Friday, May 25, 2012

News on the Eradicating Ecocide Campaign


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A groundbreaking discovery

Dear friend

“Exciting” and “law” are two words I rarely associate with each other. However, when Polly came to me last week and told me about a major discovery I was thrilled and truly excited!

Polly recently discovered that there are ten countries which have already made Ecocide a crime during peacetime. These countries are Georgia, Armenia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Belarus, Republic of Moldova, Russia and Vietnam. These laws were all put in place around the same time that the Rome Statute (which established the four Crimes Against Peace) was being negotiated. In all these countries’ penal codes, the crime of Ecocide sits alongside the other Crimes Against Peace. We've also discovered that attempts to draw up Ecocide as an extension of Genocide date back to 1978.

Moreover, I have been researching the details of the crimes and have discovered, for instance, that the Georgian penal code advocates that the aim of punishment is “the restoration of justice” and that offenders for the less serious crimes may be “released from criminal liability if he/she reconciled with the victim”.

However I also found out that the Georgian Green Party is calling on other European greens to join in the fight against laws which are encroaching on this strict protection. Read more about this here.

This discovery is hugely significant and timely for us. There is now less than a month to go until the Rio+20 Earth Summit, where our world leaders can commit to making Ecocide an international crime. The fact that several countries already have Ecocide law in place highlights that an international law of Ecocide is realistic and achievable.

If you are a lawyer or know a lawyer from any of the countries with Ecocide law in place, and can help with research please get in touch.

Youth matter!

There are two forthcoming significant events for youth being held in Rio. The World Youth Congress (4th – 13th June) brings together thousands of youth from all over the world to establish 20 solutions for a sustainable future. We think making Ecocide a crime should be one of them. If you are a youth please vote for my proposal that Ecocide is a solution to reach a sustainable future, or alternatively submit your own.

Youth Blast (7th -12th June) is the official event of the Major Group for Children and Youth and will allow young people to develop lobbying points to take forward into the Earth Summit. If you are or know any youths (under 30) who would be interested in taking Ecocide law forward at Youth Blast please register here and email me for more information.

With hope and faith


The Avaaz petition to end ecocide at the Earth Summit now has over 2000 signatures! But we need more. Please sign the petition and share it via facebook with your friends and networks.

Help us in our search for a business leader to call on our world leaders to end this era of Ecocide. Read more about Ecocide and business in this report.

Aiko Stevenson recently wrote about the law of Ecocide in the Huffington Post. Read more about how Rio+20 represents an opportunity to be wise and take responsibility of Our Future here

We need your help

In the run up to Rio we are in desperate need of volunteers! If you can gift some time to come into the office and help us we would be incredibly grateful and could provide you with some interesting and exciting tasks. Please get in touch here.

Coming up: Women speaking for the Earth

Come and join us this evening from 6-9pm at the Islington Hub, London and hear five inspiring women including Polly speaking about changing the world for the better. For more information click here.

Thank you....

We have a huge thanks to all those who have helped us, we couldn't do our work without you amazing people. Apologies if we have missed you out - our list would span pages if we named you all, so here's a few special thanks:

Julika Werner, Eleonora Gatti, Clancy, Doug Grant, Jay from Australia, Francesca de Gasparis from the Green Belt Movement, The Gaia Foundation team, Tim Morton, Gordon Chamberlain, Nick Robson, Dave Hampton, Sjoerd Aardema, Mexican Ecocide team, Ashley Cooper, Raven Courtney, Zhehan Fan, Chris le Breton, Rosie Much, Coral Vinsen, Ela Gandhi, Marion Weber, Bill Twist, Paul Hawken, Tracy Gary, Mark and Celia Kitchell, A Fierce Green Fire, Verona Fonte, Iris Arts and Education Group, Nick Hart Williams, Brad Nye, 333, Patricia and Dan Ellsberg, Claire Greensfelder, Osprey Orielle Lake, Linda Sheehan, Shannon Biggs, Robin Milam, James Hanusa, Joe Guth, Bruse Demartini, Thoreau Center, Victor Menotti, International Forum on Globalization, Eliza Pearson, Chad Balester, Kath Delaney, Claire Hedin, Diana Marquand, Melanie Strickland, Liz Rivers

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Earth: One video you need to see

Playing in the Major Leagues.

