Featured stories in this issue...
Escaping the Matrix
In the movie The Matrix, a false reality is manufactured by
computers to keep the enslaved population happy and deluded so they
can be exploited in a scheme aimed at world domination. Does this ring
a bell, folks?
How Being Black and Female Affects Your Health
The health of many Black women is affected in a negative way by
factors such as culture, poverty, racism, and increased risk of
certain diseases, as well as by their gender -- the very fact that
they are women. These are the all-important social determinants of
Drop in Cancer Deaths Hype -- What's Behind the Numbers?
Deaths from cancer have dropped slightly for the past two years, as
more people have quit smoking. Does this bit of good news mean the
cancer epidemic is over? Hardly.
EU Seeks Power to Jail Polluters Under New Environmental Laws
Releasing toxic chemicals, dumping hazardous waste and other
serious "green crimes" would be punished by up to 10 years in prison
and a 1.5 million Euro ($1.9 million) fine anywhere in Europe, under a
Editorial: Global Warming
This editorial leads off a series of stories on global warming in
this week's Nature magazine. The series includes commentaries on
practical steps being taken in response to global warming.
Scientists Offered Cash to Dispute Climate Study
Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby
group funded by Exxon-Mobil to undermine the major climate change
report published Feb. 2.
Youth Mobilizing on Global Warming
Students across the US and Canada recently completed a week of
actions including rallies, film showings, and teach-ins to make
governments, universities and schools enact carbon-free energy
policies and reverse global warming.
From: Rachel's Democracy & Health News, Feb. 8, 2007
ESCAPING THE MATRIX
By Tim Montague
In the movie, The Matrix, a computer hacker named Neo (played by
Keanu Reeves) is living an ordinary life in what he thinks is 1999.
However, when he is contacted by the enigmatic character, Morpheus,
Neo learns that he is actually living in the year 2199 where some
malevolent computers have created a realistic but totally false
version of 20th-century life ("the matrix") to keep Neo and the rest
of the population happily enslaved. It turns out the computers are
"farming" the population to fuel a campaign of total domination being
carried out in the real world of 2199. To gain freedom and justice,
Neo must first make a decision to confront the awful truth, then join
forces with Morpheus and others to figure out how to escape from the
Like Neo, we have a choice -- to go on pretending that everything is
as it appears, or to search for a deeper truth about the nature of our
reality. In our matrix, we live in a democracy where everyone is
created equal, with liberty and justice for all. Our school books,
television shows and politicians assure us that if we work hard and
play by the rules we can all get ahead and have "the good life." In
reality we live in an economy that is wrecking the planet and
destroying the future for our children, increasingly benefiting only a
handfull of elites.
Richard Moore's slim new book Escaping the Matrix: how we the people
can change the world (ISBN 0977098303) is an intriguing indictment of
our 'dominator' society, how it's killing the planet and what we might
do about it.
Moore's analysis of the situation -- a world on the verge of a nervous
breakdown -- is that corruption by corporate and political elites is
an inevitable aspect of societies like ours, based on domination and
exploitation by a warrior class -- the "military-industrial complex
that President Eisenhower warned us about in 1961.
Moore begins by framing events and organizations as diverse as World
War I, the World Trade Organization, and the United Nations as guided
by capitalism. "Capitalism is basically the belief that those who have
the most spare money -- the most capital -- should decide how our
societies develop. This is a political belief, a belief about who
should make the important societal decisions. It is an entirely
undemocratic belief; in fact it is a belief in the virtue of
plutocracy -- rule by the wealthy."(p. 54)
This has created a modern crisis. "...[C]ivilization is suffering from
both a chronic disease and an acute, life-threatening infection. The
acute infection is the unsustainability of our modern societies; the
chronic disease is rule by elites -- a disease we've been suffering
from ever since the first Mesopotamian kings, some 6,000 years
This pretty much sums up the first third of the book -- which includes
a compelling recap of world events from this point of view. Recent
events, like the decline of the American manufacturing economy and the
war on terror, suddenly make very good sense. Capital is finding its
way out of slow-growth markets into faster growth markets.
Government's role is to protect those corporate interests at any cost,
including manufacturing excuses to start a nasty oil war.
In the middle third of the book, Moore serves up a brief history of
humanity and what led to our violent and oppressive ways. He asks, How
did hierarchical society come to be in the first place? Were human
cultures always so competitive and war-like? Citing the work of Riane
Eisler, author of The Chalice and the Blade, Moore says that there
is good evidence that prehistoric European humans lived in
'partnership societies' that were egalitarian and based on cooperation
While the first agrarian societies were evolving in what is today the
Middle-East (the fertile crescent), nomadic herding culture emerged on
the Russian steppes. The herding cultures were inherently more
aggressive than their agrarian counterparts by virtue of their nomadic
lifestyle and relative scarcity of resources. "These were male-
dominated warrior societies, with strong chiefs. Archeological
evidence reveals that human sacrifice was practiced, warrior deities
were worshipped, and that chiefs were buried with impressive caches of
weapons. Eisler places these societies in the category of dominator
When dominator (nomadic herder) society mixes with partnership
(agrarian) you get a volatile mix: "Thus hierarchical civilization
seems to have arisen as a hybrid between these two cultural strains:
the partnership strain contributed the civilizing technologies and the
slave to till the soil; the dominator strain contributed the ruling
hierarchy and the dominator culture."(p. 77)
"With the production afforded by slave-based agriculture, rulers could
afford to pursue conquest and expansion."(p. 79) Bringing us to where
we stand today -- the product of 6,000 years of dominator expansion.
