Archive for the 'Climate and Forestry' Category

Doha Climate Talks: First Farce, then Tragedy

The lead-up to COP18 which started in Doha, Qatar this week, would have been farcical, if not for the tragic reminder from Hurricane Sandy that climate change is deadly, and is already upon us.

But for a moment, let’s appreciate the ironies:

Rio+20, “The Future We Want,” summit in June of this year was declared a failure on almost all counts. The tepid commitments, all voluntary, sound exactly like the future fossil fuel industries want. But in Doha, under the mandate of the UNFCCC, parties will agree on issues like finance, carbon markets, and REDD+.

Protester in Rio, June 2012.

Sounds reasonable? Think twice- COP18 is in Qatar, an OPEC nation with some of the highest emissions per capita that has been barely involved in climate negotiations. International campaigners Avaaz posted, “having one of the OPEC leaders in charge of climate talks is like asking Dracula to look after a blood bank.”

At least we can turn to our “climate leaders,” like the EU. Turns out the debt crisis has our European friends a little distracted from their climate commitments. Spain, Germany, Italy, the U.K. and France have all cut aid to renewables.

Well there are some “easy” issues to resolve in Doha, like fund transfers from wealthy countries to developing countries for mitigation and adaptation, right? But the farce continues- just in time for the conference to start, an international report finds that most wealthy countries are falling embarrassingly short of their commitments thus far for fund transfers. So much for the easy stuff.

Okay, at least they off-set their emissions! 25k metric tons of carbon was “eliminated” in the CDM carbon market to off-set 10,000 participants traveling to Doha. Yet this comes amidst mounting evidence that the carbon markets are broken, with the value of credits in the CDM plunging 93% in two years, and the EU system failing to reduce emissions. (I’ll spare the gory details of CDM’s social injustice.)

Yet, somehow in the fracas, carbon speculators are optimistic for Doha. Unlike the negotiators, they’ve figured out they can still make a handsome profit even if emissions don’t drop. In the rush to appease and appeal to business interests, negotiators have bought into a “Green Economy” narrative, where climate solutions are reduced to financial and technological fixes. REDD+, CDM, and other carbon offsets allow industrialized countries to avoid shifting their economies off fossil fuels, and speculators in new carbon markets reap the rewards.

The Doha skyline.

The choice of some climate justice groups to skip the trip to Doha is looking better and better.

So is the COP system broken? Can we expect anything out of Doha? With Sandy barely behind us, and more storms on the horizon, a meaningful U.N. process may feel like our last hope. However most major decisions are mapped out in preparatory meetings, such as those in Bonn and Bangkok this year.  While the presence of critical voices is important, so far the COPs have proven to leave out indigenous peoples, youth, and others most impacted by climate change.  We can’t count on negotiators to broker our future with fossil fuel corporations.

The recent position paper from Focus on the Global South offers a critique and an alternative: “The capitalist system is seeking to get out of this economic crisis through a process of reconfiguration that implies a new process of exploitation of humans and nature… …To confront the interests and power of corporations, our struggle must have as starting point the daily life of the people affected by climate change and not the UNFCCC negotiations.”

Around the world, more and more people are connecting the dots and challenging the root causes of climate change and false solutions. From the Tar Sands Blockade in Texas, to First Nations in British Columbia, to indigenous communities impacted by REDD+ in Mexico, people are taking a stand for their communities and ecology. As Hurricane Sandy showed, if we aren’t already, we all may soon be on the frontlines of climate change.

As Focus on the Global South writes, “A ‘one size fits all’ model like neoliberalism or centralized bureaucratic socialism is not the answer. Instead, diversity should be expected and encouraged, as it is in nature.” Real solutions come from the grassroots.

Natural Gas and Oil Frontlines: First Nations Lead the Way

This post originally appeared on the blog of the Population and Development Program, based in Amherst, MA, which works at the intersection of reproductive freedom, environmental justice and peace.

