Table of Contents...
Global Warming -- a Burning Issue for the Churches
"The Precautionary Principle and the Preferential Option for the
Poor are enshrined in Catholic Social Teaching as important moral
values, which are relevant for the climate change issue where the
impacts are falling disproportionately on the world's poorest people
Breast Cancer, Common Chemicals and Cause: Better Safe Than Sorry
"When clear evidence of animal harm exists, and the risk of
removing a chemical from human products is minimal -- has a PBDE ban
sent Sweden up in flames? -- then the precautionary principle ought to
win. Except where they're absolutely necessary, get these chemicals
out of our lives."
In New Zealand, the Maori Clash with Government Over Precaution
In New Zealand, the Maori fisheries trust (Te Ohu Kaimoana) says
the precautionary principle is being used to limit Maori fishing
Court Adopts Precaution to Stop Tuna Farm in Costa Rica
A court in Costa Rica has accepted precautionary arguments and has
required a temporary halt to construction of a fish farm, pending a
study of the impacts of fish wastes on local waters.
Nurses Say Ontario Must Act on Dangerous Toxins and Chemicals
The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, Canada, is urging
government to seek guidance from the European Union, "which is leading
the way with a precautionary principle when it comes to industrial
substances and their impact on the environment and people's health."
Against the Grain
When writers attack the precautionary principle, they follow a
consistent pattern: they distort the principle, then they attack their
own distortion. This writer is no different. He says, the
precautionary principle "requires that a scientific advance can only
occur if there is certainty that there will be no negative
consequences." Precaution does not require "certainty" about anything
in the future because nothing that lies in the future can be known
From: ICN -- Independent Catholic News (London, UK), May 11, 2007
GLOBAL WARMING -- A BURNING ISSUE FOR THE CHURCHES
[The following is taken from a presentation Ellen Teague gave to Our
Lady Help of Christians parish in Kentish town, North London, last
night (10 May 2007). She is a Catholic journalist and a member of the
Columban Faith and Justice Team.]
When my husband and I worked in Kaduna, a city Northern Nigeria, in
1981, as lay missionaries, one of our best friends was Baba Kofi. This
elderly man used to tell us that when he first moved to the small
settlement of Kaduna in the 1930s it was surrounded by jungle. By day,
the community took food and fuel in abundance from the forest. By
night, they would listen to hyenas howling and burn fires from wood
gathered just a few feet away. We could hardly believe it. We looked
around us at a semi-desert landscape with few trees, and shanty towns
springing up everywhere blighted by scarce water. How the environment
around Kaduna had changed in one lifetime! The long-time missionaries
in the area confirmed that the Sahara desert was encroaching into
Nigeria at a rate of around two miles a year.
Listening to Baba Kofi was my first exposure to the links between
environment and development. Then, for much of the 1980s, I worked for
CAFOD, particularly on its education campaign, Renewing the Earth.
There were clearly links between the 1984 famine in Ethiopia and the
loss of its forest cover over the previous six decades. A barren,
dusty landscape combined with drought, conflict, unfair trade terms,
unpayable debt meant that millions of people were reduced to
dependency on handouts. In Latin America and Asia too, it was clear
that poverty was worsening amidst a model of development that was
largely unsustainable. Yet, while the churches were addressing
poverty, the destruction of the natural world, upon which ALL human
society depends, was almost completely ignored. That is except for the
foundation of the ecumenical Christian Ecology Link 25 years ago this
Yet, in the 1990s many were suddenly sensitized when the number of so-
called natural disasters increased dramatically. From Hurricane Mitch,
which devastated Central America in 1998, to the massive flooding
which overwhelmed Mozambique in 2000, it was clear that the benefit of
years of development programmes could be wiped out overnight by severe
weather. Climate Change was identified as a key reason by the first
report of the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change in 1997. For
the first time, scientists were in broad agreement that it was indeed
happening -- the stability of the world's climate couldn't be presumed
anymore. Average global temperature had risen by at least 0.7 degrees
and the increase was linked to human activity -- specifically, the
massive increases in carbon dioxide being churned out into the
delicate atmospheric mantle that covers the planet.
