Essays

Essays

Pilgrims bathing in the holy river Narmada at Hoshangabad, Madhya Pradesh, India. Photo: Mahesh Basedia via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

To discover the 'rights of a river', first think like a river

Debadityo Sinha
| 22nd May 2017
There is a growing global movement to recognise the rights of rivers, writes Debadityo Sinha. But rights alone are not enough. We must love and respect rivers, and even think like rivers to understand the vital functions they perform within landscapes and ecosystems, and so discover where their 'best interests' truly lie. And then we must be willing to act: protecting rivers and restoring them to health and wholeness.

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John Muir, full-length portrait, facing right, seated on rock with lake and trees in background, circa 1902. Photo: unknbown via Library of Congress (Public Domain).

Divine ecstasy of Nature: Selected Writings by John Muir

Terry Tempest Williams
| 17th May 2017
May this new collection of John Muir's writings reach us now and inspire another generation to fall in love with wild nature, to care for it, to know that wilderness is not optional but central to our survival in the centuries to come, writes Terry Tempest Williams - and remind us how to embrace this beautiful, broken world once again with an open heart. If we do approach the mountain, it is we who are moved.

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Figure 1: Two views of economic 'sustainability'. Image: Nature's Rights.

Nature's rights: a new paradigm for environmental protection

Mumta Ito
| 9th May 2017
Recognising nature as a legal stakeholder with inalienable rights in environmental law proceedings is a powerful counterbalance to corporate dictatorship, writes Mumta Ito. It empowers people and governments to stand up for nature - the underlying basis of our economy and our lives. And it stands in contrast to feeble approaches based on the financialisation and commodification of nature, which may be twisted to justify more destruction.

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Footbridge over the Coapa River in Chiapas, Mexico, which supports local silvopasture (forestry and livestock grazing). Photo: Lameirasb via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA).

To conserve tropical forests and wildlife, protect the rights of people who rely on them

Prakash Kashwan
University of Connecticut
| 26th April 2017
Who are the best guardians of forests and other wild places? Governments? Conservation NGOs? Corporations? No, writes Prakash Kashwan, it's the indigenous peoples who have lived in harmony with their environment for millennia. But to be able do so, they must first be accorded rights to their historic lands and resources, both in law and in practice. Among the countries leading the way, Mexico. Among the laggards, Kenya and India.

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Photo: Tom Langton.

Bovine TB summit: science-based policy, or policy-based science?

Tom Langton
| 7th April 2017
The Bovine TB conference in London last week was disrupted by media reporting of scientific conflict over badger culling studies, writes ecologist Tom Langton. But the real story is the collapse of confidence in the Randomised Badger Culling Trials, used to justify the mass killing of badgers; and the emergence of reliable new TB tests. The simple solution: stop the cull, and spend the money on gamma interferon cattle TB testing.

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High levels of 'electrosmog' detected in downtown Manhatta, New York City, Photo: Martinez Zea via Flickr (CC BY-NC-SA).

Cellphones, wifi and cancer: Will Trump's budget cuts zap vital ‘electrosmog' research?

Paul Mobbs
| 27th March 2017
Just as long term research into the health impacts of the 'electrosmog' created by wifi and mobile phones is yielding its first results, it's at risk of sudden termination from President Trump's budget cuts, writes Paul Mobbs. But the cuts have little to do with saving money - and a lot to do with protecting corporate profit and economic growth from harsh truths, including evidence that electrosmog causes cancer in laboratory rats, and maybe humans too.

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EDF's 4x900MW Nuclear power plant at Dampierre-en-Burly, commissioned in 1980, will soon turn from a money machine into a monstrous financial drain. Photo: Pymouss via Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA).

EDF facing bankruptcy as decommissioning time for France's ageing nuclear fleet nears

Paul Dorfman
| 16th March 2017
Soon EDF will have to start the biggest, most complex and costliest nuclear decommissioning and radioactive waste management programme on earth, writes Paul Dorfman. But whereas Germany has set aside €38 billion to decommission 17 nuclear reactors, France has set aside only €23 billion to decommission its 58 reactors. When the real costs come in, they could easily bankrupt the company.

