Monday, September 29, 2014

Speciesism: the day after


“I can’t pinpoint some time or moment when I thought, when I realized that there was something to the argument ... so it was kind of a cumulative process ... But once there was a tipping point, when you come out on the other side intellectually, it’s almost, I would almost say it’s crippling. You’re immediately confronted with a holocaust that is occurring everywhere at all times, and everybody you know – your loved ones and people you hate, everywhere – they’re all participating in it. And yet here I am, I’m just talking about it, kind of somewhat unpassionately, just talking about it because I’m trying to relay my feelings about it, when really, the only reasonable response to that realization, to wake up to this world we live in, is a fucking explosion. That’s the only reasonable response. Because this is something – it’s never happened before – I can’t ... It’s so bad, that how do you possibly talk about a holocaust that’s happening everywhere all the time every day and everybody’s included? How do you talk about that when no one ... it’s a laughable subject when you bring it up, you know, when your friends and family, when they think it’s cute that you decided to take an interest in animal issues: ‘but I’m glad, you’ve made your choice, please respect my choice’ – How in hell do you possibly go on in that world? How do you not see the world and everybody in it as dark and dangerous and irrational? How in the world do you not see your life that you’ve lived up to that point when you’ve woken up as inexcusable?”

“I realized that it goes much deeper than I could have ever expected. For people who try to see past speciesism, the world becomes very different.”

Speciesism: the movie

Friday, September 26, 2014

Russell Tribunal finds evidence of incitement to genocide crimes against humanity in Gaza

The Russell Tribunal on Palestine’s Emergency Session on Israel’s Operation Protective Edge held yesterday in Brussels has found evidence of war crimes, crimes against humanity, crimes of murder, extermination and persecution and also incitement to genocide.

The Jury [1] reported: ‘The cumulative effect of the long-standing regime of collective punishment in Gaza appears to inflict conditions of life calculated to bring about the incremental destruction of the Palestinians as a group in Gaza.

‘The Tribunal emphasises the potential for a regime of persecution to become genocidal in effect, In light of the clear escalation in the physical and rhetorical violence deployed in respect of Gaza in the summer of 2014, the Tribunal emphasises the obligation of all state parties to the 1948 Genocide Convention ‘to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide.’

The Jury heard evidence from eyewitnesses to Israeli attacks during the Gaza war 2014 including journalists Mohammed Omer, Max Blumenthal, David Sheen, Martin Lejeune, Eran Efrati and Paul Mason, as well as surgeons Mads Gilbert, Mohammed Abou Arab, Genocide Expert Paul Behrens, Col Desmond Travers and Ivan Karakashian, Head of Advocacy and Defence for Children International.

In terms of the crime of incitement to genocide, the tribunal received evidence ‘demonstrating a vitriolic upswing in racist rhetoric and incitement’ during the summer of 2014. ‘The evidence shows that such incitement manifested across many levels of Israeli society, on both social and traditional media, from football fans, police officers, media commentators, religious leaders, legislators, and government ministers.’

The Tribunal also found evidence of the following war crimes:
  • Willful killing
  • Extensive destruction of property not justified by military necessity
  • Intentionally directing attacks against a civilian population and civilian objects
  • Disproportionate use of force
  • Attacks against buildings dedicated to religion and education
  • The use of Palestinians as human shields
  • Employing weapons, projectiles, and material and methods of warfare which are of a nature to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering which are inherently indiscriminate
  • The use of violence to spread terror among the civilian population
The Tribunal further stated: ‘It is recognised that in a situation where patterns of crimes against humanity are perpetrated with impunity, and where direct and public incitement to genocide is manifest throughout society, it is very conceivable that individuals or the state may choose to exploit the conditions in order to perpetrate the crime of genocide.

It further noted: ‘We have have a genuine fear that in an environment of impunity and an absence of sanction for serious and repeated criminality, the lessons from Rwanda and other mass atrocities may once again go unheeded’.

The Tribunal calls on Israel to fulfill its’ obligations under international law and for the state of Palestine to accede without further delay to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, fully cooperate with the human Rights Council Commission of Inquiry and fully engage the mechanisms of international justice.

The Tribunal also reminds all states to cooperate to bring to an end the illegal situation arising from Israel’s occupation, siege and crimes in the Gaza Strip. In light of the obligation not to render aid or assistance, all states must consider appropriate measures to exert sufficient pressure on Israel, including the imposition of sanctions, the severing of diplomatic relations collectively through international organisations, or in the absence of consensus, individually by breaking bilateral relations with Israel.

It calls upon All states to fulfill their duty ‘to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide’.

The Full and detailed findings and recommendations of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine can be found at the Russell Tribunal website: www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com

The Tribunal will present its’ findings to the European Parliament today (25 Sept).

Notes

[1] Jury members: http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/sessions/extraordinary-session-brussels/meet-the-jury

[2] Witnesses: http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/sessions/extraordinary-session-brussels/witnesses

www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/

www.facebook.com/russelltribunal

https://twitter.com/russelltribunal

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A 'crisis of bigness'

from “This economic collapse is a 'crisis of bigness'” by Paul Kingsnorth, The Guardian, 25 September 2011:

To listen to a political leader at this moment in history is like sitting through a sermon by a priest who has lost his faith but is desperately trying not to admit it, even to himself. Watch Nick Clegg, David Cameron or Ed Miliband mouthing tough-guy platitudes to the party faithful. Listen to Angela Merkel, Nicolas Sarkozy or George Papandreou pretending that all will be well in the eurozone. Study the expressions on the faces of Barack Obama or Ben Bernanke talking about "growth" as if it were a heathen god to be appeased by tipping another cauldron's worth of fictional money into the mouth of a volcano.

