Monday, December 22, 2008

The Plight of the South Pacific Islands -- visit Kiribati with PBS

In the Poland climate change meeting just concluded, a top UN official predicted that by the middle of this century, the world should expect six million people a year to be displaced by increasingly severe storms and floods caused by climate change.

But as the PBS program NOW recounts:

for many island nations in the South Pacific, climate change is already more than just a theory -- it is a pressing, menacing reality. These small, low-lying islands are frighteningly vulnerable to rising temperatures and sea levels that could cause flooding and contaminate their fresh water wells. Within 50 years, some of them could be under water.  NOW travels to the nation of Kiribati to see up close how these changes affect residents' daily lives and how they are dealing with the reality that both their land and culture could disappear from the Earth. We also travel to New Zealand to visit an I-Kiribati community that has already left its home, and to the Pacific Island Forum in Niue to see how the rest of the region is coping with the here-and-now crisis of climate change.

To see the report, visit PBS NOW link

December 22, 2008 in Asia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Sustainability | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Haiti's Resurrection

Dear Readers and Friends:

It is so difficult this time of year to decide how to spend one's limited resources in a way consistent with our duty to reduce human suffering and make the world a better place.  It is especially difficult now, when all of us are a bit uncertain about our financial future and have lost a considerable amount of our paper wealth.  But, I am concentrating for now on Haiti, the most impoverished nation in the Western hemisphere. Below I post a letter from a friend in Haiti, in the hope that some of you may help in the resurrection of Haiti after this fall's hurricane season. Obviously, my friend is a Christian (as I am), but human need knows no religion.  Be assured that any money sent him through the church will be used to meet profound human need, not the promotion of a creed.  And, if you are reluctant to send money to a faith-based organization, just let me know and I'll be happy to find a secular route for your gift.

[We] are writing you all with a great mix of emotions – sadness and frustration, great doubts, fear, but also some sense of hope. Many of you already know that in the past five weeks, Haiti was affected by four hurricanes – Fay, Gustav, Hanna and Ike, resulting in profound destruction throughout the entire country. Chavannes Jean Baptiste, the director of MPP (Mouvman Peyizan Papay–Farmer’s Movement of Papay) noted this past Monday that the situation is without precedent.  MPP along with other national and international organizations are beginning to get a grasp of the level of havoc and devastation, but it seems impossible that anyone will ever be able to make a full accounting of the loss of life and property.


Many of the root causes of the poverty in Haiti–weak government, inadequate communication, lack of roads and other infrastructure, virtually non-existent social services–have always kept Haitind other countries with similar conditions, open to the full effects of disasters such as this. These same conditions now make it difficult and in some cases impossible for a quick response to those who need help the most. It is even nearly impossible to know who needs the help the most. In the last two days, I have received reports via e-mail of whole communities without food and water, with no help in sight. Lack of real roads have always been part of the isolation of many of these communities. Now, the serious damage to bridges and other weak points along the roads that do exist has increased the number of people who are isolated from any easy access, as well as deepening the level of isolation for those who have always lived at the limits.


Given all this, [our] sense of sadness is easy to understand. We live along side people who carry on their daily lives with grace, great generosity and wonderful senses of humor, despite the profound limitations. Now, these same people, some of whom are close personal friends, have lost homes and possessions and we know they have no real resources, or hope, for recuperating their losses. We have a great need to help, but we ourselves do not have the ability to provide any help that seems significant, even at the local level. Not even for just the families who are part of MPP – at least 52 families whose homes were flooded last week. Multiply the needs of the folks in Hinche by all of communities in nearly every part of Haiti, you can easily understand our frustration. What can we do? Within the sadness and frustration I also feel some guilt, because we ourselves are safe and suffered no damage at all to our home or even to the project where I work.


We also wonder whether the kind of help that is starting to come could possibly be adequate, given the enormous need. And will the assistance that comes be directed to address some of the root causes of poverty in  Haiti?  Will the funds help rebuild roads and bridges so that they are better than they were, or will the be used to make the highways and byways merely passable, subject as always to rapid degradation by even normal use? And will the international lending agencies, such as the International Monetary Fund, encourage the Haitian government to create “safety nets” that can help families and communities recuperate losses? Or will they follow their standard policy, insisting on budgetary stringency, regardless of the needs of the most vulnerable–the poor in general, and women, children and the aged in particular?


It is impossible to write about the current catastrophe without mentioning as well the ongoing global wide crises of food prices which are spiraling out of US control. In the project that I help coordinate – the crew prepares and shares two meals a day. We produce all of the vegetables for these meals ourselves, but for the items we can’t produce (corn, rice, coffee, oil etc), we paid a total of around  $100 in  May.  In August, we spent around $135 for the same supplies and in September we spent $175. In a country where over half the population earns less than $US 1.00 a day, the situation was devastating, before the flooding will now die from hunger, giving in at last to ongoing deprivation?


