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.


Call Cuomo re NY fracking

Last week Governor Cuomo said he is almost ready to make a decision about whether to allow hydrofracking gas drilling in New York State--the decision could come any day now. From what we know so far, he’s preparing to make the wrong decision - opening up the Southern Tier of the state to drilling immediately, and the rest over time [1].

Broome, Chemung, Chenango, Steuben and Tioga counties could all be dotted with fracking wells within a year, putting the whole region at risk for toxic water and air contamination, not to mention dangerous methane emissions, a highly powerful greenhouse gas. The floodgates would likely open to the rest of the state soon thereafter.

Allowing the gas industry to divide and conquer the state is a highly cynical move -- one that our friends across these counties and throughout New York won’t stand for. We believe that everyone deserves equal protection from the oil and gas industry: if it's bad for the rest of the state, then it's bad for the Southern Tier, too. There should be no double standards when it comes to the health and safety of New York communities.

Gov. Cuomo needs to know the risks - both environmental and political - of giving the gas industry the greenlight to frack New York. Can you call Gov. Cuomo today to tell him ‘No Fracking Way’ to this plan? You can make a call using this number:


George Monbiot – End of an Era

George Monbiot – End of an Era

The mutual dependencies of consumer capitalism ensure that we all unwittingly conspire in the trashing of what may be the only living planet. The failure at Rio de Janeiro belongs to us all. It marks, more or less, the end of the multilateral effort to protect the biosphere. The only successful global instrument – the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer – was agreed and implemented years before the first Earth Summit in 1992(2). It was one of the last fruits of a different political era, in which intervention in the market for the sake of the greater good was not considered anathema, even by the Thatcher and Reagan governments. Everything of value discussed since then has led to weak, unenforceable agreements, or to no agreements at all.

So now what do we do to defend life on Earth?

