After global climate negotiations in Doha wrapped up at the weekend, Steve Trent, executive director of the Environmental Justice Foundation (EFJ), writes about how climate change affects human rights and why the talks in Qatar didn’t go far enough.
As an international community, our collective failures on climate change are having critical consequences. Today, climate change has become one of the major challenges to the basic human rights to life, food, health, water, housing and self-determination.
Philosopher Simone Weil said that, “To be rooted is perhaps the most important and least recognised need of the human soul”. Take a moment to consider your roots and the place you call home. I suspect that, like me, your home represents a lot more to you than just the bricks and mortar of your house. Rather the place we identify as home probably has more to do with culture and background, friends and family, livelihood and daily habits and the landscape in which each of us live.
Whether from London or Beijing, rural Bangladesh or one of the many small Island states like Fiji, your sense of identity is fundamentally tied to all these things. In most cultures this connection is palpable. There is a beautiful example in the Fijian language – the word Vanua. This is often (mis)translated into English as ‘land’, but its real meaning is, ‘land, people and custom’. It relates to intimate connection between the landscape, culture and sense of identity.
What does it mean then to be deprived of your roots and home? Losing the security of the place where you sleep can be devastating. Being forced from the place we call home – the place you were born, where your family, friends, habits and culture reside by circumstances over which you have no control and had no part in creating.
EJF’s report, A Nation under Threat, released yesterday, reveals that it is exactly this kind of forced migration that is now emerging on a massive global scale, with millions mainly among our planet’s poorest and most vulnerable being forced to move. These are the new refugees; ‘climate refugees’ driven from their homes by changes in climate, the primary result of the developed world’s inability or refusal to understand the impacts of its development on the global environment and on others far less fortunate.
Climate change is amplifying the intensity of extreme weather events. Its impacts are now being seen in both poorer and developed countries. This year, Hurricane Sandy rendered more than 40,000 people homeless in New York City alone and just last week over 310,000 people lost their homes to Typhoon Bopha in the Philippines. Last year weather-related disasters, mainly floods and storms, displaced 13.8 million people. That’s more than the total number of residents in Illinois. Now, consider for a moment that the entire population of Illinois lost everything: their land, their homes, their possessions, their livelihoods. Where would those people go? To what would they be entitled and where?
These people forced from their homes by environmental insecurity are often referred to as ‘climate refugees’ and ‘environmental refugees’. However, these terms are neither defined nor recognised by international law. Despite their numbers, these people have neither the recognition nor protections of refugees under international legal definitions and yet they have been forced to migrate because of climate related problems. They are refugees.
The hard lesson we must learn from our collective past is that our lifestyle choices have tangible impacts on others. Nothing demonstrates this better than the impacts of climate change. Our industrialisation, development and consumerism have a price – but we in the developed world are not paying it. Instead, some of the world’s poorest countries are being made more vulnerable.
Rising temperatures, erratic rainfall, increased drought and desertification and more intense flooding and storms have a real human impact. There are large parts of the world where life is getting harder: faced with either too much water and floods, or too little water and nothing to drink, or occasionally both. Experiencing food insecurity, declining health and even the direct threats to their lives from extreme conditions or the conflicts that are blossoming in climate chaos – witness the violence of Darfur or slow tragedy being played out in the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya where nearly half a million people barely survive. Faced with drought, the loss of their precious livestock and famine these people had no choice but to move.
I believe that environmental security is a human right. Climate change will drive hundreds of millions of people from their homes as this century progresses – each the victim of either too much water or too little and as world leaders have just concluded another round of climate negotiations in Doha and have failed to build protection for the most vulnerable it is clear we are not doing enough to protect and assist climate refugees.
Although the negotiations have resulted in a formal acknowledgement from the US and other developed nations that there will be a bill to pay for the havoc that will come from climate change and they will have to pick up at least some of tab, crucially, the talks have not shown the political leadership and ambition we need. They have failed to create a path from recognising the causes and costs of climate change to delivering the funds and the action to solve these. We now need our leaders to actually lead, fulfil the responsibilities they accepted on taking political office and act – now.
We need to remember that among the greatest threats to our collective rights and in particular to the rights of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, is climate change. And why we must remember it is so important that the international community acts to recognise, support and protect the world’s growing number of climate refugees.
Steve Trent is executive director of the Environmental Justice Foundation.
How Going Green Can Save A Company Money
What is going green?
Going green means to live life in a way that is environmentally friendly for an entire population. It is the conservation of energy, water, and air. Going green means using products and resources that will not contaminate or pollute the air. It means being educated and well informed about the surroundings, and how to best protect them. It means recycling products that may not be biodegradable. Companies, as well as people, that adhere to going green can help to ensure a safer life for humanity.
The first step in going green
There are actually no step by step instructions for going green. The only requirement needed is making the decision to become environmentally conscious. It takes a caring attitude, and a willingness to make the change. It has been found that companies have improved their profit margins by going green. They have saved money on many of the frivolous things they they thought were a necessity. Besides saving money, companies are operating more efficiently than before going green. Companies have become aware of their ecological responsibility by pursuing the knowledge needed to make decisions that would change lifestyles and help sustain the earth’s natural resources for present and future generations.
Making needed changes within the company
After making the decision to go green, there are several things that can be changed in the workplace. A good place to start would be conserving energy used by electrical appliances. First, turning off the computer will save over the long run. Just letting it sleep still uses energy overnight. Turn off all other appliances like coffee maker, or anything that plugs in. Pull the socket from the outlet to stop unnecessary energy loss. Appliances continue to use electricity although they are switched off, and not unplugged. Get in the habit of turning off the lights whenever you leave a room. Change to fluorescent light bulbs, and lighting throughout the building. Have any leaks sealed on the premises to avoid the escape of heat or air.
