Given the threat to humanity from climate change, French President Francois Hollande mandated former environmental minister Corinne Lepage with developing a Declaration of Rights and Obligations of Humankind to build-on and complement the 1948 Paris Declaration of Human Rights.
For mankind to organize its survival, peace and dignity, civil society must carry the Declaration and become a catalyst for support across sectors and with the wider public for its adoption by the United Nations General Assembly in 2016.
On December 9, from 9 to 11am at the COP21 French Pavilion in Le Bourget, the french presidency will be holding a side-event hosted by Corinne Lepage and with Scott Teare (Secretary-General of the World Scout Movement), Olivier De Schutter (IPES Food), Yolanda Kakabadse Navaro (WWF international) and other guests to present the initiative, its importance and the way forward.
The full project team includes: Ahmed ALAMI, Marie-Odile BERTELLA-GEOFFROY, Valérie CABANES, Francois DAMERVAL, Hubert DELZANGLES, Emilie GAILLARD, Christian HUGLO, Nicolas IMBERT, Adam KONIUSZEWSKI, Jean-Marc LAVIEILLE, Catherine LE BRIS, Bettina LAVILLE, Jérémy RIFKIN and Mathieu WEMAERE.
In the current migration crisis, people are fleeing to escape disaster, violence, poverty and hunger in numbers unknown since World War II. But their desperate search for a better life is not always met with understanding and compassion. Hungary has set up a four meter-high barbwire fence along its Serbian border, Donald Trump is calling Mexican immigrants dangerous criminals, and Australia has implemented the world’s harshest policy by turning back boats of asylum-seekers, or forcing them to detainee centers on distant Pacific Islands and making sure they will never enter the country.
In the face of such hostility, it is refreshing to find a book with a different narrative. One where a country that promotes multiculturalism and social cohesion can enjoy the immense benefits of a more diverse society, where migrants truly become agents of progress and development. This was certainly our experience when my family immigrated to Montreal (Canada) in the early 1970s to escape the communist regime in Poland. Today still, Montreal is one of the most multi-ethnic and multicultural cities in the world – a vibrant platform for culture, education and business innovation.
An Unlikely War Hero
“The Promise of Diversity” by John Hartwell Williams and John Bond, tells the unlikely story of Jerzy Zubryzcki (1920-2009), a Polish intellectual turned cadet officer in the Polish Army when the Second World War broke. Forced to surrender to the German forces, Zubrzycki escaped imprisonment thanks to a Jewish shopkeeper who may have saved his life. He served with distinction in the Polish Army, the Polish underground resistance and with the British forces. Thanks to his good English, which he learnt at the Krakow YMCA, he was selected to join a top secret elite team that was tasked by Churchill to “set Europe ablaze”, he underwent intense training in parachuting, explosives, sabotage, intelligence work and extreme survival skills. He even became an expert in the art of silent killing. In a “James Bond”-like adventure, he brought a captured V2 rocket from Poland to Britain, providing crucial intelligence to the allied forces.
Championing Diversity and Multiculturalism
Unable to return to Poland after the war, he became a refugee and decided to study sociology at the London School of Economics. He then joined the Australian National University where he became Professor of Sociology. Having experienced the horrors of Nazi occupation, he dedicated the rest of his life to promoting the integration of Australia’s increasing ethnic diversity. Australia, whose population was 7.4 million at the end of the war, received more then 2 million Europeans in the following two decades. Today still, it is home to one of the largest Greek communities outside Greece (particularly around Melbourne). Later came waves of refugees from Vietnam.
Thanks to his distinguished war record and contacts in the upper echelons of British society, he was able to access and influence the closed circles of Australian government, and successive Prime Ministers, helping them realize that the ethnic diversity is not a liability but an asset and that by enabling these values we enrich society as a whole. Through his influence he managed to “steer Australia towards multiculturalist settlement policies” (The Australian) for which he as been credited as the “father of Australian multiculturalism”.
The Stolen Generation Apology
Zubrzycki also helped in initiatives towards reconciling Australia’s Aboriginal population with the wider community, initiatives which caught international attention in 2008 when Prime Minister Kevin Rudd led a national apology to the Aboriginal community. His moving address can be viewed here:
As Secretary of the Australian Institute of Polish Affairs, John Williams developed a friendship with Zubrzyzcki, which led him to start writing this biography. John Bond, an author who has helped several Australian public figures write their memoirs, completed the book and is now organizing a Polish translation and promoting the Zubrzycki story in Poland.
