Sunday, 10 June 2012

ANU Project Secures Rainforest Future

Project secures rainforest future
Tuesday 5 June 2012

In a world first, oil buried deep in the Amazonian rainforest in Ecuador is set to stay in the ground in exchange for help with the country’s economic development, in a project involving researchers from The Australian National University.
The Australian National Centre for Latin American Studies (ANCLAS) at ANU has been awarded a $292,000 grant from AusAID under its Public Sector Linkages Program to study the feasibility of the groundbreaking idea.
The plan, proposed by the Ecuador government, aims to leave about 850 million barrels of oil – approximately 20 per cent of Ecuador’s reserves – in the ground to avoid the potentially devastating effects that exploitation of the oil would have on the local environment and indigenous groups.
Dr John Minns, Director of ANCLAS, said the Yasuní-ITT area of Amazonian rainforest is one of the most bio-diverse areas of the planet, with just a single hectare boasting a similar number of tree species as the whole of North America.
“The area is extremely fragile and Ecuador has already suffered some serious environmental problems caused by the extraction of oil. Further extraction of oil would only cause more environmental damage, which can happen through oil spills. Additionally, roads and townships would have to be built,” he said.
“Many of the world’s most sensitive environments are found in developing countries, which rely on the extraction of natural resources for revenue. It can be an extraordinarily difficult choice for those countries to forgo that revenue in order to preserve the environment.
“Moreover, a number of indigenous groups live in the area, but two groups in particular have decided to remain out of contact completely. These people are largely hunter gatherer societies and live a lifestyle which hasn’t changed much since European settlement. They want to keep it that way and exploitation of the oil would almost certainly disrupt that.
“This initiative is at the heart of a series of development concerns related to resource exploitation and management, environmental and climate change questions and issues of indigeneity and economic change. It raises the responsibility of the developed countries of the world for the environment outside their borders and especially in less wealthy countries,” he said.
The project is coordinated by ANCLAS and includes academics from the ANU College of Law, the Fenner School of the Environment and Society, part of the ANU College of Medicine Biology and Environment, and the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, part of the ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences.
Over three years, Dr Minns and his colleagues will develop a cost benefit analysis of leaving the oil in the ground versus taking it out, assess the potential damage to biodiversity in the Amazonian rainforest, and evaluate the potential dangers to culture and health. The project will link ANU with Ecuadorian specialists in each of these fields at Ecuador’s Instituto de Altos Estudios Nacionales (National Institute of Higher Studies).
For interviews – Dr John Minns –
02 6125 5424 / 0407 483 952. For media assistance –
 Sarina Talip – 02 6125 7988 / 0416 249 241.

Occupy Rio+20 Peoples Petition

Julie Melrose's Personal Calendar for Rio+20

Personal Calendar of Activities at Rio
Julie Melrose – Delegation Director
13- 26 June 2012

Wednesday 13th
·      Arrive in Rio
·      19.30 – 21:00 Dialogue on Africa Consensus Statement – African Union

Thursday 14th
·      UNCSD Prep Com – Rio Centro
·      1.30-2.30 Australian Stakeholder Briefing
·      1:30 – 3:00 Greenpace: An Oceans Rescue Plan for Rio (T-3)
·      19:30 – 21:00 Oxfam International Youth Partnerships: Youth Fixing the broken system (T-3)

Friday 15th
·      UNCSD Prep Com – Rio Centro
·      11:30 – 1:00pm UNEP Green Jobs: An Opportunity for Youth! (T-4)
·      1.30-2.30 Australian Stakeholder Briefing
·      3:30 – 5:00pm Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “Connecting the Dots: Science, the IPCC and the policy picture” (T-6)
·      5:30 – 7:00pm Centre for International Sustainable Development Law (CISDL) Sustainable Development in International Courts and Tribunals (T-3)

Saturday 16th
·      NGO dialogue on sustainable development – Rio Centro
·      11:30 – 1:00pm – Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) The Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (2011 – 2020) (P 3-6)
·      1.30-2.30 Australian Stakeholder Briefing

Sunday 17th
·      Peoples March to Open Rio+20 – Brazilian Civil Society Facilitating Committee
·      1.30-2.30 Australian Stakeholder Briefing
·      UNEP Conference – World Congress on Justice, Governance, and Law for Environmental Sustainability
·      Brings together top legal minds, judges, lawyers from around the world to talk about sustainability from a legal perspective.