In times like these, people look elsewhere for answers. A time of crisis is also a time of opening-up, when thinking that was consigned to the fringes moves to centre stage. When things fall apart, the appetite for new ways of seeing is palpable, and there are always plenty of people willing to feed it by coming forward with their pet big ideas.

But here's a thought: what if big ideas are part of the problem? What if, in fact, the problem is bigness itself?

The crisis currently playing out on the world stage is a crisis of growth.



Published in 1957, The Breakdown of Nations [by Leopold Kohr] laid out what at the time was a radical case: that small states, small nations and small economies are more peaceful, more prosperous and more creative than great powers or superstates. ... Kohr's claim was that society's problems were not caused by particular forms of social or economic organisation, but by their size. ... [O]nce scaled up to the level of modern states, all systems became oppressors. Changing the system, or the ideology that it claimed inspiration from, would not prevent that oppression – as any number of revolutions have shown – because "the problem is not the thing that is big, but bigness itself".

Drawing from history, Kohr demonstrated that when people have too much power, under any system or none, they abuse it. The task, therefore, was to limit the amount of power that any individual, organisation or government could get its hands on. The solution to the world's problems was not more unity but more division. ... Small states and small economies were more flexible, more able to weather economic storms, less capable of waging serious wars, and more accountable to their people. Not only that, but they were more creative. ...

Bigness, predicted Kohr, could only lead to more bigness, for "whatever outgrows certain limits begins to suffer from the irrepressible problem of unmanageable proportions". Beyond those limits it was forced to accumulate more power in order to manage the power it already had. Growth would become cancerous and unstoppable, until there was only one possible endpoint: collapse.

human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Green Capitalism: The God That Failed

By Richard Smith, Jan. 9, 2014

[excerpts]

The project of sustainable capitalism based on carbon taxes, green marketing, "dematerialization" and so forth was misconceived and doomed from the start because maximizing profit and saving the planet are inherently in conflict and cannot be systematically aligned even if, here and there, they might coincide for a moment.

‘Despite all this good work, we still must face a sobering fact. If every company on the planet were to adopt the best environmental practices of the "leading" companies - say, the Body Shop, Patagonia or 3M - the world would still be moving toward sure degradation and collapse. ... Quite simply, our business practices are destroying life on earth. Given current corporate practices, not one wildlife preserve, wilderness or indigenous culture will survive the global market economy. We know that every natural system on the planet is disintegrating. The land, water, air and sea have been functionally transformed from life-supporting systems into repositories for waste. There is no polite way to say that business is destroying the world.’ (Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce)

But two decades on, for all the organic groceries, the energy-efficient lightbulbs, appliances and buildings, the carbon trading and carbon taxes, the global ecology is collapsing faster than ever.

[T]he capitalist market system is inherently eco-suicidal. Endless growth can end only in catastrophic eco-collapse. No amount of tinkering can alter the market system's suicidal trajectory. Therefore, like it or not, humanity has no choice but to try to find a way to replace capitalism with some kind of post-capitalist ecologically sustainable economy.

[C]onsumerism and overconsumption are not "dispensable" and cannot be exorcised because they're not just "cultural" or "habitual." They are built into capitalism and indispensable for the day-to-day reproduction of corporate producers in a competitive market system in which capitalists, workers, consumers and governments alike are dependent upon an endless cycle of perpetually increasing consumption to maintain profits, jobs and tax revenues.

Paul Hawken and Al Gore call for "offsetting" carbon taxes by reducing income taxes. Hansen's "tax and dividend" plan proposes "returning 100 percent of the collected tax back to the public in the form of a dividend." Yet, as ecological economist William E. Rees, co-founder of the science of ecological footprint analysis, points out, if carbon-tax offsets are revenue-neutral, they are also "impact neutral." Money returned to consumers likely will just be spent on something else that consumes or trashes the planet.

If we're talking about 90 percent cuts in CO₂ and other greenhouse emissions, then we're talking about the need to impose huge cuts in everything from farming to fashion.

Either we radically transform our economic system or we face the collapse of civilization.

