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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 218
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Wed Oct 01, 2008 1:53 pm    Post subject: ENVIRONMENT & ECONOMICS Reply with quote

Sustainable lifestyles are becoming increasingly important as we feel the effects of environmental problems such as climate change and resources become depleted (eg. oil). Concepts such as ‘sustainable development’ and the ‘Precautionary Principle’ are aimed at providing guidance on which to base human activities.

According to the Brundtland Report ‘Our Common Future’ published by the World Commission on Environment and Development (WCED) in 1987 ‘sustainable development’ is described as ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs… .’

The Declaration on Environment & Development, Rio de Janeiro, 1992 – Article 15, The Precautionary Principle states that: ‘In order to protect the environment the precautionary approach shall be widely applied by states according to their capabilities. Where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing cost effective measures to prevent environmental degradation.’

But what are the implications for economic activity?

Do ‘measures to prevent environmental degradation’ include laws? If so what laws?

What does sustainability mean for each of us as individuals – do we need to change our lifestyles? If so in what ways and is that possible?

Your comments, thoughts and ideas are most welcome on this subject.
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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 218
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Fri Dec 05, 2008 3:24 pm    Post subject: POSITIVE NEWS: Ecuador votes for legal rights for Nature Reply with quote

Ecuador’s Historic Vote: Nature Gets Legal Rights

Positive News is running an article on Ecuador’s recent referendum granting Nature rights:


‘Approximately two-thirds of Ecuador’s population voted ‘yes’ this Autumn, in a historic, national referendum – a result that reflects the vast majority’s hopeful expectation of political change. By an overwhelming margin, the Ecuadorians backed their president, Rafael Correa, in voting for a new progressive constitution – the first in the world to grant Nature the same inalienable rights as human beings.’

“We are still on time for our laws to recognise the right of a river to flow and to prohibit actions that will destabilise the Earth’s climate...” said Mr Acosta. “It is time to stop the mad commodification of Nature, as it was in previous years, time to prohibit the buying and selling of human beings.”

By Becky Daniel, Positive News, Winter 2008


The full article can be found at:
http://www.positivenews.org.uk/artman/publish/article_1963.shtml

This is an historic achievement for the protection of nature. Your comments are welcome. If you know of any other such initiatives please add them to this topic.
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Steve Carney



Joined: 10 Oct 2008
Posts: 10
Location: York, Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: Thu Feb 05, 2009 10:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Can I use the forum to test out an idea which I am currently engaged in implementing? It would be useful to hear the views of the members of the group who are a perhaps a bit more versed in the details of LTV and money supply problems.

We are trying to build a community wind farm in South Yorkshire. The model is markedly different to other community windfarms in that they are usually a community of shareholders often from quite disperate parts of the UK. This model differs in that investors, wherever they live, are welcome but the shares will be distributed on a one per household in the small village close to the turbines irrespective of financial investment. Their share entitles them to voting rights so that a true democratic community decision can be made as to how the profits be best spent, either collectively or on an equal share or a bit of both. I need say, that all net profits will be distributed in this way and must be spent locally on environmental/energy projects. But some questions....

1. Can we look at this income as a new currency? And is it a viable longterm currency?
2. The turbine will inevitably need some borrowed money at interest. Is this therefore a sustainable model or does it have deficencies because of this?
3. Profits are quite substantial year upon year and we have been quite altruistic in sharing them but is there a more equitable way based on LTV? I might add that the landowner himself will get what might best be described as a "handsome" share but again it is based on our altrusim rather than any economic principle.

I'd welcome your informed opinion. We're to present our scheme to the Sustainable Development Commission in a few months so to have been grilled by the forum members in advance would be a virtue indeed...

Steve Carney
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Joseph Milne



Joined: 17 Apr 2008
Posts: 331
Location: Herne Bay, Kent, UK

PostPosted: Sun Feb 08, 2009 10:17 am    Post subject: Re: POSITIVE NEWS: Ecuador votes for legal rights for Nature Reply with quote

Leonie Humphreys wrote:
Ecuador’s Historic Vote: Nature Gets Legal Rights

Positive News is running an article on Ecuador’s recent referendum granting Nature rights:


‘Approximately two-thirds of Ecuador’s population voted ‘yes’ this Autumn, in a historic, national referendum – a result that reflects the vast majority’s hopeful expectation of political change. By an overwhelming margin, the Ecuadorians backed their president, Rafael Correa, in voting for a new progressive constitution – the first in the world to grant Nature the same inalienable rights as human beings.’

