Scientists at the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide use Google Earth to “ground truth” environmentally destructive proposals across the world, writes Camilla Mortensen in today’s Eugene Weekly.

“Sitting in front of his computer at ELAW’s offices in Eugene, staff scientist Mark Chernaik uses Google Earth to swoop in on proposed hydropower projects in Veracruz, Mexico; a hazardous waste facility in Gujarat, India; a levy in Jamaica and myriad other ecologically problematic proposals all over the world.

“Chernaik, fellow staff scientist Heidi W. Weiskel and environmental research scientist Graciela Mercedes Lu all have stories of environmental impact assessments (EIAs) that attempt to gloss over just how much damage a project might do. Ground truth in the environmental sense is using data and observations from the field to prove or disprove claims about a project…

“In a typical case, Lu says, a developer will claim a mine proposal or a development is in “degraded” forest, and then ELAW uses Google Earth’s detailed images to reveal that in fact the land is not degraded at all…”

Read more about how ELAW has used Google tools in Mexico, India, Honduras, and the Philippines to tour proposed development sites, provide environmental analysis, and win victories for communities without costly travel associated with greenhouse gas emissions:

Eugene Weekly, October 16, 2014
Google Environment: Using technology to save the Earth

ELAW Advocate
Google Earth for Justice

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
@keenanmaggie

the law of energy for sustainable development

EPL’s symposium was held in honor of EPL founder Svitlana Kravchenko

ELAW partners at Environment-People-Law say clean, green, energy independence will protect Ukrainians and fragile resources while boosting national security.  Energy was featured at EPL’s international symposium in Lviv last month: “Human Rights and Environment in a New Ukraine.

Ukraine has been identified as one of the world’s most energy inefficient countries and relies on imports to meet its energy needs.

“We depend on natural gas, coal, and uranium, and import about 40% of our fuel to meet our needs,” says Olena Kravchenko, EPL Executive Director. “Moving beyond fossil fuels should help reduce conflict in eastern Ukraine and will help us build a more sustainable new Ukraine.”

ELAW Staff Attorney Jennifer Gleason gave a presentation at the symposium: “Energy Independence for Ukraine.”  Jen teaches energy law at the University of Oregon School of Law and has worked with ELAW partners around the world to advance green energy.  EPL has called on Jen to help craft a sustainable energy plan for Ukraine.

“I arrived in Ukraine from Germany where our partners at UfU had hosted the 2014 ELAW Annual Meeting,” says Jen.  “Sound policies have helped Germany surpass its goals for obtaining energy from sustainable sources. We are eager to help EPL draw on this experience. The key will be getting citizens to engage in improving energy efficiency. “

We will keep you informed of ELAW’s work answering EPL’s call for help to reduce Ukraine’s dependence on energy imports, while improving energy efficiency and promoting generation of electricity from sustainable sources.

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
@keenanmaggie

Related news:
Status of Crimea’s Natural Reserves Uncertain

Kart Varmaari, Estonia

Kart Varmaari, Estonia

More than 70 advocates from 38 countries converged in Berlin by train and plane two weeks ago for the ELAW International Annual Meeting, hosted by the Independent Institute for Environmental Concerns (UfU), our German partner organization.  We rolled our suitcases over cobblestone sidewalks, indulged in warm rolls and cheese and chocolate, renewed friendships, and worked hard.

UfU, ELAW and the Heinrich Böll Foundation co-hosted a conference on “Legal Remedies for Resource Extraction,” with a rich agenda populated by ELAW partners from around the world and a handful of other experts.  Twenty concurrent “Speakers’ Corners” examined diverse topics.  See:   Conference Agenda

JingJing Zhang, Rugemeleza Nshala, Simon Amaduabogha in Feldheim

Tuesday and Wednesday ELAW network members hunkered down to the business of information exchange and trainings.  We worked on “Defending the Defenders,” – what we can do as a network about the rising threats and danger that environmental defenders are facing.  We worked on strategic litigation and creative lawyering outside the courtroom, challenging nuclear power, and the human right to water, among other topics.

Thursday we learned from Green Party representative Bärbel Höhn about Germany’s energy transition.  And Friday we had a hands-on tour of Feldheim, a small community that has successfully made the transition – producing 100% of its energy from renewable sources.  A corollary benefit of Feldheim’s transition is the 0% unemployment rate for its residents.

