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March 21st, 2014

Grassroots v. Gasroots

By Mark Schlosberg Join the Movement to Ban Fracking

The movement against fracking is growing more powerful by the day. And in communities and states across the country – from Colorado to New York, Pennsylvania to California – grassroots activism and organizing is leading to real change. So it doesn’t surprise us that Big Oil and Gas corporations are engaging in their own special brand of “grassroots” organizing. We’re calling it “gasroots” organizing. Read the full article…

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Five Ways You Can Make a Splash On World Water Day

By Katherine Cirullo

Water is life. Water is also a limited resource that’s under high demand. Here at Food & Water Watch, we’re fighting a global battle to protect the right to safe, clean, affordable water for everyone now, and for years to come. It’s a battle that we care deeply about and it pervades many of the issues we work on. That’s why tomorrow, on World Water Day, we’re inviting you to dive in and join us in the fight to promote sustainable water management, protect the human right to water and prevent the impending global water crisis. Here are five ways you can take action on World Water Day.

1. Add these two inspirational gems to your spring reading list: Blue Future and Ogallala Road. These profound, yet comprehensive books offer unique perspectives on the past and future of the water crisis:

Blue Future: Protecting Water For People and the Planet Forever by internationally best-selling author and Food & Water Watch Board Chair, Maude Barlow, exposes the handful of corporate players whose greed is impeding the human right to water. The latest in Barlow’s best-selling series, Blue Future lays out the obstacles ahead in this looming water crisis, as well as the many victories that have been won by communities in the fight to protect their right to water.

Ogallala Road: A Memoir of Love and Reckoning by Julene Bair is a powerful personal history of her family’s western Kansas farm located on the Ogallala Aquifer. In the narrative, Bair reveals the struggles she grappled with when watching her family switch from dry-land farming to unsustainable irrigation. The story is a telling glimpse into one aspect of the world’s water saga. Visit her website for book events and appearances.

2. Encourage your classmates to kick the bottled water habit and to take back the tap! Be the force of change on your college campus by joining this year’s Tap-A-Palooza contest: Read the full article…

How to Disappoint 1.9 Million Citizens in a Few Minutes

By David Sánchez

For one moment, imagine that you are the Vice President of the European Commission. Citizens all around Europe have collected signatures demanding you to recognize the Human Right to Water and Sanitation in the European Union. This first ever European Citizen’s Initiative to be successful gained support from 1.9 million people. You had three months to discuss with your colleagues what to do about it. You start the press conference, smile to the cameras and speak for a few minutes. You announce that you say yes to the petition but you are aware that you are offering nothing. Finally, you leave the room.

Now imagine that the multinational company that manages water in your city cut off your water supply because you can’t afford to pay the bills. Or imagine that your municipal water supply is about to be privatized. Or maybe you were even involved in the signature collection and invested a lot of your time and efforts on it.

How would you feel in each situation? March 22nd is World Water Day, a good moment to reflect about the huge gap created this week between the announcement of the European Commission and the expectancies of 1.9 million European citizens on the right to water.

But, what is a European Citizen’s Initiative?

The European Citizen’s Initiative is a new democratic tool that tries to allow EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies by calling on the European Commission to make a legislative proposal. You “just” need to collect one million signatures coming from at least 7 member states, following a really complicated set of rules and procedures.

And the Right to Water Initiative did it. Nearly 1.9 million signatures were collected with three basic demands: the legal requirement by EU institutions and Member States to ensure that all inhabitants enjoy the right to water and sanitation, a commitment that water supply and management will not be privatized and a commitment to increase EU efforts to achieve universal access to water and sanitation. These were three clear demands that had nearly no echo in the Commission’s answer.

The European Commission acknowledged the importance of the Human Right to Water and Sanitation and confirmed water as a public good. Which is good, but just words. They didn’t propose any legislation to recognize this right, just a compilation of already ongoing actions plus the announcement of a public consultation on the drinking water directive whose outcomes will not be binding. On the positive side, they committed to promote universal access to water and sanitation in its development policies, including the promotion of public-public partnerships. And that’s a step in the right direction.

But citizens had asked to exclude water and sanitation from what they call “internal market rules,” that is, privatization and liberalization. And the Commission did nothing. Water was excluded temporally, due to strong public opposition, from the last internal market legislation. But the Commission didn’t explicitly exclude these services from the ongoing trade negotiations, such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP or TAFTA) with the U.S. or the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) with Canada.

The European Water Movement, of which Food & Water Europe is part, stated it quite clearly: this decision implies a bad precedent for this new mechanism of public participation.

Water privatization is still a very concrete menace in many European countries, with the European Commission itself one of the main drivers. As part of the Troika (the tripartite committee composed by the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund), they are pushing for water privatization in Greece and Portugal, while evidence from public auditing bodies confirms that privatization is detrimental both for local authorities and ordinary citizens. And the reality on the ground shows that when families can’t afford to pay their bills, they are being deprived of access to water by private companies, as happened recently in Jerez, Spain.