And as we see, when dominator culture runs into more cooperatively
based cultures like indigenous hunter-gatherers, dominator culture
tends to absorb or exterminate the others.
"Over the centuries we've seen warrior chiefs replaced by kings, and
kings replaced by corporate elites, but always there have been a few
who made the rules and the many who obeyed them, a few who reaped the
rewards and the many who paid the taxes and fought in the wars. We've
seen slavery replaced by serfdom replaced by employment, but always it
has been a few at the top who have owned the product of our
Moore then explains, "The source of our crisis is the dominator
culture itself. Environmental collapse and capitalism are merely the
terminal symptoms of a chronic cancer, a cancer that has plagued us
for six thousand years. No matter what dominator hierarchy might be
established, or which group of leaders might be in charge, things
would always evolve toward something similar to what we have now. Such
is the path of domination, hierarchy, and rule by elites."(p. 84)
Then Moore lays out a path back to "...a culture based on mutual
understanding and cooperation rather than on war and conquest, a
culture based on common sense rather than dysfunctional doctrine, on
respect for life rather than the pursuit of profit, and on democracy
in place of elite rule."(p. 85)
This clearly will require nothing short of a radical awakening and
transformation of our culture. Moore then reviews two social movements
from which we can draw important lessons.
The first is the anti-globalization movement embodied in the World
Social Forum gatherings. But Moore is uncertain of this movement
saying, "It is a very large choir, but it's not a quorum of the
congregation. In its current form it is unlikely to have even a
restraining effect on our descent into oblivion."(p. 87) However, he
acknowledges that the anti-globalization movement will likely be
embodied in whatever larger transformative movement does eventually
shift us to a partnership society.
Moore believes that the populist movement (which began as the
Farmer's Alliance) -- is another example we should study. "The
Farmers' Alliance began in 1877 as a self-help movement in Texas,
organizing cooperatives for buying supplies and selling crops. The
cooperatives improved the farmers' economic situation, and the
movement began to spread throughout the Midwest and the South. By
1889, there were 400,000 members."
But the movement was hobbled by two things. First, it failed to build
a broad and diverse base; it did not expand beyond rural farming
culture. "Although movement activists sympathized with urban
industrial workers, and expressed support for their strikes and
boycotts, the culture of the Populist leadership did not lead them to
bring urban workers into their constituency, to make them part of the
Populist family. From an objective strategic perspective, it is clear
that this was a fatal error of omission." (p. 93)
Second, it dove headlong into partisan politics -- a logical
progression for this kind of social movement but one that created a
no-win situation. "In order to promote their economic reform agenda,
and encouraged by their electoral successes, they decided to commit
their movement wholeheartedly to the political process. They joined
forces with the Democratic Party and backed William Jennings Bryan in
the election of 1896." Then the backlash: "Corporations and the elite-
owned media threw their support to the Republican candidate, William
McKinley, in what [Howard] Zinn calls "the first massive use of money
in an election campaign." Bryan was defeated, and the Populist
movement fell apart."(p. 90)
Harmonization -- group dialog
Moore believes that to avoid the fatal flaws of partisan politics we
should build consensus through a process he calls 'harmonization.'
Harmonization is a form of group communication where participants work
together, usually with a trained facilitator, to solve common
questions or problems.
You can learn much more about harmonization at Moore's website.
Harmonization is about coming up with creative solutions to common
problems -- solutions that take into account everyone's concerns.
There are a variety of techniques for achieving harmonization. One is
the Wisdom Council, a technique developed by Jim Rough that brings
people from diverse points of view together for an extended
conversation. Through dynamic facilitation the group members achieve
mutual understanding, respect, solidarity and community.
Another leader in this movement for creative dialog is Joseph
McCormick, founder of Reuniting America which aims "To convene
Americans from across the political spectrum in dialogue around
areas of mutual concern to build trust and identify opportunities for
collaborative action." As Moore point out, this kind of dialog can be
readily facilitated in any group of people, and it is an ancient human
tradition, capable of transforming conflict into creative synergy.
Moore goes on to describe how we could scale harmonization up from the
community level to the regional or national level. Moore believes that
harmonization has the potential to become the basis of a 'community
empowerment movement' that would transform our current adversarial
culture into a cooperative partnership culture.
The core principles of this movement are local sovereignty and
harmonization. The local community level is where everyone involved
finds a shared common interest and motivation to strengthen and
protect the community. Regional or national issues can be taken on by
creating delegations from local constituencies. Local wisdom councils
would delegate individuals to represent their community's interests at
larger regional gatherings, and so on, up the geographic scale. Moore
argues that centralized governments, corporations and institutions
that currently make most of the decisions will be unnecessary and
counterproductive in this new partnership society.