American environmentalists are declaring victory over the announcement that the United States will research alternate routes for the Keystone XL pipeline.  While Obama’s announcement was an encouraging gesture, U.S.-based activists are in danger of missing the forest for the trees.  We must look north, the source of tar sands oil, where First Nations people in Canada are directly confronting the accelerating fossil fuel expansion on their land, as we plan the next steps in our movement.

Indigenous Assembly Against Mining & Pipelines, November 2011

The Keystone XL pipeline is just one in a massive network of pipelines branching out from the oil fields of Alberta, illustrated by this map.  The trade magazine Pipelines International reports on this extensive infrastructure of, as they call them, “energy lifelines.”  While the tar sands (or oil sands) have received international attention since the protests against Keystone XL lit off this summer, pipeline expansion is occurring on many fronts in Canada: tar sands oil, conventional oil and natural gas which is being pumped out of Canadian soil. American activists have shown their mettle in facing down the importation of tar sands oil into the U.S., but where do they stand on the dozens of other pipelines that make up this spiderweb?

Traditional environmental leaders, Indigenous environmentalists and youth came together in unprecedented ways during the Keystone fight; now we must move forward with our eyes on the frontline. The untold story of fossil fuel expansion in Canada is its toll on Indigenous communities, or First Nations.  First Nations in Canada in active resistance show paths forward, as fossil fuel companies only intensify their development efforts.
On the same weekend that 12,000 protesters encircled the White House, the 2nd Indigenous Assembly on Pipelines and Mining took place in Vancouver, Coast Salish Territories The Indigenous Assembly over the weekend of November 5th, issued this call to action:

Indigenous communities from across the province are gathering in Vancouver Unceded Coast Salish Territories to oppose this conference and those corporations who profit off the destruction of the land. No mining, no pipelines, no resource extraction on unceded native lands! Defend the people, protect the land!

The Assembly hosted No Mining on Native Land!, a march through downtown Vancouver on November 6th. The pipelines, notably the Enbridge oil pipeline and the Kimimat Summit Lake gas pipeline (or Pacific Trails), endanger the lands of Indigenous people who are dependent on trapping and hunting for survival.

Tribe members block PTP from entering unceded land.

The Pacific Trails pipeline would lead to a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) port at Bish Cove, an ecologically pristine beach, on the Western cost. The Enbridge and Pacific Trails pipelines would run alongside each other near the Morice River.  The proximity of gas and oil pipelines to each other is particularly dangerous, though the companies have made no statement on this risk.  Many tribal councils and governments have approved one or both pipelines, in large part due to promises of jobs, but among Indigenous residents on the land, resistance is fierce.

The same week, Likhts’amisyu and Unist’ot’en clans of the Wet’swet’en nation confronted officials from Pacific Trails pipeline (PTP), who were attempting to illegally enter their territory to move drilling equipment.  This nation is one of many in Canada on land unceded to the Canadian government.  The nation owns the land and PTP was not authorized to enter.   Tribe members blockaded the access road, and formed an encampment until the company removed all equipment and vehicles several days later.

The Unist’hot’en clan has also built a cabin on Wet’suwet’en territory in the path of the Enbridge pipeline, PTP and one other pipeline, to prevent construction.  They intend to defend the cabin and halt illegal construction on their land.  Mel Bazil of the Lhe Lin Liyin (The Guardians), which support the Unist’hot’en Wet’suwet’en writes,

A delay could benefit their [Transcanada and other companies’] plans to assist in what we consider the systemic scope of the Tar Sands expansion activity. Tar sands may require offsets to operate, and proposed pipelines that acquire tenure through band chiefs and councils, and through treaty agencies … could make deals without the input or involvement of grassroots and indigenous peoples, who experience the environmental damage and pollution.

American activists must link to the struggle of First Nations people resisting Enbridge, PTP and other pipelines.  The Keystone XL pipeline, once considered a no-brainer for approval by industry and legislators, now stands in limbo.  That is a success for American activists.   However, fossil fuels are an international industry, and NAFTA and other treaties have deeply linked the American and Canadian economies.  The frontlines of fossil fuel in the U.S. are inherently connected to the struggle unfolding in Canada as part of a global supply chain.

