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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

slp-smileI think you will enjoy reading a recent op-ed by ELAW Board Member Scott Pope, CFP, regarding the University of Oregon students’ vote for the UO Foundation to divest its fossil fuel stocks. In the Eugene Weekly, Scott writes:

The UO Foundation has a choice to be a leader, to be ahead of the curve and to be proactive. In the investment world it is often easier and more cost effective to be ahead of change and be relevant. The UO Foundation should applaud the divestment vote by the students and foster a thoughtful, transparent debate about how the UO can best help move us away from fossil fuels…. In coming years, these students will feel the worst impacts of the damage we are doing our climate now, and we owe it to them, and future generations, to begin moving away from fossil fuels. We need to act now.

Read Scott’s piece here.

All of us at ELAW applaud Scott’s leadership on this issue.

Bern Johnson
Executive Director

ELAW partners are speaking out for clean air, clean water, and a healthy planet. Enjoy some recent press clips featuring our partners in Tanzania, India, and Israel.

Photo: Mark Boulton, ICCE

Tanzania:  Daily News

Go for big poachers too

January 2, 2014 — Tanzania’s anti-poaching “Operation Tokomeza” was suspended following reports of rampant human rights abuses. ELAW partner Rugemeleza Nshala says the operation targeted “small fish.”  Rugemeleza says “we need to identify and stop the heavyweights behind the illicit trade.”

India:  The Economic Times

Environment lawyer Ritwick Dutta’s moves have India Inc see red

December 23, 2013 — Ritwick Dutta fought his first case at the age of 28 against Vedanta, representing the Dongria Kondh tribals of Niyamgiri, who wanted to stop the London-listed giant from mining bauxite. Dutta fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court, which then asked Vedanta to get approval from the tribals to start mining. The tribals rejected the request, and the hills remain untouched. “Virtually 330 acres of forest land is diverted every day in India, according to the ministry of environment,” says Dutta. “I don’t think these fights have stopped India from progressing.”

Israel:  The Jerusalem Post

State proposes legal framework for complete alteration of national policy on coastal waters

December 18, 2013 — The Justice Ministry unveiled a draft bill that will restructure the laws governing Israel’s coastal waters. While praising the Justice Ministry’s decision to issue a bill, Adam Teva V’Din (Israel Union for Environmental Defense) cited several flaws within its text that could allow for an “environmental disaster” to occur in waters that the organization describes as the “Wild West.”

Thank you for your interest!

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director & Fellows Program Coordinator

Things are quiet a2013Coverround the office since we said goodbye to 40 ELAW partners from 27 countries. These environmental heroes came to Oregon late last month for the 2013 ELAW Annual Meeting and the 31st Annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference.

Before he flew home, longtime partner Kenneth Kakuru from Uganda said, “This is a pilgrimage. I come to renew my zeal!”

We traveled to a conference site in Blue River and built foundations for lasting collaboration using law, science, and economics to protect communities and the environment.Thuli on cover of Weekly

We explored old growth forests, learned about local efforts to defend ecosystems, and cooked great meals together.

Many colleagues met face-to-face for the first time, including Goldman Prize winners Thuli Makama from Swaziland and Ikal Angelei from Kenya.

Enjoy profiles of the international partners who attended our annual gathering and a cover story in the Eugene Weekly, “Fighting for Africa.”

Maggie Keenan
Communications Director &
Fellows Program Coordinator

Mangroves in Belize

The Mesoamerican Reef is shared by Mexico, Belize, Guatemala, and Honduras.  ELAW  is working with grassroots advocates in each of these countries on a coordinated effort to protect marine resources.

“Our partners in Belize and Guatemala are on the verge of permanently protecting hundreds of square miles of important marine habitat,” says Lori Maddox, ELAW Associate Director. “Their good work is creating a linked chain of diverse, biological storehouses that will help revitalize a dying fishery and sustain the flow of tourist dollars to the entire region.”

Lori and ELAW Staff Scientist Heidi Weiskel traveled to Belize this month for a workshop with partners to advance this initiative.

Read about their visit in Ambergris Today, a Belize newspaper.

Maggie Keenan
ELAW Communications Director

Last week, ELAW Executive Director Bern Johnson was interviewed on Jefferson Public Radio. Bern and host Geoffrey Riley talked about Judge Coffin’s recent ruling that Chevron has made “unduly burdensome” demands for information from ELAW. This order comes in connection with a lawsuit in Ecuador seeking justice for communities suffering the effects of oil pollution in the Ecuadorian Amazon.

You may listen to the interview here.

Michele Kuhnle
Donor Liaison

CNN "Green Pioneer" Rizwana Hasan

ELAW partner Rizwana Hasan was featured on CNN recently in a segment entitled “Green Pioneer:  Hidden shame of ship-breaking industry.”  The story highlights Rizwana’s work protecting the human rights of the ship-breakers in her native Bangladesh.  This work led ELAW to nominate Rizwana for the prestigious Goldman Prize, which she won in 2009.

“STORY HIGHLIGHTS” from the CNN website:

  • Each year hundreds of ships are taken to Chittagong, Bangladesh, to be broken up
  • Men armed with hammers and cutters strip the ships for scrap metal
  • Rizwana Hasan works to expose risks to workers, the environment
  • Critics accuse her of wanting to shut down an important source of jobs

Reporter Camilla Mortensen’s cover story in today’s Eugene Weekly describes the history of the challenges that Haiti faces and the work that ELAW Fellow Jean André Victor has been doing and will continue to do after he finishes his fellowship here in Eugene.  And not only that — ELAW’s fabulous intern Chu “Cassie” Chen was featured in this week’s “Happening People!

Here’s an excerpt from the cover story:

“For more than 20 years, Jean André Victor worked as an agronomist in Haiti, trying to solve the riddle of how to fix the centuries of environmental degradation and poverty that has kept Haiti from developing a self sustaining economy and food supply.  But, ‘the main problem is that you can’t solve the degradation of Haiti with projects,’ says Victor.

This spring, at the age of 68, Victor came to Eugene to discuss law and policy with scientists and other attorneys, write the first textbook on environmental law in Haiti and learn English at the University of Oregon’s American English Institute.  He came through the help of the Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide….

He will return to Haiti this summer – a country that was struggling even before the devastating January earthquake that killed thousands of Haitians, including Victor’s mother – and try to change his country from within.”  Read the whole story here.

We are inspired by all that Jean André has endured and all he does!  And we are delighted that everybody else now knows what a happenin’ person Cassie is!

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