Newsletter of the
INTERNATIONAL ENVIRONMENT FORUM
Volume 14, Number 8 --- 15 September 2012
Article submission: firstname.lastname@example.org Deadline next issue 13 October 2012
Secretariat Email: email@example.com General Secretary Emily Firth
Postal address: 12B Chemin de Maisonneuve, CH-1219 Chatelaine, Geneva, Switzerland
Download the pdf version
From the Editor, Request for information for upcoming newsletters
This newsletter is an opportunity for IEF members to share their experiences, activities, and initiatives that are taking place at the community level on climate change action. All members are welcome to contribute information about related activities, upcoming conferences, news from like-minded organizations, recommended websites, book reviews, etc. Please send information to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please share the Leaves newsletter and IEF membership information with family, friends and associates, and encourage interested persons to consider becoming a member of the IEF.
IEF DIRECTORY UPDATES NEEDED
The IEF Directory of Members is an important tool to encouraging networking among our membership, and it demonstrates our credibility as a professional organization for the environment and sustainability. However, many members have never updated their entries in the directory since they joined IEF, often a decade or more ago. You can consult the directory on the IEF web site at https://iefworld.org/director.htm to see what information we have on you.
To update your entry, you can log into the web site, go to "My account", and edit or add to your information yourself. You can even upload your photograph and provide a link to your own web site or blog address. Every IEF member with a valid email address was sent a temporary password last year to give you access to the web site and to allow you to choose your own password. IEF associates have recently been sent passwords also. If you have lost your password and changed email address so that a new password cannot be sent to you, write to email@example.com.
Note that updated entries on the IEF web site do not immediately appear in the Directory of Members, as the two are not presently linked automatically. If you want your new entry to appear before the next update of the directory, write to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also send updates of your email, address and directory information directly to email@example.com.
Access to the web site also allows you to make comments, create your own blog, or start a forum discussion. If you have web development experience (especially with drupal), and would like to help maintain and expand the web site, please write to the secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The IEF Governing Board issued five statements for the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012
Preparing for Environmental Migration
With accelerating climate change, sea level rise, resource degradation and water shortages, the projected scale of forced environmental migration in coming decades will exceed anything previously experienced, with estimates of 100-500 million people or more permanently displaced. This will be traumatic for those displaced, and represents an enormous challenge for the receiving countries and communities where immigration is presently a major source of political, economic and social tension and human rights violations.
It is essential to be proactive to prevent increasing humanitarian crises, widespread human suffering and additional environmental impacts. The international community should begin now to organize an appropriate international response to forced environmental migration, that includes the institutional, financial and humanitarian dimensions.
One priority is to undertake scientific assessments of the human carrying capacity of different regions of the world and anticipated changes in that capacity with climate change to determine which regions and countries will be unable to support their present or projected populations and which areas have the space and resources to receive environmental migrants.
The United Nations should initiate negotiations for an international legal framework for environmental migrants comparable to that already functioning for political refugees, to recognize their status as displaced persons with no possibility of return, and to protect their human rights. Provision could be included for migration in groups or as whole communities to assist in preserving social relationships, community structures and cultures.
Ultimately it will be necessary to establish a mechanism under the United Nations to facilitate the free movement of people, similar in function to the World Trade Organization encouraging the free movement of goods in trade. This intergovernmental mechanism would negotiate a lowering of barriers to immigration, and facilitate the settlement of environmental migrants among countries able to receive them. There should be a financial mechanism to ensure that the costs of resettlement are equitably shared by the international community.
To prepare the public for this growing challenge, governments and civil society organizations should initiate wide public discussion of environmental migration, the imperative of showing solidarity with victims of climate change and other environmental changes based on underlying ethical principles, the advantages of immigration for receiving communities, and the means to build unity among peoples of diverse origins and cultures. Faith-based groups should explore the implications of their teachings welcoming guests and strangers. The aim should be to replace the present rejection of immigrants by solidarity with the victims of climate change and other environmental disasters, and a welcoming of displaced persons as new protagonists in building diverse and sustainable communities.