Even when it's theoretically possible to shift to greener production, given capitalism, as often as not, "green" industries just replace old problems with new problems: So burning down tracts of the Amazon rain forest to plant sugar cane to produce organic sugar for Whole Foods or ethanol to feed cars instead of people is not so green after all. Neither is burning down Indonesian and Malaysian rain forests to plant palm-oil plantations so Britons can tool around London in their obese Land Rovers. ... Aquaculture was supposed to save wild fish. But this turns out to be just another case of "green gone wrong," because, aside from contaminating farmed fish (and fish eaters) with antibiotics to suppress disease in fish pens, farm-raised fish are carnivores. They don't eat corn. Feeding ever-more farmed fish requires capturing ever-more wild forage fish to grind up for fishmeal for the farm-raised fish, which leaves ever-fewer fish in the ocean, starving those up the food chain like sharks, seals, dolphins and whales. So instead of saving wild fish, fish farming has actually accelerated the plunder of the last remaining stocks of wild fish in the oceans. "Green certification" schemes were supposed to reduce tropical deforestation by shaming Home Depot and similar big vendors into sourcing their wood and pulp from "certified" "sustainable" forests - the "sustainable" part is that these "forests" get replanted. But such wood "plantations" are never planted on land that was previously unforested. Instead, they just replace natural forest. There's nothing sustainable about burning down huge tracts of native Indonesian or Amazonian tropical forests and killing off or running off all the wild animals and indigenous people that lived there to plant sterile eucalyptus plantations to harvest pulp for paper. To make matters worse, market demand from overconsuming but guilt-ridden Americans and Europeans has forced green certifiers to lower their standards so much to keep up with demand that today, in most cases, ecological "certification" is virtually meaningless. For example, the Forestry Stewardship Council (FSC), the largest such organization, has come under fire for allowing its tree-with-checkmark logo to be used by rainforest-raping lumber and paper companies, for taking the word of auditors paid by the companies, for loosening its standards to allow just 50 percent certified pulp to go into paper making, and other problems. The problem is that the FSC is not an international government body with a universal mandate and authority to certify the world's lumber. It's just a self-funding NGO environmental organization like the NRDC or the WWF or Greenpeace. Such organizations live on voluntary contributions from supporters, on contributions from corporate funders or on payment for services. As these organizations grew in size and ambition, they sought bigger budgets to better fulfill their "missions" - more than they could solicit from individual contributors. With few exceptions, nearly all these organizations eventually adopted "business" models that drove them into the arms of corporate contributors, in this case, typically lumber companies. When the FSC was founded in 1993, it certified just three producers whose lumber was 100 percent sustainable and not many more in the following years. But by 1997, as the organization faced competition from new "entrants" into the green product-labeling "field" (to use capitalist lingo), the FSC faced the problem, as the Wall Street Journal reported, of "how to maintain high standards while promoting their logos and increasing the supply of approved products to meet demand from consumers and big retailers." This is ever the contradiction in our capitalist world. They started off seeking to protect the forest from rapacious consumers. But demand by luxury consumers in the North is insatiable. To make matters worse, because no one certifier has a monopoly, new certifiers could come into the market. And if they were not so fussy about their criteria for "green certification," they might be more attractive to big retailers hungry for "product." So competition ensued, and, in the end, the FSC could hold onto its dominant position, aka "share of the market," only by caving in - introducing more-relaxed labeling standards, letting producers use just 50 percent sustainable pulp in paper manufacture, letting industry pay for "independent" FSC auditors and so on. In the end, "green" lumber certification has steadily drifted away from its mission and become more and more a part of the corporate plunder of world's remaining forests.

[E]ven if a shift to renewables could provide us with relatively unlimited supplies of clean electricity, we can't assume that this necessarily would lead to massive permanent reductions in pollution. That's because, on the Jevons principle I discussed elsewhere, if there are no non-market constraints on production then the advent of cheap, clean energy production could just give a huge solar-powered green light to the manufacturers of endless electric vehicles, appliances, lighting, laptops, phones, iPads and new toys we can't even imagine yet. But the expanded production of all this stuff, on a global scale, would just consume more raw materials, more metals, plastics, rare earths, etc. It would produce more and more pollution and destroy more and more of the environment. And the products ultimately would end up in some landfill somewhere.

[C]oal is not only burned to generate electricity, coal is critical for making steel. And coal provides carbon for aluminum smelting. And coal and coal byproducts are critical for paper making and many other products, from rayon and nylon to specialist products like carbon fiber, carbon filters, etc. So no coal, no steel or aluminum. No steel and aluminum, no windmills or solar panels or high-speed trains ("goods"). No coal, no carbon fiber, no superlight "hyper cars." So "taxing coal out of business" would undermine some of Hawken's other environmental goals. Same with oil. Oil and oil byproducts are indispensable for petrochemicals, plastics, plastic film for solar panels, plastic insulation for electric wires and countless thousands of other products. Oil is so critical for so many industrial products and processes that it is just inconceivable to imagine a modern industrial civilization without oil. Rare earths mining is a no less dirty process. But no rare earths, no windmill generators, no electric cars, no cellular phones or iPads. And the search for lithium to make the batteries for all those future electric cars threatens fragile ecologies from Bolivia to Finland, Mexico to Canada. Metals smelting is, likewise, an extremely polluting process with little real potential for greening, which is why producers try when possible to do this out of reach of US and European environmental laws. But no copper, no electric lines from those solar panels and no electric motors for those windmills and electric cars. No aluminum, no windmill generators or light vehicles. ... Many metals are recyclable, but world demand for aluminum, copper, steel, nickel and other metals, not to mention "rare earths," is soaring as more and more of the world modernizes and industrializes.

The problem for eco-futurist inventors such as Lovins is that they understand technology but they don't understand capitalist economics.

So if the reality is that, when all is said and done, there is only so much you can do in most industries, the only way to bend the economy in an ecological direction is to sharply limit production, especially of toxic products, which means completely redesigning production and consumption - all of which is impossible under capitalism.