As collaboration between major environmental NGOs and Indigenous environmental leaders deepens and expands, we must not allow Washington insiders to define the terms of victory.  There is no victory until Indigenous communities, and all frontline communities, are safe from the indignities of fossil fuels.

Read Martha’s previous coverage of Tar Sands oil extraction, activism to stop the Keystone pipeline, and Indigenous organizing in the US and Canada in Resisting the Tar Sands: Bridging Communities & Struggles, published in October, 2011.

What’s the Story with DeforestACTION?

Is DeforestACTION– a reality movie and TV series about saving the forests of Borneo– really a path to global conservation, or is it possible that they are falling into one of the most common traps in conservation– ignoring the rights of the indigenous people who live on the land?

Over the last few months, the Borneo conservation community has been abuzz with word of DeforestACTION, a reality TV meets forest conservation meets orangutan rehabilitation extravaganza, complete with a 3D movie, a 6 part TV series, and world-wide online tie-ins where kids and schools can raise money to save the rainforest.

I know I got excited about it; they were going to take 10 people under the age of 35 and bring them to West Kalimantan to monitor an existing national park, to help with rehabilitating orangutans, and replanting a rainforest. Among others, the project is being run by Dr. Willie Smits, who has decades of experience working with orangutans and recently gave a very well acclaimed TED talk outlining how he succeeded in regrowing a diverse rainforest in East Kalimantan. The technological tools at play are amazing; supposedly, you will be able to go online and actually find your piece of land that you bought, and even measure how much the trees are growing!

This is an area I spent a lot of time in as a child, an area sorely in need to rehabilitation and reforestation. It’s also an area where indigenous Dayak communities live, and practice traditional agriculture (which involves small-scale swidden agriculture, which is totally sustainable when practiced on a traditional scale). Of course the DeforestACTION team, folks that have been involved in on-the-ground conservation for decades, wouldn’t fall into the same traps as the national governments and big greens (think WWF and Conservation International), right? Right?

The answer isn’t so clear. In looking at their online materials and watching their information sessions, it seems like there are a number of ways where it looks scarily like DeforestACTION is not taking into account the needs of the local communities. Now, I am hoping they are just skimping on this information on their website (local land rights issues are less sexy than orangutan babies). So, I wrote them. Here (in summary) are some of the questions I asked:

  1. The land for DeforestACTION is on long term lease from the government. Who owns it during the project time, and has anything been planned for after the project is over?
  2. Are there any local communities that are in conflict over the land with the government? Has the DeforestACTION staff actually talked to people in the villages about this (instead of just the government officials?)
  3. The Willie Smit’s plan for reforestation includes giving local communities access to sugar palm so they can make cash income. However, this isn’t how local people have ever traditionally made a living, and ties them into the (super unstable) world market. Has DeforestACTION considered what they will do if community members don’t want to change their livelihoods?

DeforestACTION has yet to get back to me. I’ll post again when they do.

DeforestACTION, with it’s money, it’s online presence, and it’s big names has the potential to really lead the way in terms of plotting a new course for tropical forests. Nothing makes me happier than to see regular folks getting excited about saving the rainforest. At the same time, they need to be leaders on all fronts, and that includes human and indigenous rights. Come on DeforestACTION, show us that you know that conservation without the communities just won’t work, and lead the way in a really long-term sustainable future!