And the fear we feel, where does that come from? Haitians have a marvelous way of dealing with difficult situations that I have come to respect a great deal. They sing, they laugh, they joke and suddenly, the load lightens and the way forward opens up again. There is also a great deal of tolerance, or patience, with unjust conditions. But there are limits. The suffering from the food crisis was becoming nearly insufferable before the hurricanes. If there is not a rapid, reliable and comprehensive response to the current situation, especially by the Haitian government, there will almost surely be massive unrest, probably focused, as always, in Port au Prince, the capital of     Haiti.


At the end of such a letter, what could we say about hope that could balance the discouragement I’m sure you can sense in what I write? First and foremost is faith – [our] faith as well as the profound faith of Haitians in general. We do believe in a God who makes a way where there is no way – our God who sent our savior, Jesus Christ, to die on the cross, not only to demonstrate God’s profound solidarity with his chosen people, but also to completely and finally put an end to despair. Because we are Christ followers, we hope, and there is nothing that can separate us from that hope, from the constant renewal of that hope. As [we] and several crew members were heading south, into Port au Prince,... we passed through an area just north of the city of    Mirebelais (Mee be lay) where the farmers have access to irrigation. In field after field as we traveled down the road, farmers were out in those fields transplanting rice, hoeing rice, irrigating rice. Just one day after Hurricane Ike had passed through, the fields were already moving from devastation into abundance, farmers moving from being victims to being the agents of their own resurrection. What a miracle. What a God.


Note:

Please be part of Haiti’s resurrection. Contributions for the crisis in Haiti may be sent to Presbyterian Disaster Assistance (PDA). Please write on the check “DR-000064 Haiti Emergency.” Mail it to:

Presbyterian Church (USA)
Individual Remittance Processing
P.O. Box 643700
Pittsburgh PA 15264-3700 

 

December 18, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

27th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference

DON’T FORGET TO MARK PIELC IN YOUR 2009 CALENDARS!

The 27th Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference

Solidarity! United Action for the Greener Good

 

February 26th – March 1st

University of Oregon School of Law

Eugene, Oregon

www.pielc.org

 

Read on for planning updates and reminders . . .

 

- Last day to submit panel suggestions is January 15th, but the sooner the better, as our timeslots are already starting to fill up.  Go to http://www.pielc.org/pages/panel_suggest.html

- Submit artwork for PIELC 2009 posters and t-shirts now!  Email submissions to aengel@uoregon.edu, or mail them to 1221 University of Oregon School of Law, Eugene, OR 97403, attn: LAW

- Coming in mid-January, our website will be updated with more travel, lodging, and childcare options than ever at www.pielc.org.

- Our confirmed keynote speakers are:

Katherine Redford – Co-Founder and US Office Director of Earth Rights International, is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law, where she received the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Human Rights and Public Service. She is a member of the Massachusetts State Bar and served as counsel to plaintiffs in ERI's landmark case Doe v. Unocal. Katie received an Echoing Green Fellowship in 1995 to establish ERI, and since that time has split her time between ERI's Thailand and US offices. In addition to working on ERI's litigation and teaching at the EarthRights Schools, Katie currently serves as an adjunct professor of law at both UVA and the Washington College of Law at American University. She has published on various issues associated with human rights and corporate accountability, in addition to co-authoring ERI reports such as In Our Court, Shock and Law, and Total Denial Continues. In 2006, Katie was selected as an Ashoka Global Fellow.

Riki Ott – Experienced firsthand the devastating effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill—and chose to do something about it. She retired from fishing, founded three nonprofit organizations to deal with lingering social, economic, and harm, and wrote two books about the spill. Sound Truth and Corporate Myths focuses on the hard science-ecotoxicology, and the new understanding (paradigm shift) that oil is more toxic than previously thought. Not One Drop describes the soft science--the sociology of disaster trauma, and the new understanding that our legal system does not work in cases involving wealthy corporations, complex science, and class-action. Ott draws on her academic training and experience to educate, empower, and motivate students and the general public to address the climate crisis and our energy future through local solutions. Ott lives Cordova, Alaska, the fishing community most affected by the disaster.

Stephen Stec – Adjunct Professor at Central European University (HU) and Associate Scholar at Leiden University (NL).  As well as the former head of the Environmental Law Program of the Regional Environmental Center (REC), Stec is one of the authors of The Aarhus Convention Implementation Guide and main editor for the Access to Justice Handbook under the Aarhus Convention. The subject of the Aarhus Convention goes to the heart of the relationship between people and governments. The Convention is not only an environmental agreement; it is also a Convention about government accountability, transparency and responsiveness.  The Aarhus Convention grants the public rights and imposes on parties and public authorities obligations regarding access to information and public participation and access to justice.

