About Whale of a Time

Whale of a Time is riding the wave of change, promoting successful stewardship of our planet to create a peaceful, morally just, humane and sustainable culture, while ensuring survival of all species and their natural habitats. Whale of a Time organises creative and fun, inspiring and empowering events on environmental issues to encourage active participation living a sustainable lifestyle inspired by a positive attitude. We engage young and old from all walks of life through the Whale of a Time Community, the Whale of a Time Festival and the Whale of a Time Workshop. Our work has been recognised by many national and community and environmental awards schemes.

Whale of a Time Tweats

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Interview with Shannon Biggs and Maude Barlow for The Rights of Nature

GRIT tv interview with Shannon Biggs and Maude Barlow, co-authors of the new book, The Rights of Nature: The Case for a Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Whale Mail - Blessed Christmas & a Whale of a 2012!

Whale of a Time Workshop - November Review

The Whale of a Time Workshop was a huge success at WhaleFest in Brighton & Hove.

Special WhaleFest guests included Anne Meadows, Mayor of Brighton & Hove, Mark Brownlow, BBC Producer "Ocean Giants", David Rothenberg, Professor of Philosophy and Music at New Jersey Institute of Technology, author of "Thousand Mile Song".

Read Whale Mail - Blessed Christmas & a Whale of a 2012!

System Change - Shannon Biggs

Thursday, 15 December 2011

15th December: Silent Protest Held in Support of Communities of Limpopo

Yesterday in central London a silent protest took place outside the General Meeting of Shareholders of Australian mining company, Coal of Africa Ltd (CoAL). The protest was held in solidarity with the communities of the Limpopo Province, South Africa, who face untold ecological, social and economic damage to their ancestral homes should the mine go ahead.

The CoAL project which will affect this region is known as the Makhado Project. It is in addition to one other mine owned by the company in Limpopo Province, known as Vele, and a further two in the neighbouring Mpumalanga province. Yesterday’s meeting preceded CoAL’s Conditional Placing of Shares on the AIM market of the London Stock Exchange plc, which is set to take place today.

Liz Hosken, founding director of The Gaia Foundation took part in the protest: “We are here in support of the local communities and especially the Makadzhis- the guardians of the sacred sites and sacred lands of Venda in Limpopo Province. These are the spiritual leaders of the people whose responsibility it is to protect their ancestral homeland, which these coal-mining projects will destroy if they go ahead. The company haven’t even carried out proper studies, but the one thing that they have admitted is that the underground water will be finished within two years. So there isn’t even enough water for their own projects; let alone for life itself. If there is no water, there is no life. This is truly Ecocide.”

Earlier this week twelve civil society groups and community members from the Limpopo Province sent a letter to over fifty shareholders and potential investors of Coal of Africa (CoAL) demanding that they reconsider their plans to support the company - and specifically the Makhado Project.

The letter set out a number of grave concerns relating to CoAL’s handling of the Makhado project and their neighbouring Vele mine. These included a flawed public participation process; failure to provide adequate answers to questions raised by the community; no water licence; and an insufficient Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA), Environmental Impact Assessment and Environmental Management Plan.

The letter states: “We have a responsibility to our ancestors and to our children to stop the destruction of our ancestral lands. You would do the same if someone wanted to mine your home. Please think about that”.

Notes to Editors:

For further information please contact Rowan Phillimore at The Gaia Foundation on 0207 428 0054 or rowan@gaianet.org

or A.M. Mudau, Dzomo la Mupo, South Africa email: azwihangwisimosesm@yahoo.com or +27 79 412 2666

Watch a short film about yesterday’s protest and what the mine will mean to the communities of Limpopo here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZG0Sc9NTRY&feature=youtu.be
Image: Silent protest outside CoAL’s General Meeting of Shareholders which took place in Central London yesterday (Wednesday 14th December). Copyright, The Gaia Foundation.

The letter which was sent to CoAL shareholders and investors earlier this week has been based on evidence and analysis drawn from a research report commissioned by an alliance of groups, to look into the impacts of coal mining. The report Mine Not – Waste Not: A preliminary critique of aspects of the CoAL Makhado Colliery Project EIA and EMP is available on the following websites: The Gaia Foundation http://www.gaiafoundation.org and London Mining Network www.londonminingnetwork.org.

Coal of Africa’s website states today that, ‘subject to obtaining shareholder approval to issue the Conditional Placing Shares, the Company will apply for admission of the Conditional Placing Shares to trading or quotation and listing of the Conditional Placing Shares on the AIM market of London Stock Exchange plc ("AIM") on 15 December 2011 and on the Main Board of JSE Limited ("JSE") on 20 December 2011. Accordingly, the anticipated settlement date for the Conditional Placing Shares on AIM is 15 December 2011’. www.coalofafrica.com

Monday, 12 December 2011

*Durban climate talks ending: Polluters won, people lost*

Durban ˆ 11 December 2011 - On the closing of the latest round of UN
climate talks in Durban Greenpeace today declared that it was clear that
our Governments this past two weeks listened to the carbon-intensive
polluting corporations instead of listening to the people who want an end
to our dependence on fossil fuels and real and immediate action on climate

„The grim news is that the blockers lead by the US have succeeded in
inserting a vital get-out clause that could easily prevent the next big
climate deal being legally binding. If that loophole is exploited it could
be a disaster. And the deal is due to be implemented 'from 2020' leaving
almost no room for increasing the depth of carbon cuts in this decade when
scientists say we need emissions to peak," said Kumi Naidoo, Greenpeace
International Executive Director.

„Right now the global climate regime amounts to nothing more than a
voluntary deal that‚s put off for a decade. This could take us over the two
degree threshold where we pass from danger to potential catastrophe.

"Our atmosphere has been loaded with a carbon debt and the bill, carrying a
Durban postmark, has been posted to the world‚s poorest countries. The
chance of averting catastrophic climate change is slipping through our
hands with every passing year that nations fail to agree on a rescue plan
for the planet."


Friday, 2 December 2011

Scientists ask public to help decode whale song

Severin Carrell, Scotland correspondent
guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 29 November 2011 16.56 GMT

Global 'crowdsourcing' experiment aims to discover new phrases, meanings and dialects among pilot and killer whales

Marine scientists have launched an appeal asking wildlife enthusiasts for help in decoding the secrets of whale song in a global "crowdsourcing" experiment.

Experts in the UK and north America are asking "citizen scientists" to study and sift through about 15,000 recordings of calls by pilot whales and killer whales around the planet, to see if new phrases, meanings and dialects can be uncovered.

The Whale Project, launched on Tuesday by Scientific American and the online citizen science organisation The Zooniverse, is similar to the first major attempt to use crowdsourcing by amateur astronomers to help discover new galaxies by studying images taken by the Hubble space telescope in July 2007.

Participants visiting whale.fm will be asked to study and then compare the sound wave patterns, or spectograms, of calls made by whales in different pods and families of whales around the world.

They will be asked to identify identical or very similar sound wave patterns, and will be able to play back each sound excerpt to help them match segments. Every sound recording is linked to a specific location in the sea, or geotagged, allowing scientists to precisely place clusters of calls in the areas where specific families of whale are known to inhabit.

Prof Ian Boyd, one of the project's collaborators from the University of St Andrews' sea mammal research unit, said scientists had discovered that people were often naturally much more able than computers to see similarities in complex spectograms.

"The first thing we want them to do is compare the images because what the human brain is very, very good at doing is comparing images, and is much better than a computer," Boyd said. "For someone like me who's tone deaf, who isn't very good at telling sounds apart, we're very, very good at making distinctions between small changes in shapes and objects."

He said pilot and killer whales had very complex calls or repertoires. Marine scientists now wanted to investigate the differences in each group's calls, like a dialect, and whether they could discover different kinds of messages from analysing these calls.

"If these animals have some form of linguistics or language tradition, we're wanting to try to find the words within that repertoire of sounds. We don't know what they mean but what we do find is they have different lexicons; different groups have different types of sound, and they probably inherit these sounds from their parents," he said.

"It's like a dialect. We want to be able to compare them; both these species have such complex sorts of sounds, and some of these sounds are repeated again, again and again. So they are not random."

Every matched group of sounds would be compared with the whales' location and activities that the whales were involved in. "We want to try and take that back to the context where they're produced, such as hunting or social situations."

