Monthly Archives: September 2019

From New Zealand to Rome, thousands are protesting again today for Earth Strike

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A week after millions of protesters took part in the Global Climate Strike, thousands of activists began turning out around the world today to draw attention to the climate crisis.

In New Zealand, tens of thousands of young people marched to the parliament. Katherine Rivers, an 18-year-old university student, said it was great to see young people taking action and personal responsibility by marching. “We need to stop pandering to some of the people who are making money off climate change. The big oil companies, the dairy industry, etc.,” she said. “And make a change for the future of these kids that are here.”

In Rome, tens of thousands rallied, with protesters holding such signs as “Change the system, not the climate” or just the word “Future.”

Friday’s strike, branded the “Earth Strike” or “General Strike to Save the Planet,” follows a series of worldwide demonstrations surrounding the United Nations Climate Action Summit. It will also pay homage to a key anniversary: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” was published on Sept. 27, 1962, launching the modern environmentalist movement.

On Wednesday, climate scientists at the U.N. released a released a report on the world’s oceans and mountains, warning that melting glaciers can not only contribute to rising sea levels, but can also pose a threat to humans through landslides, avalanches, rockfalls and floods.

That same day, Italian officials closed roads after experts warned that a massive chunk of a glacier in the Alps is at risk of collapsing due to climate change.

While some countries held their major Global Climate Strike last week, 28 countries and territories planned to host their main strike on Friday, including: Argentina, Aruba, Belgium, Canada, Ecuador, Eswatini, Gambia, Greece, Guam, Honduras, Hungary, Italy, Mali, Myanmar, Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, Slovenia, Spain, Sudan, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, U.S. Virgin Islands, Venezuela and Yemen.

Greta Thunberg planned to attend Friday’s strike in Montreal, according to her Twitter.

[USA Today/Earth Strike]

4 million people marched for climate action

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Extreme storms, hurricanes, and cyclones are occurring so frequently that they seem commonplace. Recently the Bahamas and parts of the USA were hit by Hurricane Dorian. Earlier in the year it was Cyclone Idai, followed by Kenneth, and then Fani in the Indian Ocean. Those cyclones battered Mozambique, Malawi, Zimbabwe, Madagascar, Seychelles and parts of the coastal areas of eastern India. Scientists surmised that the cyclones that killed over a thousand  in Mozambique and caused $2 billion worth of damage, made even more intense by the warming of the ocean.

In 2000, flooding in Mozambique caused extensive damage and pictures of desperate citizens stranded on rooftops, tree tops and broken bridges made the rounds in the global media. In 2012, flooding in Nigeria took the lives of 363 persons. Last year, over 100 persons died in floods in the country. All these come as go as news and the numbers of persons killed and properties damaged all go down as mere statistics.

As I write this, I am reading of another storm hitting the Bahamas and a headline that the Nigeria Hydrological Services Agency predicts weather related destruction in parts of Nigeria by October as floods march down from the upper reaches of the Niger Basin comprising Guinea, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Cote d’ivoire, Benin, Chad, and Cameroon. The floods are coming and we have a month’s notice to relocate to higher grounds. Storms in Guinea and other upstream nations will pile up the flood that will quietly wiggle its way down the River Niger and take unsuspecting communities downstream by surprise. But, are they not forewarned?

…Precious little is being done or planned to be done. Countries are still struggling to make any serious commitments in the so-called Nationally Determined Contributions as required by the Paris Agreement. … Unfortunately, the climate negotiations have become an arena for nations to agree on what is convenient for them to do or not to do, completely ignoring the climate debt and the fact that rich, industrialized, polluting nations have already grabbed 80 percent of the carbon budget. We are seeing the burden of climate action being loaded on poor, vulnerable nations and territories that never contributed significantly to the stock of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. These poor countries are required to turn their forests and soils and seas into carbon sinks so that polluters can continue with pollution-as-usual in the name of business. This manner of inter-generational buck-passing is unacceptable and confirms why radical actions must be taken to force governments to take up their responsibilities.

In his The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Global Warming, Michael Tennesen states that if all the ice sheets on earth were to melt, we would have a sea level rise of approximately 60 metres, or 200 feet. If that were to happen, only a few would find higher ground to relocate to. In fact, in some low lying coastal areas, a sea level rise of just 1 meter or 3 feet would translate to the submergence of land to a distance of several kilometers into the hinterland. The polar ice caps and all the ice sheets may not yet be cracking and collapsing into the sea at this time, but we have the warning that the scene is set for that to happen. Will nations heed the warnings we have today and take needed actions? Is the world ready to leave fossil fuels in the ground and ensure a rapid transition to renewable energy sources?