Making the transition to a culture based on sovereignty and
harmonization will require 'repossessing the commons' -- all the
things we share together but none of us owns individually including
air, water, wildlife, the human genome, and human knowledge. Moore
also includes the financial and monetary systems in the commons. "Each
community doesn't necessarily need to maintain its own currency, but
it must have the right to do so at any time it chooses."(p. 174)
Moore argues that only locally owned and independently operated
businesses are good for the community. And that non-local ownership is
a pitfall to be avoided entirely. And though it's a radical departure
from our current system, this form of sovereignty would be a huge step
in the right direction. In the meantime we can get on with exploring
"Any movement, which aims to create a transformed and democratic
society, needs to keep this in mind: when the new world is created,
everyone will be in it -- not just the people we agree with or the
people we normally associate with. A movement must aim to be all-
inclusive if it seeks to create a democratic society that is all-
inclusive. Is there anyone you would leave behind, or relegate to
second-class citizenship? If not, then you should be willing to
welcome to the movement anyone who shares the goal of creating that
new world," Moore concludes.(p. 93)
Return to Table of Contents
From: Canadian Health Network, Feb. 1, 2007
HOW BEING BLACK AND FEMALE AFFECTS YOUR HEALTH
February is Black History Month in Canada, which is celebrated as
African Heritage Month in Nova Scotia. It's a time to celebrate the
many achievements and contributions of Black Canadians and learn about
their experiences, including those related to their health. And it's a
great time to take a closer look at what shapes and affects the health
of Black women.
Black Canadian women are a diverse group who come from many different
cultures, backgrounds and situations, each with unique experiences
that shape their health. The health of many Black women is affected in
a negative way by factors such as culture, poverty, racism, and
increased risk of certain diseases, as well as by their gender -- the
very fact that they are women. Also, some Black women do not have
access to culturally competent healthcare -- that is, healthcare that
meets their social, cultural and linguistic needs.
Who are Black Canadian women?
Black people have been part of Canadian history since the early
1600's, first as slaves then as free persons. Currently, most Black
Canadians live in Ontario (62%) and Quebec (23%), as well as Nova
Scotia, Alberta, British Columbia and Manitoba.
According to the 2001 census, there are now over 660,000 Black people
in Canada, 346,000 of whom are women.
Black Canadian women are a diverse group from many cultures,
backgrounds and situations. Over half (54%) are immigrants, who mostly
come from African and Caribbean countries and Bermuda. Forty-three
percent are non-immigrants, and the remaining three percent are non-
permanent residents, a category which includes refugees.
While most Black women speak at least one of Canada's official
languages, about 1% speak neither English nor French.
Gender and culture affect Black women's health
The health and well-being of many Black women is affected by cultural
norms and traditional gender roles and expectations. Jeanine* is a
Black refugee from Cameroon. She is a woman who does not fit the
traditional expectations of her culture. Single and without children,
she faces pressures and judgment from her cultural community. This
adds extra stress to her life, which can harm her health and may put
her at risk for health problems such as headaches, high blood pressure
or insomnia. "I'm in my forties now," she says, "I don't have a child,
I'm not married, so I'm judged because of that. It's considered a
failure in my community. Men don't experience the same issue."
Strong Black Women don't always get the help they need
In many Black communities, women are often expected to be the main
support for their families and others. In the Menopause and the
Strong Black Woman Project, Dr. Josephine Etowa, Assistant Professor
at the Dalhousie School of Nursing, examined the health and well-being
of Nova Scotian women of African descent. "There is an ideology of
having to be strong and be there for everybody else", says Dr. Etowa,
who notes that "these strong Black women often care for others before
themselves". The stress and pressure of this responsibility can take a
toll on their health.
Many of these women also reported symptoms of depression, which is
often stigmatized as are many mental health issues. "It's a topic that
people don't want to talk about in the [Black] community", says Dr.
Etowa. "It's a taboo, and they don't want to be labeled with mental
conditions." Because of this stigma, some women remain isolated and
don't get the support they need from health professionals, family or
Poverty linked to poor health
According to the authors of the Canadian Association of Social
Workers' report Income of Black Women in Canada, Black women often
work in lower-paying jobs (Table 5) and are less likely to be employed
(Table 10), despite having education levels that are similar to other
Canadian women. They are also more likely to be poor, with over 46%
living in poverty, compared to 29% of all Canadian women (Table 8).
Because they're more likely to be poor, Black women are also more
likely to have poor health.
Poor women have extra healthcare challenges; for example, some live in
shelters or on the street and don't have access to regular care.
Others, especially single mothers, can't afford to pay for medications
or healthcare services. Black women who are new immigrants to Canada
face additional financial challenges. For example, newcomers in some
provinces have a three-month waiting period before they are eligible
for public healthcare insurance, and have to pay for healthcare
services while they wait.
Other women, like Jeanine, support families back home, which can take
a toll both on their finances and their well-being. "I have to help
the people I left behind by sending them money," she says. "So other
things I could do to have better health, I put that all aside because
I have to send the money back home. Even if I considered that I am in
good health, if I know that my family back home is not, it will affect
my well-being." If she had the money to do so, Jeanine would socialize
more, join a gym and eat better, all of which would help her to have
* Finding culturally competent healthcare can be a challenge for Black
Racism also affects Black women's health
According to Canada's Action Plan Against Racism, approximately 47%
of Black women who participated in Statistics Canada's 2002 Ethnic
Diversity Survey: portrait of a multicultural society reported
experiencing racial discrimination. While little research has been
done on the direct impact of racism on health, it's acknowledged as
another factor that can seriously affect health. According to the
World Health Organization, "overt or implicit discrimination
violates one of the fundamental principles of human rights and often
lies at the root of poor health status... Discrimination both causes
and magnifies poverty and ill-health."
