Posts Tagged ‘Intern’

Clean Water and Sanitation a Human Right: Even in Canada

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

Clean Water and Sanitation a Human Right: Even in Canada

In late July 2010 the UN’s general assembly voted in favor of the resolution that recognizes access to clean water and sanitization as a human right. This vote addressed the need for water issues to become the responsibility of governing states and the international community. 122 member states voted in favour of the resolution, with none opposing and 41 abstaining to vote. The representative from Canada was one of the 41 abstainers.

Human rights advocates see the passing of this resolution as a ‘historic’ decision towards improving the lives of many who are without adequate clean water and sanitization. Among those applauding this decision by the general assembly is Maude Barlow, national chairperson of the Council of Canadians. She sees this vote as a ‘step forward in the struggle for a just world’. The resolution calls on states and financial organizations to provide financial resources, build capacity, and transfer technology in order to facilitate clean drinking water access.

Despite their abstention from the vote the Canadian government will be expected to recognize this resolution as it moves closer to becoming a binding agreement. Canada has largely acknowledged water as a commercial good, with moves both domestically and internationally to privatize its use. This market-based approach to water distribution may need to be re-thought as the nations representing the majority of the Earth’s population (5.4 B people) voted in favour of water becoming a Universal Human Right. This means the onus will be placed on the national governments and international community to facilitate and maintain the access to clean water and sanitation.

The issues of clean water and sanitation do not only affect developing nations. At home, this resolution should help facilitate the improvement of water quality in many First Nation communities. Currently 80 First Nation communities are under ‘boil-water advisories’ as source water is contaminated and access to proper sanitation is not available. Many of these communities have been without adequate water supplies for upwards of 10 years. Barlow is now urging First Nations communities to start using this resolution to get the federal government to honour its international commitment domestically.

For a nation as water-rich as Canada it is shocking to see so many communities without adequate water access. As this human rights issue gains international attention it is important that Canadians address their domestic water issues quickly and effectively.

As CIELAP looks to a sustainable future it is important to understand the social and economic issues that face us, as they are inextricably linked to environmental degradation. CIELAP is currently working on a project to educate Southern Ontario communities about source water protection. Water quality and quantity issues still exist in Canada. This UN resolution should direct more attention towards Canadians who do not have adequate drinking water. As a developed nation with abundant supplies of fresh water Canada should become a leader, not a laggard, in helping facilitate the access of clean water for all people.

Josh Wise – CIELAP Intern

Neglected Waste: Is BC really serious about a zero waste future?

Wednesday, June 30th, 2010

Neglected Waste: Is BC really serious about a zero waste future?

British Colombia has adopted an overall waste management policy seeking to achieve a zero waste future. For this province to even reach its more modest near-term goal of 70%, it needs to establish policies promoting high levels of diversion for all components of the waste stream. Currently, BC lacks this type of policy for a significant sector of its solid waste stream: construction, renovation, and demolition (CR&D) waste. Although intentions and recommendations have been made by various arms of the government, legislation has yet to be written.

There are numerous reasons why CR&D waste is an ideal target for more comprehensive policy measures. In BC, 19% of the waste stream is CR&D waste (not including CR&D waste that was self-hauled). A Solid Waste Flow Summary Report prepared by BC Stats estimates that just 18% of this waste stream was diverted from landfills in 2006 (not including CR&D waste that was reused on-site). Despite this, the vast majority of CR&D waste is readily recyclable. Wood, concrete, drywall, and asphalt make up two-thirds of CR&D waste – private facilities capable of recycling these wastes already exist in BC. An “other” category accounts for most of the remainder, and half of that is most likely corrugated cardboard, a material that actually generates revenue when recycled.

Perhaps the most convincing argument to draw attention to this issue is the success of CR&D legislation in other countries. Japan is a world leader for its waste management practices. The Recycling Act of 1991 and the launch of its Recycle-based Society in 2000 laid the foundation on which a complex approach to dealing with CR&D waste would be built. Through this framework, Japan attained a recycling rate of 85% in 2002 with a target of 95% set to be reached this year. The multi-faceted nature of Japan’s CR&D waste management system and the total commitment of the Japanese government were critical to its success, allowing it to effectively address issues at every level of operation.

On top of proving that CR&D waste legislation can work, Japan also provides a model system for other jurisdictions to emulate. A report released in June, 2009 by the Recycling Council of BC (RCBC), “On the Road to Zero Waste: Priorities for Local Government”, outlined some general aspects of a management system for CR&D waste that loosely followed Japan’s example. On a fundamental level, however, they are quite different.

