World’s Largest Environmental Prize Honors Historic Number of Women, Including Flint Water Activist
The prize, whose winners were announced Monday, was established by San Francisco philanthropists Richard and Rhoda Goldman in 1989. It is the largest award in the world for environmental activism.
More women were chosen for the 2018 prize than at any other point in the prize's nearly 30-year history, The Guardian reported.
Among these inspiring women is LeeAnne Walters of Flint, Michigan, who led other concerned citizens in testing tap water in the city and discovered that the lead levels in one in six homes exceeded the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) safety threshold.
According to Walters' official bio on the Goldman Prize website, in April 2014, state and local officials switched Flint's drinking supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River as a cost-cutting measure. As the year progressed, Walters observed her family's health deteriorate. In July, her three-year-old twins were diagnosed with scabies. Then clumps of her hair and her daughter's hair fell out, and her eyebrows fell off. Finally, her 14-year-old son got sick in December.
She complained to the city about the water, but no one came to test it until February 2015, when they found lead levels of 104 parts per billion, past the level at which the government is legally required to warn residents.
The city told Walters that her case was isolated, but she researched Flint's history and discovered that Flint River water is exceptionally corrosive. Officials had not done enough to mitigate that before sending it through the city's pipes, causing lead to leach into the water. She gathered more than 800 water samples from every zip code in Flint and, in some homes, found lead levels double what the EPA deems hazardous waste.
Due to a public outcry spurred by Walters' findings, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced Flint would stop using Flint River water in October 2015.
Walters is now applying the skills she developed in Flint to work with Virginia Tech on U.S. Water Study Research, a nationwide project.
"[O]ur mission is to support collaborative research between scientists, affected residents, and other stakeholders in order to address infrastructure inequality, water contamination, waterborne diseases and lack of trust, occurring in economically-disadvantaged rural towns and post-industrial cities across the U.S.," its website reads.
Walters joins an impressive array of fellow winners representing every continent.
The European winner is Claire Nouvian, who led a campaign against deep-sea bottom trawling, a fishing practice in which fleets drag nets along the bottom of the seafloor, damaging everything they touch and picking up marine life, such as sharks and crustaceans, by accident that are then discarded and rarely survive. Nouvian's efforts led French supermarket chain Intermarché to alter its fishing techniques in 2014 and convinced first France in 2015 and then the EU in 2016 to ban the practice.
From Africa, the winners are Makoma Lekalakala and Liz McDaid of South Africa, who led a successful campaign to stop a secret nuclear deal between their country and Russia, which would have made South Africa entirely responsible for any accidents. The Western Cape High Court ruled the deal unconstitutional in 2017 due to their efforts.
Khanh Nguy Thi of Vietnam was the prize winner from Asia due to her efforts to shift her country away from coal and towards renewable energy. In 2016, Vietnam's revised Power Development Plan followed Nguy Thi's recommendation of sourcing 21 percent of the nation's power from renewable sources by 2030.
Manny Calonzo, representing islands and island nations as the only male winner this year, convinced the government of the Philippines to ban lead paint and then helped establish an independent certificate program to ensure paint companies followed the law. The program certified 85 percent of the country's paint market as safe by 2017.
Finally, the South and Central American winner is Francia Márquez, who stopped illegal gold mining in the Afro-Colombian region of La Toma by organizing a 10-day march of 80 women to Colombia's capital.
Márquez sees her work as part of a larger shift in how the earth is valued.
"Our time has come, we must act, we have a responsibility to future generations to leave a better world, in which taking care of life is more important than producing cumulative wealth," she told The Guardian.
How the Wonder of Nature Can Inspire Social Justice Activism https://t.co/UeUWWsrUMY @Greenpeace @World_Wildlife @Earthjustice— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1517874609.0
By Victoria Masterson
Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Sustainable Homes<p>UN-Habitat says an <a href="https://unhabitat.org/un-habitat-aims-to-use-plastic-waste-to-support-housing-for-all" target="_blank">estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements</a>. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, "which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge," the agency adds.</p><p>UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to "promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all."</p>
Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo<p>Othalo's process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.</p><p>Following successful laboratory tests, Othalo's factory in Estonia has started producing components to build three demonstration homes for Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and Dakar, the capital of Senegal.</p><p>Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti has been developing and testing the technology since 2016 in partnership with <a href="https://www.sintef.no/en/" target="_blank">SINTEF</a>, a 70-year-old independent research organization in Trondheim, Norway, and experts at Norway's <a href="https://en.uit.no/startsida" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Tromsø</a>.</p>
Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti. Othalo<p>Almost <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html" target="_blank">seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050</a>. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.</p><p>"In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic," UN-Habitat warns.</p><p>Lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, escalating poverty and unemployment, and pollution and health issues, are just some of the effects.</p><p>Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind, UN-Habitat says.</p>
Pioneers of Change<p>Reimagining cities and communities for greater resilience and sustainability was a key topic at the<a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Pioneers of Change Summit 2020</a>.</p><p>The digital event brought together innovators and stakeholders from around the world to explore solutions to the challenges facing enterprises, governments and society.</p><p>Opening the summit, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020/sessions/opening-plenary-8f731cbc65" target="_blank">Stephan Mergenthaler, the Forum's Head of Strategic Intelligence and a member of the Executive Committee</a>, said: "We need to change the way we produce, the way we live and interact in our cities to make this transition to net-zero emissions a reality…</p><p>"And as this year has illustrated so dramatically, we need to make every effort that we keep populations healthy, if we want to avoid jeopardizing all this progress."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/un-africa-recycled-plastic-housing/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649069252#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.