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Saturday, November 30, 2002


The UK's Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution has said that the contribution of aircraft to climate change is deeply worrying and that instead of encouraging airport expansion and proliferation, it is essential that the government should divert resources into encouraging a shift from air to high-speed rail for internal UK travel and some intra-European journeys.

The Commission's recommendations included:

* Raising ticket prices by imposing "climate protection charges" for aircraft taking off and landing within Europe, and pressing for them to be adopted elsewhere.
* Restricting airport development to encourage use by long-haul flights, while short-haul passengers are encouraged to use trains.
* Using air freight only for high-value goods, usually perishable ones.

Friends of the Earth have also pointed out that the aviation industry pays no tax on the fuel it uses and is now the fastest-growing cause of climate change and that the benefits associated with increased air travel impose heavy costs on the communities living near airports and the environment as a whole.


In his annual address to the Royal Society Lord (Robert) May said that invasive "Garden centre plants are a bigger threat (to the British countryside) than Genetically Modified (GM) superweeds"

Lord May also pointed out that GM technology could be used for further intensification of modern agriculture, leading to “fewer wild plants, fewer insects, fewer birds and an ever more silent spring” but that it could also be employed to help us “grow food more efficiently but in ways which work with the grain of nature rather than wrenching the environment to (produce) our crops with fossil-fuel subsidised fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides”.




The soil beneath our feet is mega-diverse yet much less studied than outer space and this is despite us living on it and depending upon it for almost all of our food!

This sorry situation may be about to change as the United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have just set up a major international project designed to study and exploit the useful properties of the millions of unknown soil bacteria, fungi and small organisms that live there without us noticing.


The soil beneath our feet is mega-diverse yet much less studied than outer space and this is despite us living on it and depending upon it for almost all of our food!

This sorry situation may be about to change as the United Nations Environment Programme and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) have just set up a major international project designed to study and exploit the useful properties of the millions of unknown soil bacteria, fungi and small organisms that live there without us noticing.


Wednesday, November 27, 2002


Earlier this month, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia SchoolNet Namibia, a volunteer-driven organisation that is working to see all Namibian schoolchildren get access to a computer and the internet, was awarded the APC Africa Hafkin Communications Prize for people-centred information and communications technology (ICT).

Why not contact SchoolNet Namibia, if you would like to help some of the 56 million functioning computers that end up in landfill dumps each year to be put to good use before they die?

SchoolNet are in the process of setting up collection points across Europe and will be shipping second hand computers out to Namibia, approximately 400 at a time... with a bit of tender loving care many computers can be given a fresh lease of life and subsequently used to help teach Namibian students a range of useful and valuable skills...


Tuesday, November 26, 2002


A House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee report has accused the UK's universities of failing the research workforce and the UK's science base because they employ too many researchers on short-term contracts

Universities UK took issue with parts of a report by the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, which downplay the financial problems underlying the high proportion of contract staff in some universities and labelled the report "unhelpful".

Less defensively Save British Science urged the creation of a sustainable career structure for young scientists and produced a most convincing and detailed report outlining why it was in the interests of the country as well as those conducting research to make science a more attractive and sustainable career .



A House of Commons Science and Technology Select Committee report has accused the UK's universities of failing the research workforce and the UK's science base because they employ too many researchers on short-term contracts

Universities UK took issue with parts of a report by the Commons Science and Technology Select Committee, which downplay the financial problems underlying the high proportion of contract staff in some universities and labelled the report "unhelpful".

Less defensively Save British Science urged the creation of a sustainable career structure for young scientists and produced a most convincing and detailed report outlining why it was in the interests of the country as well as those conducting research to make science a more attractive and sustainable career .



The UK's House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) says it doubts whether farmers will agree voluntarily to reduce the environmental impact of using pesticides and that pesticide cuts must be compulsory.

The EAC also suggest that the government could provide rebates to farmers who followed stricter environmental guidance, and could also be used to discriminate, via taxes levied on the most damaging chemicals.


A new United Nations report written by Elisabeth Rehn entitled Women, Peace and Security highlights that the international community should take far more account of the role of women when it comes to peace-building and that the level of a nation's stability is closely linked to the status it accords women.


A new United Nations report written by Elisabeth Rehn entitled Women, Peace and Security highlights that the international community should take far more account of the role of women when it comes to peace-building and that the level of a nation's stability is closely linked to the status it accords women.


According to a UNAIDS report 42 million people are now infected with HIV and that in Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland and Zimbabwe one in three people has the disease!

Dr Gro Harlem Brundtland, director general of the World Health Organization, called for urgent government action.

Dr. Brundtland has said that "This is a critical moment of opportunity and danger. Unless we see national prevention initiatives championed by the highest level of government, the growth in infections can be unstoppable."


Guardians of the public purse?

The UK's National Audit Office says that thousands of Britain's poorest pensioners are missing out on benefits worth £1,000 a year.

The NAO says that the Department for Work and Pensions should try harder to get older people to claim their full entitlement and that continous changes in benefits criteria confuse elderly people.

The NAO estimated that between £930m and £1,860m in benefits went unclaimed by OAPs in 1999-2000 and that only 3 million of the 4.1 million entitled to pensions credit (benefit) claimed what was their right.

MP Edward Leigh, chairman of the House of Commons public accounts committee said that poor uptake... "is also a consequence of a lack of effort over the years by officialdom to make pensioners aware of their entitlements and to help and encourage them to find their way through the mind-numbing complexity of the benefits system."

The Conservative spokesman said that "The benefits system is now so complicated that take-up of benefits is at catastrophically low levels." Where as the Liberal Democrats have suggested that "The only way to ensure take-up is by delivering support through the basic state pension, which is claimed by all pensioners"...