Scientific American has previously run "citizen science" projects to track dragonfly swarms, the Gulf oil spill and a "great sunflower project", recording their observations of the natural world. Mariette DiChristina, the editor in chief, said: "One doesn't need a science degree to be a citizen scientist. All you need is a curiosity about the world around you and an interest in observing, measuring and reporting what you hear and see."

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Up in Smoke - Rainforest Awareness

True Stories More4 trailer - Up in Smoke from Adam Wakeling on Vimeo.

Tar Sands Action

I’m writing this from the lawn in front of the White House. In front of me there’s a sprawling rally underway, with speakers ranging from indigenous elders to the great Canadian writer Naomi Klein. In back of me, another 243 courageous people are being hauled away to jail -- it’s the last day of Phase 1 of the tar sands campaign, and 1,252 North Americans have been arrested, the biggest civil disobedience action this century on this continent.

But we’ve been just as cheered by the help that has poured in from around the world -- today, activists in front of the White House held a banner with a huge number on it: 618,428. That's how many people around the world signed on to the "Stop the Tar Sands" mega-petition to President Obama. – Bill McKibben, September 2011

The world together with the oil companies are so greedy for oil, that they will do anything to get it. Including deep sea drilling, where oil spills can pollute the oceans and endanger wildlife. As recently has happened in the Gulf of Mexico (BP) and the North Sea (Shell). Including extracting oil from the tar sands in Northern Alberta, Canada, which requires a huge input of energy and creates unmanageable levels of pollution. To link this huge new source of energy with the market, a pipeline has been proposed from Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico – the Keystone XL pipeline.

The exploitation of the tar sands demonstrates the lack of commitment by the Canadian and US governments to addressing climate change at the expense of restricting oil supplies and corporate profit. If you want to find out more about why this is an environmental disaster, read “Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent” by Andrew Nikiforuk. The action in front of the White House was organsied by 350.org: www.tarsandsaction.org and http://act.350.org/sign/tar-sands http://act.350.org/sign/tar-sands

Why 350? Scientists say that 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere is the safe limit for humanity. 350.org was founded by author Bill McKibben, who wrote one of the first books on global warming for the general public.

In 2007, with a group of friends, Bill ran a campaign in 2007 called http://www.stepitup2007.org/ Step It Up which organized over 2,000 rallies at iconic places in all 50 Sates of the USA. These included such creative actions as skiers descending a melting glacier to divers hosting an underwater action. The call to action was to cut CO2 emissions by 80% by 2050. http://stepitup2007.org

On 10/10/10 they hosted a Global Work Party, with over 7000 climate solutions projects in communities around the world. On 24th September 2011, they organised Moving Planet as an international day of action: www.moving-planet.org

350.org is coordinated by an international team of organizers, including author Bill McKibben and young climate leaders from around the world. www.350.org

Lets Do it - Let’s clean up the world!

It all started in Estonia…

Right now there are 100 million tons of illegal garbage lying around the world. And every day, we add more. It’s time to wake up and turn things around.
That’s the reason for World Cleanup 2012.

Since the Cleanup movement strted in Estonia, 2 million people in 16 different countries have participated in cleanup actions.

From 24th March 2012 until 25th September 2012, a series of cleanups will sweep the globe, touching all continents and bringing together millions of people who will be cleaning up their towns and cities.

Right at this moment we are seeking you! We are inviting people, organizations and movements in different countries to be part of this wonderful initiative. All you have to do is to make a decision to engage your community for one day in 2012.

Check the countries section to see if someone has already started a Cleanup initiative in your country. If not, then be the one who gets things going. The website has advice on how to start a cleanup. Each cleanup and each person cleaning will make our planet cleaner.

Join the World Cleanup initiative and organize a cleanup day in your home country in 2012: www.letsdoitworld.org

Report garbage in your own town on the World Cleanup map: www.letsdoitworld.org/wastemap

With each garbage spot on the mapped, with each park, street, city and country that is cleaned, a message will be sent: the cleanliness, health and wellbeing of ourselves, of our countries and of this planet is in our own hands. Let’s do it!


“Once upon a time people did grievous harm to the environment without fully understanding the consequences of their actions. That defence is no longer available, and that sure knowledge we now have entails equally sure moral obligations. In this context, the idea of establishing the crime of ‘Ecocide’ is both timely and compelling.” Jonathon Porritt, former Chair Sustainable Development Commission

Polly Higgins, a UK barrister, has proposed that Ecocide, the environmental equivalent of genocide, becomes the 5th International Crime Against Peace alongside Genocide, Crimes Against Humanity, Crimes of Aggression and War Crimes. Under the proposed new law, Heads of States and Directors of Corporations will be required to take individual and personal responsibility for their actions.

On September 30th 2011, London’s Supreme Court became the venue for a Mock Ecocide Trial. Real-life barristers led the prosecution and defence on behalf of a fictional Mr X, CEO of a major corporation. Before the case was heard, legal argument was put as to whether Ecocide and the Earth Right to Life should be applied to the charges against Mr X, who was played by an actor. He had been charged with a number of ecocides: Deforestation of the Amazon; Arctic drilling; Shale gas extraction in Nigeria; A
major oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico;
Bauxite mining of the Niyamgiri mountain; Tar sands extraction in Canada; Deep sea mining of the Central and Eastern Manus Basin.

The trial was organised by Simon Hamilton and Fiona Hayes of the Hamilton Group: www.thehamiltongroup.org.uk

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

A Fall From Freedom - The Untold Story Behind The Captive Whale And Dolphin Industry

A Fall From Freedom from OdyseeTV on Vimeo.


By viewing A Fall From Freedom, and by going to this page, it is clear that you are already involved in this issue. To initiate effective change, your voice must be heard.

First, there are a variety of organizations working diligently not only to end the Japanese dolphin drive fishery, which provides so many animals to marine parks worldwide, but to end the commercial display of whales and dolphins altogether. Seek out these organizations, support their work, and get involved. It may not sound like much, but real change for the good can only come about when an informed citizenry stands up, expresses their opinion, and sees through the propaganda of the corporate public relations machine.

Actions You Can Take

• Do not attend any marine park or aquarium that displays whales or dolphins.

• Tell your friends not to attend these facilities as well and explain why.

• Find and support the non-profit organizations that have been educating the public about captive whales and dolphins, and that have been working to end the Japanese dolphin drive fishery.

• Share A Fall From Freedom with friends, neighbors, family, and co-workers, and start discussions about the issues.

• Write letters and send emails expressing your opinion to marine parks in your country that display whales or dolphins. All of these facilities are directly or indirectly involved in the death of thousands of dolphins through the Japanese drive fishery. If they do not take animals directly from the drive fishery, by way of displaying these animals they are justifying and condoning it.

Letters should be written to your Congressperson, your Senators, or your government representative expressing your opposition to the importation of any whale or dolphin into your country.

NOTE: When the issue of dolphins dying by the thousands in the nets of purse seine tuna boats came to the attention of citizens worldwide, public outrage directed toward this practice all but ended it. A billion dollar industry, with its high-paid lobbyists and its corporate public relations machine, was forced by public opinion to accept and can only dolphin-safe tuna.

Only through public concern and action can the issues presented in A Fall From Freedom be dealt with effectively and responsibly.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

St Andrews scientists ask if whales have 'dialects'

Prof Peter Tyack, University of St Andrews commented, "Killer whales are thought to learn their calls from their group.”

Members of the public are being asked by scientists at the University of St Andrews to help them investigate the way whales communicate.

So-called "citizen scientists" from across the world are being urged to listen to and help classify sounds made by the mammals.

The St Andrews Sea Mammal Research Unit is part of the Whale Project - a global effort to categorise whale calls.

It aims to establish whether calls vary between different groups of whales.

The Whale Project website site displays calls from both killer whales and pilot whales.

"Citizen scientists" who log on are presented with a whale call and shown where it was recorded on a map of the world's oceans and seas.

Distinctive dialect
After listening to the whale call, members of the public are then asked to listen to a number of potential matching calls from the project's database.

If a match is found the results are stored.

Prof Peter Tyack of the University of St Andrews said: "By asking hundreds of people to make similar judgements, we will learn how reliable the categories are, and they get the fun of hearing these amazing sounds."