We are happy that the 4 million people who marched in the Climate Strike caught the attention of the world. …But our marches must never offset or take the place of action.

[Nnimmo Bassey, writing in]

Greta Thunberg: Activism works

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Excerpts from a speech Greta Thunberg delivered upon accepting the Ambassador of Conscience Award:

This award is for all of those millions of people, young people, around the world who together make up the movement called Fridays for Future. All these fearless youth, fighting for their future. A future they should be able to take for granted. But as it looks now, they cannot. 

We are currently on track for a world that could displace billions of people from their homes, taking away even the most basic living conditions for countless people, making areas of the world uninhabitable for humans.

The changes and the politics required to take on the crisis simply doesn’t exist today. That is why every single one of us must push from every possible angle, to hold those responsible accountable and to make the people in power act and to take the measures required.

We, who together are the movement Fridays for Future, we are fighting for our lives. But not only that, we are also fighting for our future children and grandchildren, for future generations, for every single living being on earth, whose biosphere we share, whose biosphere we are stealing, whose biosphere we are ruining.

We are fighting for everyone. For the people living in areas of the world that are already suffering the consequences from the first stages of the climate and ecological emergency. People who breathe toxic air, who drink contaminated water, who have to flee their homes because of climate and environmental-related disasters. Indigenous communities whose lands and waters are being destroyed. People whose food and water supply is being threatened by environmental-related catastrophes, stronger and more frequent droughts, rainfalls, storms, or melting glaciers.

We are still moving in the wrong direction with unimaginable pace. It may seem impossible to pull the emergency brake, and yet that is what we have to do.

But there is an awakening going on. Even though it is slow, the pace is picking up and the debate is shifting. This is thanks to a lot of different reasons, but it is a lot because of countless of activists and especially young activists. Activism works. 

Iman on philanthropy and her refugee past

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“When I was discovered as a model in Kenya, I was a refugee,” says supermodel Iman. “We literally escaped Somalia and came to Kenya as refugees with just the clothes on our backs.”

“I was really inspired by the nongovernmental organizations, the NGOs like CARE, that were on the ground helping us, helping young girls and women by finding them jobs and food. The NGOs also helped girls and women avoid sexual harassment, assault and rape. For a young girl, navigating life as a refugee in another country can be a minefield.”

On Tuesday, CARE — the esteemed anti-poverty and humanitarian organization founded in 1945 — revealed that supermodel, activist and entrepreneur Iman has been appointed its first-ever global advocate. The role was specifically created for Iman, now 64, who will work with CARE to strengthen its ongoing mission to end poverty, with an emphasis on aiding refugee girls and women both domestically and internationally.

“This is the work that moves me. I have been involved with quite a lot of charities, but what moves my heart is women and girls. Since I was a refugee myself and because I’ve known the plight of women and girls myself, through my own journey in life, I was aware of what CARE does and I was aware of their long history,” Iman tells THR of the agency, which originated the “care package” in 1946 during post-World War II relief efforts. “So, we came up with the global advocate role, where it’s about finding out what really impacts women and girls around the world and here at home in America.” 

She adds, “We have to think of refugees collectively as humans. They’re not nameless, they’re not faceless, they’re not just people who come from far away. These are people who are at the U.S.-Mexico border right now. I am one of them. People usually don’t understand who a refugee is. I am the face of a refugee.”

Michelle Nunn, CARE CEO and former U.S Senate candidate, couldn’t think of a better person to partner with. “Iman really represents CARE’s purpose and mission, the strength of women around the world and also the capacity to create change in the world,” Nunn says. “This cause has never been more important if you think about the fact that, for the first time in history since World War II, we have never had more people displaced in the world, including right here in America. We were thrilled that Iman was willing to accept this mantle.”

To “truly understand” CARE’s operations, Iman tells THR that she plans to visit refugees in person. “I have to go on the ground and see it for myself. I want to empower girls and women who are in camps, whether it’s in Syria or at the U.S.-Mexico border,” she says. “I want to see that they are taken care off and feel safe.”

[The Hollywood Reporter]

Teen climate activist Greta Thunberg delivers scathing speech at UN

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Teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg delivered an emotional and scathing speech at the United Nations on Monday, accusing world leaders of stealing her dreams and her childhood with their inaction on climate change.

“I shouldn’t be up here. I should be back at school on the other side of the ocean,” the 16-year-old from Sweden told the United Nations Climate Action Summit. Thunberg slammed the members of the U.N. for caring more about money and “fairytales of eternal economic growth” than collapsing ecosystems, mass extinctions and people suffering due to climate change.