[E]ven in Hawken's "restorative economy," toxic polluters would still be free to spread their carcinogens everywhere - if they just pay to pollute. It is hard to imagine a more bankrupt strategy, guaranteed to fail, nor for that matter, a more hypocritical and immoral strategy.

[H]ow can we "reject consumerism" when we live in a capitalist economy where, in the case of the United States, more than two-thirds of market sales, and therefore most jobs, depend on direct sales to consumers while most of the rest of the economy, including the infrastructure and military, is dedicated to propping up this consumerist "American way of life?" Indeed, most jobs in industrialized countries critically depend not just on consumerism but on ever-increasing overconsumption. We "need" this ever-increasing consumption and waste production because, without growth, capitalist economies collapse and unemployment soars, as we've seen. The problem with the Worldwatch Institute is that, on this issue, they're looking at the world upside down. They think it's consumerist culture that drives corporations to overproduce. So their solution is to transform the culture, get people to read their Worldwatch reports and re-educate themselves so they understand the folly of consumerism and resolve to forego unnecessary consumption - without transforming the economy itself. But it's not the culture that drives the economy so much as, overwhelmingly, the economy that drives the culture: It's the insatiable demands of shareholders that drive corporate producers to maximize sales, therefore to constantly seek out new sales and sources in every corner of the planet, to endlessly invent, as the Lorax had it, new "thneeds" no one really needs, to obsoletize those thneeds just as soon as they've been sold, so the cycle can begin all over again. This is the driving engine of consumerism. Frank Lloyd Wright's apprentice Victor J. Papenek had it right: "Most things are not designed for the needs of people, but for the needs of manufacturers to sell to people." This means that "consumerism" is not just a "cultural pattern." It's not just "commercial brainwashing" or an "infantile regression," as Benjamin Barber has it. Insatiable consumerism is an everyday requirement of capitalist reproduction, and this drives capitalist invention and imperial expansion. No overconsumption, no growth, no jobs. And no "cultural transformation" is going to overcome this fundamental imperative so long as the economic system depends on overconsumption for its day-to-day survival.

environment, environmentalism, human rights, anarchism, ecoanarchism, anarchosyndicalism

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Cowspiracy

There is one single industry destroying the planet more than any other. But the world's leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it. Clips:


Global Warming

Richard Oppenlander, author, Comfortably Unaware: “My calculations are that without using any gas or oil or fuel every again from this day forward, we would still exceed our maximum carbon-equivalent greenhouse gas emissions by the year 2030 ... all simply by raising and eating livestock.”

Kirk Smith, Professor of Global Environmental Health, University of California, Berkeley: “If you reduce the amount of methane emissions, the level in the atmosphere goes down fairly quickly, within decades, as opposed to CO₂ if you reduce the emissions to the atmosphere, you don't really see a signal in the atmosphere for 100 years or so.”

Demosthenes Moratos, Sustainability Institute, Molloy College: “The single largest contributor to every known environmental ill known to humankind – deforestation, land use, water scarcity, the destabilization of communities, world hunger – the list doesn’t stop – it’s an environmental disaster that’s being ignored by the very people who should be championing it.”

Will Tuttle, author: “Free-living animals made up, 10,000 years ago, 99% of the biomass and human beings, we made up only 1% of the biomass. Today, only 10,000 years later ... we human beings and the animals that we own as property make up 98% of the biomass and wild free-living animals make up only 2%. We’ve basically completely stolen the world, the earth, from free-living animals to use for ourselves and our cows and pigs and chickens and factory-farmed fish, and the oceans are being even more devastated.”

Oppenlander: “Concerned researchers of the loss of species agree that the primary cause of loss of species on our earth ... is due to overgrazing and habitat loss through livestock production on land and by overfishing, which I call fishing, in our oceans.”

Tuttle: “We’re in the middle of the largest mass extinction of species in 65 million years, the rainforest is being cut down at the rate of an acre per second, and the driving force behind all of this is animal agriculture: cutting down the forest to graze animals and to grow soybeans, genetically engineered soybeans to feed the cows and pigs and chickens and factory-farmed fish.”

Oppenlander: “Ninety-one percent of the loss of the rainforest in the Amazon area thus far to date, 91% of what has been destroyed is due to raising livestock.”


Ocean


Water
“One quarter-pound hamburger requires over 660 gallons of water to produce. Here I've been taking short showers trying to save water, to find out eating just one hamburger is the equivalent of showering 2 entire months. So much attention is given to lowering our home water use, yet domestic water use is only 5% of what is consumed in the U.S., versus 55% for animal agriculture. That’s because it take upwards of 2500 gallons of water to produce 1 pound of beef.”


Rainforest
“Our global rainforests are essentially the planet’s lungs. They breathe in CO₂ and exhale oxygen. An acre of rainforest is cleared every second, and the leading cause is to graze animals and grow their food crops. ... And it is estimated that every day, close to a hundred plant, animal, and insect species are lost through the rainforest’s destruction.”