“We are still on time for our laws to recognise the right of a river to flow and to prohibit actions that will destabilise the Earth’s climate...” said Mr Acosta. “It is time to stop the mad commodification of Nature, as it was in previous years, time to prohibit the buying and selling of human beings.”

By Becky Daniel, Positive News, Winter 2008[/size]

The full article can be found at:
http://www.positivenews.org.uk/artman/publish/article_1963.shtml

This is an historic achievement for the protection of nature. Your comments are welcome. If you know of any other such initiatives please add them to this topic.


Dear Leonie,

While it is encouraging that Ecuador enacts legislation that protects Nature, and that this must surely bring about benefits, I would like to question the appropriateness of this approach and the concept of “legal rights of nature”.

We are living in an age when the claim upon and imposition of legal rights seems to be the to be only way of making ethical determinations. No actual ethical ground is explained as the basis for conferring or imposing these rights. Because of this lack of an ethical basis, each ethical problem is addressed in isolation from all others. The consequence is that, with the growing number of claims upon rights, different rights conflict with one another. This conflict of claims upon rights surely indicates that not all formulations of rights are really grounded in a unified perception of ethics or justice.

In the case of these new rights of nature it is clear that they do not harmonize with the right of every human being to free access to land, as expressed by Henry George. But also, the right to free access to the land includes the duty to pass on the land to the next generations in good condition or without any spoliation. That duty already completely takes care of what these new rights of nature seek to achieve. It is clear that the spoliation of nature originates with the private ownership pf land, and not in a neglect of any conjectural rights of nature.

Further, the imposition of rights of nature remains in conflict with the legal claim to private ownership of land. It is inevitable that these two rights will come into conflict with one another, and that any way of resolving claims in favour of one or the other will leave an injustice on one side.

One may cite countless instances where legal claims on rights are in conflict with one another, and are therefore not founded on a proper understanding of justice or natural law. For example, the claim of the right to life of the embryo and the right of the pregnant woman to abortion. Or the rights of children over against the rights or parents. But also these conflicts extend into other areas outside human rights. For example to the patenting of plants or biological systems for exclusive or monopoly medical usage. This right to patent aspects of nature runs counter to the right to free access to land. But also, how can the new rights of nature as formulated in Ecuador not be in immediate conflict with this patenting right – which especially applies in the rain forests of Ecuador.

It does not take a lot of examination to see that current presuppositions about rights are confused and without real foundation in natural law, justice or ethical philosophy. Indeed, the continuous creation and extension of rights, while appearing idealistic and well-intentioned, is really just a further extension of the modern litigious approach to ethics and social order in general. It is part of the continuous attempt to remedy wrongs without discerning causes of wrongs.

It stands in stark contrast with the philosophy of natural law as understood by Plato, Aristotle or the Stoics, such as Cicero or Epictetus. For these thinkers the natural law was to be discerned in the integral relationship between all the parts of nature seeking their good in relation to the common or universal good. Mankind is not only part of that natural order, but is the being who discerns the natural law through reason, the distinguishing human feature. To live justly, for them, was to live in accord with the universal order of nature, and to participate in the natural tendency of nature to flourish and seek perfection in the universal good.

To live well was, for them, to live virtuously, which means wisely and justly, and therefore completely in accord with nature as a whole. In this understanding there is no claim upon individual rights as such, or rights of nature, because the basis of ethics was not understood in terms of rights and duties, but in terms of acting in accord with the natural order revealed in the laws and tendencies of nature, in accord with the truth and reason of things.

In conclusion, I sense that there is some danger in trying to remedy our modern problems through the imposition of arbitrary solutions, of trying to force a right outcome but without seeking to understand the causes of our problems. This tendency to “force solutions”, which we see increasingly in present-day government legislation, is itself the perpetuation of the tendency which is producing the problems in the first place, the wilful subjugation of all things to human manipulation and utility. It is this tendency which is against natural law in the first place. The real need is not to try to force remedies, it is to seek to understand the nature of reality as such and to discern the natural laws which are the real fount of ethics and justice. Our society is what it is according to how it understands these things.

