Rachel's Precaution Reporter #123

"Foresight and Precaution, in the News and in the World"

Wednesday, January 2, 2008...........Printer-friendly version
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Featured stories in this issue...

Does the Future Need a Legal Guardian?
  Some environmental and legal scholars are proposing that
  governments at various levels should appoint a "legal guardian of
  future generations" to consider the impact of policy choices on
  citizens yet unborn.
How Safe Are Cell Phones?
  Newsweek: More Americans are giving up their landlines for cell
  phones, but new research indicates that there may be health risks
  associated with long-term wireless use. The Food and Drug
  Administration (FDA) recommends minimizing any potential hazard by
  using hands-free devices and keeping cell-phone talk to a minimum.
Facing the Facts About Climate Change
  It may be a little ironic but the capitalists of today have much in
  common with the Marxists of yesterday. Both look upon the future as an
  endless period of inevitable growth. Likewise, both see the
  environment as an exploitable resource, and have an unwavering faith
  in the virtue of technological progress. Consequently, both are of the
  belief that nothing must stand in the way of this inevitable progress
  -- including the environment.
No Room for Black Sheep in Organic Food and Farming
  "As a new element, the organic farming principle of caution will be
  incorporated directly into the new Organic Farming Act [in Denmark]."
Editorial: Mr President, Stop the Mabira Games
  The precautionary principle which governs the exploitation of
  natural resources like forests, was developed following the 1982 World
  Charter for Nature which provides in its principle 11(b) that
  activities which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature shall
  be preceded by an exhaustive examination.... Studies carried out so
  far clearly show that the proposed destruction of Mabira forest shall
  spell doom for Uganda.


From: Dot earth (N.Y. Times blog), Dec. 29, 2007
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By Andrew C. Revkin

Given the human tendency to favor current needs over future risks,
some environmental and legal scholars are proposing that governments
at various levels appoint a "legal guardian of future generations" to
consider the impact of policy choices on citizens yet unborn.

A leading proponent of this idea is Carolyn Raffensperger, the
executive director of the Science and Environmental Health Network, a
group seeking changes in American environmental and public-health

She is proposing that such a guardianship begin with the next
presidency. Below you'll find a note she recently sent outlining her

I was casting about for an illustration of how this could play out and
realized one decent example is the situation of polar bears in a
human-warmed world. Their populations have risen in recent decades
because of hunting controls. So, for the moment, all is well. But the
long-term picture is bleak, according to the latest analysis by
government bear biologists. How quickly do we act to change energy
choices now to limit chances that Arctic sea ice will disappear
entirely in summers later in the century (something most biologists
agree would greatly diminish bear numbers)? Is it good enough (from
the standpoint of future human generations) to preserve the bears
mainly in zoos?

I spoke with Ms. Raffensperger briefly before the holidays. She
explained that even in some of the most forward-looking environmental
statutes in the United States, like the legislation creating the
national parks, the language on safeguarding this asset "unimpaired"
for future generations is in the preamble, and thus not "hard law."
"We haven't located that responsibility some place in some entity,"
she explained, adding that this was what prompted her to pursue the
idea of a guardian.

I asked about the economic norm of discounting future risks, on the
assumption that coming generations will be richer and smarter than we
are, and thus well able to solve their own problems. She said her view
of the precautionary principle did not allow discounting. "I actually
heard an economist say once that we are obligated to leave these
problems to future generations," Ms. Raffensperger said. "We don't buy

The climate issue embodies this challenge of balancing present and
future costs more than just about any other, many experts say. Long-
lived carbon dioxide emissions accumulate, making the challenge of
averting a dangerous buildup ever harder with every year of delay in
shifting to less polluting (if costlier) energy options.

But the swifter the shift, the higher the costs. It's something of an
intergenerational tug of war, but no one is born yet to pull on the
far end of the rope. That's why she feels that someone in this
generation needs to take on that duty.