Principles and Indicators for a Green Economy
The controversy surrounding proposals for the green economy reflects fears that a superficial response will not address fundamental concerns about justice, equity, and social and environmental responsibility. Some relevant principles have already been adopted in the 1992 Rio Declaration and elsewhere. We call for an explicit statement of the principles underlying a green economy for a socially-just and sustainable society, recalling previous principles and extending them where necessary. We also need new indicators reflecting a broader view of development than just material well-being.
The green economy should:
- further a dynamic and thriving social order that is just, fair and equitable to all;
- foster an attitude and understanding of a world3 encompassing trusteeship wherein each individual and nation-state has responsibilities to the planet, its peoples, and to future generations;
- be strongly altruistic and cooperative in nature;
- provide meaningful employment;
- help to eradicate poverty in the world while reducing extremes of wealth;
- ensure sustainable environmental management;
- provide the peoples and institutions of the world with the means to achieve the real purpose of development: that is, the cultivation of the limitless potentialities latent in human consciousness for the betterment of the world.
The dominant economic indicators such as GDP do not provide signals for sustainability, and even sustainable development indicators miss some of the most important driving forces necessary to move on a trajectory towards sustainability. In particular, the underlying materialistic assumptions of most economic thinking do not reflect the values of a majority of the peoples of the world. The development by Bhutan of Gross National Happiness is an example of what can be done at the national level. Recent research has shown the practicality of values-based indicators at the project or group level (http://www.esdinds.eu).
It is urgent to develop indicators reflecting the values and ethics underlying individual and collective choices and behaviour necessary to achieve sustainability, while incorporating and adapting to the diverse cultural, ethnic and spiritual traditions of nations and peoples. Such indicators should reflect a more complete vision of the goals and purpose of a sustainable and everadvancing civilization and of desires for happiness and prosperity.
Efforts should be extended in every country to encourage research and public debate on rethinking prosperity and happiness in the context of human well-being and community development in a sustainable society, as the basis for developing national indicators of progress towards these goals. At the international level, values-based and ethical indicators should be added to the indicators of sustainable development prepared under the Commission on Sustainable Development. Civil society organizations should explore the relevance of values-based indicators of education for sustainable development for use at all levels in their organizations, communities, projects and businesses.
New indicators of development should be designed to focus on the individual as well as the community, since human progress really takes place at both the individual and collective levels. The best measure of development should be how well each human being, individually and in the context of community, is enabled to fulfil her or his potential for a prosperous and rewarding life, a refined character, and service in advancing civilization.
Ethical Support to Policy Making
Policy-making today is too often governed by political expediency and the pressures of vested interests. Governments pay lip service to declarations of principles, but seldom consider their relevance to “the real world”. The UN has adopted ethical principles in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Rio Declaration, Article 3 of the United Nationas Framework Convention on Climate Change (1992) and other instruments, but too often they remain as generalities and their implications are not sufficiently considered in policy and decisionmaking. Paragraph 6 of the WSSD Plan of Implementation on the importance of ethics for sustainable development requires further action to be effective. Civil society has also completed drafting of the Earth Charter after the failure to agree on a text in Rio in 1992.
We propose two institutional measures at the United Nations to ensure that both recognized international ethical principles and the ethical concerns of civil society are available to UN bodies and decision-makers when adopting policies, programmes and actions.
1. Establish a UN Permanent Forum on Ethics and Religion, patterned after the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, where faith-based organizations and those addressing ethical issues, that accept the principles of the UN Charter, declarations and covenants, can consider the ethical and spiritual implications of UN policies, activities and proposals and make submissions to ECOSOC and other relevant UN bodies.
2. Create within the UN Secretariat an Office of Ethical Assessment to prepare reports, at its own initiative or on request for the General Assembly, the Security Council, ECOSOC and other UN bodies, programmes and agencies, on the ethical implications of issues, policies and programmes under consideration by these bodies, with reference to the ethical principles in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Rio Declaration and other instruments and covenants, and to the world's spiritual, philosophical and cultural traditions.
These two mechanisms would ensure that decision-makers would have the relevant ethical principles at hand when adopting their decisions. They would also involve civil society and faithbased organizations more directly in UN processes, increasing their implication in international governance and their sense of collective responsibility for the directions that society is taking.