Best wishes,
Joseph
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Steve Carney



Joined: 10 Oct 2008
Posts: 10
Location: York, Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: Mon Feb 09, 2009 9:38 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Joseph,
I read the website and I was most impressed by the initiative. It also has the support of a huge majority of the Ecuadorian peoples.
There seems to be nothing intrinsic to LTV that would safegaurd us against the degradation of the environment. Once a claim to private ownership of land is made what is to stop the "owners" doing what they want to make a profit even if the land rents are distributed fairly? My reading of the Ecuador proclamation is that no "owner" can now do what they want with natural resources. The other attractive aspect of the development is that it seems to be based on a traditional philosophy of the country which refelects a relationship with and respect of the environment. This might indicate a more living understanding rather than a the irritating "rights" based approach to justice. At least the community of people who now rely on the resources can now appeal to a common understanding that ownership does not give the right of abuse. This surely is one of most unjust aspects of modern economies.

Actually, even the Ancient Greeks ran up against the same boundary. They pillaged their natural resources until the crisis forced them to re-evaluate their architecture and how they might best avail themselves of natural resources. The same thing happened to the Romans.

Once the Ecuadorians have established that natures goodness is common to all then perhaps the next step might be a more just taxation system?

Steve
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Joseph Milne



Joined: 17 Apr 2008
Posts: 331
Location: Herne Bay, Kent, UK

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 12:17 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve Carney wrote:
Joseph,
I read the website and I was most impressed by the initiative. It also has the support of a huge majority of the Ecuadorian peoples.
There seems to be nothing intrinsic to LTV that would safegaurd us against the degradation of the environment. Once a claim to private ownership of land is made what is to stop the "owners" doing what they want to make a profit even if the land rents are distributed fairly? My reading of the Ecuador proclamation is that no "owner" can now do what they want with natural resources. The other attractive aspect of the development is that it seems to be based on a traditional philosophy of the country which refelects a relationship with and respect of the environment. This might indicate a more living understanding rather than a the irritating "rights" based approach to justice. At least the community of people who now rely on the resources can now appeal to a common understanding that ownership does not give the right of abuse. This surely is one of most unjust aspects of modern economies.

Actually, even the Ancient Greeks ran up against the same boundary. They pillaged their natural resources until the crisis forced them to re-evaluate their architecture and how they might best avail themselves of natural resources. The same thing happened to the Romans.

Once the Ecuadorians have established that natures goodness is common to all then perhaps the next step might be a more just taxation system?

Steve


Dear Steve,

I was not suggesting it is a bad thing, only that it is a compromise. This seems to be the modern way. Try to get a good result, but do not search for fundamental principles.

I did not say that LVT would guarantee the safeguard of the environment. I said there was a duty under natural law to leave the land in good condition for future generations - all future generations. That natural law not only takes care of the environment, it also lays down a principle for the right relationship of mankind to the earth and the whole created order. The real issue here is not the rights of the environment, it is the relationship between man and Nature.

The ideal of rights for the environment does not attain this end. This question of rights of nature is given considerable thought be modern philosophers and scholars of jurisprudence. Its weakness in this case is that the environment cannot claim any such right conferred upon it. Rights belong only to autonomous rational beings who may claim them as their own. This means a third party must make the claim on behalf of the environment. Which third party ought that to be?

In actual fact, any such right can only really be a human duty, and can be accomplished only through a human action or intervention. Thus it is not really a right at all.

From the philosophical viewpoint the loss of proper distinctions between right and duty, and between positive law and natural law, opens the door to endless confusions about what is truly just. Confusion here lies at the root of all the injustices that prevail among mankind. It is the specific human function as social beings to understand the true nature of law and justice. All else flows from that. That is what Cicero and Aquinas say. Not to understand the natural law is not to be social beings in the real sense.

But also, in the example in Ecuador, this right cannot effect any protection from climate change from the rest of the world, or the importation of goods that have already damaged the earth. Without it being understood as a universal principle it has limited scope. And it cannot be made universal because it is founded on a false notion of rights.

So we cannot avoid the fundamental question of natural law and the problems involved in properly understanding it, both in principle and historically. In this regard it is not helpful to say the Greeks had problems with the environment, as if that negates their philosopher's understanding of natural law. The Stoics held that all men were equal and that slavery was against nature. They were right regardless of it taking hundreds of years for western civilization to see the truth of it - and still it is not universally recognized. An historical failure is never an argument for or against principles. On the contrary, any historical failure can be recognized only in the light of principles.

I am doubtful if we will move towards justice incrementally through pragmatic remedies. Such remedies seem always to be temporary compromises, and bring unforeseen problems in their train. On the other hand, the present emerging consequences of the abuse of Nature are a clear call to study the principles which regulate the relations of man and the earth, the long neglect of which has brought about our present problems.