Helpfully, the Association of British Insurers and the Financial Services Authority have produced a very useful Pensions Calculator


Monday, November 25, 2002


Lord (Robert) May, The President of the Royal Society (The UK National Academy of Science) gave a talk at the Oxford Earth Summit entitled "The role and limits of science."

Quotes include: "Some of the limits to science are uncertainty." "Science is there to constrain the discourse, to make sure it is not taking place in cloud-cuckoo land, beyond that it leaves it up to democratic processes in open societies." "Our activities today rival the scale and scope of natural processes and that is truly unique in the history of life on this planet." "Small actions now are much more important, leveraged by non-linear effects, than the activities that clearer evidence will force in 50 years, but it is hard to act now in the interests of a distant future." "Consult widely, embrace dissent, engage people even if they don't come forward voluntarily who are likely to disagree with you, expose the argument and expose uncertainty."


Dr. Richard Jones of the UK Meteorological Office's Hadley Centre gave a talk at the Oxford Earth Summit entitled "The science of climate change".

Quotes include: "A global surface temperature increase of 0.7°C has taken place over the past 100 years. Most of the increase has been due to human activities." "A 3°C increase (in global temperature) is likely by the end of this century (4x the last century)."


The World Bank's Alfredo Sfeir Younis gave a talk at the Oxford Earth Summit entitled "The political, economy and human dimensions of sustainable development "

Quotes include: "We need a mainstreaming of sustainable development issues and shifts in empowerment + governance."


The World Bank's Alfredo Sfeir Younis gave a talk at the Oxford Earth Summit entitled "The political, economy and human dimensions of sustainable development "

Quotes include: "We need a mainstreaming of sustainable development issues and shifts in empowerment + governance."


Romilly Greenhill of Jubilee Research gave a talk at the Oxford Earth Summit entitled "Third World Debt alleviation and international insolvency laws"

Quotes include: "Debt repayments severely undermine development." "The debt problem has NOT been solved." "Of the 42 most heavily indebted countries only 4 countries have had significant debt cancellation after 3 years." "Solutions will not work (for debtor nations) if designed by creditor nations in their own interest."


Tuesday, November 19, 2002


The CIA has produced an interesting assessment based on a dialogue about the future with non-government experts called Global Trends 2015.

I won't spoil any of the surprises by telling you what's in it but will instead recommend that you read the 4 "alternate" scenarios outlined at the end of the assessment for yourself...

Many would have you believe that scenario 1 is the most likely but what do you think?

P.S. What is it about 2015?

Is 2010 too soon for any government or global organisation to do anything?

Is 2020 too great an admission of impotence?

What about doing something useful for the whole of humanity within the next couple of years?

Suggestions welcome...


Virtually every African country has stockpiles of obsolete pesticides and associated wastes that have accumulated over periods as long as 40 years. At least 50,000 tonnes of obsolete pesticides, as well as tens of thousands of tonnes of contaminated soil, have accumulated in African countries.

These pesticides pose serious threats to the health of both rural and urban populations, especially the poorest of the poor, and contribute to land and water degradation.

Many of these chemicals and their containers are in poor condition and threaten local and regional environments through the contamination of soil, water, food and air.

On the bright side the Africa (Pesticide) Stockpiles Programme (ASP) aims to clear all obsolete pesticide stocks from Africa and put in place measures to prevent their recurrence.


A Greek-owned, single-hulled oil tanker The Prestige has broken up and gone down approximately 250 miles from the Spanish coastline.

The consequences of the Prestige's 70,000 metric tons of heavy fuel oil being spilt into the sea for local people and wildlife are likely to be severe and long-lasting.

As an example of the long-term consequences of this sort of disaster here's a story on how Alaska's Prince William Sound is faring over 10 years after the sinking of the Exxon Valdez...

Through the use of flags of convenience numerous "rust-bucket" oil tankers are able to navigate the world's seas and this has resulted in countries banding together and signing the Paris Memorandum which permits them to conduct seaworthiness checks on 18,000 vessels last year. At present much firmer action seems unlikely, with single-hulled oil tankers not being banned by the EU until 2015.


Monday, November 18, 2002


WaterAid is the UK's only major charity dedicated exclusively to the provision of safe domestic water, sanitation + hygiene education to the world's poorest people.

Why not find out about their programmes in Malawi, Zambia + Mozambique?

More in-depth information on WaterAid's practical + effective work can be accessed here...


On 29 August 2002, 300 non-governmental groups sent an angry letter to the World Bank Group demanding public access to its "secret trade court" which is to rule on a dispute between an American transnational company and Bolivia.

The letter spells out concerns about the World Bank's role in a water privatisation deal in which Bechtel took over the public water company in Bolivia's third largest city, Cochabamba.

The organisations which endorsed the letter argue that "the World Bank/ICSID should not be handling this case [because] it was the World Bank itself which directly forced the government of Bolivia to privatize the water system of Cochabamba, making privatization a condition for both debt relief and funds for water system expansion".

Bechtel is now demanding $30m in compensation after popular protests forced them to withdraw from the contract. Campaigners say that the World Bank faces clear conflicts of interest in this case and should open up the activities of its arbitration arm to public scrutiny.

The World Bank's The International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes was set to have its first arbitration hearing on the case in mid-September 2002...

Read what Riley Bechtel the 51st* most wealthy man in the U.S. (* source Forbes Magazine) has to say about the actions of his company in Bolivia.

