Oxfam’s recent report, Suffering the Science – Climate Change, People and Poverty, argues that the effects of climate change pose the greatest threat to humanity. The following are a few excerpts from the report, illustrated with some of my photos:
The report combines the latest scientific observations on climate change, and evidence from Oxfam’s work in almost 100 countries around the world.
“Women living in poverty, who already face a daily struggle to survive, are being hit the hardest,” – Robert Fox, executive director of Oxfam Canada.
A survey of top climate scientists, also published by Oxfam, said poor people living in low-lying coastal areas, island atolls and mega deltas and farmers are most at risk from climate change because of flooding and prolonged drought. The scientists named South Asia and Africa as climate change hotspots.
More people on the planet depend on rice than on any other crop. Rice plants react very quickly to temperature change: they show a 10% drop in yield for every 1ºC rise in minimum temperature. In parts of the Philippines, farmers have had to stop growing rice completely during the droughts caused by the ‘El Nino’ years, and river delta and coastal rice production has already suffered badly accross South-East Asia because of storms that overwhelm sea defences and salt-water intrusion into paddy fields.
An Asian Development Bank report warns that rice production in the Philippines could drop by 50-70 per cent as early as 2020.
Crops are only one part of the food story. Fish stocks are also endangered by climate change — threatening the loss of a significant source of protein and income for the 2.6billion people who get 20 per cent of their protein from fish. In many countries, dependence on fish consumption increases with poverty. In addition, 500 million people in developing countries depend — directly or indirectly — on fisheries for their livelihoods.
Both wild and farmed fish are threatened by a whole range of climate-driven problems — from raised sea levels and floods that damage fish farms on coasts and in river areas, to the increasin acidification of the oceans as a result of GHG emissions. A recent study suggests that 90 per cent of the food resources of the ‘coral triangle’ of the western Pacific will be gone by 2050, potentially affecting 150million people.
In the last few months, several bodies including the Commonwealth countries’ health ministers have concluded that climate change is the greatest threat to health globally this century. The poorest and hottest countries will suffer the most. The loss of healthy life years as a result of global environmental change is predicted to be 500 times greater amongst poor African populations than amongst European populations. Climate change-driven alterations in patterns of disease and illness are already occurring globally, and 99 per cent of the casualties of climate change now are in developing countries.
Rapid urbanization — which can be spurred by climatic factors as people seek new livelihoods in cities — brings disease with it. Urban sprawls often lack health infrastructure, and migrant workers may not be able to afford care and medicine. Some of the worst health statistics emanate from cities.
Small increases in temperatures hit human beings hard. None of us, no matter how well acclimatised, can do heavy work effectively above 35ºC or so. A couple of degrees higher than that, and our bodies soon get exhausted. Once core body temperature passes 38ºC, heat stress may set in. The body tries to cool down by sweating; dehydration may follow. People’s work rate slows. Ultimately, production and incomes decline.
“Working under the open sky during summer has become nearly impossible in the past four years or so — for farmers and their cattle alike.” — Mir Ahmed, Bangladeshi farmer.
Finding and transporting clean water is a central occupation in the working day of many people in developing countries, especially women. When a community is short of food, or suffering an outbreak of desease, there are immediate ways in which they can be helped. However, scarcity of water is a much greater problem. According to the UN Development Programme, over one billion people lack access to safe water today, and that number can only increase.
2009 is one of the most important years in human history. In Copenhagen in December, politicians will meet at the 15th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the UN Climate Change Convention. This meeting will decide whether we face a future on a hot glowering planet, or whether we set a course for climate safety for everyone.
see the full report for more information and references.
A moment of discovery for one of the 2,000+ indigenous peoples attending the eighth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues as she figures out how to use the earphone translator.