Best wishes,
Joseph
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Steve Carney



Joined: 10 Oct 2008
Posts: 10
Location: York, Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: Tue Feb 10, 2009 8:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Heaven forbid, Joseph, I wasn't suggesting we should cast aside all of ancient Greek thought merely because they cut down all their forests for fire wood! It was merely said to counter the idea that past values were complete.

But I take the point: that if the article we have read is a true wording of what has occured in Ecuador then the rights of nature can only be psuedo rights and do fudge the issue of natural law. At best the right is conferred on other members of the community to challenge the abuse of natural common goods by privateers. But how to enforce the duties we agree are required in relation to the land?

I guess Leonie's original question at the head of this section is still relevant: what is the natural law in relation to naturally occuring common goods.

Steve
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Joseph Milne



Joined: 17 Apr 2008
Posts: 331
Location: Herne Bay, Kent, UK

PostPosted: Wed Feb 11, 2009 9:58 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Steve Carney wrote:
Heaven forbid, Joseph, I wasn't suggesting we should cast aside all of ancient Greek thought merely because they cut down all their forests for fire wood! It was merely said to counter the idea that past values were complete.

But I take the point: that if the article we have read is a true wording of what has occured in Ecuador then the rights of nature can only be psuedo rights and do fudge the issue of natural law. At best the right is conferred on other members of the community to challenge the abuse of natural common goods by privateers. But how to enforce the duties we agree are required in relation to the land?

I guess Leonie's original question at the head of this section is still relevant: what is the natural law in relation to naturally occuring common goods.

Steve


Dear Steve,

It seems that we need to keep a clear distinction between the principles of natural law and taking action. A great deal of confusion exists these days owing to a failure to seek out the fundamental principles of morality and ethics.

While it is obvious that modern industry is exploiting and plundering nature and disturbing the natural balance of the eco-system, what is not so clear is why this is so. The study of natural law suggests that there is a natural relation between nature and human society. This natural relation is expressed in human activity being in harmony with nature, and that both tend towards the common good.

But the dominant modern view is that man dominates nature and subdues it according to his desires. This view permeates every area of thought - in science, politics, agriculture and so on. This view sustains the belief that there can be private ownership of land, simply because everything is seen as a mere resource for human use or exploitation. And since this also means that the natural community revenues are also taken in private ownership, then even human beings are also just another natural resource for exploitation.

Society lives in an unnatural and unlawful internal relation with itself, and this inner distortion inevitably passes over into an unlawful relation with the world as a whole, and thus with nature. The way society conceives itself and the way it conceives the world are intimately bound together. These two conceptions produce lawful consequences upon one another. And since the predominant conception of nature is limited and mechanistic, this in turn limits the potential of human society.

One obvious way in which this false relation is apparent is evident in the environmentalists notion that coming into a harmonious relation with nature involves limiting human potential. This is because the thinking remains under the mechanistic notion of the relation of society and nature, and that nature is still merely a resource. Making it a sustainable resource is still the same world view.

So the question about the right relation with nature and the question of the nature of human society are really two sides of a single question. If society pursued its own natural ends, then there would be no harm to the environment. From this point of view the phenomena of global warming is a symptom of the internal wrongs of human society. But also the wrong human disposition towards nature at large produces ill effects within society.

The study of economics or natural law seem to be the disciples for understanding these fundamental relationships and the lawful consequences that follow from them. This is not to say that we should not seek ways to remedy the wrongs which now confront us in practical ways. But it is to say that, in the end, everything depends upon our understanding of the natural laws. The problems we are confronted with call out aloud for this understanding. But also, the essential characteristic of human civilization is that it reflects upon the truth and order of nature. It is through this reflection that it finds its natural place within nature, and from that may look to the future in the most fruitful ways.

To seek to understand the natural laws is the one thing every person can do, regardless of their place or influence in society.

In exploring the general question of rights there is an excellent archive at:
http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/humanrights/

Best wishes,
Joseph
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Steve Carney



Joined: 10 Oct 2008
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Location: York, Yorkshire, UK

PostPosted: Tue Feb 17, 2009 5:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I wasn't quite certain where to post this but in the end decided that the environmental section might be best.