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 25th June 2012

 The Earth’s living systems are collapsing, and the leaders of some of the most powerful nations – the US, the UK, Germany, Russia – could not even be bothered to turn up and discuss it. Those who did attend the Earth summit last week solemnly agreed to keep stoking the destructive fires: sixteen times in their text they pledged to pursue “sustained growth”, the primary cause of the biosphere’s losses(1).
The efforts of governments are concentrated not on defending the living Earth from destruction, but on defending the machine that is destroying it. Whenever consumer capitalism becomes snarled up by its own contradictions, governments scramble to mend the machine, to ensure – though it consumes the conditions that sustain our lives – that it runs faster than ever before.
The thought that it might be the wrong machine, pursuing the wrong task, cannot even be voiced in mainstream politics. The machine greatly enriches the economic elite, while insulating the political elite from the mass movements it might otherwise confront. We have our bread; now we are wandering, in spellbound reverie, among the circuses.
We have used our unprecedented freedoms, secured at such cost by our forebears, not to agitate for justice, for redistribution, for the defence of our common interests, but to pursue the dopamine hits triggered by the purchase of products we do not need. The world’s most inventive minds are deployed not to improve the lot of humankind but to devise ever more effective means of stimulation, to counteract the diminishing satisfactions of consumption. The mutual dependencies of consumer capitalism ensure that we all unwittingly conspire in the trashing of what may be the only living planet. The failure at Rio de Janeiro belongs to us all.
It marks, more or less, the end of the multilateral effort to protect the biosphere. The only successful global instrument – the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer – was agreed and implemented years before the first Earth Summit in 1992(2). It was one of the last fruits of a different political era, in which intervention in the market for the sake of the greater good was not considered anathema, even by the Thatcher and Reagan governments. Everything of value discussed since then has led to weak, unenforceable agreements, or to no agreements at all.
This is not to suggest that the global system and its increasingly pointless annual meetings will disappear or even change. The governments which allowed the Earth Summit and all such meetings to fail evince no sense of responsibility for this outcome, and appear untroubled by the thought that if a system hasn’t worked for 20 years there’s something wrong with the system. They walk away, aware that there are no political penalties; that the media is as absorbed in consumerist trivia as the rest of us; that, when future generations have to struggle with the mess they have left behind, their contribution will have been forgotton. (And then they lecture the rest of us on responsibility).
Nor is it to suggest that multilateralism should be abandoned. Agreements on biodiversity, the oceans and the trade in endangered species may achieve some marginal mitigation of the full-spectrum assault on the biosphere that the consumption machine has unleashed. But that’s about it.
The action – if action there is – will mostly be elsewhere. Those governments which retain an interest in planet Earth will have to work alone, or in agreement with likeminded nations. There will be no means of restraining free riders, no means of persuading voters that their actions will be matched by those of other countries.
That we have missed the chance of preventing two degrees of global warming now seems obvious. That most of the other planetary boundaries will be crossed, equally so. So what do we do now?
Some people will respond by giving up, or at least withdrawing from political action. Why, they will ask, should we bother, if the inevitable destination is the loss of so much of what we hold dear: the forests, the brooks, the wetlands, the coral reefs, the sea ice, the glaciers, the birdsong and the night chorus, the soft and steady climate which has treated us kindly for so long? It seems to me that there are at least three reasons.
The first is to draw out the losses over as long a period as possible, in order to allow our children and grandchildren to experience something of the wonder and delight in the natural world and of the peaceful, unharried lives with which we have been blessed. Is that not a worthy aim, even if there were no other?
The second is to preserve what we can in the hope that conditions might change. I do not believe that the planet-eating machine, maintained by an army of mechanics, oiled by constant injections of public money, will collapse before the living systems on which it feeds. But I might be wrong. Would it not be a terrible waste to allow the tiger, the rhinoceros, the bluefin tuna, the queen’s executioner beetle and the scabious cuckoo bee, the hotlips fungus and the fountain anenome(3) to disappear without a fight if this period of intense exploitation turns out to be a brief one?
The third is that, while we may possess no influence over decisions made elsewhere, there is plenty that can be done within our own borders. Rewilding – the mass restoration of ecosystems – offers the best hope we have of creating refuges for the natural world, which is why I’ve decided to spend much of the next few years promoting it here and abroad.
Giving up on global agreements or, more accurately, on the prospect that they will substantially alter our relationship with the natural world, is almost a relief. It means walking away from decades of anger and frustration. It means turning away from a place in which we have no agency to one in which we have, at least, a chance of being heard. But it also invokes a great sadness, as it means giving up on so much else.
Was it too much to have asked of the world’s governments, which performed such miracles in developing stealth bombers and drone warfare, global markets and trillion dollar bail-outs, that they might spend a tenth of the energy and resources they devoted to these projects on defending our living planet? It seems, sadly, that it was.


George Monbiot – How “Sustainability” Became “Sustained Growth”

George Monbiot – How “Sustainability” Became “Sustained Growth”
 Some useful reflections on Rio+20 from George...
In 1992 world leaders signed up to something called “sustainability”. Few of them were clear about what it meant; I suspect that many of them had no idea. Perhaps as a result, it did not take long for this concept to mutate into something subtly different: “sustainable development”. Then it made a short jump to another term: “sustainable growth”. And now, in the 2012 Earth Summit text that world leaders are about to adopt, it has subtly mutated once more: into “sustained growth”.
This term crops up 16 times in the document, where it is used interchangeably with sustainability and sustainable development. But if sustainability means anything, it is surely the opposite of sustained growth. Sustained growth on a finite planet is the essence of unsustainability.
As Robert Skidelsky, who comes at this issue from a different angle, observes in the Guardian today:

Aristotle knew of insatiability only as a personal vice; he had no inkling of the collective, politically orchestrated insatiability that we call economic growth. The civilization of “always more” would have struck him as moral and political madness. And, beyond a certain point, it is also economic madness. This is not just or mainly because we will soon enough run up against the natural limits to growth. It is because we cannot go on for much longer economising on labour faster than we can find new uses for it.”