Dr. Carol Amaratunga, Women's Health Research Chair at the University
of Ottawa's Institute of Population Health, is a co-investigator with
Dr. Wanda Thomas Bernard's team on the ongoing Racism, Violence and
Health Project and researcher on other projects looking at the health
of Black women and men. She sees a direct link between women's
experiences of racism in a healthcare setting -- like being
stereotyped, talked down to or neglected by their healthcare provider
because they are Black -- and their future use of the system. "It
really results in people delaying access to healthcare when they're
ill, so that by the time they access treatment, in many cases their
illness is quite advanced."
Higher rates of certain diseases and conditions
In 2001, Dr. Etowa completed a research project that looked at
existing data on the health status of Black women in Nova Scotia. She
found little Canadian information on the issue, mainly because health
data collected in Canada doesn't often include information about a
person's race or ethnicity. However, research from other countries
like the United States indicates that Black women experience certain
conditions and diseases, like fibroids, lupus and diabetes, more
often than other women.
Dr. Etowa believes that to best prevent and treat illness in Black
women, a more complete picture of their health status and the issues
that affect their health is needed. "We don't know if we have the same
issues [as women in the United States]," she says. "We need medical
and quantitative research to tell us the incidence of disease among
Black women. Ultimately, this is not [just] a Black issue; it's a
healthcare system issue."
In some regions of Canada, data are being collected on ethnicity and
rates of HIV/AIDS. These data indicate that women from countries in
the Caribbean and sub-Saharan Africa experience higher rates of HIV
and AIDS compared to other Canadian women (see page 96).
Culturally competent healthcare not always easy to find
Access to culturally competent healthcare that meets social,
linguistic and cultural needs can also affect a person's health.
Finding this kind of healthcare can be a challenge for Black women.
Lack of access to culturally competent healthcare is a theme that has
come up in the ongoing project On the Margins: Understanding and
Improving Black Women's Health in Rural and Remote Nova Scotia
Communities. According to Dr. Etowa, " [Black women] don't see people
who look like them or who understand their issues." For many, this
creates a barrier to accessing healthcare.
Culturally competent healthcare means:
Providing health care to patients with diverse values, beliefs and
behaviors, and tailoring delivery to meet their social, cultural and
Having an understanding of the communities being served, and the
cultural influences on individual health beliefs and behaviors
Developing strategies to identify and address cultural barriers to
Adapted from: A Cultural Competence Guide for Primary Healthcare
Professionals in Nova Scotia
Developing solutions that work
Targeted prevention initiatives
In response to emerging information on the higher rates of HIV and
AIDS among African and Caribbean women, groups in Ontario have
developed prevention initiatives aimed specifically at Black
communities. For example, the Keep it alive campaign, developed by
and for African and Caribbean people, raises awareness about HIV/AIDS
among Black communities in Ontario, and Healthy Options for Women
provides information to help Black pregnant women make decisions about
HIV testing and/or treatment.
Integrating culturally competent care
Women's Health in Women's Hands (WHIWH) is a community health centre
in Toronto that serves primarily Black women and women of colour. It
is a unique example of a service that provides culturally competent
The staff, who are mostly Black women and other women of colour, offer
a range of holistic services in multiple languages. They also look at
ways to address social issues. "We try to change the system through
advocacy and lobbying the external environment to increase their
access to care," says Ms. Notisha Massaquoi, the Executive Director.
The soon-to-be-completed Collaborative Process to Achieve Access to
Primary Health Care for Black Women and Women of Colour is an example
of the collaborative research the centre undertakes. The project is
investigating barriers Black women face when accessing healthcare, and
possible solutions to reduce those barriers.
According to Dr. Sandra Romain, WHIWH physician, there is a growing
need for more services for Black women. While opening more centres
like WHIWH would be a good start, this may not be possible in some
areas of the country. Dr. Romain says there is also a need for
cultural competency training for all healthcare providers.
A number of resources on developing cultural competence are already
available, such as A Cultural Competence Guide for Primary Healthcare
Professionals in Nova Scotia. Also, some professional healthcare
associations have adopted policies to encourage their members to
develop and maintain cultural competence. For example, the Community
Health Nurses Association of Canada Standards of Practice state that
community health nurses working in Canada are expected to assess and
understand "individual and community capacities including norms,
values, beliefs, knowledge, resources and power structure", and
provide "culturally sensitive care in diverse communities and
Involving Black women in program development
"Women are experts on their own lives and their own healthcare", says
Ms. Massaquoi. "It's important to include them at every level of
healthcare, not just in providing services, but in the decision-making
as well. We need to let women design the programs in the mainstream,
have proper consultation and involve them in program development." For
example, in the Healthy Balance Research Program, which looked at
how caregiving affects women's health and well-being, women of African
descent were involved in various aspects of the program including
writing questionnaires and holding focus groups.
As Dr. Amaratunga puts it, the greatest value of working with Black
women as they take charge of their health is that the process
"recognizes the voice and power in the [Black] community". And as we
take time during Black History Month to reflect on the past
achievements of Black Canadians, we can also take inspiration from the
strength of Black women who are working together to create a healthier
*Name changed to protect privacy
This article was prepared by womenshealthmatters.ca at Women's
College Hospital, the Canadian Health Network Women Affiliate.