John Bond is no stranger to diversity and multiculturalism. Since 1969, he has been a member of “Initiatives of Change” in Australia, the Swiss-based organization that facilitated the German-French reconciliation process following the Second World War. John was elected Secretary of the “National Sorry Day Committee” whose work led to the apology from the Australian government. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for service to the Australian community.
The book provides a wonderful account of how Zubrzycki’s early life experience of being rescued by a Jewish family shaped his belief in the value of diversity and turned him into a champion of multiculturalism.
If Zubrzycki’s approach to multiculturalism were more widely understood, many of the troubles with migration and asylum seekers could be avoided. But given the unfortunate turn that policies towards foreigners are taking around the world, now more then ever, the Zubrzycki story is worth spreading.
It is high-time to dust-off the historical heroes of the Polish diaspora whose expertise and achievements have been recognized and admired by the world
Le premier ministre du Québec, Philippe Couillard, a dévoilé une stratégie maritime ambitieuse pour la province qui façonnera le transport et la logistique de l’expédition outre-Atlantique pour le Nord-Est de l’Amérique au 21e siècle. Montréal pourrait devenir la porte d’entrée maritime pour lier un marché américain (Nord-Est) de 135 millions de personnes d’avec la plus grande économie du monde, la zone Euro et ses $18,000 milliards. Cette annonce suit la nouvelle d’Octobre 2014 d’un accord de libre-échange (AECG) entre le Canada et l’Union Européenne qui donnera un accès préférentiel à ces marchés, possiblement dès 2016.
Les années de gloire
Dès 1860 et pendant un siècle, Montréal était la vraie métropole du Canada, principalement grâce à son rôle de plaque tournante du transport du pays avec son grand centre portuaire et ferroviaire. En 1923, Montréal était encore le plus grand port céréalier du monde. Certains des silos à grains datant de cette période sont encore visibles, mais Montréal se classe aujourd’hui 97ème à l’échelle mondiale en tonnage, avec seulement un quart du volume qui transite par New York (26ème).
Positionné pour l’avenir
La voie maritime du Saint-Laurent et des Grands Lacs représente le plus long système de navigation profonde du monde et s’étend sur 3,700 km, au cœur du continent nord-américain. Cette situation géographique favorable signifie que l’expédition par Montréal fournit le plus direct, rapide et donc aussi le moins cher. Ceci, combiné avec une logistique plus efficace – un temps de transit de fret de 24 heures à Montréal contre jusqu’à 5 jours par New York – donne à la “Belle Province” un avantage qui pourrait aider Montréal à retrouver sa position de plaque tournante maritime en Amérique du Nord.
Moins cher et plus propre
Avec les plus grands navires transportant jusqu’à 600,000 tonnes de marchandises, le transport maritime est le plus efficace. Il se compare favorablement au train et au transport routier au niveau des couts, mais aussi en termes de réduction de la pollution. Son empreinte carbone est 3 fois plus basse que par train et 33 fois plus basse que par camion!
La sécurité d’abord
Les risques du transport routier et la catastrophe ferroviaire de 2013 du Lac Mégantic qui a fait 42 victimes font de la sécurité une préoccupation majeure. Même si le transport maritime a un bon dossier de sécurité, la stratégie maritime reconnait l’importance des préparations aux catastrophes et prévoit le développement d’un centre d’expertise des écosystèmes marins aux iles de la Madeleine.
Science et innovation
Compte tenu des opportunités liées à la croissance des activités océaniques à l’échelle mondiale, il y a un besoin urgent de recherches, d’innovation et de partage des connaissances. La mise en place du Réseau Maritime du Québec agira comme un catalyseur pour mobiliser les structures existantes et améliorer les échanges, en particulier entre le Québec et la France (qui possède le deuxième plus grand territoire marin du monde).
Protection de la biodiversité et tourisme
Reconnaissant l’exceptionnelle beauté et la biodiversité de la voie maritime du Saint-Laurent, la stratégie appelle à la création de zones marines protégées équivalent à au moins 10% du territoire marin. Ceux-ci, ainsi que l’amélioration des infrastructures à différents points le long du fleuve visent à stimuler le tourisme de croisière qui est déjà en forte croissance et qui a attiré 350,000 personnes en 2014 et prévu d’atteindre 400,000 cette année.
