Tag Archives: human rights

Dutch citizens take their government to court for being useless on climate change – And win!!

Yesterday the supreme court of the Netherlands came to a historic landmark verdict: the Dutch government’s lack of strong climate change action was branded illegal.

Organised by the climate campaign group Urgenda, 886 Dutch citizens sued their own government for failing to act in line with climate science, and therefore endangering lives. The Hague ruling used existing human rights laws and tort law – a form of common law that every country has, that refers to the basic duty to avoid causing harm.

Campaigners celebrate the landmark verdict. Image from Urgenda, not mine.

Campaigners celebrate the landmark verdict. Image from Urgenda, not mine.

The judges said that based on existing policies, the country is set to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17% by 2020 (compared to 1990 levels) at the very most – which was deemed unacceptable considering the severe risks of global climate change, the country’s status as an advanced and affluent state, and the flat and low-lying geography of the country that poses a significant flooding risk.

Yesterday’s ruling has ordered the Dutch Government to instead reduce emissions by at least 25% by 2020, compared to 1990 levels. The verdict is legally binding, Continue reading

Universal Citizen’s Income

Have you heard of the universal citizen’s income?

Otherwise known as universal basic income, it refers to this (so far) theoretical policy where every citizen in a country is given enough money to cover their basic needs. It doesn’t matter if they’re working or not, how much they earn, what their health status is, – as long as they’re an adult and a national citizen, they get the same amount. Everyone does.

Do you think it sounds crazy? I kind of do too. But this article by the ever knowledgeable Another Angry Voice has made me doubt my initial incredulousness.  Continue reading

Wish 20: End Ecocide by 2020, their copyright.

Ecocide – The 5th Crime Against Peace

Have you heard of ecocide?

Global Initiative Eradicating Ecocide – chaired and founded by international barrister Polly Higgins – defines ecocide as:

The extensive damage to, destruction of or loss of ecosystem(s) of a given territory, whether by human agency or by other causes, to such an extent that peaceful enjoyment by the inhabitants of that territory has been or will be severely diminished.

Continue reading

Save the NHS

 

 

Today I dragged myself out of bed to attend a local protest fighting to save the NHS.

We started the march at the local hospital, and then the 300-strong of us proceeded into and around the city before finishing with several speeches from campaigners, local MPs and union leaders. Call me an activist, but there’s just something about marching along with hundreds (or ideally thousands) of people, waving placards and chanting in unison, that makes me feel alive. I think it’s just the feeling of solidarity, and the knowledge that all these people cared enough about the issue to get up on a saturday morning and commit their free time to this public display of opinion. It’s a good feeling.

If you don’t know what’s been going on, let me lay it down for you.

Since 1948, Britain has had a National Health Service which is free at the point of use, available to absolutely everyone and publicly funded by the taxpayer. Although we’ve all moaned about the quality of service from time to time, the fact remains that it’s brilliant to have such a service, and many countries – even very rich ones – don’t have anything like it. Now, the Coalition government is in the process of cutting large portions of the NHS and privatising what’s left.

A lot of people are rightly furious about this, as we strongly believe healthcare should be a civic right and not a commodity.

In April 2013 the government changed the law, meaning that they now have no legal obligation to provide healthcare as a public service. Privatisation has already begun, and a shocking £1 billion of taxpayer’s money has already been used to pay shareholder dividends of private “health” corporations. £3 billion of our money has also been wasted on reorganization – turning what was recently a public service into fragmented and lucrative business opportunities. This is all in a time of political austerity, where 5,600 nurses have recently lost their jobs, waiting lists are lengthening, ambulances are under stress and the government has proposed £20 billion of spending cuts on healthcare within just two years.

One of my local hospitals recently had a success story related to this, but it was a prelude to further worry. A health minister wanted to shut down their accident and emergency ward, and their maternity ward. There was huge local opposition, and the community (aided by the staff of the hospital) won a campaign to keep these vital services. However, the government now wants to change the rules. A proposed amendment to the Health and Social Care Act will enable them to shut down not just departments but whole hospitals, even if local GPs say they are essential.