Wildlife
Deniz Bolbol, American Wild Horses Preservation Campaign: “The government has been rounding up horses en masse, and we now have more wild horses and burros in government holding facilities – 50,000 – than we have free on the range. Basically you have ranchers who get to graze on our public land for ... about one-fifteenth of the going rate, and what the Bureau of Land Management has to do is say how much forage and water is on the land and then they divvy it up. They give so much to cows, so much to ‘wildlife’, and so much to the wild horses and burros, and what we see is the lion’s share of the forage and water’s going to the livestock industry. And then they scapegoat the horses and burros and say, ‘Oh there’s too many horses and burros, let’s move them.’ I always tell people that wild horses and burros are just one of the victims of the management of our public lands for livestock, because we also see the predator killing going on: wolves are now being targeted by ranchers. USDA has aircraft and all they do is aerial gunning of predators. All a rancher does is call and say, ‘I’ve got a coyote here’, and they’ll come over and they’ll shoot the coyote, or they’ll shoot the mountain lion, or shoot the bobcat. And this is all for ranchers.”


Population
“Some people would say the problem isn’t really animal agriculture, but actually human overpopulation. In 1812, there were 1 billion on the planet. In 1912, there were 1.5 billion. Then just 100 years later, our population exploded to 7 billion humans. This number is rightly given a great deal of attention, but an even more important figure when determining world population is the world’s 70 billion farm animals humans raise. The human population drinks 5.2 billion gallons of water every day and eats 21 billion pounds of food. But just the world’s 1.5 billion cows alone drink 45 billion gallons of water every day and eat 135 billion pounds of food. This isn’t so much a human population issue – it’s a humans eating animals population issue. Environmental organizations not addressing this is like health organizations trying to stop lung cancer without addressing cigarette smoking, but instead of second-hand smoking it’s second-hand eating, that affects the entire planet.”

“You can’t be an environmentalist and eat animal products. Period.”

—Howard Lyman, former cattle rancher, author, Mad Cowboy


“To feed a person on an all plant-based vegan diet for a year requires just one-sixth of an acre of land. To feed that same person on a vegetarian diet that includes eggs and dairy requires three times as much land. To feed an average U.S. citizen’s high-consumption diet of meat, dairy, and eggs requires 18 times as much land. This is because you can produce 37,000 pounds of vegetables on one-and-a-half acres but only 375 pounds of meat on that same plot of land.

“The comparison doesn’t end with land use. A vegan diet produces half as much CO₂ as an American omnivore, uses one-eleventh the amount of fossil fuels, one-thirteenth the amount of water, and an eighteenth of the amount of land.

“After adding this all up, I realized I had the choice every single day to save over 1100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 square feet of forested land, the equivalent of 20 pounds of CO₂, and 1 animal’s life. Every single day.”

environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights, vegetarianism, veganism

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Anti-Russian Ukrainians resent complexity

First up is the Orwellian warning by Chrystia Freeland, Canadian MP and long-time armchair anti-Russia agitator on behalf of Ukraine, against nuanced or neutral (let alone objective) language in describing the rebellion in Donetsk and Luhansk and particularly Russia’s involvement (Sept. 5, New York Times). Instead, she praises the popular success of the Twitter hashtag ”#RussiaInvadedUkraine” as perfectly conveying the truth of the matter. Needless to say, she does not mention the EU’s and USA’s, as well as her own, role in overthrowing a democratically elected government because it was not favoring “The West” enough — or likely even more simply because it was ready to renew the lease on Russia’s Black Sea naval base in Sevastopol, Crimea. The swift (and peaceful) action by Putin to secure Crimea in response to the coup must have been what sent Nato’s Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen round the bend, much as Putin’s protection of Edward Snowden and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s deft thwarting of American bombing of Syria left Obama seething — Putin is a devil because he sees through these hypocritical machinations of “The West”, especially those of the U.S. military empire.

What could be more Orwellian than reducing this complex situation to the nonsensical “#RussiaInvadedUkraine”?

Then today’s local newspaper featured an article about local Ukrainians (no Russians!), including Victoria Somoff, assistant professor of Russian at Dartmouth College, who grew up in Donetsk:
Somoff said she is used to sorting out problems rationally, but the conflict has put that approach to the test.

“It’s becoming this full-scale anger. It almost scares me because I’m not a confrontational person,” she said. “I feel it’s so unjust and unfair for Russia to take over my town and my country.”

Somoff said national tensions have led to sharp disagreements between her and colleagues, many of whom live in Russia, where local support for Russia’s action runs high. ...

That point was underscored to Somoff on Wednesday, when a conversation with a professor in Russia turned sour. “We were supposed to talk about scholarly matters, a completely unrelated topic,” she said. But the international conflict looms so large that it’s almost impossible to ignore, she said, and soon the discussion became heated.

While her colleague wasn’t defending Russia, he said some blame also was due to the Ukrainian government for its poor treatment of Russian-speaking Ukrainian citizens.

But Somoff said she can no longer afford to see the picture in shades of gray.

“I am a scholar. I see complexity,” she said. “But there is a point where the boundaries are drawn and arguments for complexity play to Putin. I am kind of losing any ability to be objective here.”
Acknowledgement of complexity plays to Putin, so Somoff must deny that complexity and join Rasmussen and Obama in seething rage against Putin for denying them their “win” (and for making them act like simpletons?). They would rather start World War III than admit their own contributions to fomenting and perpetuating the crisis, simply because it did not go as they planned.