Citizens are mobilizing across Europe. Millions of Italians voted against water privatization and local referendums took place in major cities like Madrid and Berlin. Right now citizens of Alcazar de San Juan, Spain, are voting on a popular referendum about the privatization of their water supply. Thessaloniki, in Greece, will vote on May 18. And other cities, like Puerto de Santa Maria, also in Spain, are now mobilized for the same reasons.

Water should be a commons, not a commodity. We must close the gap between citizen’s expectations and EU decisions. We need to keep reminding our politicians of the importance of the right to water before the elections for the European Parliament. And we need to keep it in mind also in the World Water Day.

March 20th, 2014

USDA: Start Telling the Truth About Inspector Shortages

By Tony Corbo

Tony Corbo, Senior Food Lobbyist

Yesterday afternoon, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued a blog written Aaron Lavallee in the public affairs office, who challenged assertions made by Food & Water Watch (that were subsequently printed in the New York Times last month) that inspector shortages were leading to problems for the agency’s inspection program.

On February 10, Food & Water Watch sent a letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack expressing concerns that inspector shortages were causing severe strains on the inspection program, pointing out that these shortages seemed to be related to the policy that FSIS adopted in 2012 to hire “temporary Inspectors” instead of permanent inspectors in anticipation of implementing a privatized poultry inspection system that would lead to the elimination of 800 permanent inspector positions. The temporary inspector hiring program has been less than successful as the agency has not been able to attract enough applicants to take the jobs. So, with open permanent inspector positions remaining vacant and no temporary inspectors to fill them, inspector shortages have developed all across the country.

Read the full article…

March 14th, 2014

Three Big Holes in New GMO Report, and a Bigger Question

By Eve Mitchell

Today’s report trumpeting the need to force more food with GMO’s into the UK is as flawed as it is predictable. Here’s my handy guide to spotting the problems:

1. GM* researchers want more GM
Now there’s a surprise. GM cheerleaders in the front line today are Jonathan Jones (whose lab receives millions from the biotech industry), David Baulcombe (a “consultant for Syngenta”), Jim Dunwell (a founder of GM lobby group CropGen who claimed on the radio this morning to have “no stake” in the technology), and a handful of others dependent on the GM bandwagon for their livelihood, many of whom hold (or are part of outfits that own) patents on GM technologies. Shouldn’t those advising the Government be a bit more independent, or at least a little more distant from the profits? Read the full article…

March 13th, 2014

The Bluegrass Pipeline: A Bad Deal From Beginning to End

By Alison Auciello

With the rise in fracking for shale gas, so too comes a rise in pipelines and other infrastructure used to get the product to market. One such pipeline, the Bluegrass Pipeline, is proposed to cut a swath through 15 counties in my home state of Ohio, and it’s a bad deal. 

The pipeline would carry natural gas liquids (NGLs), a variable and hazardous mix of ethane, propane, butane and more, as opposed to the natural gas, which is composed mostly of methane, and used to heat homes. All of it comes from fracking, and it’s clear that the plan is to drill and frack much of the state, only to ship the product to the highest bidder overseas. Proposed to originate in the northeastern United States the pipeline would run through Ohio and Kentucky, where it would then connect with an existing pipeline that goes all the way down to the Gulf of Mexico, targeting export and petrochemical markets.

The project, a joint venture of Williams Company and Boardwalk, is also hinging on three facilities proposed for construction at the end point – a storage facility, a plant to separate all the different NGLs and an export facility.  
  Read the full article…

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March 12th, 2014

Why I Came to Work for Food & Water Europe

 

Welcome David!

There is a battle brewing over who owns water. Stay informed about what Food & Water Europe is doing to keep our water safe, affordable and sustainable.

By David Sánchez

Hi there! My name is David Sánchez and I am the new campaign officer at Food & Water Europe here in Brussels. I have already been around for one month, so I guess it is time for me to introduce myself.

My main task will be to work, together with local grassroots movements, for safe, accessible, sustainable public water in the EU. I will also be looking at sustainable food and one of the main threats we are facing, the negotiations for a new EU-US free trade agreement (known as TTIP or TAFTA).

And what is a Spanish guy like me doing in Brussels, “the heart of the beast”? That’s what I wonder when I cycle under the rain (that is, quite often) on my way to the office. I have been interested in nature since I was a kid, so I decided to study environmental sciences at Madrid University. That was at the time when the debate around GMOs was in turmoil, and names like Monsanto where all over the place. Companies patenting life, and releasing risky genetically modified organisms in the environment and our food really led me to environmental activism. After that, I got a Masters degree in Ecology in a Portuguese university, researching the impacts of pollutants like glyphosate (Monsanto again!) on freshwater ecosystems, and then I spent some years working on environmental education.

