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Sunday, August 17, 2003

:: Earth-Info.Net takes a break ::
Dear Reader,

This note is to let you know that I will be taking a 2 month break from posting on Earth-Info.Net... in order to complete my much-delayed PhD on Australian Acacia pollination.

Having spent a year organising the Oxford Earth Summit and www.earthsummit.info my recent habit of spending 2-3 hours a day posting on Earth-Info.Net just isn't helping me to finish my studies and I have sadly run out of deadline extensions!

I therefore hope that you will understand the need for this temporary pause in my posting updates and that you will come back in mid-October when I will hopefully be working on the site full-time (funding permitting!).

At the top of this page I have added links to some of the best web-sites I know about. These sites tackle problems which do not change very much on a day to day basis but none-the-less deserve far more attention than they currently receive...

Issues covered include tackling neglected diseases (which kill millions), providing clean water + improved sanitation, providing primary school education for all, corruption in rich and poor countries, the need for fairer trade, the protection of basic human rights and the fundamental threats to all life and lifestyles of climate change + environmental degradation.

It will not necessarily cost a lot of money to tackle many of these problems but will require a change in our attitudes and the development of long-term commitments to one another and the planet...

If you wish to read the latest environmental, human rights + health news then please consider visiting the new headline services on the top left hand side of this page.

My thanks to everyone who has been in touch while I have worked on Earth-Info.Net. It's been a pleasure getting to know you.

Very best wishes


Saturday, August 09, 2003

:: South Africa agrees to treat AIDS patients ::
The South African government has agreed to provide anti-retroviral drugs to people infected with HIV.

This decision is a significant reversal of policy and comes in the wake of a major conference where the government's preference for traditional medicines + enhanced nutrition instead of providing drugs to AIDS patients has come under stiff domestic + international criticism.

The Health Department has now been given until the end of next month to produce a plan as to how + when the drugs will be made available and to decide who will be eligible for them.

It is thought that the falling costs of retrovirals and a report which said that the cost of not treating those with AIDS was greater than the cost of offering treatment were instrumental in triggering this change of heart.

The Treatment Action campaign which has been campaigning for affordable treatment for people with AIDS has welcomed the government's announcement but said that it will "wait to see the actual operational plan before celebration"

Friday, August 08, 2003

:: Red Cross disgust at neglect of Liberians ::
The International Red Cross has expressed it's disgust at the international communities' neglect of the humanitarian crisis in Liberia which it says has been "neglected to a point rarely seen even in Africa".

At present 250,000 people are crammed into the capital Monrovia where food + water supplies are running desperately low, following weeks of urban warfare. On Wednesday the United Nations launched a fresh international appeal to raise $69-million from donors for emergency aid in Liberia.

So far donor governments have provided less than 22% of the $42.7-million the United Nations asked for last November, even though the UN has said that Liberia is suffering "a human catastrophe of horrific proportions."

:: UK reports to UNHCR on anti-discrimination efforts ::
As one of the 169 States parties to the International Convention (of all forms of Racial Discrimination), the United Kingdom Government must present periodic reports to a UN Committee on its efforts to implement the provisions of the treaty.

In order to comply with the requirements of this Convention a UK delegation has recently submitted a report to the UNHCR on the efforts the country is making to eliminate racial descrimination...

The UK delegation was able to make a fairly convincing case that there had been considerable progress over the last 25 years, in particular within the public sector (a positive way of saying the private sector is lagging behind!) + since the UK had started to incorporate the European Race Directive into it's national law. The delegation also mentioned that a non-governmental organization Human Rights Forum had been established in order to help monitor compliance with United Nations Human Rights Conventions (note: Earth-Info.Net couldn't find link to this forum) and that the UK remained "commited to providing a safe haven to refugees, under the Geneva Convention" and to working "to encourage community cohesion and the integration of migrants.

With regard to the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act, the Government has stated that prosecution was the preferred option in relation to a person suspected of involvement in terrorism. Where prosecution was not an option, the Act allowed the United Kingdom to detain, pending eventual deportation for a finite amount of time.

The Committee welcomed the quality + honesty of the government report but highlighted (in a masterclass of diplomacy!) the need for further work to be done in tackling incitement to racial descrimination, institutional racism (especially within the police service + prison system) + reducing deprivation amongst asylum seekers. The committee also suggested the need for a Human Rights Commission to ensure enforcement of the Human Rights Act, in force since 2000.

A full report will be published by the Racial Equality Committtee on August 22nd.