In the short run, Ms. Raffensperger explained in an e-mail message to
me, her goal is to get presidential candidates to take a position on
the guardian concept:

"I am proposing that the next president appoint a legal guardian of
future generations that would review litigation at the Department of
Justice, the budget at the Office of Management and Budget, and all
regulations at the environmental agencies. Can you also imagine what
it would be like if the next president used the well-being of future
generations and protecting their inheritance of the commons as the
litmus test for judicial appointments? Since I live in Iowa I have the
opportunity to ask all the candidates rascally questions.

"More generally, we are developing the legal framework to establish
the rights of future generations and our responsibility to them. The
nonprofit I work for, the Science and Environmental Health Network,
has been collaborating with Harvard Law School's Human Rights Clinic
on law as if future generations mattered. [Relevant background is

"Early next year we should have draft constitutional amendments for
states, nations and tribes as well as a draft statute that would
implement constitutional provisions and a job description of a legal
guardian. In the short term, the Legal Guardian is something that
governments at any level could elect or designate. An additional
partnership has been forged with the Vermont Law School to apply
guardianship of future generations specifically to climate change.
[Link here.]

One reason I love the word guardian is that it embodies wonderful
Jungian archetypes. We've been in conversation with people like James
Hillman, the writer and psychologist, about the kind of fertile ground
a powerful archetype provides.

Finally, you might be interested in looking at the work of the
Buddhist Deep Ecologist, Joanna Macy. She's the grandmother of future-
generations work. Joanna does remarkable exercises of taking people
into deep time to have dialogs with the imagined future beings. This
parallels the letters to future generations that you have featured on
your blog.

Carolyn Raffensperger Science and Environmental Health Network

There's a broader movement afoot, outside the realm of government and
law, to build support for protection of the global commons for all to
enjoy, across time. A new Web site, guardiansofthefuture.org,
explains the roots of the idea and summarizes it this way: "People who
live today have the sacred right and obligation to protect the
commonwealth of the Earth and the common health of people and all our
relations for many generations to come."

So we're back on the overarching question of what the present owes the
future. This relates to those "100-year letters" and an early Dot
Earth post.

What do you owe someone else's great-grandchildren?

How do we apportion responsibility across time for dealing with
multigenerational impacts, like the human contribution to climate
change, and multigenerational tasks, like transforming how we harvest
and use energy?

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From: Newsweek, Dec. 19, 2007
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By Jeneen Interlandi, Newsweek Web Exclusive

Americans logged more than 1 trillion cell-phone minutes in the first
half of 2007 alone, so it came as little surprise that this is the
year cellular-phone spending is predicted to surpass that of
landlines, according to Labor Department data released this week. But
even as more people give up their traditional home phones altogether,
and ever younger kids get their own cell phones, there are still
questions in the scientific community about whether this new American
staple is safe for heavy or long-term use.

Experts say the concern over cell-phone use stems from a form of
radiation that's produced when the devices communicate with their base
station. Wireless phones transmit via radio frequency (RF), a low-
frequency form of radiation that is also used in microwave ovens and
AM/FM radios. While high-frequency radiation (the kind used in X-rays)
is known to cause cancer at high doses, the risks of this milder form
remain unclear. A cell phone's main source of RF is its antenna, from
which it sends a signal to the nearest base-station antenna. The
further a cell phone is from the base station, the more RF it needs to
establish and maintain a connection. So, the theory is that any risks
posed by RF would be greater for people who live and work in areas
with fewer base stations. In fact, Israeli researchers reported
earlier this month in the American Journal of Epidemiology that long-
term cell-phone users living in rural areas faced a "consistently
elevated risk" of developing tumors in the parotid gland (a salivary
gland located just below the ear) compared with users who live in
suburban or urban areas.
Other research, including an ongoing multinational initiative known as
INTERPHONE, has yielded mixed results so far. While a number of
studies have found no correlation between cell-phone use and various
types of brain tumors, most of those studies focused on people who had
been using cell phones for three to five years. Long-term cell-phone
use may be another story. A handful of small studies have indicated
that using a cell phone for an hour each day over a 10-year period can
increase the risk of developing a rare brain tumor and that those
tumors are more likely to be on the side of your head that you use to
talk on the phone.

