“We’re facing a planetary emergency” The Road to Rio (+20 years)

“Humanity is facing major challenges…urgent actions are needed”

Can we act as a true community?

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Jan 11, 2012 (IPS)

Humanity is driving Earth’s climate and ecosystems towards dangerous tipping points, requiring radical new forms of international cooperation and governance, experts say.

“We’re facing a planetary emergency,” said Owen Gaffney of the International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme based in Stockholm.

“We need to have a ‘constitutional moment’ in world politics, akin to the major transformative shift in governance after 1945 that led to the establishment of the United Nations and numerous other international organisations,” said Frank Biermann of VU University Amsterdam and director of the Earth System Governance Project.

“Humanity is facing major challenges…urgent actions are needed,” Biermann told IPS.

              Be a Partner in Independent Enviro Journalism

Those challenges include, but are not limited to, increasing poverty, food, water and energy security, the financial crisis, climate change, ocean acidification, the loss of biodiversity. All of these challenges and their solutions are interconnected.

Normally, the complex, mutually dependent systems of the Earth can self-correct and are remarkably stable. However, they can reach thresholds or tipping points and then unexpectedly and abruptly shift, Gaffney said in an interview.

“We need only recall how the U.S. sub-prime mortgage crisis nearly collapsed the global financial system,” he said.

The upcoming Rio+20 conference on sustainable development needs to be the moment in human history when the nations of the world come together to find ways to ensure “the very survival of humanity”, he said. Continue reading

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.

Nature is our reality. The economy is simply a game we invented.

Put a glass lid over Japan, Germany or England and they wouldn’t last long.

[excerpts from my Nov 2010 article on why losing species matters to everyone — Stephen]

Japan imports more than 60 percent of its food and most of Europe’s ecosystems have been trashed, with only 17 percent in reasonable shape, according to a first-ever assessment. The only reason those countries haven’t collapsed is they are rich enough to help themselves to nature’s ecological resources and services like food, timber, materials from the rest of the world.

Countries of the North are like desperate bio-pirates, addicted to plundering the richer ecosystems of the South for food, raw materials and cheap labour. Increasingly, the South is resisting and seeking redress. Part of that redress, and the only way to end the escalating loss of species – an estimated 5,000 to 30,000 extinctions per year – is to transform the growth economy

“Japan played a central role in the growth economy. We need to move to a subsistence economy,” Mushakoji told IPS.

……From:

An Awakening to the Unravelling of the Web Life

Governments Responsible for Species Decline – New Panel Learns from IPCC Experience

By Stephen Leahy*

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Mar 6, 2011 (Tierramérica)

After five years of preparation the international community is expected to launch the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services this year. For some of its proponents, even the decisions of the World Trade Organisation should be subject to its analysis.

IPBES would be analogous to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), but focused on biological diversity.

The idea behind this effort is that decisions by all levels of government are largely responsible for the decline in species and ecosystems that support life on the Earth.

To put an end to species decline, governments need an independent, authoritative scientific body that can assess the impacts of proposed policies and decisions that biodiversity experts have long recommended.

“People generally have yet to appreciate the importance of biodiversity and ecosystem services, and how much is at stake in biodiversity loss,” Charles Perrings, professor of environmental economics at Arizona State University in the U.S. southwest, told Tierramérica.

“Biodiversity” is the term used to describe the wide variety of living things that comprise the planet’s biological infrastructure and provide us with health, wealth, food, water, fuel and other vital services.  Continue reading

Be a Partner in Independent Enviro Journalism

More than 20,000 people from 190 nations attended the international climate meeting in Cancun, Mexico and it received one ten second clip on US network TV 

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.

Many, many people tell me:we need people like you to write about these issues”.

I’d like to do more but it is impossible to continue without your support for what I call 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 — who are really partners — enabled me to cover important international meetings like the UN Convention on Biodiversity, UN climate change conference, scientific meetings and much more.

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.

Thanks for reading. — Stephen

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.

A Reporter’s Diary: EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE OF UN CONVENTION ON BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY FROM NAGOYA, JAPAN

NOTE: The following are excerpts from my personal notes to friends and supporters written during the heat, confusion and massive information dump of a major international conference. Often written late at night I attempted to offer some personal perspective into what was going on and what I was up to. — Stephen

Tuesday, 19 Oct – Geopolitical obstacles getting in the way

I’m here at the big UN conference on biodiversity. It’s 430 am here, the first day ended about 9 pm. It’s 12-ring cat circus like the Copenhagen climate meeting but the mood here is more positive. There are similar geopolitical obstacles getting in the way of slowing the loss of species and ecosystems. Another major difference is the lack of little public awareness of the fact that we cannot continue to shred nature’s web of life without suffering dire consequences.

I’ll try and do my bit – write 10 -12 articles over next two weeks. I wanted to thank a couple of supporters who helped out to cover some of the travel costs. I want to keep you informed of what’s going on here but these notes take a couple of hours to do.

This week is a story about an important development in Africa: In sincere efforts to make one last major attempt to transform Africa’s poverty and hunger are we imposing our worldview on Africa yet again? Bill Gates and others are donating hundreds of millions to create a New Green Revolution for Africa. This difficult and controversial story took over a week to do and wrote the final draft during my 17 hr flight here.

My other story connects the dots between extreme weather this summer and climate change. No single storm is directly attributable to CC BUT without CC it is unlikely the Russian heat wave and floods in Pakistan would have occurred. (PS those were events were two sides of the same coin)

Finally I received a number of letters, mostly positive but a couple saying I was too negative in last week’s article ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ Canada Sees Global Warming “Prosperity” Instead of Calamity’. Any organization that puts out a chart of climate impacts at 4 – 5C of global warming and fails to mention the scale of the calamity that would result is delusional or deceptive. Some take the stunningly selfish and naive view we can ‘adapt’ by turning up the AC.

Do consider making a small automatic monthly contribution as a fair exchange for these articles.

Greenest wishes, Steve


Wednesday, 20 Oct – Diversity R Us

There is an astonishing diversity of people here. Last nite I talked to an Amazonian Indian who took 10 days to get here, had wine accidentally spilled on me by a reindeer herder from Finland and found the lost passport of a Brazilian diplomat. And that is a five minute snap shot. It is a very big world with so many different people it is incredible they have all come here to try and address a common issue. That they can’t agree on what kinds of actions and how to implement should not come as a surprise.

Sunday, 24 Oct – Canada won’t play nice (yet again)

Canada is blocking agreement on a key measure to get a new international agreement to protect biodiversity here. This is not new. In recent years Canada has gone out its way to snub international UN agreements including the outright refusal to fulfill its legal obligations under the Kyoto Protocol. Hard to believe the same government lobbied hard for a seat on the UN security council and actually expected to be rewarded.

Sadly there is no one reporting for Canadian publications to document the irony. (And as a result Canadian’s aren’t really aware of what their government is up to.) Continue reading

Reefs and Forests Burn as Climate Disruption Takes Hold NOW


A lot of coral reefs have died this year due to unprecedented ocean heating largely due to climate change. I broke that story last summer. Few coral reefs will survive the next 50 years most experts say without immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

 

 

 

 

Forests are next in line according a new study in PNAS. Huge uncontrollable wildfires will dominate forest landscapes of the near future without dramatic reductions in the burning of fossil fuels the study found.

I would have done a full article explaining all this but simply can’t find a publication willing to pay me to do the work. That’s why I am trying community supported journalism where readers donate small amounts so these articles get done and made available for millions to read.

— Stephen (November 10 2010)