Fernando Ochoa – Legal Advisor for Pronatura Noroeste a Mexican non-profit organization and the Waterkeeper Program for the Baja California Peninsula, and founding member and Executive Director for Defensa Ambiental del Noroeste (DAN), an environmental advocacy organization. Mr. Ochoa has helped establish more than 60 conservation contracts to protect more than 150 thousand acres of land in Northwest Mexico.  As the Executive Director of DAN, Mr. Ochoa has successfully opposed several development and industrial projects that threatened ecosystems in the Sea of Cortes and the Baja California Peninsula, having saved critical habitat for Gray Whales, Whale Sharks and other endangered species.  His work has set important legal precedents on environmental law in order for local communities to gain participation in decision making processes, transparency and access to justice.

Claudia Polsky – Deputy Director of the Office of Pollution Prevention and Green Technology (P2 Office) in California’s Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).  The P2 Office is central to the implementation of  new (2008) legal authority that gives California expansive ability to regulate toxic chemicals in consumer products.  Instead of focusing on cleanup of past pollution -- the historic emphasis of DTSC -- the P2  Office looks to the future by preventing the use of toxic materials in consumer products and industrial operations.  Ms. Polsky's duties include implementing California’s Green Chemistry Initiative, overseeing hazardous waste source-reduction programs, and working with staff engineers to evaluate and deploy new environmental technologies that reduce the need for toxic chemicals. The Office's work involves interaction with stakeholders as diverse as electronics manufacturers, breast cancer activists, analytical chemists, and venture capitalists.  Before joining DTSC, Ms. Polsky worked for the California Department of Justice, Earthjustice, Public Citizen Litigation Group, and The Nature Conservancy. She holds an undergraduate degree from Harvard University, and a J.D. from Boalt Hall School of Law, where she was Editor in Chief of Ecology Law Quarterly. She is also a former Fulbright Scholar to New Zealand, receiving a Masters of Applied Science in Natural Resource Management.

Gail Small – The director of Native Action, an environmental justice organization in Lame Deer, Montana. Small's political engagement in energy issues began in the early 1970s, when she and other high school students were sent by the tribal government to visit coal extraction sites on the Navajo Reservation and in Wyoming, after the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) signed leases opening the Northern Cheyenne Reservation to strip-mining. Small later served on a tribal committee that successfully fought for the cancellation of the BIA coal leases. She received her law degree from the University of Oregon and formed Native Action in 1984. Her work at Native Action includes litigation, drafting tribal statutes, and creating informational resources for tribal members.

Derrick Jenson – bio coming soon

SEE YOU THERE!

The Conference Co-Directors

Cadence Whiteley

Erin Farris

Jasmine Hites

Andy Engel

Teresa Jacobs


Questions? Suggestions? Comments?  email askpielc@uoregon.edu

December 17, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

CGD Contribution to Development Index - Environment

 
Go check out the Center for Global Development's 2007 Commitment to Development Index page.  Its got some great graphics that you have to see to appreciate.  Unsurprisingly, EU countries lead the way on the Center for Global Development's index of commitment to environmentally sustainable development and the US trails the pack, scoring under 3 on a 10 point scale, while EU countries tend to score 6 or above with Norway near 9.  Center for Global Development Commitment to Development Index   

CGD reports:

Norway tops this year’s environment standings. Its net greenhouse gas emissions fell during 1995–2005, the last ten years for which data are available, thanks to steady expansion in its forests, which absorb carbon dioxide. Also high is Ireland, whose economy grew 6.6 percent per year faster in the same period than its greenhouse gas emissions; and the U.K., which has steadily increased gasoline taxes and supported wind and other renewable energy sources. Spain finishes low as a heavy subsidizer of its fishing industry while Japan is hurt by its high tropical timber imports. The U.S. has not ratified the Kyoto Protocol, the most serious international effort yet to deal with climate change. That gap, along with high greenhouse emissions and low gas taxes, puts the U.S. last. Two notches up, Australia cuts a similar profile, with the highest per-capita greenhouse gas emissions in the group.      

 

The environment component of the CDI compares rich countries on policies that affect shared global resources such as the atmosphere and oceans. Rich countries use these resources disproportionately while poor ones are less equipped to adapt to the consequences, such as global warming. Countries do well if their greenhouse gas emissions are falling, if their gas taxes are high, if they do not subsidize the fishing industry, and if they control imports of illegally cut tropical timber.

A healthy environment is sometimes dismissed as a luxury for the rich. But people cannot live without a healthy environment. And poor nations have weaker infrastructures and fewer social services than rich countries, making the results of climate change all the more damaging. A study co-authored by CGD senior fellow David Wheeler predicts that a two-meter sea level rise would flood 90 million people out of their homes, many of them in the river deltas of Bangladesh, Egypt, and Vietnam.

The environment component looks at what rich countries are doing to reduce their disproportionate exploitation of the global commons. Are they reining in greenhouse gas emissions? How complicit are they in environmental destruction in developing countries, for example by importing commodities such as tropical timber? Do they subsidize fishing fleets that deplete fisheries off the coasts of such countries as Senegal and India?

December 2, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, November 3, 2008

If Bretton Woods is Dead, Now what?