But quantifying the health risks of cell phones is a trickier
proposition than understanding how they work. The gadgets have been
widely available for only about a decade; tumors can take twice as
long to develop. And hands-free devices, which minimize a person's RF
exposure by enabling them to keep the phone's antenna away from their
head, have only been commonplace for a few years. The data on kids who
use cell phones is even more scarce because not enough time has passed
to examine the effects on children who use them extensively as they
grow. However, many researchers believe younger cell-phone users may
face a higher risk of developing tumors because their nervous systems
are not fully developed and their skulls are not as thick as those of

The bottom line: more research is needed before a consensus emerges.
In the meantime, the Food and Drug Administration recommends
minimizing any potential risk by using hands-free devices and keeping
cell-phone talk to a minimum. Also, the Federal Communications
Commission requires manufacturers to report the relative amount of RF
absorbed into the head by any given cell phone. This number is known
as the SAR, or specific absorption rate. You can find out how to check
your phone's SAR here.

Copyright 2007 Newsweek.com

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From: Heise Online (Berlin, Germany), Dec. 27, 2007
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Either we bury capitalism or capitalism will bury us

By John Horvath

Despite the spin about a last minute compromise, the UN Climate
Conference in Bali last week was a dismal failure. Although the
negotiations revolved around technical, arcane matters, the success of
the negotiations hinged on the ability of delegates to set
scientifically-based emission targets. Sadly, modern day politics
always has to show some form of success, so a 'watered down' Bali
agreement, also known as the Bali roadmap, was presented as such.
Those who take the issue of climate change seriously, however, were
able to see through the hype. The most obvious shortcoming was that
the agreement didn't contain specific numbers or targets. Still, many
opted for the stoic position that a flimsy agreement is better than no

Nonetheless, the finger pointing soon began of who was to blame for
the hollow success at Bali. Canada, the U.S., Japan, and Australia all
opposed targets proposed by a coalition of European countries to
reduce emissions by 25 to 40 per cent from 1990 levels by 2020, a
target they said they could never meet. There were also lengthy
discussions about China, India and other developing nations that are
producing an increasing amount of emissions.

The United States initially did not agree to proposals which strongly
required that rich nations help poorer countries access green
technology to limit their emissions. The U.S. stance caused delegates
to boo the American delegation at the conference. Ultimately the U.S.
agreed to go forward with the Bali roadmap.

The rich western countries hope to cash in on a booming market for
green technologies

Within Europe, it has become too easy to blame the U.S. and others for
failing to address the realities of climate change. In fact, European
countries appear to take on a hypocritical and condescending role when
it comes to environmental issues. Germany is a prime example. On the
one hand, its environmental record is impressive: it is home to the
first Green Party to ever govern in a national coalition of a G8
nation and it has also reduced its greenhouse gas emissions
significantly in recent years. Germany also heavily sponsors renewable
energy production and has invested in the refurbishment of ageing

Yet even for Germany there are limits. For instance, recent measures
proposed by the European Commission to reduce the C02 output of
vehicles have come under criticism by the powerful German automobile
lobby. As with the U.S. and other western countries, there are fears
that the German economy could fail under stiff targets.

One way in which some European countries, such as Germany, are able to
gloss over their tainted image is by politically pretending to be
environmentally conscious. Lately, this has been done by publicly
acclaiming that advanced industrial nations must play a role and lead
the way in reducing greenhouse gases so as to set an example to
emerging economies. The catch is that rich western countries hope to
cash in on a booming market for green technologies. As the head of the
Sustainable Development, Climate Change and Competitiveness unit at
the Enterprise and Industry Directorate-General of the European
Commission recently noted, "what we need to do is boost innovation
in green technology which will soon be in very high demand."