Return to Table of Contents
From: The Pump Handle, Feb. 5, 2007
DROP IN CANCER DEATHS HYPE -- WHAT'S BEHIND THE NUMBERS?
By Dick Clapp
Late last month, there was a series of news stories about the drop in
cancer deaths reported in 2004 as compared to 2003. The Washington
Post story ran under the headline "Cancer Deaths Decline for Second
Straight Year," and the New York Times headline read "Second Drop in
Cancer Deaths Could Point to a Trend, Researchers Say." President
George W. Bush was quoted as saying "This drop was the steepest ever
recorded... Progress is being made." What he did not say was that a
drop in cancer deaths has been recorded in only two years since the
data have been collected -- and this drop was greater than the one the
previous year, 2003 compared to 2002. Both stories noted that the
decline was small in absolute numbers (3,014 fewer deaths due to
cancer in 2004 compared to 2003), but neither pointed out that cancer
incidence has been either slightly increasing (females) or flat
(males) in the past decade.
The drop in cancer deaths from 556,902 in 2003 to 553,888 in 2004
represents a one half of one percent drop. The National Center for
Health Statistics report (see Table 2 in particular) actually
reported some other findings that are more important than the drop in
cancer deaths, in terms of public health. For example, there were
50,673 fewer deaths from all causes in 2004 than in 2003, and the drop
in heart disease deaths was much greater than for cancer. The drop in
deaths due to cerebrovascular disease (strokes), chronic lower
respiratory disease, influenza and pneumonia, septicemia, hypertension
and diabetes were all greater in percent decline than the drop in
cancer deaths. In fact, many of these causes of death are related to
the same risk factors (smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, access to
health care) that the news accounts say were the reason for the
decline in cancer deaths. The question then becomes, why are these
other diseases declining more than cancer. The headlines might have
been, "Cancer lags behind other diseases in decline from 2003 to
One other missing aspect of the cancer stories is what is sometimes
called the cancer burden, or the number of people diagnosed and living
with the disease. Needless to say, it's better to be alive,
considering the alternative, but the economic and psychological burden
on families of cancer patients can be enormous. So, while age-adjusted
cancer incidence rates have been slightly increasing in females and
essentially staying flat in males over the last decade (see SEER
Program data) and mortality rates have been declining, this means the
number of people living with cancer (the burden) has been getting
steadily larger. The real goal from a public health point of view, is
to reduce the incidence of cancer by prevention programs. Probably the
best news in the past decade in this regard has been the declining
lung cancer rate in males -- which has mostly been due to declining
prevalence of cigarette smoke exposure, both to smokers and those
around them. The incidence of this cancer has not declined because of
better screening or treatment, but because of primary prevention.
Another piece of the cancer story has to do with childhood cancer
incidence and mortality. Cancer is, thankfully, a rare illness in
children, and mortality rates have gone down for many childhood
cancers over the past two decades. Childhood cancer incidence has been
steadily going up, however, and this cannot be due to some of the
factors cited in adults (smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, etc.).
It's also not that genetic susceptibility is increasing in children
because heritable factors would not be likely to change in one
generation. Here, most people would gladly accept the burden of
keeping a child alive who has been diagnosed with cancer. But wouldn't
we all rather that the children not be getting cancer in the first
place? The explanation for the steady increase in childhood cancer
incidence is not at hand, but at least one place to look is prenatal
and early childhood environmental carcinogenic exposures. A report by
Tami Gouveia-Vigeant and Joel Tickner published by the University of
Massachusetts's Lowell Center for Sustainable Production (PDF summary
here; PDF report here) finds that "evidence increasingly indicates
that parental and childhood exposures to certain toxic chemicals
including solvents, pesticides, petrochemicals and certain industrial
by-products (dioxins and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) can result
in childhood cancer."
In any event, the recent flurry of headlines about the decline in
cancer deaths seems to be more wishful thinking and political spin
than a sober look at what's behind the numbers. We'll be saying more
about this in coming months.
Dick Clapp is a professor at Boston University School of Public
Health, a member of the Scientific Knowledge and Public Policy
Planning Committee, and Co-Chair of Greater Boston Physicians for
Social Responsibility. He was Director of the Massachusetts Cancer
Registry from 1980-1989 and has been involved in numerous cancer
Return to Table of Contents
From: The Independent (UK), Feb. 8, 2007
EU SEEKS POWER TO JAIL POLLUTERS UNDER NEW ENVIRONMENTAL LAWS
By Stephen Castle
Releasing toxic chemicals, dumping hazardous waste and other serious
"green crimes" would be punished by up to 10 years in prison and a 1.5
million Euro ($1.9 million) fine anywhere in Europe, under a plan to
be launched tomorrow.
The plan is likely to provoke opposition from several national
capitals -- including London -- because some governments jealously
defend their right to determine tariffs for criminal offences.
But Franco Frattini, European commissioner for justice and home
affairs, believes that the public is so concerned about damage to the
environment that the measure will be popular across the continent.
His proposal lists nine sets of offences which would be recognised in
all 27 EU member states, with possible punishment ranging from one to
10 years' imprisonment. These include illegal treatment or shipment of
waste, discharge of dangerous substances into the air, soil or ground
or unlawful possession of protected wild plants and animals. Other
crimes would include causing drastic deterioration of a protected
habitat and unlawful trade in ozone-depleting substances.
