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Climate Change Costing Lives and Crushing Human Rights?

If you don't get all your news from David Letterman (who lit into the subject last night), a new report by Oxfam International says not recycling or curbing your carbon footprint is effectively violating the human rights of people living in the poorest nations. The report's author says, "Climate change was first seen as a scientific problem, then an economic one. Now it is becoming a matter of international justice."

She continues, "Litigation is seldom the best way to solve a dispute. That is why we need a strong UN deal in 2009 to cut emissions and support adaption. However, vulnerable countries do need options to protect themselves. Rich country polluters have been fully aware of their culpability for many years." Oxfam is advocating a two-pronged approach including mitigation and adaptation to help quell the mounting crisis — like these Haitians fleeing the aftermath of Hurricane Ike yesterday.

Not convinced there is a pending crisis? To see what's looming,


A panel of hundreds of environmental experts found a whole batch of grave trouble about to befall the poorest residents of the planet, including:

  • 75-250 million people across Africa facing water shortages by 2020.
  • Agriculture (read: food) grown using rainfall cut by 50 percent in some African countries by 2020.

Forgive my mounting an ecological soapbox, but if one's actions deny another human food and water, then yeah. I'm going to go with "it's a human rights problem."

Though plenty don't agree. This review of Thomas Friedman's new book Hot, Flat, and Crowded puts to task the alarm over global warming, saying:

Why does the cocktail-party circuit embrace claims about a pending climate doomsday? Partly owing to our nation's shaky grasp of science—many Americans lack basic understanding of chemicals, biology, and natural systems. Another reason is the belief that only exaggerated cries of crisis engage the public's attention; but this makes greenhouse concern seem like just another wolf cry.

Adding, "Friedman can't bring himself to admit he is lord of a manor and racing through more resources in his daily life than 10,000 rural Africans."

Is it hot enough in the kitchen for global warming warnings? Or is it just the crying boy and his wolf on the other line?