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Near the site of the UK's 1958 Grapple Y H-bomb test at Kiritimati, Christmas Island, in 2013. Photo: Warren Jackson via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Atom bomb test veterans: Soviet justice in London's High Court

Chris Busby
| 8th March 2017
Britain's long-suffering nuclear bomb test veterans have once again had justice denied to them, writes Chris Busby, by a shocking piece of judicial chicanery in London's High Court in which the judge whimsically excluded all the scientific evidence that did not suit the Ministry of Defence. But the veterans' fight for justice and scientific truth continues, facing its next test in the Court of Appeal.

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Factory in Perafita, Porto, Portugal. Photo: José Moutinho via Flickr (CC BY).

How a toxic spill and a book launched Britain's environmental movement - the forgotten story

John Clark
University of St Andrews
| 22nd February 2017
The mass poisoning of farm animals in Kent in 1963 was traced to a factory where a pesticide developed as a WWII chemical warfare agent was manufactured, writes John Clark. The event, so close to the publication of Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring', galvanised a growing ecological awareness - all the more so as the government's only wish was to hush the matter up.

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Could your household gas come from wildflower rich meadows, like this Culm Grassland at Knowstone Moor, Devon? Photo: Col Ford and Natasha de Vere via Flickr (CC BY).

It beats fracking - but can we believe Ecotricity's vision of 'green gas from grass'?

Almuth Ernsting
| 27th January 2017
Just imagine: gas for your cooking and heating made by composting home-grown British grass, writes Almuth Ernsting. What's not to like? Well, it would need almost all the UK's grassland to match our gas demand, leaving cows and sheep to starve or forcing them into sheds to eat foreign-grown feeds. And methane leakage could easily wipe out any climate benefit.

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Rally to support GMO food labeling at the Connecticut State Senate, 21st May 2013. Photo: CT Senate Democrats via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND).

Nothing 'parochial' about GMO food labeling!

Jonathan Latham
| 24th January 2017
With USDA proposing to redefine GMOs for the purposes of food labeling, the issue is more important than ever, writes Jonathan Latham. It's not just to give consumers' the 'right to know' when they buy GM food, it's also a vital means to empower citizens to fight back against the industrialisation of food and farming, and the monopolies of agribusiness corporations.

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Professor Yablokov (1933-2017) with the author, Chris Busby. Photo: ECRR.

He dared to speak the truth: Alexey Yablokov, scientific hero of Chernobyl

Chris Busby
| 16th January 2017
Alexey V Yablokov (1933-2017) was a scientific giant of the post-Chernobyl age, writes Chris Busby. It was he who brought together the work of dissident Soviet scientists and revealed to the world, in English language, the true health impacts of the Chernobyl nuclear catastrophe. His hard work and dedication underlies the continuing opposition to the nuclear industry today.

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Once a rainforest ... land cleared for a palm oil plantation, Indonesia. Photo: Rainforest Action Network via Flickr (CC BY-NC).

Privatizing nature, outsourcing governance: the economics of extinction

Margi Prideaux
| 7th November 2016
The 'Global Redesign Initiative', a project of the World Economic Forum, aims to replace UN-based intergovernmental decision-making with unaccountable 'multi-stakeholder governance' run by and for corporations, writes Margi Prideaux. What future for nature and people in this brave new world? Generate profits for investors, or face extinction or exclusion to the margins of existence.

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'Love Planet' by emily792872 via Flickr (CC BY).

Gaia lives! Overcoming our fear of a living planet

Charles Eisenstein
| 21st October 2016
To embrace the Earth as truly alive is a step too far even for many committed environmentalists, writes Charles Eisenstein: worried that others may perceive us as unscientific, childish, woolly-headed and ridiculous. But it's a step we must take: in refusing to recognise the living Gaia that is both our creator and our home, we accept and perpetuate the philosophy of her destroyers.

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Fresh organic 'Heirloom' garlic from New Roots Farm in Newmarket NH, at the Portsmouth, NH farmer's market. Photo: ilovebutter via Flickr (CC BY).

