Archive for June, 2012

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Climate Change

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Guest Post by David Suzuki Foundation There’s a lot of information floating around about climate change. Most people know it has something to do with industrial pollution, changing weather and car exhaust, and they kind of get what Al Gore was trying to say in An Inconvenient Truth. But when asked to explain the problem in lay terms, they get tripped up in a lot of verbal stumbling. In a nutshell, climate change occurs when long-term weather patterns are altered — for example, through human activity. Global warming is one measure of climate change, and is a rise in the average global temperature. How does it happen?
  • Life on Earth is possible because of the warmth of the sun. While some of this incoming solar radiation bounces back into space, a small portion of it is trapped by the delicate balance of gases that make up our atmosphere. Without this layer of insulation, Earth would simply be another frozen rock hurtling through space. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is the most important gas in this layer of insulation.
  • Carbon is stored all over the planet — in plants, soil, the ocean, and even us. We release it into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide through activities such as burning fossil fuels (coal, oil and gas) and cutting down trees. As a result, today’s atmosphere contains 32 per cent more carbon dioxide than it did at the start of the industrial era.
  • We have released so much carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases that our planet’s atmosphere is now like a thick, heat-trapping blanket. By disrupting the atmospheric balance that keeps the climate stable, we are now seeing extreme effects around the globe. It’s like a thermostat that’s gone haywire — it just doesn’t work the way it should. The result: the climate changes, and it gets warmer. Extreme weather events also become more common.
  • Global warming has already begun. Since 1900, the global average temperature has risen by 0.6 degrees Celsius, and the northern hemisphere is substantially warmer than at any point during the past 1,000 years.
Who keeps tab on Climate Change? Our understanding of climate change is largely the result of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world’s most authoritative voice on the topic. Established by the United Nations, the IPCC assesses the scientific and socio-economic information relevant to climate change. The IPCC also looks at the potential impacts of climate change, and options for slowing it down or adapting to it. The IPCC has released several assessment reports over the years. More than 2,500 scientific expert reviewers, 800 contributing authors and 450 lead authors from over 130 countries contributed to the last one, the Fourth Assessment Report. The Fifth Assessment Report’s Working Group I report is expected to be released in 2013. Despite the international scientific community’s consensus on climate change, a small number of climate change deniers continue to deny that climate change exists or that humans are causing it. However, these individuals are generally not climate scientists, and their arguments have been discredited by the scientific community at large. The debate is over about whether or not climate change is real; it is now time to act to solve the problem. —————————————————————————————————————————————————- David Suzuki Foundation works with government, business and individuals to conserve our environment by providing science-based research, education and policy work, and acting as a catalyst for the change that today’s situaton demands. Photo credits iucn.org
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Notes from the webinar: Rethinking Economics and Governance with Peter Brown