Here's Kevin Gallagher's answer:


Bretton Woods is dead

World leaders must commit to forming new international organisations better suited to solving the economic crisis


Kevin Gallagher
guardian.co.uk,

Monday November 03 2008 12.00 GMT


President Bush has taken a welcome step by inviting the G-20 to Washington

on November 15 to discuss the global financial crisis. This meeting should put in place a stability package that includes the developing countries and lays the groundwork for the creation of a new multilateral financial architecture.


Over the past five years, GDP per capita in the world's developing economies has been rising faster than in rich countries for the first time in history. According to statistics released by the World Bank last week, the developing world has pulled 232 million people over the global poverty line of $2.50 per day since 1999.

These gains in economic growth and poverty alleviation are the result of an economic model that significantly deviates from the Washington Consensus. Nations like China, India, South Africa and  Brazil all have recognised that markets and trade are important for development, but they have also shown the world that markets must be guided by appropriate governmental policy. In the World Trade Organisation, where each nation has an equal vote, the developing world has worked hard to preserve the ability to deploy the mix of state and market policies that have been working for them.

Until a week ago it was thought that poorer nations were "de-coupled" from the current economic crisis because they had piled up reserves and their banks weren't heavily involved in mortgage markets. Now it is clear that the crisis, which was not of their making, is at their doorstep.

Much of the economic boom in the developing world was fueled by commodities exports. Demand for exports has declined as prospects of a recession increase, causing a sharp decline in the prices of those exports. Global credit, which is crucial to exporters, has all but frozen. Banks in developing countries weren't heavily involved in the mortgage business, but they did swap with and borrow money from banks in developed countries, creating a credit squeeze for the local economy as well. If that wasn't enough, rising interest rates and credit tightening has strengthened the dollar, and currencies across the developing world are losing value.


World leaders should swiftly coordinate interest rate cuts and provide massive liquidity to markets in developing countries. New capital should also come from the larger developing countries, like , and from the IMF's new short-term liquidity facility.

Developing countries can't do this on their own. Many of these nations simply don't have the capital. Some have reserves from the commodity boom but are draining them to save their currencies. What's more, when developing nations unilaterally mimic a rich country's methods of dealing with this crisis by nationalising private assets, such actions can instill even less confidence in a developing country's markets and provoke more capital flight.


New capital can be used in the short term to fend off runs on their currencies. Just as important, new credit and capital can be coupled with coordinating governmental policies to build the productive capacities of promising and strategic domestic enterprises and toward domestic consumers to stimulate demand. With jobs becoming scarce and food prices still high, small farmers are also among the strategic sectors worthy of government attention.


Non-OECD countries are now half the global economy and more than half the destination of OECD exports. Maintaining the growth in developing countries not only saves them from meltdown but can also help rich countries dig themselves out of a downturn with new demand.


Under no circumstances should a developing country's capital infusion have IMF-like conditionalities. Historically, the IMF often gave loans only if recipients deregulated markets, privatised industries, slashed government budgets and devalued currencies. A new book, “Development Redefined: How the Market Met Its Match” by Robin Broad and John Cavanagh, documents how IMF conditionality often caused irreversible social and environmental costs on recipient countries and created a global backlash against the IMF and other international institutions. There is simply no legitimate reason for these conditionalities today. Indeed, it was the deregulation in rich countries that helped get us into this economic mess in the first place.


Finally, the global summit should be the first step toward a "Bretton Woods II" that supports multilateralism and policy diversity as core principles. This summit must be dedicated to setting counter-cyclical capital standards, regulating all parts of financial markets (including the rating agencies) and creating a credible lender of last resort.  Under the current system, Luxembourg, the  Netherlands and Belgium have more votes in the IMF than China, India and Brazil.  A truly multilateral organisation must have a one country-one vote system. Without a new infusion of capital and a multilateral approach to reform, the November meetings will be one step forward, two steps backward.

Continue reading

November 3, 2008 in Africa, Asia, Australia, Economics, EU, Governance/Management, International, Law, North America, South America, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Strategic Trade - An Opening for Sustainability

Yesterday the Guardian published an opinion piece by Kevin Gallagher (Washington Consensus Dead?) on Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman's work on strategic trade policy, pointing out that his Nobel Prize is the nail in the coffin of the free trade "Washington consensus."  Krugman explains why it is rational for governments to engage in strategic use of tariffs and subsidies in order to create a niche industry.  The same sort of strategic trade policy makes it rational for governments to engage in strategic use of tariffs and subsidies to support ecological sustainability and social well-being.  Perhaps the pendulum will swing against the free traders enough so that we can protect the global environment through trade and other economic sanctions against nations unwilling to act in a socially and environmentally responsible manner.

Gallagher's opinion:
Last Friday the New York Times quoted the World Bank as saying "There's no question the Washington consensus is dead," indeed it "died at the time of the $700bn bail-out." If the bail-out is death, then awarding Paul Krugman the Nobel prize for economics is the nail in the coffin.