George Town, Cayman Islands - 19 October 2009 - Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s recent speech on climate change catastrophe in the UK applies to the entire world.

Climate change is the most serious peril that has faced humanity in its long history. However, we are faced with more than climate change, there is peak oil and an out of control population, as well as concerns for water and food security in the years to come.

As I said to a colleague earlier today “failing to plan is planning to fail”.

Humanity is today playing in the major leagues. We are in a sink or swim situation. If we can keep the planet habitable by mitigating and adapting to the changing climate, switching to alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind, geothermal, wave, ocean thermal and nuclear, sequester CO2 and provide the population with adequate supplies of water and food and bring the population under control, humanity may survive .

Warfare and conflict will also need to become a thing of the past as climate change and energy may well exacerbate conflict situations. With a 9.5 billion global population by 2050 ensuring that everyone has adequate food and water could be problematic.

There is however, no ‘Plan B’ if we fail to resolve all the problems facing us.

When playing in the major leagues there is no time out, there is no one that is going to offer help, let alone rescue us. Look around, the neighbourhood is somewhat sparsely populated and there are no other worlds on which humanity can survive. Even if there were other habitable worlds nearby they would in all probability belong to someone else.

There are, in all likelihood, other intelligent races out there somewhere, however in the major leagues one survives on ones own. As a young civilisation it is up to us to solve all our problems, to make peace among ourselves, to bring the population under control, to implement the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). We must solve our own problems. As a young race we are as children, and as such we may not be able to solve our own problems. But solve them we must.

If we are able to solve the situation facing us and make it to adulthood, in the galactic meaning of the world, we may then be introduced to the neighbours.

If we do not make it to adulthood we will be just another minor statistic, a failure, a insignificant footnote in the universal history book.

For all these reasons we have to come together in Copenhagen and produce a new global climate change deal to replace the ageing Kyoto treaty. Unless we can do so, we are ‘planning to fail‘. Editor



Thursday, May 17, 2012

Polly Higgins and the Journey of Ecocide

Polly Higgins, a lawyer campaigning for the international recognition of Ecocide as the 5th Crime Against Peace, shares how her love for the Earth brought her on a journey of radical discovery and bold actions leading her to halt her career as a barrister to pursue changes in the law that will end the global Era of Ecocide.

Polly is the author of the award-winning Eradicating Ecocide: laws and governance to prevent the destruction of our planet. She has been voted one of the "World's Top 10 Visionary Thinkers" by the Ecologist and named "the Planet's lawyer" by the 2010 Change Awards.
Find out more at
Video made by: Karine Peloffy, Sally Angel & Francesca Marcolini

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Climate change, disaster risk, and the urban poor

What are the inter-linkages between climate change, disaster risk, and the urban poor?

As some 70 million people in the developing world move to urban areas each year, cities are increasingly stretched to provide urban infrastructure, services, and safe land. One billion people already live in slums, and this is projected to double by 2030.

Further exacerbating this challenge are the risks associated with climate-related natural hazards. Cities are particularly vulnerable due to the high concentration of people and economic assets, and in many cases, their hazard-prone locations in coastal areas, along rivers, and in seismic zones. Risks are especially high in low- and middle-income countries where a third to one-half of the population in cities lives in slums. Rising sea levels, storm surges, earthquakes, floods and droughts have enormous impacts in urban areas and are likely to intensify over time. More


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Island Nations Criticize EU Over Kyoto Climate Deal Extension

A bloc of 42 island nations said the European Union is backtracking on agreements made at the last round of United Nations climate talks in Durban, South Africa, threatening the environmental integrity of an eventual treaty.

The 27-nation EU joined with the Alliance of Small Island States and other developing nations in Durban to push for a road map leading to a new climate treaty drawing in all nations. Now the Europeans are pulling back from some commitments, according to a statement e-mailed today by the island bloc.

