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Liberian Land Rights Activist On The Run Following Police Threats

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Liberian Land Rights Activist On The Run Following Police Threats

A campaigner for the land rights of Liberia’s local communities, Mr. Alfred Brownell, and his staff at Green Advocates have gone underground after threats from the police.

Warrants have been issued, and, at present, the staff of Green Advocates are in hiding, in response to the imminent threat of their arrest. This is the latest in a long history of threats, intimidation, and harassment against human rights defenders in Liberia.

Mr. Brownell is the founder of Green Advocates, an organisation working with impoverished rural communities to protect their rights to the lands and natural resources they depend on. He and his colleagues are renowned internationally as advocates for community rights, and for ensuring that the rights of Liberian citizens are respected in the country’s pursuit of economic development.

“Liberia’s laws and constitution ensure that rural communities have a right to be consulted on development initiatives that affect their lands and livelihoods. Yet, that is not happening on a large scale. And when people stand up for their rights, all too often they face threats and violence,” said Mr. Brownell. “I will continue to stand with them any way I can.”

And when people stand up for their rights, all too often they face threats and violence

Mr. Brownell and his colleagues are now facing arrest for contempt of court after he failed to respond to a subpoena for his testimony in an unrelated case, but Mr. Brownell never received the subpoena. The writ of arrest was presented to staff members of Green Advocates on October 30 by plain clothed police officers who were unable to provide proof of their identity when requested by Green Advocates staff. The Liberian police have since surrounded the office of Green Advocates, invaded the home of Mr. Brownell, and briefly arrested his uncle. At present, the staff of Green Advocates are in hiding, in response to the imminent threat of their arrest.

The situation follows an extensive chain of threats against human rights defenders working on land and natural resources issues in Liberia. Green Advocates staff were involved in a complaint against a palm oil project run by Golden Veroleum Liberia (GVL) that poses serious threats to affected communities in Sinoe County. In response, they have faced surveillance, threats, and reprimands from Liberia’s government and security personnel employed by the company.

Affected community members continue to face violence, harassment and arbitrary detention in response to their protests. The backlash triggered a riot and led to the arrest of dozens of activists and community members, one of whom eventually died in prison under unexplained circumstances.

“The unjustified harassment against Alfred Brownell and his colleagues fits a global pattern in which land rights defenders are increasingly being treated as criminals,” said Andy White, Coordinator of the Rights and Resources Initiative. “The Liberian government has made tremendous progress in establishing the rule of law. Respecting Green Advocates’ work giving voice to Liberia’s poorest and most marginalised is another opportunity to demonstrate their commitment.”

The murder and criminalisation of Indigenous Peoples, local communities, and their advocates is a worsening trend worldwide. 2015 was the worst year on record for killings of land and environmental defenders, with more than three people killed every week. 2016 has seen the murder and criminalisation of activists continues unabated. This occurs in spite of clear evidence that land rights for Indigenous Peoples and local communities protect forests, increase food security, and prevent conflict.

Energy

Is Wood Burning Sustainable For Your Home?

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sustainable wood burning ideas

Wood is a classic heat source, whether we think about people gathered around a campfire or wood stoves in old cabins, but is it a sustainable source of heat in modern society? The answer is an ambivalent one. In certain settings, wood heat is an ideal solution, but for the majority of homes, it isn’t especially suitable. So what’s the tipping point?

Wood heat is ideal for small homes on large properties, for individuals who can gather their own wood, and who have modern wood burning ovens. A green approach to wood heat is one of biofuel on the smallest of scales.

Is Biofuel Green?

One of the reasons that wood heat is a source of so much divide in the eco-friendly community is that it’s a renewable resource and renewable has become synonymous with green. What wood heat isn’t, though, is clean or healthy. It lets off a significant amount of carbon and particulates, and trees certainly don’t grow as quickly as it’s consumed for heat.

Of course, wood is a much less harmful source of heat than coal, but for scientists interested in developing green energy sources, it makes more sense to focus on solar and wind power. Why, then, would they invest in improved wood burning technology?

Homegrown Technology

Solar and wind technology are good large-scale energy solutions, but when it comes to small-space heating, wood has its own advantages. First, wood heat is in keeping with the DIY spirit of homesteaders and tiny house enthusiasts. These individuals are more likely to be driven to gather their own wood and live in small spaces that can be effectively heated as such.

