Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Ecuador Constitution Grants Rights to Nature

E.O. Wilson isn't the only one who would like to see this included in constitutions world-wide!

By Andrew C. Revkin

News accounts of Ecuador’s vote on Sunday approving a new Constitution mainly focused on how its terms could help the country’s leftist leader, Rafael Correa, an American-educated economist, gain and hold more power. Details are in Simon Romero’s article on the Ecuador vote and its implications.

But as I mentioned last week, the Constitution includes a novel set of articles that appear to be the first in any Constitution granting inalienable rights to nature. Cyril Mychalejko of UpsideDownWorld.org wrote an interesting column exploring the political subtext and explaining how realities on the ground in that turbulent country may limit the significance of the language. Still, the wording alone is fascinating, as is the simple fact that the provisions were included.

One passage says nature “has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions and its processes in evolution.”

[UPDATED:] The language in these provisions was written by Ecuador’s Constitutional Assembly with input from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, a Pennsylvania-based group providing legal assistance to governments and community groups trying to mesh human affairs and the environment. The group says it has helped more than a dozen communities in New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia draft and pass laws “that change the status of ecosystems from being regarded as property under the law to being recognized as rights-bearing entities.”

My guess is that Edward O. Wilson would love to see this language adopted everywhere.

Simon Romero, my colleague covering the news, told me in e-mail Sunday night that this particular provision “has been derided within Ecuador” given the history of pollution from state-run and private oil companies in the Amazon and the government’s need to keep oil flowing to sustain the economy.

Earlier this year, Nick Kristof, our peripatetic Op-Ed columnist, filed a column and nice video from the Ecuadorian Amazon showing one approach to economic development shaped around the living forest.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Good Reads

I want a link on this blog to my booklist. Even though it seems fairly simple I haven't figured out how to make it work within my profile. There are several other glitches I haven't had time to work out as well. It will be interesting to see if I can.

my 'read' shelf:
 my read shelf

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Chicago's Climate Plan

Image source: Chicago Climate Action Plan

Yeah, Richie!! Keep it up!

Mayor Richard M. Daly laid out a plan to cut Chicago's emissions to 3/4 of 1990 levels by 2020, announced yesterday in an ambitious and comprehensive Chicago Climate Change Action Plan, reports Chicago's NBC5. Not only is this plan designed to slash greenhouse gases, but it will also improve air and water quality and environmental health, ultimately improving quality of life. The plan includes 29 actions that the city must take, which the Natural Resources Defense Council says are challenging but do-able. Businesses, Residents and Visitors can all be part of the action by checking out the plan online: Chicago Climate Action Plan

Part of the plan also includes nine adaptation measures to deal with changes that are going to come and can't be avoided. Things like "a heat warning system, reducing summer energy use, improving air quality, preparing for increases in rainfall and flooding, reducing erosion along Lake Michigan's shoreline and planting vegetation that can adapt to climate change." Funding has been set aside for some of the changes, but additional funding will be needed to complete all projects.

What is included in the plan?

The plan includes 29 actions that are broken down into different sectors. Commercial buildings will be encouraged to reduce energy consumption and building codes will be updated to promote construction and redevelopment around the city using better technology. Citizens will be given incentives for improving home energy use. Solar on commercial rooftops, alternative vehicle fueling stations around the city and incentives to improve public transportation use are also under consideration or planned for development.

Chicago has also distributed over 1 million CFLs over the last few years and planted over half a million trees. Not to mention Chicago has been a big fan of the green roofs, installing them all over downtown, and even passed a comprehensive stormwater management ordinance recently.

Chicago and Climate Change

Chicago currently emits 34.6 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, and when you include the surrounding county, that number skyrockets to 103 million metric tons. Since 1980, temperatures in Chicago have already risen 2.6 degrees F on average (4 degrees F in the winter) and scientists in the Netherlands predict that summers in Chicago could top 115 degrees F by the end of the century if emission levels continue unabated.

Its great that Chicago is taking such a strong stance on climate change. Committing to and actively working to drop emissions way below 1990 levels and in a fairly short time-frame. The best that we can hope is that Chicago will be using the best available technology today and achieving its goals, with the hope that a few years from now, with new technology they can even beat their stated goal with even greater reductions. Aim high, Chicago!

Chicago is a member of the ICLEI - Local Governments for Sustainability.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Disaster Simulation

CERT is about readiness, people helping people, rescuer safety, and doing the greatest good for the greatest number. CERT is a positive and realistic approach to emergency and disaster situations where citizens will be initially on their own and their actions can make a difference. Through training, citizens can manage utilities and put out small fires; treat the three killers by opening airways, controlling bleeding, and treating for shock; provide basic medical aid; search for and rescue victims safely; and organize themselves and spontaneous volunteers to be effective.

We attended our CERTification disaster simulation last night. Everyone from our class met up wearing "gear" (cargo pants, long-sleeved shirts, boots, vinyl gloves under leather gloves, goggles, hard hats, reflective vests) at one of our fire stations, received our scenario - a Cat 4 hurricane, naturally - and started the simulation. We had to choose an Incident Commander, divide into teams of 2, do search and rescue, triage, transporting of victims, noting, logging and mitigating hazards in the area, put out small fires. First, we did it in daylight and then again after dark. It was only 94ยบ when we started the exercise!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Cheap Pride Platform

From the Ultimate Cheapskate's Road Map to True Riches:

We are too self-confident and too smart to let others convince us that more is always better and that we need things we don't.

We live within our means always and below our means when we can.

We understand that we need enough - and we know exactly what enough is for us - and beyond that we need no more.

We believe that waste is morally wrong and that excess is waste waiting to happen.

We would rather learn to do things for ourselves than to rely on money to get others to do things for us.

We consume things sparingly, thoughtfully and fully; therefore things do not consume us.

We take care of ourselves, our possessions, our planet, and others, rather than pay a higher price to repair benign neglect or do nothing as it occurs.

Written and followed by Jeff Yaeger originally from rural Ohio of German ancestry - probably beliefs passed down to him by Mennonite forebears!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

She Speaks for the Trees - Literally

Wangari Maathai has long been on my heroine list. Now, more children will hear her story due to new books just published about her:


Check it out!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The Real Issues for the U.S. in Coming Years

An article published in the Washington Post on Wednesday predicts what I agree are the true issues confronting Americans and the rest of the world in coming years. Taken from a report by Thomas Fingar, top analyst in the U.S. Intelligence community, it is similar in tone to the recently published book by Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World.

Reduced Dominance Is Predicted for U.S.

Analyst Previews Report to Next President

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Large Hadron Collider is ON!

They flipped the switch today. The LHC at CERN is operational. We may find some answers about anti-matter and what the other unknown 95% of space is eventually, but I don't feel like I'm living in a parallel universe yet. I'm not sure I would know how it feels, however, so the possibility is still out there.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Wallace Stevens has always been one of my very favorite poets, but I only recently discovered this poem:

Of Mere Being

The palm at the end of the mind,
Beyond the last thought, rises
In the bronze distance.

A gold-feathered bird
Sings in the palm, without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.

You know then that it is not the reason
That makes us happy or unhappy.
The bird sings. Its feathers shine.

The palm stands on the edge of space.
The wind moves slowly in the branches.
The bird's fire-fangled feathers dangle down.

-- Wallace Stevens, 1954

It may very well become my all-time favorite!