See more on the Eighth Session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Jethro Tulin, Executive Officer of Akali Tange Association (Porgera, Enga Province, Papua New Guinea), presented his statement to the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues yesterday. The following is his full statement:
UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, Eighth Session
Intervention by: Jethro Tulin, Executive Officer of Akali Tange Association (Porgera, Enga Province, Papua New Guinea)
Supported by: Asia Caucus, Pacific Caucus, Western Shoshone Defense Project (Nevada, USA), Peoples Earth, Society for Threatened Peoples International (ECOSOC), Indigenous Peoples Link
Item 4: Human Rights
New York, May 27, 2009.
Madam Chair, this is my second time at this UN forum, and today my message is more urgent than before. In my homeland in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, the Ipili and Engan people have seen their traditions turned upside-down by the influence of a large-scale mining project. In one generation, the mine has brought militarization, corruption, and environmental devastation to a land that previously knew only subsistence farming and alluvial mining.
Last year, I explained that mine guards and police were killing locals and raping our women; there have been five more killings and many more rapes since. Last year, I described how our food sources were threatened by mine waste dumped directly into the river system and how my people were exposed to dangerous chemicals like cyanide and mercury; today, those practices continue. Last year, I complained that the mine is directly next to our homes; and just three weeks ago, the Papua New Guinea government, motivated by reports presented by the mining company, unleashed “State of Emergency,” a police and military operation that saw hundreds of homes of indigenous land owners surrounding the open pit mine razed to the ground.
This is a textbook case of what can go wrong when large-scale mining confronts Indigenous Peoples, ignoring the impacts of its projects and resorting to goon squads when people rebel against it..
The increasing global power and influence of trans-national companies like the Canadian Barrick Gold, managers of the Porgera mine means that they, alongside the PNG government, must be responsible for upholding human rights within their spheres of influence.
The UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the National Goals and Directive Principal that underlie the PNG constitution codify, not only the moral responsibility to uphold rights of affected Indigenous Peoples in PNG, but also is increasingly seen as implying their legal liability as organs of society to respect, promote and secure human rights.
In addition to wreaking havoc on local communities, these mines pollute vital water sources and require an immense amount of energy to run. The Porgera mine alone produces over 400,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases and consumes over 7 billion gallons of water a year, which it continually dumps – polluted – into a 800 km-long river system, eventually leading to the Gulf of Papua and reaching the Great Barrier Reef. In a time of impending climate change, this environmental devastation affects us all.
We recommend that the Permanent Forum:
1. Urge the Permanent Forum to write urgently to the Government of Papua New Guinea and Barrick Gold Corporation of Canada appealing for an urgent halt to the State of Emergency and the destruction of peoples homes.
2. Endorse the recommendations put forth in the report of the expert group meeting on extractive industries, Indigenous Peoples’ rights and corporate social responsibility, which met in March 2009 in Manila, Philippines;
3. Calls for activation of the World Bank 2005 Extractive Industries Review and for activation of the previous interventions to address the impact and legacy of extractive industries on Indigenous Lands, territories and natural resources;
4. Investigates how to set up an Indigenous arbitration system, a regulatory regime, to control the practices of the trans-national mining companies, other extractive industries, forestry and fisheries;
5. Forms an agency to evaluate the amount Indigenous communities involuntarily subsidize the mining industry and other extractive industries through their natural resources, which are seized with minimal compensation, if any, by forms of colonialism perpetrated by trans-national companies;
Jethro Tulin, Akali Tange Association Inc.
Porgera Enga Province, Papua New Guinea
May 27, 2009
Some more images from last nights Celebration of Indigenous Peoples’ Cultures at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.
I’m sorry I don’t know everyone’s names here, if you recognize anyone in the following images send me an email: email@example.com and I’ll add the names to the captions with links to the groups they represent.
For more info on the Polynesian Dance Productions: www.polynesiandp.com
More on Cameron McCarthy: www.didgebeats.com
More info on the Yurta Mira
Some 2,000 indigenous representatives from all regions of the world are currently participating in the eigth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII).
For more info on COICA: www.coica.org.ec
One of the main issues being discussed at this years UNPFII is the relationship between indigenous peoples ad industrial corporations. Of particular concern is the fact that the extractive industries disproportionately impact indigenous peoples.
More info on the Eighth Session of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues
Full text of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples