Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International

February 09, 2021. №9

Dear friends and co-fighters,

Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth. I will be glad to receive and publish your positive news from the fields and offices.

Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator

Three court decisions – three incredible precedents.

The Court of Appeal in The Hague has ruled in favour of Milieudefensie / Friends of the Earth Netherlands and four Nigerians on most points in an oil pollution case that was first brought against Shell in 2008. Shell Nigeria in particular is liable for oil pollution at three locations in the Niger Delta, but according to the court, the parent company Royal Dutch Shell also violated its duty of care. Three of the four Nigerian plaintiffs and their fellow villagers must now be compensated for the damage caused and Shell must ensure that there is a leakage detection system in the pipelines in Nigeria. It is the first time that a court has held a Dutch transnational corporation accountable for its duty of care abroad. For decades, millions of people living in the Niger Delta have been suffering the consequences of large-scale oil pollution. Every year, 16,000 babies die as a result of pollution, and life expectancy in the Delta is ten years less than in the rest of Nigeria. Friends of the Earth Netherlands’ lawsuit revolves around pollution from leaks of Shell oil in three villages, which has rendered local people’s fields and fish ponds unusable. The leaked oil was never thoroughly cleaned up and new oil is still leaking out regularly.

The Paris Administrative Court ruled in favor of plaintiffs, including Greenpeace France, in a landmark case acknowledging the responsibility of the French State for the climate crisis. 

Executive director of Greenpeace France Jean-François Julliard said in response: 

“Let’s be frank: this is an historic win for climate justice. A French judge has ruled that climate inaction of the French State is illegal. This decision not only takes into consideration what scientists say and what people want from French public policies, but it should also inspire people all over the world to hold their governments accountable for climate change in their own courts. For governments the writing is on the wall: climate justice doesn’t care about speeches and empty promises, but about facts! This story is not over, we will use this decision as a crucial first step in pushing our scientifically-grounded arguments and get the court in the coming months to order the French State to act against the climate emergency. No more blablas!
Why is it historic?

  • It’s the first time the State’s responsibility in the climate crisis, because of its lack of action, is acknowledged by French justice.
  • It’s a victory of truth over the denial of the State, who has relentlessly claimed its actions are sufficient, despite evidence (GHG emissions consistently over carbon ceilings, reports from the High Council for the Climate, etc.). Today justice sides with all those who have been warning about the climate crisis for decades.
  • The recognition of the State’s fault and responsibility is a crucial step to obtain a court order forcing the State to act.

In a ruling believed to be the first of its kind in France, the appeals court in Bordeaux overturned an expulsion order against the 40-year-old man because he would face “a worsening of his respiratory pathology due to air pollution” in his country of origin. A Bangladeshi man with asthma has avoided deportation from France after his lawyer argued that he risked a severe deterioration in his condition, and possibly premature death, due to the dangerous levels of pollution in his homeland. “To my knowledge, this is the first time a French court has applied the environment as one of its criteria in such a case,” the unnamed man’s lawyer, Ludovic Rivière, said. “It decided my client’s life would be endangered by the air quality in Bangladesh.”

Other positive news.

The UK crane population has soared, a census found. Their courtship dances have inspired ballets, while some cultures worshipped them as gods. Now cranes are soaring again in the UK, some 400 years after they were wiped out by hunters. A census published this week revealed that 23 crane chicks were born in the UK last year, pushing the national population past the 200 milestone. The birds returned to Norfolk in the 1970s under their own steam and have spread to Suffolk, Cambridgeshire and Somerset thanks to ongoing efforts to restore their wetland habitats.

“The return of cranes to the British landscape shows just how resilient nature can be when given the chance,” said Damon Bridge, chair of the UK Crane Working Group. “If we want to see this success continue then [the] sites that cranes use and need must get adequate protection.”

Common Crane (Grus grus). Photo by Andreas Trepte/ Creative Commons

Wisdom, a mōlī (Laysan albatross) and the world’s oldest known, banded wild bird, hatched a new chick this week at Midway Atoll. Biologists first observed the egg pipping on Friday, January 29. After several days, the chick hatched on Monday, February 1. Every year, millions of albatrosses return to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge and Battle of Midway National Memorial. Beginning in October, birds return to their same nesting site and reunite with their mate in the world’s largest colony of albatrosses. Wisdom and her mate, Akeakamai, have been hatching and raising chicks together since at least 2012 when biologists first banded Akeakamai. “At least 70 years old, we believe Wisdom has had other mates,” said U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Dr. Beth Flint. “Though albatross mate for life, they may find new partners if necessary — for example, if they outlive their first mate.”

Wisdom’s newest chick shortly after hatching, with its Dad, Akeakamai. Photo credit: John Brack/ Friends of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge

Cambodian authorities on Monday released five environmental activists after they were detained for three days for protesting against illegal logging inside one of the country’s biggest wildlife sanctuaries. The five, including Ouch Leng, a 2016 Goldman Environmental Prize winner, were detained by rangers on Friday for being inside the Prey Lang Wildlife Sanctuary without permission, Environment Ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra said. The Kratie Provincial Court court had released the five who signed an agreement not to enter restricted areas without permission, Neth Pheaktra said. A case has also been filed against Ouch Leng’s Cambodian Human Rights Task Force for not being registered with the Interior Ministry, he said. The begging of history. On Friday afternoon Kratie provincial environment officers reportedly arrested prominent environmental activist Ouch Leng along with Heng Sros, Men Math, Heng Run and Choup Cheang. They are being detained at the Kratie city police station, according to Soeng Senkaruna, spokesperson for human rights group Adhoc, as reported by VOD.

