Wisdom of Elders Better Than Science or the Internet: “They Still Know How to Cook Mammoth”

Petr Kaurgin, a Chukchi reindeer herder from Siberia. Photo: Citt Williams

by Stephen Leahy

First published at National Geographic’s NewsWatch

 “Our elders are the best source of information. Better than science or the internet,” said Petr Kaurgin, a Chukchi reindeer herder from the remote Turvaurgin nomadic tribal community in north-eastern Siberia.

Kaurgin delivered his message to climate scientists from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and other Indigenous peoples at the closing of the Climate Change Mitigation with Local Communities and Indigenous peoples workshop here in Cairns, Australia.

“We need to listen to the wisdom of the elders. We can use everything in nature. But we must not break or destroy things, ” he said through a translator.

It was -45C when Kaurgin left his home to bring his people’s message to climate experts here in the hot, wet tropical part of Australia. The IPCC is the world authority on the science of climate change. And along with the United Nations University (UNU) organized the workshop to figure out how to incorporate Indigenous peoples’ traditional knowledge.

“When we love the land where we live only then we are happy,” he said.

Kaurgin’s people and other local Siberian communities have been experiencing the impacts of climate change such as melting permafrost for the last 20 years said Tero Mustonen, Head of the Village of Selkie in North Karelia, Finland.

For complete article see Nat Geo’s NewsWatch

Become a Partner in Independent Enviro Journalism

A personal message from Stephen Leahy

“Journalism and media are society’s mirror providing accurate and essential information.

That is no longer the case.

Media are now controlled by a few major corporations like Murdoch’s News Corp. Coverage of environment and science has been gutted. If there is coverage it rarely digs below the surface. It’s not just TV, it’s all media.

After 18 years of being published in major publications on two continents I now count myself lucky to get $150 to $200 for an in-depth article. The few independent media outlets are either non-profits or struggling.

Urgent environmental issues didn’t go away just because most media stopped covering them.

More than 20,000 people attended the international climate meeting in Cancun, Mexico and it received one ten second clip on US network TV according to a Drexel University media study. (Coverage was even worse at last climate meet in Durban)

Nearly every indicator proves things are getting worse but less and less people know about this.

Many people, including leading scientists, tell me: ‘we need people like you to write about these issues‘. I’d like to do far more but it is impossible to continue without your help in what I’m calling Community Supported Journalism. People directly support independent journalists who craft honest and thoughtful articles about important subjects the mainstream media ignores or gloss over.

Community Supported Environmental Journalism Works

In 2010 dozens of people offered their help, donating $5,750 which helped ensure many breaking international stories were covered including the first media reports on the global die-off of corals and how climate change may be bringing colder winters to Europe and eastern North America. Those donors — I prefer to call them partners — enabled me to cover important international meetings like the UN Convention on Biodiversity, UNFCCC climate change conference and much more.

Thanks for reading.” — Stephen

Please join us. Consider a donation of just $10 a month to support enviro journalism that serves the public interest.

Contributions can be made safely and easily via PayPal* or Credit Card*. [You can cancel at any time, automatically. No need to contact me] 

Monthly support options starting @ $10 a month

One-time donations are most welcome. Click and enter the amount.

*More than 100,000 non-profits safely use PayPal Donate service

If you’d like a mailing address or contact me with story ideas, please complete this comment form.

Letters of Support:

We need people like you. In tough economic times, where information flow is increasingly channeled and controlled, you perform a simply critical role. Hang in there. You are an admirable role model for the future.”

– E. Ann Clark, Associate Professor, University of Guelph.

“Stephen Leahy has done a superb job exposing the enormous sums the US government is spending on corporate welfare for big oil.”

Ross Gelbspan, Pulitzer-prize winning editor and author of The Heat is On

My continued appreciation to those who have contributed in the past.