Paul Krugman did not win the Nobel for his popular critiques of Bush-era economic policy in his New York Times column, though the column no doubt helped raise his profile outside the economics profession. The Nobel committee cited Krugman's theoretical contributions to the economics of international trade, the policy implications of which fly in the face of the Washington consensus ( where the mantra is to free up trade every chance you get).

Among Krugman's achievements in the field of international trade is "strategic trade policy". In this work Krugman (and others) showed that tariffs and subsidies to domestic industries can divert profits away from highly concentrated foreign firms and increase a nation's income. Though Krugman himself shies away from prescribing such policy, the textbook example of strategic trade theory is the choice by the Brazilian government to subsidise and develop the aircraft company Embraer. The free-trade theories espoused by the Washington consensus would warn Brazil of the high cost of subsidisation. To free traders, Brazil should focus on its advantage in agricultural products and forget about climbing the manufacturing ladder. Strategic trade theory helps explain why Brazil was willing to gamble in the short term to become one of the finest aircraft manufactures over the long term. They squeezed foreign firms out of the market and carved out a global niche for themselves.

In another classic book, Development, Geography, and Economic Theory, Krugman argued that the government should also play a role in connecting beneficiaries of strategic trade policy to the overall economy. Evoking the work of economists such as Albert O Hirschman and Paul Rosenstein Rodan, Krugman argued that developing countries often needed a "big push" of coordinated government investments to help strategic industries get off the ground and to link the growth of such industry to the economy as a whole.

Problem is, today's trading system is out of whack with these frontier issues in economic thought. In a study published by Boston University's Pardee Centre for the Study of the Longer-Range Future, trade lawyer Rachel Denae Thrasher and I examined the extent to which the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreements, European Union trade agreements, and United States trade agreements bit into a nation's ability to deploy strategic trade and other industrial policies to benefit from the globalisation process.

We find that in general the world's trading system makes it much more difficult for nations to craft strategic trade and industrial policies for growth and development. Indeed, enshrined in virtually all trade agreements is the "national treatment" idea that says a nation may not treat its domestic industries any differently than foreign ones. That may make sense when rich nations compete against each other, but in a world where 57.6% of the population lives on less than $2.50 per day, one size can't fit all. This restriction is accentuated in provisions for foreign investment, intellectual property, and subsidies.

Interestingly however, we find that there is more "policy space" for innovative growth strategies under the WTO than under most regional trade agreements – especially those pushed by the US. In fact, we find that US-style trade agreements are the most severe in constraining the ability of developing countries to deploy such policy. EU agreements, interestingly, tend to have the same policy space as the WTO.

It doesn't make sense that the World Bank and (implicitly) the Nobel committee are declaring the death of the Washington consensus when the US is choking the ability of nations to use policies that are gaining increasing legitimacy in theory and practice. Change is in the air. As we know in the aftermath of the financial crisis, the US has justified – like never before – a strong role for government in economic affairs. And, of the two presidential candidates, Obama has expressed concern over the direction of US trade policy and has pledged to rethink it. Perhaps these events will make strategic trade and industrial policy rise again.

October 15, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Mining, North America, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, October 13, 2008

Community-based Water Development

I just returned from an International Water Training Conference hosted by EDGE Outreach in Indiana. 

It was a bit different from your standard conference: I actually learned to do something.  I can build and install a community water purification system.  I can build and install a community water treatment system.  I can do a community water, sanitation, and hygiene assessment.  I can lead community hygiene education.   I even learned a bit about how to do all of this in a cross-cultural situation!

The training was aimed at people who are actively doing community-based water development work.  The development community itself appears to be broken into three parts: (1) the official development organizations, funding projects through official development aid and international financing from the World Bank, IMF, regional development banks and such; (2) the non-governmental organizations run by professional water management types -- who provide water and sanitation in developed countries and who do charitable work in developing countries -- WaterAid and Water for People; and (3) the missionaries who work on lots of issues throughout the developing world.  This conference was organized and aimed at the third group.

I spent time talking to people who work in Ghana, Guyana, Kenya, Haiti, Costa Rica, and dozens of other places.  The need is immense and unrelenting.   1.5 million people are dying of preventable water borne diseases every year -- a child every 15 seconds.  You really can install a village water purification system for a bit more than $ 1000; you really can develop new water supplies for a village for $ 5000 - $15,000.  You can really make a difference.

One of the best parts of the conference was Bill Deutsch from Auburn discussing watershed management and the need to look upstream to prevent some of the water contamination problems.  The light bulbs going on in people's minds were almost visible -- there will be some sustainable water systems developed throughout the world thanks to the wisdom he shared.  The other concept he shared was that most of the work being done is first and second "generation" development work -- aimed at disasters and individual communities.  The work that isn't being done and needs to be done is third and fourth "generation" development work -- the regional, national, and international policy levels.  That's really my work in the area.  We need to secure the human right to clean drinking water.  We need to assure that the community-based water development work is sustainable in terms of being coordinated with integrated water resources development and with climate change adaptation planning.  We need to find ways to increase the funding available for community-based water development -- beyond official aid and international financial institutions.  This is the challenge.  Let me know if you want to help.