Wood heat is also very effective on an individual scale because it requires very little infrastructure. Modern wood stoves made of steel rather than cast iron are built to EPA specifications, and the only additional necessary tools include a quality axe, somewhere to store the wood, and an appropriate covering to keep it dry. And all the wood can come from your own land.

Wood heat is also ideal for people living off the grid or in cold areas prone to frequent power outages, as it’s constantly reliable. Even if the power goes out, you know that you’ll be able to turn up the heat. That’s important if you live somewhere like Maine where the winters can get exceedingly cold. People have even successfully heated a 40’x34’ home with a single stove.

Benefits Of Biomass

The ultimate question regarding wood heat is whether any energy source that’s dangerous on the large scale is acceptable on a smaller one. For now, the best answer is that with a growing population and limited progress towards “pure” green energy, wood should remain a viable option, specifically because it’s used on a limited scale. Biomass heat is even included in the UK’s Renewable Heat Initiative and minor modifications can make it even more sustainable.

Wood stoves, when embraced in conjunction with pellet stoves, geothermal heating, and masonry heaters, all more efficient forms of sustainable heat, should be part of a modern energy strategy. Ultimately, we’re headed in the direction of diversified energy – all of it cleaner – and wood has a place in the big picture, serving small homes and off-the-grid structures, while solar, wind, and other large-scale initiatives fuel our cities.

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Environment

New Climate Change Report Emphasizes Urgent Need for Airline Emission Regulations

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In less than two months, the United States has grappled with some of the worst natural disasters in its history. Hurricanes battered the south central United States. Fires destroyed homes throughout Northern California. Puerto Rico experienced some of the worst storms ever. A massive windstorm caused more damage to the northeastern United States then any other storm on record before winter even struck.

These recent incidents have spurred discussion on the dangers of climate change. A recent report from the University of London has shed some light on the discussion. The new report suggests that new regulations are needed, including stricter EPA regulations on Airlines.

Review of the new report

The new report was published in the British medical Journal, Lancet. The report concluded that climate change is a “threat multiplier” for a variety of social problems, including diseases and natural disasters. While numerous studies have processed the risk that climate change plays with creating natural disasters, University of London report is among the first to explore the relationship between climate change and disease.

The authors warned that the problems are becoming irreversible. They will continue to get worse if risk factors are not adequately addressed.

The most concerning part of the report is that these problems are having the most serious impact on the most vulnerable communities in the world. Countries that depend on agriculture and other issues will suffer the most if climate change escalates.

“The answer is, most of our indicators are headed in the wrong direction,”said Nick Watts, a fellow at University College London’s Institute for Global Health and executive director of the Lancet Countdown, one of the lead researchers of the paper. “Broadly, the world has not responded to climate change, and that lack of response has put lives at risk. … The impacts we’re experiencing today are already pretty bad. The things we’re talking about in the future are potentially catastrophic.”

Airline industry discovers climate change is a two-way Street

The airline industry is coping with the problems of climate change, while also coming to terms with the fact that it has helped accelerate the problem. Earlier this year, American Airlines was forced to cancel four dozen flights near Phoenix. Cancellations were called due to excessive temperatures. The air was over 120 degrees, which is too hot for some smaller jet planes to get off the ground.

One anonymous airline executive privately admitted that their business model has facilitated climate change. They warned that the problem may become twice as bad in the next few years if proper safeguards aren’t implemented. Representatives from Goindigo have echoed these concerns.

The EPA has stated that airplanes account for 11% of all emissions. They are expected to increase over 50% within the next 30 years. This could have serious repurcussions if newer, greener airplane models don’t become the new standard in the very near future.

This is driving discussion about the need for new policies.The EPA has been discussing the need for new airline regulations for nearly two years. An EPA ruling made in July 2016 set the tone for new regulations, which could be introduced in the next year.

The new policies may be delayed, due to the new president’s position on climate change. He hired an EPA chief that has sued the organization about a dozen times. However, the Trump Administration may not be able to oppose climate change indefinitely, because a growing number of people are pressing for reforms. Even younger conservatives primarily believe climate change is a threat and are demanding answers. This may force the EPA to follow through on its plans to introduce new solutions.

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