Science and Technology for Community Empowerment
The foundation of human development is our inherent capacity to learn. Science and technology should be accessible to everyone in accordance with their capacity, but they remain largely the preserve of an educated elite with a top-down process of delivery. Most technological development today is driven by market forces that neither reflect nor respond to the basic needs of the world’s peoples. To achieve sustainability, everyone should be empowered with the tools and approaches of science: evidence based reasoning, understanding cause and effect, experimentation, thinking in terms of systems in a long-term perspective, and learning adaptive management in a time of dynamic change. The natural and social sciences, crafts, and local and indigenous knowledge based on similar processes of observation and experimentation, can all contribute to sustainable community development. Institutional capacity and learning processes should be developed within local populations to create and apply knowledge in ways that address the specific needs of that population.
Governments, the scientific community and civil society should build a base for the universal extension of the natural and social sciences and technology through educational and capacity building programmes and regional centres of research and training that are accessible to everyone and ensure widespread participation in the generation and application of knowledge. There is a need to support the development and implementation of curriculum materials that introduce scientific thinking and methods into all levels of education, with particular attention to countries that have fallen behind in scientific and technological development.
A new focus is needed on science at the community level. Civil society organizations should be encouraged to develop community and neighbourhood educational programmes and to stimulate community consultation on the science and ethics of environmental responsibility, climate change, moderation in consumption, sustainable use of energy and resources, environmental migration, and local environmental management. These processes should facilitate the integration of natural and social sciences and indigenous knowledge systems in defining sustainable environmental management adapted to local conditions and cultures and to community needs. In addition, methodologies for environmental impact assessment and monitoring should be adapted to make them accessible to local communities and resource users regardless of their educational level, supported by extension programmes in their use to support local sustainability. These community processes should be supported and encouraged by regional centres of research and training for sustainable development empowered to create technologies addressing locally defined needs and priorities that take into account both the material and moral prosperity of society as a whole.
Youth Need Reasons to Hope from Rio+20
The economic crises and social movements that have shaken many countries in the last few years underlie the desperate search of young people for hope and meaning in the face of environmental threats, lack of employment opportunities, shrinking economies and social disruption. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in Rio de Janeiro on 20-22 June 2012 should take courageous decisions on the green economy and institutional arrangements for sustainability that will give youth a reason to look positively on their future.
To resolve a variety of problems born of the economic inequalities so prevalent in the world today, social and economic development will require, especially among the younger generations, a fundamental re-examination of certain relationships and fundamental concepts that currently sustain society and its structures, such as the relationships amongst and between nation states and the very concept of sovereignty itself; the true purpose of life; the nature of progress; the meaning of true happiness and well-being; the place that material pursuits should assume in one's individual and family life; and the role of youth as contributors to planetary wellbeing.
Social justice will be attained only when every member of society enjoys a relative degree of material prosperity and gives due regard to the development of spiritual capabilities. The solution, then, to prevailing economic difficulties is to be sought as much in the application of spiritual principles as in the implementation of scientific methods and evidence-based approaches that ensure material prosperity.
We need to start with an appropriate view of material wealth and its utilization. In the material world, to every end has been assigned a means for its accomplishment. Thus vigilance must be exercised in distinguishing "means" from "ends"; otherwise, what is intended as a mere instrument could easily become the very goal of an individual's life.
The acquisition of wealth is a case in point; it is acceptable and praiseworthy to the extent that it serves as a means for achieving higher ends--for meeting one's basic necessities, for fostering the progress of one's family, for promoting the welfare of society, and for contributing to the establishment of a world civilization. But to make the accumulation of wealth the central purpose of one's life is unworthy of any human being.
An idea closely related to the above is that the end does not serve to justify the means. However constructive and noble the goal, however significant to one's life or to the welfare of one's family, it must not be attained through unjust or elicit means.
The legitimacy of wealth depends on how it is acquired and on how it is expended. Wealth is praiseworthy in the highest degree, if it is acquired by an individual's own efforts in commerce, agriculture, crafts and industry, if the measures adopted by the individual in generating wealth serve to enrich the generality of the people, and if the wealth thus obtained is expended for philanthropic purposes and the promotion of knowledge, for the establishment of schools and industry and the advancement of education, and in general for the welfare of society and the betterment of the world.
