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.


(New York) Will Community Bans on Hydrofracking Hold Up?

Will Community Bans on Hydrofracking Hold Up? (Gotham Gazette, Dec 2011)
Communities across the state have passed legislation banning the controversial practice of hydraulic fracturing. The movement brings up questions of home rule and is being followed closely by the natural gas industry. Cuomo administration efforts to open the New York State section of the Marcellus Shale to drilling will require hydraulic fracturing, which critics say poses a serious threat to the safety of surface and underground water sources, and causes other environmental problems. Advocates of the process say it will boost upstate economies.
According to a list compiled by Keuka Citizens Against Hydrofracking, fifty-four upstate communities –spanning 14 counties and including the cities of Albany and Buffalo- have permanently banned or placed a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and related activities within their boundaries. And more bans are on the way. Six upstate counties (Dutchess, Onondaga, Ontario, Sullivan, Tompkins and Ulster) have banned hydraulic fracturing on all county-owned lands. The practice is already restricted from the New York City and Syracuse watersheds.


Canada-El Salvador trade deal to further entrench power of rogue mining corporations

Canada-El Salvador trade deal to further entrench power of rogue mining corporations
A protest was held at the Canadian Embassy in El Salvador yesterday to commemorate the two-year anniversary of the assassination Ramiro Rivera and Dora Sorto, two environmental advocates from Cabanas El Salvador who were active in the campaign against the El Dorado mine of the Canadian company Pacific Rim.
The Embassy refused to meet with representatives from the Mesa Nacional frente la Mineria Metalica to hear concerns and receive a letter demanding an end to free trade negotiations between Canada and El Salvador that would further entrench the rights of mining companies “If neoliberal mechanisms actually worked the people of El Salvador and Central America would not experience the levels of poverty and humanitarian crises that lead to the exodus of thousands of people each day,” the letter said.
The trade agreement is being negotiated at a time when Canadian mining company Pacific Rim is using an American subsidiary to sue the El Salvador government for failing to issue a permit for its cyanide leach gold mine in Cabanas.
The following statement from Council of Canadians’ chairperson, Maude Barlow was read at the protest:
On behalf of the Council of Canadians, I am sending you a message of solidarity and gratitude from Canada for your courageous stance against the big corporate bully, Pacific Rim. El Salvador has made the right choice in refusing to grant Pacific Rim a permit for its cyanide-leach gold mine.

In July 2010, the General Assembly of the United Nations passed a resolution recognizing water and sanitation as a human right. Pacific Rim’s El Dorado mine threatens to poison the Lempa River watershed, the most important watershed in the country and source of drinking water for the majority of Salvadorans. This is a blatant violation not only of the human right to water of Salvadorans today, but of all future generations of Salvadorans.
As water justice activists, we salute the environmentalists, community activists and social justice advocates in El Salvador who have been fighting to protect the destruction of water resources by big mining corporations. You are an inspiration to all of us and we stand with you today in declaring that our environment and our rights are more important than their profits.
Trade tribunals that are not accountable to our communities and put the interests of corporations first have no business undoing the democratic decisions of our elected governments. We cannot continue to allow trade agreement and the rights they grant to multinational corporations to trump the environment and human rights. This must stop. Ya basta!


Are Privatized Water Utilities in Cahoots With Shale Gas Companies?

Are Privatized Water Utilities in Cahoots With Shale Gas Companies? | Common Dreams
No surprises here, but this needs wider dissemination

On one hand, we have shale gas companies who have been rushing into various regions of the country to extract gas using a dangerous extraction process that involves toxic chemicals potentially contaminating our drinking water. On the other hand, we also have investor-owned water utilities (IOU’s) who are taking a public resource out of the hands of the public and profiting greatly from it. What happens when you put them both together? The results are revealed in the latest Food & Water Watch Report, Why the Water Industry is Promoting Shale Gas Development and they could involve the over-generalization of water quality tests, increased water rates and big profits… for the investors.
The report details big concerns about the sketchy relationship between IOU’s and gas companies, including the possibility that IOU’s would protect their investment even if it meant downplaying the risks of contamination caused by their new customers: shale gas companies.
Not only that, but water contamination in a community can lead to new customers for the private water utilities when they need to find a new source of drinking water. Look at what’s happening in Pavillion, Wyoming and Dimock, Pennsylvania, and you can see that this could be a tricky relationship to monitor. If your household relies on its own drinking water well and it suddenly becomes contaminated, you might have to deal with switching to an IOU to provide your water. They can benefit from contamination.
The report also points to IOU’s giving gas-drilling companies discounted rates for water—an average of 45 percent less than residential customers, in the case of one IOU. This sets the tone for water— a public resource — to be sold cheaply to shale gas companies, giving IOU’s a handsome profit. And this water would be used for fracking, which could potentially contaminate water sources. Do we really want to sell our clean water up the river?