Several of the more outrageous deletions proposed by the United States – such as any mention of rights or equity or of common but differentiated responsibilities – have been rebuffed. In other respects the Obama government’s purge has succeeded, striking out such concepts as “unsustainable consumption and production patterns” and the proposed decoupling of economic growth from the use of natural resources.
At least the states due to sign this document haven’t ripped up the declarations from the last Earth Summit, 20 years ago. But in terms of progress since then, that’s as far as it goes. Reaffirming the Rio 1992 commitments is perhaps the most radical principle in the entire declaration.
As a result, the draft document, which seems set to become the final document, takes us precisely nowhere. 190 governments have spent 20 years bracing themselves to “acknowledge”, “recognise” and express “deep concern” about the world’s environmental crises, but not to do anything about them.
This paragraph from the declaration sums up the problem for me:
“We recognize that the planet Earth and its ecosystems are our home and that Mother Earth is a common expression in a number of countries and regions and we note that some countries recognize the rights of nature in the context of the promotion of sustainable development. We are convinced that in order to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environment needs of present and future generations, it is necessary to promote harmony with nature.”
It sounds lovely, doesn’t it? It could be illustrated with rainbows and psychedelic unicorns and stuck on the door of your toilet. But without any proposed means of implementation, it might just as well be deployed for a different function in the same room.

Capitalism and the Mad Uncle in the Attic |

Capitalism and the Mad Uncle in the Attic | Common Dreams
Ultimately, all wealth comes from natural capital.  Things like fertile soils; viable forests; intact gene pools; abundant minerals; clean water and living oceans; sustainable fish stocks; flourishing ecosystems; a stable, life-sustaining climate.  We are liquidating these essential sources of wealth as if they were so much junk offered for pennies on the dollar at a desperate garage sale.
Our current version of capitalism is good at generating more currency, not greater wealth. And we forget that currency is merely a surrogate for things of real value, with no tangible value in and of itself. 
And even the currency isn’t being distributed equally.  It’s being siphoned off by the richest and most powerful in a spiral of inequity.


US High Court Produces a Politics Of, By and For Corporations

High Court Produces a Politics Of, By and For Corporations | Common Dreams
Though all political eyes and ears await an upcoming decision by the US Supreme Court on the Affordable Care Act, likely to be handed down next week, a new study released on Thursday suggests that many Americans, while awaiting one decision or another, are missing a larger trend pervading the Robert's court. The report, released by the Constitution Accountability Center, found that in every case before the court this term, the majority has found in favor of the position taken by the US Chamber of Commerce, a conservative lobbying group.
  The Supreme Court ruled that unions must win approval in advance from dissenting members before they collect extra dues in mid-year to pay for a political campaign. (Alex Wong / Getty Images) This trend, in which the Chamber has scored seven consecutive victories, bolsters arguments made by many observers who note that the Supreme Court in recent years has taken decidedly favorable positions for business interests while siding against the arguments of consumer advocates, labor unions, and the public interest.
The Nation's John Nichols, responding to Thursday's SCOTUS decision that will now require public-employee unions to get specific permission from employees in workplaces they represent for special assessments before making political campaign expenditures, said the pattern of corporate interests winning out over the interests of "real human beings" is quite clear.
"The Court-ordered shift creates an incredible bureaucratic nightmare for organizations that represent hundreds of thousands of workers," contends Nichols. "And," he adds,"It was entirely unnecessary, as key unions have indicated that they would be willing not just to maintain their “opt-out” clauses but to refund special assessment money to any member or represented nonmember who might object to a political initiative."
Writing the dissenting for the opinion was Justice Stephen Breyer who was joined only by Justice Kagan in opposing the majority. “The debate about public unions’ collective bargaining rights is currently intense,” Breyer wrote. “The question of how a nonmember indicates a desire not to pay constitutes an important part of this debate.… There is no good reason for this court suddenly to enter the debate, much less now to decide that the Constitution resolves it.”
If both history and legal precedent are being written at the Supreme Court, the tale seems to be that big business has a court quite willing to take its side in arguments. For many, the more troubling development is the manner in which the court has gone out of its way to make life that much harder for those who seek to put the reigns on corporate power.