A host of negative forces, generated by the materialism and corruption so widespread in the world, present a challenge in upholding standards of ethical and moral conduct with respect to financial affairs. The members of every generation would do well to ponder the difference between gaining wealth through earnest effort on the one hand, and, on the other, obtaining it without exertion or through dishonourable means. Rampant corruption and deceit must end, and it is here that the youth of the world can distinguish themselves through a moral rectitude of conduct so refined that it will radically transform the unjust relationships that perpetuate global poverty and the concentration of wealth by a few. Let them consider the consequences of each for the spiritual development of the individual, as well as the progress of society, and ask themselves what possibilities exist for generating income and acquiring wealth that will ensure true happiness through the development of spiritual qualities, such as honesty, trustworthiness, generosity, justice, and consideration for others, and the recognition that material means are to be expended for the betterment of the world.
Today the world is assailed by an array of destructive forces. Materialism has now spread to every corner of the planet, breeding, in the name of a strong global economy and human welfare, a culture of consumerism. It skillfully and ingeniously promotes a habit of consumption that seeks to satisfy the basest and most selfish desires, while encouraging the expenditure of wealth so as to prolong and exacerbate social conflict. One result is a deepening confusion on the part of young people everywhere, a sense of hopelessness in the ranks of those who would drive progress, and the emergence of a myriad social maladies.
The key to resolving these social ills rests in the hands of a youthful generation convinced of the nobility of all human beings; eagerly seeking a deeper understanding of the true purpose of existence; clear in the view of science and religion as two independent yet complementary systems of knowledge that propel human progress; conscious of and drawn to the beauty and power of unity in diversity; secure in the knowledge that real glory is to be found in service to one's country and to the peoples of the world; and mindful that the acquisition of wealth is praiseworthy only insofar as it is attained through just means and expended for benevolent purposes, for the promotion of knowledge and toward the common good. Thus must the youth of the world prepare themselves to shoulder the tremendous responsibilities that await them, immune to the atmosphere of greed that surrounds them.
We call on the leaders of government, business and civil society assembled in Rio to take courageous decisions in favour of future generations, and to inspire the youth of their countries and the world to press forward toward these challenging goals.
* A joint statement with the European Baha'i Business Forum. This statement contains material from a message dated 2 April 2010 from the international council of the Bahá'í Faith.
PERL EXTENDED FOR THREE YEARS
The Partnership for Education and Research about Responsible Living (PERL) in which the International Environment Forum plays an active role, has received funding from the European Union Erasmus Network Program for a new three-year period to October 2015. PERL is coordinated by IEF board member Prof. Victoria Thoresen.
IEF members will have a number of specific responsibilities during PERL2. Under the heading "Strengthening Individual Awareness: Bridging the knowledge/action gap", a team led by Arthur Dahl and including Onno Vinkhuyzen and Victoria Thoresen will develop a Toolkit for Teachers to introduce the use of values-based indicators for sustainable living. This will adapt the new methods for assessing and measuring values developed in the ESDinds research project (http://www.esdinds.eu) over the last four years, and reported on at the 15th IEF Annual Conference in Brighton, for use in schools. In addition, Sylvia Karlsson-Vinkhuyzen is part of a group to follow-up the Rio+20 Earth Summit by participating in European events related to responsible living. Victoria will also be leading the establishment of an International Centre for Education and Research about Responsible Living at her university in Norway. Victoria and Arthur are in a working group to consult and cooperate with relevant projects and partnerships. For more information, see http://www.perlprojects.org/. If you are interested in becoming actively involved in PERL, please contact Arthur Dahl at email@example.com.
IUCN Campaign to Petition Governments & Businesses to Restore Forest Habitat
Welcome to Plant a Pledge
The IUCN and Airbus are urging the public to sign a petition, to persuade governments, businesses and environmental experts to commit to restoring 150 million hectares of lost landscapes in the biggest restoration initiative ever.
Mankind has removed more than half of the planet's original forest cover. All the time this land stays barren and unrestored, the lives of millions of people and the survival of entire communities, cultures and ecosystems, remain under threat.