Why is global warming so disastrous for poor countries? The impacts on
them are worse because many of them are already more flood and drought
prone, and a large share of the economy is in climate sensitive
sectors such as agriculture. They have a lower capacity to adapt
because of a lack of financial, institutional and technological
capacity and access to knowledge. Then, climate change is likely to
impact disproportionately upon the poorest people within countries,
exacerbating inequities in health status and access to adequate food,
clean water and other resources. Just imagine the impact the loss of
glaciers worldwide due to global warming. Lima is among those cities
of the south -- packed with shantytowns -- which relies on glacial
melt for its water supply.
Pope John Paul II gave a lead in alerting the Catholic Church to
environmental concerns with his World Peace Day message of 1 January
1990, Peace with God the Creator, Peace with all of Creation. In it,
he said that Christians should "realise that their responsibility
within creation and their duty towards nature and the Creator are an
essential part of their faith". Global warming is mentioned in the
Vatican's Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. No. 470 of
the Compendium suggests that the relationship between human activity
and climate change must be constantly monitored for the sake of the
common good. "The climate is a good that must be protected" it says,
reminding consumers and those engaged in industrial activity to
develop a greater sense of responsibility for their behaviour. The
Precautionary Principle and the Preferential Option for the Poor are
enshrined in Catholic Social Teaching as important moral values, which
are relevant for the climate change issue where the impacts are
falling disproportionately on the world's poorest people and
The US Catholic Bishops' Conference issued a statement in 2001:
'Global Climate Change: A Plea for Dialogue, Prudence, and the Common
Good' in which they stated that the level of scientific consensus on
global warming obligated taking action to avert potential dangers.
"Since our country's involvement is key to any resolution of these
concerns," it said, "we call on our people and government to recognise
the seriousness of the global warming threat and to develop effective
policies that will diminish the possible consequences of global
climate change". The Bush administration was urged to undertake
initiatives for energy conservation and the development of renewable
energy. US citizens were asked to reflect on their lifestyles as
"voracious consumers" and consider living more simply.
In September 2006, New Zealand's Catholics were urged to adopt simpler
lifestyles by the country's bishops who identified climate change as
"one of the most urgent threats" facing Pacific peoples. Rising
temperatures and sea levels, and the greater intensity of storms and
natural disasters, they said, are already affecting the food and water
supply for people on low-lying islands. They warned that the Pacific
region could have a million environmental refugees before the end of
this century. The bishops asked Catholics to use less energy, buy
locally produced goods which require less transportation, and reduce
their car use to bring down carbon emissions. In 2002, the Australian
Catholic bishops took a lead in the Catholic world and set up a new
agency to focus specifically on environmental issues. Named Catholic
Earthcare Australia, its two most recent conferences in Perth and
Melbourne during October 2006 focused on climate change.
Throughout Africa, emergencies distract bishops' conferences from
longer term issues such as climate change. This was summed by
Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo in 2005 when he reported in the
publication, Up in Smoke -- Africa, that people over 50 years of age
have noticed that there is much less rain in Matabeleland than there
was 30 years ago, but "we have so many immediate crises in our country
that the random chopping of trees for fuel and the diminishing
wildlife are not really being addressed".
The Bishops of the Philippines said back in the 1988 that "the assault
on creation is sinful and contrary to the teachings of our faith".
During 2001, the Catholic Bishops of Northern Mexico criticising
lumber companies for having "no vision of the future" and "placing
economic incentives before all else". In 2005 a Brazilian Catholic
bishop succeeded in stalling a huge irrigation project for Brazil's
impoverished North-east by staging a hunger strike. Bishop Luiz Flavio
Cappio felt the project would exacerbate problems the area is already
experiencing due to climate change.