October 13, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Physical Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Blog Action Day is October 15th: Blog on Global Poverty

Blog Action Day is October 15th.  This year the topic is global poverty.  On Blog Action Day, bloggers commit to discussing the topic from the special perspective that their blog brings to the issue.  As it happens, Blog Action Day will coincide with my presentation at the 6th IUCN Academy of Environmental Law Colloquium in Mexico City on Alleviating Extreme Poverty.  I will be speaking on Chartering Sustainable Corporations as a means to address extreme poverty.

For all of you bloggers out there, be sure to register and post your thoughts on global poverty on October 15th.  For information and registration, visit Blog Action Day

September 17, 2008 in Asia, Australia, Economics, EU, Governance/Management, International, North America, South America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

IEA Sees Potential Long-term Reduction in US Oil Demand

The International Energy Agency (IEA link) cut its estimate for global oil demand today based on the changes Americans are making in their lifestyles in response to high gasoline prices and the recession.  North American demand fell 5.3% and 2.9% in July, part of a seven month decline in US demand.  This decrease in demand may be exacerated by OPEC's reduced production: 715,000 barrels per day in August and September, reducing OPEC's production ceiling from 32.2 million barrels per day to 28.8 million barrels per day.  Prices                                                                                                                             This appears to be a response to oil prices failing towards $100 per barrel in August.  IEA seemed to be warning OPEC that any attempt to maintain oil prices over $100 per barrel would likely cause long-term changes in behavior and purchasing habits undercutting oil demand in OECD countries and Asian countries, such as Taiwan, Thailand, the Phillipines and Malaysia, are reducing subsidies that have fueled demand.  The extent of reduction in demand may depend upon the extent of China's supposed economic slowdown.

September 10, 2008 in Air Quality, Asia, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, North America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 21, 2008

Teaching in the 21st Century -- An Experimental Offering -- Hands of God

    Dear friends and colleagues, Here's my video offering called "Hands of God."  I am busy taking a course in Communication Theology -- and I'm reading about how 21st century students learn differently and may even have brains structured differently than those of us who are 20th century babies..  Obviously, if you are here, you are somewhat familiar and comfortable with new media.  I am just experimenting with how to use YouTube and other new media to communicate with and teach our 21st century digital native students.  If you haven't tried this, give it a whirl -- but be forewarned -- a 5 minute video, even one as imperfect as this, is about a 25 hour investment.  It may only be worth the effort if the message is really important.  That's why I bothered with this one.

July 21, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, July 14, 2008

1/3 of coral reef building species in danger of extinction

One-third of coral reef-building species are in danger of extinction -- according to a recent study by Kent Carpenter.  He reviewed 704 reef-building coral species and rated them according to International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) standards of extinction risk. One-third of those species fall into the threatened or near-threatened categories, which are considered at increased risk for extinction. Science.

The highest concentration of jeopardized species lives in two areas: the Caribbean Sea and the western Pacific "Coral Triangle," which spans Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and nearby areas. Using current figures and extrapolations from historical data, the researchers estimated that in the 1990s less than 5% of the 704 species would have been placed in the threatened or near-threatened IUCN categories.

July 14, 2008 in Asia, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Governance/Management, International, North America, Physical Science, Sustainability, US | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Take that!

The House overwhelmingly passed the Gas Price Relief for Consumers Act, H.R. 6074 today, waiving the sovereign immunity of OPEC nations in order to allow the Justice Department to sue OPEC members for limiting oil supplies and working together to set crude prices, subjecting OPEC oil producers, such as Saudi Arabia, Iran and Venezuela, to US antitrust laws.  Wash Post report OPEC investments in the United States would serve as the source of damage awards.  The Bush administration  threatened to veto the bill, arguing that OPEC nations would retaliate by cutting crude production, hurting US gasoline refineries and raising gas prices.  However, the 324-84 vote makes the measure veto-proof.   

According to Speaker Pelosi, the bill also (1) creates a new DOJ Petroleum Industry Antitrust Task Force to examine the existence and effects of price gouging in the sale of gasoline, anticompetitive price discrimination by petroleum refiners, unilateral actions to withhold supply in order to inflate the prices, and manipulation in futures markets and (2) requires a GAO study as to the effects on competition of prior mergers and ordered divestitures in the petroleum industry.

One interesting aspect of this legislation is Congress' willingness to make US laws applicable extra-territorially.  If the US extended labor and environmental laws to apply extra-territorially to multi-national corporations that are based or operate in the United States, especially labor and environmental laws, imagine how the world might change.