Endbridge – Why The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal And All Tar Sands Expansion From Alberta To The B.C. West Coast Will Be Stopped In Its Tracks By The Unity Of Indigenous Nations

Endbridge – Why The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline Proposal And All Tar Sands Expansion From Alberta To The B.C. West Coast Will Be Stopped In Its Tracks By The Unity Of Indigenous Nations

If you have ever driven on most of the northern highways in northern Alberta you will be presented with a picture of a tame prairie terrain, with sprawling fields and farms holding cows and the occasional conventional oil pump jack. A few kilometers on any of the gravel access roads however and you will see a much more bleaker picture of out of control industrialization and poisoning of the land. This is unless of course you witness the tar sands machines of death on Highway 63 near Fort McMurray and Fort McKay, or the massive underground mining operations in the Peace River and Cold Lake regions disrupting and contaminating underground water. What most modern thinkers fail to understand is thousands years of history from the ancestors of Cree, Dene, Blackfoot, Nakoda and Metis people. Living nations of people who simply cannot afford the luxury of packing up and moving as settlers when there is no longer work. These lands are home to these nations and are not sacrifice zones. And like a deadly contagious all-consuming disease, what has been done to Alberta by the oil industry cannot be allowed to spread to other parts of the world killing indigenous ways of life and jeopardizing the future for all.

Enbridge, and the expansion of the Alberta Tar Sands Gigaproject, is attempting to retrace the steps taken by the Hudson’s Bay Company with classic colonial strategy. The Hudson’s Bay Company was the first corporation on Turtle Island, here in North America. The Hudson’s Bay Company fur trading forts also became the first settler governments for the British Empire. In Alberta, the first settlement and colonial government in Alberta was in Fort Chipewyan, which would today is seen as the international poster community for a Cree, Dene and Metis community directly impacted by 40 years of out of control open pit tar sands mining. The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline is renewing a pipeline proposal and expansions originally proposed nearly 10 years ago and is supported by the Stephen Harper Conservative Canadian Government.

Just one week after the largest oil pipeline spill in Alberta in 30 years in unceded Lubicon Cree Territory, a spill that took six days for the Alberta government to respond in a half-assed, indifferent manner, starting with faxing a one-page “fact sheet” update about the disaster, a large contingent from the Yinka Dene Alliance from the northwest interior of B.C. were arriving in Calgary to confront Enbridge’s proposed Northern Gateway pipeline project and tanker traffic.

On May 11th, 2011, on the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy in Calgary, Alberta, a historic solidarity statement of opposition to the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline proposal was signed by leaders of the Blood Tribe, Alexander First Nation, Lubicon Lake Nation, Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation, Sai’kuz First Nation, Nadleh Whuten, Takla Lake First Nation and the Nakazdli First Nation.

The day after the Enbridge AGM a rally was held in Prince Rupert, B.C. on May 12th, outside a meeting sponsored by Enbridge for the Northern BC Municipalities Convention. With a historic turn-out of over 500 Indigenous and non-Indigenous residents of the island of Lach Kaien, known in the mainstream society as Prince Rupert, publicly and loudly demonstrating their opposition to the Enbridge Gateway Pipeline proposal as well as any tar sands tanker traffic that would support the industry of dirty crude oil and liquid condensate.

Lach Kaien, or Prince Rupert, is known to the Tsimshian as the “Cradle of Tsimshian Civilization,” according to a hereditary chief of the Gits’iis tribe, Sm’ooygit Nisyaganaat. The Prince Rupert Harbor contains the most dense archaelogical sites north of Mexico City and is the second deepest harbor in the world. Lach Kaien is surrounded by Tsimshian communities traditionally comprised of 11 Tsimshian villages, as well as neighboring nations from the Haida, Haisla, Heiltsuk, Gitksan, Nisga’a, Tahltan, and Tlingit. To this day the indigenous population of the town of Prince Rupert is still between 40-50%, with all industries heavily dependent upon the commerce, labor and resources of Indigenous coastal nations.

A few coastal communities however have not yet made a clear position on whether or not to support the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline and tanker project and any western tar sands crude oil expansion. These include among the largest of coastal communities of Lach hlgu K’alaams (Lax Kw’Alaams) or Port Simpson, and Gitkxaahla (Kitkatla), where the still active traditional laws and feasting systems of hereditary chiefs is still strong and holds much influence over the non-surrendered tribal territories in the region of Prince Rupert, Hecate Strait, and the Skeena and Nass Rivers.