The Ministry of the Environment and RCBC have both stated their intention to include the management of CR&D in some form of an extended producer responsibility (EPR) program. This would burden the producers of construction products with the cost of end-of-life management. Japan, on the other hand, assigns the extra cost of diverting CR&D waste to the contractor. This is advantageous for two reasons. The underlying goal of EPR is to provide incentive for companies to design for reuse or recycling. However, if the bulk of a product’s environmental impact happens during its use phase, as is the case with most construction products, this should take precedence. Also, the contractor is best positioned in the CR&D supply chain to benefit from the reduction and reuse of CR&D waste and should be encouraged to do so by being responsible for the cost of it.

Since the Recycling Council of BC’s outline for a potential CR&D waste management program is so vague, it is difficult to directly compare it to Japan’s. Even in its obscurity, it does seem to cover most of the same points; however, forthcoming details will ultimately reveal the government’s level of commitment to achieving a diversion rate comparable to Japan’s.

By Jake Gregory

CIELAP Intern

Is this time for an Oil Intervention?

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Is this time for an Oil Intervention?
Josh Wise CIELAP Intern
June 17, 2010

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

People just want to go on doing what they’re doing. They want business as usual. They say, ‘Oh yes, there’s going to be a problem up ahead,’ but they don’t want to change anything”
– James Lovelock (Carbon Shift, 2009)

The disastrous BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has provided a stark reminder of the lengths our society will go in order to feed our addiction to oil. The destruction caused by this spill should provide a reminder of the true environmental and social costs of oil extraction. The age of inexpensive, easily accessible and (relatively) clean oil extraction has come and gone. In order to meet the ever-increasing demand for energy we have drilled into our oceans, mined virgin ecosystems, and shipped oil halfway around the world and back. This practice has countless ecological and societal implications, which are most often overlooked and externalized.

In spite of numerous calls for change over the past decades, society remains dependant on oil and fossil fuels for its material basis and primary energy source. We must begin to rid ourselves of this dependence and use this disaster as motivation to prepare for a future with less access to petroleum based oil.

The Hubbert Peak Oil Theory –that petroleum supply will decline due to resource depletion– is beginning to come to fruition as new oil discoveries dwindle and extraction increases. Conventionally sourced oil has already peaked in North America with all new discoveries coming in the forms of tar sands and deepwater extraction.

The environmental and social consequences of these extraction methods are being felt throughout the Gulf Coast and Northern Alberta. Both have created enormous regions of contaminated ecosystems and poisoned local indigenous and societal groups; all in the name of short-term economic gains.

Our dependence on this finite resource is changing our climate, initiating wars, and destroying ecosystems. The impacts are being felt at all stages of the resource’s lifecycle, from extraction to consumption. It is time to truly address the need for alternatives.

The search for alternatives has resulted in two major schools of thought: techno-centric ideas, like Green Chemistry, including measures such as oil extraction from Micro-Algae, and theories on low-energy living that aim to reform societal expectations of growth. While approaching the issue from very different perspectives, both schools look to bring greater balance to the ecological, social and economic bottom lines. Maintaining this balance would ensure the true costs of oil extraction are understood and reflected in the financial price to the consumer.

This is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted solution. Our petroleum dependence is ingrained in our current unsustainable lifestyle and like any other addiction it will be difficult to kick the habit. The sustainability movement looks to help free us of this addiction through balanced living. This will involve a combination of techno-centric solutions and societal reforms.

This issue can only be addressed through strong leadership in governance, transparency within industry and awareness in civil society. The responsibility must be shared in order for positive change to occur. The reduction of oil dependence is a major step towards sustainable living where all dimensions of the triple bottom line are equally addressed.

CIELAP looks to advance sustainability ideas in order to help initiate a positive future where the economic, social and environmental bottom lines are in harmony.

Links to recent articles/blogs approaching this subject:

http://www.davidsuzuki.org/blogs/science-matters/2010/06/our-oil-addiction-has-always-been-messy/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/commentary/jeff-rubins-smaller-world/gulf-oil-disaster-doesnt-make-the-tar-sands-green/article1596265/

http://www.thestar.com/news/sciencetech/environment/article/823162–gulf-oil-spill-wake-up-call-for-ontario-groups-warn-mcguinty

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/17/world/africa/17nigeria.html?ref=science

http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2010/05/01/us/20100501-oil-spill-tracker.html