Global warming features prominently in the Environmental Justice
section of Caritas Internationalis' 2005 Report. "Climate change will
impact food security -- through diminished agricultural productivity
and fishing -- and could hasten the spread of waterborne diseases and
accelerate desertification" it says. The report suggests that climate
change will increase the vulnerability of women to poverty. Caritas
Oceania was mandated to take the issue of environmental justice
forward, and it will be a major topic of study at the 2007 Caritas
Internationalis General Assembly.
Action in the UK
The Catholic Church in England and Wales is, through its membership of
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, signed up to the Operation
Noah, a campaign by Christian churches to curb human-induced climate
change. Participants are invited to sign a 'Climate Covenant'
promising to cut their own greenhouse gas emissions, and encouraged to
put pressure on the UK government and world leaders to do the same.
Churches are urged to sign up to green electricity, deriving from
renewable energy sources.
This year, as Christian Ecology link celebrates its 25th birthday, it
is important to acknowledge the key role it has played in raising
awareness about these issues, especially through its excellent website
(www.christian-ecology.org.uk). It has promoted Eco-Congregation and
Eco-Schools which start groups of with environmental audits and offer
plenty of positive ideas. Its LOAF principles -- urging people to buy
food that is Locally produced, Organically grown, Animal friendly and
Fairly traded -- have been taken up by members of the National Justice
and Peace Network. CAFOD, along with Progressio and Columban Faith and
Justice, is now part of the Working Group on Climate Change and
Development which has signed up to the Up in Smoke series of reports,
available on the web. Key recommendations include rich countries
cutting their greenhouse gas emissions and more support for community-
based coping strategies and disaster risk reduction. CAFOD is now in
the process of developing a Climate Change campaign and this is to be
welcomed. This year's Live Simply initiative is already playing its
part in sensitising people to how they use the natural world.
A number of Catholic theologians -- particularly those with a
creation- centred mission -- have been addressing climate change for
some years. Thomas Berry, Ed Echlin, and Sean McDonagh are amongst
them. In his new book on Climate Change and the Churches, Fr Sean
McDonagh complains that almost all Catholic Social Teaching overlooks
the fact that life-giving human social relations are always embedded
in vibrant and sustainable ecosystems. Anything that negatively
impacts ecosystems or alters the equilibrium of the biosphere, such as
global warming, is a disruption of the common good in a most
fundamental way -- especially if it creates negative irreversible
changes. The work of these theologians should be better known and
promoted, especially in seminaries.
Prophetic clergy in the South include Fr Jose Andres Tamayo, a
Honduran priest who campaigns against deforestation which is
contributing to a warming in his region. "Although Honduras makes a
minimal contribution towards climate change, our poor communities are
being impoverished by it" he told a G8 Climate Change meeting in
Edinburgh in July 2005. Average temperatures in the Southern area of
Honduras have increased by between 1.5 and 2.00 degrees over recent
decades and areas which had a mild climate have now become
desertified, with streams drying up. Fr Tamayo is the pioneering
leader of the Environmental Movement of Olancho, a coalition of small-
scale farmers and community leaders calling for a ten-year moratorium
on logging. Twenty-five percent of the greenhouse has emissions from
Honduras are from the burning of rainforests. His crucial work has led
to tensions with local authorities -- both secular and Church -- but
his prophetic stance is recognised internationally.
The National Justice and Peace Network of England and Wales and the
National Board of Catholic Women are amongst those groups within the
Church moving into new areas of work to address climate change. This
will mean taking on board the concept of inter-generational justice
and moving beyond anthropocentrism. It will also mean questioning what
true sustainable development really is, and valuing God's creation in
its totality. In addition, a willingness to comprehend a paradigm
shift in the way we live -- to live more simply. This generation
literally has Planet Earth in the palm of our hand. Let us take
measures now to nurture it and treat it gently, rather than throwing
Copyright Independent Catholic News 2007
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From: Wired Blog, May 14, 2007
BREAST CANCER, COMMON CHEMICALS AND CAUSE: BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY
By Brandon Keim
Nearly 100 chemicals found in everyday products -- pesticides,
cosmetics, gasoline and pharmaceuticals -- cause breast cancer in
animals, report researchers in the journal Cancer. Cutting back on the
use of those chemicals, they said, would likely reduce human breast
cancer. The disease is the leading killer of middle-aged American
Experts say that family history and genes are responsible for a small
percentage of breast cancer cases but that environmental or lifestyle
factors such as diet are probably involved in the vast majority.