"Only a few researchers have categorised whale calls."

Scientists hope to address a number of questions about whale communication.

Biologists studying killer whales have reported that each group of whales has its own distinctive dialect of calls, with related groups having dialects that are more similar.

The Whale Project asks "citizen scientists" to test these results by making their own judgements of similarity between calls.

Much less is known about the calls of pilot whales than of killer whales.

Researchers from St Andrews and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts want to know the size of the pilot whales' call repertoire and whether call repertoires vary between groups, as in killer whales.

"Most mammals have a fixed species-specific repertoire of calls, but killer whales are thought to learn their calls from their group," said Prof Tyack.

The Whale Project is co-sponsored by science magazine, Scientific American.

Those interested in taking part should go to the Scientific American website to set up a login and password.

Migrating whale numbers hit 50-year high 15 NOVEMBER 2011, ASIA
Seismic bangs 'block' whale calls 23 SEPTEMBER 2009, SCI/TECH
Experts observe whale hunt noise 04 FEBRUARY 2010, SCOTLAND

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Vietnam loses fight to save its rare Javan rhinos after last animal believed poached for horn

HANOI, Vietnam — Vietnam has lost its fight to save its rare Javan rhinoceros population after poachers apparently killed the country’s last animal for its horn, pushing one of the world’s most endangered species closer to extinction, a conservation group said Tuesday.

Vietnam’s Cat Tien National Park has had no sightings, footprints or dung from live rhinos since the last known animal living there was found dead last April, shot through the leg with its horn chopped off, the WWF said. Genetic analysis of rhino feces had confirmed in 2004 that at least two rhinos were living in the park, raising hopes that Vietnam’s population might survive.

Only 40 to 60 Javan rhinos now remain in Ujung Kulon National Park in Indonesia. They are the last known living members of the species, with none in captivity.

Vietnam’s Javan rhino population had been shrinking for decades as land conversion and a rising local population threatened the animal’s habitat, but poaching and a lack of effective park management and patrols hastened the decline, said Christy Williams, coordinator of WWF’s Asian Elephant and Rhino Program.

“It appears that protection is not being given a high priority by the Vietnamese government,” he said.

Park director Tran Van Thanh said that while some of his rangers failed to fulfill their duties, it is impossible for them to stop all of the estimated 100,000 people living near the park from hunting exotic animals when the average farmer there earns around 150,000 dong ($7.50) per day.

“We’re not trying to avoid our responsibility in the death of the rhinos, but we’ve done our best to protect them,” Thanh said.

Demand for rhino horn has surged in recent years among Vietnamese and Chinese who believe it can cure an array of ailments. Horns can now fetch up to $50,000 per pound (about $100,000 per kilogram), the WWF report said Tuesday. A small amount of ground-up powder can bring hundreds of dollars on the black market. Global demand has also increased in the last four to five years as some people have begun to consider rhino horn a remedy for cancer, Williams said.

WWF, along with the International Rhino Foundation, confirmed that the last rhino had died in Vietnam by collecting and analyzing its feces. Twenty-two of the rhino’s dung piles were found in Cat Tien from October 2009 to February 5, 2010, but no dung piles or fresh rhino footprints were seen in the subsequent nine weeks, the 44-page report said.

Before 1988, the Javan rhino was believed to be extinct from mainland Asia. A small population was then discovered in Vietnam’s park, and for the past 20 years, a number of wildlife conservationists have worked closely with the government to try to prevent the species from dying out in Vietnam.

But the rhino’s habitat has been cut in half since 1988 to about 74,000 acres (30,000 hectares) today.

South Africa is a prime source country for rhino horns. According to the South African government, a record 333 rhinos were poached in 2010 — a nearly threefold increase from 2009.

In September, Vietnamese officials traveled to South Africa to address the problem, three years after Hanoi recalled a diplomat from its embassy there after she was caught on tape receiving illegal rhino horns. Ha Cong Tuan, an environmental affairs official, called on Vietnamese medical researchers to study what he called the “rumor” that rhino horn cures cancer and then publicize their findings.

The WWF report said Vietnam is on the verge of an “extinction crisis” with several other species — including the saola and the Tonkin snub-nosed monkey — threatened by deforestation, widespread poaching and a “largely uncontrolled” illegal wildlife trade.

Cat Tien was established in 1998 as a composite of three existing protected areas. From 1998 to 2004 WWF invested $6.3 million in the park, with up to $600,000 earmarked for rhino conservation work.

In Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital, 100 grams (about 7 ounces) of crushed rhino horn retail for about 43 million dong ($2,150), with the average prescription costing 200,000 dong ($10), a rhino horn vendor in the city’s bustling old quarter said Monday, requesting anonymity because the practice is illegal here.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

More info at http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/life/Rhinoceros

Read BBC News Report at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-15430787

Friday, 21 October 2011

What should be the top environmental priority for the next 40 years?

Experts speakers argue their cases ahead of an Earthwatch debate in London this week

Mission Critical is a debate hosted by Earthwatch to decide on the most important environmental priority for the next 40 years. Photograph: Ho/Reuters

Education and population – Sir Crispin Tickell

Our society faces a rich complex of problems. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution some 250 years ago, our animal species has changed the character of the Earth's land surface, seas and atmosphere: hence the increasing use among geologists of the term Anthropocene to follow the Holocene epoch.

Of all the interconnected problems we face, perhaps the most serious is the proliferation of our own species. Our numbers rose from around one million 12,000 years ago to around one billion 250 years ago. Since then there has been an extraordinary acceleration from 2 billion in 1930 to 6 billion at the end of the century and now approaching 7 billion.

In seeking to cope with this problem, the role of education, and in particularly that of women, is critical. Where women have achieved broadly equal status with men, when there is provision for their old age, when they can use contraceptive devices, and most important when they are educated as full citizens, human fertility has dropped: in many industrial countries below replacement rate and elsewhere by a substantial margin. At the same time people are living longer, itself creating problems, and the introduction of new technologies risks increasing unemployment. More than half our species now lives in cities, well described recently as nests for a super-organism out of control. We have now to confront these problems in all their scope and complexity.

The oceans- Jo Royle

With every breath we take and drop of water we drink we are connected to the ocean. Seventy two percent of our planet is ocean. The ocean drives global weather systems, absorbs the heat generated from our addiction to burning fossil fuels and provides the main source of protein for over a quarter of the world's population.

We live on a blue planet. The ocean breathes for the planet, with most photosynthesis occurring on the sea surface more than anywhere else. The health of future generations is dependent on the health of our ocean. However, silently and out of sight, the deep blue is suffering from our take-take relationship. We are getting dangerously close to the sea reaching its capacity to act as the planet's largest carbon sink. Depletion of the oceans fisheries, toxic contamination of the sea by industrial runoff and plastic pollution and acidification pose great threats to the health of the world's population.

The oceans are clearly of critical importance in providing energy, food and economical security and drinking water. The blue planet teaches us about love, beauty, respect, sensuality and mystery. The ocean fuels our curiosity, imagination, well being and gives us a sense of clarity, meaning and purpose – the liquid planet is the greatest teacher. Would we get the same feeling of peace looking across a lifeless ocean?

Water - Daniel Yeo

We can all relate to water - and any traveller can tell you about bad water and poor sanitation, including the English Commonwealth Games team and even in developed countries. Having the runs may make for a few embarrassing anecdotes, but it's no joke that diarrhoea is the biggest killer of children in sub-Saharan Africa. Preventable diarrhoea associated with dirty water and poor sanitation kills more children than Aids, malaria and TB combined.

And it's not just kids - water is fundamentally a gender issue. Women and girls bear the biggest burden - walking long distances in rural areas, queuing in line for hours in urban slums.

Poor water, sanitation and hygiene undermines maternal and child health and nutrition.

Education - 443m school days are lost to water related diseases. Girls are more likely to stay in schools with separate female toilets.

These failings in human development put a cost on the economy, through lost lives, school days, work days and burden on health systems. The World Health Organisation estimates that every $1 invested in water generates $8 in wider economic benefits.

And that's just water for drinking and health - water is also an economic resource - vital for food (70% of globally available freshwater is used for agriculture) - and livelihoods. It is a critical ingredient for industry - almost every manufacturing process needs water. Finally, it's intertwined with energy – and not just through hydropower. Thermal power stations need water for cooling and for the steam needed to turn turbines.