It is, after all, “The West” that has left a trail of death, chaos, and destruction throughout Africa and southwest Asia, and sought to add Ukraine to that list.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Wind Health Impacts Dismissed in Court?

At the pro–renewable energy industry Energy & Policy Institute, dead-ender Mike Barnard claims that whenever concerns of health impacts from industrial wind turbine noise are raised at law, they are rejected. In the 49 cases from English-speaking countries that he presents, however, only 2 involved an operating wind energy facility. And in both, the facility was found to be in violation of the law. The rest involve only the existing legal framework for approving industrial wind facilities, which involves the weighing of often competing interests — and the evidence shows most clearly that national, state, or provincial interests generally trump local concerns in the matter of energy development.

Almost all of the remaining 47 (or 44, since 2 of them are duplicates and 1 is the transcript of the hearing for one of the listed cases) involve appeals of project approvals, and the issue concerns only the possibility of health impacts despite the government’s judgement and the developer’s reassurances. Oddly, 11 of them do not even consider health effects or they consider them only very narrowly (eg, shadow flicker, autism). And several of them recognize that should health effects occur, they should indeed be taken seriously. One of the rulings (Heritage Wind Farm Development Inc., Decision on Preliminary Question, Decision 2011-239, Alberta, 2012) dismisses the developer’s wish to operate the turbines at night, in violation of the conditions of the project approval. Another ruling (Hulme v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor, 2011) upholds amplitude modulation (“whooshing”) noise conditions that have prevented the developer from proceeding despite project approval.

As stated in Fata v. Director, Ministry of the Environment (Ontario, 2014), “Tribunals are creatures of statute.” The laws guiding the permitting of large wind energy facilities are narrow and virtually arbitrary regarding setbacks and noise limits. Until the facility is actually operating, the developer’s word is golden and the regulations are generous. After construction, the resulting impacts are weighed against the burden on the developer to mitigate them. Nonetheless, as noted above, in both post-construction cases presented by Barnard, the courts ruled in favor of the plaintiffs.

Furthermore, Barnard completely ignores the many cases that have been settled out of court, the energy company buying the plaintiff’s property rather than defending the charges of adverse health effects in public. Such settlements also typically impose gag orders on the sellers. Two examples are the purchase of several homes in Ontario and the home of Jane and Julian Davis in England.

Then there is the non–English-speaking world. One pertinent example is from Portugal, where the Supreme Court in 2013 ordered the shutting down and removal of 4 turbines near a farm because of sleep disturbance and other health effects. In late 2011, Denmark added limits of indoor low-frequency noise to its regulations, recognizing one of the unique characteristics of wind turbine noise and its health impacts.

Far from exhaustive, Barnard’s list is also not representative of legal opinion, ignoring planning decisions and regulations that consider the adverse health effects of wind turbine noise. Just one example is a North Lincolnshire project that was “rejected because of the ‘serious effect’ it would have on eight-year-old autistic twin boys living nearby”, based on the evidence from an existing project behind their home.

In the tables below, only the last columns have been added to the originals.

Australia

Case Project Location Year Type Decision comments
Cherry Tree Farm Pty Ltd. v. Mitchell Shire Council Cherry Tree Victoria 2013 Civil In favor of developer [bad link in original] permit application (allowed, with conditions, including noise limits) – “The Tribunal has no doubt that some people who live close to a wind turbine experience adverse health effects … there is not sufficient evidence to establish that the proportion of the population residing in proximity to a wind farm which experiences adverse health effects is large enough to warrant refusal of a land use that is positively encouraged by planning policy. … This view is strengthened when the
proximity is required to be no less than 2 kilometres.
” [emphasis added]
Paltridge and Ors v. District Council of Grant and Anor Allendale East South Australia 2011 Environment Against developer (visual amenity) appeal of planning consent (upheld)
Cherry Tree Farm Pty Ltd v. Mitchell Shire Council Cherry Tree Victoria 2013 Civil In favor of developer [bad link in original; apparently duplicate entry of Cherry Tree Farm Pty Ltd. v. Mitchell Shire Council (2013), above]
Quinn & Ors v. Regional Council of Goyder & Anor Hallett South Australia 2010 Environment In favor of developer appeal of planning consent – ‘[T]he framers of the Development Plan must have known that, even in a sparsely populated rural area such as the locality of the proposed wind farm, there will be residents who will be able to hear the turbines, and a small percentage of those residents are likely to be annoyed.’ (ie, tough)
King & Anor v. Minister for Planning; Parkesbourne-Mummel Landscape Guardians Inc v. Minister for Planning; Gullen Range Wind Farm Pty Limited v. Minister for Planning Gullen Range New South Wales 2010 Environment In favor of developer 3 appeals of project approval, none regarding health
The Sisters Wind Farm Pty Ltd v. Moyne SC Sisters Wind Farm Victoria 2010 Civil Against developer (exceeds updated noise standards) appeal of permit refusal (dismissed) – ‘It is our view that actual adverse health effects aside from the annoyance aspects of noise impact remain unproven. We do however accept that certain individuals have a much higher sensitivity to noise than others, but the impact of noise from the turbines, which is a fluctuating rather than a steady noise, does cause significant distress even at a low noise level.’
Acciona Energy Oceania Pty Ltd v. Corangamite SC Newfield Victoria 2008 Civil In favor of developer appeal of permit refusal (upheld) – ‘There is no evidence of health impacts that persuades us that rejection of the permit application is warranted given the proposal’s compliance with the applicable standards. [emphasis added] If there are significant issues arising then there needs to be some independent assessment and documentation leading, if required, to variations in the standards applied in Victoria.’
Perry v. Hepburn SC Hepburn Wind Victoria 2007 Civil In favor of developer appeal of permit approval (dismissed) – ‘There is no evidence of health impacts that persuades us that rejection of the permit application is warranted given the proposal’s compliance with the applicable standards.’ [emphasis added]
Synergy Wind Pty Ltd v. Wellington SC Yarram Victoria 2007 Civil In favor of developer appeal of permit refusal (dismissed), health concerns raised only in reference to shadow flicker
Thackeray v. Shire of South Gippsland Toora Victoria 2001 Civil In favor of developer appeal of permit approval (dismissed), health concerns not raised
Hislop & Ors v. Glenelg SC Cape Bridgewater Victoria 1998 Civil In favor of developer permit application (approved), health concerns not raised