For further information visit The Bretton Woods Project or read the dispatches written from the field by the Democracy Centre's Jim Schultz during Bolivia's water protests.


Bryan Lipscombe at St. Helens Council has produced a handy A to Z listing of UK Local Agenda 21 sites


Many thanks to Josh at OxBlog for the favourable mention he's given Earth-Info.Net! Welcome if you are an OxBlogger!


Sunday, November 17, 2002


HelpAge International is a global network of not-for-profit organisations with a mission to work with and for disadvantaged older people worldwide to achieve a lasting improvement in the quality of their lives.


Transparency International is a non-governmental organisation dedicated to increasing government accountability and curbing both international + national corruption. National chapters try to build systems that combat corruption.

TI have been closely + independently monitoring the implementation of The OECD Anti-Bribery Convention which marks a turning point in the international fight against corruption and argue that its success or failure depends on full, swift and effective ratification and implementation by all signatory states.

In 2000, Ian Marshall of TI-Canada produced an interesting background paper focused on Corruption Issues in the Mining & Mineral Sector with case studies from individual mining companies, and details on the role of governments.


The 1972 Stockholm Earth Summit (UN conference on the Human Environment) produced an action plan which laid out the educational, informational, social and cultural aspects of environmental issues.


The 1992 Rio Earth Summit was attended by 152 world leaders + led to the signing of conventions on biological diversity + desertification, a framework convention on climate change, principles for sustainable forestry + Agenda 21.


In September 2000 the Millennium Development Goals were agreed by 152 heads of state.

These leaders pledged to moderate globalisation, foster better governance, 1/2 the number of people living in poverty by 2015, prevent conflict + protect the vulnerable, secure life on earth + strengthen the UN


The Plan of Implementation was the most important document negotiated + signed by countries at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development in September 2002.

At www.earthsummit2002.org site you can also read the political declaration + a short summary of the key outcomes of the summit listing the dollar commitments made by the US, EU and others.


Saturday, November 16, 2002


Welcome to Earth-Info.Net!

This "weblog" is a first stab at producing a post-Johannesburg World Summit news and comment site... it is also non-political, independent and less than two weeks old...

I've set up this site because the majority of the websites covering the Jo'burg World Summit have been frozen since the summit finished and I think it is just as important - if not more important! - to monitor + encourage the achievement of existing promises + goals as spend days/months/years agreeing targets in the first place.

I'm based in the UK and have a goodish idea of what is happening near me but know there's much more going on and the more eyes and ears that contribute ideas and stories to this site, the stronger it can become... I'm also keen to cover as many countries and issues as well as possible, so please let me know about individuals, organisations and projects that are helping to make a difference in your part of the world.

If there is ever a lull in the updates please pop over to www.earthsummit.info which offers 600+ useful links (including summit outcomes, speeches by world leaders, links to NGOs, back-ground briefings, etc, etc) or the Oxford Earth Summit site which offers hours of great talks given by eminent speakers from Oxfam, Action Aid, The UN, Birldlife International, The UK Meteorological Office, Water Aid, The World Bank, Oxford University, The Royal Society, The Northern Ireland Womens Coalition in April 2002.

You can listen to these talks as mp3s or read the best quotes if you are in a hurry...

The useful links down the left hand side of this page should also be able to keep you busy for several hundred hours...

All the best

Matt

P.S. My email is matt.prescott -at- zoo.ox.ac.uk


Friday, November 15, 2002


Basking + whale sharks have been given protection at the CITES conference in Santiago, Chile after all...


OneWorld.Net are advertising jobs for an editor and a project manager to work on One World Radio's Catalysing Access to Technology in Africa initiative within Uganda.


Thursday, November 14, 2002


Bigleaf mahogany, seahorses + turtles have been given greater protection at the CITES conference in Santiago, Chile...


Did you know that Ethiopia's population was 64.5 million in 2001 and that it is predicted to reach 186.5 million by 2050?

If not have a look at Reuter's Alertnet special on Ethiopia and find out all sorts of fascinating information about this unusual corner of Africa.

Also find out about the severe drought currently threatening 16 million people in the Horn of Africa with famine and the UN's urgent appeals for food aid...


The Tropical Biology Association run ecology courses in Africa + has a growing network of individuals and institutions. The TBA is steadily establishing a collaborative framework for conservation and other research activities in the tropics. Read their latest newsletter here...


Wednesday, November 13, 2002


Nymphine Chissano, a son of Mozambique's President Joaquim Chissano is being questioned in relation to the murder of an investigative journalist called Carlos Cardoso.

Cardosa was murdered in 1996 while investigating the theft of millions of dollars from the state-run Commercial Bank of Mozambique.


So far the CITES conference in Santiago, Chile has refused to give basking sharks extra protection from fishermen, eased a ban on the trade of ivory (which many fear will encourage poachers to store up ivory for future sales) and rejected the sale of turtle shell from farmed turtles.


Tuesday, November 12, 2002


The LANIC portal at the University of Texas offers a vast array of sustainable development links for Latin America...


The Norwegians have developed an aquaculture industry worth a staggering $1.2 bn and are starting to apply some of their salmon farming experience to cod farming...

According to a recent report the North Sea's cod fishery is close to collapse and it appears likely that cod farming will become more and more important...

Although economically successful intensive salmon farming can have a number of undesirable environmental impacts. These include the escape of farmed fish, the introduction of parasites/diseases into wild populations and the build up of large amounts of pollution in the form of food or animal waste...

It remains to be seen how successful the emerging cod farming industry will be at dealing with these and other problems but it appears that they are already working on a number of interesting and innovative approaches... and groups such as WWF Norway will no doubt be keeping an eye on things...