May 20, 2008 in Asia, Economics, Energy, Governance/Management, International, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Agricultural Law Blog Post on Renewable Fuel Standard

On Tuesday, Josh Fershee posted a critique of the US renewable fuel standard (RFS), which mandated expanded use of biofuels, including ethanol.  Agricultural Law post  He criticized the RFS on the grounds that cellulosic fuels are more green, and the RFS acan be met with ethanol from corn and other non-cellulosic sources.  In addition, Fershee noted that the studies indicating that fuel crops were greener than gasoline did not consider whether the fuel crops would replace rangelands or forest lands already sequestering carbon.  He opines:

A better ethanol policy would include requirements and incentives linked to new or emerging technologies that don’t create new competition for other already viable (e.g., corn) crops with established markets or lead to cleared tropical forests or savannas. Policies should instead promote only ethanol derived from growing high-diversity prairie hay grown on degraded lands, for instance, or from corn cobs.

I agree, but I would go further.  The policy should restrict ethanol to cellulosic fuels that are not produced on lands converted from food crops.

April 16, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Asia, Climate Change, Economics, Energy, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, North America, South America, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Is There a Silver Lining for the Environment in the Economic Slowdown? -- Katrina Kuh

Weathering the storm of bad economic news over the past few months has been trying.  I've found myself quickly reaching for the tuner nob at the first mention of "marketplace report" or anything akin thereto to avoid the latest in the unrelenting stream of dire economic updates.  Throughout, I have tried to comfort myself by imagining that a recession would carry with it a silver lining -- a reduction in GHG emissions.  Experience suggests that a sure route to dramatic GHG reductions is economic downturn (see the former U.S.S.R.) and, conversely, that explosive economic growth frequently spikes GHG emissions (see China).  Indeed, the fact that the Bush Adminstration climate change strategy, see http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/02/20020214.html, focuses on reducing "greenhouse gas intensity" (the ratio of greenhouse gas emissions to economic output) as opposed to overall GHG emissions seems driven by a recognition of the close connection between economic output and GHG emissions.    

Ultimately, however, I haven't found much comfort in the idea that a recession could reduce domestic GHG emissions.  I suspect that this is so because in my heart of hearts I think that any short-term reduction in GHG emissions caused by a recession would likely be outweighed by the increased GHG emissions that will result if a recession derails the adoption of meaningful domestic GHG-reduction measures. 

A recession would likely pose at least two problems for the adoption of a meaningful domestic program to reduce GHG emissions.  First, a recession makes it less likely that a federal measure requiring deep GHG reductions will be enacted.  In the past week, both EPA, see http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/economics/economicanalyses.html, and the American Council for Capital Formation, see http://www.accf.org/nam.html, have released analyses of the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill that forecast that the bill will have negative eonomic impacts.  Putting aside arguments that these analyses overstate costs and undercount benefits, opponents of federal climate change legislation are going to have a receptive audient to their claims about the devastating economic impacts of climate change legislation in the context of a recession.  During a recession, these opponents don't have to win on their argument that climate change legislation will hurt the economy doesn't have to prevail -- all they need to do is sow a seed of doubt.  Second, even assuming that votes could be found to pass a perceived-to-be-costly GHG-reduction measure against the backdrop of recession, I fear that concerns about the economy would result in a very weak measure.  Finally, a recession could also play havoc with the baseline caps that have already been incorporated into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and the Lieberman-Warner bill because any cap calculated prior to a recession will be bloated with "hot air" during a recession.  And a recession could imperil the flow of financial support to renewable energy research and development. 

So for now I'm left looking for a silver lining to the bad economic news.  If you think of anything, let me know.

April 7, 2008 in Asia, Climate Change, Economics, Governance/Management, International, Law, Legislation, Sustainability, US | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Drink Water for Life

This article is written by Denise Olivera, Columbia School of Journalism, about the Drink Water for Life Challenge originated by 1st Congregational Church, U.C.C. of Salem, Oregon.  The article was covered by the Great Reporter newsservice link The congregation pledges to give up some of its lattes, sodas, etc. during Lent and give the money to our Pure Water Fund.  In celebration of Lent, spring, or World Water Day, please chose to follow this lead.

March 17, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Chinese Environmental Law Blog

Here's a new blog to keep track of, if you're interested in environmental law in China: China Environmental Law   This spring break I'll be renovating the site and will provide full lists of blogs, environmental programs, etc. for your reading pleasure.

March 17, 2008 in Asia, Governance/Management, International, Law, Water Quality | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Friday, March 7, 2008

Plug in to NRDC's Blog

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Pulitzer Prize Anyone??? Only if you write by March 12th

Well, no prize, but...You can become a Pulitzer Center Citizen Journalist!!! 

 

  • Read the corresponding coverage at Pulitzer’s website. Your article should draw on information from the Pulitzer Center articles; but you may also include include original reporting of your own or firsthand experiences. The goal is to provide fresh insight in a compellingly written article.
  • Share your perspective on the issue and write your best article at Helium by March 12th.