UN Investigator Blasts US Drone Program | Common Dreams

UN Investigator Blasts US Drone Program | Common Dreams

In a report issued overnight to the United Nation's Human Rights Council (UNHRC), UN investigator and special rappateur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions Christof Heyns condemned the continued use of US drones to assassinate suspected militants and questioned the legality of the Obama administration's program under international law.
  Pakistani protesters hold burning US and NATO flags rallying against US drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal belts during a demonstration in Multan on June 4, 2012. (AFP Photo/S.S Mirza) "While these attacks are directed at individuals believed to be leaders or active members of al Qaeda or the Taliban, in the context of armed conflict (e.g. in Afghanistan), in other instances, civilians have allegedly also perished in the attacks in regions where it is unclear whether there was an armed conflict or not (e.g. in Pakistan)," Heynes said in the report.
"The Special Rapporteur again requests the [US] Government to clarify the rules that it considers to cover targeted killings ... (and) reiterates his predecessor's recommendation that the government specify the bases for decisions to kill rather than capture 'human targets' and whether the State in which the killing takes places has given consent," Heyns said.
The report came on the eve of an international debate on the US drone program to be held at the Geneva Forum on Tuesday in Switzerland.


UPDATE: Council backs Six Nations, Southgate PIRG, residents in opposition to Lystek biofertilizer plant

UPDATE: Council backs Six Nations, Southgate PIRG, residents in opposition to Lystek biofertilizer plant
n early-May, reported, “Construction of the OMRC (Southgate Organic Materials Recovery Centre, a biofertilizer facility in Dundalk) started in mid-January. The Ministry of Environment (MOE) sent a letter to Six Nations, as well as 10 other First Nations bands, regarding the project on Jan. 24. However, (Six Nations Chief Bill) Montour said he was not informed of the project until residents opposed to the OMRC raised the issue with his band council.”
“MOE approval is pending for Lystek’s plant, which would process human waste into biofertilizer. The site of the proposed facility is within the Haldimand Tract — a land treaty dating back to 1784. Montour said law requires Lystek to ‘consult and accommodate’ Six Nations. ‘We didn’t get that,’ the chief said. ‘That’s supposed to be done at the idea stage, not when you have holes in the ground.’ …An archaeological survey — which has not been performed — is also required, Montour added. ‘You got to do it,’ he insisted. ‘They could be digging up my grandfathers.’”

“Lystek (the company that plans to construct and operate the OMRC) employees met with Montour for the first time on April 17. The company held a second meeting with Six Nations councillors and its director of land and resources, according to (Kevin) Litwiller (director of business development for Lystek). …When Lystek purchased the property, Litwiller said they were unaware of First Nations rights on the land. …Whether or not Lystek will conduct the (archaeological) survey depends on the outcome of its First Nations ‘consultations and discussions,’ Litwiller said, noting the company is ‘not adverse’ to doing one.”
“Members of Six Nations have joined Southgate residents in blockading the road leading to Dundalk’s eco-park. Litwiller questioned Six Nations actual involvement in the blockade. ‘There were some folks from Six Nations who attended a couple of times,’ Litwiller said. …Anna-Marie Fosbrooke, a member of the Southgate Public Interest Research Group, said there is definite Six Nations involvement in the blockade. ‘They are there as often as their schedules permit. We don’t know when they may or may not be able to attend,’ Fosbrooke said.”

During Green Economy Negotiations Leading Up To Rio +20, Prestigious Water Institute Aids Pepsi Bluewashing

[15-Jun-12] During Green Economy Negotiations Leading Up To Rio +20, Prestigious Water Institute Aids Pepsi Bluewashing

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For Immediate Release
June 15, 2012

During Green Economy Negotiations Leading Up To Rio +20,
Prestigious Water Institute Aids Pepsi Bluewashing

Joint statement of Maude Barlow, Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch
Ottawa and Washington, D.C. – "As activists from around the globe are convening at the Rio +20 conference to protect our common resources from private interests, the Stockholm International Water Institute’s decision to award PepsiCo for water efficiency is a cruel irony. PepsiCo has inflicted massive harm on vital community water resources around the globe. This award validates and aids that activity, further justifying PepsiCo’s PR efforts to spin itself as “green.”
“This award legitimizes PepsiCo’s dubious business practices in an age of increasing water scarcity. PepsiCo has routinely depleted our groundwater resources, undertaken unsustainable intra-basin water transfers and polluted community water resources. Praising the corporation for reported water efficiency does little to reverse its damaging legacy.
“PepsiCo recently touted its commitment to the human right to water. But privatizing and destroying a vital and irreplaceable resource directly undermines human rights. The company’s hollow promise won’t stop communities from fighting its control of their water.
“There are some resources that simply shouldn’t be bottled, traded or sacrificed to the market, and that is especially true of water. While multinational corporations lobby for an unfair share of our natural resources, no respectable institution should award them for their greedy, destructive behavior.
“Furthermore, the promotion of Pepsi through Stockholm Water Week highlights the influence of corporations within global policy spaces. Over the last decade, multinational corporations have gained tremendous access to decision-makers within UN agencies and summits, as well as through corporate-run multi-stakeholder meetings frequented by high-level government and UN officials—including Stockholm Water Week and the World Water Forum. This award to Pepsi underscores the need for international public institutions and policy spaces that defend the rights of people and nature, not ones that promote corporate interests.

