Posts Tagged ‘Enviornment’

The commons fight against big oil.

December 11, 2016


Standing Rock.

A small but mighty blow was dealt last week to the big oil industry. The Standing Rock Sioux tribe had protested for months against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. A multi-billion pipeline of 1,200 miles that crosses four state was intended to slash the cost of crude transport. A section of the pipeline was planned to run right under Lake Oahe, a reservoir on the Missouri river. The Local standing rock Sioux tribe and thousands of Native Americans have protested the oil pipeline project as they believe the project threatens sacred native lands and has a great chance of contaminating local water supply from the Missouri river (the longest river in North America).

Going by the name “water protectors”, these activists are adamant that the pipeline poses a similar threat surrounding area. Also, the tribal leaders say the initial decision by the US army corps of engineers for the pipeline to run within half a mile of the local reservation was done without consultation of tribal governments and a thorough impact study. The pipeline project clearly violates federal law and native treaties. The news of the permit not been granted for the Dakota Access Pipeline is a major win not just for environmental activists but also native American rights.

It is interesting to notice how there was little to no coverage of the protest on mainstream media. It took the arrest of Shailene Woodley (celebrity) whom was protesting the North Dakota oil pipeline to bring in any mainstream media attention. Also, credit has to be given to online news network TYT and their political reporter Jordan Chariton for bringing attention to the water protector’s peaceful protest. One reason for the mainstream media blackout is down to the non stop reporting of the 2016 American presidential election which saw Donald Trump win against Hillary Clinton.

While the victory at standing rock demonstrates how a common and commoners can peacefully protest a big corporation and win. The fight may have been won but the war is not over. The oil pipeline company can appeal the decision taken by the US army corps of engineer and also the Obama administration in court. Also, the incoming Trump administration can try to overturn the decision as it is in favour of the pipeline. Some have attributed the recent victory to the Obama’s administration while a majority of people have criticised the government for its slow reaction to the dispute.


Bodo community.

In 2008 and 2009, two oil spills devastated the fishing residents of the Bodo community in the Niger Delta. Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell agreed to a $84 million settlement with the residents. The two oil spills which were among the biggest oil spills in decades resulted in 15,600 Nigerian fishermen that depended on fishing for feeding their families and work lose their way of life. Due to the oil spill, the price of fish, a local staple food sky-rocketed as much as tenfold. With so many fishermen abandoning their way of life in search for other to provide for their families.

Each year, there are hundreds of oil spills in Nigeria caused by leaks and others by sabotage as local people steal oil to refine locally and sell to generate a livelihood. The settlement by the oil giant comes as a great victory for the local people after years of protesting oil exploration in the Niger Delta which has affected thousands of hectares of mangrove. Shell explained that both spills were as a result of operational failure of the pipeline.

The law firm that represented the Bodo community Leigh Day described the settlement as one of the largest payout to a community after a devastating environmental damage. This victory by the Bodo community came after a three year long legal battle setting a precedent. It is a disgrace that it took so long for the situation to be taken seriously. The clean-up of the oil spill does not reverse the damage done to the ecosystem.

Fight for survival.


These two examples are just drops in an ocean of a global movement of commoners fighting back the oil industry and other big multinational industries that pose a danger to their way of life. Across the world, a lot of ecological disasters are occurring as a result of the actions of industries, governments and people. For the commons to survive, it will not only need the commoners as activist but people around the world to join the movement.


Sandford Housing Co-op

November 16, 2014

Through my work I recently came across the folk at Sandford Housing Co-op. Forty odd years ago this coop was set up by a bunch of students in Deptford. At a recent Open Day they invited John Hands, one of the instigators, to give a talk (here). This is available on their website. It is well worth listening to, particularly as regards the piece at the end which is to do with how collaboration rather than competition is necessary for ecological sustainability.

Sandford Housing Co-op was part of a BBC documentary in 1974. This is available on You Tube. Part 2 is particularly interesting as they decide whether a house or the membership panel of the whole co-op should have the final say on who is allowed to become a member.

Charity Embraces Food and the Commons

November 28, 2011

Edinburgh Cyrenians works in partnership with the Fareshare network to reduce food waste of big corporations and supermarkets.  Diverting food from landfill, Cyrenians Good Food collects food that is near its use by date, sorts it in their small warehouse and re-distributes to organisations working with people in need.

