Humanists for Social Justice and Environmental Action supports Human Rights, Social and Economic Justice, Environmental Activism and Planetary Ethics in North America & Globally, with particular reference to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and other Human Rights UN treaties and conventions listed above. see About Us. Subscribe below.

Monday

Quaker, adopt a responsible palm oil policy | SumOfUs

Quaker, adopt a responsible palm oil policy | SumOfUs

PepsiCo uses the honest-looking “Quaker man" image to sell breakfast cereals and snacks around the world. But some Quaker products contain palm oil, and the company's safeguards are simply not good enough to ensure that the palm oil it buys isn't contributing to deforestation and human rights abuses.

Quaker is the world's oldest cereal brand, and one of PepsiCo's prized possessions. Quaker products are marketed particularly to families and conscientious consumers, competing with Kellogg's and other brands which have adopted responsible palm oil commitments.

PepsiCo is a $77 billion company, and could be a powerful ally in the struggle to stop deforestation and human rights abuses. Rainforests across Southeast Asia are being destroyed every day to make way for massive palm oil plantations, where workers, even children, are trapped in modern slavery to cultivate the vegetable oil.

MSF and the TPP: Tell Stephen Harper: Medicines shouldn't be a luxury

Tell Stephen Harper: Medicines shouldn't be a luxury

FROM MSF:

Canada is participating in international trade talks that could jeopardize what has already been achieved, and put the lives of millions of patients at risk.

On November 13, WikiLeaks released the draft Intellectual Property Chapter of the TPP. Since negotiations began in 2010, they have been shrouded in secrecy. This is the first leak of text from the proposed agreement in more than two years.

The leak of the secret text confirms that the U.S. government is continuing to steamroll its trading partners in the face of steadfast opposition over terms that will severely restrict access to affordable medicines for millions of people. The U.S. is refusing to back down from dangerous provisions that will impede timely access to affordable medicines.

It's encouraging to see that some governments, including Canada, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, are pushing back against some aspects of the U.S. position with their own proposal that better protects access to medicines. What is troubling is that the text also shows that some countries are willing to give in to the U.S. government's damaging demands. MSF urges countries to stand strong to ensure that the harmful terms are removed before this deal is finalized

Many countries and treatment providers like Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) rely on affordable quality generic medicines to treat life-threatening diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis. We need to keep prices low so our patients — and millions of others still waiting for treatment in the developing world — can get the medicines they need.

Sign the petition to tell Prime Minister Harper to stand firm against the U.S. position on the TPP, and reject damaging provisions that could make this agreement the most harmful trade pact ever foraccess to medicines.

Saturday

European Humanist Federation - European Parliament commits to gender equality and women sexual and reproductive rights

European Humanist Federation - European Parliament commits to gender equality and women sexual and reproductive rights

Civil society and human rights organisations welcome the adoption of the Report on Equality between women and men in the EU (2013) authored by MEP Marc Tarabella.
Despite numerous falsehoods and emotional manipulation spread by anti-human-rights organisations about the Report, the European Parliament has clearly affirmed its will to combat gender-discrimination in Europe.
Adopted with a comfortable majority of 441 votes in favour and 205 votes against, this report addresses persistent and increasing deadlocks on gender equality and proposes actions on a wide range of issues: developing childcare facilities; combating stereotypes against female employment; reducing gender pay and pension gaps; establishing paid paternity leave to enable men and fathers to achieve a better work-life balance and raising awareness on violence against women with a European year dedicated to this issue.

Importantly also, MEPs have clearly agreed that women must have control over their sexual and reproductive health and rights (SRHR), including access to contraception, legal abortion and sexuality  education - although the EU can only encourage Member States’ policies  on this issue and not initiate policies on its own.

International Women's Day - Womens Rights and Local Journalism

http://www.ipsnews.net/2015/03/the-15-journalists-putting-womens-rights-on-the-front-page/

NEW YORK, Mar 6 2015 (IPS) - Media coverage of maternal, sexual and reproductive health rights is crucial to achieving international development goals, yet journalists covering these issues often face significant challenges.

“When I was a baby, I got sick and some of my family members decided  that I should die because I was not a boy. Decades later, I’m inspired  by the courage of my mother - and countless other women – to expose and  end gender-based violence and inequality.”
-- IPS correspondent Stella  Paul
Recognising the contributions these journalists make to advancing women and girls’ rights, international advocacy organisation Women Deliver have named 15 journalists for their dedication to gender issues ahead of International Women’s Day 2015.Among the journalists Women Deliver
recognised for their work is IPS correspondent Stella Paul from India. Paul was honoured for her reporting on women’s rights abuses through articles on such issues as India’s ‘temple slaves’ and bonded labourers.