NEWS: Canadian fracking company may have polluted groundwater in Wyoming

NEWS: Canadian fracking company may have polluted groundwater in Wyoming
More news - “The EPA found that compounds likely associated with fracking chemicals had been detected in the groundwater beneath Pavillion, a small community in central Wyoming where residents say their well water reeks of chemicals. …Calgary, Alberta-based Encana Corp. owns the Pavillion gas field. …The fracking occurred below the level of the drinking water aquifer and close to water wells, the EPA said. …The EPA did emphasize that the findings are specific to the Pavillion area. The agency said the fracking that occurred in Pavillion differed from fracking methods used elsewhere in regions with different geological characteristics. …Elsewhere, drilling is more remote and fracking occurs much deeper than the level of groundwater that would normally be used.”

FIRST TIME: (US) EPA Finds Fracking Contaminated Drinking Water (in Wyoming)

By: David Dayen Friday December 9, 2011 9:08 am

For the first time, (US) government scientists concluded that hydraulic fracturing, the process of shooting massive quantities of water and chemicals into rock to release natural gas, contaminates drinking water. The study concerns an incident in Pavillion, Wyoming, and culminates three years of research of the local aquifer.

EPA constructed two deep monitoring wells to sample water in the aquifer. The draft report indicates that ground water in the aquifer contains compounds likely associated with gas production practices, including hydraulic fracturing. EPA also re-tested private and public drinking water wells in the community. The samples were consistent with chemicals identified in earlier EPA results released in 2010 and are generally below established health and safety standards. To ensure a transparent and rigorous analysis, EPA is releasing these findings for public comment and will submit them to an independent scientific review panel. The draft findings announced today are specific to Pavillion, where the fracturing is taking place in and below the drinking water aquifer and in close proximity to drinking water wells – production conditions different from those in many other areas of the country.

Independent reports have previously shown contaminants in water due to fracking, but this is the first time the EPA has come out and said so. And while they cite Pavillion as a special case, it calls into question the surge in fracking across the country. From the Marcellus Shale to the Rocky Mountains, thousands of natural gas drilling sites have sprung up, and questions about air and water quality have persisted. Multiple examples of residents lighting the water out of their faucets on fire, and incidents of sickness in areas around the natural gas wells (many of which are in the backyards of people paid handsomely by the fracking companies for the privilege), abound.

Jim Martin, the EPA’s regional administrator in Denver, said in a statement, “EPA’s highest priority remains ensuring that Pavillion residents have access to safe drinking water. We will continue to work cooperatively with the State, Tribes, Encana (the gas company that did the fracking) and the community to secure long-term drinking water solutions. We look forward to having these findings in the draft report informed by a transparent and public review process. In consultation with the Tribes, EPA will also work with the State on additional investigation of the Pavillion field.”

Feds Approve yet another tar sands project in last hours of UN climate talks

Feds Approve yet another tar sands project in last hours of UN climate talks
How fitting. With a mere 36 more hours to go until the end of the UN climate talks in Durban, South Africa and with intensifying international pleas for action on the climate crisis, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver announces the approval of the Joslyn North Oil Sands Mine in the Alberta tar sands. What will this mean?


Tar Sands Action - Write to the Senate (US)

Tar Sands Action
Hey Canada - keep an eye on the US action - more work needed in Canada too --

Tell the Senate: Reject Backroom Deals on Keystone XL
Big oil is fighting back, pushing a backroom deal in Congress that would force rapid approval of Keystone XL.

