Posts Tagged ‘Water’

The commons fight against big oil.

December 11, 2016

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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.

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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.

EU Food waste/Energy waste.

December 5, 2016

food-waste

According to the United Nations food and agriculture organisation, food waste is a global issue that sees a third of global food production lost or wasted annually. This is as the global population is set to rise to over 95. Billion by 2050. This is inevitably going to put a massive pressure on the world’s food system.

Food that go uneaten or discarded is referred to as food waste or in some cases, food loss. There are various causes of food waste or loss and they occur at the various stages of food system (production, processing, retailing and consumption). Global figures on food waste shows that each year, 1.3 billion tonnes of food produced is wasted. This includes about “45% of all fruit and vegetables, 35% of fish and seafood, 30% of cereals, 20% of dairy products and 20% of meat”.

EU food waste.

The European Union throws away 89 million tonnes of food and the United Kingdom is one of the worst offenders. A House of Lords commissioned inquiry into the cost of food waste across the EU expects the figure to rise to around 126 million tonnes by 2020 if there is no significant action taken. This will have a tremendous impact on the environment, economy and society. From the inquiry, food waste across the EU-27 was broken down into 4 sectors. The household had the highest share of food waste at 42%. This is followed by food/drink manufacturing with 39%, food service/hospitality at 14% and retail/wholesale at 5%.

Between the big UK grocery market (accounting for around 87%) such as M&S, Morrisons, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Co-operative food, they were responsible for the disposal of around 200,000 tonnes of food in 2013 alone. These supermarkets contribution of 1.3% in the UK in 2013 add up to the overall 5% retail and wholesale sector waste in the EU. On the other hand, the biggest contributor to the EU food waste is the household. Some of the waste generated are as a result of unnecessary strict sell-by dates, promotions (buy one get one free), cosmetically perfect food and poor storage of food.

All the food waste equal to waste of energy that was used to produce them. These energy come in the form of water to grow crops, land nutrients and fuel for chemicals production and powering farming machines. According to the Institute of Mechanical Engineers, they report that “about 550 billion cubic meters of water is wasted globally in growing crops that never reach consumer.” The production of meat increases the use of water as it takes 20-50 times more water to produce 1 kilogram of meat than 1 kilogram of vegetables.

Legislation against food waste.

In Europe, some countries are taking steps to combat food waste.

Under a set of laws brought in by the French government to crack down on food waste, French supermarkets will be banned from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Instead, they will be donated to charities or used for animal feed. Supermarkets are barred from deliberately disposing and spoiling of unsold food. They are to sign contracts with charity to give unsold food or face fines and years in jail. This move by the government is a way of tackling one of the contributions of waste in the country but they also have to reduce the household food waste with a proper campaign.

The move by the French parliament to combat food waste has also led to pressure on the UK government to introduce legislation to restrict supermarkets from sending tonnes of unsold food to landfill sites.

Some of the key proponents of tackling food waste are charities and people of the commons that are putting pressure on governments to implement laws to combat food waste as they have a great impact on the world and the resources used to produce food worldwide.

Resources:

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/22/uk-tops-chart-of-eu-food-waste
  2. http://www.edie.net/news/5/Supermarket-food-waste–Combined-figures-revealed-for-first-time/
  3. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/the-obscure-reason-why-supermarkets-are-allowed-to-send-food-waste-to-landfill-a6861196.html
  4. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/jan/10/half-world-food-waste
  5. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/may/22/france-to-force-big-supermarkets-to-give-away-unsold-food-to-charity
  6. http://www.parliament.uk/documents/lords-committees/eu-sub-com-d/food-waste-prevention/154.pdf
  7. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/ng-interactive/2015/aug/12/produced-but-never-eaten-a-visual-guide-to-food-waste
  8. https://www.food.gov.uk/news-updates/campaigns/food-waste

Irish Water Tax – yet another barrier to water

November 24, 2014

Irish water tax - tap

Hello fellow commoners.

This blog sort of relates to what we were discussing in class today and has been in the news recently. So I thought I’d post it here.

The Irish people are facing another barrier to their water access – a resource that should be free and a human right, wouldn’t you agree? The country is experiencing a problem with its water infrastructure. Irish water is being contaminated with bacteria because its out-of-date treatment systems struggle to purify it and people are forced to boil their tap water in order to be able to drink it. You’d think this is the problem the Irish are demonstrating about but in fact it gets worse.

It will cost Ireland €2billion to solve this problem and the government is planning to raise this money through a new water tax. Surprise, surprise…it has already employed a private (!) firm to install water metres in people’s homes in order to measure water usage. In the end the water tax will cost a family of four almost €500 a year, something that many will struggle to afford.

The truth is, however, that people are already paying for the water through general taxes. So essentially they are being charged twice, correct? Already, it costs the Irish government €1.2billion per year to maintain the current water supply, which has always been funded by the Exchequer. So why not continue to fund this new cost through general tax as well?

As the BBC points out “Raising money from water charges was a condition imposed on Ireland by the EU-IMF-ECB Troika as part of the country’s bailout in 2010”. (As an aside, it does make me wonder why they call it the ‘country’s bail out’, as though it was a crisis caused by the general public when it fact it was caused by banks and big companies taking on loans they were not able to meet…but I won’t go into this in detail here.) Nonetheless, these mistakes now have to be paid for by the Irish general public through charging them for the same water again. Something that should be a basic right and not something that can be sold as a commodity…twice. It is yet another example of an enclosure of a resource that should be treated and managed as a common resource, don’t you think?

One point that is more shocking however, is that Ireland continues to help big multinational companies, such as Google, Amazon, Apple and Co., avoid billions of Euros in tax by providing laws that favour them, nicknamed the ‘Double Irish’. Google alone has avoided over €2.5billion worth of tax from 2007-2009 partly through the ‘Double Irish’, which helped reduce Google’s tax to 2.4% compared to the normal 12.5%. Let’s not forget, it ‘only’ takes €2billion to solve the Irish water crisis…

Plus, as if only to frustrate the public more, the government decided to spend €86million on private consultants who advised on the setting up of a state-sponsored company in charge of water….and just so you know, this does not form part of the €2billion calculation.

So yet again, we have a situation where big companies and the financial sector’s gain is prioritised over the common people’s needs and indeed their rights. So what’s to be done about this? Of course, the likes of Google need to be taxed properly first of all but this lies in the hands of the government. With countless demonstrations already having taken place it is clear that the general public do not want this tax to be enforced, so what else could they do?

Irish water tax - demonstrations

Let’s take a look at Greece, who had similar bail-out conditions put on them, and see what they’ve got planned. The Greek have come up with a counter strategy, called ‘Initiative 136’ which calls on the public of Thessaloniki to buy the government’s 40% stake in the water utility (EYATH) of Greece’s second largest city, which it is looking to privatise. ‘136’ symbolises the value of the water company for each citizen. Marioglou, a representative of the movement, explains:

“The Initiative seeks to establish a network of 16 cooperatives in Thessaloniki to manage a truly public company. Because it would be unmanageable to have one large citizen body oversee the city’s entire water works, they will decentralize. Initiative 136’s organisers propose that the neighbourhood cooperatives decide on such issues as water tariffs and an investment budget.”

So here we have a water management institution that seeks to operate on the principles of ‘cooperativism’ and conceives water as a commons not a commodity. This initiative is part of the European Water Movement who endorse the European Citizens’ Initiative (ECI) for the Right to Water.

Find out more about Initiative 136 here and please let me know your thoughts on this in the comments section below. Do you think it could work in favour of the people?

Irish water tax - cooperative