Then I found myself with the amazing opportunity to coordinate national food and farming campaigns at an environmental NGO. I spent several years campaigning against agrofuels, factory farming and GMOs in Spain, the only country in the EU that grows them on a large scale, working side by side with farmers and consumers against corporate power and for food sovereignty.

Suddenly one day you wake up and, without even noticing it, you are cycling under the rain in Brussels, and you can feel all around you the power and the influence of the army of lobbyist working for transnational companies. Under many different names, you can watch Monsanto, Syngenta, Suez or Veolia maneuvering to increase their profits, while taking away public control over our food and water systems.

One of the main reasons I love Food & Water Europe is because we try to link the grassroots with the EU level. When you are campaigning on the ground, pushing to declare your town as a GM-free area or trying to stop the privatization of your municipal water supply, it is not that easy to connect your struggle with those lobbyists that meet in Brussels. But most of the environmental and consumer protection legislation in Europe is nowadays decided or promoted here.

People fighting in the streets of Spain, Greece or France against water privatization must have their voice heard in Brussels. And shaping EU legislation will help developing the public, democratic and participatory models we want to build.

But don’t leave us alone here under the rain! We need you to connect the dots between the daily local fights and the heart of the beast. I am sure that together we can push for a change in the way water and food are managed in Europe (and globally).

You can contact me at dsanchez(at)fweurope(dot)org. Sign up to stay informed about the work of Food & Water Europe.

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The Weakest Link: Problems and Perils of Linking Carbon Markets

pollution tradingBy Elizabeth Nussbaumer

Using carbon markets to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is nothing new and hardly effective. However, despite the absence of significant emissions reductions from cap-and-trade initiatives and the all-but-complete collapse of the European Union Emissions Trading System (EU ETS), supporters of carbon markets now want to begin linking markets together.

This idea is backed by claims that doing so will increase economic efficiency and allow emissions reductions to happen at a lower cost, but combining many broken pieces does not make an effective whole. In reality, linking provides a way to allow pollution at the lowest cost to polluters.

In January, California and Quebec officially linked their carbon markets. The reasoning behind linking argues that it will allow polluters to purchase emissions reductions credits at the lowest price ­­­— if credits cost less in Quebec, polluters in California can purchase credits on Quebec’s market, ultimately making polluting more affordable. Read the full article…

March 11th, 2014

A Secret Trade Deal is Threatening Our Safety

 

Click here to take action.

By Jim Walsh

Don’t feel bad if you’re not familiar with the Trans-Pacific Partnership. This controversial trade deal has been negotiated mostly behind closed doors, and the text of the agreement was only recently made available to Congress. Even now that the text is available, members of Congress still have to jump through a few hoops to gain access. Over 600 multinational corporations have been made “special advisors” for the purpose of assisting our trade representatives draft the deal, and everything we know about the contents of the TPP is from leaks.

Inside the trade deal, known as the TPP, is a provision that will allow companies to challenge — as illegal trade barriers — any government policies that purportedly infringe on corporate profits.  In short, a corporation could sue federal, state and local governments if it believes that a law or regulation will negatively impact its bottom line. This is scary in all sorts of ways.

Companies could challenge local laws that prohibit or delay the environmentally dangerous practice of hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) for natural gas. Already a company incorporated in Delaware is challenging Quebec’s fracking moratorium under a similar investment provision under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Read the full article…

Caught Between a Watershed and a Marketplace

By Fred Tutman, Patuxent Riverkeeper

For the life of me I cannot understand why anybody serious about reducing or stopping the degradation of our nation’s waters would consider that trading pollution is a realistic way to do so. So far, the only regulated interests that have expressed interest in trading pollution on my local river are those that cannot meet their current pollution caps, and so they would like to simply pay more money to keep on polluting. While some refer to it as cap-and-trade, we’d be more accurate calling it trade-and-pay.

In a variation of the same approach, there are a few such interests that have managed to acquire surplus capacity to discharge into a waterway and so they hope to get paid to sell their surplus capacity to somebody else who can use it. For the years I have been sounding the alarm about the evils of trading, at least some environmentalists have argued that it is pointless to oppose this because the “train has already left the station.” But, isn’t the point to reduce pollution, not make sure everybody pollutes up to their regulated limits?

Even if the math and the concept of market incentives like trading somehow make sense to you in the context of conservation, then how about moral problems? How does it square with basic fairness that somebody can pollute in one place and then compensate for it elsewhere with cash? The answer is that it is outrageous, and deferring pollution onto others is a recipe for fundamental injustice. Consequently, those with the most attractive “marketplaces” will get the very best environmental quality money can buy. Everyone else will get only trades as the gap between environmental haves and have-nots will just get wider. Read the full article…

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