These are nations still waiting to awaken to take their place and decide for themselves what is allowed into the lands and waters of nations that have lived and thrived on this edge of the world for thousands of years. To uphold the traditional laws and protocols of respect and responsibilities known as Ayaawk and Gugwiltx Yaans and not be steered by any settler government, environmental group, or any funding body with non-Indigenous agendas. Especially is true that Indigenous grassroots leaders are still fighting the oppression of the Indian Act system and the federal Canadian employees of many Band Councils maintaining the silencing of traditional hereditary leadership systems through which the sole jurisdiction of all territories flows through.

Indigenous lands and waters are to be spoken for and by Indigenous minds and communities. Enbridge Northern Gateway, and all tar sands pipelines and expansions such as the Kinder Morgan TMX Northern Leg Extension, the Pembina Pipeline, the PNG KSL Pipeline, the Kitimat and Prince Rupert Liquid Natural Gas Terminals, and the Prince Rupert “New World” Container Ports are just a few of the many modern obstacles in the path of standing up the original structures and ways of life with which to free Indigenous nations on this edge of the world.

Links to the rally and demonstration held in Lach Kaien and declarations of war against Enbridge -

http://www.marketwire.com/press-release/enbridge-pipeline-faces-prospect-civil-disobedience-500-strong-crowd-rallies-outside-1514236.htm

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/life/greenpage/121784899.html

http://www.muskegnews.com/protest-enbridge0512

http://wcel.org/media-centre/media-releases/coastal-first-nations-tanker-ban-creates-new-legal-risks-and-uncertainty

http://savethefraser.ca/

Statement of Solidarity of Indigenous Nations opposed to Enbridge Northern Gateway -

May 10th, 2011 – Calgary, Alberta, territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy

WE THE UNDERSIGNED INDIGENOUS NATIONS STATE IN SOLIDARITY:
Our Nations are bound together by the water which is our lifeblood. We have protected our lands and waters since time immemorial, each according to our laws and traditions. The waters of Indigenous peoples throughout the lands known as western Canada are being threatened by fossil fuel exploitation and transportation.

We exercise our rights to sustain our cultural and economic well-being. The laws of each of our peoples are deeply embedded in our cultures and practices. These laws have never been extinguished and our authority continues in our lands. Our peoples continue to live by them today.

We have come together on May 10, 2011 in the city of Calgary, Alberta, in the traditional territory of the Blackfoot Confederacy, to declare to the governments of Alberta, British Columbia, as well as Enbridge Inc., all of its subsidiary bodies, and the domestic and international financial institutions supporting Enbridge, THE FOLLOWING:

The Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and tankers project will expose Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities from the Pacific Coast across to Alberta to the risk of pipeline and supertanker oil spills, just as we have seen recently with Enbridge’s massive spill in Michigan, the recent devastating spill in Lubicon Cree territory, the recent TransCanada pipeline spill in North Dakota, as well as the effects of the Gulf of Mexico Deepwater Horizon disaster. Tar sands bitumen has been demonstrated to corrode pipelines more rapidly than conventional oil, increasing the likelihood of catastrophic spills. Given the seismic volatility of the region, the recent earthquake in Japan also underlies our grave concerns about the risk of oil spills.

The urgency of global climate change, and the fact that Indigenous peoples are among those most impacted by climate change, also compels us to act.

We have witnessed the Coastal First Nations Declaration banning crude oil tankers on the Pacific North Coast, and the Save the Fraser Declaration banning crude oil transportation through the Fraser River watershed. Each of these Declarations is based in Indigenous law and is an expression of Indigenous decision-making authority.

Enbridge states that it intends to proceed with its Northern Gateway pipeline and tankers, with or without First Nations consent. A decision by Canada to approve this project, without the free, prior and informed consent of affected Nations, will be a violation of our Treaties, our rights, and our laws, and will be in breach of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and other international accords.

THEREFORE we stand in solidarity with the Coastal First Nations, and the Nations who have signed the Save the Fraser Declaration, and are united in stating that Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline and tanker project, as well as other fossil fuel development projects including Keystone XL, must not proceed without obtaining the free, prior and informed consent of all affected First Nations.

