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Just Warming

In getting ready to watch some of the Live Earth events, I began to wonder: will the global concert series make clear that even though, as I’ve heard organizers say, “everyone” will be affected by climate change, some (many) will be affected more than others? Namely those in poor countries and poor communities in rich countries (think Katrina)’people who haven’t contributed much to the greenhouse gases now warming up the planet. “Climate justice” is a rallying cry, but I haven’t heard it loud and clear from that many U.S. climate activists or activist musicians . . . at least not yet.

Some voices have been raised, as they should be. One is the NYC-based West Harlem Environmental Action Team. I’ve been using a tote bag from them that reads “WE ACT for Climate Justice” and they do, here in New York City. Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai in an oped written for World Environment Day had this to say about equity and climate change:

Evidence of climate change in Africa is already here. Food emergencies have risen three-fold each year since the mid-1980s. A warming world will increase the risk factors for conflicts between and within countries. According to a recent paper, when shortfalls in seasonal rains led to drought and economic distress in 40 sub-Saharan African countries, the likelihood of civil war rose by 50 per cent. . . .

Calling for the restoration of Kenya’s water towers and protection of the Congo forest does not mean excusing developed countries, whose greenhouse gas emissions are the main culprit.

Many others and I are challenging the leaders and citizens of industrialised nations, and in fact all nations, to move beyond fossil fuels, to reduce their energy consumption, and to adopt policies so that individuals can live more responsibly on the planet.

The industrialised governments must not only accept their moral responsibility to help Africa and other poor regions find alternative and renewable sources of energy, but also protect forests.

Al Gore and the many others who’ll be on stage this weekend, I’m waiting for you. Justice and equity ought to be the words of the day, and beyond.

Not Melting, but Flying

Ambivilance is how I greeted the news that Air Greenland will soon start direct flights between the U.S. and Greenland. The Greenland ice shelf, which covers nearly all of the country, apart from a thin strip around the edge, is melting’fast. Global warming is fingered as the culprit. Sea levels will rise precipitously as a result of this and other polar melting. Would visiting Greenland, as have many U.S. political leaders (including those running for something)make people take global warming more seriously and commit to taking whatever action they can to arrest it? There’s a good chance it would. But then again, there’s something odd about travelling by plane’fueling global warming through the emissions’to a place that’s already feeling the effects of climate change in no uncertain terms. Emissions vs. awareness. Income for Greenland vs. more CO2 in the air.

It’s hard to say where I come down, especially since I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Greenland (via Denmark). It’s stark, startling, and beautiful in a way I’ve never seen elsewhere (particularly from the air’a veritable desert in ice unfolds below’and on the water). I was there for work on an indigenous rights project, attending a session of the International Training Center of Indigenous Peoples, not climate tourism (Greenland is semi-autonomous of Denmark and has an indigenous-run government…and only about 30,000 residents). But still, my travel there and back registers on the climate counter. Greenland is poor, particularly when compared with tiny, tidy, very modern Denmark. It could use more tourist dollars, and more people concerned about the future of its land, oceans and people. What to do? Perhaps get the remaining climate skeptics in positions of power on that Air Greenland flight: Monday and Thursday from Thurgood Marshall Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Jaguars, Burning Bright

Recently, I’ve been thinking about jaguars, three in particular. One is on my wall, his or her face slightly hidden behind a tree branch in the Belize Zoo, or at least that’s where I think it was taken. You wouldn’t know it was a zoo, since there are no bars or concrete to be seen. (While I haven’t visited the Belize Zoo, it’s said to be well-run and not to take animals from the wild, but rather foster orphans and rehabilitate animals in need.) In Belize, the jaguar is in a manner of speaking, king. You see the big cat’s image on everything from painted calabashes to Mayan temples, T-shirts to hotel logos. Perhaps as many as 50 jaguars live in or around Belize’s Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Reserve Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary, also known as the Jaguar Reserve. I walked the trails in the Sanctuary in March and although we were keen, we didn’t see a jaguar live (or much mammalian life at all, apart from us humans).
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Brighter Green Produces First Publication

Brighter Green, in league with Farm Sanctuary, has produced a white paper (PDF), analyzing the U.S. Farm Bill. Brighter Green wanted to approach the paper from a holistic perspective: in other words, one that examined the issues of food security, environmental conservation, and animal welfare, and offer a vision of farming that respected the earth, local and organic agriculture, and the farming communities who have been decimated because of decades of decisions made by successive Congresses regarding who and what is funded.

Both Brighter Green and Farm Sanctuary hope that this unique collaboration and analysis will offer a blueprint for a further conversation about the future of farming in the United States, about corporate power and subsidies, and, in a larger sense, about our relationship with the land and other animals.