Passage of Bill C-31: A threat to refugees and 'a black eye' for Canada

Passage of Bill C-31: A threat to refugees and 'a black eye' for Canada |
the former Minister of Immigration Judy Sgro explained that she thought the new Bill was horrible. She said that, whenever the Conservatives are in power, they try to change the Immigration legislation because they like people who have money, not immigrants.
On Monday evening in Ottawa, Bill C-31 passed third reading in the House of Commons by a vote of 159 to 132. 
As a refugee advocate, I was saddened to find out that Bill C-31 had passed the final hurdle in the House of Commons. This most oppressive bill will tarnish the prestige and reputation of Canada at the international level.
The Minister of Immigration claims that the Bill is designed to combat human smuggling. However, the real Conservative agenda is to punish the most vulnerable people of the world. Once those traumatized refugees are thrown behind bars, their suffering will be enormous. The social and psychological dimensions of their suffering cannot be measured.
Critics have also noted that the Bill puts too much power in the hands of the Minister and that it will politicize what's supposed to be a fair and impartial judicial process. The definition of a 'safe country' will be dependent on business interests. In this context, refugees will be sacrificed as commercial commodities.
I have been working with refugees for 18 years. Through my experience, I know how difficult it is to provide documents from a country where a refugee was persecuted. Therefore, a fast and hasty process does not mean a fair process. I agree that the system needs to be reformed because the vaunted Canadian immigration system is bankrupt. The backlog situation is worse than it was during the Liberal government's term in power.
After Bill C-31 was passed last night, NDP Immigration and Citizenship Critic Jinny Sims argued that the Bill would be "a black eye" for Canada on the international stage, and she said she would not be surprised if some provisions of the Bill end up being challenged in court.
Just recently the United Nations Committee Against Torture said that changes to Canada's immigration laws risk human rights violations, but Kenney's response was merely to vow that nobody would lecture them. Such ignorance leads to a lack of credibility inside and outside Canada.
United efforts tried to stop Bill C-31
As soon as the Minister of Immigration tabled Bill C-31, many national organizations, including Human Rights Watch, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Amnesty International, the Canadian Association of Refugee Lawyers, and the Justice for Immigrants and Refugees Coalition (composed of nearly 60 national organizations across Canada) raised their voices in opposition.
For instance, on Refugee Rights Day, activists occupied the offices of the five Conservative MPs who are on the Standing Committee for Immigration. The speech by Minister Kenney was disrupted twice in Montreal on April 20, 2012 while activists were protesting outside the building. In a united effort to stop Bill C-31 and the destruction of Canadian immigration and refugee traditions, a 31-week vigil called Campaign 31 started on April 27. A coalition of concerned people in Canada has been meeting every Friday at 5:00p.m. in the northwest corner of Dufferin Grove Park in Toronto.
When I was in Ottawa recently, I raised this issue with the Liberal leader, the Honourable Bob Rae. When he answered my questions, he said that the Bill is not legal and the Conservatives are trying to politicize the whole refugee system. While we were having lunch in the House of Commons cafeteria, the former Minister of Immigration Judy Sgro explained that she thought the new Bill was horrible. She said that, whenever the Conservatives are in power, they try to change the Immigration legislation because they like people who have money, not immigrants.