AND FURTHER if such consent is not obtained, no construction of such projects shall proceed.

SIGNED in the traditional territories of the Blackfoot Confederacy, at the city of Calgary, May 10 2011

Sai’kuz First Nation

Nadleh Whut’en

Takla Lake First Nation

Nakazdli First Nation

Blood Tribe

Alexander First Nation

Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation

Lubicon Lake Nation

Watch live: Everyone’s Downstream anti-tar sands conference in Alberta

Everyone’s downstream is an annual conference that brings together community members, activists and others fighting the global infrastructure of the tar sands gigaproject.

Click here to watch live streaming video of the conference.

This year’s themes include:

The Tar Sands go Global: reports from Madagascar, Trinidad and more
Environmental NGOs, secret deals, and how to build a democratic, transparent environmental movement
Ongoing resistance to pipelines, refineries, and other tar sands infrastructure

Schedule for this weekend:

Saturday, November 27

Community Reports

Tar Sands Go Global and Local: Stories of Destruction and Resistance from Trinidad to Fort Chipewyan

Full Day: 9am to 5pm University of Alberta, ETLC 1-003

Speakers from across Turtle Island and beyond discuss how tar sands are or could be affecting their lives, health, cultures, and their relationships to the land. Indigenous communities from Alberta, BC and the rest of Turtle Island, along with other front line communities who live in the path of one or more of the many tar sands pipeline and refinery paths will report back about their communities’ resistance to tar sands developments.

Continue reading ‘Watch live: Everyone’s Downstream anti-tar sands conference in Alberta’

Root Causes of the BP Oil Disaster

Recently here in the Bay Area, Mobilization for Climate Justice-West held a Teach In on the BP oil disaster, to prep for an upcoming action on the Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Here’s an excerpt from Carla Perez from Movement Generation, talking about root causes:

Utah commissions independent clean energy report, hides the findings, crashes my computer

Warning: the Utah Department of Commerce and the state’s major electric utility really don’t want you to know the following information, and they will hijack your computer to keep you from getting it:

The administration of Utah’s former Governor Jon M. Huntsman (now U.S. Ambassador to China) commissioned an independent study to figure out how much, if anything, the state could save by switching to alternative, clean forms of energy.  Utah currently gets almost all of its energy through fossil fuel combustion, 82% of which uses coal.

Coal-fired power plant

Report says these things are dirty and expensive; report get's an "F" from state

It appears the current administration (Gary Herbert) and his coal-burning buddies don’t like what the report had to say:

“This [coal-based] resource mix…results in significant emissions of air pollutants and consumes a large share of Utah’s increasingly valuable water resources. The authors estimate that fossil generation in Utah today:

–consumes about 73,800 acre feet, or 24 billion gallons, of fresh water per year; results in 202 premature deaths per year;
–contributes to 154 hospital visits per year for respiratory injuries, and 175 asthma-related emergency room visits each year.

We estimate that the health and water impacts from Utah fossil generation have a monetary value of between $1.7 and $2.0 billion dollars per year (2008$), or between $36 and $43 per megawatt-hour (MWh) of fossil generation in Utah, a value similar to the direct costs of conventional electricity generation.”

Naturally, at this point, I would include a link to the PDF of the report. But I don’t want to do that to you. Get this: if you surf over to the PDF on the state’s website, a giant pop-up window (disavowing the findings) appears, the rest of the screen goes dark, and there is no way to click out of it. I’m no computer genius, so I had to “ctrl-alt-delete” and restart my laptop  just to finish this post. Sheesh. Continue reading ‘Utah commissions independent clean energy report, hides the findings, crashes my computer’

Join Us in Cancun (Spring Break wear optional)

COP16 ApplicationApplications are now available for SustainUS’s Agents of Change delegation to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, November 29-December 10.

Applicants must be 18-26 years old at the start of the negotiations, and must be either U.S. citizens or permanent residents, or have been studying or working in the United States for at least six months at the time of application.