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  Yesterday evening we joined the webinar “Rethinking Economics and Governance with Peter Brown. The webinar was organized by Earth Charter , and it was facilitated by Mirian Vilela, Executive Director of Earth Charter Secretariat and Center for Education for Sustainable Development. Peter Brown presented and discussed his findings from a research which uses the Earth Charter as a framework for rethinking economics, finance, governance, law, and ethics. For all of you who did not make it to the webinar, Earth Charter has a recording available online. As for us, we’d like to share some of the notes we took :   Geoff Garner:  “I work with Peter at McGill – the critique of TEEB is that TEEB is all about using monetary valuation of ecosystem services, and putting everything in terms of monetary valuation is a huge problem – one that infects economics, finance, law, governance, etc. (note: Its sponsors declare TEEB – The Economics of Ecosystem and Biodiversity – to be a “major international initiative to draw attention to the global economic benefits of biodiversity, to highlight the growing costs of biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation, and to draw together expertise from the fields of science, economics and policy to enable practical actions moving forward. / Wikipedia)   → We urgently need to move to a sustainable development path, coherent policies with people & the planet to the centre. → The problem will be bigger in the developed countries where the education systems are not that flexible → Isn’t commodification just an intermediary step? Putting any price on natural resources is better than everyone thinking they’re free, no? (this one was from Douglas F. Williamson, Interactive and Social Media Coordinator at the Earth Charter)   → How do you address the fear of developing countries who view the new discourse on green economy as likely to afford developed countries with the opportunity to set out unilateral trade protection measures; which means to limit them to develop? → Is it possible to reach global consensus on the goals of what a healthy environment actually looks like?  In my experience, we couldn’t even get cross-ministry agreement on the size of buffer required for riparian area protection at the provincial level. → One of the processes emerging across the world and across ideologues is the accelerating proliferation of participatory processes of decision making, institution building, and socio-cultural expression. Are there any systemic drivers pushing this, from Zapatistas to World Bank, Blair to Gaddafi?   Geoff Garner: I work with Peter at McGill – the critique of the green economy approach is that it puts “sustainable economic growth” front and center, regardless of planetary boundaries, and locks in the advantage of developed countries.  Where we need to get to is for developed countries  to severely reduce their consumption, and work more toward fair sharing of access to activities that put pressure on the global ecosystem, plus fair sharing of the burdens of environmental problems. The view of the US and others that they have no responsibility for past contribution to climate change, biodiversity loss, etc., is not acceptable. Charles Skinner: In the next 20 to 50 years, at our rate of consumption, there will be no more resources in the ground: petroleum, gas, iron, copper, etc.  No fresh water. Economies must be based on stasis, not growth. How can we prepare for that? Population growth must be stopped. No one speaks of that. Thoughts? Rebecca Reeves: population is also a GENDER issue!  Does this report address the moral and ethical issues we face not only for the planet, but also for women? Lots of questions – loving this discussion.  Would really like this question answered:  Is it actually possible to reach global consensus on the goals of what a healthy environment actually looks like?  In my experience, we couldn’t even get cross-ministry agreement on the size of buffer required for riparian area protection at the provincial level  required for riparian area protection at the provincial level. Ismael Mexico: I think we can give a general idea, but local authorities and communities must define an specific vision, since environments are very different. Charles Skinner: When it comes to reaching consensus, I have discovered that the main reason people disagree about a situation is that they have different information.  Get everyone to share all of their information and data first and agreement on solutions increases a lot. Goeff Garver: In response to Rebecca’s question, the ultimate challenge is to change the framework in which the question is asked if we gave ecological limits primal importance, instead of short-term economic terms.  If the main question is “how can we collectively stay within planetary boundaries” than maybe the question becomes easier to answer. Ismael Mexico: Yes, Geoff, the evolution of such a mindset on a global level would make a huge difference, and be an extraordinary leap. The tension is whether we wait for such capacity building to guide global decision making, or take decisions on behalf of the masses without the local insights that Paola highlights, as happened with the big food campaign in Africa in the 50s, which changed, disastrously, the food chain, with the best of intentions and guided by the best science available. Rebbecca Reeves:  How can international laws actually be enforced?   At the human rights level, we are still struggling at the global level, and this discussion has been going on for decades. CyberRed: the point of triple bottom line in my estimation is about beginning to diversify measurement and outcomes Earth Charter Intern: I agree: education is central to make the paradigm shift happen Charles Skinner: Development is NOT SUSTAINABLE.  We must use a new term  “Stasis”  We must learn to live on less and less, not more and more.  We need to discuss and measure “Sustainable living” not sustainable development. Goeff Garver: On enforcement of international laws, look at the WTO, and enforcement of NAFTA Chapter 11 – that is REAL, supranational enforcement with teeth, and it is accepted by countries who are quick to raise the sovereignty flag for other things CyberRed: I was thinking that a shift has to be made in how we organize the production of our means to life.   Full recording of the webinar can be viewed at Earth Charter WizIQ link. (bonus editorial: Don’t repair the economy, change it, by Peter G. Brown and Geoffrey Garver) —————————————————————————————————————————————————- posted by Education for Sustainability, graphics credit sustainabilitytank.info
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Ethical Eating