Germany is a leader in taking on our global climate challenge – their ambitious targets and investments in renewable energy are driving down prices of production for the rest of the world.  We return exhausted, inspired, renewed, determined and full of gratitude for our German hosts.  Thanks, UfU!

Lori Maddox
Associate Director

ELAW is helping lawyers around the world protect communities and the environment, and they need help from scientists. Heidi Weiskel, a marine ecologist and ELAW Staff Scientist since 2012, says:

Scientists help communities understand how a development impacts the local ecology and help lawyers articulate these impacts in court.”

Scientist in Action: Glenn Miller (center)
and ELAW partners Aresio Valiente (left) and
Tania Arosemena (right) in Panama, July 2014

Heidi was joined by ELAW board member Glenn Miller and ELAW partner Fernando Ochoa at the Ecological Society of America’s Annual Meeting, to help ecologists learn how they can use their expertise outside traditional academic research.

Glenn is a professor and mining expert at the University of Nevada at Reno. Fernando is an attorney and founder of Environmental Defense Northwest.

Introducing the work of ELAW to ESA builds bridges between these experts and the communities that need scientific analysis,” says Heidi.

Heidi and ELAW Staff Scientists Mark Chernaik and Meche Lu work with Glenn and several other pro bono scientists who share their expertise with hundreds of ELAW partners around the world.

Many thanks to Glenn and all of ELAW’s pro bono scientists who help bring scientific truth to environmental challenges.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

CEMDA logoCongratulations to ELAW advocate Alejandra Serrano and her team at the Mexican Environmental Law Center for their work defending communities and Mexico’s Riviera Maya!

ABC News reports:

“Mexican environmental authorities have levied a $555,000 fine against a project to build a massive trade center south of Cancun to showcase Chinese products. The Attorney General for Environmental Protection said late Thursday the fine was for building roads through wetlands and affecting coastal ecosystems without authorization.”

“The communities are saying enough is enough with out-sized development on the coast,” says Alejandra.  “This fine is a good first step. Our case is pending and we hope the Ministry of Environment will apply the new law of environmental responsibility and follow up on the criminal acts exposed in this case.”

Last year, ELAW Staff Scientist Meche Lu reviewed the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and revealed that the EIA lacked information about the scope and size of the project, the location of coastal wetlands within the project area, the impact of paving on the water quality of coastal wetlands, and more.

For more information, see:

We will keep you informed of our progress protecting the Yucatán Peninsula. Thanks for your interest!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Status of Crimea’s Natural Reserves Uncertain

Eugene, OR, August 20, 2014 — Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide partners in Ukraine are concerned about the fate of protected natural areas in Crimea.  “The status of Charivna Havan National Park, Yalta Mountain Forest Reserve, Cape Martyan Reserve, and three other natural reserves are uncertain,” says Olena Kravchenko, Executive Director of Environment-People-Law, based in Lviv, Ukraine.

Olena explains:

EPL

“The situation is complicated.  These are lands owned by Ukraine, which has the right and obligation to protect them, but we keep receiving reports that rich Russians are turning parts of these parks and reserves into private estates.  However, there is no possibility to handle these territories properly at present because of Russia’s illegal occupation of Crimea.”

Olena and her staff at EPL have worked for years to protect the environment through law in Ukraine.  EPL was founded by the late Professor Svitlana Kravchenko, a world expert on human rights and the environment.  EPL has a staff of 13.

While worried about the situation in Crimea, EPL recently celebrated a court order returning to public use similar state-owned, protected lands near Kyiv that the country’s ex-President Viktor Yanukovych had closed off for his private hunting.

“This is one of the first decisions in Ukraine that returns illegally expropriated state property to the public,” says Olena.  “Recreation areas must be accessible by the public and not passed to private hands.”

For more information, contact:

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide
maggie[at]elaw.org
@keenanmaggie

Have you heard the news? The Nicaraguan government has revealed the route for a canal it plans to build across the country with help from a Hong Kong-based company.

The proposed canal would stretch 173 miles, about three times the length of the Panama Canal.  It would originate at Punta Gorda in the Caribbean, pass through Lake Nicaragua, and end at Brito, a port on the Pacific Ocean.

Nicaragua workshopELAW partner Lottie Cunningham Wren is a Miskito attorney from Nicaragua who has worked for decades to defend the land rights of indigenous people .

“I am concerned about the impact the canal will have on indigenous communities,” says Lottie, who has called on ELAW for help.