I came across this Early Day Motion from the Houses of Parliament. I've posted the text and the link if people would like to follow it up:

Early Day Motion
EDM 265 GREEN CREDIT FOR GREEN GROWTH14.11.2007


Mitchell, Austin
That this House is concerned that the costs of dealing with the recent floods is only a foretaste of the much larger sums that will be necessary to cope with climate change and to deal with extreme weather conditions; believes that instead of raising the money by taxing or borrowing, the Government should now increase the proportion of publicly-created money in the economy by issuing interest-free green credit to finance both these problems; notes that the proportion of the publicly-created money in circulation has fallen from 20 per cent. of the money supply in 1964 to three per cent. today; further notes that the benefits of seignorage are overwhelmingly taken by the banks not the public exchequer, if this decline were reversed the use of publicly-created money would substantially cut the cost of public investment by eliminating the need to pay interest; considers that such a policy of using publicly-created money to finance carbon neutral measures and conversions could be adopted to create additional economic growth; and recommends that the Treasury should use its powers to create non-interest bearing money so as to fund activities to combat climate change along the lines developed by the submission of the Forum for Stable Currencies' response to the United Nations Development Programme's call for new approaches towards adaptation to climate change.


http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=34372&SESSION=891

It seems the idea is catching on!

Steve
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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 218
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Wed Feb 18, 2009 9:18 pm    Post subject: Reasons for 'rights' Reply with quote

The following link may help to explain the practical reasons behind the need for 'rights' for nature in Ecuador.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4308537.stm

Leonie
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Leonie Humphreys



Joined: 23 Sep 2008
Posts: 218
Location: West Dorset, UK

PostPosted: Wed Mar 11, 2009 7:11 pm    Post subject: The Mother Mourns Reply with quote

This post has been moved as it is more appropriate here.

This poem has always touched my heart as a plea from Mother nature to humanity to take care of her....


The Mother Mourns by Thomas Hardy:

When mid-autumn's moan shook the night-time,
And sedges were horny,
And summer's green wonderwork faltered
On leaze and in lane,

I fared Yell'ham-Firs way, where dimly
Came wheeling around me
Those phantoms obscure and insistent
That shadows unchain.

Till airs from the needle-thicks brought me
A low lamentation,
As 'twere of a tree-god disheartened,
Perplexed, or in pain.

And, heeding, it awed me to gather
That Nature herself there
Was breathing in aerie accents,
With dirgeful refrain,

Weary plaint that Mankind, in these late days,
Had grieved her by holding
Her ancient high fame of perfection
In doubt and disdain . . .

- "I had not proposed me a Creature
(She soughed) so excelling
All else of my kingdom in compass
And brightness of brain

"As to read my defects with a god-glance,
Uncover each vestige
Of old inadvertence, annunciate
Each flaw and each stain!

"My purpose went not to develop
Such insight in Earthland;
Such potent appraisements affront me,
And sadden my reign!

"Why loosened I olden control here
To mechanize skywards,
Undeeming great scope could outshape in
A globe of such grain?

"Man's mountings of mind-sight I checked not,
Till range of his vision
Has topped my intent, and found blemish
Throughout my domain.

"He holds as inept his own soul-shell -
My deftest achievement -
Contemns me for fitful inventions
Ill-timed and inane:

"No more sees my sun as a Sanct-shape,
My moon as the Night-queen,
My stars as august and sublime ones
That influences rain:

"Reckons gross and ignoble my teaching,
Immoral my story,
My love-lights a lure, that my species
May gather and gain.

"'Give me,' he has said, 'but the matter
And means the gods lot her,
My brain could evolve a creation
More seemly, more sane.'

- "If ever a naughtiness seized me
To woo adulation
From creatures more keen than those crude ones
That first formed my train -

"If inly a moment I murmured,
'The simple praise sweetly,
But sweetlier the sage'--and did rashly
Man's vision unrein,

"I rue it! . . . His guileless forerunners,
Whose brains I could blandish,
To measure the deeps of my mysteries
Applied them in vain.

"From them my waste aimings and futile
I subtly could cover;
'Every best thing,' said they, 'to best purpose
Her powers preordain.' -

"No more such! . . . My species are dwindling,
My forests grow barren,
My popinjays fail from their tappings,
My larks from their strain.

"My leopardine beauties are rarer,
My tusky ones vanish,
My children have aped mine own slaughters
To quicken my wane.

"Let me grow, then, but mildews and mandrakes,
And slimy distortions,
Let nevermore things good and lovely
To me appertain;

"For Reason is rank in my temples,
And Vision unruly,
And chivalrous laud of my cunning
Is heard not again!"

Leonie
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