Thunberg said the earth’s remaining CO2 budget was rapidly dwindling — citing a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that said the planet has experienced a more than 70 gigaton deficit in the earth’s remaining CO2 budget since January 2018.

But Thunberg said leaders from the United Nations wouldn’t suggest more radical plans to reduce emissions because they are “still not mature enough to tell it like it is.”

“You are failing us but young people are starting to understand your betrayal,” Thunberg said. “The eyes of all future generations are upon you and if you choose to fail us, I say we will never forgive you.”

Earlier, Thunberg tweeted that she and 15 other children from around the world had filed a legal complaint, claiming that some countries have violated an approximately 30-year-old human rights treaty. The complaint was filed against nations who have ratified the treaty and have the largest emissions, she wrote. Those nations are Argentina, Brazil, France, Germany, and Turkey.

On Friday, Thunberg led 150 countries in a youth-led Global Climate Strike, which saw millions taking to the streets around the world to demand action and an end to the era of fossil fuels. Thunberg marched in New York City, where she addressed thousands of strikers. “This is an emergency,” she told the crowd. “Our house is on fire.”


65 countries start working towards net-zero CO2 emissions by 2050; big emitters remain undecided

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Nearly one-third of countries globally have started working towards “achieving net-zero carbon dioxide emission by 2050”, the United Nations said on Monday with heads of state and government assembling in New York for the Climate Action Summit.

Though many European Union (EU) nations, including France, Germany, Italy and the UK, figured in the list of 65 such nations, they account for just 37% of global emissions. The big emitters are missing from the list.

Top emitters such as China, the US and India and others like Russia, Japan and Australia have so far not spelt out their intent on either working for net-zero emission or looking to raise their climate action targets by 2020.

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres had called the Climate Action Summit to ramp up the NDCs as the current collective targets of all countries may still take global average temperature rise well above 3 degrees Celsius by the end of the century from the pre-industrial level. The idea behind the enhanced climate actions is to ultimately stabilize global temperature rise at 1.5 degrees Celsius by the end of this century so that the world can be saved from the disastrous consequences of climate change.

[Economic Times]

World at risk of pandemics that could kill millions

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The world is facing a mounting threat of disease pandemics that could kill millions and wreak havoc on the global economy, a international expert panel has warned, and governments should work to prepare for and mitigate that risk. The Global Preparedness Monitoring Board, co-convened by the World Bank and the World Health Organization (WHO), warned that epidemic-prone viral diseases like Ebola, flu and SARS are increasingly tough to manage in a world dominated by lengthy conflicts, fragile states and forced migration.

“The threat of a pandemic spreading around the globe is a real one,” the group said in a report released on Wednesday. “A quick-moving pathogen has the potential to kill tens of millions of people, disrupt economies and destabilize national security.”

While some governments and international agencies have made efforts to be vigilant and prepare for major disease outbreaks since the devastating 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak in West Africa, those efforts are “grossly insufficient”, the report said.

The report cited the 1918 “Spanish flu” pandemic, which killed an estimated 50 million people. With vast numbers of people crossing the world on planes every day, an equivalent air-borne outbreak now could spread globally in less than 36 hours and kill an estimated 50 million to 80 million people, wiping out nearly 5% of the global economy, it said.

In the case of a pandemic, many national health systems – particularly in poor countries – would collapse.


International president of Médecins Sans Frontières steps down from the helm

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Canadian doctor Joanne Liu held the position from 2013 to 2019 through tumultuous times for the organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), including the West Africa Ebola epidemic, a wave of attacks on health facilities in conflict zones, and what became known – in Europe at least – as a migration “crisis”.

MSF is not a single organization: Several large NGOs operate under a loose umbrella structure. As international president, based in Geneva, Liu was elected by a general assembly representing MSF’s branches around the world. The president does not have executive control across the whole MSF family but acts as an external representative and “deal-broker”.

Liu talked with The New Humanitarian by phone from London a few days after her successor, MSF fieldworker and surgeon Christos Christou, took over. Highlights from the interview follow:

TNH: In an internal report in June you gave a diagnosis of some of the illnesses you think MSF faces. ‘Humanitarian diva’ was number one. Tell me about that.
Joanne Liu: I really do think that we have all passed this era where an international organization will come into a country and say, ‘it is my way, otherwise, it’s no way’. That [era] is over. … At the end of the day, we are a guest wherever we are.

TNH: MSF used to be an ‘enfant terrible’, but now it’s middle-aged – how is the organization?
Liu: We started from a few people who were volunteering – you were initially having to pay for your ticket to go to the field. … [Now] it’s massive. When you start to manage an organization of that size, then you have to put in place some systems and some structure. … We need to make sure that the core social mission of MSF, which is bringing assistance to people in crisis, remains the priority focus [is] not being overtaken by the survival of the institution and headquarters. So that is tricky. It is difficult right now to find the right balance because we basically have outgrown all of our systems and processes.

