The Three-fold Focus: Climate Change, Pollution and Nature Loss

Last week and for the first time, the United Nations declared that access to a healthy environment is a HUMAN RIGHTS concern. 

The Human Rights Council  [HRC] recognized this Friday, [8 October 2021] for the first time, that having a clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right.  

At the beginning of the current session of the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner described the triple planetary threats of climate change, pollution and nature loss as the single greatest human rights challenge of our era.

In a statement from UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, “We must build on this momentum to move beyond the false separation of environmental action and protection of human rights. It is all too clear that neither goal can be achieved without the other.”

You can view the full statement here: Bachelet hails landmark recognition that having a healthy environment is a human right.

While this resolution is a bold declaration of the causation and effects of global warming, the measure must now go to the UN General Assembly, this November in New York City, for further discussion. Although the United Nations acknowledges the problem, as yet, they have not come up with any solutions or mandates to address the problems of climate change and its relation to violations of Human Rights. 

What this means is as yet unknown, and the measure is not legally binding.  However, the implications are that any country that does not provide access to a healthy environment could be called out for their part in allowing damage to the health and sustainability of the environment as a Human Rights violation.

Those of us, as individuals who have watched and worked toward getting our country moving on fighting global warming, have seen our environment slowly slipping into decline. We know that many of the issues affecting global warming should have been acted upon decades ago. As Greta Thornberg so very succinctly stated regarding the ‘say much–do nothing’ of global leadership — “blah blah blah“. The time to act has passed, so our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint needs to be doubled for lost time. For those who haven’t lifted a finger or continue to deny there is a problem — it is time to pull your head out of delusions and just get busy. 

According to the World Health Organization, as of 2021 nearly fourteen million deaths a year can be linked to the environment, or roughly 24% of all global deaths, which are chiefly due to pollution and chemical exposure (See: World Health Organization (WHO)). On September 29th a series of webinars were held to present the findings. (For more information and to watch the recorded webinars see: Webinar: the COP26 Health Programme ).

So where to place our focus for the best chance to get ahead of global warming may be exactly in the same areas that the UN HRC has recently identified; the “triple planetary threats of climate change, pollution and nature loss. . .”.

CLIMATE CHANGE: 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO): 

Between 2030 and 2050, climate change is expected to cause approximately 250 000 additional deaths per year, from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhoea and heat stress alone. The direct damage costs to health is estimated to be between USD 2-4 billion per year by 2030.

See: Climate change

There is a direct correlation between global warming and the high rate of fires that have occurred across the global arena releasing alarming rates of CO2. Fires are burning thousands upon thousands of woodland acres around the world: California and across the United States, Central America, South America, Africa, Europe, Russia, China, the Middle East, as well as island nations like Australia.

While the following data is from records kept between 1998 to 2017, the rate of wildfires have increased since that time as the size and frequency of wildfires are growing exponentially due to global warming: 

Hotter and drier conditions are drying out ecosystems and increasing the risk of wildfires. Wildfires also simultaneously impact weather and the climate by releasing large quantities of carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide and fine particulate matter into the atmosphere. Resulting air pollution can cause a range of health issues, including respiratory and cardiovascular problems. Another significant health effect of wildfires is on mental health and psychosocial well-being.

(See: Wildfires)

 A drastic reduction of CO2 in our atmosphere is necessary.  The positive on this: We know that the use of fossil fuels is no longer sustainable. We are beginning to see a shift from power plants operated by fossil fuels to wind and solar power. People are opting for electric cars for cleaner operation as more choices in the Electric Vehicle (EV) market are offered. The research is ongoing and the expense of an EV is coming down. More cities are looking into electric street car options as well. These are some of the wins but we still have a long way to go. 

POLLUTION: 

Pollution is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary “as the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance or thing that has harmful or poisonous effects.” Pollution is composed of many things as explained in the data set from Wikipedia’s List of pollution-related diseases. Additionally, Wikipedia’s data on Pollution presents the numerous forms in a list of eleven types from Air Pollution to Water Pollution, all of which negatively impacts human health and have been increasing in severity as the temperature of the earth increases.

The World Health Organization presented data on Air Pollution and its effect on Human health stating the following: 

 Air pollution kills an estimated seven million people worldwide every year. WHO data shows that almost all of the global population (99%) breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline limits containing high levels of pollutants, with low- and middle-income countries suffering from the highest exposures. WHO is supporting countries to address air pollution. 

