Historic Latin American Treaty Protects Environmental Activists
The people on the front lines of protecting the environment need some protection as well.
According to a Feb. 2 report by Global Witness and The Guardian, 197 activists were killed in 2017 for defending their communities and natural resources against agribusiness, mining companies, infrastructure projects and poachers.
The majority of these killings took place in Latin America, where mining or agricultural interests seek to exploit resources in rural, forested areas where legal enforcements are weak. That is why it's so encouraging that 24 Latin American and Caribbean nations have now signed an environmental rights agreement that includes protections for nature defenders.
The treaty, known as The Regional Agreement on Access to Information, Public Participation and Access to Justice in Environmental Matters in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC P10), is the first legally binding agreement focusing on environmental rights in the region.
The more than six-year negotiation process for the LAC P10 resulted in a final document during a conference that took place in Costa Rica from Feb. 28 to March 4.
The language protecting defenders comes from Article 9, which requires signing parties to both protect activists' "right to life, personal integrity, freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association, and free movement," and to "take appropriate, effective and timely measures to prevent, investigate and punish attacks, threats or intimidations that human rights defenders in environmental matters may suffer."
Carole Excell, acting director of environmental democracy practice at the World Resources Institute, praised the agreement. "By adopting LAC P10, governments in the region have agreed to legally binding provisions that will help prevent and punish threats and attacks against environmental defenders," she said in a statement.
In addition to protecting environmental activists, the agreement also enshrines rights to "environmental information" and "participation in environmental decision-making."
Excell stressed the importance of these provisions as well. "I cannot understate how critical it is for communities to have access to environmental information, like data on local water pollution or nearby mining concessions," she said.
LAC P10's strong defense of activists' right to assemble in defense of the environment contrasts with legislative trends in the U.S.
For a Feb. 16 photo essay by Zoë Carpenter and Tracie Williams, focusing on the aftermath of the demonstrations against the Dakota Access Pipeline, The Nation ran the headline, "Since Standing Rock, 56 Bills Have Been Introduced in 30 States to Restrict Protests." These include bills introduced in half-a-dozen states that would protect motorists who hit demonstrators with their vehicles.
As photojournalist Tracie Williams told The Nation, "What happened at Standing Rock is indicative of the U.S. government's historical failures to acknowledge First Nation treaties and the current administration's complete disregard for public health, the environment, indigenous rights, and civil liberties—in favor of the extractive industries."
While the U.S. does not show up on The Guardian's list of dangerous countries for environmental defenders, the current push to criminalize dissent and exonerate those who would attack protesters risks changing that.
'Kicking Ass for Her Generation': Applause for 16-Year-Old Greta Thunberg as EU Chief Pledges $1 Trillion to Curb Climate Threat
By Julia Conley
Sixteen-year-old climate action leader Greta Thunberg stood alongside European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker Thursday in Brussels as he indicated—after weeks of climate strikes around the world inspired by the Swedish teenager—that the European Union has heard the demands of young people and pledged more than $1 trillion over the next seven years to address the crisis of a rapidly heating planet.
In the financial period beginning in 2021, Juncker said, the EU will devote a quarter of its budget to solving the crisis.
‘Plastic Is Lethal’: Groundbreaking Report Reveals Health Risks at Every Stage in Plastics Life Cycle
With eight million metric tons of plastic entering the world's oceans every year, there is growing concern about the proliferation of plastics in the environment. Despite this, surprisingly little is known about the full impact of plastic pollution on human health.
But a first-of-its-kind study released Tuesday sets out to change that. The study, Plastic & Health: The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet, is especially groundbreaking because it looks at the health impacts of every stage in the life cycle of plastics, from the extraction of the fossil fuels that make them to their permanence in the environment. While previous studies have focused on particular products, manufacturing processes or moments in the creation and use of plastics, this study shows that plastics pose serious health risks at every stage in their production, use and disposal.
Air pollution within the home causes 3.8 million deaths a year, according to the World Health Organization. A recent University of Colorado in Boulder study reported by The Guardian found that cooking a full Thanksgiving meal could raise levels of particulate matter 2.5 in the house higher than the levels averaged in New Delhi, the world's sixth most polluted city.
But soon, you will be able to shop for a solution in the same place you buy your budget roasting pans. IKEA is working on a specially-designed, air-purifying curtain called the GUNRID.
A rare species of giant tortoise, feared extinct for more than 100 years, was sighted on the Galápagos island of Fernandina Sunday, the Ecuadorian government announced.