Watch These Documentaries to Better Understand SE Asia

The environmental movement is a global struggle against big corporations and corrupted governments, which means each struggle has commonalities while also being unique to its region. Over at Global Voices they compiled a list of documentaries that cover various environmental movements in south east Asia. Some of the content in the films will make you feel sad; however, it’s important to know what’s going on and that people around the world are sticking up for what’s right.

In “This Is Our Land”, Filipino filmmaker Noni Abao chronicles how local indigenous communities in Nueva Vizcaya, northern Philippines, are fighting against years of environmental degradation by calling for the closure of OceanaGold, one of the largest producers of gold and copper in the world. This documentary won the grand prize in the 2020 Gawad Cultural Center of the Philippines Para sa Alternatibong Pelikula at Video and was the second-place winner in the 2020 Yale Environment 360 Video Contest. Since Abao finished filming, dozens of the activists who organized the road blockade have been arrested following clashes with police and company representatives.

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American Charities May Legally Have to Divest from Fossil Fuels

industry

Student groups have long called for their educational institutions to divest from the destructive fossil fuel industry (and ideally reinvest in renewables). This passionate demand from students has seen success at various schools around the world, and their fight in the USA may have gotten easier thanks to a change in law by the Biden administration. Large schools in the states tend to have a charitable arm to give out scholarships and collect donations from wealthy benefactors (who donate to dodge taxes, but that’s a separate issue). Charities in the states are obligated to serve the public interest, and investing in the destruction of the planet is not in the public interest according to the Biden administration. Let’s hope the divestment movement continues to grow!

Like other public charitable institutions, Harvard is legally bound to serve the public interest in exchange for privileges such as tax exemption. Harvard is also required to manage its endowment prudently, in order to further its mission of educating young people and creating a more just world.

Fossil fuel investments are incompatible with those obligations. Fossil fuels are not only the primary contributor to climate change; their extraction and refinement also emit toxic pollutants—often in Indigenous and low-income communities, where environmental racism is most acutely felt. For decades, fossil fuel companies have obscured the scientific reality of climate change and thwarted climate policy; in recent years they have also attacked climate scienceand funded research—including at Harvard—that tacitly furthers their agenda. Sea level rise caused by climate change even threatens Harvard’s campus.

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Plastics are Toxic in Canada

The advertising around plastics highlights how recyclable it is, but in reality plastics are a pollutant that barely get recycled in a meaningful way (this is why the 3Rs are in a particular order: reduce, reuse, recycle). Plastics come in all sorts of densities, colours, and strength, but are traditionally made using petroleum. The source of most plastics is unsustainable and the waste generated by plastics after use is equally unsustainable. In fact, the waste produced by plastics has led Canada to categorize plastics as toxic!

By declaring plastics toxic more rules and regulations will need to be followed to ensure that the damage done to the plant (and people) are limited.

A 2020 government science assessment found ample evidence that plastic harms the environment, choking seabirds, cetaceans and other wildlife. The findings form the basis of the government’s decision, as substances can be considered toxic under CEPA if they harm the environment and biodiversity, human health, or both.

In October 2020, ECCC released a proposal to deal with the problem. Under the proposed rules, Canada will ban six single-use plastic items, like straws and six-pack rings, create incentives for companies to use recycled plastic, and force plastic producers to pay for recycling.

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Nevada to Ban Lawns

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Lawns are the manifestation of human environmental hubris, and it’s hurting all of us. Regular readers of Things Are Good know that lawns are bad for a myriad of reasons (see links below for more info), and municipal leaders have caught on to this too. In the warmer, dryer areas of the US they’ve already banned the use of lawns due to water scarcity and some areas provide subsidies for sustainable landscaping to discourage the use of decorative grass. Now the entire state of Nevada is going to ban the use of lawns, good for them!

Even thinking beyond the insane amounts of water that turf requires, yards—often doused in fertilizers and pesticides designed to keep any and all natural wildlife away—have also become human monuments against biodiversity. Last month, when I reported on the drastic drop in monarch butterflies and the tribal coalition seeking to protect the animal’s migratory path, both Jane Breckenridge and Chip Taylor (who helped found the Tribal Alliance for Pollinators) cited the explosion of turf lawns as one of the main factors interrupting the natural habitats and resting places. The environmental case for separating lawns from the idealized version of homeownership is strong; the question is whether current regulations have the muscle to do it.

The City of Sacramento, for instance, currently offers a turf conversion rebate that helps residents offset the cost of transitioning their yards from turf to “low-water-use plants.” The program is one of many, as western and southwestern municipalities from Austin, Texas, to Mesa, Arizona, have pushed locals to ditch their turf in favor of drought-resistant plants over the past decade. Even the Southern Nevada Water Authority has a similar program in place, in addition to a developer-focused ban passed in 2003 that sought to outlaw planting grass yards in new subdivisions. But as a recent report from The Guardian showed, homeowners often decline these offers. One percent of metro Phoenix homeowners continue to use flood irrigation practices, dousing their yards in 60,000 acre-feet of water last year. That practice alone accounted for 7.5 percent of the water that the local water utility Salt River Project provided to the entire area. It’s as much as the entire city of Chandler, Arizona, used in a year.

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Time to get Wild in Scotland

Forest

We keep kicking wildlife out of their homes, and it’s time to reverse that process. We need to invite wild animals back into the places they used o live, this is known as rewilding. The most celebrated rewilding effort was done in Yellowstone when wolves were reintroduced into the park, which led to a much healthier ecosystem. Now, there are places all around the world trying to return their parks and natural areas back to their pre-industrial prime. In Scotland they are looking to make rewilding a national effort.

He explains that they are urging all political parties to commit to five different measures to protect nature and boost the economy:

  • Commit to rewilding 30 per cent of public land.
  • Establish a community fund to support rewilding in towns and cities.
  • Backing the reintegration of keystone species such as rehoming beavers and reintroducing the Eurasian Lynx where there is local support.
  • Create a coastal zone where dredging and trawling are not permitted
  • Introduce a plan to control deer populations, allowing land to recover from overgrazing.

The Scottish public is behind the idea too. Last year the SWA commissioned a poll across Scotland which found widespread support for the principle of rewilding. More than three-quarters of people who expressed an opinion backed the concept, ten times as many as those who objected to it.

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Thanks to Craig!

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