Monday, November 11, 2002


The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation have announced an initial $100 million commitment to support an initiative to slow the spread of HIV/AIDS in India.

The new effort, the India AIDS Initiative, will expand access to proven HIV prevention interventions among mobile populations. The initiative will also work to combat societal stigma surrounding the disease and increase awareness and leadership on HIV/AIDS through a nation-wide communication and advocacy effort.


According to the National Pensioners Convention (NPC) – Britain’s biggest pensioner organisation...

An estimated 28% of pensioners have an income below the official UK poverty line (eg. £81 a week in 1999-2000 after tax and housing costs). (IPPR 2002).

Older women are the poorest. In 1999, 25% of widowed older women were found to be living on incomes of £80 a week or less. (Help the Aged 1999).

In 1999/2000, 70% of pensioner households depended on state benefits for at least 50% of their income. (Age Concern 2001).

The current level of the basic state pension in 2002 is £75.50 a week (single) and £120.70 (couple). If the link between earnings and the basic state pension had not been broken in 1980 the pension would now be worth £105.70 a week (single) and £169 (couple). (Hansard 1/7/2002).

In 1979 the basic state pension was 23% of male average earnings. Today it is only 16%. NPC 2002.

In 1997, an estimated 39% of pensioners were means-tested. This is likely to increase to 57% by 2003. (Hansard 25/6/2002).



On Friday, 1st November, Ann Pettifor, Director of Jubilee Research at the New Economics Foundation, joined Roberto Bissio of Social Watch in Uruguay; Evelyn Herfskens of UNDP and Adrian Wooldridge of The Economist in addressing the UN General Assembly.

The subject of the session was Managing Globalisation. Ms Pettifor defined globalisation as the new dominance of finance capital over the global economy; caused, she argued by the US's growing deficit, and its need to borrow from the world's capital markets to finance that deficit. She noted that from 1945 to 1970 the US and other western economies had been major exporters of capital; from 1970 onwards, they became major importers of capital.

It was this reversal in capital flows that lay at the heart of "globalisation". Ms Pettifor called for the regulation of capital markets; and argued that such regulation was a necessary pre-condition for reforming international financial institutions, and for restoring policy autonomy to governments.


The World Wildlife Fund (US) has complained to the BBC that the CITES conference in Santiago, Chile is being compromised by heavy-handed political pressure, especially from Japan, with the futures of numerous endangered species being put at risk as a result...


In the UK a new campaigning organisation called farm has been launched by working farmers in order to represent independent + family farms.

This follows polling commissioned by farm which found that of the 500 farms surveyed across the nation, over 1/4 believe their interests are not represented by any current organisation and over 2/3rds want a new body to speak for 'family farms'.

It is not clear how the UK's powerful National Farmers' Union (NFU) has reacted to the founding of this new organisation...


Over 14 million people in Ethiopia, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho are feared to be at severe risk of starvation unless immediate action is taken.


The UN's World Food Programme, has been making ever more desperate calls to donors for many months. With Sub-Saharan and Southern Africa being highlighted as areas of particular concern.

The BBC have produced a useful country-by-country guide to the areas affected.


Reform of the European Union's 20 year old Common Fisheries Policy appears to be on the way...

Today the European Union's own scientists have warned that that cod stocks in the North Sea are close to collapse. This comes only a month after the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea recommended the complete closure of all fisheries that target cod in the North Sea, Skagerrak, Irish Sea and waters west of Scotland.

The ICES advised this because their studies have suggested that this is the only way of giving these depleted stocks a period of time to recover, and, hopefully, to return to their former productive state. Cod are also caught as a by-catch in mixed fisheries, such as haddock, whiting, flatfish, shrimp and prawn (Nephrops) fisheries. EU fisheries ministers will meet next month to decide on fishing quotas... they are expected to offer 10,000 - 20,000 fishermen up to $600m compensation if the fisheries are closed.


Saturday, November 09, 2002


Thanks to the RSPB's Jim Stevenson for highlighting the excellent teaching material produced by Birdlife South Africa during the Jo'burg World Summit.

This website does a wonderful job of explaining complicated issues and problems such as Biodiversity, Land degradation, Climate Change, Oceans + Fisheries, Poverty, + Globalisation in clear, jargon-free language.


Friday, November 08, 2002


Thanks to Oliver Tickell from www.mylinkspage.com for helping to stop the "posted at" link producing an annoying error message.

Clicking on the "posted at" link now pushes the article in question to the top of the screen instead... if you have any other "blogging" tips please get in touch...


Thursday, November 07, 2002


The African wild dog (Lycaon pictus) is South Africa’s most endangered carnivore. It is estimated that fewer than 400 free-ranging wild dogs occur in South Africa – the large majority of which occur in the Kruger National Park. However, a recent census indicated that the Kruger wild dog population is less than half what it was in 1995, highlighting the need to set up further populations of wild dogs throughout the country. Visit this site to find out about Harriet Davies investigation of Wild dog-based eco-tourism in the Venetia-Limpopo Nature Reserve...


In a Reuter's Alertnet viewpoint article Gavin Hayman, a campaigner with Global Witness, argues that money looted from Angolan state oil revenues appears to exceed the entire international humanitarian relief effort. He says that in countries such as Angola, transparency is necessary if international relief efforts are not to be endlessly undermined.

Other quotes include...

"...at least $1 billion -- about a third of Angola’s total budget -- went missing last year."

"The government issues no clear (oil income) figures and state oil companies remain unaudited and unaccountable."

"...major international oil companies -- principally Chevron-Texaco and TotalFinaElf -- refuse to publish any information on their own payments to the state, which constitute the majority of the government’s income."