EcoMobility Gaining Ground As Cars/Roads Become Too Expensive

Car Ownership Declines in Europe as Cities’ Focus on Walking, Bikes & Public Transit

Cost of Personal Car Ownership Tops $10,000 a year

By Stephen Leahy

CHANGWON, South Korea, Nov 1, 2011 (Tierramérica)

Berlin is a big capital city of a country famed for making excellent automobiles, but it can no longer afford roads and is now moving people by transit, bike and especially through walking.

Berlin is not alone. Paris, Tokyo, Seoul, Bogotá, New York City and other major cities simply cannot afford the cost, the pollution, the noise and the congestion of more cars. They are embracing a new concept called EcoMobility – mobility without private cars.

“EcoMobility is not only walking, cycling and public transportation. It is about these three systems clicking together: connectivity is the key,” Gil Peñalosa, former director of parks and recreation in Bogotá, Colombia, told those attending the EcoMobility Changwon 2011 congress.

The congress on Mobility for the Future of Sustainable Cities was organised by the South Korean city of Changwon and ICLEI – Local Governments for Sustainability, an association of local government members from more than 1,220 cities in 70 countries.

“The famous Times Square in New York City is now a permanent pedestrian mall. Who would have believed that could happen just three years ago?” Peñalosa commented to Tierramérica.

“Five years ago who would have thought Paris would have over 22,000 bikes as part of a tremendously successful bike sharing system?” added Peñalosa, who is now the executive director of 8-80 Cities, an NGO based in Toronto that promotes walking, cycling, parks and urban trails to improve the public life of cities.

“We need to build cities around people and not around cars,” he stressed. Continue reading

Rwanda Wins Gold for Forest Conservation Blueprint

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Sep 26, 2011 (IPS)

Government policies are seldom lauded, yet Rwanda’s forest policy has resulted in a 37-percent increase in forest cover on a continent better known for deforestation and desertification.

Rwanda’s National Forest Policy has also resulted in reduced erosion, improved local water supplies and livelihoods, while helping ensure peace in a country still recovering from the 1994 genocide.

Now Rwanda can also be known as the winner of the prestigious Future Policy Award  for 2011.

“Rwanda has sought not only to make its forests a national priority, but has also used them as a platform to revolutionise its stances on women’s

rights and creating a healthy environment,” said Wangari Maathai, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and founder of the Green Belt Movement.

She issued a statement for the award ceremony in New York City last week just days before her death from cancer in Nairobi Monday at the age of 71. “Rwanda has been a very divided country since the 1994 genocide but this policy is helping to bring peace and value to the people,” said Alexandra Wandel, director of the World Future Council, which administers the Future Policy Awards.

The World Future Council is an international policy research organisation based in Hamburg, Germany that provides decision-makers with effective policy solutions.

“Our aim is to inspire other countries to adapt these successful policies to their individual needs.” said Wandel told IPS. Continue reading

Cars Biggest Killer of Children; 2nd for Adults

Update March 2013: Changes in legislation are urgently needed to reduce traffic deaths, and especially among the most vulnerable, says Global Status Report on Road Safety 2013: Supporting a Decade of Action, published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and including data on the Americas gathered by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).  See also Fact sheets on road safety in the Americas — Stephen

 

More than 16,000 people killed or injured on roads EVERY day

Health costs $500 billion ++

By Stephen Leahy

LEIPZIG, Germany, May 31, 2011 (IPS)

The leading killer of children over the age of five is not malaria or dysentery, but cars and trucks. And ninety percent of those children are killed on roads in developing countries.

Each day, 3,500 people are killed and 13,700 injured in road accidents around the world. That death and injury toll is expected to increase by nearly 50 percent over the next decade without serious efforts to improve road safety, says Etienne Krug, director of the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention and Disability at the World Health Organization (WHO).

Krug was here in Leipzig to the launch of the United Nations the Decade of Action for Road Safety at the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development’s annual International Transport Forum. The goal for the U.N. Decade is to stabilise the spiralling increase in death and injuries on the world’s roads.

“We have the potential to save five million of lives over the next decade through changes in road safety,” Krug told IPS.

