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Global: Environmental Justice

(c) Jason Zheng

bottled water

Earth Democracy In Depth

By Jennifer Young

Vandana Shiva first introduced the concept of “earth democracy” in her 2005 book of the same name. Earth Democracy is defined by ten underlying principles. They are as follows:

“1. All species, peoples, and cultures have intrinsic worth.

2. The earth community is a democracy of all life.

3. Diversity in nature and culture must be defended.

4. All beings have a natural right to sustenance.

5. Earth Democracy is based on living economies and economic democracy.

6. Living economies are built on local economies.

7. Earth Democracy is a living democracy.

8. Earth Democracy is based on living cultures.

9. Living cultures are life nourishing.

10. Earth Democracy globalizes peace, care, and compassion. (Shiva, 2005, p. 9-11)”

Earth democracy is a both the means and the end. It is a modern political movement to take back control of the global commons, fight corporate globalization, and restore peace, justice, and sustainability to the world. However, the ten principles it is based on have roots in many indigenous cultures the world over from Native American culture to ancient India. Earth democracy works by protection of ecological processes like the right to water, the right to food, the right to health, the right to education, and the right to jobs and livelihoods.

Shiva breaks earth democracy down into several concepts, including living economies, living democracies, and living cultures. She defines living economies as the “processes and space where the earth’s resources are shared equitably to provide for our food and water needs and to create meaningful livelihoods. (Shiva, 2005, p. 5)” In order to create successful living democracies, humans must take earth’s ecological limits into account. This means localization of production to reduce waste of natural resources and human labor. Otherwise, sustainability and prosperity for all are impossible. Ecological security is mankind’s most basic security. (Shiva, 2005) Living economies are based on living democracies.

Living democracy “is the space for reclaiming our fundamental freedoms, defending our basic rights, and exercising our common responsibilities and duties to protect life on earth, defend peace, and promote justice. (Shiva, 2005, p. 6)” Earth democracy is the means to restore and reimplement living democracies. Living democracies are based on the awareness that all beings are valuable, resources should be universally shared and all should be considered and included in the division of earth’s resources. Neoliberal/corporate globalization has, despite promises to the contrary, effectively destroyed democracy at every level by enclosure of the commons and removal of electoral power from the citizens and parliaments. According to Shiva, “commons are the highest expression of economic democracy.” (Shiva, 2005, p. 3)

Living democracies can only grow from living cultures. Living cultures are “spaces in which we shape and live our diverse values, beliefs, practices, and traditions, while fully embracing our common, universal humanity, and our commonality with other species through soil, water, and air. Living cultures are based on nonviolence and compassion, diversity and pluralism, equality and justice, and respect for life in all its diversity. (Shiva, 2005, p. 6-7)” Enclosure of the commons is not compatible with the idea of living cultures. It creates exclusions, which lead to cultural discord. This is the cost of corporate globalization.

Corporations and international organizations are responsible for destroying sustenance, stability and life. Shiva argues that only by embracing the principles of earth democracy can we solve the culture of exclusion, war, extremism, and prejudice that has separated the world into the Global North and the Global South. Indigenous communities in India have been setting the example under Shiva’s guidance by writing to corporations like Ricetec, Inc. to protest their patenting Basmati rice. Change begins when individuals use their voices, leading to communities organizing into grassroots movements, who then pressure their governments to listen to the people’s actual needs. Through collective action, the commons can be restored and sustainability, equality and fairness can be returned to the world.

Shiva, V. (2005). Earth Democracy: Justice, Sustainability, and Peace. Cambridge, MA: South End Press.