Reducing the common paper waste
Modern technologies and state of the art equipment, and tools have almost eliminated the use of paper in the office. Instead of sending out newsletters, brochures, written memos and reminders, you can now do all of these and more by technology while saving on the use of paper. Send out digital documents and emails to communicate with staff and other employees. By using this virtual bookkeeping technique, you will save a bundle on paper. When it is necessary to use paper for printing purposes or other services, choose the already recycled paper. It is smartly labeled and easy to find in any office supply store. It is called the Post Consumer Waste paper, or PCW paper. This will show that your company is dedicated to the preservation of natural resources. By using PCW paper, everyone helps to save the trees which provides and emits many important nutrients into the atmosphere.
Make money by spreading the word
Companies realize that consumers like to buy, or invest in whatever the latest trend may be. They also cater to companies that are doing great things for the quality of life of all people. People want to know that the companies that they cater to are doing their part for the environment and ecology. By going green, you can tell consumers of your experiences with helping them and communities be eco-friendly. This is a sound public relations technique to bring revenue to your brand. Boost the impact that your company makes on the environment. Go green, save and make money while essentially preserving what is normally taken for granted. The benefits of having a green company are enormous for consumers as well as the companies that engage in the process.
5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Home More Sustainable
Increasing your home’s energy efficiency is one of the smartest moves you can make as a homeowner. It will lower your bills, increase the resale value of your property, and help minimize our planet’s fast-approaching climate crisis. While major home retrofits can seem daunting, there are plenty of quick and cost-effective ways to start reducing your carbon footprint today. Here are five easy projects to make your home more sustainable.
1. Weather stripping
If you’re looking to make your home more energy efficient, an energy audit is a highly recommended first step. This will reveal where your home is lacking in regards to sustainability suggests the best plan of attack.
Some form of weather stripping is nearly always advised because it is so easy and inexpensive yet can yield such transformative results. The audit will provide information about air leaks which you can couple with your own knowledge of your home’s ventilation needs to develop a strategic plan.
Make sure you choose the appropriate type of weather stripping for each location in your home. Areas that receive a lot of wear and tear, like popular doorways, are best served by slightly more expensive vinyl or metal options. Immobile cracks or infrequently opened windows can be treated with inexpensive foams or caulking. Depending on the age and quality of your home, the resulting energy savings can be as much as 20 percent.
2. Programmable thermostats
Programmable thermostats have tremendous potential to save money and minimize unnecessary energy usage. About 45 percent of a home’s energy is earmarked for heating and cooling needs with a large fraction of that wasted on unoccupied spaces. Programmable thermostats can automatically lower the heat overnight or shut off the air conditioning when you go to work.
Every degree Fahrenheit you lower the thermostat equates to 1 percent less energy use, which amounts to considerable savings over the course of a year. When used correctly, programmable thermostats reduce heating and cooling bills by 10 to 30 percent. Of course, the same result can be achieved by manually adjusting your thermostats to coincide with your activities, just make sure you remember to do it!
3. Low-flow water hardware
With the current focus on carbon emissions and climate change, we typically equate environmental stability to lower energy use, but fresh water shortage is an equal threat. Installing low-flow hardware for toilets and showers, particularly in drought prone areas, is an inexpensive and easy way to cut water consumption by 50 percent and save as much as $145 per year.
Older toilets use up to 6 gallons of water per flush, the equivalent of an astounding 20.1 gallons per person each day. This makes them the biggest consumer of indoor water. New low-flow toilets are standardized at 1.6 gallons per flush and can save more than 20,000 gallons a year in a 4-member household.
Similarly, low-flow shower heads can decrease water consumption by 40 percent or more while also lowering water heating bills and reducing CO2 emissions. Unlike early versions, new low-flow models are equipped with excellent pressure technology so your shower will be no less satisfying.
4. Energy efficient light bulbs
An average household dedicates about 5 percent of its energy use to lighting, but this value is dropping thanks to new lighting technology. Incandescent bulbs are quickly becoming a thing of the past. These inefficient light sources give off 90 percent of their energy as heat which is not only impractical from a lighting standpoint, but also raises energy bills even further during hot weather.
New LED and compact fluorescent options are far more efficient and longer lasting. Though the upfront costs are higher, the long term environmental and financial benefits are well worth it. Energy efficient light bulbs use as much as 80 percent less energy than traditional incandescent and last 3 to 25 times longer producing savings of about $6 per year per bulb.
5. Installing solar panels
Adding solar panels may not be the easiest, or least expensive, sustainability upgrade for your home, but it will certainly have the greatest impact on both your energy bills and your environmental footprint. Installing solar panels can run about $15,000 – $20,000 upfront, though a number of government incentives are bringing these numbers down. Alternatively, panels can also be leased for a much lower initial investment.
Once operational, a solar system saves about $600 per year over the course of its 25 to 30-year lifespan, and this figure will grow as energy prices rise. Solar installations require little to no maintenance and increase the value of your home.
From an environmental standpoint, the average five-kilowatt residential system can reduce household CO2 emissions by 15,000 pounds every year. Using your solar system to power an electric vehicle is the ultimate sustainable solution serving to reduce total CO2 emissions by as much as 70%!
These days, being environmentally responsible is the hallmark of a good global citizen and it need not require major sacrifices in regards to your lifestyle or your wallet. In fact, increasing your home’s sustainability is apt to make your residence more livable and save you money in the long run. The five projects listed here are just a few of the easy ways to reduce both your environmental footprint and your energy bills. So, give one or more of them a try; with a small budget and a little know-how, there is no reason you can’t start today.
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