Without water we have nothing.

Energy – Mike Mason

What makes humans different from the animals is that we are the only species to harness energy from things we don't eat.

Using external energy is fundamental to being a human. And using more energy has through all history been the key to getting a better quality of life - more food, better transport, warmer (or cooler) homes and offices.

Our success as a species has led to runaway numbers of people, and runaway per capita use of energy. Multiply the two together and you hit the buffers.

Energy is the most difficult problem to deal with simply because it is the only one on the table that is intrinsic to the very concept of humanity.

Climate change driven by our urge to burn things is an existential threat - albeit a slow burning one. Thus solving the energy crisis is clearly critical to us as humans as much as energy use is critical. The race therefore is on - between our evolutionary heritage that will surely destroy us if left unconfined, and our ability to innovate our way out of the old ways, and into a new energy paradigm that is sustainable without asking us to go back to the cave - because that is the one outcome we can guarantee no population will willingly accept.

Food security - Prof Tim Lang

The food challenge ahead is awesome. After a 20th century which celebrated the "success" of producing more food than ever in history, we now know human activity has undermined what has been done. A fearsome new complex of difficulties must be resolved: an oil-reliant food system (fertilisers, machines, transport); an environment under stress (climate change, water and soil); biodiversity loss (the plants and life on which we rely); land use competition (food vs fuel vs biodiversity vs ecosystems support).

Our voracious consumption is part of the problem. We eat feast-day food everyday, yet to eat like the US or UK requires multiple planets.

The now dominant analysis is that we need to feed 9 billion people by 2050 (up from nearly 7bn today) on less land in a time of ecosystem stress. New technical fixes, technologies, management, controls are urged on politicians. 70% more food is needed by 2050, they cry! Fund another heave to raise production, they say, downplaying how half of all grains grown on the planet are fed to animals.

Our system is hugely wasteful. Some 30-40% of what is bought fit to eat is thrown away. Our way of eating panders to an "eat what you like" consumerist culture. Actually there is plenty of food to go around today.

We need to think not just about whether there is food but what sort of diets, too. Simply, the future requires sustainable diets fed by sustainable food supply chains. We currently have neither.

The audience voted for Education to be the most important priority for the next 40 years.

---- Book the Whale of a Time Workshop for your school, community or youth event ----

Friday, 14 October 2011

Cheap boat for sale!

Click on image to view boat posting.

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Sign Petition for the Rights of Mother Earth!

In partnership with the Global Alliance for Rights of Nature, Global Exchange has launched a global grassroots letter and signature campaign in support of Rights of Nature. Their vision is to engage 1,000,000 people in signing petitions or writing a letter to their President or head of state. They intend to have a delegation of young people deliver the letters to EarthSummit2012/Rio+20.

Please sign Rights For Mother Earth petition

Remembrance for Lost Species - November 12th 2011

Remembrance for Lost Species: lest we forget. Three species are lost to eternity every hour.

Extinction is studied by scientists. Culturally, however, we risk forgetting the beauty and distinct life of extinct species and our historic relationship with past life forms. Feral Theatre's Funeral for Lost Species considers the social significance of extinction, and commemorates it as a social tragedy. It’s a collaborative project combining visual art, performance and ritual to explore responses to the loss of species, and the places and cultures
associated with them. It opens a creative bridge between scientific analysis, political concern, and cultural and ecological bereavement.

Commemoration and ritual are activities that endow violence and death with social meaning through the engagement of participants. Feral Theatre invites you to hold a remembrance event for lost species on November 12th 2011. We hope diverse events will take place in many different places. Each event that happens will be unique and particular to the people involved. Remembrance events might take any form - a theatre piece or a ceremony, or something playful like a puppet show, celebratory like a wake, or intimate like a meal, planting a seed, or simply lighting a candle. It's up to you how you choose to remember and celebrate lost species.

We ask that you tell us about your event, then document it and share this with us to post online. We hope this will become an ongoing yearly remembrance day. Remembrance for Lost Species shines a light onto the ways the historic processes of domination and consumption have contributed to Earth’s current ecological predicament. Find out more about the project and Feral Theatre at www.feraltheatre.co.uk

A Funeral for Lost Species from Blue Raincloud on Vimeo.

Remembrance Events already planned:
Funeral for the Great Auk, Brighton beach, 4pm
Funeral for the Great Auk, coast of West Wales, 4pm
Funeral for the Great Auk, Kelvingrove Museum, Glasgow, 4pm
Funeral for the Great Auk, Bergen, Norway

New Zealand oil spill: conservationists warn of wildlife 'tragedy'

Oil spill off the east coast of New Zealand threatens local penguins, whales, seals and seabirds

Wildlife is threatened by an oil slick off New Zealand's east coast Link to this video
Conservationists have warned of an impending wildlife "tragedy" caused by an oil spill off the east coast of New Zealand, with populations of penguins, whales, seals and seabirds set to be hardest hit.

A severe weather warning for the Bay of Plenty area on Monday/yesterday has heightened fears that the stricken cargo vessel Rena, which is carrying 1,700 tonnes of fuel oil and 200 tonnes of diesel, will start to break up, with grim consequences for the local marine wildlife.

The fallout from the incident, which saw Rena run aground on a reef last Wednesday, is already being felt, with seven little blue penguins and two cormorants recovered and treated today at a centre in Tauranga.

However, this number is expected to rise to more than 200 in the coming days, with warnings that an escalation of the situation would have dire consequences for several species.

WWF New Zealand said it hoped the incident would not prove a "tragedy" for the region's marine wildlife, which includes bottlenose dolphins, orcas and beaked whales. Large baleen whales also migrate through the affected area.

Of particular concern is the New Zealand dotterel, an endangered shorebird.

"There's only 1,200 dotterels left due to coastal developments, so the last thing they need is their feeding ground contaminated," said Bob Zuur, marine advocate at WWF New Zealand.

"Little blue penguins are also very vulnerable as they swim through the oil. Fairy terns frequent the estuary and many northern hemisphere birds, such as godwits, that have migrated south for spring, are also under threat."

"New Zealand is known as the seabird capital of the world. We have about 85 different seabirds that breed here. It's breeding season now, so there are many birds, such as petrels, that are diving into the water to find food for their chicks.

"The oil makes it difficult for them to fly and there's a real risk they will ingest the oil when they preen, or pass it into their chicks.

"Should the vessel break up, we risk an international-scale incident. It's a huge amount of oil. I sincerely hope the it doesn't break up as the storm bears down on it."

It's estimated that up to 50 tonnes of oil has already been jettisoned into the sea. Radio New Zealand has reported that four of the 1,300 containers aboard Rena carry ferro-silicon, a hazardous substance which is flammable if it comes into contact with water.

More than 300 Defence Force personnel have been deployed to tackle the spill, along with specialists from Australia, the UK and the Netherlands.

The exclusion zone around the Rena has been extended to 2.8km today, with teams set to resume pumping oil off the damaged vessel. So far, just 10 tonnes of oil has been removed.

Humans, as well as marine wildlife, are also in danger from the spill, according to Maritime New Zealand.

The government agency has urged people not to touch the oil, which has started to wash up on the tourist-friendly Mount Maunganui beach, despite the efforts of volunteers to begin the clean-up operation.


Summer 2011: Arctic sea ice near record lows

The summer sea ice melt season has ended in the Arctic. Arctic sea ice extent reached its low for the year, the second lowest in the satellite record, on September 9. The minimum extent was only slightly above 2007, the record low year, even though weather conditions this year were not as conducive to ice loss as in 2007. Both the Northwest Passage and the Northern Sea Route were open for a period during September.

Figure 1. Arctic sea ice extent for September 2011 was 4.61 million square kilometers (1.78 million square miles). The magenta line shows the 1979 to 2000 median extent for that month. The black cross indicates the geographic North Pole.