"Oil companies routinely provide information on such payments in Britain, the United States and every developed country in the world, so why should payments to Angola, or any other developing country, be any different or be confidential?"

"Sonangol's threats to BP show that relying on companies to become voluntarily transparent -- despite their high-sounding mission corporate statements -- is clearly problematic."

"...there is a simple way to level the playing field: publicly-traded resource companies should be required by the national securities regulators to publish a breakdown of all royalties, fees and other payments made for the products of every country in which they operate."

Only when we see transparent and accountable corporate engagement will we see resource exploitation in such countries benefiting their true owners rather than unaccountable elites.

For more details see : Global Witness, their All the Presidents’ Men The Devastating Story of Oil and Banking in Angola’s Privatised War report or www.publishwhatyoupay.org.


I'm sorry if you have had a hard time accessing this page. I suspect that Blogger are having difficulty keeping all of their servers working... A new "blog" is being created something like once every 40 seconds + and during peak times (in the US) Blogger's free service seems to slow down, crash or time-out a lot!

I'll try to move Earth-Info.Net to a more reliable server before too long... As with most things in life money is a boring limiting factor!


According to an article in today's Nature: Science Update "Wildfires in the tropics are spewing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere" + "Fires ravaging parts of Indonesia during the 1997 El Niño-driven dry season pumped as much carbon into the atmosphere as all the living things on the planet remove from it in a year." Read the full article here...


Between December 3rd + 4th, 2002 Swansea will be hosting a conference aimed at translating the outcomes of the World Summit on Sustainable Development into actions that can be delivered at a local, regional and national level.


Robin Shackell from the British Embassy in Quito, Ecuador has let me know about some of the organisations involved in ecological research within Ecuador... These include the Charles Darwin Research Station in the Galapagos Islands, Flora + Fauna International, Jatun Sacha (English), Jatun Sacha (Spanish) + Rainforest Concern...

The University of Texas' Latin America Network Information Centre (LANIC) also offers a useful portal for Natural + Applied Science in Latin America

Please get in touch if you have any similar suggestions...

My email address is matt.prescott -at- zoo.ox.ac.uk


Wednesday, November 06, 2002


The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. Worldwide coral reefs are being damaged and destroyed... In fact 27% of the world's reefs have been effectively lost! This site helps gather data and information on coral reefs worldwide and urges action.


The Foreign Policy Centre have produced an interesting report on the future of farm subsidies. Farm subsidies are topical on a remarkable number of fronts just now due to tensions between many of the world's major powers, trading blocks and geographical regions...

Tony Blair's recent row with France's President Chirac regarding the future funding of the Common Agricultural Policy + EU Enlargement was merely the latest incarnation of tensions that have rumbled on for many years... and in particular since the Jo'burg World Summit highlighted the impact of "perverse subsidies" on fair trade + economic development and free trade negotiations at the WTO were complicated by the US announcing plans for $190 billion of US farm subsidies over the next 10 years.


The Foreign Policy Centre is an independent think-tank committed to developing innovative thinking and effective solutions for our increasingly interdependent world. It was launched in 1998 by the Prime Minister, the Rt Hon Tony Blair MP...

Their mission statement says that "because today's problems have exploded across the boundaries of nations and departments of state, The Foreign Policy Centre has abandoned the tradition of organising its work around desk officers, each monitoring geographical areas or particular government departments." If correct this means that the FPC is the first foreign policy research centre to organise it's thinking around the major cross-cutting global issues, so that they can create joined-up solutions....



Tuesday, November 05, 2002


The results of the Net Pulse Global Poll (conducted during the Jo'burg World Summit) have just been published. Amongst other things the poll's 25,000 voters felt that...

Governments bear the primary responsiblity for solving environmental problems, with citizens coming second, international organisations third and multinational business fourth...

Respondents from developed countries tended to want new environmental laws while those from South America and South East Asia tended to want better enforcement of existing laws.

Perhaps most surprisingly 86% of respondents said that they would be prepared to give up at least 1% of their income in return for "real environment quality improvement" while a generous 23% offered to give up more than 5% of their income!


After visiting the UK Electoral Commission site there's a chance you'll be glad/proud/relieved if you are lucky enough to live in a semi-functioning democracy...

It might even be enough to motivate you to register to vote if you aren't already registered. Providing your eligible it's even possible to secure your vote in 5 easy steps. These include providing photo-id, a signature, a national insurance number + your date of birth... not too daunting so far are they?! The fifth is the killer though as it involves going to a local office...

It's amazing to think that the strength and weakness of our democratic system could rest on our collective ability to walk, drive, bus, train, ski to a council office... Go on dig deep!

It may be worth mentioning that we have it easy in the UK. In Australia the Australian Electoral Commission will fine you if you don't give an X. Where as the Burmese haven't had an election since 1990 and the Iraqi populus were recently offered one candidate who amazingly achieved 100% of the votes cast, with 100% of the population casting their vote...


Environmental Defense have produced a website called www.scorecard.org which enables US citizens to find out which forms of pollution are of concern in their state and/or zip code area and why this might matter...

In the UK, Friends of the Earth offer a similar service as part of their Factory Watch campaign. In this case you are able to find out which factories are the most serious polluters in your area...


Yukiko Kishida get's in touch to let me know that Lake Hujimi and surrounding wetlands are threatened by pollution from a proposed industrial waste processing plant. She is urging the local prefecture to conduct a more detailed environmental impact survey + requests international support. This lake used to be a quarry but is now disused + full of groundwater. The collapse of one side of the quarry has resulted in the creation of an unusual wetland habitat - seemingly populated by deep red dragonflies as well as numerous other critters...