Thus, while traditional manufacturing and industrial processes move
east to India and China where labour is cheap and exploitable, the
west is busy setting standards and cornering the market for green
technologies. These technologies are then used, in turn, to partly
redress a growing trade deficit with Asia. In some ways, this can be
viewed as the green side of globalization.

As a result of this situation, efforts to tackle the problem of
climate change are often misplaced and, in some cases, do more harm
than good. Recent legislation in Europe and Canada to mandate the use
of compact fluorescent lighting (CFL) is a case in point. Compact
fluorescent lighting is one of the fastest and simplest ways to boost
energy efficiency and cut CO2 emissions in the home, but even this
technology uses only 15% of its power for light (standard incandescent
or filament light bulbs achieve only 5%). Not only this, CFLs are not
entirely environmentally friendly: they contain mercury, the disposal
of which is a growing environmental concern. Moreover, CFL bulbs are
only efficient when used for an extended period of time; they actually
use more energy than standard bulbs if they are quickly switched on
and off. Hence, CFL bulbs encourage people to leave their lights on
needlessly, thereby reinforcing an attitude of wasteful consumption.

Combating climate change, therefore, is not simply about applying
green technologies, such as changing from incandescent to compact
fluorescent light bulbs. Robert Weissman, editor of the Washington,
D.C.-based Multinational Monitor and director of Essential Action,
points out that what is needed is a broad public understanding of how
the present system of making, transporting, selling, buying, using and
disposing of things is trashing the planet. "If we're going to save
ourselves from global warming, we're going to have to do things
differently," writes Weissman.

Perhaps the best example of misplaced efforts to tackle climate change
is the use of bio-fuels. Despite recent questions over the feasibility
of bio-fuels, leaders in Europe are of the opinion that research into
future bio-fuel technologies must go ahead. Hence, EU Heads of State
and Government earlier this year endorsed an ambitious EU Commission
plan which set the goals of increasing bio-fuel use in the EU to 5.75%
by 2010 and 10% by 2020.

Europe's bio-fuel plan is yet another example in where environmental
issues are used as a cover to promote economic policy. In this case
it's being used to boost Europe's lagging biotechnology sector which
has suffered the past few years due to the issue of genetically
modified organisms (GMOs). Thanks to climate change, however, the
focus of GMO research has now shifted from Franken foods towards bio-
fuels, a less contentious issue.

Already, it's quite clear that cultivating energy crops in Europe on
set-aside and non-cultivated land won't be enough to meet the EU's
bio-fuel targets. The solution, therefore, is seen in increasing
output per hectare and boosting crop quality through plant science.
Hence, as pundits argue, the EU must turn to biotechnology in order to
combat climate change. This, in turn, will help to reinvigorate the
European biotechnology sector and make it more competitive with the
U.S. and Japan, a hitherto major concern for EU leaders.

The trouble with this is that rather than trying to solve a problem,
it's creating more instead. A recent United Nations report warned that
bio-fuels could cause serious damage to the environment and have an
adverse impact on the lives of millions. One problem is that the crops
needed to produce the fuel are competing with food crops for land and
could therefore jeopardize the food supply. Indeed, throughout the EU
this past year member states experienced a sharp rise in food prices
as a result. In addition to this, bio-fuels could lead to land and
water scarcity, as well as accentuate the loss of biodiversity and
soil erosion. Growing bio-fuels crops has already led to large-scale
deforestation in some areas of the world.

At present it takes 2 liters of water to produce 1 liter of bio-fuel,
and the crops are often treated with insecticides and fertilizers
which are known to damage the ozone layer. Thus, for those who try to
ease their guilty conscience by using bio-fuels made of maize, sugar
cane, or rapeseed instead of oil, more harm is potentially being done
to the environment than good.