Overview of conditions
Average ice extent for September 2011 was 4.61 million square kilometers (1.78 million square miles), 2.43 million square kilometers (938,000 square miles) below the 1979 to 2000 average. This was 310,000 square kilometers (120,000 square miles) above the average for September 2007, the lowest monthly extent in the satellite record. Ice extent was below the 1979 to 2000 average everywhere except in the East Greenland Sea, where conditions were near average.
As in recent years, northern shipping routes opened up this summer. The Northern Sea Route opened by mid August and still appeared to be open as of the end of September. The southern "Amundsen Route" of the Northwest Passage, through the straits of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago, opened for the fifth year in a row. Overall, sea ice in the wider and deeper northern route through Parry Channel reached a record low, according to Stephen Howell of Environment Canada, based on Canadian Ice Service analysis. Parry Channel had a narrow strip of ice that blocked a short section of the channel, but it did appear to open briefly in early September.
For additional numbers for previous years, see Table 1.

Figure 2. The graph above shows daily Arctic sea ice extent as of October 1, 2011, along with daily ice extents for the previous three lowest years for the minimum ice extent. Light blue indicates 2011, dashed green shows 2007, dark blue shows 2010, purple shows 2008, and dark gray shows the 1979 to 2000 average. The gray area around the average line shows the two standard deviation range of the data. Sea Ice Index data.

Conditions in context
While the melt season in 2011 got off to a slow start, the ice loss pace quickened during June. Ice retreated quite rapidly in the Kara and Barents seas, with rates more than double the average rate. Rapid ice loss continued during the first half of July but then slowed considerably as a series of low pressure systems moved over the central Arctic Ocean. By the end of July, ice extent was slightly above that seen in 2007.
Ice extent stayed above 2007 for the remainder of the melt season, reaching its minimum of 4.33 million square kilometers (1.67 million square miles) on September 9, 2011. Since the minimum, a rapid freeze-up has begun. On October 1, the five-day average extent rose above 5 million square kilometers (1.93 million square miles).

Figure 3. Monthly September ice extent for 1979 to 2011 shows a decline of 12.0% per decade.

September 2011 compared to past years
Ice extent for September 2011 was the second lowest in the satellite record for the month. The last five years (2007 to 2011) have had the five lowest September extents in the satellite record. The linear rate of decline is now -84,700 square kilometers (-32,700 square miles) per year, or -12% per decade relative to the 1979 to 2000 average. In contrast to 2007, when a "perfect storm" of atmospheric and ocean conditions contributed to summer ice loss, this year's conditions were less extreme. From the beginning of the melt season in March, to the minimum extent on September 9, the Arctic Ocean lost 10.3 million square kilometers (4.0 million square miles) of sea ice. It was the fifth year in a row with more than 10 million square kilometers of ice extent change from maximum to minimum. In comparison, the average seasonal ice loss during the 1980s was 9.0 million square kilometers (3.5 million square miles)

Figure 4. Ice motion charts for August 2011 show different movement patterns for this summer compared to 2007. The arrows show the direction of ice motion, with larger arrows indicating stronger motion. In 2007, northward ice motion helped push the ice together and flush it out of the Arctic.

Atmospheric conditions
In 2007, a persistent dipole anomaly weather pattern, with unusually high pressure over the Beaufort Sea and unusually low pressure over the Kara Sea, helped contribute to the record ice loss. This pattern resulted in strong southerly winds from the Bering Strait region across the North Pole, which brought warmer winds and ocean waters northward to melt the ice edge and push the ice northward. In addition, especially strong high pressure over the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas in June 2007 resulted in less than average cloudiness, allowing more sunlight to reach the ice.
The Arctic saw a similar weather pattern this summer, but not as strong and persistent as in 2007. The location of the high and low pressure centers was also shifted, so that the winds blew east to west instead of toward the north as in 2007. This shift is reflected in the movement of the sea ice, particularly during August.
Patterns of air temperatures (measured at the 925 millibar level or about 1,000 meters or 3,000 feet above the surface) were also quite different this year compared to 2007. In summer 2007, temperatures in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas were 5 degrees Celsius (9 degrees Fahrenheit) above average. This year, temperatures in that region were near average, but north of Greenland and in the Canadian Archipelago, conditions were even warmer than in 2007. These high temperatures likely played a role in the opening of the Northwest Passage.

Figure 5. Sea surface temperatures this year were generally lower than in 2007, although some areas of the ocean surface still had higher than average temperatures.

Sea surface temperatures
Ocean sea surface temperatures (SSTs), based on National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) data provided by Michael Steele and Wendy Ermold of the University of Washington Polar Science Center, indicate above normal temperatures on the surface of the Arctic Ocean. However, the temperatures anomalies were not as extreme as in 2007 and were comparable to those recorded for 2009 and 2010. These lower temperatures may be the result of less solar heating of the exposed ocean surface or less transport of warm waters from the south. In 2007, ice retreated early from the shores of Alaska and Siberia, allowing the ocean mixed layer to heat up and enhance melting of the ice from below. In contrast, ice was slower to retreat in this region in summer 2011, and less bottom melt was observed.

Figure 6. Data on ice age show that coverage of the oldest, thickest ice types (ice four years or older) has declined over the past 28 years.

Ice remains younger, thinner
Why did ice extent fall to a near record low without the sort of extreme weather conditions seen in 2007? One explanation is that the ice cover is thinner than it used to be; the melt season starts with more first-year ice (ice that formed the previous autumn and winter) and less of the generally thicker multi-year ice (ice that has survived at least one summer season). First- and second-year ice made up 80% of the ice cover in the Arctic Basin in March 2011, compared to 55% on average from 1980 to 2000. Over the past few summers, more first-year ice has survived than in 2007, replenishing the younger multi-year ice categories (2- to 3-year-old ice). This multi-year ice appears to have played a key role in preserving the tongue of ice extending from near the North Pole toward the East Siberian Sea. However, the oldest, thickest ice (five or more years old) has continued to decline, particularly in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. Continued loss of the oldest, thickest ice has prevented any significant recovery of the summer minimum extent. In essence, what was once a refuge for older ice has become a graveyard.


Monday, 10 October 2011

Ozone layer hole over Arctic in sudden expansion

This chart shows the levels of ozone above the Arctic on 19 March 2010 (left) and 2011 (right), the latter showing about a 50% drop. Photograph: OMI/Aura/NASA

Arctic and Antarctic holes of similar size for first time, say scientists, due to combination of wind patterns and intense cold

• Datablog: The size of the hole in the ozone layer
• Antarctica may heat up dramatically as ozone hole repairs, warn scientists

A huge hole that appeared in the Earth's protective ozone layer above the Arctic in 2011 was the largest recorded in the northern hemisphere, though the sudden appearance of the hole was not due to man-made causes, scientists said in a report on Monday.

The ozone layer high in the stratosphere acts like a giant shield against the sun's ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause skin cancer and cataracts. Since the 1980s, scientists have charted the size of the ozone hole every summer above the Antarctic.

Some years, the holes have been so large that they covered the entire continent and stretched to parts of South America.

During extreme events, up to 70% of the ozone layer can be destroyed, before it recovers months later. The hole above the Arctic was always much smaller – until March this year, when a combination of powerful wind patterns and intense cold temperatures high up in the atmosphere created the right conditions for already-present, ozone-eating chlorine chemicals to damage the layer.

The findings, reported on Monday in the journal Nature, show that the hole had opened over northern Russia, parts of Greenland, and Norway, meaning people in these areas were likely to have been exposed to high levels of UV radiation.

"The chemical ozone destruction over the Arctic in early 2011 was, for the first time in the observational record, comparable to that in the Antarctic ozone hole," say the scientists, led by Gloria Manney of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

The scientists say man-made chemicals such as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) destroy ozone in the stratosphere, after sunlight breaks up the complex chemicals into simpler forms that react with ozone. While some of the chemicals are covered by a UN treaty that aims to stop their use, it will be decades before they are fully phased out of production.

Normally, atmospheric conditions high above the Arctic do not trigger a large-scale plunge in ozone levels. But during the 2010/11 winter, a high-altitude wind pattern called the polar vortex was unusually strong, leading to very cold conditions in the stratosphere that also lasted for several months. This created the right conditions for the ozone-destroying forms of chlorine to slash ozone levels over a long period.

The report's authors said there was a risk that the spread of the Arctic hole could become an annual event.