“A cultural shift is needed to create the awareness of the need for road safety,” he said.


Around 90 percent of all road fatalities occur in emerging and developing countries, making it the sixth leading cause of death in those countries. The lack of road safety laws and enforcement combined with increasing vehicle usage and population growth are the major reasons for this, said Krug.

This independent environmental journalism depends on public support. Click here learn more.

Only 15 percent of countries in the world have good legislation on drinking and driving or use of helmets when driving scooters and motorcycles. “We want to push that to 50 percent by the 2020,” he said.

Legislation and enforcement can make a huge difference. Vietnam enacted a helmet law two years ago and the use of helmets went from only 20 percent to over 90 percent, he said. Brazil recently enacted strict drinking and driving laws, while Mexico has made wearing seatbelts mandatory.

“Much more of this is needed,” he said.
Continue reading

Lend Your Car, Save, and Save the World

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 20 to 22 hours a day. Why not use these vehicles more efficiently by letting other people drive them when the owners aren’t, asks Robin Chase, CEO of Buzzcar, a car- sharing network to be launched shortly in France.

“Sharing vehicles is much more efficient and represents a huge opportunity,” Chase told some 800 attendees from more than 50 countries at the OECD’s annual International Transport Forum (ITF) in Leipzig last week. The Forum is an intergovernmental organisation for the transport sector involving 52 different nations.

The ITF projects there will be three times as many cars – an eye-popping 2.5 billion – by 2050 according to its Transport Outlook 2011 report released at the meeting. Adding that many more vehicles in a sustainable way is an “extraordinary challenge”, said Jack Short, Secretary General of the ITF.

The vast majority of this growth will come from the developing countries since travel by passenger vehicle in a number of high-income countries has not increased, and even declined in some countries. Short acknowledged making such projections is risky because many factors such as lower economic growth, congestion in cities or new technologies will have an impact on levels of car ownership in future.

And the Transport Outlook report did not factor in the potential for car-sharing to offer personal mobility without car ownership.

Buzzcar is a car sharing service where car-owners in a city or town allow their idle cars to be used by other local citizens in exchange for getting about 70-75 per cent of the rental fee, Chase told IPS in an interview. Even when a car is parked it costs their owners money, she says. The average cost of owning and operating car is 8,000 to 12,000 dollars a year even if it sits parked 22 hours a day. (update: more like $9,000 to 14,000 according to auto clubs)

Buzzcar is an opportunity for car owners to get better value out of their vehicles and to help with ever- rising costs of car ownership. More importantly car sharing reduces the need for car ownership overall, she says.

This independent environmental journalism depends on public support. Click here learn more.

Chase was a co-founder of Zipcar, a U.S.-based car-rental network with more than a half million members where people rent cars by the hour from easy-to-access neighbourhood lots or stations. Zipcar owns some 8,000 rental cars. She then went on to start GoLoco, a ride sharing company in which people pay to ride along with others in the network, and the drivers take a cut of the fees. Continue reading

Injecting Drug Use Spreads HIV in Eastern Europe

By Stephen Leahy

LIVERPOOL, Apr 29, 2010 (IPS)

Poor intervention in Injecting drug use (IDU) is driving the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Eastern Europe and is also largely responsible for the tuberculosis epidemic in parts of Russia, says a new study.

Shockingly, a mere three US cents a day per injecting drug user are being invested to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and TB, according to the study released at the opening of the Harm Reduction 2010 conference this week in this English port city.

“Our report shows that just 160 million US dollars a year are being used in total for all the harm reduction programmes to prevent the spread of HIV around the world,” says Gerry Stimson, executive director of the International Harm Reduction Association.

Harm reduction involves providing access to the drug methadone, needle exchange services, and counselling. “Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration cost at least that much,” Stimson, emeritus professor at the Imperial College, London, told IPS in an interview.