I think all this is diabolical.
We can’t have something as important as healthcare handled by the market, as a commodity. What if people can’t afford it? In America, where they don’t have a public health service, there is a gaping chasm between the healthcare of the rich and poor. The rich can afford cutting edge treatment, the middle class fork out for average healthcare and the poor make do with shoddy treatment at best or nothing at worst. This deepens inequality and stokes the fire of ”class warfare”.

I don’t want that to happen here in the UK, so that’s why I marched.

~

Public service, not private profit!


More Information:

http://www.keepournhspublic.com/index.php
http://www.nationalhealthaction.org.uk/
http://www.gmb-southern.org.uk/gmb-members-to-join-defend-the-nhs-rally-in-brighton-this-saturday/

Mass protests for the crew's immediate release..

Greenpeace Activists Seized & Imprisoned

On the 18th September 2013, the Arctic Sunrise, a Greenpeace campaign ship, carried 28 activists and two freelance journalists to Gazprom’s Arctic oil rig, where they tried to climb onto the infrastructure and form a peaceful protest against the drilling. Instantly, armed coast guards boarded the Greenpeace vessel and threatened the protesters at gun and knife point, before towing the ship to the Russian port city Murmansk. Three weeks later, all 30 of the ship’s crew are still detained in Russian prisons, despite mass appeals for their release.

The Greenpeace activists were working on the Save the Arctic campaign which aims to prevent oil drilling, industrial fishing and resource based conflicts in the Arctic, instead making it a global sanctuary like the Antarctic. Climate change is causing the ice to melt, which has made the submarine oil deposits accessible for the first time.  However drilling in this fragile environment would seriously harm the populations of endangered animals such as polar bears, walruses and seals. Even if oil slicks could be avoided (which is unlikely), burning these oil resources would be a major step backwards on the climate change front. Globally, we’re already heading towards the dangerous 2°C of warming and we desperately need to move our energy investments from fossil fuels to renewables. For more background see my earlier post on the issue.

Not my image.

After the Russian coast guards seized the Greenpeace ship and brought it to Murmansk, the activists and journalists were all charged with piracy, for which the prison sentence is up to 15 years!

Just so we’re clear, the Oxford Dictionary defines pirate as: “noun: a person who attacks and robs ships at sea”. The charge is completely absurd;  the protesters were not attacking or robbing anyone. Even though the Russian president has defended the violent actions of the coast guards, even he has admitted: “I don’t know the details of what went on, but it’s completely obvious they aren’t pirates“. (Quoted in The Guardian, 7th October 2013, my bold).

All 30 people who were aboard the Arctic Sunrise are still being detained in various Russian prisons, even though they haven’t had their trial yet. There have been demonstrations outside Russian embassies in 48 countries, with people around the world being outraged at the treatment of these activists and freelancers. Appeals for their release have been rejected, and Greenpeace International are filing a criminal complaint with the police, as they’re adamant that seizure of their ship was illegal.

Mass protests for the crew's immediate release..

Mass protests for the crew’s immediate release..

Personally, I’m disgusted by all this. I think Greenpeace have been doing really honorable and brave work, and the Russian government and justice system are clearly being completely biased because the energy giant Gazprom is state owned, and they simply don’t want any interference with its corporate actions.

If you’re of a similar mind, why not send an email to London’s Russian ambassador.
Also you can keep up to date with what’s going on with Greenpeace’s handy timeline.

I’m keeping my fingers and toes crossed for these guys.
They don’t deserve to be punished just for caring about the planet.
And for god’s sake, they’re not pirates!

 

Indonesian rainforest. Not my image.

Local People, Global Forests

Indonesian rainforest. Not my image.

Indonesian rainforest. Not my image.