Find out from Seafood Lover's Guide how a particular seafood is doing and learn how you can choose to eat fish from sources that are more abundant and better managed. For example...Halibut + Striped Bass are good choices while Shrimp + Swordfish are bad... Visit this site to find out why!


Find out about the biology, conservation, and management of seahorses at Amanda Vincent's website. Seahorses (and the related pipefish + seadragons) are threatened by habitat destruction and by their over-exploitation as traditional medicines and as curios.


According to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization up to 3 million children's lives are saved by immunization every year but almost 3 million more lives worldwide are lost from diseases that are preventable with existing vaccines... Find out more here...


Do "established" democracies have higher turnout than other countries?

According to the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance, the overall average turnout in the post-war period for 36 established democracies is 73%, which contrasts with the an average of 59% for the remaining 136 countries.

Note: In this case "established democracies" have been classified using the criteria of the political scientist Arend Lijphart, who included all countries that are democratic now, and have been democratic for the last 20 years + which have a population of at least a quarter of a million people.


Tree Aid has funded over 70 projects benefiting over 85,000 villagers in some 460 communities in 14 of Africa's poorest countries. Over 4.5 million tree have been planted, providing fuel, food, building materials, medicines and a vital source of income...


Erica Moret not only recorded the Oxford Earth Summit for me but then went to Jo'burg and interviewed interesting people at the Jo'burg Summit for the Stakholders Forum too... Well done Erica!


The Stakeholders Forum produced an excellent website, www.earthsummit2002.org, for the Jo'burg World Summit and have now produced a handy guide to the Key Outcomes of the Jo'burg World Summit.


Bryan Lipscombe, the Local Agenda 21 co-ordinator for St Helens Council gets in touch to let me know he has summarised some of the key points of the Plan of Implementation agreed at the recent Jo'burg World Summit which are of relevance to local action.


Monday, November 04, 2002


In September 2000, The Millennium Development Goals were agreed by 152 heads of state. These leaders pledged to moderate globalisation, foster better governance, 1/2 the number of people living in poverty by 2015, prevent conflict + protect the vulnerable, secure life on earth + strengthen the UN...

On October 1st 2002, Kofi Annan warned that the world was falling short in meeting the objectives agreed by global leaders 2 years ago in the Millennium Declaration + outlined a series of steps being taken by the United Nations + its partners to help accelerate progress (watch his press conference video announcing country-level reporting here) towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


At the 12th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (Cop12) currently being held in Santiago, Chile the African elephant range States have reached a consensus on permitting a strictly regulated form of raw ivory trade from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe. Kenya was not able to join the consensus.

Kenya + India had submitted a proposal to CITES for a continuation of the ban on ivory trade. Kenya also expressed concerns about illegal killing of elephants and illegal ivory trade and noted that two monitoring systems for tracking such activities are not yet fully operational.

Botswana, Namibia, South Africa + Zimbabwe have agreed to export a total stock of 70 tonnes of raw ivory under a series of very strict conditions. Subsequent annual export quotas can only be established after the monitoring systems provide feedback and they have been authorized at a meeting of the African elephant range States.


It's not all doom and gloom! For a start David Attenborough's new series The Life of Mammals is on it's way... If you like furry animals you might also be interested in the websites produced by The Jane Goodal Institute, The Mammal Society, www.lioncrusher.com, The Bat Conservation Trust and The Orangutan Foundation.


The human rights organisation, Amnesty International, has accused the Israeli army of committing war crimes during its incursions into the West Bank towns of Jenin + Nablus earlier this year. Amnesty says the army killed civilians, tortured prisoners, destroyed houses and prevented the arrival of humanitarian aid in the Palestinian towns. In July Amnesty strongly condemned a suicide bombing which killed 14 people in northern Israel, and called on all Palestinian armed groups to end attacks on civilians immediately.


Twelve African leaders have signed an agreement in Nigeria which commits them to monitoring each others' progress towards governance reform. This agreement should help with the monitoring and achievement of reforms which have been demanded by donor countries as part of the New Partnership for Africa's Development - known as NEPAD


Sunday, November 03, 2002


A meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has just started in Santiago, Chile. It will attempt to balance the protection of rare species with the promotion of sustainable development...

Hot topics include - a review of laws which currently ban the sale of ivory, the risk pirate fishing poses to Patagonian toothfish in southern oceans, the illegal trading of Hawksbill turtles for their tortoiseshell + the numerous threats to seahorses which are caught in vast quantities for traditional medicine and aquaria.


The Bishkek Global Mountain Summit took place in Kyrgyzstan between 29 Oct + 1 Nov 2002, as part of the UN's International Year of Mountains. At this summit the UN Environment Programme published a report highlighting the role mountains play in providing clean water to low-lying areas + Birdlife International launched a campaign highlighting the inter-connections between numerous social + environmental issues within the mountainous regions of the world.


The World Health Report produced by the World Health Organisation says that we should do more to reduce risks in order to promote healthier living in both rich + poor countries. It also recommends that more be done in order to counter the burdens of disease, disability and premature death with institutional priorities and funding being changed in order to better tackle the biggest preventable disablers + killers...


The Tree of Life website helps to illustrate how different forms of life are related to one another and offers fascinating information on everything from bacteria, beetles + birds to dinosaurs, flowers + fungi. The popular pages are suitable for anyone who is interested in the diversity of life. The specialist pages offer access to a vast array of cutting edge research, useful links + numerous other resources. The Tree of Life site is probably one of best uses of the web yet and is growing rapidly as more + more collections and genetic databases are put online.


