Democracy

A Park Threatened, A Movement Born

On Terra Informa this week: when the bulldozers came to demolish a park, a movement was born. We ask one of the protesters from Turkey’s Taksim Square what’s at stake in the park there. Then, Marcus Petersen explains Biophilia on this week’s Ecobabble, and writer Ronald Wright warns about the progress trap we’re in.

Police in Istanbul fire at protesters rallying around Taksim Square (Photo: Alan Hilditch)

Police in Istanbul fire at protesters rallying around Taksim Square (Photo: Alan Hilditch)

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A Park Threatened, A Movement Born

It began with a familiar story. A city decides to demolish a park to make way for a new mall. Protesters show up to stop it.  Police arrive to break up the crowd. But things escalated quickly when police marched into Istanbul’s Taksim Square on May 28. They started firing water cannons and tear gas at demonstrators. The brutal treatment of the protesters outraged many people in Turkey. Before long, thousands of people began demonstrating against the national government all around the country. Deniz Erkmen teaches political science at Istanbul’s Özyeğin  University. She’s been visiting Taksim Square since she was a teenager, and now she’s joined in the protests there. Events have been changing rapidly by the day there, and on June 5th, she told Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips that the issues at stake go far beyond the park.
Protesters in Istanbul stood up because of their connection to the place they live. But what do we call it when we feel attached to all the parts of our planet’s biosphere – ferns, geese, even landscapes?
On this week’s Ecobabble, Marcus Petersen explains what it means to feel biophilia.
The Traps of Progress

Last November, The Parkland Institute kicked off its sixteenth fall conference in Edmonton, Alberta. The theme was Petro, Power and Politics, and the opening keynote was delivered by writer Ronald Wright. Wright is best known for having delivered a CBC Massey Lecture which he called A Short History of Progress. For his lecture at the Parkland Institute, Wright drew on this earlier work to discuss our modern environmental crisis, including climate change and loss of biodiversity. To chart our possible future, Wright looks back to examine the collapse of civilizations all across the world. It’s depressing business, and more than one audience member asked the obvious question: is there any hope at all?

As Wright sees it, a little progress is good, but too much progress can be deadly. Over the past few centuries, the whole world has seen so much progress that it boggles the mind. Have we seen too much? Too fast? Progress of the right or the wrong kind? To understand Wright’s answer, we asked Terra Informer Trevor Chow-Fraser to walk through the beginnings of the progress trap humanity—and the planet—are struggling to escape right now.

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What’s Happening

Bikeology Festival – Edmonton
Edmontonians, did you know that June is bike month?!  Riding your bike around Edmonton, especially in the beautiful summer weather, is an excellent way to live a healthy lifestyle.  It also decreases the detrimental effects transportation in vehicles can have on the environment.  The Bikeology Festival is going on all month in Edmonton, however, the best chance to interact with fellow bike-enthusiasts will be on June 15 in Sir Winston Churchill Park from noon to 4pm.  There will be entertainment, prizes, and many opportunities to speak with Edmonton bike experts about how to get started or maintain your environmentally friendly bike riding.  

Learn-to-Camp – Victoria
Residents of Victoria, BC, the Fort Rodd Hill and Fisgard Lighthouse National Historic Sites, in collaboration with Mountain Equipment Co-op, is inviting young families and newcomers to Canada to a first-time camping experience. Learn-to Camp will teach camping basics such as how to set up a tent, how to cook outdoors, what to pack, and other real Parks Canada and Mountain Equipment Co-op staff tips to make your camping adventure a success. Participant fee: $88.00/family of up to four (plus $22 for each additional person up to a maximum group size of 6 people). Dinner, breakfast and snacks are included.

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Climate Change and Democracy in Maldives

Maldives took on a leadership role in the fight against climate change following the country’s first democratic elections in 2008, and has been outspoken at international negotiations. But a military coup in February has thrown the island nation’s records on climate change and democracy into question. Today we speak to a Maldivian activist about what’s happening in the country. We also talk to a scientist who’s on the leading edge of photovoltaics research. Dr. Jillian Buriak is working to make plastic solar panels a reality and bring a thin, flexible, and very cheap source of power to millions of people who live without electricity.

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In 2009 the Maldivian government held an underwater cabinet meeting to draw attention to the threat climate change posed to the island nation. Photo by Mohamed Seeneen.

Maldives
Maldives is a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean which has been described as “ground zero” for climate change (map). President Mohammed Nasheed, of the Maldivian Democratic Party, is known for his climate change leadership.  He came to power in 2008 as the nation’s first democratically elected president, following 30 years of authoritarian rule. In 2009, President Nasheed garnered international attention by holding an underwater cabinet meeting to highlight the threat of climate change to low-lying nations. Dressed in scuba-gear, the president and his cabinet signed a document calling for global cuts to carbon emissions.  On February 7, 2012, President Nasheed was ousted from power by the police and military, and replaced by Vice President Mohamed Waheed. Peaceful protestors in the cities of Male and Addu have been confronted by violence from Maldives security forces. Terra Informa correspondent Kathryn Lennon speaks with Zaheena Rasheed, a young Maldivian democracy and climate justice activist.

Solar panels made from plastic
The world faces an enormous demand for energy, and climate change concerns mean that it will have to come from sources not yet invented. One technology that’s looking promising is a new generation of photovoltaic solar cells, made from plastic. Unlike the expensive, heavy and fragile existing silicon solar cells, plastic solar cells are light, cheap and flexible. Unfortunately, they only exist in laboratories right now. But there have been some breakthroughs. One of the people making those breakthroughs is Dr. Jillian Buriak, a chemist at the National Institute for Nanotechnology. She spoke with our correspondent, David Kaczan, about how her research is going, and why she believes plastic solar cells are so promising.

News Headlines

Anniversary of Japan’s tsunami
This week marks one year since a massive earthquake and subsequent Tsunami rocked Japan killing nearly 19,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands displaced. Reports coming from Japan state that very little has been done to clean up the destruction of the cities and towns which were destroyed. The 2011 Tsunami sent a massive amount of debris into the Pacific Ocean. New concerns regarding the debris, especially the plastic, are being voiced this week. Scientists believe that as the plastics break down, they will retain chemical contaminants such as (PCBs) and other toxins. Fish and other marine life feeding on these so called toxic little pills will cause the chemicals to up the food chain. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continues to track the rubble and predicts the mass will begin to wash up on the coast of Hawaii late this year.

More on this story: Huffington Post, Washington Post, PBS NewsHour, The Telegraph

Nation of Kiribati plans relocation of entire population over rising sea level
The South Pacific’s Island nation of Kiribati joins the growing number of people having to permanently leave their homelands due to climate change. The nation of 103,000 people have been bracing for this reality by moving their communities inland, negotiating for permanent land in Fiji and educating it’s young people. The president of Kiribati, President Anote Tong, says the country is determined to come into their new land as immigrants who can gain a foothold in society and wish not to be considered second-class citizens or environmental refugees.

Run-of-river hydro killing BC fish

In British Columbia, the Vancouver Sun and the Wilderness Committee have both obtained documentation through freedom of information requests that shows the effects that BC’s hydro power plants are having on the surrounding rivers and fish populations. The report finds that fish are being killed by water-flow fluctuations caused by run-of-river hydro projects. Over 70 per cent of independent power projects in BC are found in water bodies with known or suspected fish populations. Impacts from such projects include severely decreased water flows which rapidly change water levels; negatively impacting river health and fish populations.