Canada

Case Project Location Year Type Decision comments
Fata v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Bow Lake Ontario 2014 Environment In favor of developer appeals of project approval (dismissed) – ‘Tribunals are creatures of statute.’
13-124 Kroeplin v. MOE Armow Ontario 2014 Environment In favor of developer [bad link in original] appeals of project approval (dismissed)
13-096 Platinum Produce Company v. MOE South Kent Ontario 2014 Environment In favor of developer appeal of project approval (dismissed)
Drennan v. Director, Ministry of the Environment K2 Wind Huron County Ontario 2014 Environment In favor of developer appeals of project approval (dismissed)
Ostrander Point GP Inc. and another v. Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and another Ostrander Point Ontario 2014 Higher In favor of developer [bad link in original] appeal of revocation of project approval (upheld), appeal of dismissal of appeal regarding harm to birds and alvar (dismissed), and appeal of dismissal of appeal regarding harm to human health (dismissed)
1646658 Alberta Ltd., Bull Creek Wind Project Bull Creek Alberta 2014 Utility In favor of developer [bad link in original] application for project approval (approved)
Wrightman v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Adelaide Ontario 2014 Environment In favor of developer appeals of project approval (dismissed)
Bain v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Ernestown Wind Farm Ontario 2014 Environment In favor of developer [no link in original] appeals of project approval (dismissed)
Bovaird v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Melancthon Extension Ontario 2013 Environment In favor of developer appeal of project approval (dismissed)
Alliance to Protect Prince Edward County v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Ostrander Point Ontario 2013 Environment Against developer due to endangered turtle appeals of project approval (dismissed regarding human health; allowed regarding plant life, animal life or natural environment) – overturned in Ostrander Point GP Inc. and another v. Prince Edward County Field Naturalists and another (2014), above
Monture v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Haldimand Summerhaven project Ontario 2012 Environment In favor of developer appeals of project approval (dismissed)
Monture v. Director, Ministry of the Environment (Monture 2) Haldimand Grand Renewable Wind Ontario 2012 Environment In favor of developer appeals of project approval (dismissed)
Chatham-Kent Wind Action Inc. v. Director, Ministry of the Environment South Kent Ontario 2012 Environment In favor of developer appeal of project approval (dismissed)
Heritage Wind Farm Development Inc., Decision on Preliminary Question, Decision 2011-239 Heritage Wind Farm Alberta 2012 Utility Against developer application for variance of approval condition to shut down turbines at night (dismissed)
Erickson v. Director, Ministry of the Environment Chatham Kent Suncor Ontario 2011 Environment In favor of developer appeals of project approval (dismissed) – ‘While the Appellants were not successful in their appeals, the Tribunal notes that their involvement and that of the Respondents, has served to advance the state of the debate about wind turbines and human health. This case has successfully shown that the debate should not be simplified to one about whether wind turbines can cause harm to humans. The evidence presented to the Tribunal demonstrates that they can, if facilities are placed too close to residents. The debate has now evolved to one of degree. The question that should be asked is: What protections, such as permissible noise levels or setback distances, are appropriate to protect human health? … Just because the Appellants have not succeeded in their appeals, that is no excuse to close the book on further research. On the contrary, further research should help resolve some of the significant questions that the Appellants have raised.’
Hanna v. Ontario (Attorney General) Wind farm enabling legislation Ontario 2011 Higher In favor of industry challenge of provincial setback requirements (dismissed) – ‘[U]nder s. 11 of the EBR, the minister must take every reasonable step to consider all ten principles, a process which involves a policy-laden weighing and balancing of competing principles. … The health concerns for persons living in proximity to wind turbines cannot be denigrated, but they do not trump all other considerations. … It is not the court's function to question the wisdom of the minister's decision, or even whether it was reasonable. If the minister followed the process mandated by s. 11 of the EBR, his decision is unassailable on a judicial review application.’
McKinnon v. RMs Martin and Moosomin, Red Lily Wind Red Lily Saskatchewan 2010 Civil In favor of developer motion for injunction (dismissed)