March 5, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The $ 3 Trillion Dollar War

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz estimates the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan  to the United States alone will exceed $ 3 trillion -- yes that is not a typo, that is a "t" trillion.  His new book, “The Three Trillion Dollar War,” co-authored with Harvard University professor Linda Bilmes, will be released tomorrow.  They argue that the cost to America of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been vastly underestimated.  Indeed when factors such as interest on debt, future borrowing for war expenses, a continued military presence in Iraq and lifetime health-care and counseling for veterans are counted, the wars’ cost to the United States ranges from $5 - $ 7 trillion.  The book's estimates are the subject of a hearing today by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress.  McClatchy News

Obviously $ 3 trillion dollars is real money -- but what could we have bought for $ 3 trillion dollars?  The entire US government budget for the next year.  Reduction of the national debt by 30%.  Or how about something that would actually expand US influence throughout the world -- providing full funding for the entire cost of meeting the Millenium Development Goal of reducing by half the number of people who lack safe drinking water and sanitation is $ 11.3 billion per year for 10 years.  Perhaps supplying everyone in the world with safe drinking water and sanitation might cost three times that.  So for 10% of the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan we could have saved about 1 million lives per year that are lost to water-borne diseases, provided water for 2 billion people, and sanitation for 4 billion people.  And we worry about the genocide in Darfur, Sudan.....

February 28, 2008 in Africa, Asia, Australia, Economics, EU, Governance/Management, International, North America, South America, Sustainability, US, Water Resources | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Election 2008 -- The Candidates Speak in Their Own Words -- Part II:Hillary Clinton

During the last year, Foreign Affairs published a series of pieces on the 2008 presidential election, allowing candidates to frame their foreign policy in their own words. Foreign Affairs Election 2008 I am reviewing those pieces for discussions of global environmental issues, including climate change.  I find this a particularly useful approach because it allows candidates to move beyond sound bites and into the substance of what they believe. 

I expect to look at all of the current candidates: Democratic and Republican. The first candidate I am reviewed was Barack Obama. Today's post is Hillary Clinton.

Here's the foreign policy of Hillary Clinton with respect to the environment (especially global warming) in her own words:

The tragedy of the last six years is that the Bush administration has squandered the respect, trust, and confidence of even our closest allies and friends. At the dawn of the twenty-first century, the United States enjoyed a unique position. Our world leadership was widely accepted and respected, as we strengthened old alliances and built new ones, worked for peace across the globe, advanced nonproliferation, and modernized our military....At the same time, we embarked on an unprecedented course of unilateralism:..Our withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol and refusal to participate in any international effort to deal with the tremendous challenges of climate change further damaged our international standing....At a moment in history when the world's most pressing problems require unprecedented cooperation, this administration has unilaterally pursued policies that are widely disliked and distrusted....

We need more than vision, however, to achieve the world we want. We must face up to an unprecedented array of challenges in the twenty-first century, threats from states, nonstate actors, and nature itself...Finally, the next president will have to address the looming long-term threats of climate change and a new wave of global health epidemics....

But China's rise is also creating new challenges. The Chinese have finally begun to realize that their rapid economic growth is coming at a tremendous environmental price. The United States should undertake a joint program with China and Japan to develop new clean-energy sources, promote greater energy efficiency, and combat climate change. This program would be part of an overall energy policy that would require a dramatic reduction in U.S. dependence on foreign oil....

We must find additional ways for Australia, India, Japan, and the United States to cooperate on issues of mutual concern, including combating terrorism, cooperating on global climate control, protecting global energy supplies, and deepening global economic development...

As president, I will make the fight against global warming a priority. We cannot solve the climate crisis alone, and the rest of the world cannot solve it without us. The United States must reengage in international climate change negotiations and provide the leadership needed to reach a binding global climate agreement. But we must first restore our own credibility on the issue. Rapidly emerging countries, such as China, will not curb their own carbon emissions until the United States has demonstrated a serious commitment to reducing its own through a market-based cap-and-trade approach.

We must also help developing nations build efficient and environmentally sustainable domestic energy infrastructures. Two-thirds of the growth in energy demand over the next 25 years will come from countries with little existing infrastructure. Many opportunities exist here as well: Mali is electrifying rural communities with solar power, Malawi is developing a biomass energy strategy, and all of Africa can provide carbon credits to the West.

Finally, we must create formal links between the International Energy Agency and China and India and create an "E-8" international forum modeled on the G-8. This group would be comprised of the world's major carbon-emitting nations and hold an annual summit devoted to international ecological and resource issues.

February 23, 2008 in Africa, Agriculture, Air Quality, Asia, Australia, Biodiversity, Cases, Climate Change, Constitutional Law, Economics, Energy, Environmental Assessment, EU, Forests/Timber, Governance/Management, International, Land Use, Law, Legislation, Mining, North America, Physical Science, Social Science, South America, Sustainability, Toxic and Hazardous Substances, US, Water Quality, Water Resources | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)