The likelihood that European leaders will see the fallacies in their
environmental policies is slim. While environmentalists generally
argue that the only real solution to the problem of climate change is
to reduce emissions by reducing consumption, the European Commission
regards such an idea as unthinkable. According to one official,
"reducing emissions by simply reducing our economic activity, as
advocated by some radicals, is not a realistic scenario."

This is because the prevailing ideology within the political and
business elites of the world is that we need to improve energy
efficiency so that we will be able to create the same products and
services as we do now -- only using less energy. The challenge,
therefore, is to implement energy savings that would not lower our
living standards and economic activity.

The capitalists of today have much in common with the Marxists of

All this sounds fine, but the problem with such an idea is that it's
not sustainable in the long run. In other words, do we keep improving
energy efficiency until we reach the point where we create the same
products and services using no energy at all? Or is this another
problem for the future to solve, as we will all be dead and buried by

This wouldn't be such a problem if economic conditions were constant.
Sadly, in this modern era of global capitalism, it's not. Modern-day
capitalism requires constant growth, and lately this pace of growth
has been accelerated. If growth stagnates or a contraction sets in,
the consequences would be catastrophic. This why many experts fear the
popping of the China economic bubble; it's not a question of if but

It may be a little ironic but the capitalists of today have much in
common with the Marxists of yesterday. Both look upon the future as an
endless period of inevitable growth. Likewise, both see the
environment as an exploitable resource, and have an unwavering faith
in the virtue of technological progress. Consequently, both are of the
belief that nothing must stand in the way of this inevitable progress
- including the environment.

History has since demonstrated the shortcomings of such an unwavering
belief in inevitable progress, growth, and technology. Communism's
environmental legacy is well known, and toward the end of the cold war
when the environment was a key issue in most People's Democracies, lip
service was paid to the need for environmental protection. Meanwhile,
capitalism's attitude toward the environment has been more or less the
same. If history is to teach us anything, it's now that communism is
dead we must seriously consider burying capitalism.

This is because one of the underlying attributes of modern day
capitalism is the unequal distribution of global wealth. In the time
of Adam Smith, the proportion of differences in wealth between the
large areas of civilisation on the planet ranged from 1 to less than
2. In 2000, according to the United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP), it reached a proportion of 1 to 74. Inequalities have thus
escalated out of proportion.

In conjunction with this, so too has the exploitation of resources.
The western world consumes by far more than its share of the world's
resources. It's this exploitation coupled with a belief in inevitable
growth and progress which has put the world on the road to ruin.

Many feel that this may be going a little too far. Without a doubt,
there are a lot of problems with capitalism, but there is no need to
throw the baby out with the bathwater. Not only this, the problems
associated with climate change are myriad, especially considering the
fact that C02 emissions can come from the most unexpected of places.
For example, a cow is as almost damaging to the climate as a small
family car. Both emit CO2, while the burping and flagellant cow also
emits methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times as destructive as carbon
dioxide. What is more, the world's growing demand for dairy products
and beef has led to more and more rainforests being cleared in order
to create additional grazing space. Thus, with about a billion and a
half cattle worldwide, cows at present make up more than 3% of global
greenhouse gas emissions.

Rather than learning from our mistakes we are intent on repeating them

Along these lines, it appears that the only way to reduce emissions is
to reduce consumption. This is no doubt the case for the short term,
but the problem of too many cows or cars also underscores an enigma
which was pointed out decades ago and which seems to have been
relegated to the background since: that of unchecked population

In the 1970s and 1980s the idea of 6 billion people on the planet was
then already considered as unsustainable; we are now well past that
mark and looking toward a world with almost 10 billion people in the
near future. The irony is that the western, industrial world is now
complaining of a population shortage because it is starting to feel
the economic burden of maintaining a society geared toward constant
growth but without the population to sustain it. In other words,
western industrial society is slowly but surely becoming aware of its