We can restore many of these landscapes. A restored landscape can accommodate a mosaic of different land uses. Forest and landscape restoration turns barren or degraded areas of land into healthy, fertile, working landscapes that can meet the needs of people and the natural environment. In 2011, an international assembly of high-level representatives from governments, businesses and conservation groups set a target to restore 150 million hectares of degraded lands by 2020. This agreement is called the Bonn Challenge.
Reaching the target will demand the success of dozens, possibly hundreds of landscape restoration projects around the world.
It's going to take the biggest restoration initiative the world has ever seen. And it will take pledges of support from millions of people, businesses and organisations to put pressure on governments to make it happen. And it all starts when you Plant A Pledge with us today.
ARC major event in Nairobi, Sept 18-20, to launch 26 African faith commitments
The Many Heavens, One Earth, Our Continent celebration will be held from 18-20 September, 2012 at the All Africa Conference of Churches’ Desmond Tutu Conference Centre in Nairobi, Kenya.
It will be attended by senior representatives of 26 Christian, Muslim and Hindu faith groups from Cameroon, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe - which between them reach out to 183.86 million followers.
The plans, which have been developed over the past 18 months, outline the environmental actions the faith groups commit to taking over the next seven years and include each group’s faith mandate to protect the environment.
In particular, the plans focus on practical action to:
• Plant millions of trees across Africa;
• Launch major awareness campaigns on the environment and global warming;
• Engage in extensive environmental education (more than half the schools in these countries are run by the faiths; they also have huge influence in community groups, women's groups and youth networks);
• Train their people in sustainable farming.
“With 90 per cent of Africa’s population being either Christian or Muslim, the way to the heart of Africa is through faith. And faith is at the heart of these plans,” says ARC Secretary General Martin Palmer.
“Faith groups all around Africa are rediscovering how the mandate to protect the richness of God’s Creation is clearly set out in their holy texts and this is leading to profound practical action – everything from restoring habitats and planting trees to reducing energy use and training young people in environmental care and protection.”
Africa's biggest civil society movement on climate change
Mr Palmer added: “In 2009, when 31 faith groups from around the world launched long-term plans on the environment at ARC’s Windsor Celebration, UN Assistant Secretary-General Olav Kjørven described it as ‘potentially the biggest civil society movement on climate change in history’ and ‘the biggest mobilisation of people and communities that we have ever seen on this issue’.
“With these inspiring and carefully developed plans, African faith groups are also responding to the challenge facing our planet. We believe they constitute the biggest – and potentially the most important – civil society movement on climate change yet seen in Africa."
Successful Ugandan launches
Some of the plans have already been successfully launched in their own countries at ceremonies attended by senior faith representatives and government officials.
They include the launch of the plan developed by the Uganda Muslim Youth Assembly Humanitarian Efforts (UMYA) and Relief Uganda (HEAR Uganda), which was attended by hundreds of people including members of parliament, religious and political leaders, and representatives of civil society groups, says Immam Kasozi of UMYA.
"Guest of honour was the Shadow Minister of Water and Environment, Hon. Jon Ken Lukyamuzi who gave a most moving speech," he said.
Hundreds of people also attended the launch of the plan drawn up by Hajjat Sebyala in consultation with the Uganda Muslim Supreme Council (UMSC) and the Uganda Muslim Women Association. Sheikh Rajab Hussein Kakooza, the Chief Imam and Director of Sharia, officiated at the launch at the National Mosque. Protecting wildlife
The Nairobi celebration will also include the launch of faith pledges to protect wildlife in Africa, organised in partnership with WWF. In the past five years alone, rhino poaching has increased over 3,000 per cent while last year witnessed the highest recorded rates of elephant poaching in Africa.
Illegal killing for trade is the biggest factor in the decline of these animals. While every faith has teachings about protecting creation, this will be the first time major faiths of Africa come together to pledge to protect wildlife species.
ARC has produced a book of summaries of all the plans called Many Heavens, One Earth, Our Continent. You can read it at http://www.arcworld.org/downloads/African_Commitments_web-FINAL.pdf. To find out more, visit ARC's Africa projects pages: http://www.arcworld.org/projects.asp?projectID=263 .
Updated 14 September 2012