Hamid Ghassemi-Shall: Stop the execution of Canadian citizen in Iran

Hamid Ghassemi-Shall: Stop the execution of Canadian citizen in Iran
Hamid Ghassemi-Shall faces imminent execution in Iran.
Hamid was arrested in late May 2008 while visiting his mother in Iran. This arrest took place approximately two weeks after the arrest of his brother, Alborz Ghassemi-Shall.
In November 2009, Antonella Mega, Hamid’s wife in Canada received reports that both Hamid and Alborz were convicted of espionage and sentenced to death. The legal proceedings were deeply unfair and neither Hamid or Alborz had a meaningful opportunity to defend themselves. His conviction appears to be based on a document of an alleged email exchange between Hamid and Alborz. Hamid has unequivocally stated that the document is a complete fabrication and that he never sent any such message. Testing and analysis by his lawyer reportedly confirm that to be the case.

Toronto bans plastic bags -

Toronto bans plastic bags - The Globe and Mail
Toronto has become the first major city in Canada to ban plastic shopping bags in a surprise city council vote that the mayor denounced as “ludicrous.”

Mayor Rob Ford, who predicted the ban will face a legal challenge, had asked city council to scrap Toronto’s contentious five-cent levy for plastic shopping bags. Council supported the mayor and voted to scrap the tax – but then also agreed with a last-minute motion to ban bags outright, beginning Jan. 1.
“It is not a smart move by council to ban plastic bags,” Mr. Ford said after vote. “I don’t think it is going to hold up in court. You can’t tell people they can’t give out plastic bags. To me it’s ludicrous.”
Marion Axmith, a spokeswoman for the Canadian Plastics Industry Association, warned that the move would kill jobs in Toronto and said the industry would consider all its options.
On the other side of the debate, Emily Alfred from the Toronto Environmental Alliance said the ban is a sign the city is moving in the right direction. “It sends a clear signal Toronto wants to be an environmental leader,” she said.
Retailers were taken by surprise by the decision, with some warning the move will cost them more – partly to produce paper bags and also because of short-term lost sales if shoppers leave empty-handed without wanting to buy a reusable bag for their purchases.
The ban, which was supported by a vote of 27-17, calls for the city “to prohibit all City of Toronto retail stores from providing customers with single-use plastic carryout (shopping) bags, including those advertised as compostable, biodegradable, photodegradable or similar.”
“These bags are junk, whether you want to call them biodegradable or not. They end up in the same place: blowing around the streets or in landfill,” said Councillor David Shiner, a member of Mr. Ford’s executive who surprised many by introducing the ban.
“Let’s get rid of the plastic bags. Let’s make today a real statement. Let’s tell the industry that we’re not accepting your baloney any more,” he said.
Mr. Shiner said he didn’t know he was going to move the motion until partway through the debate. He based the language largely on Seattle’s recently passed ban on bags. Retailers will still be allowed to sell or give away single-use paper bags, he said, using the example of retailers such as provincial liquor stores and some department stores who already offer free paper bags to customers.
In 2008, Seattle council passed a 20-cent fee on plastics bags, but voters repealed the measure in 2009. In December, the council passed a ban on bags, which is set to go into effect July 1.


Once again, with feeling: More science will not cure climate skepticism

Once again, with feeling: More science will not cure climate skepticism | Grist
This is a (depressing) but instructive article.  More Facts doesn't mean More Comprehension.  Whether it's climate change, political or social change - people only listen to their peer groups.  So!  Take a conservative to lunch, I guess? Or move into their 1/% neighbourhoods?  who knows...

This has been evident for some time, but a fascinating new study in Nature backs it up with numbers. Yale researcher Dan Kahan and his colleagues tested the question directly: Is it true that greater numeracy and scientific literacy reduce polarization about climate science?
Kahan found that, among those with low scientific literacy, assessment of climate risk was high among “egalitarian communitarians” (those with a worldview “favoring less regimented forms of social organization and greater collective attention to individual needs”) and low among “hierarchical individualists” (those with a worldview “that ties authority to conspicuous social rankings and eschews collective interference with the decisions of individuals possessing such authority”).