Friday, 7 October 2011

The Rights of Mother Nature

This is a live blog of a panel convened by the Graduate Center’s Center for Place, Culture, and Politics in honor of Earth Day 2011. It also happens to be the first year anniversary of the World People’s Conference on the Rights of Mother Nature in Cochabamba, Bolivia, and of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Shannon Biggs: Nature is a system governing our well being. Yet our culture treats nature as human property, like a slave. When we talk about what it means to recognize rights for nature, a good place to start is to look at the BP oil spill and ask what would have been different if Nature had rights. What would be different today? The only people who can sue BP today are those with a property claim. What if nature could sue BP to be made whole again? We know that there are thousands of miles of dispersant lying beneath the surface. Things would look very different.

Cormac Cullinan: I came to this work from a practical angle. I was encountering difficulties generating legislation, and this made me realize that there was an underlying problem. At this time I was fortunate enough to encounter Thomas Berry, who showed to me that our legal systems facilitate the exploitation of Earth. I was shocked, because I’d practiced as an environmental lawyer for many years. I felt that I was part of the solution. But he was right. What we call environmental law really isn’t working. In the last three decades, we’ve seen an unprecedented increase in the amount of environmental legislation. We’ve forgotten that we’re part of the natural order. The idea that there’s a system of order out there, Nature, is not something that’s simply not considered. I came to this through trying to find practical ways to deal with what we’re facing.

As someone brought up in South Africa, it was always clear to me that the law was a product of those in power. But in this case we can see that our legal systems have entrenched an exploitative environment between our legal systems and Nature, so we shouldn’t be surprised by the outcome. We’ve defined our system by Rights, but unless we can include Nature in this circle, we cannot include the natural world. So we need to expand the Earth community to include such rights.

Vandana Shiva: Forty years ago I got involved in the Chipko Movement, which strove to challenge exploitation of forests. Today, for the majority of people around the world, the notion that nature has rights is not strange. The opposite is probably strange. The idea that seeds can be treated as property by Monsanto is bizarre. All they do is put toxins into seeds.

Some years ago, I got involved in the TRIPS agreement controversy. All of this made me realize that for most cultures, humans are just one part of the Earth community. But the scientific revolution changed things so that we saw the Earth as inert. What corporate power has done is to make corporations into the only things that count. We need to work to rebalance things. Natural rights are not opposite to human rights. Human rights are a subset of natural rights, because we’re a part of nature. An example is the legal battle I was involved in over limestone mining, which was going to destroy drinking water. Today we’re involved in struggle over dams on the Ganges. Our slogans are to allow the Ganges to flow freely.

Yesterday at the UN, Cormac reminded us that apartheid means “separation.” Today, we have to overcome our sense of separation from nature. This is a forced separation, something against our will. This is something that affects everyday people, who are being displaced through landgrabs in places like Africa. The real thing we need to do is to build the Earth democracy that we’re a part of. The corporations have such a stranglehold on power now. We need Nature to rescue us from the corporate dictatorship.

Maude Barlow: Modern humans, not tribal peoples, tend to see Nature as a resource for our pleasure. This has led to great damage and a crisis of huge proportions. By 2030, demand for water is going to outstrip supply by 40%. Right now we’re in a massive sixth wave of species extinction. But all of our governments, with few exceptions – Bolivia among them – are still out there promoting free trade and the rights of corporations. The environmental movement is left just negotiating with governments to lower the amounts of pollution. But it’s coming at it in such a debilitating way. And even the so-called green economy, the way our elites go about it, is a market solution to the crisis. The idea is that you just replace bad technology with good ecology, and you don’t have to replace any of the current paradigms: growth, development, etc. The only way to “save” nature is to bring it into the market. So ideas about the Rights of Nature seek to shift this paradigm. Our whole mindset is based on human law; what would it be like to shift our mindset so that other species have the right to exist. Does this mean that insect rights are equivalent to human ones? No, but it does mean that we shouldn’t drive species to extinction. We’re hoping that the Declaration of the Rights of Nature will one day take its place with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as one of the founding documents. Every now and then, the human race takes an evolutionary step forward.

Pablo Solon: Last year, we managed to pass, in the UN, a declaration of the human right to water. About 60 years after theDeclaration of Human Rights, we finally got recognition that water was a human right. This 29 of July, we’re going to celebrate the one year anniversary of this event. But we’re also going to celebrate the Rights of Water. If we don’t respect the rights of water, we cannot respect the rights of humans to water. There are vital cycles in nature, and when we don’t respect these rights, we break the system and lose our place in it.

What exactly is nature? A thing, a bunch of resources, or a system? This system, does it have laws and rules? If it does have laws, should the society respect those laws? Are we respecting those rules? This is the key question, from our point of view. We believe that we’re just one part of the Earth system, and we humans, and in particular, the capitalist system, don’t respect these laws. So we’re now facing a situation, as all scientists agree, in which we’ve broken the balance of nature.

How will we restore this balance? We have two proposals on the table:

1) The green economy, which places monetary value on nature, not just on forests, but on environmental services provided by nature. The Rio + 20 conference is intended to approve a series of market mechanisms that have to do with nature. From this perspective, we’re facing a critical situation because nobody owns environmental services; once they’re in the market, balance will be restored. This isn’t something hypothetical. The third round of WTO negotiations is slated to be focused on environmental services. We’re at the beginning of a third round of capitalist accumulation.

2) Our view is based on the Rights of Nature. We have to respect the laws of Nature, or else we will no longer have any place. If we want to have Rights of Nature, we have to fight against capitalism. There is no way to begin a new relationship if we’re trapped in a system that tries to make profit out of everything. Are we going to be able to transform this capitalist system? That’s the key question. We think that the only way for humankind to survive is to develop another system, with another relationship with nature.

David Harvey: We need to remember that there are laws of capital accumulation. A basic law is that of compound growth. Since capitalism took off, the basic trend has been an average of 3% compound growth; this is the minimum with which capitalists feel happy. 3% in Manchester in 1800 is one thing; 3% today is an astonishing prospect. What we’re running into is that we’re at an inflection point in capital’s history at which the growth rate cannot be sustained. In spite of the environmental movement’s vibrancy over last 30 years, things keep getting worse. Christopher Stone’s argument (in “Should Trees Have Standing” in 1972) was the first example of the notion of the Rights of Nature that I came across. But we should remember that we’ve already created fictitious rights for corporations, so why not for nature? Capitalism has always been about more, and even more. Capitalists have no choice; they have to accumulate or die. The system has to grow or die. The system has gotten to the point where it’s prepare to die, and to kill us and everyone else with it. If we’re going to confront the present situation, we have to deal with two key things: 1: the environment (which is treated as an externality); 2: social reproduction (the Republicans want to gut the state and hive off social reproduction to individuals so that capital doesn’t have to bare these costs). One of the answers is to come up with a market solution to social reproduction. We’re told that the answer to global poverty is more capital accumulation, even though this produced poverty in the first place. Carbon trading is a very nice market, but it just makes things worse. One of the things you can’t talk about is what the alternatives to capitalism are going to be. How many people in universities are working on such alternatives? We have to be clear about the politics and the means by which we make change. Nothing is really going to be changed unless there’s a mass social movement to change things. Legal measures before the UN will not do it. What was wonderful about Cochabamba was how many people were there. We’re faced with a huge crisis, but in conventional circles there’s very little original thinking about how to deal with the crisis. In the movement for Rights for Nature, there’s the beginning of this kind of original thought.

Cormac Cullinan: What we’re seeing in the world is a sense that we need to make an evolutionary leap, which starts off as shifting one’s perspective. This is similar to the Copernican shift. Unless we make a jump to seeing ourselves as part of the Earth, and recognize that we’re part of the system, and reshape our governance systems to reflect this reality, then we’ll not make the necessary changes and we’ll face a precipitous decline in human populations and possibly even become extinct as a species. Now, for the first time, we have a global manifesto that can unite all the social movements: the Declaration of the Rights of Nature. What we’re proposing is not some ideology, but a recognition that we must abide by natural laws.

Vandana Shiva: We’ve been sold a bill of goods. We’ve been told that all we need is growth. India has been growing like gangbusters, but we’ve got more hunger than ever. We find that the more we follow the natural laws, the more food we have. The UN has just submitted a report saying that agro-ecology produces enough food to sustain the human population. We don’t need genetically engineered foods, we don’t need toxins. In every sphere, we’ve been sold economic systems and technological systems that impoverish human life because they impoverish human nature. Part of the liberation we need is to recognize that taking less from nature and giving more to her actually empowers us.