See here to read the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Thursday, August 07, 2003

:: Blogging from Brazil ::
Earth-Info.Net recommends a weblog produced by a journalist, called Paulo Cabral, who works for the BBC's Brazil Service .

This blog details Paulo's travels in the footsteps of explorer Sir Richard Burton and covers a wide range of social + environmental issues in a very engaging and interesting way.

Stories covered include the pollution + depletion of rivers, the good + bad impacts of hydro-electric power, the drugs trade, poverty + religion.

You can listen to Paulo's radio reports or view a slide show here.

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

:: WWF expels Tesco from sustainability partnership ::
UK supermarket Tesco has been expelled from a partnership with WWF which had been designed to encourage businesses to source their hardwood products from sustainably harvested forests.

This expulsion follows an investigation by Friends of the Earth which found that Tesco was selling garden furniture assembled in Vietnam, using illegally sourced hardwoods from Indonesia.

Tesco has said that it is are endeavouring to find new sources of wood but WWF have decided to tighten the criteria businesses must currently agree to meet in order to remain members of it's 95+ group.

Pressure is now growing for WWF to expel French multinational Lafarge which has twice been fined by the European Commission for operating illegal international price-fixing cartels.

Friends of the Earth has said that “WWF must apply the same ethical standards to all its partnerships with companies,”... and the fact... “That Lafarge supports WWF to the tune of £3.5 million must not distort the picture.”

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

:: AIDS conference in South Africa ::
In South Africa 600 people a day are dying of AIDS.

Although the AIDS epidemic is in full swing, with approx. 4,700,000 South Africans infected with HIV, the prevention + treatment policies of Thabo Mbeki's government are coming under stiff criticism from local activists who are demanding affordable treatment for people with HIV (especially for pregnant mothers whose babies can be better protected from infection if a drug called Nevirapine is administered before birth).

Academics attending an international AIDS conference, in Durban, are also highlighting the need to avoid denial and start talking openly about issues relating to sex, AIDS, treatment, empowerment + support.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

:: Satellites, UN reform, Liberia + Ozone recovery ::
I only have a couple of months to finish my PhD so please forgive this brief round-up of the news I have found interesting over the last few days...

The US has proposed setting up an Earth observation system. Earth-Info.Net senses that this proposal is a consequence of someone at NASA doing a few sums into the amount of money spent studying deep space versus our own planet! Although such a system would certainly provide useful information Earth-Info.Net feels there are many more efficient and urgent ways of altering spending priorities + behaviour. In particular we need to invest more time and money in tackling well understood problems with feasible solutions that have not been implemented. For example, many developing countries would benefit from funds being made available to train locals with key skills, to use natural resources in a more sustainable fashion or undertake the enforcement of existing legislation. Rich countries will also need to re-organise their economies and societies so that they can become more sustainable. In terms of biodiversity many of the world's biggest insect families have no living taxonomists that are able to identify them. Such organisms are known as orphan taxa.

The UN is considering how to reform itself in order to better represent the views and interests of all it's member states. If the UN is ever to have teeth and live up to the ideals of it's charter this will almost inevitably involve a measure of financial independence from donor countries who understandably, but expediently, pursue their own geo-political goals... This may well be achieved using an incarnation of the so-called Tobin Tax which won the 1981 Nobel Prize for economics...

The impressive ability of the Australians to go to the aid of the Solomon Islands, when invited to do so by brutalised islanders stands in stark contrast to the shameful prevarication still being exhibited by the US and ECOWAS in dealing with the anarchy in Liberia. A most powerful description of conditions in the Liberia's main hospital was posted by a Medicins sans Frontieres doctor on the BBC News Online website.

Following the banning of CFC gases as aerosol propellants in the late 1980s the hole in the ozone layer which protects the surface of the Earth from ultra-violet radiation seems to be recovering. Scientists report that ozone concentrations are now only dropping by 4% every 10 years, instead of the 8% of recent decades. This shows how effective the internationally agreed Montreal Protocol, which ensured the removal + subsititution of CFC gases, has been at dealing with what could have been a catastrophic problem... This scientifically guided policy also highlights the potential benefit of acting promptly on the basis of the best available science. Let's just hope the same sort of foresight can be applied to dealing with climate change + pollution...

:: www.earthsummit.info recovers from hack ::
Just a note to let you know that www.earthsummit.info and the Oxford Earth Summitwebpages are back online after my server was hacked and had to be wiped.

Sorry if you have tried to access either page recently and have been disappointed.