The EU in Durban agreed to accept new emissions targets after 2012, while working to increase the global ambition of greenhouse gas cuts. EU environment ministers on March 12 opted for an eight-year second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol that ends in 2020, three years longer than the island nations want. At the same time, the low-lying nations are seeking deeper emissions cuts to contain temperature gains and sea-level rises.

“Regrettably, our shared concerns seemed to have diverged when our planes left South Africa,” Marlene Moses, chairwoman of the alliance and Nauru’s ambassador to the United Nations, said in the statement. “The EU is resisting elements key to the environmental integrity of the climate treaty,” she said, citing the length of Kyoto’s second commitment period and a failure to accept more ambitious mitigation targets. More


Monday, May 14, 2012

Join The Debate: Elders & Youngers


The Elders
Desmond Tutu

Dear friends,

I’m writing to let you know of an important new project of ours that has just begun. It is called 'Elders+Youngers' – and we would like you to be part of it.

Over the coming weeks my fellow EldersGro Brundtland, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Mary Robinson and I are hosting an online, global debate with four ‘Youngers’ – Esther, Marvin, Pedro andSara – a fantastic bunch of young activists from Nigeria, China, Brazil and Sweden.

We are debating the very future of our planet. What kind of world do we want for our great-great-grandchildren?

Many of you will remember the first Earth Summit in Rio precisely 20 years ago, when a new idea, ‘sustainable development’, echoed around the world. Like all great moments in history, it carried a simple call: for a new global system that serves both planet and people.

Since that moment, however, too little has changed.

In five weeks’ time world leaders will once again meet in Brazil for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20).

It is, without a doubt, the most important meeting of world leaders this year.

We want to make sure the voices of future generations – those that will inherit this planet – as well as all global citizens, are heard loud and clear.

So, in the weeks preceding the conference, we Elders and 'Youngers' are debating some of the most urgent issues facing humankind today – and looking for possible solutions.

We want to hear from you too. Can we find a way for every one of us to enjoy the fruits of this bountiful world we share – in a way that also guarantees the well-being of the generations to come?

Join us to define a common future:world leaders in Rio must hear that the time has come for change.

Much love and blessings,

Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu signature

Join the debate

Desmond Tutu

Desmond Tutu leads the latest discussion:'Is sustainable development a luxury we cannot afford?'

Gro Brundtland and Pedro Telles

Join Gro and Pedroas they debate:'People, profit, environment – can we balance them all?'


Join the discussion on Facebook


Tweet @TheElders using the hashtag #EplusY

Meet the Youngers


BLOG: Meet the Youngers: Sara

VIDEO: Meet the Youngers: Introducing Marvin


VIDEO: Meet the Youngers: Introducing Esther

BLOG: Meet the Youngers: Pedro

Friday, May 11, 2012

Global Warming: An Exclusive Look at James Hansen’s Scary New Math

How can NASA physicist and climatologist James E. Hansen, writing in the New York Times today, “say with high confidence” that recent heat waves in Texas and Russia “were not natural events” but actually “caused by human-induced climate change”?

“The climate dice are loaded now, just as we said back in the 1980s that they would be,” Hansen wrote to “People should be able to recognize the change, especially the increasingly extreme events. Don’t be surprised if there are more examples this summer.”

In 2005, Emanuel reported that hurricane intensity, which is fed by warmth, had increased some 80 percent during the previous 50 years, a period during which temperatures had increased more dramatically than any time in at least 500 years. Nonetheless, he asserted, that didn’t mean Hurricane Katrina, the sixth strongest Atlantic storm on record, had been brought on by climate change.

Even with a multitude of extreme weather events in recent years — tornadoes in New York City, blizzards in Washington, D.C., 15,000 warm-temperature records shattered across the U.S. in March — each consistent with computer models of a warming world, Emanuel and many other noted scientists have been unwilling to attribute any one event to global warming. There’s just too much variability in the weather, these experts say, and their dedication to data has helped prop open the door for “denialists” to sow doubt about the reality of our warming world.