According to Positive News, the forest dwelling indigenous people in Indonesia may soon have the legal rights to control those forests. This means they would be private property, and the government would cease to have control over them as a national resource. That means the Indonesian government couldn’t sell them to logging companies. It does mean the indigenous people could do so, but the idea is that they’d be much less likely to, seeing as the forests constitute their traditional and historic way of life.

Protection of the Indonesian rainforest is quite obviously an environmental win, but this law would also have a significant human rights side to it. Giving the indigenous people legal control over their forest homes – compared with the mere right to carry on living there – would give these people a greater respect and therefore a better quality of life.

The constitutional court actually already agreed to this on 16th May 2013, but the question is whether it’ll be properly implemented by local government. The logging industry will be fighting tooth and claw against this, as they’re making a tonne of money by chopping down the ancient forests – liquidating the natural capital. But as we know, trees are actually much more valuable while they’re alive. They turn carbon dioxide into oxygen, prevent soil erosion, stabilize the hydrological cycle, reduce the risk of floods and droughts and provide a habitat for millions of species. Luckily the Indonesian government – especially the forward thinking president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono – seem to be realizing this at last.

I just hope they can get the logging industry to back off. It’s a dinosaur industry, really. It has no presence in a sustainable future. I mean we’ll certainly continue to cut and use timber, but not on the scale or with the brutal methods of today. True sustainable forestry is a million miles away from the quick cash clear cutting, like huge violent gashes on the landscape.

In Indonesia, their government have identified 365 distinct indigenous ethnic groups, adding up to millions of people. The forested lands they occupy must be quite a considerable amount of hectares, so this new law – if forcefully implemented – could be a big deal for the forests, the local people and the global community of life.

Resources:
http://positivenews.org.uk/2013/environment/13615/indonesian-forests-returned-indigenous-peoples/

http://www.loc.gov/lawweb/servlet/lloc_news?disp3_l205403604_text

The flyer for Black Messiah, 29th May.

Theatre, Art and Social Justice

The flyer for Black Messiah, 29th May.

Do any of you live in or near London?
Failing that, do you fancy heading over to the Big Smoke for a brilliant slice of theatre on the 29th May?

My best friend is the producer of Black Messiah; a brand new play about the black civil rights movement in America during the Seventies. Focusing on the short life of Bobby Hutton and his time with the Black Panthers (an extreme black rights group) this play opens up the discussion of human rights, race, faith, youth and activism.

As a young, white environmentalist, learning about the history of racism brings up two main feeling for me.
Firstly, it brings a great feeling of shame of my own race’s historic (and even present) behaviour.
Secondly, it brings a feeling of inspiration and hope. Let me explain.

In my constant fight against pessimism, I often take inspiration from both the black rights movement and the women’s right’s movement because these two heroic struggles prove that paradigms can shift. Society can change. No matter how dead-set in their ways people may seem, nothing lasts forever. When enough people take action and fight for what they believe in, they write history.

At this point I think this quote is relevant:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful,committed, citizens can change the world.
Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” ― Margaret Mead

I think the arts and social activism are totally entwined, because social change doesn’t just happen in meetings and boring places like that – it arrives in the midst of living. Art is how humans express their ideas and open people’s minds, how they reflect the world, and how they pose ideas of other ways the world could be.
Creativity is one of those human aspects that we should really treasure, feed and celebrate.

Am I trying to suggest going to the theatre will help hurry along a just and sustainable society?
Possibly. Let’s just say it’s one of the more enjoyable steps along a very long road.

Anyway, enough with my trying to link everything in life to environmentalism.
When and where can you actually see this thing?

~

Wed 29th May, 7.30pm

Tickets £10 & £8.50 concessions

Tara Theatre,
356 Garratt Lane, London, SW18 4ES

Box Office 020 8333 4457
www.tara-arts.com
www.epiphanytheatre.co.uk

~

Have a wonderful evening, lovely readers. ~