In Russia there are an estimated 1.6 million IDUs of which 60 to 70 percent have HIV-related illnesses. In the past decade the number of HIV-infected people increased tenfold from an estimated 100,000 to one million, he said.

“Three cents a day is a terrifying figure and equally terrifying are the HIV infection rates amongst IDUs in parts of Eastern Europe and Asia.

See rest of story here:  HEALTH: Injecting Drug Use Spreads HIV in Eastern Europe 

Former Presidents Denounce Drug War As Failure

By Stephen Leahy

BERLIN, Jul 14, 2010 (IPS)

The failed “war on drugs” has not only badly damaged countries where it is waged, it is responsible for driving up HIV infection rates in some countries, says an official declaration endorsed Wednesday by three former Latin American presidents in advance of the XVIII International AIDS Conference that begins Jul. 18 in Vienna.

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, injecting drug use is the primary cause of new HIV infections. Outside of sub- Saharan Africa, injecting drug use accounts for approximately one in three new cases of HIV, experts will report at the week-long meeting.

“The war on drugs has failed…Instead of sticking to failed policies with disastrous consequences, we must direct our efforts to the reduction of consumption and the reduction of the harm caused by drugs to people and society,” said former Brazilian president Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

“Repressive policies are firmly rooted in prejudices, fears and ideological visions. The way forward to safeguard human rights, security and health is a strategy of peace not war,” said Cardoso.

This independent environmental journalism depends on public support. Click here learn more.


Cardoso, along with former presidents Ernesto Zedillo of México and César Gaviria of Colombia, have endorsed the Vienna Declaration that lists a range of harms stemming from the war on drugs, and notes that the criminalisation of people who use drugs has resulted in record high incarceration rates, placing a massive burden on taxpayers.

Continue reading

A Fatal Addiction to Plastic – Trashing the Oceans and Our own Health

Ocean trash art - plastic soda bottle tops, lighters, misc bits of plastic

By Stephen Leahy

KAUAI, Hawaii, U.S., Apr 1, 2011 (IPS)

“Be fantastic, don’t use plastic!” chanted a troop of 10-year- olds from President Thomas Jefferson Elementary School in Honolulu at the conclusion of an international conference on the millions of tonnes of trash that enter the oceans every year, with serious consequences for marine life and habitats as well as to human health and the global economy.

Most participants were in a celebratory mood at the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference, which concluded Mar. 25 with the Honolulu Commitment to address the growing problem of marine debris.

But Captain Charles Moore, the man who brought the world’s attention to the scope and scale of the problem, was not celebrating.

“I’ve been doing this for 30 years and every year it has only become worse,” Moore told IPS.

Moore is famous for revealing the immense amount of plastic in the north Pacific gyre, formed by ocean currents in a massive slow-moving whirlpool thousands of square kilometres in size.

Moore’s Algalita Marine Research Foundation documented that this vast expanse of oceans has about six kilogrammes of plastic for every kilogramme of plankton. He is careful to point out that there is no plastic island as reported in some media, it’s much more dispersed. Continue reading

Media Fails on Climate Change in 2010 – How You Can Ensure 2011 Will Be Better

Few people understand the serious danger climate change poses all of us largely because media have done a poor job in covering it. In 2010, US TV media pretended it had all gone away – no more global warming…poof, bad dream, moving on.

From the must-bookmark The Daily Climate:

Drexel University professor Robert Brulle has analyzed nightly network news since the 1980s. Last year’s climate coverage was so miniscule, he said, that he’s doubting his data.

….

Coverage of December’s United Nations climate talks in Cancun is Exhibit A: Total meeting coverage by the networks consisted of one 10-second clip, Brulle said. By contrast, 2009’s Copenhagen talks generated 32 stories totaling 98 minutes of airtime. “I’m trying to check it again and again,” Brulle said of the 2010 data. “It’s so little, it’s stunning.”

Newspapers do little better with a huge decline in the US/Canada in 2010 which had some of the lowest level of coverage in the world, lower than Asia and the Pacific according to this graph. Continue reading