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Ethical eating is not about absolutes; it’s about doing your best. Guest post by Syd Baumel A little over a year ago, two years into my transition from mild-mannered vegetarian to in-your-face vegan, I came to the conclusion that most people don’t want to buy what I have to sell. I was failing in my would-be mission as an advocate for the nearly 50 billion farm animals slaughtered every year around the world. The goal posts of vegetarianism, much less vegansim, were set far too high for most people – and some questioned the goal itself. Might there be a better way, I wondered, for my ethical vegetarian colleagues and I to reach the resistant masses? It has always been anguishingly obvious to people like us that most nonvegetarians do love animals; yet . . . they still eat them. I found myself meditating on this challenge at the lake that summer, and quickly a vision of another strategy took shape. Compromise. Tell people any change is better than no change at all. Get people and organizations of influence – movie stars, political and spiritual leaders, scientists, intellectuals – to speak up with one voice for ethical eating. Reframe the message from all-or-nothing veganism to anything-is-better-than-nothingism and the-more-the-betterism. As I was later to write in a letter to The New York Times Magazine, the opposite kind of all-or-nothing reasoning by the magazine’s food columnist – that “if you cannot be merciful to all edible animals, you needn’t be merciful to any” – “is a recipe for moral indifference. Every act of mercy is a sufficient act of kindness unto itself.”  In other words, I wanted myself, my activist colleagues, and others not yet even involved in this inclusive mass movement to send people an alternative message about food: you don’t have to be ethical all the time (or according to other people’s standards) to be ethical. You don’t have to be the Dalai Lama to be a good guy – indeed, even the Dalai Lama eats meat every other day.* You’re probably not a vegetarian either. Only about 4% of Canadians are. But I bet you’re concerned about issues related to your dietary choices – issues like protecting the environment, supporting farmers and other people in the food production chain, being kind to animals, and eliminating world hunger. Perhaps you’re buying organic food more often because it’s better for the environment, for farmers and public health, and typically for animals too.  Perhaps you’re eating more humane-certified, free range, or grazed/pastured animal products because you believe any animal that puts food on your table ought to be treated with at least a little compassion. Perhaps you oppose genetically modified crops because you believe they pose a threat to biodiversity – and therefore to the world’s food security – or because you worry that GMOs threaten public health. Perhaps you drink fair trade coffee or tea or eat fair trade chocolate so as not to support the exploitation of impoverished farmers in the developing world – even child slaves, in the case of chocolate Perhaps you give generously to aid agencies or donate to food banks so that others can eat too. If you do any of these things, you’re part of a burgeoning, spontaneous, and so far nameless movement (I would call it the ethical eating movement, a subset of ethical consumerism) of people who strive to eat not just what’s good for number one, but what’s good for everyone. You are extending your sphere of moral interest to include the very food chain that sustains you. You are co-authoring a new chapter in the moral awakening of humanity. Ethical eating, like ethical living, is not about absolutes. It’s about doing the best you’re willing and able to do – and nurturing a will to keep doing better. ————————————————————————————————————————————————— Syd Baumel’s full editorial was originally published in The Aquarian in 2003. A year later, he created eatkind.net. photo credits www.hellomila.com
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Rio+20 Critical Issue / Food Security and Sustainable Agriculture

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Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Food security covers availability, access, utilization and stability issues, and — in its focus on individuals — also embraces their energy, protein and nutrient needs for life, activity, pregnancy, growth and long-term capabilities . Sustainable agriculture is not officially defined but generally refers to the capacity of agriculture over time to contribute to overall welfare by providing sufficient food and other goods and services in ways that are economically efficient and profitable, socially responsible, and environmentally sound. It is time to rethink how we grow, share and consume our food. If done right, agriculture, forestry and fisheries can provide nutritious food for all and generate decent incomes, while supporting people-centred rural development and protecting the environment. But right now, our soils, freshwater, oceans, forests and biodiversity are being rapidly degraded. Climate change is putting even more pressure on the resources we depend on, increasing risks associated with disasters such as droughts and floods. Many rural women and men can no longer make ends meet on their land, forcing them to migrate to cities in search of opportunities. A profound change of the global food and agriculture system is needed if we are to nourish today’s 925 million hungry and the additional 2 billion people expected by 2050.

The food and agriculture sector offers key solutions for development, and is central for hunger and poverty eradication.

Here are some facts and figures:

  • Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40 per cent of today’s global population. It is the largest source of income and jobs for poor rural households.
  • 500 million small farms worldwide, most still rainfed, provide up to 80 per cent of food consumed in a large part of the developing world. Investing in smallholder women and men is an important way to increase food security and nutrition for the poorest, as well as food production for local and global markets.
  • Since the 1900s, some 75 per cent of crop diversity has been lost from farmers’ fields. Better use of agricultural biodiversity can contribute to more nutritious diets, enhanced livelihoods for farming communities and more resilient and sustainable farming systems.
  • 1.3 billion people have no access to electricity worldwide – most of which live in rural areas of the developing world. Energy poverty in many regions is a fundamental barrier to reducing hunger and ensuring that the world can produce enough food to meet future demand.
—————————————————————————————————————————————————- Source and further reading: http://www.uncsd2012.org  , photo credits memphismagazine.com Posted by Rio+20
Colorful Chalk at Chalkboard

Education for Sustainability / Call for Schools

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June 6th, 2012 / Worldwide

Education for Sustainability  invites all schools (that are not already in our network) to join us in a joint effort to put sustainability on the curriculum and thus ensure children and youth have the skills to become citizens of a sustainable future.

Input from schools is essential in developing country specific coherent arguments that will help us advocate this initiative with the ministries and other respective governmental bodies (or, as we like to call them – “the decision makers”).

Many schools are already involved in sustainability projects, usually through extracurricular activities. Sharing your experiences and stories would help  inspire other schools to get involved too (maybe even create an extracurricular activity of their own), while together we work towards putting sustainability on the regular curriculum.

We have created a Wiki database (you can access it from our home page – please check out menu tabs in the upper right corner), and this section shares current situation in 30+ countries with regards to teaching sustainability and environment focused subjects.

(Please note that the Wiki page is work in progress. Should you know of a change in the system, update or even a wrong info that we might have misinterpreted, please send us an email to wiki@education4sustainability.org and we’ll sort it out.)

