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.


Bee-harming pesticides banned in Europe | |

Bee-harming pesticides banned in Europe | Environment |

A bee collects pollen from a sunflower in Utrecht
A bee collects pollen from a sunflower in Utrecht, the Netherlands. EU states have voted in favour of a proposal to restrict the use of pesticides linked to serious harm in bees. Photograph: Michael Kooren/Reuters
Europe will enforce the world's first continent-wide ban on widely used insecticides linked to serious harm in bees, after a European commission vote on Monday.
The landmark suspension is a victory for millions of environment campaigners concerned about dramatic declines in bees who were backed by experts at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). But it is a serious defeat for the chemical companies who make billions a year from the products and also UK ministers - who voted against the ban. Both had argued the ban will harm food production.
The vote by the 27 member states of the European Union to suspend the insect nerve agents was supported by 15 nations, but did not reach the required majority under EU voting rules. The hung vote hands the final decision to the European commission (EC) who will implement the ban. "It's done," said an EC source.

Take Action | International Labor Rights Forum, Bangladesh garment factories

Take Action | International Labor Rights Forum

Join us in calling on Walmart, H&M and Gap, the largest buyers of clothing made in Bangladesh, to make immediate safety improvements in their supplier factories by joining the legally-binding Bangladesh Fire and Building Safety Agreement. All three retailers have been involved in the scourge of factory disasters in Bangladesh.
Right now, scores of garment workers are still trapped under the rubble of a building in Bangladesh which housed six factories making clothes for dozens of US and European brands. These workers were denied their right to refuse dangerous work: they were told they would lose a month’s pay if they didn’t report to work the day after cracks appeared in the walls. Over 370 people have perished as a result of Wednesday’s tragedy, and it remains unclear how many more victims will lose their lives as the rescue operation continues.
The disaster at Rana Plaza is now the deadliest incident in the garment industry in known history. It is but one in a series of disasters that could have been preventable, had the largest apparel buyers learned from earlier tragedies and adopted the safety measures urged by unions and labor rights groups. In April 2005, 64 workers died when their warnings were ignored and Spectrum factory collapsed. In February 2010, 21 workers were killed in the fire at Garib & Garib, a factory that supplied H&M. In December 2010, 29 workers perished in the That’s It Sportswear factory fire, where burned remnants of Old Navy clothing (a Gap Inc. brand) was found. Then, just last fall disaster struck again. The fire at Tazreen, a supplier to Walmart and Sears, took the lives of 112 garment workers. These are only four of the dozens of preventable incidents that have taken garment workers’ lives in Bangladesh. This pattern of fires and building collapses will not end unless retailers make real change in their sourcing practices.

Protect Canadians' Health: Ban BPA! | Environmental Defence

Protect Canadians' Health: Ban BPA! | Environmental Defence  
Follow link above for petition:

To the Honourable Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment and the Honourable Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of Health
I am writing to you today about the recent Canada Health Measures Survey that found bisphenol A (BPA) in 95% of Canadians.
While I applaud the government's decision to get rid of bisphenol A in baby bottles, I'm concerned that children and adults are still being exposed to this harmful chemical. International organizations, expert panels and more than 150 peer-reviewed studies have associated bisphenol A with a variety of health problems -- obesity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer and a wide range of developmental problems -- often at low levels of exposure.
I urge you to show the world, once again, that Canada is a leader when it comes to protecting our children's health from harmful chemicals: develop full-fledged regulatory measures that will get rid of bisphenol A from all food and beverage containers and from other sources, such as cash register receipts.