The problem of climate change is not simply a question of economics
and social models, however. At the heart of the matter is the need for
a change in social attitudes prevalent in the western, industrial
world, one based on insularity and greed. An excellent reflection of
this is "The Story of Stuff with Annie Leonard" (StoryofStuff.Org),
a short film which can be viewed on the Internet (about 20 minutes)
that explains the "materials economy" and how it works. Produced by
Free Range Studios, the Story of Stuff revolves around the themes of
why the world is running up against resource limits, how corporate
globalization is premised on externalizing costs (i.e., making someone
other than the companies that make things pay for the environmental
and human costs of production), how the corporate economy rests on the
artificial creation of need ("the golden arrow of consumption") and,
perhaps most importantly, that things can be different and must be
made to be different.

Indubitably, western industrial civilisation is destroying itself
because it's determined to disregard all limits in all areas. It has
broken all the aesthetic rules in art, given birth to absolute
totalitarianisms, and declared that there are no longer any physical
or ethical limits. Likewise, there are no longer any limits on
consumption or the exploitation of nature. Our obsession is that we
must always have more. Modern society is, as it were, set on holding
the position of the "almighty creator".

This attitude goes hand in hand with the Judeo-Christian view of the
world which puts human beings in a privileged position above all else
in the world. Indeed, extremists even go so far as to claim that it's
our God-given right to exploit the earth for our own selfish purposes.
As the far-right American pundit Ann Coulter once stated during a TV
debate over environmentalism: "God gave us the earth. We have dominion
over the plants, the animals, the seas [...]. God said, 'Earth is
yours. Take it. Rape it. It's yours.'" Apparently, the punch line was
that "raping the Earth" is preferable to "living like the Indians."

Ironically, the Judeo-Christian view of the world, which is prominent
in all western, industrial nations, also contains a warning in the
story pertaining to "the tree of knowledge". Contrary to the view of
many who use this as an excuse to rationalise that ignorance is bliss,
the problem with taking a bite of the forbidden fruit is not the
acquisition of knowledge itself but its application. In other words,
we are too immature to handle certain types of information.

This doesn't mean we need to adopt a Luddite view of the world.
Rather, it should be used as a guide for adopting the precautionary
principle more often. Unfortunately, we seem to be relying too much on
technological progress as a panacea for our ills.

Technology is often regarded as cure with no side effects. Yet the
20th century is full of examples of how the double-sword of technology
has led to more problems than solutions: radioactivity, CFCs
(chlorofluorocarbons), DDT, asbestos, hydrocarbons, nuclear power, and
the list goes on. As the Swiss philosopher Dominique Bourg points
out, "all this goes to show that the technologies we use have provided
an element of control but are limited in scope and have a time bomb
potential that could result in catastrophic damage. The more powerful
these technologies become, the greater the potential damage they can

Despite this, rather than learning from our mistakes we are intent on
repeating them. Nuclear power, for instance, is regarded by some as
clean energy and the optimal solution to reducing CO2 emissions while
still producing large amounts of much needed energy. But even if the
safety of nuclear power plants can somehow be guaranteed, the disposal
of nuclear waste remains a nagging enigma.

Urgent need to invent new methods of economic and political regulation

The dilemma for many is that our reliance on technology is such that
we have become increasingly isolated from reality and the outside
world. This can be clearly seen through the advent of the so-called
"information society". Computer-mediated communications has become
simply another technology in which the promises of a greener, brighter
future have turned out to be superfluous. The Internet especially was
supposed to deliver a "new economy". Moreover, the "paperless" medium
of the Internet would help save trees while the tele-working would cut
down on traffic congestion and emissions. It has since turned out to
be the opposite: the economy is the same as it ever was, more paper is
being used than ever before, and with so many people online computers
now cause more emissions than civil aviation worldwide. It's not just
about household computers: the Internet requires huge server and data
storage facilities, and as the flow of data doubles every four months,
electricity consumption grows with it.