But Hansen’s shot across the bow this morning indicates that the unwillingness to point fingers may be changing. According to a peer-reviewed paper Hansen has submitted to a leading scientific journal and made available to prior to publication, scientists can now state “with a high degree of confidence” that some extremely high temperatures are in fact caused by global warming, simply because they occur much more frequently than they used to. (A preliminary draft of the article is available here.) More


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Game Over for the Climate - By James Hansen

GLOBAL warming isn’t a prediction. It is happening. That is why I was so troubled to read a recent interview with President Obama in Rolling Stone in which he said that Canada would exploit the oil in its vast tar sands reserves “regardless of what we do.”

If Canada proceeds, and we do nothing, it will be game over for the climate.

Canada’s tar sands, deposits of sand saturated with bitumen, contain twice the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by global oil use in our entire history. If we were to fully exploit this new oil source, and continue to burn our conventional oil, gas and coal supplies, concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere eventually would reach levels higher than in the Pliocene era, more than 2.5 million years ago, when sea level was at least 50 feet higher than it is now. That level of heat-trapping gases would assure that the disintegration of the ice sheets would accelerate out of control. Sea levels would rise and destroy coastal cities. Global temperatures would become intolerable. Twenty to 50 percent of the planet’s species would be driven to extinction. Civilization would be at risk.

That is the long-term outlook. But near-term, things will be bad enough. Over the next several decades, the Western United States and the semi-arid region from North Dakota to Texas will develop semi-permanent drought, with rain, when it does come, occurring in extreme events with heavy flooding. Economic losses would be incalculable. More and more of the Midwest would be a dust bowl. California’s Central Valley could no longer be irrigated. Food prices would rise to unprecedented levels.

If this sounds apocalyptic, it is. This is why we need to reduce emissions dramatically. President Obama has the power not only to deny tar sands oil additional access to Gulf Coast refining, which Canada desires in part for export markets, but also to encourage economic incentives to leave tar sands and other dirty fuels in the ground.

The global warming signal is now louder than the noise of random weather, as I predicted would happen by now in the journal Science in 1981. Extremely hot summers have increased noticeably. We can say with high confidence that the recent heat waves in Texas and Russia, and the one in Europe in 2003, which killed tens of thousands, were not natural events — they were caused by human-induced climate change. More


End ecocide at the Earth Summit this June!

Why this is important

Ecocide is the extensive destruction of ecosystems and environments which has severe consequences for people as well as the environment.

To world leaders:

“As concerned citizens of a fragile planet, we call on you to back an international law of Ecocide at the Rio+20 Earth Summit in June this year. We call on you to make ecocide the 5th International Crime Against Peace. Life on Earth as it is now cannot survive if we continue to treat our environment as we are currently doing. Take this opportunity to back strong measures to make ecocide a crime, to protect humanity and the Earth.”

Life on Earth is under threat. Damage to the Earth is being caused at an alarming rate and there is no legal framework to prevent this. But next month in June, leaders from around the globe will be at the RIO+20 Earth Summit discussing the Earth’s future - we can make them put people and planet above profit.

As it currently stands there is no international law against ecocide. Making ecocide the 5th International Crime Against Peace will protect our environment and make those who destroy it criminally liable. Our leaders have the chance to fundamentally change the way our Earth is protected.

This crucial summit provides us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity. We can make our leaders listen to our demands for change. Let’s show them that ecocide is a grave crime and that this must be put into international law. Sign this petition and share it with all your friends! More


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sea Level Rise and Storm Surge: Nightmare Scenario for SIDS

Cambridge University glaciologist Professor Julian Dowdeswell has spent three years of his life in the polar regions.

As Director of the Scott Polar Research Institute at the University of Cambridge, this film follows him to Greenland and the Antarctic as his research reveals the challenges we all face from climate change.
credit: University of Cambridge

Monday, May 7, 2012

Warming and the Water Cycle: More than Just a Faster Wetter Wet and Drier Dry

One of the most serious consequences of global warming is its predicted impact on the water cycle. A new study, described below, presents evidence that the global water cycle is changing even faster than predicted. A further concern is that future rainfall patterns may be extremely variable in both space and time.