From smog hanging over cities to smoke inside the home, air pollution poses a major threat to health and climate. The combined effects of ambient (outdoor) and household air pollution cause about seven (7) million premature deaths every year, largely as a result of increased mortality from stroke, heart disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer and acute respiratory infections.

See: WHO guideline limits and pollutants, for more information

The UN Environment Programme was tasked to coordinate the implementation of a global plan in 2018 (originally dating back to 2012), which was completed and presented in March 2019. A PDF of the report is at the following link  “Towards a pollution-free planet” 

Misuse and overuse of the earth’s fossil resources, which have given us air, earth and water pollution from oil spills, plastic and plastic toxins, factory smoke stacks and much more; have infiltrated animal and human organs to the point that they are finding newborn infants with microplastic particles in their urine. We know it is killing marine life, and birds of prey, as well as humans (usually from carcinogenic cancers), yet while we act, we are fought every step of the way by corporations who cry about needing to take care of their stockholders. 

One huge thing that we can do as consumers to lessen the pollutant overload —  boycott products and companies that continue to pollute with grand disregard when looking at investing, or banking with a bank that does not support sustainability and social consciousness. Hitting them in their pocketbook is the best way to get things to change. Be an enlightened consumer.

Additionally:  

  • avoid pesticides that contain known carcinogens;
  • Read labels — research products for ingredients that are unnecessary, check out this link for a list of really bad ingredients: 15 Harmful Shampoo Ingredients to Avoid  Hint: they are not only in shampoo but found in lotions, potions and more.
  • lessen your plastic load, look for products that are packaged in sustainable packaging such as paper or cardboard
  • use powder detergents over liquids in plastic jugs even look into making a DIY version of dish soap….there are many such DIY recipes on the internet
  • buy grocery products from bulk bins 
  • avoid plastic produce bags by taking your own reusable mesh bags that you can purchase or make — then reuse 
  • Use reusable canvas bags to carry your groceries home
  • Look into Shampoo BARS and Conditioning BARS– there are many on the market and few old tried and true like Auromere Shampoo Bar with Neem (only putting this here because it is what I use on my nearly two foot long hair and love it — going on 4 years now.)
  • For the love of the earth — quit buying bottled water. Invest in a water filter for your kitchen and get a reusable metal water bottle. I guarantee you will save money in the long run. If you are a family, sit down and calculate the number of water bottles used by the number of people in your household….then run a cost ratio. 
  • Clothing: buy sustainable fabrics, read the labels. In a previous article CCGKC listed the  environmentally friendly and sustainable fabrics.(Polyester is NOT sustainable and does a lot of harm to the environment.)
  • Learn to sew and make your own fashions from sustainable fabrics. — IT”S FUN!
  • There are many many more ideas but — mostly
  • THINK OUTSIDE OF THE BOX AND ASK YOURSELF, “IS MY PURCHASE SUSTAINABLE?”

Once we let the corporations know that we refuse to buy non-sustainable products in non-sustainable containers; once we let investment firms know that we will only support socially conscious firms, once they know that our money will ONLY go to sustainability, things will start changing much faster. 

NATURE LOSS: 

I am not a biologist, an expert in international law or in any way able to fully discuss the third factor in the HRC’s declaration that a “healthy environment is a HUMAN RIGHTS concern. There are many complex components yet very important to all of humanity. The links below will give a much clearer picture of what ‘Biodiversity’ means in the context of Human Rights.

The United Nations states that: 

Unprecedented biodiversity loss, pollution, climate change and the rise of zoonotic diseases have showcased the symbiotic relationship between humans and nature. The human right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, as well as other human rights, can only be realized where biodiversity thrives and ecosystems are healthy.

State obligations at the intersection of human rights and biodiversity come from international human rights laws, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). According to these commitments and the responsibilities they encompass, states are obliged to do 13 key things.

See the entire article here: States have these 13 duties when it comes to biodiversity and human rights. This full article is also available in printable pdf format here: HUMAN RIGHTS AND BIODIVERSITY

Biodiversity covers an array of societal problems that have become more evident due to the pandemic and the extreme weather conditions that are being experienced around the globe.

I strongly urge my readers to please check out the 8 page printable PDF link on “Human Rights and Biodiversity” above and share it with your family and friends. It can be a wonderful tool for discussion and may even open some eyes that have been closed to the many facets of climate change.

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