Join The Conversation
kh61582 kh61582 8 years
OMG This is ridiculous! So the US is responsible for everything wrong in the world I guess if you listen to all these treehugging Al Gore worshipers. Global warming is crap. Just another invention by Al Gore like the Internet.
bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
I recycle, and drive very little so I personally have pretty small footprint. However I think Oxfam should reword or try and come up with a new way to get people motivated. "not recycling or curbing your carbon footprint is effectively violating the human rights" Isn't really the way to motivate most people to change, it is a way to get people annoyed and self righteous!
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 8 years
Rabid, I can't disagree with much of what you say in #28. The problem with multinationals is not so much that no government will regulate them, as a lack of jurisdiction. That's why I suggested boycotts as the best method. The wealthier countries are (presumably) also the ones who have more options as consumers. If an ethical company can be profitable, and an unethical one is penalized by the marketplace for their activities, we can use the profit motive productively. One of the oldest successful companies (to the best of my knowledge) operating by ethical and socially-responsible guidelines is The Body Shop, founder Anita Roddick. I'm not an expert in the area, but what I've heard is impressive and inspirational. The best way to achieve those goals is by using, not fighting, market factors.
rabidmoon rabidmoon 8 years
We can work for profit but we must also realise that in a global economy, the international corporation is dangerously immune to legislation. If the governments will not legislate them, and the people are unwilling to - then who holds the companies responsible? Giving companies such as Monsanto free reign is at best unwise and at worst, downright dangerous. I don't think profit on its own merit is inherently evil/irresponsible, but profit at ANY EXPENSE and with no regard to the consequences is irresponsible and wrong. I agree we should work with profit as an inherently human objective. However, as humans, we should also understand that profit at any cost, and with utter disregard for the consequences, profits NOBODY in the end except those directly benefitting, and that is a precious SMALL percentage of the people on this planet - not us.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 8 years
rabid: I certainly agree with you that we should all be conscious, thinking consumers. Regarding your paragraph 3, military and business are different sectors, I don't want to get into a military discussion here. (It's off-topic and a big issue all on its own.) "I never said our governments have to be held directly responsible...." In comment #21, you said: "Wealthy countries have: "Allowed their corporations (national and international) to use and abuse the resources and lands of these countries without holding themselves or the local governments accountable for the consequences." That seems pretty clear.... I'm not the inventor of the profit motive. So many people here seem to think that's evil and mercenary. It's actually just human nature, and unless we understand that and work with it, we're doomed to failure.
UnDave35 UnDave35 8 years
Good comment skb. It's great to recycle, but when and where do you draw the line. I can't afford to give the government my taxes, and pay for my college loans, let alone take care of my kids. We may be the wealthiest nation, in that we have more opportunities, but we pay for those opportunities.
rabidmoon rabidmoon 8 years
You are welcome, Rac. And the "gain", Lainetm, and "reward" of investing in green business has to be about more than money. Money can be a part of it, but my point is as long as MONEY remains the main motivation in people changing, we will continue to stick with the status quo at our children's peril. As for corporate responsibility, I have no objection to boycotts, and in part that drives home the very point I was trying to make, that we must at least try and be aware of how OUR luxuries and OUR comforts may be coming at a grave price to someone else! I never said our governments have to be held directly responsible - by all means, the Bush administration knows full well the benefit of privately-owned military like "corporations" operating in Iraq outside the realm of military law - ultimately they are far HARDER to hold accountable. And on that vein, if we vote for governments whose legislation ALLOWS companies to behave irresponsibly and without any legal recourse for their actions, if we drink the drinks and eat the foods and wear the clothes that cost other people their livelihoods and homes, then we ARE responsible, in part, for their current situation, period. At the very least, people should be aware of that. Am I saying "have no fun, have no nice things, be poor and miserable?" No, I am not saying that for one moment. I love my nice computer, I appreciate that I can enjoy sake even if it got flown to Finland from Japan. Hell, I appreciate that I can take a day off to sit here and chat politics with you guys, agreeing or not. BUT...what I am saying is, ...people should think a bit more carefully... Think about how we are interconnected. Think about our dependence on this Earth's resources, think about the generations that come after us and what they will have to live with if we continue to make such blithe, selfish choices today. That is what I wish people would do, right now. Today.
raciccarone raciccarone 8 years
Rabid. Nice post. Thank you.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 8 years
"Wealthy countries have: ...Allowed their corporations (national and international) to use and abuse the resources and lands of these countries without holding themselves or the local governments accountable for the consequences." rabidmoon: The country where a corporation is based is not responsible--and has no jurisdiction--in another nation where that company may be doing business. That's the responsibility of the country where operations are based. Perhaps the locals feel that the benefit of, for instance, 100 additional jobs is worth the cost to lure a factory. If you want to make a difference, publicize the misdeeds and encourage a boycott. It's a powerful and proven weapon! I know I try to make informed decisions about what products I will and will not purchase.