TNH: You’ve talked about ‘selective humanitarianism’. What can MSF do and what can’t it do?
Liu: We are tolerated when it fits the agenda, we are obstructed when it doesn’t. I know that we are not fixing the root cause of what’s going on in Libya, but if we were not in the Libya [detention] centers, and if we weren’t able to tell what is going on and then share the stories of people we care for, it would be off the radar: nobody would talk about it. It’s to humanize crisis. … We have to tell the story of a mother and father and a child who were looking for a better future. And I think we have a key role. We never realized the blessing of our financial Independence as much as today, because people come to us and tell us, ‘if MSF doesn’t say it, nobody’s going to say it’.

TNH: When MSF is at the top table, briefing the Security Council or invited to international summits, do you feel uncomfortable about being part of the establishment?
Liu: Every time that we’ve been at those, it’s been an internal debate. If you go there and [don’t] challenge the establishment in a strong way, then you should not go there.

TNH: Looking back: highlights and lowlights?
Liu: The 20th century was, after World War II, somehow the humanitarian century. The 21st century for me is a century of fear. Everything today is seen through the lens of security. … We get our hospitals looted over and over again, in South Sudan, or in Central African Republic, massively. What is striking about Kunduz* is the fact that it was a repeated attack: five airstrikes over a little bit more than an hour. We somehow still believed in immunity in the hospital, and then our staff believed that it was a safe place. We told them it was a safe place.

TNH: Will you miss your job?
Liu: I will certainly miss it. It’s been it’s been an immense, immense privilege… because we faced some of our biggest challenges over the last few decades. It’s such a privilege to be at the center of those crises and, having the confidence of the movement, to go and speak on their behalf and try to basically move lines on things and try to advance.

*On 3 October 2015, a United States Air Force AC-130U gunship attacked the Kunduz Trauma Centre operated by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in the city of Kunduz, in northern Afghanistan. It has been reported that at least 42 people were killed and over 30 were injured.

Nigerian humanitarian situation worsening

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Humanitarian aid to people in Nigeria is not getting through because of a resurgence of Boko Haram and the West African branch of the Islamic State.

Reuters and the New York Times both have reported on both groups having a freer rein as Nigeria’s military has withdrawn to “super camps” in various parts of the country. The new strategy, announced last month, masses military personnel in key towns that can be more easily defended and from which soldiers would better be able to respond to insurgent attacks.

But that leaves many areas unprotected, and in the words of a Reuters article the Islamic State is “filling the void.” (ISIS in West Africa evolved in 2016 as a group split from the Boko Haram insurgency, which itself started in 2009 in order to overthrow the government and establish an Islamic caliphate.)

The New York Times reported that the faction has received propaganda guidance from the Islamic State in Syria. Boko Haram militants are “still roaming the countryside with impunity,” the Times reported. This too is happening in the wake of the military’s new strategy. “Their fighters now have more sophisticated drones than the military and are well-armed after successful raids on military brigades, according to local politicians and security analysts.”

Meanwhile more than 100,000 people are cut off from aid and if more soldiers go, as many as 121,000 other civilians could flee their towns, one aid agency briefing note said. Said the Times, “The war with Boko Haram has devastated the population in rural northeast Nigeria, one of the poorest regions on earth. More than two million people have fled their homes, tens of thousands have been killed and many more injured, abducted and conscripted to join the fight. The International Committee of the Red Cross said this week that nearly 22,000 Nigerians have been reported missing during the crisis.”

“Some aid groups are scaling back, deeming the conflict so protracted that it is no longer an acute emergency,” the newspaper said.


African countries to develop climate-resilient agriculture systems

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Fifty-five African countries recently signed a five-point declaration to increase the climate adaptation and resilience of the continent’s food systems.  

The declaration lists five measures that should be taken by the signatory countries to increase food production amidst climate change:

  • To embed resilience and adaptation in national agricultural and investment plans
  • To develop a comprehensive risk management plan coupled with appropriate financial tools to manage risk
  • To accelerate adoption of technologies and information platforms that have significant grass root impacts
  • To engage smallholder farmers to drive food security
  • To encourage and support the private sector for generating evidence and knowledge needed in adaptation and resilience building in food systems

The signatories also agreed to strengthen climate data analysis and reinforce Early Warning Early Action systems to protect livelihoods.

Africa’s population will increase to 2.4 billion by 2050, requiring the continent to scale up its food production while tackling the challenge of climate change.