This video presents the Cyrenians Good Food project.

Fareshare were also featured recently on the BBC news.  The report on a collection of charities distributing food in Trafalgar Square, London, highlighted the amount of food that is wasted in the UK.  This is not only bad for the environment, but is extremely wasteful when we here of so many reports of hunger and lack of food n other parts of the world.

Cyrenians also operate two other services connected with food, waste and the environment.  The Cyrenians Farm and Cyrenians COREThe farm operates as a business providing income for the organisation as a social enterprise.  However, the farm is sited within one of their communities that provide accommodation for up to 8 young people and a team of residential volunteers.  Although, residents are not obliged to work on the farm they are encouraged to.  By doing so they learn about food – from how and when it is grown to harvesting and cooking.  The residents then collectively agree menu’s and cook together.

Cyrenians CORE project fills the gap that Good Food leaves.  Taking the food that is passed its useby date or waste from restaurants Core collects this in a large lorry and delivers this to a farm where it is turned into compost.

Frozen Planet

November 18, 2011

I find it interesting as we talk about climate change and global warming the BBC decide to make a programme on the ‘Frozen Planet’.  Of course not an entirely new programme and Sir David Attenborough himself has been studying and making programmes on a similar theme for many years.  However, I am looking forward to the last episode in this series.  The episode written by Sir Attenborough himself will seek to explore the changes in glaciers and the affect climate change is having on the frozen parts of planet earth.  This last episode is called ‘On Thin Ice’ and is due to be broadcast 7th December 2011, perhaps just as our own frozen planet arrives if the last 2 years are to go by!

Landmines and Un-Exploded Ordinances have become the greatest thereat to Environment and Eco-System

November 9, 2010


Landmines and Un-Exploded Ordinances (UXO) have certainly become threatening problem which affect tremendously the environment and human beings.  It has negative impacts on the socio economical developments too.  Huge usage of chemical weapons during World War I had sever and long lasting damage to the forest, agricultural lands especially in Belgium and France. The hazard vastly increased after World War II.  The statistics illustrate that there are between 60 to 110 million mines buried around the world.

 According to UNDP’s statistics, nearly 78 nations have been affected by landmines and about 85 by Explosive Remnants of War (ERW). An estimate shows that there are 500,000 landmine and ERW survivors today and three-quarters of them are civilians. Among them thirty-four percent of civilian casualties are children and nearly all of them are boys. The boys between 5 and 14 are particularly the high-risk group. In some severely affected countries, children were the majority of casualties.  Example: 59 % in Afghanistan, 53% in Nepal, and 66% in Somalia.

 The most prominent environmental impact of landmines and UXO are loss of human being, access denial to vital resources such as agricultural lands, forest and natural water sources and loss of biodiversity. It has been studied that in the past half-centuries they also cause physical and emotional injuries to human beings, displacements of the communities and individuals, obstacles in agriculture, soil degradation, deforestation and pollution.  

 What is Landmine? Landmine is device usually a weight-triggered explosive device which is intended to damage its target via blast and or flying fragments. They are mainly Anti-personnel mines and Anti-tank mines.  They are designed to create defensive barriers such as protecting the borders from infiltration by the enemies and to act as passive area-denial weapons in order to reject assess to territory, resources or facilities when active defense of the area is not possible.  They are laid on ground or fixed/ placed above ground on trees. 

 US Department of Defense 2005 defines that unexploded ordinance is UXO which has been primed, fused, armed or otherwise prepared for action, and which has been fired, dropped, launched, projected, or placed in such a manner as to constitute a hazard to operations, installations, personnel, or material and remains unexploded either by malfunction or design or for any other cause.

 In reality enemies take precautions from the mine targets and UXO as they are knowledgeable on the weapons and its mechanisms.  And innocent people and flora and fauna are easily trapped by these to a greatest extent.  This situation exists almost in all war affected countries. 

 Since 1999, humanitarian demining agencies cleared more than 4 million antipersonnel mines, 1 million anti-vehicle mines and 8 million items of unexploded ordnance from over one billion square meters of land for safe use through operations.  In 2006 alone, 217,000 antipersonnel mines were cleared from 450 square kilometers of contaminated land.