From Texas to Dhaka, economic exploitation continues to spill blood

From Texas to Dhaka, economic exploitation continues to spill blood | Deborah Orr | Comment is free | The Guardian
"...An individual carrying out a mass shooting or planting a bomb – that's news, that's blameworthy, that's deserving of justice for the victims. But when business is the culprit, fingerpointing is deemed less important. Which is odd, in a way. Humanity may never quite be fully able to say which disturbed and angry people are truly dangerous. .."
But good management of industrial risk is eminently achievable. An explosion at the West Fertilizer Company in Texas earlier this month killed 14 people and injured many others. Just a terrible accident that could not have been foreseen? Perhaps. But the factory had been fined by US regulators last year for its sloppy safety arrangements, eventually coughing up just $5,250 (£3,400).
In 2006, the factory was investigated after an "odour complaint". It was found to have been using controlled materials without authorisation. The filing of an application to use the dangerous substances legally instead of illegally resolved the issue. In retrospect, these interventions by regulators seem pretty paltry, although the reasons for the accident have not yet been ascertained.
Nevertheless, the factory's parent company, Adair Grain Inc, has been sued by insurance companies on behalf of a number of individuals, in a lawsuit that claims the company "was negligent in the operation of its facility, creating an unreasonably dangerous condition, which led to the fire and explosion".
The collapse of an eight-storey clothing factory in Dhaka this week is a much greater disaster. On Friday, as many as 2,000 bodies had been pulled from the rubble, nearly 300 of them dead. Estimates suggest that there may have been as many as 5,000 workers in the building. Witnesses say they had been told to return to work after reporting that a crack had appeared in one of the walls. One can't help wondering whether the building had simply never been built to withstand the weight of 5,000 people and their machinery.
Clearly, no heed had been paid by management to the deaths of 112 workers in a garment factory fire in a nearby suburb, Ashulia, last November. A day of mourning for the dead was declared in Dhaka, but a few months on, a bigger disaster with greater casualties has occurred. This time, a day of mourning was declared for the entire country.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to work out what's going on in Bangladesh. It's the second-largest exporter of clothing in the world after China. The secret of success in both countries is that cheap, skilled labour turns out clothes that are of excellent quality, yet retail at sums that are peanuts in the west. Monthly pay in the Bangladesh garment industry can be as little as £25 a month, while £25 can buy two or three nice outfits on the high street in Britain. Primark has confirmed that one of its suppliers worked from the building, while Matalan says it had used companies in the building in the recent past. Again, no surprise. Pressure groups have been trying to name and shame western suppliers into driving up health and safety standards among workers in the developing world for decades now, with some success, but not as much as they'd like to see.


Fracking Debris Ten Times Too Radioactive for Hazardous Waste Landfill | Common Dreams

Fracking Debris Ten Times Too Radioactive for Hazardous Waste Landfill | Common Dreams
The scariest thing here: Pennsylvania, which is currently studying radiation contamination associated with fracking wells, claims to be the only state that even requires landfills to monitor radiation levels.

A truck carrying cuttings from a Pennsylvania fracking site was quarantined at a hazardous-waste landfill and sent back after its contents triggered a radiation alarm showing the load was emitting 96 microrem of radiation per hour; the landfill rejects waste with levels above 10 microrems. The radioactive material from a site in the Marcellus Shale formation was radium 226, a common contaminant from the decay of uranium-238 that tends to accumulate in bone and can get into water. Officials said “everything was by the book in this case" because the alarm went off as designed; the fracking operators can now either re-apply at that landfill or take their deadly waste to an out-of-state facility that accepts it - and yes, they exist.


Maude Barlow in Toronto April 27, Water Forum

NOW Magazine is calling this one of the city's "can't miss" events!

Last year at this time, the Council launched its Great Lakes Need Great Friends speaking tour right here in Toronto. This marks the return of the tour, and an opportunity for us to build on the great momentum that has been generated to protect water in our communities.

What: 2013 Great Lakes Commons Water Forum
When: Saturday, April 27 from 12:00 to 5:00 p.m.
Where: Harbourfront Centre (235 Queens Quay W, Toronto)
Admission: $10 (or pay what you can)
Guest speaker: Maude Barlow, National Chairperson of the Council of Canadians and others