Maximum penalties for the most serious offences would include jail
sentences or fines of at least 1.5 million Euros ($1.9 million). These
would include "crimes that have resulted in death or serious injury of
a person or a substantial damage to air, soil, water, animal or
plants, or when the offence has been committed by a criminal
In introducing the legislation now, Mr Frattini and the environment
commissioner, Stavros Dimas, have chosen their moment well. As The
Independent's Campaign Against Waste has shown, there is mounting
concern across Europe over the state of the environment -- from
climate change and greenhouse gas emissions to wasteful packaging of
One official said: "I am 100 per cent confident that we will get the
support of EU citizens, despite the worries of member states that want
to hold on to individual sovereignty." The proposal argues: "Criminal
sanctions are not in force in all member states for all serious
environmental offences even though only criminal penalties will have a
sufficiently dissuasive effect."
If adopted this would be only the second time in the EU's legal
history that national governments would give up the full sovereign
right to decide what constitutes a crime and what the punishment
should be. The first move was triggered by a landmark ruling on
environmental crimes by the European Court of Justice in September
2005, which gave Brussels a new competence over criminal laws across
the EU. The court stated that it was up to the Commission to decide on
penal measures in order to make community legislation effective.
This latest proposal stirred immediate debate. Chris Davies,
environment spokesman for the Liberal Democrats in the European
Parliament said: "I don't think we should support cheats. What the
commission is trying to do is ensure that not only do we meet the
object of legislation, which is to protect the environment, but that
we have a level playing field for British business which, by and
large, works within a good UK regulatory system."
But Timothy Kirkhope, leader of the Conservative MEPs, said the
Commission's proposals were worrying because they could eventually
result in other legislation being targeted for EU-wide
He argued: "This appears to be a worrying erosion of British
sovereignty. Notwithstanding our support for environmental protection,
this is a blow to Britain's ability to decide things for ourselves. I
fear the Commission sees this as an opportunity to extend its powers
and start interfering in the criminal law of member states."
Return to Table of Contents
From: Nature, Feb. 8, 2007
EDITORIAL: LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL
The release of the 2007 report of the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) last Friday [Feb. 2] marks an important
milestone (see pages 578-585 and 595-598). Following the
scientific consensus that has been apparent for some time, a solid
political consensus that acknowledges the problem finally seems to be
within reach. But achieving this outcome brings its own risks.
Until quite recently (perhaps even until last week), the general
global narrative of the great climate-change debate has been
deceptively straightforward. The climate-science community, together
with the entire environmental movement and a broad alliance of opinion
leaders ranging from Greenpeace and Ralph Nader to Senator John McCain
and many US evangelical Christians, has been advocating meaningful
action to curtail greenhouse-gas emissions. This requirement has been
disputed by a collection of money-men and some isolated scientists, in
alliance with the current president of the United States and a handful
of like-minded ideologues such as Australia's prime minister John
Sidebar: Climate Change 2007
Special Report: From words to action
What we don't know about climate change
Climate sceptics switch focus to economics
What price a cooler future
Light at the end of the tunnel
Carbon copies [carbon trading]
Energy efficiency: Super savers: Meters to manage the future
Energy efficiency: Super savers: Experimenting with efficiency
Is the global carbon market working?
Climate change 2007: Lifting the taboo on adaptation
The IPCC report, released in Paris, has served a useful purpose in
removing the last ground from under the climate-change sceptics' feet,
leaving them looking marooned and ridiculous. However, this
predicament was already clear enough. Opinion in business circles, in
particular, has moved on. A report released on 19 January by
Citigroup, Climatic Consequences -- the sort of eloquently written,
big-picture stuff that the well-informed chief executive reads on a
Sunday afternoon -- states even more firmly than the IPCC that
anthropogenic climate change is a fact that world governments are
moving to confront. It leaves no question at all that large businesses
need to get to grips with this situation -- something that many of
them are already doing.
So then, the enemy is vanquished and the victors can rejoice? Hardly.
In fact, the pending retreat from the stage of the president of the
United States and his allies leaves those who do acknowledge the
severity of the problem facing an even greater challenge than before.
The world now broadly accepts that we have a problem, if not a crisis.
So what is to be done?
The policy choices that lie ahead are more daunting than political
leaders (or the media) have thus far been ready to acknowledge. In a
sense, twenty years of frustrating trench-warfare with the sceptics
has prevented a rational discussion about what needs to be done from
even taking place.
At present, the political response to the situation is, in large part,
incongruous. We need to restrict emissions in the developed world, and
some steps are being undertaken to do just that, chiefly through the
much-maligned Kyoto Protocol. We need to develop clean energy sources,
and these are being pushed ahead quite rapidly, although each one --
nuclear power, biofuels, wind power and hydropower, for example --
creates its own environmental battlefield. Steps are also being taken
to build systems for large-scale carbon capture and storage, and to
improve the efficiency with which energy is used (see pages
The trouble is, none of this is even close to being sufficient to meet
the challenge. Hybrid cars are being purchased (and often allow their
lucky drivers special access to empty highway lanes). David Cameron,
the leader of Britain's Conservative Party, has sought planning
permission to erect a wind turbine in his back garden. And Pink Floyd
and Pearl Jam have declared that their most recent world tours would
be 'carbon neutral'. But we are all vaguely aware that all of this is
nowhere near enough. Economic sacrifice
Even the most progressive governments continue to put the issue of
climate change on the back seat behind their fundamental commitment to
strong economic growth, which is needed to ensure political survival
(in developed countries) and to enable human dignity (in developing
countries). So in a typical European nation, for example, governments
are calling for strenuous emissions cuts while also planning airport
expansions that anticipate a further tripling over the next twenty
years of air travel -- the fastest-growing source of emissions, and
one not capped by the Kyoto Protocol.