Our reliance on technology to fix problems related to our egocentric
view of the world is such that halting the irreversible effects of
climate change when they become intolerable or catastrophic is
regarded by some as a possible alternative. Paul Crutzen, Nobel Prize
winner (1995) and renowned atmospheric chemistry expert at the Max
Planck Institute in Germany, has suggested releasing aerosols into
the upper atmosphere to chemically neutralise carbon dioxide. Although
Crutzen believes that this solution should only be considered as a
last resort if the climate machine were to spin out of control, it
nevertheless betrays what Bourg views as "another head-long
technological rush with potentially nasty surprises -- all of which
would be on a planetary scale." Accordingly, the danger of such an
idea is that it provides a justification for inaction today on account
of the fact that tomorrow action can be taken on a global scale.

In the end, regardless of the technology at our disposal, it's quite
clear that the only way to combat climate change is a thorough and
radical change in the way we live and consume resources. However,
given the close relationship between our lifestyles and our personal
values, such a fundamental change is only possible if we make
alterations to basic ethics. For instance, we rarely take into account
future generations or distant populations when making important
decisions. Moreover, western societies are structured so as to enable
each person to maximise their own interests. As a result, it's only to
be expected that the ultimate objective of western, industrial society
is to produce and consume more and more.

Environmental degradation and climate change has shown that this is
clearly no longer sustainable. The free organisation of society is
showing itself to be at odds with the management of shared
environmental assets. There is now an urgent need to invent new
methods of economic and political regulation. This includes branding
certain aspects of our lifestyles as criminal.

Subsequently, we can no longer leave everything up to "the market".
The practice of market-based emissions trading demonstrates both the
misplaced attempts of EU environment policy and the erroneous notion
that somehow we can always buy ourselves out of trouble. The role of
the markets is to stimulate the economy, but pricing can't be used as
the basis for new ethical values required by a global society. Hence,
certain activities not only mustn't be regulated by the market, they
must be forbidden and severely punished by law.

Europe provides a perfect example of how difficult such a change can
be for the individual. Europeans are acutely aware of climate change
and do care about the environment, but the vast majority are still
unwilling to make radical and perhaps even painful changes to their
own habits and lifestyles. Hearing the truth strikes fear into the
hearts of most; hence, western industrial society prefers to take
refuge in a head-long technological rush for a solution.

Unless the fundamental economic, ethical, and even religious
foundations upon which western industrial society are built are re-
evaluated and revamped, then the changes proposed or enacted to combat
climate change will be too little too late. Along these lines,
roadmaps like the one worked out in Bali don't chart a way forward,
but simply lead to a dead end.

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From: Danish Ministry of Agriculture, Oct. 19, 2007
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Denmark's status as frontrunner in the field of organic food and
farming must not be blemished. Minister for Food, Agriculture and
Fisheries Eva Kjer Hansen has just presented a parliamentary bill for
a new Organic Farming Act that will effectively keep rotten apples out
of the organic farming business

The credibility and good reputation of organic food and farming among
consumers is vital to the continued growth and development of this
field. So, with the new Organic Farming Act, actions that can damage
public confidence in organic production will be viewed upon with extra
stern eyes.

Under this bill, farmers who have been convicted of for instance gross
neglect and abuse of animals within the last five years will not be
able to obtain a licence to engage in organic farming. The same
applies to farmers with convictions for importing illegal medicines.

"Organic food and farming is totally dependent on consumer confidence.
Therefore, it is important that individuals are prevented also in
future from jeopardising the credibility of organic production", says
Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries Eva Kjer Hansen.

When a licence is revoked

The bill also tightens the restrictions on existing organic farmers.
The Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries proposes that
individuals who have had their organic farming licence revoked should
not be allowed to continue to engage in organic farming activities in
new company set-ups for a period of up to five years.

"If an organic farmer loses his licence one day for spraying his crops
with for instance Round-up, the same farmer should not be allowed to
continue organic farming activities the next day under the guise of a
new company," says Eva Kjer Hansen.