New Zealand

Case Project Location Year Type Decision comments
New Zealand Wind Farms Limited v. Palmerston North City Council Te Rere Hau Palmerston North 2013 Higher In favor of developer [link same as Palmerston North City Council v. New Zealand Windfarms Limited (2012), below]
Meridian Energy Limited v. Hurunui Bistrict and Canterbury Regional Councils Hurunui North Canterbury 2013 Environment In favor of developer application for project consent (granted)
Palmerston North City Council v. New Zealand Windfarms Limited Te Rere Hau New Zealand 2012 Environment Against developer challenge of noise compliance (granted)
Mainpower NZ Limited v. Hurunui District Council Mt. Cass Canterbury 2011 Environment In favor of developer appeal of consent refusal (upheld) – ‘we accept that there can be no guarantee of absolute protection for the health and wellbeing of their child [with autism]’ (only health concern raised)
Rangitikei Guardians Society Inc v. Manawatu-Wanganui Regional Council Project Central Wind Taihape 2010 Environment In favor of developer [no link in original] appeal of project consent (dismissed)


United Kingdom

Case Project Location Year Type Decision comments
South Northamptonshire Council & Anor v Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor Spring Farm Ridge Northamptonshire 2013 Higher Against developer appeal of upheld appeal of planning refusal (upheld), health concerns not raised
Hulme v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor Den Brook Devon 2011 Higher In favor of developer appeal of conditions of redetermined planning approval (upheld appeal of dismissed appeal of upheld appeal of planning refusal (dismissed) – upheld amplitude modulation noise condition, health concerns not raised
Barnes & Anor v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Crosslands Farm Cumbria 2010 Higher In favor of developer appeal of upheld appeal of planning refusal (rejected), health concerns not raised
Tegni Cymru Cyf v. The Welsh Ministers & Anor Gorsedd Bran Denbighshire 2010 Higher In favor of developer appeal of rejected appeal of planning refusal (upheld), health concerns not raised
Hulme, R (on the application of) v. Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government Den Brook Devon 2010 Higher In favor of developer [hearing of Hulme v. Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government & Anor (2011), above]
Tegni Cymru Cyf v. The Welsh Ministers & Anor Gorsedd Bran Denbighshire 2010 Higher Against developer appeal of Tegni Cymru Cyf v. The Welsh Ministers & Anor (2010), above, health concerns not raised
The Friends of Hethel Ltd, R (on the application of) v. Ecotricity Lotus Cars Norfolk 2009 Higher In favor of developer appeal of planning permission, health concerns not raised
North Devon District Council, R (on the application of) v. Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise & Regulatory Reform & Anor Fullabrook Down Devon 2008 Higher In favor of developer appeal and application for judicial review of planning permission (appeal dismissed, permission to apply for judicial review granted), health concerns not raised
CRE Energy Ltd Re: A Decision Of The Scottish Ministers [2006] ScotCS CSOH_131 (29 August 2006) Borrowston Scotland 2006 Higher Against developer appeal of pleanning refusal, health concerns not raised


United States

Case Project Location Year Type Decision comments
Town of Falmouth v. Town of Falmouth Zoning Board of Appeals & others Falmouth Massachusetts 2013 Higher Against developer motion for injunction (allowed) – turbines off 7pm-7am Mon-Sat, Sun, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year's
Lawrence J. Frigault et al., Respondents-Appellants, v. Town of Richfield Planning Board et al., Apellants-Respondents, et al., Respondent. Monticello Winds New York 2013 Higher In favor of developer appeal of upheld appeal of permit approval (upheld), health concerns not raised
The Blue Mountain Alliance; Norm Kralman; Richard Jolly; Dave Price; Robin Severe; and Cindy Severe, Petitioners, v. Energy Facility Siting Council; and Site Certificate Holder Helix Windpower Facility, LLC. Respondents. Helix Wind Power Facility Oregon 2013 Higher In favor of developer appeal of certificate approval ignoring country setback ordinance, health concerns not specifically raised
Friends of Maine Mountains v. Board of Environmental Protection Saddleback Ridge Maine 2012 Higher Against developer appeal of permit approval (upheld) – ‘Because the Board is responsible for regulating sound levels in order to minimize health impacts—and because when doing so it determined that the appropriate nighttime sound level limit to minimize health impacts is 42 dBA—the Board abused its discretion by approving Saddleback's permit applications.’
Concerned Citizens to Save Roxbury et al. v. Board of Environmental Protection et al. Record Hill Maine 2011 Higher In favor of developer appeal of permit approval (dismissed)
Application of Buckeye Wind, LLC., for a Certificate to Construct Wind–Powered Electric Generation Facilities in Champaign County, Ohio; Union Neighbors United et al., Appellants; Power Siting Board et al., Appellees Champaign County Ohio 2010 Higher In favor of developer appeal of project approval (dismissed), health concerns not raised – ‘the board acted in accordance with all pertinent statutes and regulations’
Arthur and Elke Plaxton, Appellants v. Lycoming County Zoning Hearing Board and Laurel Hill Wind Energy, LLC. Laurel Ridge Pennsylvania 2009 Higher In favor of developer challenge of county zoning amendments (dismissed), health concerns not specifically raised
Aroberts v. Manitowoc County Board of Adjustment Twin Creeks Wind Park Wisconsin 2006 Higher In favor of developer appeal of permit approval (dismissed), health concerns not specifically raised

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, human rights

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