Propulsant le Québec au 21e siècle
La stratégie maritime de $9 milliards de Philippe Couillard et les 30,000 emplois qu’elle espère créer est comparable en ampleur aux grands projets de la Baie James de Robert Bourassa des années 1970 qui ont coutés quelque 20 milliards de dollars plusieurs décennies a être complétés. Aujourd’hui, cet héritage de Bourassa donne à la Province une énergie bas-carbone et peu couteuse qui fait que les Québécois ont la plus faible empreinte carbone du pays (9,7 tonnes d’équivalent CO2 par habitant en 2012 contre une moyenne de 20,1 tonnes pour les Canadiens).
Fait intéressant, 43,5% des émissions de carbone au Québec proviennent du secteur des transports qui utilise l’essence pour alimenter des voitures et des camions peu efficaces. Compte tenu de son accès à une électricité propre et fiable, le Québec pourrait devenir un leader de l’électrification des transports pour les véhicules de tourisme. A son tour, la stratégie maritime pourrait permettre une réduction importance de l’expédition par la route avec de nouvelles réductions de carbone, tout en stimulant le commerce et la compétitivité de la province.
Un message pour ParisClimat2015
Réconcilier l’économie et l’environnement sur la base de connaissances scientifiques solides pour la prospérité des Québécois au 21e siècle – un message urgent et inspirant que le Premier ministre Couillard et le Maire de Montréal Denis Coderre pourrons transmettre durant la Conférence sur le climat de Paris en Décembre. Cette aventure dure depuis déjà 40 ans dans la « Belle Province » et la stratégie maritime est son dernier chapitre.
Rarely has a papal announcement received so much interest and controversy even before its release. On June 18, the long-awaited environmental encyclical of Pope Francis – the highest form of papal teaching – will be released to the 5,000 Bishops of the Catholic Church with a message to 1.2 billion Catholics around the world.
This promises to be of great significance for several reasons:
1) Part of a long process at the Vatican
While the environmental focus of the encyclical was inspired by the 2014 papal visit to Tacloban, a city in the Philippines devastated by the Haiyan hurricane, the interest of the Vatican for environmental matters started much earlier. In 2002 already, John Paul II released his “Declaration on Environmental Ethics”, raising concerns about the degradation of natural resources and the pollution of water, land and air. Pope Benedict in turn, credited for being the first “Green Pope”, said that: “respect for humans and for nature are one and the same”. He installed solar panels and turned the Vatican into the first carbon neutral-state. So the interest of Pope Francis results from a 15-year period of growing interest for the relationship between humanity and nature during which the message of the Vatican was developed and refined.
2) A holistic and universal message
The key points of the encyclical will extend beyond the narrowly defined “environmental sphere” to emphasize harmony with God, with nature and with other human beings. By addressing questions of poverty, inequality and hunger, in a world of plenty where one-third of the food goes to waste while 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger, Pope Francis aims to replace apathy and indifference with global solidarity. In this manner, he can reframe the climate science debate into a moral and ethical imperative that is relevant to all.
By bridging science and religion, Pope Francis can provide a universal and non-denominational message that resonates with teachings across faiths. Islam, Judaism, Hinduism and Buddhism, all agree on the moral need for humans to act as stewards and protectors of the Earth and to care for the most vulnerable.
3) Strategic timing for the message
The June 18 release will allow Pope Francis several opportunities to address key audiences including President Obama, the US Congress and the UN General Assembly during the adoption of the Sustainable Development Goals that will run until 2030 – all during the month of September, sufficiently ahead of the December Climate Summit in Paris to mobilize the public and world leaders ahead of the conference.
4) A unique personality to overcome the North-South divide
Ever since the Rio 1992 Earth Summit, there has been a divide between developed countries, largely responsible for the bulk of carbon pollution, and Global South countries, the frontline victims of climate change impacts. This is why the move by the leading economies to push the “green economy agenda” onto poor nations has been received with great suspicion by developing countries that see this as another attempt at economic imperialism at their expense. Pope Francis, who selected his name after St Francis of Assisi, a man of peace and poverty, is largely perceived as the Pope of the Global South. No one is better positioned to defend the interests of developing nations and ensuring they do not end up on the short-end of any climate agreement. Only Pope Francis has the moral authority to bridge this great divide and allow a historic reconciliation capable of aligning all interests for the benefit of humanity and future generations.