Organic farmers that violate organic farming rules relating to the use
of medicines, and for example administer medicines without veterinary
assistance, will in the future have their licence immediately revoked
for a period of up to five years."

As a new element, the organic farming principle of caution will be
incorporated directly into the new Organic Farming Act.

The new Organic Farming bill has been drafted on the basis of a
unanimous recommendation by the The Danish Organic Foods Council, a
body in which farmers, industry, the retail trade and consumers are

The new Organic Farming bill has been well received by all parties in
the Danish Parliament, which is expected to pass the act within a few

(c) Policy Dialogue International 2005-07

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From: The Monitor (Kampala, Uganda), Dec. 24, 2007
[Printer-friendly version]


President Yoweri Museveni is at it again; this time around reminding
the country that the controversial proposal to give away Mabira forest
which led to the death of three people about six months ago, is not
yet resolved after all.

His remarks while meeting the NRM Parliamentary Caucus last week in
effect mean that government could still go ahead a give away part of
the tropical rain forest to a private investor, the Lugazi-based Mehta
Group, in total disregard of public opinion.

Most depressing about this debacle though is the fact that Mr
Museveni's resolve to parcel out a protected national resource
contradicts the announcement made to the world in October by his
finance minister Dr Ezra Suruma, at a dinner meeting hosted by the
South American President of Guyana, Bharrat Jagdeo, in Georgetown that
the Uganda government had dropped the plan to give away part of Mabira

And why should a national leader against all odds push for the
alienation of 17,540 acres, nearly a third of Mabira forest to Mehta
when there are huge chunks of an utilised public land in this country
under government control which can be gazetted for the
industrilisation programme.

What's the moral justification for this disdain to an evident national
consensus that Mabira forest reserve is a no-go area for the promoters
of industrialisation! Quite maddening too, is the apparent lack of
government interest to explain to the country why of all places it's
Mabira that should be earmarked for 'industrialisation'.

Is it the proximity of the place called Mabira that has attracted the
'investors' to justify its destruction, or is it an element of ego and
greed (some of the main factors that erode the principles of good
governance) that can possibly explain the determination by the powers
that be to destroy what remains of our national forest cover?

Whatever the motive it's our civic duty as citizens to remind our
leaders that the constitutionally established principle of public
trust applies to all our national resources and public land.

Our leaders including the president have a legal obligation under the
public trust doctrine to manage national resources in a manner that
doesn't prejudice the interests of all Ugandans.

President Museveni chairs the cabinet which in April studied a damning
cabinet memorandum prepared by the Ministry of Water and Environment
which paradoxically, strongly argued against the destruction of the

In the cabinet memo, experts noted the negative impact of changing the
land use of the 7,100 hectares of Mabira tropical rain forest; which
among others will lead to reduction in water flow to the lakes and
rivers, change temperatures and loss of unique ecosystem whose
economic value is estimated at Shs23.3 billion.

The negative effects that await the country once Mabira is given away,
can also be prescient too. Over the years ,there is been too much
destruction of our forest cover and the ramifications for this
obliteration have been clear for all to see including the
unprecedented severe weather conditions experienced in the country
this year.

The unpredictability in climatic conditions that threaten the survival
of mankind, have led to the development of a basic international
environmental precautionary law principle to protect and conserve
nature for the benefit of present and future generations.

The precautionary principle which governs the exploitation of natural
resources like forests, was developed following the 1982 World Charter
for Nature which provides in its principle 11(b); that activities
which are likely to pose a significant risk to nature shall be
preceded by an exhaustive examination; that their proponents shall
demonstrate that expected benefits outweigh potential damage to

Studies carried out so far clearly show that the proposed destruction
of Mabira forest shall spell doom for our country. Parliament and the
courts of law should therefore urgently intervene to save Mabira
forest from being destroyed for selfish benefits of some 'investors'.
Ugandans should remain firm in the defence of Mabira forest to prevent
irreversible harm to our environment.

Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media. (allafrica.com)

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