Selected applicants will join a diverse delegation of youth, including those both familiar with and new to the youth climate movement; from across the United States and beyond; including young scientists and engineers, policy specialists, grassroots activists, media and communications specialists; students, young professionals, and community volunteers; and more. We have limited, need-based scholarship money for youth from climate change-impacted communities (requires separate application, see link below).

Full delegation details and application materials are available at http://www.sustainus.org/COP16

Applications are due by 5 p.m. EDT on June 4th to agents@sustainus.org

Please help to ensure that all eligible youth have the opportunity to apply by forwarding this announcement

“The oil is creeping towards my home in Alabama as I write this, and it is breaking my heart.”

Brinkley Hutchings, Greenpeace Student Network activist, at home on the Alabama coast -- directly in the path of the fast-approaching spill.

From Brinkley Hutching’s blog, a post entitled A Local’s Account of the Deepwater Disaster. Watch an astonishing aerial video of the slick shot by John Wathen as they flew from Brinkley’s home to the source of the spill and back. (Below.) She is also the Greenpeace Campus Coordinator at University of North Carolina-Wilmington.

I grew up in one of the most beautiful places. Montrose, Alabama. My family lives on Mobile Bay, and I spent my childhood exploring the many bays, rivers, streams and creeks near my home. Starting at age 7, I would spend whole days exploring the local waters and shorelines with my little 13 foot boat. What existed naturally in my own backyard was truly utopian. Now, all the beautiful trees, wildlife and pristine waters, all will see the thick black and red oil within these next days. It brings a deeper ache than I can express.

As I flew out to the spill last Friday with my father (he’s a pilot), I wasn’t prepared for what I was going to witness. Here are some notes I took during the flight as we approached the source of this disaster:

“We are starting to smell oil…the pungent smell burns my nostrils and I feel nauseated to the core of my being….oh my God…red streaks of oil are everywhere…thick black near the well…it is crude oil and it stretches as far as I can see…I am sick…I can’t feel my own body or distinguish any of my feelings right now… this is the worst and most saddening situation I have ever seen in my life…The boats are randomly skewn about, and they are so disorganized! The cleanup efforts look completely haphazard and ineffective. It is utter chaos down there! Boats randomly placed, pulling booms that are simply swirling the oil around in circles! I really don’t feel alive right now…this is a horrible dream…why the heck didn’t BP have to have a plan in place for a disaster like this?!” Continue reading ‘“The oil is creeping towards my home in Alabama as I write this, and it is breaking my heart.”’

Want to go to the UN Commission on Sustainable Development?

Are you a smart young person looking to help create a more sustainable future around the world? Do you want to rub shoulders with some of the most influential policymakers in sustainable development? Do you have ideas about how to improve the UN?

Agents of Change (AoC) is now accepting applications to join the SustainUS youth delegation to the Eighteenth Session of the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development (CSD-18), which will be held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City from May 3 – 14, 2010. CSD-18 is a review session and addresses the topics of transport, chemicals, waste management, and mining. In addition, CSD-18 will follow-up on the 2006 Johannesburg Summit call to develop a 10-Year Framework of Programmes on Sustainable Consumption and Production Patterns.

Selected delegates will have the opportunity to work with government officials, scientists, civil society representatives, and youth from around the world to review progress on issues related to sustainable development. In the past, AoC delegates have presented case studies and policy statements on behalf of youth; participated in forums with fellow representatives of civil society; and met with government delegates, international organizations, and the US State Department.

How to apply: Please respond to the questions in the Application and email your application in the form of a single Word document to agents@sustainus.org. Applications must be received by 11:59 pm EST on Wednesday, February 17, 2010. Incomplete applications, or those not compiled into a single document, will not be considered. Applicants will be notified of their selection by early March and will be required to confirm their involvement shortly after notification. Please be sure to include all five sections of the application. If you have any questions, please contact AoC Coordinator Julia Wong at agents[at]sustainus.org


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