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 8 years
Organic: Sorry! :oops: This is one of those issues that just infuriates me. Not because I am opposed to being energy efficient and environmentally responsibly, but because it is so often used as a moral bludgeon to hammer successful people and societies, usually Americans. I drive a sensible (i.e., boring) old Japanese 4-cylinder sedan. Also, statistics are usually an incomplete snapshot of any story. How do they measure energy consumption? Referencing snowbunny's information, remember that the US is a much larger country than Japan. Therefore, just for starters, trucking goods to stores will take more gasoline. People have longer commutes, because of our geographic "spread" and career mobility. We have more agriculture, too, and that takes energy. rabidmoon: You can't "tax the sun", but you can sell more efficient and cost-effective solar panels. I'm surprised that there haven't been more "green"-oriented entrepreneurial start-ups. It's definitely a market segment with room for growth! Like it or not, profit is a strong motivator. It's not a moral issue, it's simple human nature. If there is no gain to be made, why bother expending the effort? You make the same logical error I see so often, assuming that everything is a zero-sum game. That's simply not true. One person's gain is not necessarily someone else's loss; otherwise, economies would never grow.
rabidmoon rabidmoon 8 years
its not always about how much we do or do not give...its about understanding the roles of corporations and politicians in the context of those governments.... Wealthy countries have: Propped up crooked governments at their own whims and in support of their own agendas for decades, regardless of the impact on the population. Allowed their corporations (national and international) to use and abuse the resources and lands of these countries without holding themselves or the local governments accountable for the consequences. In the end - being responsible would be easier if it was just a matter of generosity. Its also a matter of responsibility, of awareness and holding corporations and governments - including our OWN - responsible for their actions. :)
skb9850 skb9850 8 years
It's true that we should all be concerned for our fellow man and do what we can to help others. However, where do you draw the line? I recycle as much as I can and have no problem doing it. Is that enough? Or do I have to give away half of my worldly posessions to the needy? At what point do the people in disadvantaged countries take responsibility for the corrupt governments and dispose the dictators and improve their lives?
rabidmoon rabidmoon 8 years
It amazes me that so many people who are fortunate enough to have other things to do besides stay warm and fed immediately cast aside the notion that perhaps in their good fortune they should move on to consider the greater good, of their fellow man and of the planet at large. When I read comments across Sugar like (quoting a few comments I have seen over the past week or two) related to the plight of other countries or the planet: "who cares" "..the polar bears are SUCH an important issue (eyeroll)" ..I realise people still don't get it. You don't get how everything affects everything else. You don't get how the luxury and comfort you enjoy has come with at least SOME impact on the lives of other people with needs much more basic and compelling than your own. (Like shelter.) You don't get how the health and welfare of this planet directly correlates to our own future of a species and the children most of you will have, or have already had. We still have a long way to go as a species, when we cannot relate to our own home and humanity. That aside, to quote "Imabeliever" above: ".......why are we wasting the opportunity to create new jobs and tap into something that is basically free?" I will tell you why - because right now, everything related to your energy use in the USA with precious few exceptions is about running FOR PROFIT. The problem is, profit has become more important than common sense, than having a long-term view of the sustainability of current energy systems and their impact on the environment. How do you tax the sun? You can't. And until big oil's talon-like grip on America's energy mentality is removed, profit will be the word most people see, and the short-term gains of the 20-30 some odd years of oil left in the Earth will be all they WANT to see. T. Boone Pickens called water the "new oil" - not the sun, not the wind..water. Something every person needs, something life depends upon for its survival. Today even suggesting what I am - that water will become the commodity fought over and desired - sounds threatening and silly. But the reality is that water that comes easily to you, does not to all countries. Water that comes easily to you is now being used in massive amounts for biofuel crops, and the Middle East has spent fortunes on desalinization plants. Water IS finding a foodhold as the new oil. Pickens isn't stupid, and neither is big oil, and I will leave that for people to Google and mull over at will....but consider the implications of your water being owned by someone else. If energy companies thought solar and wind were ripe for profit, rest assured they would have moved in decades ago with a vengeance. The sick part is people talk about how much money is to be made on the "green" movement. Sure, if you are talking about the people who spend money on silly "I go green" bags instead of using the bag already in their closets. The money is being MADE under your noses by the existing corporations - that is the uncomfortable reality, and the power the US continues to hand the corporate entity (at the expense of the individual, the small independent business, and the society) will not improve matters. I have to think oldschool Republicans shudder at some of what the Neo-Cons have perpetrated since 1980.
geebers geebers 8 years
Snowbunny I 1000% agree. My motto in life is to do what I can to help those less fortunate. I believe that this is the only way a compassionate person can live. Unfortunately, can't do much for others who don't see it our way. Like Gandhi said - We have to be the change we wish to see in this world! :)
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 8 years
