Faith Groups Call for African Spirit of “Ubuntu”; End Sinful, American-style Greed

South African Bishop Geoff Davies (L) and Mardi Tindal, Moderator of the United Church of Canada

By Stephen Leahy

DURBAN, South Africa, Dec 9 (IPS)

African and international faith leaders urged governments attending the final day of climate change negotiations to do what is right and necessary to keep global temperature from rising no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.

“The two degrees Celsius target is unacceptable because temperatures in much of Africa will be far higher,” said South African Bishop Geoff Davies.

Oil and coal companies along with other major polluting corporations are engaged in “crimes against humanity and the planet” because they continue to pollute the atmosphere when they have ability to do otherwise, said David Le Page of the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI).

More than 130 African faith leaders have signed a declaration offering specific recommendations based science, honesty, morality and equity. They called on delegates negotiating a new climate treaty here at the 17th Conference of Parties to live up to the African spirit of “ubuntu” – a way of living focused on people’s allegiances and relations with each other.

The current economic system encourages “people to get as rich as they can and forget about anyone else,” said Davies. “It’s an immoral system.”

“Historic polluters like the United States have to reduce their emissions dramatically” and their position here is “shocking” and “reprehensible”, he said. The children and grandchildren of U.S. congressmen will ask what they were doing to be so selfish and irresponsible, Davies said.

The U.S is the most religious society in the world but their behaviour is “sinful” in their refusal to reduce emissions that causing so much suffering among people, he said.

“When lifestyles of the wealthy hurt the lives of the poor….and future generations it is wrong,” Mardi Tindal, Moderator of the United Church of Canada, the country’s largest Protestant denomination.

“Climate change is a moral, ethical and spiritual issue. We need moral leadership not political leadership,” Tindal told IPS.

“South Africa has had courageous, moral leaders like Ghandi and Mandela. If our leadership shows the same moral courage the people will follow them.” Continue reading

Every six seconds a hungry child dies | UN Tries to Halt Land Degradation Crisis

By Stephen Leahy

CHANGWON, South Korea, Oct 25, 2011 (IPS)

Every six seconds a child dies of hunger-related causes.

That disturbing reality seems as remote as the moon here in the ultra-modern Changwon Convention Centre, where delegates struggled to create effective ways to stem the ongoing decline of food-producing lands.

Each year, 12 million hectares of land are lost where 20 million tonnes of grain might have been grown, according to the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification. And that loss of food-producing lands is unlikely to change in the near future, even as the final gavel fell in the early morning hours of Oct. 22 at the end the two-week biannual 10th Conference of the Parties (COP 10).

“This conference has been highly successful,” said Lee Don Koo, minister of the Korean Forest Service and COP 10 president and host.

It was certainly the largest international gathering on land degradation, with 6,450 participants from 161 countries, including 83 ministers and deputy ministers. Lee Don Koo said this meeting sent a strong message to the world community about the need for strong, sustainable land management and for the pressing need to set targets to reduce land degradation.

“Our goal is to build a land-degradation-neutral world,” said Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of the UNCCD. The target date to reach that goal is 2030, Gnacadja told IPS.

Gnacadja would like countries to officially adopt this goal at the RIO+20 conference in June 2012 in Brazil.

It has taken nearly 20 years to get to the point where there is agreement on 11 scientific indicators to measure land degradation and its impacts. Development and implementation of those indicators will take some years yet. The Convention has yet to address the economic and policy drivers of land degradation, acknowledged Antonio Rocha Magalhães, chair of the Committee on Science and Technology. Continue reading

Truth and Wisdom From Spiritual Leaders at Durban Climate Talks

Why do countries at the international climate talks accomplish so little when they apparently understand the science and risks of global warming?

Here is the knowledgeable, depressing and yet inspiring answer from three remarkable spiritual leaders:

 

That was a press conference on one the last days of the 2011 climate talks in Durban. And here is the article I wrote about this and the “ubuntu” declaration by more than 130 African faith leaders. — Stephen 

Cars are only used 90 minutes a day on average. Peer-to-peer car sharing makes money for car owners and reduces need for car ownership.