Monday 18th
·      10am – 1pm Sustainable Devleopment Learning Course on Environmental/Natural Resource Management for Post-Conflict Peacebuilding, Room T-7 Major Groups Pavilian Rio Centro
·      1-5pm Global Greens meeting with Senator Larissa Waters
·      5- 8pm Global Greens Cocktail function

Tuesday 19th
·      UN Women Leaders Forum on the Future Women Want with Michelle Bachelet (T-2) (All day)
·      Global Climate Coalition Workshop – presenting ANU sustainability programs with Teifi, Karina, Maris and Luke
·      17:30 – 19:00 IUCN Side Event, Nature Based Solutions for a Sustainable future (P3-E)
·      Evening Reception

Wednesday 20th
·      First Day of Rio+20 proper high level summit
·      9:00 – 10:30 ScenaRio 2012, 30,000 young voices for a sustainable future (T-8)
·      11 – 12:30 UNDP Side Event: Beyond GDP Measuring the Future we Want with Helen Clarke (P 3-6)
·      1.30-2.30 Australian Stakeholder Briefing
·      17:00 -18:30 Australian Side Event with Prime Minister Julia Gillard (P3-A)

Thursday 21st
·      Rio+20 high level summit
·      1.30-2.30 Australian Stakeholder Briefing
·      09:00 -14:30 UN Women – Leaders Summit on the Future Women Want with Women Heads of State
Friday 22nd
-       Rio+20 Rio Centro
-       1.30-2.30 Australian Stakeholder Briefing
-       13:15 – 14:45 Women Major Group “Roots of Equity” side event (UN2 Barra Arena)
-       Last day of Rio negotiations

Saturday 23rd
-       IARU student forum 9-12
-       Dinner with the ANU delegation

Sunday 24th – ANU Delegation final activities 

Monday, 4 June 2012

World Environment Day 2012

On World Environment Day, 5 June 2012, I am taking the time to reflect on the ANU Rio+20 Project.

I am really proud to have seen this important student initiative come to fruition over the last few months of our preparations for observing the Rio+20 UN Conference on Sustainable Development, and this week we are leaving to start our journey on the 'Road to Rio'. 

A few months ago, 17 committed and enthusiastic young environmentalists from a range of disciplines across the ANU were selected to be accredited by the Australian Council for International Development (ACFID) to attend Rio+20. But the delegation project has become more than simply a group of students attending a conference. We have grown as a strong team over the last few months of planning, fundraising, engaging in debate about sustainable development, and attending Government and NGO stakeholder briefings and forums related to Rio+20. 

I am so impressed by the way those on the delegation have thrown themselves into the Project, and are using their position on the delegation to talk to others both within ANU and externally about sustainable development and what that means to them. 

I wholeheartedly believe in the importance of empowering young people with a strong voice to contribute to the debate and discussions about the future of our planet. 

As Bob Brown, former leader of the Australian Greens, said at the ANU Leadership Forum a few weeks ago, "Optimism is a driving force for getting things done". This is very true. Yes, it may seem we have not come very far since the first Rio Earth Summit in 1992, twenty years ago, but it does not give us permission to give up hope that we can still change things. 

That is what the Rio+20 Project aims to achieve - we want to use our experiences in Rio to come back to ANU and start some real debate amongst young people about what sustainability and sustainable development means to us, and what we want our Government to do in working towards it.

Morning reading on World Environment Day 2012

The Obligation to Endure

Today is World Environment Day 2012 and I am sitting down to read Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring' which was first published in 1962. Her words are still resoundingly relevant to today's environmental challenges. 

In Chapter 2, 'Obligation to Endure' Rachel says: 
"The history of life on earth has been a history of interaction between living things and their surroundings. To a large extent, the physical form and the habits of the earth's vegetation and its animal life have been moulded by the environment. Considering the whole span of earthly time, the opposite effect, in whcih life actually modified its surroundings, has been relatively slight. Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species - man - acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world". 

We continue to grapple with the disturbing magnitude of this power to this day - and it will be challenge that ultimately makes or breaks us as a species on this planet, able to live on and sustain not only ourselves but the life and environment around us. 

"The rapidity of change and the speed with which new situations are created follow the impetuous and heedless pace of man rather than the deliberate pace of nature". 

This rapid pace of change has continued, in different forms... Rachel Carson was referring to the use of pesticides and the pollution and contamination of the planet. We now have the threat of climate change from carbon pollution. We will have more and more threats until we realise our place in nature and time. 

"The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts. In the words of Jean Rostand, 'the obligation to endure gives us the right to know'. 

There is no doubt we are in possession of the full facts about our ability to destroy the environment around us. We are also in possession of the full facts about how we can actually change our behaviour to move towards sustainable development. 

Time can pass so easily, like a ship on the horizon. 

Rachel Carson wrote these words in 1962. Twenty years ago at the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, countries agreed on a path to sustainability and ecologically sustainable development. In 2012, we need not more pledges but real action and real change, before another decade or two passes us by. 

Young people especially need to stand up for theirs and their children's futures, and demand world leaders at Rio+20 in June 2012 to seize this time to set us on a true course to sustainable living.