To gather more insights and understand your experiences, we have created simple questionnaires that schools’ representatives can fill in and return to us (once you fill them in, please email them to schools@education4sustainability.org ). You can also complete the questionnaires online by choosing your country from this menu.

If your country is not on the list, but you’d like your school to be a part of this initiative, or you have experiences you’d like to share with us, please send us an email to schools@education4sustainability.org

Finally, do subscribe to our monthly newsletter for updates, progress reports, free publications and other resources.

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posted by Education4Sustainability , photo credits Michigan.gov

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Introducing Education for Sustainability Project

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The basic idea for this project was triggered during the “Knowledge, Youth and Global Commons” international conference, held at Woerthersee, Austria in mid-September 2011. (this link will provide you with the programme of the conference, but also give you access to our notes from the conference – do read those – as they share both thought provoking and inspiring quotes and insights)

As we discussed and brainstormed the situation in the regions we have been active in thus far (South East Europe, Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Central and Eastern Mediterranean) one point kept surfacing – in order to make any significant, long term change that would impact the quality of life, the route of development and future generations – we need to educate people on sustainability and related concepts (from sustainable development and sustainable way of life, to sustainability in business, sustainability science, sustainability management).

While in the Western countries sustainable development can be found as a separate subject in schools’ and university curricula, less developed countries, countries in transition, and countries related to as “emerging markets” were still a long way from even considering of introducing sustainable development in schools’ curricula. In most cases this lack of action is caused by other internal (and often external) issues that seem to be more pressing (political turbulence, economic hardship, human rights issues, difficult transition period and similar). Still, what could be more pressing than ensuring the sustainable future for the generations to come? (Not to mention that Sustainable Development “ties together concern for the carrying capacity of natural systems with the social challenges faced by humanity, and that the concept of sustainable development is often broken out into three constituent parts: environmental sustainability, economic sustainability and sociopolitical sustainability” / Wikipedia)

When asking ourselves “what would be the most effective way of helping”, we defined our answer as “let’s do our best to help introduce Sustainable development in the schools’ curricula in the countries and regions where that is not yet the case.” And here we are :) trying to do just that.

This website was created as a hub, a meeting point, if you will, where we will share not only the progress of this project, but also case studies and practices done by different organizations, businesses, municipalities and governments, we will give you insights in sustainable lifestyle, sustainable science, sustainable economy, we will share facts and stories, opinions and ideas, with the hope that some (or all) of it will inspire you to join us in creating a sustainable future for our children.

Please read the Project Brief and Frequently Asked Questions for more information, and there is also the Wiki page, with more detailed  data on educational systems, legislative framework, environmental and sustainability issues, green economy.

We would love to have you on board, helping us during implementation of the project – if you’d like to join in, please check out Join Us tab. And that’s not all – check back daily for blog posts, subscribe to our newsletter, and join us on social networks.

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   Posted by Sandra Antonovic;   Sandra is the International Projects Director and Chair of the Board of Nektarina Non Profit.  She serves on a pro bono basis.

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Corporate Social Responsibility / European Union

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In October 2011 the European Commission published a new policy on corporate responsibility. It states that to fully meet their social responsibility, enterprises “should have in place a process to integrate social, environmental, ethical and human rights concerns into their business operations and core strategy in close collaboration with their stakeholders”. The aim is both to enhance positive impacts – for example through the innovation of new products and services that are beneficial to society and enterprises themselves – and to minimize and prevent negative impacts.
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) are the predominant form of enterprise in the European Union. If Europe and its enterprises are to reap the full benefits of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), it is vital to make sure that SMEs are fully engaged and that what they do is fully recognised. This is a particular challenge because CSR as a term and as a definable business concept has been created mainly by and for larger companies.
Small businesses are typically not less responsible than large enterprises. They may not know and use the term “CSR”, but their close relations with employees, the local community and business partners often mean they have a naturally responsible approach to business. The Commission believes that for most SMEs, the process by which they meet their social responsibility will remain informal and intuitive. In some EU Member states the concept is well established and there is a high level of enterprise awareness supported by effective public policies to promote CSR. In other European countries, the awareness and development of corporate social responsibility is much less advanced. The key issues of corporate social responsibility vary from company to company. For example, enterprises in the retail sector might have to deal with the risk of poor labour standards in their supply chain, while a mining company is more concerned by the need to avoid infringing the human rights of people living near its operations. The European Alliance on CSR is a business-lead initiative to promote CSR, launched in 2006 with strong backing from the European Commission. It is a vehicle for mobilising the resources and capacities of European enterprises and their stakeholders in the interests of sustainable development, economic growth and job creation.   Post compiled by European Commission.  For more detailed information and reading resources, please visit the European Commission Corporate Social Responsibility platform.