Paul’s dedication to women’s rights is not only shown through her journalism. When she interviews communities, she also teaches them how to report abuses to the authorities and hold them accountable for breaking the cycle of violence....

Another journalist honoured was Mae Azango from Liberia. Women Deliver CEO Katja Iversen told IPS, “Mae Azango deserves a Pulitzer. She went undercover to investigate female genital mutilation in Liberia.

“After her story was published she received death threats and [she] and her daughter were forced into hiding. Mae’s bravery paid off though, as her story garnered international attention and encouraged the Liberian government to ban the licensing of institutions where this horrific practice is performed,” Iversen added.

Azango told Women Deliver, “Speaking the truth about female genital cutting in my country has long been a dangerous thing to do. But I thought it was worth risking my life because cutting has claimed the lives of so many women and girls, some as young as two.”

Iversen said that many of the honourees had shown incredible dedication, through their work. “For some of our journalists, simply covering topics deemed culturally taboo – like reproductive rights, domestic violence or sexual assault – can be enough to put them in danger,” she said.

However despite their dedication, journalists still also face obstacles in the newsroom. “One of the questions we asked the journalists was: what will it take to move girls’ and women’s health issues to the front pages?” Iversen said.

“Almost all of them said: we need more female journalists in leadership and decision-making positions in our newsrooms. Journalism, like many other industries, remains a male dominated field, which can be a major obstacle to publishing stories on women’s health and rights.”

But the issue also runs deeper. There is also a lack of recognition that women and girls’ health rights abuses and neglect are also abuses of human rights, and combatting these issues is essential to achieving development for everyone, not just women and girls.

This means that women’s health is often seen as ‘soft news’ not political or economic news worthy of a front-page headline. “Unfortunately women’s health and wellbeing is still, for the most part, treated as ‘soft’ news, despite the fact that when women struggle to survive, so do their families, communities and nations,” Iversen said.

“Every day, an estimated 800 women die in pregnancy or childbirth, 31 million girls are not enrolled in primary school and early marriage remains a pervasive problem in many countries. These are not just women’s issues, these are everyone’s issues – and our honorees are helping readers understand this link.”

As journalist Catherine Mwesigwa from Uganda told Women Deliver, “Women’s health issues will make it to the front pages when political leaders and the media make the connection between girls’ and women’s health and socio-economic development and productivity, children’s education outcomes and nations’ political stability.”

Male journalists also have a role to play and two of the fifteen journalists honoured for their contribution to raising awareness on these crucial rights were men. Besides India and Liberia, other honorees hailed from Argentina, Cameroon, Bangladesh, Kenya, Pakistan, the Philippines, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and the United States.

Wednesday

Tell Stephen Harper: Medicines shouldn't be a luxury - MSF

Tell Stephen Harper: Medicines shouldn't be a luxury

Competition from generic drug companies has reduced the price of HIV drugs by a staggering 99 per cent to less than $140 per patient per year. This has given more HIV patients in the developing world a chance not only to survive, but to lead meaningful lives.

But Canada is participating in international trade talks that could jeopardize what has already been achieved, and put the lives of millions of patients at risk.

Damaging intellectual property rules in the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) would give pharmaceutical companies longer monopolies over brand name drugs. Companies would be
able to charge high prices for longer periods of time. And it would be much harder for generic companies to produce cheaper drugs that are vital to people’s health.

On November 13, WikiLeaks released the draft Intellectual Property Chapter of the TPP. Since negotiations began in 2010, they have been shrouded in secrecy. This is the first leak of text from the proposed agreement in more than two years.

The leak of the secret text confirms that the U.S. government is continuing to steamroll its trading partners in the face of steadfast opposition over terms that will severely restrict access to affordable medicines for millions of people. The U.S. is refusing to back down from dangerous provisions that will impede timely access to affordable medicines.

It's encouraging to see that some governments, including Canada, Chile, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore, are pushing back against some aspects of the U.S. position with their own proposal that better protects access to medicines. What is troubling is that the text  also shows that some countries are willing to give in to the U.S.  government's damaging demands. MSF urges countries to stand strong to ensure that the harmful terms are removed before this deal is finalized.