We won this fight in public once, and now Big Oil is trying to take it back into the shadowy back rooms of Washington where they have all the power. We need to put our Senators on notice that we expect them to reject any legislation to force Keystone XL, and that they will hear from us again if they make the wrong decision.


Action for LGBT Organizations in Nigeria

All Out
December 2, 2011
Thanks to Kevin

Nigeria is pushing forward a law that would make it a punishable offense - of up to 14-years in prison - for anybody to go to a gay bar, to work for or be involved with LGBT organizations, or to be in an openly gay relationship.

This Monday, our friend Ifeanyi and other Nigerian activists are speaking out at the UN against this draconian bill with a simple message: We Are Not Illegal.
Add your voice to Ifeanyi's urgent appeal to the Nigerian President and he will deliver your signature this Monday.


Success! 2012 Waste & Water Budgets | Toronto Environmental Alliance

Success! 2012 Waste & Water Budgets | Toronto Environmental Alliance
Toronto Water budget

After many hours of debate about industrial water users and pollution in Toronto, Council voted against the Mayor's Executive Committee recommendation to subsidize water rates for industrial polluters.

Industrial water users have the option to get discounted water rates (called the Block 2 rate) if they create water efficiency plans and don’t break the City’s important water pollution by-laws. The budget proposed to remove this eligibility criteria and give the discount to all industries, whether they've been found to violate the pollution by-laws or not. Councillors voted to solve the administrative problems of the program, rather than scrap it altogether.

This would have cut City revenue by over $3 million, and would mean higher costs to the city to monitor and treat pollution. (sometimes, it works)

Cost of Tax Evasion Revealed as Campaign to Tackle Tax Havens Launches | Canadians for Tax Fairness

Huge Cost of Tax Evasion Revealed as Campaign to Tackle Tax Havens Launches
In Canada an estimated $81 billion a year is lost to tax evasion in the ‘shadow economy’ - that is half of our total healthcare spending. Canada ranks 11th out of the 145 countries surveyed in total amount of tax evaded.

Tax havens are a major part of the tax evasion problem – and these new findings come as the Tax Justice Network launches Tackle Tax Havens, a new campaign that highlights the critical role that these secretive states play in corrupting the global economy.

The issue of tax collection is rising fast up the political and social agenda, as countries across the world make deep cuts in public spending in ways that hurt the poor and the middle classes the most.

This new research demonstrates how important it is to tackle tax evasion and the tax havens that help wealthy individuals and corporations escape from contributing to the services that directly benefit them - from the health and education systems that support their workforces, to the roads that ship their goods to markets, to the courts of law that enforce their contracts or to the police who protect their property.

But tax havens are not just about tax: they cause colossal damage on many fronts. Tackle Tax Havens aims to inform the public about the offshore system and the problems it causes -- and to show what we can do about it.

Africa as a whole loses the equivalent of 98% of its total healthcare budget to tax evasion
119 of the 145 countries surveyed are losing over half of their healthcare budget to tax evasion
In 67 countries, tax evasion losses are larger than their entire health budgets
In Bolivia, tax evasion is more than four times as large as that oil rich country's health spending.
In Russia, it is more than three times the size
In Greece and Italy, where economic collapse currently looks possible, more than €1 in €4 is hidden in the shadow economy

More than $1 in every $6 earned in the world is not subject to tax because those earning it have deliberately ensured that their income is hidden from the world’s tax authorities

Amnesty International's Global Write for Rights Dec 10

Amnesty International's Global Write-a-thon | Write for Rights Dec 10
Your words can be a SPOTLIGHT that exposes the dark corners of the torture chamber. They can bring POWER to a human rights defender whose life is in jeopardy. They can IGNITE hope in a forgotten prisoner.

Join hundreds of thousands of people around the world in marking International Human Rights Day this December 10 by taking part in Amnesty International's Write for Rights Global Write-a-thon - the world's largest human rights event. Through letters, cards and more, we take action to demand that the human rights of individuals are respected, protected and fulfilled. We show solidarity with those suffering human rights abuses, and work to bring about positive change in people's lives.

Sign up now to Write for Rights!