"Overall, exposure to mammary gland carcinogens is widespread," the
researchers wrote in a special supplement to the journal Cancer.
"These compounds are widely detected in human tissues and in
environments, such as homes, where women spend time."
The researchers looked only at studies involving animals, and didn't
evaluate literature involving links between the chemicals and human
cancers. The results are a perfect reflection of the tension at the
center of chemical regulation:
Toxicologists say that other mammals, such as rats and mice, often
develop the same tumors as humans do, and that animal tests are
efficient means of testing the effects of chemicals. Environmental
regulators, however, often want conclusive human data before taking
The latter sentence ought to say "environmental regulators and
chemical manufacturers," as it's industry pressure that most
desperately wants chemicals pulled only when they pose a blatant,
obvious danger. But the problem with that mentality is that the
dangers of chemicals can be very hard to evaluate.
There are three levels of evidence relevant to this sort of debate:
biological, animal and epidemiology. At the first level, scientists
might add the chemical to a dish of human cells and observe what
happens. At the second level, scientists look at the effects of the
chemical on animals. At the level of epidemiology, scientists look at
large populations of people exposed to these chemicals, crunch the
numbers and look for patterns.
Epidemiology is what drives public health, and it's also the most
important level of evidence for regulators -- and there are times,
such as when fighting disease, that epidemiology is vital. But it does
have limitations. Trying to tease out whether a single chemical causes
cancer in people can be very difficult to do in a scientifically
Testing chemicals directly on people is, thankfully, not permitted
(though it's still done by some chemical manufacturers). Looking at
large populations is tricky because of all the confounding variables
-- and even if these can be controlled, tiny but important effects can
be easily. If users of a chemical have a .05% greater chance of
developing cancer than non-users, epidemiology won't likely link
cancer to the chemical -- but scale that effect up to hundreds of
millions of people, and the impact is profound. Multiply that by
perhaps dozens of similarly subtle carcinogens, and -- well -- you
might very well have a leading caause of death in women.
Does this mean that epidemiology should be thrown out the window? Of
course not. But it does mean that, when clear evidence of animal harm
exists, and the risk of removing a chemical from human products is
minimal -- has a PBDE ban sent Sweden up in flames? -- then the
precautionary principle ought to win. Except where they're absolutely
necessary, get these chemicals out of our lives.
See Marla Cone "Common chemicals are linked to breast cancer," Los
Angeles Times, May 14, 2007.
Wired Copyright 2007 CondeNet, Inc.
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From: Dominion Post (New Zealand), May 17, 2007
MAORI FISHING TRUST ATTACKS MINISTRY
By Nick Churchouse
Maori fishery group Te Ohu Kaimoana has accused the Fisheries Ministry
of misleading the Government and damaging the industry and Maori
The Maori fisheries trust, responsible for allocating Maori fisheries
settlements and the owner of New Zealand's largest Maori fisheries
company, Aotearoa Fisheries, has demanded the Government withdraw the
Fisheries Amendment Bill, which it says will erode Maori fisheries
Te Ohu Kaimoana director Ngahiwi Tomoana said papers released under
the Official Information Act showed ministry officials had covered up
bad advice by telling the Government to change the law so it would win
more court cases on fishery management decisions.
"It appears that instead of admitting to their minister that they got
it wrong, the ministry advised him that the Fisheries Act wasn't in
line with the internationally recognised precautionary principle, that
it was deficient and that it needed to be changed," he said.
The Fisheries Amendment Bill aims to redress the balance between
utilisation and sustainability when setting catch limits for fishermen
each year. Sustainability would be the leading concern when fish
population data was unclear.
Fisheries Minister Jim Anderton said the bill was a long-term plan.