The fundamental difficulty here is that it has been politically
impossible to accept that fighting global warming may involve some
economic sacrifice, at least while the sceptics were in the picture.
As these are vanquished, it becomes possible -- and indeed necessary
-- to start the discussion.
Similarly, it has been hard to talk about actions that need to be
taken to mitigate the damage already certain to be caused by climate
change and associated rises in the sea level, as such steps were
regarded as a capitulation to those who just want to keep emitting
greenhouse gases. This is no longer the case (see page 597).
Mitigation, which can take many forms ranging from the Thames Barrier
in London to the introduction of drought-resistant crop strains in the
Sahel and the establishment of a proposed climate-change adaptation
fund, needs to be squarely on the agenda, alongside emissions cuts.
A similar relaxation arises with regard to revised negotiations for
the second stage of the Kyoto Protocol. There is a case for opening
the second phase beyond a simple extension of the cap-and-trade
proposals that made up the core of the first. US President George W.
Bush will remain a participant in such negotiations until the end of
2008. But even before then, talks should include all the options open
to a planet that is now ready, at last, to acknowledge the fix it is
In a related story, Joel Makower reviews the Citigroup report
Climate Consequences and an eye opening 11 minute interview with
Ed Kerschner, Chief Investment Officer at Citigroup Investment
Research, discussing his report.
/* http://ipcc-wg1.ucar.edu/wg1/docs/WG1AR4_SPM_Approved_05Feb.pdf */
Return to Table of Contents
From: The Guardian (UK), Feb. 2, 2007
SCIENTISTS OFFERED CASH TO DISPUTE CLIMATE STUDY
By Ian Sample, science correspondent
Scientists and economists have been offered $10,000 each by a lobby
group funded by one of the world's largest oil companies to undermine
a major climate change report due to be published today.
Letters sent by the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), an
ExxonMobil-funded thinktank with close links to the Bush
administration, offered the payments for articles that emphasise the
shortcomings of a report from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC).
Travel expenses and additional payments were also offered.
The UN report was written by international experts and is widely
regarded as the most comprehensive review yet of climate change
science. It will underpin international negotiations on new emissions
targets to succeed the Kyoto agreement, the first phase of which
expires in 2012. World governments were given a draft last year and
invited to comment.
The AEI has received more than $1.6m from ExxonMobil and more than 20
of its staff have worked as consultants to the Bush administration.
Lee Raymond, a former head of ExxonMobil, is the vice-chairman of
AEI's board of trustees.
The letters, sent to scientists in Britain, the US and elsewhere,
attack the UN's panel as "resistant to reasonable criticism and
dissent and prone to summary conclusions that are poorly supported by
the analytical work" and ask for essays that "thoughtfully explore the
limitations of climate model outputs".
Climate scientists described the move yesterday as an attempt to cast
doubt over the "overwhelming scientific evidence" on global warming.
"It's a desperate attempt by an organisation who wants to distort
science for their own political aims," said David Viner of the
Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia.
"The IPCC process is probably the most thorough and open review
undertaken in any discipline. This undermines the confidence of the
public in the scientific community and the ability of governments to
take on sound scientific advice," he said.
The letters were sent by Kenneth Green, a visiting scholar at AEI, who
confirmed that the organisation had approached scientists, economists
and policy analysts to write articles for an independent review that
would highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the IPCC report.
"Right now, the whole debate is polarised," he said. "One group says
that anyone with any doubts whatsoever are deniers and the other group
is saying that anyone who wants to take action is alarmist. We don't
think that approach has a lot of utility for intelligent policy."
One American scientist turned down the offer, citing fears that the
report could easily be misused for political gain. "You wouldn't know
if some of the other authors might say nothing's going to happen, that
we should ignore it, or that it's not our fault," said Steve
Schroeder, a professor at Texas A&M university.
The contents of the IPCC report have been an open secret since the
Bush administration posted its draft copy on the internet in April. It
says there is a 90% chance that human activity is warming the planet,
and that global average temperatures will rise by another 1.5 to 5.8C
this century, depending on emissions.
Lord Rees of Ludlow, the president of the Royal Society, Britain's
most prestigious scientific institute, said: "The IPCC is the world's
leading authority on climate change and its latest report will provide
a comprehensive picture of the latest scientific understanding on the
issue. It is expected to stress, more convincingly than ever before,
that our planet is already warming due to human actions, and that
'business as usual' would lead to unacceptable risks, underscoring the
urgent need for concerted international action to reduce the worst
impacts of climate change. However, yet again, there will be a vocal
minority with their own agendas who will try to suggest otherwise."