Do you know who your local MP is? Do you know how to contact your elected representative? If the answer to either of these questions is no then Www.FaxYourMP.com can help! All you need to know is your UK post code... Once you know who your MP is you are invited to send a message to them via this website which automatically forwards messages on as a free fax. Apparently, MPs are much more likely to reply to a fax than an email so this site is a wonderful democraticising tool.


Systematic biology is a branch of science which identifies organisms, assesses their evolutionary relationships to one another and enables us to decide whether species are new to science, extinct or the same as those we already know about. Ecologists, molecular scientists + many others rely on this sort of information in order to work out what organisms they are dealing with and find out more about them. An influential House of Lords Select Committee has recently published a report entitled What on Earth? The Threat to the Science underpinning conservation which "found compelling evidence that the level of systematic biology expertise in the United Kingdom has, despite some areas of increased activity, continued to fall overall". They advise increasing financial support, enhancing collaborations + the setting of research priorities.


The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) co-ordinates and promotes marine research in the North Atlantic. It has recently recommended the complete closure of all fisheries that target cod in the North Sea, Skagerrak, Irish Sea and waters west of Scotland. The ICES advise this because their studies suggest this is the only way of giving these depleted stocks a period of time to recover, and, hopefully, to return to their former productive state. Cod are also caught as a by-catch in mixed fisheries, such as haddock, whiting, flatfish, shrimp and prawn (Nephrops) fisheries. ICES is recommending that these fisheries should also be closed unless they can demonstrate that they are not causing a cod by-catch... How the European Commission and national governments use this advice will obviously have serious implications for both the fish species and fishermen concerned.


The Kurdish Human Rights Project (KHRP) campaigns for the implementation of international human rights law in Kurdish regions and less oppressive treatment of both Kurds + non-Kurds by national governments.


The UK's Europe Minister, Peter Hain has said that "... The cost of protecting the West's Middle East oil supplies is about $1 a gallon" + that "...no amount of money could guarantee secure oil supplies, especially in the next few decades". Mr. Hain also urged a rapid effort to develop renewable and low-carbon replacement fuels.


Invasive species are organisms (usually transported by humans) which successfully establish themselves in, and then overcome, otherwise intact, pre-existing native ecosystems. Biologists are still trying to characterise this capability to invade in the hope that incipient invasions can be predicted and stopped. Further links can be found here...


A paper by the Open University's Joseph Hanlon entitled Are donors to Mozambique promoting corruption? says that "Mozambique has become a donor playground, and the Mozambican elite has become highly skilled at giving the donors what they want. Thus management of donor money is transparent and clear. The predatory elite do not steal donors' funds; instead they rob banks, skim public works contracts, demand shares in investments, and smuggle drugs and other goods - and they ensure that the justice system does not work so they cannot be caught." The issues raised in this paper are likely to apply to numerous other countries + although they make uncomfortable reading cannot, and should, not be ignored. Also find out about the assassination of two well-respected Mozambican journalists, Carlos Cardoso + Antonio Siba-Siba Macuacua, as they were about to expose those behind a $400 million banking scandal...


Here you can read Oxfam's recent briefing paper entitled the The Great Sugar Scam. Although the EU is the most expensive producer of sugar in the world it is also the biggest exporter of this commodity (accounting for 40% of world white sugar exports) + sells sugar at prices 50% to 65% less than those guaranteed within the EU... Subsidies and tariffs generate vast profits for big sugar processors and large farmers - and vast surpluses that are dumped on world markets...


Alex Kirby has produced an excellent report for BBC Radio 4's Costing the Earth... This programme outlines - with the help of examples from South America + South Africa - what can happened if state-owned utilities, such as electricity + water, are privatised in haste or dogmatically. In particular, this show highlights the importance of taking into account the needs, and limited means, of the poorest of the poor in the setting of prices + the importance of developing safeguards which ensure people don't have to make a choice between buying clean water or energy and food.


Global Witness obtain first-hand information and evidence documenting the impacts and behaviour of the international oil, logging + diamond industries. They challenge corporate and government practices that result in the unregulated + destructive exploitation of resources and aim to break the links between the exploitation of natural resources and the funding of conflict and corruption.


Wyn Grant's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) page offers plenty of mind-boggling facts and figures which will probably shock you as much as they did me... 45% of the EU's (£53+ billion) budget is devoted to the CAP, 1880 farmers receiving the largest subsidies receive 1 billion euros a year, 7% of beneficiaries receive 50% of payments, the EU minimum price at which sugar may be sold on the EU internal market is 632 euros/tonne (the world price at which EU sugar is exported is currently 180 euros). France, Greece, Luxembourg, Ireland + Italy appear likely to resist CAP reform until the existing agreement expires in 2006 whereas the UK, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands + Sweden want reform prior to further EU enlargement...


The Sustainable Energy and Economy Network (SEEN), works in partnership with citizens groups nationally and globally on environmental, human rights and development issues. SEEN have a list of 4 demands for the World Bank + IMF, campaign against the World Bank financing transnational corporations + highlight campaigns by local people in Peru, The Niger Delta + Aceh.


The Water Supply and Sanitation Collaborative Council is a leading international organisation that enhances collaboration in the water supply and sanitation sector to accelerate the achievement of sustainable water, sanitation and waste management services to all people, with special attention to the unserved poor, by enhancing collaboration among developing countries and external support agencies and through concerted action programmes. An editorial on this site by Sir Richard Jolly quotes Maurice Strong describing the World Summit as "...a struggle between the world's ecosystems and its egosystems".