Access denial to vital resources and adverse effect on development:

Many of the mine-affected countries’ livelihoods depend on framing and agricultural activities.  The presence of mines and UXO prevent them from accessing to those facilities and resources.  Forests often become the only source of fuel and food and this result in reduction of resources such as deforestation and destruction of biological diversity. When people are driven off from their most productive agricultural land they may be forced to depend on a smaller area of land for survival. This land may be over-cultivated and washed-out of its mineral deposits. It leads to erosion, less yield and eventually destroys the complex ecosystems

 For e.g. in Sri Lanka, 730 villages were identified as contaminated by mines and UXOs and 202 square Km of agricultural lands in the war affected areas especially in the North and East, were abandoned and people lost their livelihoods.  The land mine impact assessment survey conducted by Sri Lanka National Steering Committee for Mine Action in 2006 states that there are still over one million land mines contaminated in the area.  It had negative impact on their house hold food security.  This situation made the people to be dependent on external food aid and other forms of international assistance.  Further more only limited areas are cleared for resettlement/ relocations as clearing agencies have limited resources.  A statistics of Viet Nam says, 6.6 million acres of land are contaminated by UXO. 

 Nearly three decades of war left Cambodia as one of the countries severely affected by landmines and ERW. Cambodia is an agricultural country and 85% of the Cambodians are engaged on agriculture for their livelihoods. However many part of the lands are contaminated with mines and UXO and it prevented from livelihood activities, prevent access to natural resources.  It drives them into more marginal and fragile environments.

 Angola is another country heavily contaminated with landmines and ERW, including cluster munitions remnants. More than four decades of armed conflict led the country to be contaminated with 40 different types of mines from 15 countries (the clearance survey indicates).  The Environmental and Social Management Framework Final Report concludes that the presence of landmines throughout the country inhibits access to land and is an environmental limitation that undermines development. A study of World Bank on the economic impact of landmines illustrate that land mines affected the overall economy of the country.

Loss of biodiversity:

There are no exact numerical data on the amount of animals that are injured or killed from landmines, but it is found thought disappearance of endangered species.  In Croatia it is reported that 4 per cent of the rare European bears were killed by landmines. Elephants, antelopes, deer and tigers got killed in Angola, Sri Lanka, Burma, Congo and Bosnia. Since the end of the war in 2002, elephants have begun to go back to the Luiana Partial Reserve in Angola’s sparsely populated Kuando-Kubango province.  When the initial migration took place a number of elephants had lost their trunks and legs by mines, condemning the animals to agonizing deaths.

Landmines introduce poisonous substances into the environment as their casings erode. Explosives commonly used in landmines, such as trinitrotoluene (TNT), seep into the soil and  the decomposition of these substances cause many environmental problems as they are often water soluble, carcinogenic, toxic, and long-lasting. When Landmines explode they scatter debris.  It destroys surrounding vegetation and soil composition and. substantially decreases the productivity of agricultural land. It also leads to soil erosion, water pollution and affect water habitats.  A study shows that detonation of UXO drastically reduced soil productivity in Quang Tri, the province of Viet Nam and the rice production per hectare has decreased by 50 percent in this area. Landmines, they represent a very serious, long-term toxic hazard to human health.

 Mitigation Methods

Today many de-mining organizations are finding the way to accelerate de-mining process though they clear the lands for safe mobility, un-doubtfully damage the environment and eco system through removal of vegetation.  It is a  biggest challenges faced by the mine-action community is the balancing act of removing mines from the ground while simultaneously protecting the contaminated soil from further damage.

 The International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL) is a global network in over 90 countries that works for a world free of antipersonnel landmines and cluster munitions.  The Ottawa Treaty or the Mine Ban Treaty, formally the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, completely bans all anti-personnel landmines.  As of April 2010, there were 156 States Parties to the treaty. Two states have signed but not yet ratified while thirty-seven states are non-signatories to the Convention, making a total of 39 states not party.

 It is notable that non-signatories stockpile over 160 million anti-personnel mines, the majority held by just 6 countries.  The figure illustrates that China is the leading country.

Country Estimated landmine stockpile(in millions)
South Korea 2
India 4-5
Albania 2.2
USA 11.3
Russia 60-70
China 110


It is an obligation of all states to safeguard the environment not only from other pollutions, damages.  The 39 states also should come forward or forced to come forward to sign and rectify Ottawa Treaty.