So what happens as scientific literacy increases? The naive view — what Kahan calls the “science comprehension thesis,” or SCT — predicts that hierarchical individualists with high scientific literacy will more accurately perceive the risk and converge with egalitarian communitarians. But that’s not what happens (click to embiggen):
Kahan: climate polarization and scientific literacy
As you can see, the SCT prediction is dead wrong — as science literacy and numeracy increase, polarization rises. Well-educated, carefully reasoning hierarchical individualists are less convinced of the danger of climate change.
What explains this? Here is Kahan’s alternative to SCT:
The alternative explanation can be referred to as the cultural cognition thesis (CCT). CCT posits that individuals, as a result of a complex of psychological mechanisms, tend to form perceptions of societal risks that cohere with values characteristic of groups with which they identify. Whereas SCT emphasizes a conflict between scientists and the public, CCT stresses one between different segments of the public, whose members are motivated to fit their interpretations of scientific evidence to their competing cultural philosophies.
The operative concept here is “motivated reasoning.” The idea is, we begin by absorbing the values of our tribes — what is and isn’t important, what is and isn’t a risk — and use whatever numeracy and scientific literacy we possess to seek out facts and arguments that support those views. Getting smarter, in other words, only makes us better at justifying our own worldviews. It does not necessarily give us more scientifically accurate worldviews.

Kahan’s alternative, needless to say, predicts survey answers better than SCT. It follows pretty straightforwardly that SCT is wrong and that educating people on science and reasoning will only reinforce the partisan divide on climate. This much, it seems to me, is beyond serious doubt. SCT is dead. Insofar as people still hold the naive view — and many (most?) still do, explicitly or implicitly — they should let it go once and for all. More and better science is not the answer, at least not a complete answer. If the partisan divide on climate is to be “solved,” it must be solved directly, on the level of worldviews, not by the indirect route of scientific education.
How might that be done? Kahan gestures at an answer:
As citizens understandably tend to conform their beliefs about societal risk to beliefs that predominate among their peers, communicators should endeavor to create a deliberative climate in which accepting the best available science does not threaten any group’s values. Effective strategies include use of culturally diverse communicators, whose affinity with different communities enhances their credibility, and information-framing techniques that invest policy solutions with resonances congenial to diverse groups. Perfecting such techniques through a new science of science communication is a public good of singular importance. [my emphasis]
This can be crudely summed up as, “to change conservatives’ minds on climate, get other conservatives to talk to them in a language they understand.”
Which is great, as far as it goes. But in my humble opinion, it doesn’t go very far. In fact, this is the juncture in these kind of discussions where the hand-waving often begins. There’s a rather heroic assumption being made: that it is possible to make an accurate understanding of climate change congenial to hierarchical individualist values.

Honeybee problem nearing a ‘critical point’

Honeybee problem nearing a ‘critical point’ | Grist
We are inching our way toward a critical tipping point,” said Steve Ellis, secretary of the National Honey Bee Advisory Board (NHBAB) and a beekeeper for 35 years. Last year he had so many abnormal bee die-offs that he’ll qualify for disaster relief from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In addition to continued reports of CCD — a still somewhat mysterious phenomenon in which entire bee colonies literally disappear, alien-abduction style, leaving not even their dead bodies behind — bee populations are suffering poor health in general, and experiencing shorter life spans and diminished vitality. And while parasites, pathogens, and habitat loss can deal blows to bee health, research increasingly points to pesticides as the primary culprit.
“In the industry we believe pesticides play an important role in what’s going on,” said Dave Hackenberg, co-chair of the NHBAB and a beekeeper in Pennsylvania.
Of particular concern is a group of pesticides, chemically similar to nicotine, called neonicotinoids (neonics for short), and one in particular called clothianidin. Instead of being sprayed, neonics are used to treat seeds, so that they’re absorbed by the plant’s vascular system, and then end up attacking the central nervous systems of bees that come to collect pollen. Virtually all of today’s genetically engineered Bt corn is treated with neonics. The chemical industry alleges that bees don’t like to collect corn pollen, but new research shows that not only do bees indeed forage in corn, but they also have multiple other routes of exposure to neonics.
The Purdue University study, published in the journal PLoS ONE, found high levels of clothianidin in planter exhaust spewed during the spring sowing of treated maize seed. It also found neonics in the soil of unplanted fields nearby those planted with Bt corn, on dandelions growing near those fields, in dead bees found near hive entrances, and in pollen stored in the hives.