Sign the petition to tell Prime Minister Harper to stand firm against the U.S. position on the TPP, and reject damaging provisions that could make this agreement the most harmful trade pact ever for access to medicines.

Monday

Industry Lobby gears up. Tell Ontario to stand strong on bee-killing pesticides... | Sierra Club Canada

(Reminder) Please tell Ontario to stand strong on bee-killing pesticides... | Sierra Club Canada

As you know, Ontario plans to restrict the use of bee- killing pesticides. In 2014, the Ontario government announced it intended to restrict the use of neonicotinoid pesticides. In order to develop the plan and regulations, the province began conducting consultations and invited the public to comment.

A number of these public consultations took place this past December and the majority went very well, with farmers and other stakeholders able to give input on the new rules. A meeting on December 19th, however, was very different.

INDUSTRY PUSH-BACK


The head of the Ontario Grain Growers (OGG), accompanied by (former MP) Ted Menzies, the new CEO of industry lobby group CropLife, stood up at the beginning of the meeting, condemned the government, and then (took their toys) and stomped out.

DIVIDE & CONQUER

The OGG and CropLife intend to undermine the consultations and are already preparing a pre-federal election ground offensive, and the battlefield is Ontario’s urban/rural divide. You may remember CropLife is in the midst of a major lobbying and public relations campaign to prevent Canada from adopting a ban on bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides (an action the European Union took more than a year ago). They know they have to defeat any regulatory action in Ontario or risk seeing it spread across the country.

GOOD FIRST STEP

The Ontario government’s plan applies only to corn and soybean crops in the province and does not prohibit other uses of neonicotinoid pesticides. The new plan will require farmers to demonstrate a need for them, replacing the present practice of spraying all seeds before delivering them to the farmer.

The province confidently states that it can eliminate neonicotinoid use by 80% on these crops without a significant impact on production. New rules are expected to be in place by July 2015 (and apply to the2016 crop growing year).

Sierra Club Canada Foundation is supportive of the plan because it will be the first action by any jurisdiction in North America (the European Union acted in 2013). It should be viewed, however, as only a first step because it applies strictly to soybean and corn seed treatment and not other crops. As a precautionary measure to protect pollinators, we’re calling for restrictions on all uses of neonicotinoid pesticides. We see no logical reason to treat other uses of the bee-killing chemicals differently.

BEE HEARD TODAY

We hear from our sources that CropLife and OGG’s lobbying of late against restricting bee-killing neonicotinoid pesticides has been fierce
So let’s make sure Ontario stays strong. One way of
doing that is submitting comments, and we have until January 25th. We’ve provided a draft letter here

Sunday

Invitation to Carbon Tax forum, Jan 27, Victoria College

For everyone who wants to learn more about how we can stop subsidizing fossil fuels and can really speed up the transition to renewables - please help spread the word - so there can be more public understanding of these options.  - Lyn
Great news!    Citizens' Climate Lobby (CCL)  is co-sponsoring a Carbon Price Forum moderated by Stephen Lewis. The forum will take place on Tuesday, January 27 from 7:30 to 9:00 pm.
Isabel Bader Auditorium,
93 Charles Street West,
Victoria College University of Toronto

What’s the best way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while stimulating the economy? Join Stephen Lewis and an expert panel on how to effectively put a price on carbon in Canada.
Two methods are frequently proposed – Cap and Trade and a Carbon Tax. Our Forum Panelists will present the case for each of these methods.
Moderator
Stephen Lewis, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Ryerson University
Panelists
  • Nicholas Rivers, Chairholder, Canada Research Chair in Climate and Energy, University of Ottawa
  • David Robinson, Associate Professor of Economics, Laurentian University
  • Katie Sullivan, Director, North America and Climate Finance, IETA
  • Gray Taylor, a leading climate change lawyer working in Toronto
Commentators
  • Kristyn Annis, President, Canadians for Clean Prosperity
  • Lynn McDonald, former Federal Member of Parliament and co-founder of JustEarth

Wednesday

Much of world's fossil fuel reserve must stay buried to prevent climate change, study says | Environment | The Guardian

Much of world's fossil fuel reserve must stay buried to prevent climate change, study says | Environment | The Guardian

It shows trillions of dollars of known and extractable coal, oil and gas, including most Canadian tar sands, all Arctic oil and gas and much potential shale gas, cannot be exploited if the global temperature rise is to be kept under the 2C safety limit agreed by the world’s nations.
Currently, the world is heading for a catastrophic 5C of warming and the deadline to seal a global climate deal comes in December at a crunch UN summit in Paris.