Over 40% of what we find in our plates including many fruits, nuts and vegetables, results from the pollination process. These “services”, mainly by bees but also butterflies, birds, bats and flies add over $215 billion annually to the global economy – some seven times the revenues of a multinational giant like Coca-Cola. Bees, including commercially managed bees, provide the bulk of this value through pollination while the honey, propolis, royal jelly and wax they produce represents only a small fraction. But the role of bees extends well beyond the economic. Ancient civilizations recognized and celebrated bees and their role in spreading the genetic material of thousands of plants. Honey was revered across the ancient world as a regenerative and mystical substance and the food of the gods in Mayan culture. In the Garden of Eden it is said that honey dripped from trees like rainwater and as far back as 5,000 B.C., “King Menes”, founder of the First Dynasty of Egyptian Kings was called the “Beekeeper”.
Today, industrial agriculture focuses on the utilitarian role of bees to pollinate vast monocultures. Honeybees are shipped when and where needed. The California almond is a case in point. 800,000 acres with 90 million almond trees stretching for more then 600 kilometers provide over 80% of the global almond production. With pollen available only in February, bees would starve in this environment. They must therefore be trucked-in from across the country for the job. A major logistical effort for some 5,000 trucks to bring 1.6 million beehives. This scale of trucking bees around is not without danger – accidents are common. Just last week, North of Seattle, a truck carrying over 20 million bees for blueberry pollination overturned on the highway, spilling 458 beehives that firefighters doused with flame retardant.
It is estimated that 2.5 million hives are being trucked around this way every year to Washington for apples and cherries, Dakota for alfalfa and sunflowers, Michigan for blueberries…
Bees in crisis
But the troubles of bees extend well beyond highway crashes. In the United States, beekeepers are reporting annual bee losses of 30% and more and the number of colonies shrank from its 5.5 million hives peak in the 1950s to less then 2.5 million today. This is the result of a combination of habitat loss, inadequate diets, mite infestation and disease, loss of genetic diversity and pesticides.
In Europe, since 1994, neonicotinoid pesticides have been associated with Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) – where the insecticide confuses bees to the point where they abandon their hive. The same has been observed across the United States since 2006. UK studies link the pesticide to an 85% decline in queen production and confirm disruptions in the ability of bees to navigate and communicate. This is why the European Commission banned them in April 2013. Given that a worldwide ban would deprive Syngenta of 6.5% of its sales (source: Schroders Research), the science behind bees and pesticides is hotly debated and another culprit is pointed, the varroa mite, a parasite that has spread from Asia to the rest of the world and for which the impact of chemical treatment is showing mixed results – it is said that chemical treatment has helped the mite become more resistant at the expense of the bees.
Biodiversity decline and habitat loss are also having their toll. While farms located near natural habitats fare better, a study found that since the 1980’s there has been a 70% decline in key wildflowers. This means a lower diversity of plants from which bees can collect pollen. The genetically modified and neonicotinoid infected corn syrup they are fed by commercial beekeepers for their subsistence diet are also not helping.
The bee crisis is causing shockwaves well beyond environmental circles. New research by Schroders Investment Bank on “Bees and the Stockmarket” warns of impacts across industries including agrochemicals, food producers, retailers, beverages and the luxury sector. Meanwhile, the Obama Administration talks of a serious threat to food security and announced a federal strategy to protect honeybees, address habitat loss and biodiversity decline. $50 million has been appropriated across various agencies for research and to restore hospitable habitats for bees and other pollinators like the Monarch butterfly.
A Global Movement to Save Bees
Public authorities, the private sector and the public at large – all have a role to play. In 2010, the city of New York overturned a ban on beekeeping that had been in place since the late 1990s and “bee mania” has been spreading since with beehives being installed on skyscraper rooftops, community gardens and school backyards. Even the most exclusive institutions like the Waldorf Astoria Restaurant have joined this movement – its has six beehives located near Central Park and serves the most prestigious honey in town. The private sector is also on board with organizations like the Cirque du Soleil in Montreal and the LVMH Group in Paris setting up hives at their headquarters and engaging in the protection and promotion of bees. But much of the leadership comes from individuals and associations around the world that are fighting unfriendly regulations and attitudes, overturning bee bans, installing hives and creating bee-friendly gardens with native wildflowers that benefit all pollinators. It may bee that in their consciousness, people everywhere are starting to realize that by protecting bees we are also protecting ourselves.