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Pesticide Corporations to Appear in Court for Human Rights Violations
Citing widespread and egregious violations of basic human rights, a network of scientists, doctors, lawyers and human rights organizations issued a summons Nov. 17 to the world’s six largest pesticide corporations to appear in court. The summons initiates a trial slated to begin in early December, on the anniversary of the Bhopal disaster.
“The pesticide industry has committed brazen violations of human rights,” said Kathryn Gilje, co-director of Pesticide Action Network North America, who will be reporting from the trial. “We need a justice system that upholds the human rights to health, livelihood and life and ensures corporate accountability.”
Prosecutors cite the six largest pesticide companies—Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow and Dupont—or “Big 6”, for their crimes against humanity, including basic rights to life, livelihood and health. The agrochemical industry is valued at over $42 billion and operates with impunity while more than 355,000 people die as a direct result of pesticide poisoning every year, and hundreds of thousands more are made ill. In addition, pesticide corporations have put livelihoods and jobs in jeopardy, including farmers, beekeepers and lobstermen.
“Unchecked pesticide corporations have undermined the fundamental right to health,” said Pamela Miller, biologist and director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. “The Big 6 have put mothers and their children in harm’s way when they opened the Pandora’s box of chemicals on global communities. Alaskan peoples’ have suffered under this load of chemicals, including cancers, birth defects and miscarriages.”
Attorneys, witnesses and jurors from across the globe head to Bangalore, India to begin an intensive three-day trial, starting Dec. 3. The trial commences on the anniversary of the Bhopal disaster, where more than 20,000 people have died, after an explosion at a Dow Chemical facility. The trial is hosted by the Pesticide Action Network International, a network of more than 600 participating nongovernmental organizations, institutions and individuals in more than 90 countries working to replace the use of hazardous pesticides with ecologically sound and socially just alternatives.
The Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) officially facilitates the trial, lacking any set of binding national laws. Founded in Italy in 1979, the PPT was founded to elevate massive human rights violations in the absence of another international justice system. It draws on conventional court format, and is rooted in existing international frameworks, including the U.N. Declaration on Human Rights.
A summary of the trial, including summaries of cases against the Big 6, can be found here. Ongoing coverage, including YouTube videos with witness testimony will be provided through the Pesticide Action Network website.
For more information, click here.
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Last week, the Peruvian Palm Oil Producers' Association (JUNPALMA) promised to enter into an agreement for sustainable and deforestation-free palm oil production. The promise was secured by the U.S. based National Wildlife Federation (NWF) in collaboration with the local government, growers and the independent conservation organization Sociedad Peruana de Ecodesarrollo.
The rallying cry to build it again and to build it better than before is inspiring after a natural disaster, but it may not be the best course of action, according to new research published in the journal Science.
"Faced with global warming, rising sea levels, and the climate-related extremes they intensify, the question is no longer whether some communities will retreat—moving people and assets out of harm's way—but why, where, when, and how they will retreat," the study begins.
The researchers suggest that it is time to rethink retreat, which is often seen as a last resort and a sign of weakness. Instead, it should be seen as the smart option and an opportunity to build new communities.
"We propose a reconceptualization of retreat as a suite of adaptation options that are both strategic and managed," the paper states. "Strategy integrates retreat into long-term development goals and identifies why retreat should occur and, in doing so, influences where and when."
The billions of dollars spent to rebuild the Jersey Shore and to create dunes to protect from future storms after Superstorm Sandy in 2012 may be a waste if sea level rise inundates the entire coastline.
"There's a definite rhetoric of, 'We're going to build it back better. We're going to win. We're going to beat this. Something technological is going to come and it's going to save us,'" said A.R. Siders, an assistant professor with the disaster research center at the University of Delaware and lead author of the paper, to the New York Times. "It's like, let's step back and think for a minute. You're in a fight with the ocean. You're fighting to hold the ocean in place. Maybe that's not the battle we want to pick."
Rethinking retreat could make it a strategic, efficient, and equitable way to adapt to the climate crisis, the study says.
Dr. Siders pointed out that it has happened before. She noted that in the 1970s, the small town of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin moved itself out of the flood plain after one too many floods. The community found and reoriented the business district to take advantage of highway traffic and powered it entirely with solar energy, as the New York Times reported.
That's an important lesson now that rising sea levels pose a catastrophic risk around the world. Nearly 75 percent of the world's cities are along shorelines. In the U.S. alone coastline communities make up nearly 40 percent of the population— more than 123 million people, which is why Siders and her research team are so forthright about the urgency and the complexities of their findings, according to Harvard Magazine.
Some of those complexities include, coordinating moves across city, state or even international lines; cultural and social considerations like the importance of burial grounds or ancestral lands; reparations for losses or damage to historic practices; long-term social and psychological consequences; financial incentives that often contradict environmental imperatives; and the critical importance of managing retreat in a way that protects vulnerable and poor populations and that doesn't exacerbate past injustices, as Harvard Magazine reported.
If communities could practice strategic retreats, the study says, doing so would not only reduce the need for people to choose among bad options, but also improve their circumstances.
"It's a lot to think about," said Siders to Harvard Magazine. "And there are going to be hard choices. It will hurt—I mean, we have to get from here to some new future state, and that transition is going to be hard.…But the longer we put off making these decisions, the worse it will get, and the harder the decisions will become."
To help the transition, the paper recommends improved access to climate-hazard maps so communities can make informed choices about risk. And, the maps need to be improved and updated regularly, the paper said as the New York Times reported.
"It's not that everywhere should retreat," said Dr. Siders to the New York Times. "It's that retreat should be an option. It should be a real viable option on the table that some places will need to use."
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