New laws have severely limited public participation in the decision making process and may allow the project to bypass environmental reviews.

For more information, please see the following:

New York Times
Nicaragua Approves Building Its Own Canal

BBC
Nicaragua canal route: Atlantic-Pacific link unveiled

National Geographic
Nicaraguan Canal Could Wreck Environment, Scientists Say

We will keep you posted on our work with Lottie. Many thanks for your interest!

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

Last weekend, Live Mint & Wall Street Journal celebrated the work of three ELAW partners — Norma and Claude Alvares at the Goa Foundation and Ritwick Dutta at the Legal Initiative for Forest and Environment (LIFE). This dynamic trio and other inspired advocates in India co-hosted our 2012 ELAW Annual Meeting.

Claude and Norma Alvares

PHOTO: Live Mint & Wall Street Journal

Here are some excerpts:

Norma Alvares & Claude Alvares: The power of two
This duo is one of the foremost reasons Goa retains its charm and a good measure of its environmental heritage.

“The serenity in this partnership — quite evident to anyone who visits the couple’s relaxed, hospitable home in the north Goa village of Parra — is the cornerstone of an extraordinary record of ferocious battles and activism that is one of the foremost reasons India’s smallest state still retains considerable charm and a good measure of its environmental heritage.”

 

 

Ritwick Dutta

PHOTO: Live Mint & Wall Street Journal

Ritwick Dutta: The case for our forests
The 40-year-old lawyer has taken the battle for the environment to the courtroom with more than 350 cases.

“Dutta dismisses the argument that green laws and environmental activism are hurdles to growth. ‘That’s a myth that is being perpetuated. Virtually all projects –over 95% — are cleared; every day over 330 acres of forest land is diverted in India,’ he says. The cases that come for legal challenge are less than 1% of those approved… What drives Dutta is his determination to protect the last remaining natural wild habitats, and what he calls ‘environmental democracy, a process to arm communities with knowledge, and to give them a voice in projects which impact their lives and livelihood.'”

We are inspired by the work of Norma, Claude, and Ritwick, and hope you are too!

All the best,

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

Proposed large-scale mining is raising concerns among residents of remote communities in Ecuador.  Copper mining is underway, new mines are proposed, and citizens fear their voices will not be heard.

Workshop participants.

“They lack information they can trust,” says Meche Lu, ELAW Staff Scientist, “They need information and they want to participate in the decision-making processes.”

Earlier this month, Meche traveled to remote regions of Ecuador to participate in workshops for community leaders and residents seeking information about the real impacts of mining and how to review Environmental Impact Assessments for proposed projects.

“Large scale metal mining is proposed in areas with high rainfall and rugged terrain,” says Meche. “This poses substantial risk of soil erosion, water pollution, and acid mine drainage.  The biggest local concern is acid mine drainage.”

Mining operations are proposed for Ecuador’s sub-tropical Andes in fragile ecosystems such as the Cotacachi Cayapas Ecological Reserve, home to the endangered spectacled bear and jaguar. Subsistence farmers and indigenous peoples here support themselves growing coffee, fruit, and sugarcane. They have been fighting gold and copper mining for years.

ELAW is pleased to work with local partners at ECOLEX to help the people of Ecuador understand their legal rights and make their voices heard about short-sighted mining projects.

We will keep you informed of our progress!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

Mangroves play a critical role buffering coastal communities against flooding and storms and provide habitat for thousands of species of birds and marine animals.  Recent evidence suggests that mangroves sequester carbon very effectively and healthy mangroves could help protect our climate.

Unfortunately, humans are destroying huge areas of mangroves and if we do not take action they may be functionally extinct by the turn of the century.

 

I am pleased to report on a new resource for protecting mangroves:

ELAW Mangrove Science Database.

Dr.  Heidi Weiskel, ELAW Staff Scientist, worked closely with David Pugh, ELAW Web Designer, to ensure that key research on mangroves, published by more than 75 scientists, is included in this comprehensive resource for citizens worldwide.

We have summarized each scientific study in our Mangrove Science Database in English and Spanish.  We have plotted research on specific mangrove forests on a world map.  As new studies are completed, we will add them to the database.  Our user-friendly tool will help communities and grassroots advocates around the world make the case to protect mangroves.  I encourage you to visit the ELAW Mangrove Science Database and share it with your colleagues.

Thank you!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director

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