“We’ve now got tangible figures of the quantities and locations of fossil fuels that should remain unused in trying to keep within the 2C temperature limit,” said Christophe McGlade, at University College
London (UCL), and who led the new research published in the journal Nature. The work, using detailed data and well-established economic models, assumed cost effective climate policies would use the cheapest fossil fuels first, with more expensive fuels priced out of a world in which carbon emissions were strictly limited. For example, the model predicts that significant cheap-to-produce conventional oil would be burned butthat the carbon limit would be reached before more expensive tar sands
 oil could be used.
The new analysis calls into question the gigantic sums of private and government investment being ploughed into exploration for new fossil fuel reserves, according to UCL’s Professor Paul Ekins, who conducted the research with McGlade. “In 2013, fossil fuel companies spent some $670bn (£443bn) on exploring for new oil and gas resources. One might ask why they are doing this when there is more in the ground than we can afford to burn,” he said.
“The investors in those companies might feel that money is better spent either developing low-carbon energy sources or being returned to investors as dividends,” said Ekins.
“One lesson of this work is unmistakably obvious: when you’re in a hole, stop digging,” said Bill McKibben, co-founder of 350.org which is campaigning to get investors to dump their fossil fuel stocks. “These numbers show that unconventional and ‘extreme’ fossil fuel – Canada’s tar sands, for instance – simply have to stay in the ground.”

President Obama: It's Time to Reject Keystone XL. - 350

President Obama: It's Time to Reject Keystone XL. - 350

From Bill McKibben.
President Obama has threatened to veto legislation to approve the Keystone XL pipeline.

With the President's veto threat, he has shown that he's willing to take some heat for standing up to the industry. In fact, when he's talked about Keystone XL lately, he's started to sound a little like we did way back when we began this fight.

President Obama has the support he needs -- from science, and from the people -- to reject the pipeline. An 830,000 barrel per day pipeline of the world's dirtiest oil will obviously contribute to climate
change, failing his climate test.

Send a message to President Obama to stop Keystone XL now!

Saturday

Tell KFC to go deforestation-free. | SumOfUs

Tell KFC to go deforestation-free. | SumOfUs
KFC says it has absolutely no idea where its palm oil comes from -- and it's putting that palm oil into loads of products, from apple turnovers to grilled chicken to country-fried steak.

In other words, KFC, the world’s second largest restaurant chain, can't guarantee that it’s not buying from conflict palm oil plantations in Indonesia and Malaysia. It could very well be responsible for the clearing of pristine rainforest, for the deaths of thousands of orangutans and tigers, for child labour on palm plantations, and rocketing carbon emissions from deforestation.

Tell KFC & Yum! Brand’s to do the right thing, and adopt a comprehensive deforestation-free palm oil policy.

KFC is owned by Yum! Brands, which also owns Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, two more fast food chains that also use palm oil. To get Yum! to adopt a deforestation-free palm oil policy, we're joining forces with the Union of Concerned Scientists to push this issue all the way up to the CEO's desk.

The mega fast food conglomerate insists that it’s phasing out palm oil “wherever feasible”, with only a little more than 30% of its restaurants still using it for frying. But with more than 40,000 outlets around the world, that’s still more than 12,000 KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell restaurants that fry with palm oil that could be from destroyed rainforests.
Furthermore, Yum! Brands has no policy for palm oil used in the rest of its non-fried products, including KFC’s biscuits and gravy.

Pressure is mounting on KFC to make the switch to responsibly-sourced palm oil. On top of our efforts, Yum! Brands is feeling pressure from its own shareholders over the palm oil issue, and it will have to face a shareholder resolution at its Annual General Meeting in May, demanding that it starts sourcing responsible palm oil.

We've already convinced Kellogg's, Krispy Kreme, Dunkin’ Donuts and other big companies to change their ways, causing a shift in the global palm oil supply chain. Because of our work, it’s easier than ever for companies to buy palm oil that’s free of deforestation. Similar organized consumer pressure has dramatically slowed the rate of deforestation in Brazil. KFC can be moved with public pressure too, especially now with the double whammy of a shareholder resolution looming on the horizon.

Tell KFC and Yum! Brands to step up, and back off the rainforest. Adopt a deforestation-free policy now.