Stephley- it's okay!! :) Laine- economists have long found that it is awfully hard to care about the environment when you are worried about simply staying alive. So, when nations get richer, not only do they tend to overuse resources and pollute a lot more, they start caring about polar bears, etc, because they have the luxury. Of course all of the world's problems aren't your fault, but this is what I don't get: if you CAN help people, why would you NOT do it simply because by principle, you shouldn't have to? Like, "sure, I could reduce my energy consumption and make America less dependent on foreign oil, but DAMMIT I DON'T HAVE TO! So I'm not gonna!" This is an interesting site: "# Americans constitute 5% of the world's population but consume 24% of the world's energy. # On average, one American consumes as much energy as * 2 Japanese * 6 Mexicans * 13 Chinese * 31 Indians * 128 Bangladeshis * 307 Tanzanians * 370 Ethiopians "
HeidiMD HeidiMD 8 years
I think the United States should be the leader in a "greener" planet. We are the most influential nation in the world -- as someone else pointed out, just look at the man in the turquoise Winne the Pooh shirt. Why not use that tremendous influence for some GOOD? If American culture (and Western culture in general) is a global example of how life should and can be, it's up to us to make our lifestyle as responsible as possible. I think there are many factors contributing the the depravity in Africa and around the world, but it makes complete sense that global warming and climate problems would be one of them.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
i think that one of the issues is that a lot of people don't really see past their surroundings - so they don't realize that there are people who are affected by what we do. i know that i could drive a more environmentally friendly car - but i don't drive often so that's kind of how i cut down a bit. i can't get rid of my car since it's leased but at least i only drive it about 5 miles or less a week. we can definitely see what's going on based on the weather patterns over the past few years and if we don't make a change, then island nations like haiti or cuba will really have more trouble since they will be under water and the same goes for the islands off japan etc....
organicsugr organicsugr 8 years
"It's not the fault of genocidal African dictators that people are starving. It's my fault, because I still use incandescent bulbs." Laine, you're invading my turf. :)
Cassandra57 Cassandra57 8 years
As long as there is any inequity anywhere in the world, "they" are going to try to make everyone's problems "our" fault. It's not the fault of genocidal African dictators that people are starving. It's my fault, because I still use incandescent bulbs. And I dare to own a car. We should all sell any motorized transportation, walk barefoot to work, and live on rice and dirt pies. :cry:
laurelm laurelm 8 years
global warming is a shaky argument, that being said, I do not think it means we should be wasteful and disregard other energy sources. It is just responsible and global conscious to be "greener" and maybe leaves our kids with a better world and example to follow.
stephley stephley 8 years
Ew Snowbunny, I'm sorry my comment comes right under your 'environmentally unfriendly' line - I'm not at all referring to you.
Imabeliever Imabeliever 8 years
We try.. We replaced all of the light bulbs, recycle to the point of annoyance, traded in the Expedition a few years ago for a Prius and sold our third car about a year ago. We just operate with our work van (which is not family friendly) and the Prius. We never lower the thermostat lower then 78 in the summer or 69 in the winter.. removed TV's from the guest bedroom and the kids room and took away the DVR and went back to basic cable to help curb our tv usage, installed energy rated ceiling fans, and all of the chemicals we use for our business are green (carpet cleaners). Our next house is going to have a tankless water heater and solar panels.. that is the goal. But we also need government based initiatives, green energy available to consumers and green solutions to really make a difference. wind, solar, natural gas, clean coal technologies vs oil oil oil.
stephley stephley 8 years
I don't know why it seems that much more poignant - but that turquoise t-shirt has Pooh & Tigger on it. It really is immoral for people who have so much - as we do - to be unwilling to be more careful in what we do and how we live so that we don't impact negatively on the lives of other people.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 8 years
Oh geebers- yes I totally agree with you, I mean people choose to do what they can and what is convenient and I have no problem with that! (like meat-eaters who use public transit, etc). And I really don't care if people eat meat or not, it's just that it makes me sad that when that post was put up, all people could talk about were their dinner plans, and pushy vegetarians, and oh, not the point of the post, or how their habits can affect others. And I sooo am not perfect. I commute 60 miles a day to save $$ on rent during school! I could totally live on my campus. I don't always remember to bring my bags shopping, sometimes I buy things I don't need, and I also do wonder whether any of the little "green" things I'm doing even make a difference. I think I'm just feeling a little depressed because my family is driving me crazy right now with this election, and they are actually PROUD of the fact that they do not care about hurricanes in Cuba, genocide in Darfur and water shortages in Africa. Because they live in Amurrrica, and they have the right to do what they want, it's like some mandate to them to trash the world. Like, to my aunt, Africans don't pay American taxes, don't fly the American flag, and she isn't affected by their water shortages, so she really doesn't care. And I would never suggest anyone else HAS to recycle (especially because I don't know how much good it really does, shaky science and all) it just bothers me that she purposely comes into my home and refuses to do so, because she "doesn't have to." I just don't think people care about things until they are directly affected, I mean, commuting 60 miles a day is the most difficult environmentally unfriendly thing I do because of the price of gas!
geebers geebers 8 years
On a global level -yes we can certainly do better and we do waste quite a bit. However the amount of U.S. recycling is higher compared to some European countries according to some report I wrote back in 2007.
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