Maude Barlow: I think it’s worth exploring some specific examples. One includes the question of whether to put water on the market. Where it’s been done, it leads to terrible consequences. An example is Australia, where they have one source of water: the Murray Darling aquifer. It’s being exploited by large agricultural concerns, and is now dying. In 1993, the conservative government of the time converted the licenses of big corporations to water rights. The idea was that this would lead to more efficiency. But what really happened was that big organizations bought up water rights and pushed small industries out of business. The price of water went up like mad in one decade. The government then couldn’t get water back into the system. My prediction that big investors would move in has come true; hedge funds are buying up water rights and telling Australian farmers what to grow. Compare this to exploitation of groundwater in Vermont. Four years ago, the state government passed a bill saying that water resources were common property. They set up a licensing system saying that if you want to use over a certain amount, you need to pay. In times of shortage, local food production gets preference. So there’s a fundamental distinction in terms of outlook here. What they mean is that Nature has rights. This has fundamental consequences in our lives.

Shannon Biggs: How do we create social movements? We’re all so much in agreement about fundamental principles. But democracy is messy; there’s no one way to move forward. Things can look very different in different places. In the US, Global Exchange has been involved in Mt. Shasta, where communities have been battling water bottling companies. Another issue that this community is fighting is cloud seeding. If you seed clouds in one area, you create droughts in other areas. The idea that we can geo-engineer solutions is folly. The common thread here and in other places such as Pittsburgh, where fracking has destroyed drinking water, is that corporate rights have to be challenged legally. Laws were made to protect and enshrine rights of people and ecosystems. We’ve made such moves in the past: slavery is an example. In Mt. Shasta and in Pittsburgh, laws have been passed to strip corporations of the right to remove water.

Pablo Solon: I agree that the key issue is how to build a social movement that is capable of defeating capitalism. Our humble experience has shown that social movements develop when they are unified and when they win concrete victories. Ten years ago in Bolivia, we were facing multiple defeats. We focused on a specific issue: privatization of water. We defeated the powerful Bechtel corporation. Then we had the strength to challenge the privatization of gas. We had to nationalize our gas. Otherwise, how would we be able to share the revenues of our country with the population? It’s not enough to have a movement that fights for specific goals; the movement has to fight to take over the government. If you don’t gain power, all the victories that you achieve will be lost. So we were able to build a movement that for the first time raised an indigenous person to president. We were able to create a government through which we could develop our own strategies. We don’t speak much about capitalism. We don’t want more and more, as capitalism does. But we want to live better. This means that our growth has to satisfy basic needs, rather than be an example of rampant growth. The problem though is that even if you manage to get power in a particular nation, you can’t solve the whole problem, because government is now global. We have to solve this at the world-wide level, or it won’t be solved. If there isn’t a movement that goes beyond our borders and our continent, and that maybe comes to the key areas of capitalism, like the U.S. and E.U., we won’t survive. So we look for the common thing that unites people around the world. The key thing is that we all live on one planet, and we all face a common problem: our governments and our states are not respecting the laws of nature, and this is one of the main causes of why we are in this situation. So, to build a movement requires having a paradigm that can open a way to a new way of thinking. This is why the Rights of Nature is a key issue to build a movement to change the world.

Read more

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


Thousands to watch inspiring film by award-winning director at venues across country on 18 October

University and college students across the UK are preparing to host the largest ever simultaneous free public screenings of a film later this month.

The inspiring and entertaining film, Just Do It – a tale of modern-day outlaws will be screened at approximately 100 venues on Tuesday 18 October, creating the largest number of community-led free public film screenings ever carried out on the same day.

Providing a rare insight into the secretive world of environmental activism, award-winning documentary maker Emily James spent more than a year embedded in groups such as Climate Camp, Climate Rush and Plane Stupid documenting their activities. This community of gutsy and inspiring people are filmed taking direct action despite the risk of arrest. Their actions include blockading a factory, scaling coal power stations and gluing themselves to the trading floors of international banks.

Tea-making “domestic extremist” Marina Pepper who featured in the film, described the importance of taking action stating that, “If you think you can do something and you can make a difference through campaigning or through putting your body in the way, then that’s empowering.”

Director of Just Do It Emily James said:
“The strength of this film lies in the passion, courage, and humour of the protagonists. I feel honoured that they allowed me to capture their story, and immensely pleased that this tale of ordinary people taking extraordinary action is now being seen by so many people who can watch it for free.”

The film screenings of Just Do It are being organised by students in universities and colleges and will take place mainly on university campuses and college halls. In addition to providing an opportunity for the general public to watch an entertaining and captivating film, this day of nationwide free screenings is also seen to symbolise the impact of individuals coming together to take action as a community. This concept is in keeping with the creation and development of the film as Just Do It was made possible by crowd funders.

Co-ordinator of the Campus Screenings, Olivia Furber said:
“It’s encouraging to see so many students organising the screening of this film. This film motivates and inspires us all to take even the smallest action to bring about positive change, even if it is supplying fish and chips to protestors, or making a cup of tea. I hope that, from watching this film, audiences feel empowered to make a difference in their community”.

View Emily's Whale of a Time Profile

Thursday, 22 September 2011

World Rhino Day, September 22nd

On World Rhino Day, we’re working to call attention to the plight facing the world’s rhinos. Rhinos in Africa and Asia are facing a battle for survival, with the situation in Africa particularly dire. This year, more than 285 rhinos have been lost to poaching in South Africa alone – experts predict that more than 475 animals will be killed by the end of the year. No more than 27,000 rhinos are left on Earth.

For centuries in Asia, rhino horn has been used to treat fevers and other infections, although studieshave shown that it has no real medicinal value and many traditional Asian medicine practitioners have come out against its use. International trade in rhino horns was banned in 1977 by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) after a massive groundswell of poaching threatened to annihilate rhino populations. The demand for horn has peaked again in the past few years after false claims about its cancer-curing ability emerged from Vietnam. Rhino horn is made of keratin, the same protein found in human fingernails and hair.

With black market rhino horn value surpassing that of diamonds and cocaine, rhino poaching is a high-stakes, organized endeavor undertaken by a range of shady characters, from government officials and foreign diplomats to gangs of violent criminals. In addition to China, Korea, Taiwan and Japan, a new market in Vietnam, sparked by the cancer-cure rumors, has emerged with a vengeance. In addition to killing wild rhinos on the hoof, rhino horns are even being stolen from museums. According to Europol, there have been at least 40 thefts or attempted thefts from European museums since January.

Although more than 90% of the world’s rhinos have been decimated by poaching over the last 40 years, black, white, and Indian rhino populations have been increasing over the past decade. After so much effort and funding has been ploughed into rhino protection in Africa, we cannot lose the momentum. We look to each country’s national authorities to hold up their side of our shared commitment to conserve rhinos.

In South Africa, two Vietnamese were recently sentenced to maximum jail terms after they were arrested with 20 rhino horns that had been illegally acquired from legal hunts. In Zimbabwe as well, poaching convictions are more often leading to maximum sentences now. If strict sentences continue to be imposed, there may finally be a chance that the poachers will back away from their all-out assault on rhinos.

African rhino species are not the only ones in trouble. In Indonesia, the Javan rhino is down to no more than 44 animals in one population. Work is underway to lay the foundation for establishing a second population. Ironically, the last Javan rhino is thought to have been poached from Vietnam this year. Sumatran rhinos, which now live only on the island of Sumatra and in the state of Sabah, Malaysia, have had their population cut in half over the past few decades; the species is now down to no more than 200 individuals.

It’s not all gloom and doom though. We know how to bring these species numbers back up. But we have to get poaching and other human-induced losses under control. Along with all of our partners, we hope to call attention to the good, the bad and the hopeful news through World Rhino Day this Thursday. Please help us.

What can you do to celebrate World Rhino Day?

Help educate others about the rhino poaching crisis – forward this email to your friends and co-workers. (You can also visit our website to find more materials to educate yourself and others.)
Make a donation to support anti-poaching efforts.
Check out these ideas for raising awareness and funding for rhino conservation.
Learn about ways to reduce your own impact.
Make posters, buttons, or other materials to display in your home, workplace or school on World Rhino Day. (Visit the World Rhino Day facebook page and Saving Rhinos' website for ideas and downloads.)
And, finally, let us know how you’re celebrating! Please share your photos, ideas and comments on IRF’s facebook page.