Ben Stewart of Greenpeace said: "The AEI is more than just a
thinktank, it functions as the Bush administration's intellectual Cosa
Nostra. They are White House surrogates in the last throes of their
campaign of climate change denial. They lost on the science; they lost
on the moral case for action. All they've got left is a suitcase full
On Monday, another Exxon-funded organisation based in Canada will
launch a review in London which casts doubt on the IPCC report. Among
its authors are Tad Murty, a former scientist who believes human
activity makes no contribution to global warming. Confirmed VIPs
attending include Nigel Lawson and David Bellamy, who believes there
is no link between burning fossil fuels and global warming.
Return to Table of Contents
From: Campus Climate Challenge / Better Days Alliance, Jan. 31, 2007
YOUTH MOBILIZING ON GLOBAL WARMING
Largest youth mobilization on global warming: events on 575 campuses
and Inconvenient Truth screenings anchored a week of action, January
29 -- February 2, 2007.
By Michael Crawford and Will Dugan
Contact: Michael Crawford, Communications Director, Campus Climate
Challenge, 202 247-0965 or Michael@energyaction.net or Will Duggan,
Better Days Alliance, 860 345-0000, email@example.com
In the largest mobilization in the history of the youth global warming
movement, students have risen up to demand immediate action to end our
addiction to fossil fuels. Students on over 575 college and high
school campuses across the United States and Canada urged their campus
administrators to enact clean energy policies as a key solution to the
impending climate crisis. The demands are part of Rising to the
Climate Challenge: Visions of Our Future, a week-long series of
actions coordinated by the Campus Climate Challenge. "The Challenge"
is uniting young people to win 100% clean energy policies at their
Anchoring the week of action were hundreds of screenings of the Oscar-
nominated documentary An Inconvenient Truth. In partnership with The
11th Hour Project and Truth on Campus, the Challenge made copies
of the DVD and public screening licenses available to college and high
school campuses across the U.S. and Canada.
In addition to the film screenings, students organized rallies,
educational forums and requested meetings with members of Congress to
urge that the U.S. take a leading role in reducing greenhouses gases.
Events occurred in 49 states and 8 Canadian provinces.
* Students at Rutgers University collected 200 invitations sent
to Rep. Frank Pallone D-NJ to invite him to attend a screening and
discussion of An Inconvenient Truth. The screening kicked off
a campus-wide dorm competition to save energy.
* Students from Ivy League universities joined together to call
for their campuses to go climate neutral.
* January 30: Billionaires for Coal rallied outside the New York
headquarters of Merrill Lynch to protest its investment in TXU, a
company proposing to build 11 new coal power plants in Texas.
* January 31: West Virginia elementary school students presented
letters to Governor Manchin urging him to build them a new school away
from the coal silo that sits 150 feet from their current school.
For a complete list of events during the week of action, please visit
"Students recognize that climate change is the most critical issue
facing their generation. Throughout the Week of Action they are
demanding less talk and more action to end our addiction to fossil
fuels," said Michael Crawford, communications director for the Campus
Climate Challenge. "Beginning with their college campuses and
extending to the halls of Congress, young people are sounding the
alarm about global warming and providing real solutions that move us
towards a clean energy future."
"At American University, we have already held a successful student
referendum to move the university towards wind-generated energy," says
student Claire Roby. "But that's not enough. We are joining with
students from around the country during the week of action to demand
real solutions to stop global warming."
"There is a growing sense of urgency about global warming among young
people because we are the generation that will be most affected," says
Andrew Nazdin, a freshman at the University of Maryland. "The week of
action is a way for students to demand real solutions to end our
addiction to fossil fuels."
The Campus Climate Challenge, a project of the Energy Action
Coalition, unites young people to organize on college campuses and
high schools to win 100% clean energy policies at their schools.
Energy Action Coalition is a network of 41 organizations from across
the United States and Canada, founded and led by youth to help support
and strengthen the student and youth clean energy movement in the
United States and Canada.
Energy Action Coalition partners are: Americans for Informed
Democracy, Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in
Higher Education, Black Mesa Water Coalition, Brower New Leaders
Initiative, California Student Sustainability Coalition, Campus
Progress, Chesapeake Climate Action Network, Clean Air Cool
Planet, Climate Crisis Coalition, ConnPIRG,CoPIRGDakota
Resource Council, Earth Day Network,Energy Justice
Network,Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative,Global
Exchange,Greenpeace Student Network,Indigenous Environmental
Network,INPIRG,Kids Against Pollution,League of Conservation
Voters Education Fund: Project Democracy,League of Young
Voters,MarylandPIRG,MASSPIRG,MoPIRG,National Association of
Environmental Law Societies,National Wildlife Federation's Campus
Ecology Program,NJPIRG,OhioPIRG,OSPIRG,Rainforest Action
Network,Restoring Eden,Sierra Student Coalition,Sierra Youth
Coalition, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy,Student
Environmental Action Coalition,Students United for a Responsible
Global Environment,Sustainable Endowments
Institute,SustainUS,Utah Clean Energy,WashPIRG,WISPIRG,Young
People For, and Youth Environmental Network.
Truthoncampus.org is helping colleges, universities and high schools
across the country increase the positive outcomes from their
screenings of "An inconvenient Truth." Coordination is being led by
Better Days Alliance, a Connecticut-based 501(c)(3) organization with
support from Aveda, Annie's Homegrown, Ben & Jerry's Homemade, Clif
Bar, Stonyfield Farm and the 11th Hour Project.
Return to Table of Contents
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