The Summit Water Partners site offers a comprehensive set of links to organisations involved in issues relating to the equitable provision of clean water and improved sanitation.


The updated IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, is the world's most authoritative source of information on the status of plants and animals. There are now (at least) 11,167 species threatened with extinction, an increase of 121 since 2000... The Bactrian camel, Iberian lynx, tiger tail seahorse + Ethiopian water mouse are in serious trouble whereas the Lord Howe Island stick insect + the Bavarian pine vole have been rediscovered... see some photos here!


The UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre provides information for policy and action to conserve the living world. They monitor a wide variety of species + habitats, address the relationship between trade + the environment and the wider aspects of biodiversity assessment.


Oilwatch (Ecuador) exposes some of the impacts of oil activity on tropical forests and on the local populations. This site offers reports + photos of what can go on in poor countries when social/environmental standards are weak and/or ignored...


The Iceland Nature Conservation Association campaigns for sustainable land use and conservation in Iceland, especially in the highlands. Current campaigns include fighting a non-sustainable hydroelectric development + lobbying against the building of an aluminium smelter in eastern Iceland.


Social Watch. An international citizens' coalition monitoring implementation of the world governments' commitments to eradicate poverty and achieve gender equity.


Kofi Annan has warned that the world was falling short in meeting the objectives agreed by global leaders 2 years ago in the Millennium Declaration + outlined a series of steps being taken by the United Nations + its partners to help accelerate progress (watch his press conference video announcing country-level reporting here) towards achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).


In the Uncovering Greenwash report civil society organisations from 22 countries have joined forces in order to critically assess the progress that governments have made since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit. This well written report is packed full of national case studies and calls for "leadership" + "political will" along with the setting of "clear targets, time lines, the means of implementation + monitoring"


The Argentinean NGO Fundacion Ecologica Universal (FEU) a member of the Rio 10 coalition - has drawn up an extremely useful Table showing the agreed targets from the World Summit's draft Plan of Implementation. This table should help everyone to analyse how to implement these commitments in different sub-regions and countries.


If you want to understand how business thinks and plans it is well worth reading Shell's People, Planet and Profits report. This report identifies possible/likely social, economic and environmental trends over the next 20 years and how, under alternate scenarios, they may impact on the way business is done. Learn about the emerging "business class", "government referees", "consumer kings", "beyond-product services", "consumer boycotts" + "The Great Game of Gas".


Oxfam's What's that in your coffee campaign highlights the serious problems faced by small-scale coffee producers. The two biggest problems are that much more coffee is being grown than is needed + that the global coffee market is dominated by just four powerful coffee companies.


In May 2002 the UK's Royal Society published a damning report on the preparations that have been put in place, by successive UK governments, in order to deal with the country's existing and mounting nuclear waste. The report recommends urgent action to strengthen + reform key institutions, the enhancement of independent scientific research and substantial new investment in order to permit the rapid deployment of the best available technologies (not entailing excessive economic cost).


The most critical conservation problem facing Seabirds globally is thought to be the mortality caused by longline fisheries when albatrosses + petrels swallow baited hooks and drown (see here for a list of simple preventative measures). You can also find out what is being done to improve the protection of seabirds and reduce illegal fishing activity...


The British Natural History Museum's recent Coffee and Biodiversity "Conservation in El Salvador" project aimed to enhance conservation by providing the tools, training and information necessary to empower local people to monitor and assess the biodiversity of the forests associated


Banana Link. Did you know that Britain's favourite fruit was the banana, that there are 300 different varieties of banana (some are even square + taste like apples or pears!), that 40% of the world's bananas come from Ecuador, that many banana workers lack basic rights and there is a simmering trade war between the US + EU over bananas? If not you can learn more banana trade facts here...


The Trade Justice Movement "campaigns for fundamental change to unjust rules and institutions governing international trade, so that trade is made to work of all." The TJM now has 50+ NGO members.


Friends of the Earth, Corporate Watch, Third World Network + others have set up a spoof World Bank website www.whirledbank.org which "denounces the exploitative and destructive policies of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank."


The Union of Concerned Scientists is a nonprofit partnership of scientists and citizens combining rigorous scientific analysis, innovative policy development and effective citizen advocacy to achieve practical environmental solutions.


The G8 Renewable Energy Task Force has produced a report which offers recommendations on the best ways to make renewable energy available to millions of people who currently have no access to clean and reliable forms of energy. Read the report as a PDF file here


Medicins Sans Frontieres are campaigning internationally for greater access to essential medicines and support the view that patents are tools of public policy and must operate to serve the greater public good.


The Plan of implementation was the most important document negotiated + signed by countries at the World Summit on Sustainable Development. At this site you can also read the political declaration + treaty of events + a short summary of the key outcomes of the summit listing the dollar commitments made by the US, EU and others.


Please get in touch via www.earthsummit.info if you have any comments, suggestions or like what this site is doing and would like to help support it's work.


The Earth Summit Info site also offers access to 30 expert talks which were given at the student-run Oxford Earth Summit in April 2002.

Speakers included representatives of Friends of the Earth, Oxfam, Action Aid, The World Bank, Water Aid, Oxford University, The Northern Ireland Womens Coalition, Birdlife International, The Meteorological Office, Jubilee Research + The UN.



This weblog is being set up to help make it easier to make it easier to find the latest links added to the Earth Summit Info homepage which now offers 600+ useful links covering a range of sustainable development, biodiversity + World/Earth Summit issues, organisations and issues...

The large number of links means it can be hard to notice what has changed on the site even though links are constantly being added... Hopefully this log will make this less of a problem...


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