Mon Apr 24, 2017 | 10:20am EDT

Italian-born conservationist Gallmann poses for a photograph during the Highland Games in Laikipia Kenya
Italian-born conservationist Kuki Gallmann poses for a photograph during the Highland Games in Laikipia, Kenya, September 22, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer.

Kenya has arrested an unspecified number of suspects and recovered a gun linked to the shooting of Italian-born conservationist Kuki Gallmann at her conservation park over the weekend, the interior minister said on Monday.

The 73-year old author of the memoir “I Dreamed of Africa” was shot in the stomach on Sunday in her 100,000-acre (400 square km) ranch and nature conservancy in Laikipia in the north.

Gallmann was recovering in intensive care at a Nairobi hospital, where she underwent a seven-hour operation, after being airlifted from Laikipia, her family said on Monday.

“We have recovered a gun which is now undergoing ballistic tests to confirm whether it was the gun used to shoot Kuki,” Joseph Nkaissery, the interior minister, told a news conference.

He did not say how many suspects the police were holding. He described the attack on Gallmann, who was in a vehicle at the time of the attack, as an “isolated” act of banditry.

A wave of violence has hit Kenya’s drought-stricken Laikipia region in recent months. Armed cattle-herders searching for scarce grazing land have driven tens of thousands of cattle onto private farms and ranches from poor-quality communal land.

At least a dozen civilians and police officers have been killed in the violence.

Kenya dispatched its military to the area last month to help restore calm and disarm communities. The minister said the operation was going as planned.

Many residents of the area accuse local politicians of inciting the violence before elections in August. They say the men are trying to drive out voters who might oppose them and win votes by promising supporters access to private land.

(Reporting by Humphrey Malalo; Writing by Duncan Miriri; Editing by Larry King)

Change the Goal – Doughnut Economics

YES Magazine

David Korten

I see a lot of books presuming to explain what’s wrong with the economy and what to do about it. Rarely do I come across one with the consistent new paradigm frame, historical depth, practical sensibility, systemic analysis, and readability of Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth. Especially unique and valuable is her carefully reasoned, illustrated, and documented debunking of the fatally flawed theory behind economic policies that drive financial instability, environmental collapse, poverty, and extreme inequality.

Doughnut Economics opens with the story of an Oxford University student. Recognizing the inseparable connection between the economy and the environmental and social issues of our time, she did what many students with such concerns do. She signed up for an economics major hoping to learn how she might contribute to creating a better world.

What she learned instead is that the theory taught in textbook economics is hopelessly simplistic and largely irrelevant to her concerns—and to those of many of her fellow students. Rather than just shift to a more relevant major, however, she started what has become a spreading global student movement demanding reform of university economics curricula.

On a fast track to becoming one of the world’s most influential economists, Raworth has produced a book that more than validates the reasons for the student revolt. She fills in yawning gaps in current textbook economic theory to make the connections for which these students—and many of the rest of us—are looking. More