"When the future of our valuable fisheries is at stake, for me, the
answer is simple. If we have uncertain information about a fish stock,
decision makers must act cautiously and make a decision that ensures
long-term sustainability," he said.
But Mr Tomoana said the new law was unnecessary, lacked consultation
and would generate more litigation.
The current legislation identified with the precautionary principle
but the new bill gave the minister power arbitrarily to restrict
fishing limits, he said.
That would marginalise the Maori allocation of New Zealand fisheries,
just as it would commercial interests, he said.
"Maori are continually dealing with ministry proposals that could
reduce the value of the Maori fisheries settlement -- supposedly all
in the name of sustainability," Mr Tomoana said.
Mr Anderton said that view was short-sighted.
Copyright Fairfax New Zealand Limited 2007
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From: Sea Turtle Restoration Project, Mar. 15, 2007
COURT STOPS TUNA FARM IN COSTA RICA
Violation of Precautionary Principle
San Jose, Costa Rica -- On May 9th, the Constitutional Court ordered
the suspension of execution of the project to install tuna farms
(Granjas Atuneras de Golfito S.A.) in Costa Rica's South Pacific
region, until the Technical Secretariat of the Environment (SETENA, a
branch of the Ministry of Environment in charge of approving EIAs) can
previously guarantee, and with reasonable certainty, that the
metabolic wastes produced by the fattening of tunas will not
contaminate the environment, particularly the Golfo Dulce (voto
SETENA must perform the technical studies to determine the direction
and movement of the currents and the effect of the metabolic wastes on
the Golfo Dulce, due to the contradictions in the technical
information provided by the company itself. The main doubt is, do the
currents have a dispersing effect over the metabolic wastes because
they are swift and they move away from the Golfo Dulce, as claimed by
officers of the company under oath, or are the currents slow and do
they move towards the Golfo Dulce, dragging the metabolic wastes with
them, as affirmed by the company's Environmental Impact Assessment?
"We are satisfied, especially with the application of the
precautionary principle", expressed Peter Aspinal, of the Tiskita
Foundation. "Just as we have been warning, the risk posed by the
massive generation of metabolic wastes and other contaminants, product
of the industrial fattening of tunas, is too high to be taken lightly,
and the contradictions show that that is precisely what the
authorities did when they approved this project", explained Aspinal.
The order is the result of the Constitutional Lawsuit (06-008255-0007-
CO) filed by PRETOMA and the Association of Neighbors of Punta Banco,
against the Director of the Department of Waters of the Ministry of
Environment MINAE, the Executive President of INCOPESCA and the
SETENA, for approving the project without a previous popular
consultation and without considering the precautionary principle.
An amalgam of organizations of the civil society joined in opposition
to the project, including Foundation Vida Marina, Tiskita Foundation,
the Association of Guaymi Indigenous Representatives, the Association
of Fishermen of Pavones, the Association of Fishermen of Zancudo, the
Municipality of Golfito, and numerous neighbors of Pavones, Puerto
Jimenez and Golfito. The area's economy is based on low impact
ecotourism, and there is a generalized concern that the operation of
the tuna farms would not only threaten its scenic beauty, but its
ecological integrity as well.
According to Denise Echeverria, of the Foundation Vida Marina, the
decision of the Court sets an extremely important precedent in light
of the accelerated development currently occurring in Costa Rica's
South Pacific region. "There are other coastal development threats
that could have equally devastating effects, or worse", warned
Echeverria. "Due to the Golfo Dulce's condition as tropical fjord, its
delicate ecosystem and the marine biodiversity it hosts are extremely
susceptible to environmental alterations produced by coastal
infrastructure, such as tuna farms, piers, wave breakers, marinas,
hotels and condominiums, because of which they must be carefully
controlled under a precautionary regime".
Other that the impact on the coastal environment, the sea turtles and
the cetaceans, concerns exist stemming from the impact of the tuna
farms on wild populations of yellow fin tuna, currently depleted by
over fishing. "