Stephen Leahy, International Environmental Journalist

Cars are parked 22 hours a day on average yet world will have 2.5 billion cars in 2050

The costs of car ownership and travel are far higher than anyone realizes: a 100 km total trip costs between 65 and 80 dollars when parking, fuel, wear and tear, insurance, depreciation, repairs are included. A car is usually parked and unused 22 hours a day but still incurs costs. Why not let someone use the car when you’re not and make some money at the same time Robin Chase told me for this article. She’s launched Buzzcar in France as part of a strategy for reducing carbon emissions and congestion in cities.   — Stephen

Why do car owners get so much more public space than bus riders, bicyclists or walkers?

By Stephen Leahy

BERLIN, Jun 2, 2011 (IPS)

The world’s more than 850 million cars and small trucks are parked…

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A Very Inconvenient Truth: Gore Got It Right on Global Warming

[Reposted from 2006, nearly six years ago. It offers interesting perspective about the continuing (worsening?) political insanity of inaction  – Stephen]

By Stephen Leahy

BROOKLIN, Canada, Jun 20 (IPS)

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore’s documentary on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth”, is filling theatres across North America – and gets the science right, according to climate experts.

“I saw it last night and was impressed with the climate science presented in the film,” said David Archer, a climatologist at the University of Chicago.

“I left the theatre profoundly depressed because of the political insanity in this country that denies global warming is a concern,” Archer told IPS.

Gore’s personal passion about global warming can be traced to the early 1980s. After losing the election to George W. Bush in 2000, Gore dedicated himself to warning the public about the devastating impacts climate change will have on hundreds of millions of people.

“An Inconvenient Truth” is a 98-minute documentary comprised mainly of highlights from Gore’s high-tech slide show explaining the science documenting global climate change.

Some truths are hard to hear, because if you really hear them – and understand that they are in fact true – then you have to change. And change can be quite inconvenient,” Gore says in the film.

Using an impressive set of graphics, he carefully illustrates changes underway such as receding glaciers, collapsing ice sheets, devastating floods and droughts. One memorable scene shows a graph of carbon-dioxide levels in the atmosphere going back 650,000 years that varies only a little until fifty years ago when it skyrockets. Gore mounts a motorised platform to lift him up high up the chart so he can place his finger on the current level of CO2. Continue reading

Toxic Electronic Waste Grows by 40 Million Tonnes a Year — Poisons Kids in Africa

A worker cooks computer motherboards over solder to remove chips and valuable metals at a makeshift e-waste workshop.

‘Public largely unaware of the e-waste impacts on human health and environment’

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Nov 1, 2011 (IPS)

Mountains of hazardous waste grow by about 40 million tons every year. This waste, mostly from Europe and North America, is burned in developing countries like Ghana in a hazardous effort to recover valuable metals.

A children’s school in Accra, Ghana’s capital, was recently found to be contaminated by lead, cadmium and other health-threatening pollutants at levels over 50 times higher than risk-free levels. The school is located directly beside an informal electronic waste salvage site.

“Poor people in Africa cannot afford to process Europe’s or America’s electronic wastes,” said Ghanaian researcher Atiemo Sampson.

“Those wastes are poisoning our children,” Sampson told IPS from Accra.

Ghana does not regulate the importation and management of electronic waste, or e-waste. The government hopes to have rules in place next year, he said.

Sampson, a Ph.D. student at the University of Ghana, was involved in testing the school and other areas in Accra near the Agbogbloshie scrap metal site, where more than 100 people break apart and burn electronic trash by hand to obtain valuable metals like copper.

Schoolchildren as young as six years old work around bonfires of circuitry, plastic and other leftover high-tech trash, he said.

A nearby produce market, a church headquarters and a soccer field were similarly polluted, to varying degrees. The soil around the school site had measurements for lead 12 times higher than the levels at which intervention is required. Lead is acutely toxic to children and can permanently damage their growing brains and nervous systems, even at very low levels of exposure.

“We don’t know what the immediate health impacts are. We are hoping to test the children’s blood for contaminants but we have not secured the necessary funding,” Sampson said.

International shipments of electronic trash are outlawed by the Basel Convention. However, European and North American e-waste is often shipped as “electronics for reuse” or hidden with legitimate cargo.

Continue reading