With at Least 200 Killed, 2016 Was Deadliest Year Ever for Earth Defenders

Last year was the deadliest in history to be an environmental activist, according to a new report that found, on average, nearly four people were killed per week. Defenders of the Earth, released by U.K.-based human rights group Global Witness, lists the names and locations of 200 environmental advocates who were killed around the world. While the report found Brazil, Colombia, and the Philippines were the nations with the most murdered environmentalists in 2016, Honduras has been the deadliest country for environmental activists over the last decade.

Last year, Nicaragua was the most dangerous country per capita, where at least 11 environmental activists were killed—all but one were indigenous. In 2013, the Nicaraguan government agreed to allow a Chinese company to build a canal linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; the canal will also force up to 120,000 indigenous people to relocate, according to the report.

— source commondreams.org

Ecovillage and traditional village: a comparison

The Global Network of Ecovillages (GEN) defines an ecovillage as “an intentional or traditional community using local participatory processes to holistically integrate ecological, economic, social and cultural dimensions of sustainability in order to regenerate social and natural environments”.

The Global Ecovillage Network “embraces a holistic approach to sustainability, encompassing the social, cultural, ecological and economic dimensions of human existence”.

The GEN definition of an ecovillage leaves out two important dimensions which could include the spiritual and the political.

Further, by including the traditional village as a possible way of organising as an ecovillage is flawed, as the latter has a clear goal to break down traditional hierarchies and leadership patterns, and also has a broader vision where the local is not unrelated to the global or “glocal” horizon. The ecovillage cannot be delinked from the rest of the world.

Traditional village vs ecovillage

The traditional village does not share resources more or less equally. It also does not provide for common spaces for all, including women, and sometimes children, to be together without being saddled with traditional role patterns.

The traditional village is based on caste or class divisions and may not agree on environmental actions and objectives, which provide guidance to an ecovillage. The villagers belonging to a traditional society are known to aspire to become more like those in towns and cities and improve their economic standards. They are not interested in reducing their ecological footprint.

This is a general statement and there may be some individuals in a traditional village, who may seem to be less interested in aspiring for an urban life.

This is the reason we cannot equate a traditional village with an ecovillage, even if the traditional village is doing organic farming and not using chemicals, as it alone does not qualify to be termed ecovillage.

Ecological communities need to have a broader vision to include all and strive to create an equal society with greater solidarity and social cohesion to make it worthwhile to pursue aims.

The many demands of a traditional village with its customs and rituals and ways of living may not be forward looking or may not adhere to the principle of ecological living in a wholesome manner without aspirations of joining the mainstream.

Many who join an ecovillage have already lived in a town or city and are aware of the shortcomings that make life difficult in urban centres with daily commuting, traffic jams and air and water pollution. There is also the lack of a sense of community which make them feel alienated and yearn for an alternative lifestyle.

Further, people living in an ecovillage have already tasted what urban life has to offer and do not have the aspirations and liking to go back to such a life, or at least, mostly do not have it.

Romantic ideals

The romantic notions of village life propagated by leading thinkers like Mahatma Gandhi for instance were not in tune with the aspirations of village people which other leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru observed; with inequalities, caste oppression and low status of women.

Other similar organisations are called intentional communities, sustainable communities and traditional villages, which have the potential to become ecovillages; spiritual communities with ecological aims, transition town with ecological aims, and all those who become environmentally aware often through help from ecovillages.

Even urban communities in the form of neighbourhoods with control of common land, parks etc grow vegetables and share common spaces to strengthen the sense of community. These can be considered as a kind of ecovillage although the purpose may not be exactly the same as a normal ecovillage.

Towns or urban ecovillages trying to become more ecological can also grow food and other essential items in a vertical form and on the roof.

For example, Havana was able to grow 40 per cent of its food in the city because of the blockade imposed on it. Urban neighbourhoods can also make the transition to ecovillage communities.

An ecovillage differs from the traditional village where generally decisions are taken by the elders or the chief belonging to upper castes or a tribal chief. In an ecovillage, some form of democratic legitimacy is significant. The new democratic process in the villages is welcome, but these villages were not designed for this purpose which makes them different and unlikely candidates for becoming ecovillages. However, some of them can make the transition.

A sense of community and doing something worthwhile to regenerate the natural environment also provides greater meaning and purpose to communities in ecovillages. People in ecovillages follow higher ideals than their own narrow interest.

— source downtoearth.org.in by Prahlad Singh Shekhawat

Scientists Warn Giraffes are at Risk of Extinction

Scientists say giraffes are at risk of extinction. The number of giraffes worldwide has declined nearly 40 percent over the last 30 years. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature warns the species is facing a “silent extinction.” Their decline is part of an ongoing global mass extinction that scientists warn could lead to the disappearance of two-thirds of all wild animals on the planet by 2020 compared to 1970 population levels.

— source democracynow.org

Small Plastics Pose Big Problem

A decade or so ago, scientists first discovered that tiny pieces of plastic debris discarded by human civilization — some only a few thousandths of a millimeter in size — were finding their way into the oceans. But since then, it’s become increasingly apparent that microplastics, as the miniscule trash is called, represent a potentially huge threat to aquatic animals, according to an article in the July 11 edition of the journal Science.

The article, by marine scientists Kara Lavender Law of the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Mass. and Richard C. Thompson of the UK’s Plymouth University, notes that researchers increasingly are focusing upon the danger from microplastics, because their size makes it possible for a huge range of organisms — from large marine mammals, fish and birds to zooplankton — to ingest them. (Indeed, a 2012 study found that they pose a health threat to Baleen whales.)

A report issued in June by the Global Ocean Commission estimated that 10 million tons of plastic is dumped into the oceans each year. Some of the plastic is discarded into waterways and then is carried into the ocean, but it’s also lost or discarded at sea by ships, the article notes.

Larger plastic items degrade to form microplastic, but some of the particles also are being put directly into the sea, because bits of cosmetic beads and clothing fibers are small enough to pass through wastewater treatment systems.

Once in the oceans, the particles are transported far and wide in a complex pattern that is difficult to predict. However, scientists have found very high concentrations in the subtropical gyres — that is, areas where currents rotate rapidly — and in basins such as the Mediterranean.

Microplastics are themselves toxic, but they also soak up harmful chemicals that contaminate the ocean, such as DDT and PBDEs, so that they deliver a concentrated dose to the animals who ingest them. Marine scientists also worry that microplastics will end up in seafood-eating humans as well.

Microplastics are just one of the environmental woes afflicting the world’s oceans, and pushing them perilously close to ecological collapse, according to an article published last week in Foreign Policy, a political science journal.

Solving the problem is difficult because 65 percent of the oceans are outside the territorial waters of individual nations, and have become the equivalent of a chaotic, lawless “failed state” such as Somalia on land, the Foreign Policy article argued. [those countries are made to fail just for this purpose.]

— source news.discovery.com

BP oil spill did $17.2 billion in damage to natural resources

The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill did $17.2 billion in damage to the natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico, a team of scientists recently found after a six-year study of the impact of the largest oil spill in U.S. history. This is the first comprehensive appraisal of the financial value of the natural resources damaged by the 134-million-gallon spill.

— source vtnews.vt.edu