Mr. Leng Ouch. Courtesy of the Goldman Prize

Digest of Socio-Ecological Union International

January 15-17

SOES Digest
Taiga in winter. Photo by Victor Solodukhin

Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth.

Climate change

The world may be barreling towards climate disaster but rapidly eliminating planet-heating emissions means global temperatures could stabilize within just a couple of decades, scientists say. For many years it was assumed that further global heating would be locked in for generations even if emissions were rapidly cut. Climate models run by scientists on future temperatures were based on a certain carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere. If this remained at the current high level there would be runaway climate disaster, with temperatures continuing to rise even if emissions were reduced because of a lag time before greenhouse gases accumulate in the atmosphere. But more recent understanding of the implications of getting to net-zero emissions is giving hope that the warming could be more swiftly curtailed: http://www.envirolink.org/2021/01/10/global-heating-could-stabilize-if-countries-go-net-zero-emissions-scientists-say/.

Siberia

Hundreds of thousands of hectares of virgin forest have been saved in Yakutia, according to Alexander Zhurakovsky, co-chairman of the public environmental movement “Protect the Nature of Yakutia”. Two logging companies, LLC “Woodland24” and LLC “Angara”, decided to voluntarily abandon the land plots in the Aldan district that were leased following the auction. The companies filed claims to the Arbitration Court of the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia) for invalidation of past auctions for the right to conclude land lease agreements in the Aldan district and the application of the consequences of the invalidity of the transaction. They indicated quite a lot of reasons for termination of contracts. The companies also filed lawsuits against the Regional Ministry of Ecology, stating that “during the auction for the right to conclude a lease agreement, the defendant provided false information about the absence of encumbrance of the forest plot.” The termination of the lease agreements of Woodland24 LLC and Angara LLC was prompted by a wide public outcry.

Siberian Taiga in fall colors

In 2021, a reserve for the reproduction of wild reindeer will appear on the territory of Yakutia. This is reported by the Ministry of Ecology of the Republic. A specially protected natural area of regional significance will be created in the Bulunsky district of the republic. It will help to preserve the breeding stock of wild reindeer of the Leno-Olenek population. The total area of the reserve will be more than 64.1 thousand hectares. According to the Ministry of Ecology, it will be placed within the Chekanovsky ridge, where the main breeding stock is concentrated (about 90%). In addition, 64 species of birds live there, and 260-280 species of higher vascular plants grow there.

“Sakhalin Ecowatch ” finally won another court in the protection of nature and indigenous peoples! As a result, the huge burial ground of Rosneft’s oil waste near the village of Val in the north of Sakhalin is finally closed. The court’s decision finally came into force. It was hard work, it took five years, and there was a lot in it – representative round tables (organized jointly with the Public Chamber of the Sakhalin Region), rallies and public hearings in the village of Val, dozens of public raids and inspections, clashes with the security of the oil burial ground, another court won in 2017 and a war with bailiffs who sabotaged the execution of its decision, one court lost by us and another ongoing court case (the oil service company filed against us and www.sakhalin.info a lawsuit for the protection of business reputation) and many other things https://social.riafan.ru/1318648-putin-zayavil-o-neobkhodimosti-mosta-na-sakhalin.

Dear friends and co-fighters, 
Welcome to the next issue of Positive News. Let you spread it among your friends and co-fighters in your countries and around the Earth. 
I will be glad to receive and publish your positive news from the fields and offices. 
Sviatoslav Zabelin, SEU coordinator
Sakhalin Island, Photo by Sergei Lyakhovets

Reforestation

Indigenous agroforestry revives profitable palm trees and the Atlantic Forest. Highly popular in Brazil because of its delicious heart, the jussara palm was eaten nearly to the brink of extinction. The Indigenous Guarani people from the the São Paulo coast are traditional consumers of jussara palm hearts, and decided to reverse the loss by planting thousands of palm trees. With more than 100,000 jussara palms planted since 2008, the community now sells hearts and seedlings to tourists and beach house owners. The next step is to start extracting the pulp from jussara berries – similar to açaí berries, the popular superfood – which the group hopes will generate enough income to keep the palm trees standing. The palms grow among native trees in an ancient and increasingly popular agricultural technique called agroforestry, which combines woody trees with shrubs, vines, and annuals, in a system that benefits wildlife, builds water tables and soil, provides food, and sequesters carbon: https://news.mongabay.com/2021/01/indigenous-agroforestry-revives-profitable-palm-trees-and-the-atlantic-forest/. acai berries

New food for humans

Yellow mealworm finger foods, smoothies, biscuits, pasta and burgers could soon be mass produced across Europe after the insect became the first to be found safe for human consumption by the EU food safety agency. The delicacies may not be advisable for everyone, however. Those with prawn and dustmite allergies are likely to suffer a reaction to the Tenebrio molitor larvae, whether eaten in powder form as part of a recipe or as a crunchy snack, perhaps dipped in chocolate. The conclusion of scientists at the EU food safety agency, following an application by the French insect-for-food production company, Agronutris, is expected to lead to EU-wide approval within months of yellow mealworm as a product fit for supermarket shelves and kitchen pantries across the continent: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/13/yellow-mealworm-safe-for-humans-to-eat-says-eu-food-safety-agency.