Friday

Europeans should be wary of Ontario pension fund's ownership of airports and water services | The Council of Canadians

Europeans should be wary of Ontario pension fund's ownership of airports and water services | The Council of Canadians

The Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan now owns 48.25 per cent of the Birmingham Airport.

While aviation emissions account for about four to nine per cent of the total climate change impact of human activity, the Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan (OTPP) is expanding its portfolio of holdings in European airports. And with privatized airports and investor-state provisions in 'free trade' deals like the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA), local residents, municipal councils and national governments will be in a weakened position to curb profit-driven airport expansions.

Reuters reports,
"Canada's Ontario Teachers' Pension Plan said it had bought a 19.25 percent stake in Birmingham Airport from Australia's Victorian Funds Management Corporation, taking its investment in the British airport to 48.25 percent. ...Seven West Midlands district councils have kept a significant ownership of Birmingham Airport and will continue investing alongside Ontario Teachers."

In 2013 the airport had 9.12 million passengers, but the news report notes, "The Canadian pension fund wants to strengthen Birmingham Airport's position as a regional hub in the UK by tapping into its capacity of around 9.5 million passengers per year." In 2009, the Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council approved the extension of the runway length from 2,605 metres to 3,052 metres to handle this kind of expansion. Business Traveller reports, "The current runway places restrictions on an aircraft's weight at take-off and limits the maximum range of direct flights from Birmingham to the US east coast, the Middle East, Northern India and Pakistan."

But in July of this year, the Birmingham Mail reported, "More than 2,000 villagers living near Birmingham Airport have signed a petition calling for a rethink on flight paths following an outcry over noise levels. Residents in Balsall Common, Hampton in Arden and Catherine de Barnes claim their lives are being made a misery by trials launched in May."

Today's report in Reuters adds, "[The pension fund's] other airport investments include UK's Bristol, Copenhagen and Brussels. ...The Canadian pension fund became the sole owner of the UK's ninth busiest airport, Bristol, after buying out its co-shareholder Macquarie Group in September."

The Bristol Airport has also been controversial. The expansion of this airport was led by Stop Bristol Airport Expansion and supported by Bristol Friends of the Earth and Campaign to Protect Rural England. In 2005, the BBC reported,
"The government says passenger numbers flying from Bristol will almost double to eight million a year by 2015." Bristol Friends of the Earth stated, "The expansion would be a climate change disaster. People and councillors across the area need to wake up to what the expansion will bring: traffic misery, increased noise, road schemes and countryside development."  And the World Development Movement noted that prior to the expansion the Bristol airport generated as much CO2 as the African country of Malawi.

In July 2014, Le Soir reported that the Brussels Airport is the most noise-polluting airport of thirty European airports in terms of the noise levels created and the number of people affected by take-off and landing operations. And while the Copenhagen Airport has set a target to reduce its CO2 emissions from 1.4 kilo to 1.0 kilo per passenger by 2020, the airport has also announced it reached "an all-time high of 25 million passengers" this year and over the coming two or three decades it seeks to handle 40 million passengers annually.

Sunday

Nunavut vs Big Oil | SumOfUs

Nunavut vs Big Oil | SumOfUs

Off the coast of Clyde River, Nunavut, unspoiled Arctic waters are home to 90% of the world's narwhals. These unique tusked whales play a crucial role in the aquatic ecosystem, and for thousands of years have been a staple of the local Inuit community. But now their very survival is in danger.

The Canadian government just granted oil corporations the right to search for drilling sites in the ocean near Clyde River. Offshore drilling is bad enough, but the search is worse – these oil companies will use "seismic testing," setting off huge explosions underwater to try and find oil.

Like all whales, narwhals use their hearing to communicate and to find their way safely beneath the Arctic ice. The search for oil will deafen, disorient, and kill any narwhals caught in its path. It's up to us to speak up now, and stop this while we still can. Save the narwhals! For generations, big corporations have stripped northern Canada of its natural resources, trampling the rights of native peoples and destroying entire ecosystems for profit. The government has been complicit in this, auctioning off oil and mineral rights to the highest bidder and ignoring the consequences. But until now, the narwhals and the local ecosystem they support have managed to survive.

The people of Clyde River have had enough. They are standing up to the government and to Big Oil and fighting to protect their home. But there are only 900 people in Clyde River. They need us to stand with them. If we act now, we can stop the oil companies in their tracks before the damage is done.

Sign the petition to stop Big Oil from destroying Arctic habitats.