Shipping Waste Abroad

By Brigitte Keen

In a world where possession of the latest technological devices determine societal hierarchy, and where these technologies are given rapid expiration dates, the accumulation of waste hemorrhages and our coastlines overflow with electronic waste. Electronic waste, or “e-waste”, are technological materials/devices deemed obsolete or unwanted and are therefore discarded intranationally or internationally. Lately, with technological advancement to blame, the issue of e-waste has become a vitally important global health issue. Millions of tons of e-waste are sent legally and illegally to developing countries each year. This amounts to approximately 20 million carriers of waste per year, with the expected growth of 33% by 2017. E-waste such as, old phones, computers, toys, and cameras, are discarded by individuals, and then separated at recycling facilities. What is left after this separation is bought and sold by businesses to developing countries such as, China, Indonesia, India, and Nigeria. Once containers of this cargo are shipped, it is impossible to guarantee where they will end up or how they will be handled. Laws and regulations, such as the Basel Convention, mandate that waste be sent solely to certified recyclers or countries that agree to accept it. The issue here is the lack of accountability that developed nations such as the US, Canada, and the UK take for their precious cargo. Though there are fines as high as $22,000 and the threat of criminal prosecutions for repeat offenders, traffickers still find the risk worth the benefit. Recycling properly is expensive and can cost four times the cost of waste trafficking.

Sent to developing nations under false pretenses, labeled as “used goods”, what is found is a medley of trash, e-waste, and plastics. In June 2013, the Philippine’s received a shipment from Canada, labeled “Plastic from Canada.” The shipment was unattended for eight months, till the odor became so putrid, it was finally opened. Amongst the promised plastics, the large container also held household waste, including used diapers. The Philippines filed a petition to have the carriers returned to Canada, but have yet to see action. In more common instances, at best the waste is accepted and picked a part for copper, and other valued materials, then burned or let rot; at worst, the contents are dismantled by children and pregnant women, exposing them to harmful chemicals such as, cadmium, mercury, lead and arsenic. Overall, Europe has tighter restrictions of their exports than North America does. However, more emphasis has been placed on monitoring imports, letting many of these harmful exports slip through the cracks.

The German Scandal

By Jason Zheng

On September 18, 2015, the Environmental Protection Agency issued a notice of violation (NOV) of the Clean Air Act (CAA) to Volkswagen AG, Audi, AG, and Volkswagen Group of America, Inc. The NOV alleges that four-cylinder Volkswagen and Audi diesel cars from model years 2009-2015 include software that intervenes with EPA emissions standards for certain air pollutants. California has issued an In-Use Compliance letter to Volkswagen, and EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB) have both initiated investigations on the German auto manufacturer.

The NOV states a sophisticated software on certain Volkswagen vehicles detects when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, and turns full emissions controls on only during the test. The effectiveness of these vehicles’ pollution emissions control devices is greatly reduced during all normal driving situations. This result in cars that meet emissions standards in the laboratory or testing station, but during normal operation, emit nitrogen oxides, or NOx, at up to 40 times the standard. The software produced by Volkswagen is a “defeat device,” as defined by the Clean Air Act.

The Clean Air Act requires vehicle manufacturers to certify to EPA that their products will meet applicable federal emission standards to control air pollution, and every vehicle sold in the U.S. must be covered by an EPA-issued certificate of conformity. Motor vehicles equipped with defeat devices, which reduce the effectiveness of the emission control system during normal driving conditions, cannot be certified. By making and selling vehicles with defeat devices that allowed for higher levels of air emissions than were certified to EPA, Volkswagen violated two important provisions of the Clean Air Act.

EPA and CARB discovered the defeat device software after independent analysis by researchers at West Virginia University, working with the International Council on Clean Transportation, a non-governmental organization, raised questions about emissions levels, and the agencies began further investigations into the issue. In September, after EPA and CARB demanded an explanation for the identified emission problems, Volkswagen admitted that the cars contained defeat devices.

NOx pollution contributes to nitrogen dioxide, ground-level ozone, and fine particulate matter. Exposure to these pollutants has been linked with a range of serious health effects, including increased asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses that can be serious enough to send people to the hospital.The allegations cover roughly 482,000 diesel passenger cars sold in the United States since 2008. Affected diesel models include:

· Jetta (2009 – 2015)              · Jetta Sportwagen (2009-2014)

· Beetle (2012 – 2015)            · Beetle Convertible (2012-2015)

· Audi A3 (2010 – 2015)           · Golf (2010 – 2015)

· Golf Sportwagen (2015)        · Passat (2012-2015) 

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