Since the 1950s, parts of the world's ocean became saltier (red) and parts became fresher (blue) as the global water cycle intensified. The color scale refers to the observed change in salinity. The numbers on the scale correspond approximately to grams of salt per kilogram of seawater.

As the atmosphere warms, its capacity to hold water vapor increases. This is quantified by the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship, which explains that the atmosphere will hold about about 7% more moisture for every degree Celsius of warming. That means more evaporation in areas that are already dry and increased precipitation in regions that already receive high rainfall. Thus we can expect increasing droughts in dry areas and more floods in regions now prone to flooding.

In the 27 April 2012 issue of SCIENCE, Paul Durack of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California and coworkers explored a historical database of the saltiness of the surface ocean waters, or salinity, and found evidence that the global water cycle has intensified over the past half-century. The observed shifts in ocean salinity are consistent with the Clausius-Clapeyron relationship and with the observed warming of the surface ocean by about 0.5°C.

Noting difficulties in obtaining accurate estimates of rainfall over land, Durack and coworkers used ocean salinity as a natural rain gauge. Just as the long-term average evaporation and precipitation leave their imprint on land in terms of characteristic landscapes, they are recorded in the ocean by the saltiness of surface waters. The saltiest ocean waters are found in the subtropics, where the dry descending air of the Hadley cell causes evaporation to exceed precipitation. By contrast, surface waters at high latitudes tend to be less salty as precipitation is greater than evaporation. This pattern has existed for much of Earth’s history. More


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Pakistan plans hazard-risk insurance

NEW DELHI (AlertNet) - Pakistan plans to roll out a national insurance scheme, making it mandatory for every citizen to be covered against risks from natural hazards, the head of the country's disaster management authority said on Wednesday.

Pakistan is highly vulnerable to earthquakes, cyclones, droughts, floods, landslides and avalanches. Devastating floods in 2010 disrupted the lives of 20 million people – many more than the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami – and cost $10 billion.

"Pakistan is making it mandatory for the entire population to be covered against disaster risks. The idea, at the end of the day, is to cover the lives and livelihoods of the population of the entire country," said Zafar Iqbal Qadir, chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority.

"Most parts of our country are vulnerable … either to disasters, or to poverty, or to both."

Qadir, who was speaking at a regional conference on "managing the risks of climate extremes and disasters in Asia", said Pakistan's cabinet has approved the plan and his agency was working on a comprehensive risk insurance plan that would hopefully be rolled out by the end of the year.

The country had already received a $500-million World Bank loan to set up a fund to pay for the plan, he said.

Authorities also intend to tap private sector money through their corporate social responsibility schemes as well as local philanthropists, he added.

And he said a meeting held with international insurance companies to discuss the issue in Karachi last month was positive.

Last month, a major report by the United Nations said the world needed to prepare better to deal with extreme weather and rising seas caused by climate change, in order to save lives and limit deepening economic losses. More

Why Groundwater is Another Sea Level Rise Concern

Sea level rise brings to mind the threat of coastal flooding from menacing storm surges, with growing risks to shore-based infrastructure — but a new study indicates there’s another sea level rise-related threat that has so far slipped under the radar.

According to the study, as sea level rises, so will groundwater levels, and since underground infrastructure — including sewer pipes and utility equipment — was built with historical groundwater levels in mind, this could lead to expensive headaches for coastal communities.

A projection for what New Haven would look like after three feet of sea level rise. Blue areas are at or below three feet in elevation. Click on the image for a larger version, or explore the interactive maps from Climate Central's Surging Seas project.

The study, by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and Yale University, looks at the threat to New Haven, CT, Yale’s home city. Sea level rise may indeed raise groundwater levels significantly underneath the city, according to the study, leading to problems not just with pipes and pumps and buried cables but also with the arch-nemesis of many New England homeowners — basement flooding.

"Scenarios for the resulting higher groundwater levels have the potential to inundate underground infrastructure in lowlying coastal cities," the study states. More