North Carolina tries to outlaw sea-level rise

North Carolina tries to outlaw sea-level rise | Grist
North Carolina is no stranger to the “if you dislike it then you should have made a law against it” model of legislation, but this is extreme: The state General Assembly’s Replacement House Bill 819 would rule that scientists are not allowed to accurately predict sea-level rise. By all legal calculations, the sea level will now rise eight inches by the end of the century. Sure, so far models have predicted an increase of more than three feet, but if they keep that shit up, they’re going to JAIL. 
.. See, actual sea-level rise is nonlinear, because there’s feedback — the warmer it gets, the more the water volume expands, and the more stuff melts, and the more it expands, etc. That’s how most scientific models arrive at their predictions, because that is how physics works. But an increase that big is extremely inconvenient for a state with a beach-based tourist trade. So North Carolina’s solution is simple: Change how physics works, or at least change how people do physics.
Accordingly, this bill mandates that models use a linear increase — a consistent amount of change every year, based on historical data. This will lead to predictions that are much less catastrophic, and much more reassuring for people building resorts in the Outer Banks. The predictions will also be flat-out wrong, but that’s nothing new for North Carolina.
If it’s not obvious why this is stupid, look at it this way: In 1790, the year North Carolina is stuck in, the population was about 400,000. In 1900, it was 1.9 million. That’s an increase of 1.5 million in 110 years — so if there were an analogous rule for population, the state would prepare for 3.4 million residents in 2010. Which might cause some strife among the 9.7 million people who live there now, but you know, whatever — the law is the law, so screw you, math. If the 6.3 million people unaccounted for by the legal model wanted housing and services, they should have fallen in line with North Carolina reality.
Anyway, we wish North Carolina the best of luck in staving off disaster by legislating what mathematical calculations people can perform. It will probably be about as effective as fixing the health-care crisis through etymology, or balancing the budget with entry-level yoga. But if it works, I’m moving to North Carolina, where living in a fantasy world has the force of law.

China tells embassies to stop issuing pollution data

China tells embassies to stop issuing pollution data | The Raw Story
China said Tuesday foreign embassies were acting illegally in issuing their own air quality readings and that only the government could release data on the nation’s heavy pollution.
China’s cities are among the world’s most polluted, but until recently, official air quality measurements regularly rated their air quality as good — even as data from the US embassy in Beijingshowed off-the-chart pollution.
The US embassy air quality Twitter feed gained a major following in Beijing, and later in Shanghai when it was introduced at the US consulate there.
Beijing announced earlier this year it would change the way it measured air quality to include the smaller particles experts say make up much of the pollution in Chinese cities, after a vocal campaign.
“The monitoring and publishing of China’s air quality are related to the public interests and as such are powers reserved for the government,” Wu Xiaoqing, vice minister of environment protection, said at a news conference.
Wu did not name the US, but called on embassies to abide by China’s laws, saying that publishing their own air quality data was “not in accordance with the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations”....
China’s air quality is among the worst in the world, international organisations say, citing massive coal consumption and car-choked city streets in the world’s biggest auto market.
According to the latest Environmental Performance Index compiled by Yale University, China ranked 128th out of 132 countries for air quality.


Tackle the Tax Havens | Canadians for Tax Fairness

Tackle the Tax Havens | Canadians for Tax Fairness
if you're interested - a little pressure 
The developing world is an especially tragic victim of tax havens. African countries lose the equivalent of their total health care budget to tax evasion. Ten times as much money flows out of Africa in illicit capital flight than flows in, in aid. Between 1980 and 2008 Africa received $50 billion in aid but lost $824 billion in illicit capital outflows.
The use of tax havens is a huge global problem, one that Canada has a common interest with other governments in fixing. But so far efforts by global leaders, such as at the G20 Summits, have failed to rein them in.
The big banks, and the super-rich have managed to beat back attempts to regulate tax havens and ensure financial transparency.
We need to push back and demand that Canada take a lead in tackling tax havens.
There are two new opportunities that make your action more timely than ever. The House of Commons Finance Committee has decided to hold hearings on the issue of tax havens and tax evasion and make recommendations for government action. And Prime Minister Harper will be attending the G20 Summit in Mexico in June where the tax havens issue will be discussed.
Send a message now to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and to your MP asking them to Tackle Tax Havens