Why the sustainable food movement is unstoppable: it's the philosophy!

Jonathan Latham
| 3rd October 2016
Members of the food movement share an infectious vision, writes Jonathan Latham - one which is constructive, convivial, classless, raceless, international, and embraces the whole world. Unled yet inspirational, it rests on a novel, harmonious philosophy that combines science, recognition of planetary boundaries, and the universal need for wholesome sustenance.

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Jerusalem artichoke harvest at Sandy Lane Farm, Oxfordshire. Photo: Sandy lane Farm via Facebook.

Good nutrition begins in healthy soils

Patrick Holden
| 7th September 2016
There's no such thing as 'healthy food' if it's not produced by sustainable farming systems on living soils, Patrick Holden told the recent 'Food: The Forgotten Medicine' conference. But after 70 years of industrial farming, there's a huge job to be done to restore our depleted soils and the impoverished genetic diversity of our seeds and crops.

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The Baka have lived sustainably in their rainforest home for generations. Photo: Selcen Kucukustel / Atlas / Survival International.

Corporate capture: Big Conservation must break out of its Stockholm syndrome

Dr Margi Prideaux
| 2nd September 2016
Big conservation NGOs increasingly resemble the nature-destroying corporations they should be opposing, writes Margi Prideaux. This ideological capture is reflected in their vapid marketing to conservation 'consumers'; the serious abuse of indigenous communities they should be engaging as partners; and their willing sacrifice of core objectives to money and influence.

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Brazil's Zo'é tribe are starting to recover from epidemics in the 1980s and '90s now that their land is protected. Photo: Survival International.

Brazil's Olympic triumph - don't mention the genocide!

Lewis Evans
| 25th August 2016
In the thick of the Olympic frenzy, one voice that was systematically excluded from mainstream narratives is that of Brazil's Indigenous Peoples, writes Lewis Evans, who have fought to survive through centuries of dehumanisation, theft and genocide. And now they face a fresh attack as a proposed constitutional change, PEC 215, threatens a new round of indigenous land theft.

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Before and after: natural wetland forest dominated by Swamp cypress, and an industrial plantation of Lolbolly pine. Both photos via Wikimedia Commons (see details on individual photos); amalgamation by The Ecologist (no rights claimed).

Are the UK 'biomass sustainability standards' legitimising forest destruction?

Almuth Ernsting
Biofuelwatch
| 18th August 2016
This month wood pellet mills in the southern US that supply the UK's Drax power station were awarded 'sustainability' certificates under a voluntary scheme governed entirely by energy companies. The certificates provide no credible guarantee that the fuel does not come from ecologically valuable natural forests and wetlands, clear-cut and replaced by industrial plantations.

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How will the promoters of GMO golden rice ensure that malnourished children receive it in the first place? Will they also ensure they get the dietary fat they need to actually assimilate the carotene once they have eaten it? Photo of children playing in M

Millions spent, no one served: who is to blame for the failure of GMO Golden Rice?

Angelika Hilbeck
Hans Herren
| 15th August 2016
The real reason why 'golden rice' remains uncultivated after a 20 year effort is its poor agronomic performance, write Angelika Hilbeck & Hans Herren. But beyond that, the very idea of golden rice as a 'solution' to Vitamin A deficiency fails to recognise the real causes of malnutrition - poverty, hunger and poor diet. How will golden rice reach poor children in the first place? And will they ever get the rich, oily diet they need to assimilate its fat-soluble nutrients?

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Temporary streams are set to become an increasingly common landscape feature in the UK. The River Manifold (Staffordshire, UK) already experiences annual drying due to features of the underlying bedrock. Photo: Tory Milner.

Dry rivers are living rivers - with our care and protection

Rachel Stubbington
| 25th July 2016
Although flowing water is fundamental to river ecosystems, temporary streams are distinctive landscape features that support surprisingly diverse communities, writes Rachel Stubbington. However, the biodiversity of these dynamic ecosystems needs greater recognition and protection.

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