Watch this video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hvYpn84dL14&feature=player_embedded

How can you help the rhino?

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

How Far Will Dolphins Go to Relate to Humans?

The Wild Dolphin Project: For 25 years, Denise Herzing has returned to the same place in the Bahamas to study a group of wild dolphins. Next year, she will pioneer a project to communicate with them.

OFF THE BAHAMAS — In a remote patch of turquoise sea, Denise L. Herzing splashes into the water with a pod of 15 Atlantic spotted dolphins. For the next 45 minutes, she engages the curious creatures in a game of keep-away, using a piece of Sargassum seaweed like a dog’s chew toy.

Dr. Herzing is no tourist cavorting with marine mammals. As the world’s leading authority on the species, she has been studying the dolphins for 25 years as part of the Wild Dolphin Project, the longest-running underwater study of its kind.

“I’m kind of an old-school naturalist,” she said. “I really believe in immersing yourself in the environment of the animal.”

Immerse herself she has. Based in Jupiter, Fla., she has tracked three generations of dolphins in this area. She knows every animal by name, along with individual personalities and life histories. She has captured much of their lives on video, which she is using to build a growing database.

And next year Dr. Herzing plans to begin a new phase of her research, something she says has been a lifetime goal: real-time two-way communication, in which dolphins take the initiative to interact with humans.

Up to now, dolphins have shown themselves to be adept at responding to human prompts, with food as a reward for performing a task. “It’s rare that we ask dolphins to seek something from us,” Dr. Herzing said.

But if she is right, the dolphins will seek to communicate with humans, and the reward will be social interaction itself, with dolphins and humans perhaps developing a crude vocabulary for objects and actions.

Other scientists are excited by the project. “ ‘Mind-blowing’ doesn’t do justice to the possibilities out there,” said Adam Pack, a cetacean researcher at the University of Hawaii at Hilo and an occasional collaborator with Dr. Herzing. “You’ve got crystal-clear warm water, no land in sight and an interest by this community of dolphins of engaging with humans.”

How far will dolphins go to engage?

Read more

Thursday, 15 September 2011

The Cove: Help Save Japan's Dolphins

Target: President Obama, Vice President Biden and Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki

Sponsored by: TakePart.com/TheCove and SaveJapanDolphins.org
In The Cove, a team of activists and filmmakers infiltrate a heavily-guarded cove in Taiji, Japan. In this remote village they witness and document activities deliberately being hidden from the public: More than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises are being slaughtered each year and their meat, containing toxic levels of mercury, is being sold as food in Japan, often times labeled as whale meat.

The majority of the world is not aware this is happening. The Taiji cove is blocked off from the public. Cameras are not allowed inside and the media does not cover the story. It's critical that we get the word out in Japan. Once the Japanese people know we believe they will demand change.

Send a letter to President Obama, Vice President Biden and Japanese Ambassador to the United States Ichiro Fujisaki urging them to address this issue. Everyone who signs the letter will be able to have their name displayed in a widget that will be posted on top social networks, web sites and blogs in Japan. ...

Sign petition here

Peru leads the way for Latin America's indigenous communities

Posted by Mattia Cabitza Monday 12 September 2011 14.23 BST guardian.co.uk

A new law recognising the land ownership rights of Peru's native inhabitants sets an important regional precedent

In February, after a legal battle lasting nearly two decades, little-known indigenous communities in Ecuador's Amazon region won a multi-billion dollar landmark ruling against the oil giant Chevron. The company was accused of polluting a large part of the Amazon basin by dumping billions of litres of chemical-laden materials, which campaigners said destroyed crops, killed livestock and increased cancer rates among the local population.

The oil firm is appealing the ruling, so the indigenous population and other residents affected by the years of environmental damage may never see a cent from Chevron for the clean-up of their lands. Yet, whatever the outcome, it is rare for indigenous people in Latin America to be awarded compensation for damage to their ancestral lands. From northern Mexico to the southern tip of Chile, it's more usual for commercial interests to get their own way when it comes to development projects affecting indigenous people or their territories.

In Brazil, for instance, the construction of the Belo Monte dam, which will flood a huge area, is going ahead even though it will force the displacement of indigenous Amazon tribes, threatening their very survival. In Guatemala, gold extraction at the Marlin mine continues despite an international ruling calling for the suspension of mining operations, and regardless of the fact that the resulting pollution is detrimental to the health of the surrounding indigenous Maya communities.

Against the wider backdrop of a struggle that pits the ancestral owners of untapped natural resources against greedy governments and corporations, Peru's new law on the right of indigenous people to prior consultation may set a regional precedent in avoiding lengthy legal battles and, more importantly, in the prevention and reduction of social conflicts.

Getting to the law has not been easy. In June 2009, more than 30 police officers and indigenous protesters were killed in Bagua, in the Peruvian Amazon, after months of demonstrations over the sale of rainforest for oil and mining exploitation turned violent. The deadly clashes in Bagua prompted the Peruvian congress to grant indigenous people the right to prior consultation on legislation or infrastructure projects that would affect them or their territories. But it wasn't until Ollanta Humala became president two years later that the bill finally became law.

The bill was signed on Tuesday in the town of Imacita, in Bagua province itself. Afterwards, Humala dismissed the reasoning behind his predecessor's veto. Alan García had argued that foreign investment in indigenous land was needed for Peru's economic growth; the mining sector represented some 60% of the country's exports last year. Instead, Humala told state TV that the new legislation would "strengthen investment" because the government would be able to use consultations to reduce the risk of social conflicts that drive investors away.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights praised Peru for finally complying with its international obligations and catching up with the rest of the region. But for Carla García Zendejas, from the Washington-based Due Process of Law Foundation, Peru's new law goes further in its regional accomplishment. "It marks an important moment for Latin America," she says. "The hope is that other countries will follow [in Peru's footsteps]."

All Latin American countries with considerable indigenous populations are signatories of International Labour Organisation Convention 169, which recognises tribal people's land ownership rights and envisages the right to prior consultation. But Peru is "the first [nation] to fully implement the language of the ILO convention," continues García Zendejas, who believes this is an important precedent as "some countries think it's not necessary [to have a law] because they have signed international treaties". It's the absence of mandatory national legislation that makes politicians believe they can "still push forward development projects without consultation", in disregard of their countries' international obligations, says García Zendejas.

The need for Peruvian-style legislation has most recently become evident in neighbouring Bolivia, where the language used in its constitution in recognition of the right to prior consultation is vague and subject to interpretation. Indigenous people believe that being consulted implies having the right to veto. But the Bolivian government argues consultations are not binding, and has pushed ahead with the construction of a controversial highway without seeking the approval of locals. As a result, indigenous people from the lowlands have been marching since mid-August in protest at the government plan, saying their constitutional right is not being respected.

Peru does now have a law with more precise language than Bolivia, but the legislation follows the argument of the Bolivian government nevertheless; it gives the state, and not indigenous people, the right to make the final decision if a dispute arises. It may have succeeded in greatly reducing the likelihood of another Bagua. But the law does not eliminate the risk of social conflicts altogether: the government and indigenous people could clash again if they find themselves unable to compromise after having carried out consultations in good faith. Like his Bolivian counterpart, Evo Morales, Humala may come to realise that adopting a consultative approach to government is not necessarily easier. Across the continent, meanwhile, indigenous people, governments and corporations alike will be watching how Peru fares.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Shell: Take Your Toxic Drilling Elsewhere!

The oil industry is at it again. Oil giant Shell is planning to conduct coalbed methane drilling in a beautiful and remote area of British Columbia called the Sacred Headwaters. If completed, Shell will construct a network of gas wells that would underlie a large portion of the Headwaters.

Coalbed methane developments have grave impacts for the environment. Methane drilling can contaminate groundwater and disturb natural ecosystems — like the one at the Sacred Headwaters that's home to salmon, caribou, and wolves. And not only is it home to precious animal life, the Sacred Headwaters was declared one of British Columbia's most endangered rivers.

The Sacred Headwaters are home to countless species of invaluable plants and animals. We can't allow big oil conglomerates like Shell to operate in areas that should only be preserved.

Write to Shell executives imploring them to take their toxic drilling elsewhere.

Sign here