Environmental Justice

Just Sustainability: Social Justice and Nature’s Rights

Lagoon and lush forest in Ecuador.

Lagoon and lush forest in Ecuador.

This week we are bringing sustainability-related pieces from the archives. First, we hear from Dr. Kelly Swing about how Ecuador has enshrined the rights of nature in its constitution. Then we hear an interview with Winona LaDuke, an indigenous economist about the effects of colonization on Indigenous economies and food systems. Finally, we bring you an interview with Julian Agyeman, chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University about how sustainability should be considered holistically.

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Nature’s Rights in Ecuador

When we think of a constitution we think of basic “human” rights. We, as humans, have the right to vote, the right to practice religion, the right to own property. But what about nature? Ecuador was the first country in the world to establish the rights of nature at a national level, including it in the 2008 constitution. Terra Informa’s Nicole Wiart talks to Doctor Kelly Swing of the Tiputini biodiversity station in Ecuador about how this constitutional change is great in theory, but in practice, there are a lot of hurdles to still overcome.

Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabe Activist

Winona LaDuke is an Anishinaabe environmental activist, economist, and writer. She spent her entire career as an unflagging advocate for food and energy sustainability. She’s the kind of person who can tell you centuries of history about the corn her community grows and then rally it together to build a wind turbine. She ran as the U.S vice-presidential nominee for the United States Green Party in 1996 and 2000, and she remains a leader in North America on issues of locally based sustainable development. Terra Informa correspondent Matt Hirji spoke with Winona LaDuke from her home on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.

More information: Winona LaDuke’s TedxTC Talk – Seeds of our Ancestors, Seeds of Life, Honour the Earth

Just Sustainability

Julian Agyeman is chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University in Boston-Medford, Massachusetts. His research focuses on the intersections between social justice and sustainability, an idea which he terms “just sustainability.”. He describes “just sustainability” as “the need to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems.” Kathryn Lennon spoke with him about the need for the sustainability movement to broaden its work beyond ecological and conservation issues, to include issues of inequality and social justice.

Image Credit: Alejomiranda, Pixabay.

What’s Happening?

Solar Trade Show: February 25th, Edmonton, Alberta

Free Admission

The Solar Trade Show is an event for everyone: homeowners, business owners, community organizations, job seekers, and Indigenous communities. Presentations and workshops will discuss careers in solar energy and how to finance solar energy projects. The event is organized by the Solar Energy Society of Alberta.

Click here for more info.

 

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)

Download this week’s episode

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.

More on the story :

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.

Environmental Justice & Net Zero Homes

Today on Terra Informa we’re joined by Professor Julian Agyeman who tells us about his work exploring the connections between social justice and sustainability. We also speak to two home owners who are pushing the limits of energy efficiency. Shafraaz Kaba and Matt McCombe talk about their experiences building high efficiency homes and what they learned along the way.

Download this week’s show.

The Mill Creek net zero home in Edmonton. Photo courtesy of Conrad Nobert.

Julian Agyeman
Julian Agyeman is chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University in Boston-Medford, Massachusetts. His research focuses on the intersections between social justice and sustainability, an idea which he terms just sustainability. He describes just sustainability as “the need to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems”. Kathryn Lennon spoke with him about the need for the sustainabilty movement to broaden its work beyond ecological and conservation issues, to include issues of inequality and social justice.

More on this story: Julian’s Blog

Net Zero Homes
When it comes to high efficiency, net zero is the holy grail. That’s when you construct a building that’s so efficient it requires only minimal amounts of heat and electricity, and then you supply that power by adding some form of green energy generation to the structure — solar panels, wind turbines, or geothermal heating. On a day to day basis it may draw some power from the grid, or feed some back in, but over the course of a year things average out and it doesn’t consume any energy at all. The initial investiment can be a bit pricy, but the idea is that over the lifetime of the building it really pays off. Shafraaz Kaba and Matt McCombe are huge proponents of energy efficient buildings. Shafraaz is an architect and Matt is a builder, and they both practice what they preach in their own homes. Terra Informa spoke to them about what it’s like to live in a high efficiency home, and what a person needs to know if they want to make the switch.

Edmonton Listeners: Matt and Shafraaz will be part of a free panel discussion on net zero homes on Wednesday evening at Grant MacEwan University. Full details here.

More on this story: Shafraaz’s Blog: Chasing Net Zero, Shafraaz on The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, Solar Energy Society of Alberta, Canadian Net Zero Resources, CMHC EQuilibrium Program

News Headlines
Canada joins coalition to cut emissions of short-lived climate pollutants
Canada is putting a small wedge of its climate funding into a new program to reduce some of the short-lived pollutants that contribute to climate change. Environment Minister Peter Kent said the government will join a group of six countries, including the US, Mexico, and Bangladesh to fund programs reducing soot, methane and hydrofluorocarbon emissions in the global South. These chemicals are major players in forcing climate change, but they don’t last as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

More on this story: Letter in EOS (PDF Format), Nature Blog, BBC News, World Wildlife Fund

Low doses of pollutants linked to diabetes
An increasing amount of research suggests that some pollutants may be bigger culprits than obesity in causing diabetes. Dr. Duk-Hee Lee, a researcher at Korea’s Kyungpook National University School of Medicine, has been examining studies on populations affected by obesity and type 2 diabetes, and possible links to chemicals called persistent organic pollutants (POPs). Dr. Lee’s review, published in the journal Epidemiology and Health, showed that in one US study, type 2 diabetes rates were 15 to 40 times higher in populations with higher levels of one class of POPs. Studies on other animals suggested POPs can affect the body’s hormone regulation, and end up suppressing release of hormones like insulin.

More on this story: Epidemology and HealthEnvironmental Health Perspectives

Prime Minister please unmuzzle the scientists
The Canadian Science Writers Association published an open letter addressed to Steven Harper this week. The letter, titled “Prime Minister please unmuzzle the scientists” urged the PM office to stop a practise where federal scientists are censored and stopped from speaking with journalists without the permission of a public relations officer. They stated that the PM’s office routinely delayed or even stonewalled media interviews with federal scientists who could give valuable perspectives on contentious issues. The letter argued that the government has employed this strategy to take informed dialogue out of the news cycle in order to create an “atmosphere dominated by political messaging.

More on this story: Canadian Science Writers Association, CBC News, Montreal Gazette

Natural gas firm to face charges over pipeline leak
SemCAMS ULC faces several environmental charges after one of their pipelines leaked near a creek in west-central Alberta. The leak released approximately 850,000 litres of saline water, impacting a large area downstream and destroying wetlands. SenCAMS ULC did not immediately report the spill causing further environmental damages. The entire pipeline has since been replaced. The company’s representatives are expected to appear in provincial court on April 23 to face charges under the Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act.

More on this story: Calgary Herald, Winnipeg Free Press, Toronto Sun