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Nov. 11 2009 — 9:08 am | 29 views | 1 recommendations | 2 comments

2 Degrees of Celsius Separation

As the world prepares for historic climate change negotiations in Copenhagen, The Elders, a group of eminent global leaders brought together by Nelson Mandela, have issued an urgent message to world leaders: take part in the talks and deliver a fair, ambitious, binding and effective deal.

Elder, President Jimmy Carter discusses environmental issues with grandsons, Jeremy Carter(left), 22, and Hugo Wentzel(right), 10.

Elder, President Jimmy Carter discusses environmental issues with his grandsons, Jeremy Carter(left), and Hugo Wentzel(right).

The Elders asked thirteen of their grandchildren to join them to emphasise that that the world must act now to prevent climate catastrophe in the future. Urgent help is also needed for millions of families who are already suffering hunger and hardship, and to reduce the risk of conflict due to the effects of extreme weather patterns linked to climate change.

Elders’ Chair, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said: “No one is immune – rich, poor, developed and developing countries. We are all in this together. I will probably be spared the worst effects of climate change but I worry for our children’s future and for the millions of people who are already being impoverished and displaced.”

Elder, Desmond Tutu was joined by three granddaughters. Elder, Desmond Tutu was joined by three granddaughters.

In December in Copenhagen, government leaders will decide on measures that could stop climate change, and ultimately reverse its effects.  Next week negotiators meet in Barcelona for the last official session before the UN meeting in Copenhagen.

The Elders urge all heads of government to attend the talks in Copenhagen and reach an ambitious, fair, effective and binding agreement in which they:

  • Agree to a 2 degree Celsius target as the outer limit of global temperature increase that humankind can tolerate.
  • Agree that global greenhouse gas emissions must be reduced by at least 50 percent by 2050 to stop further global warming.
  • Agree that the G8 and other industrialized countries must accept their historic responsibility for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions in our atmosphere, and commit to emissions cuts of 25-40 percent by 2020, and at least 80 percent by 2050, relative to levels in 1990, backed by verifiable national action plans.
  • Agree that the big emerging economies reduce their emissions through national action plans that are measurable and verifiable.
  • Agree that industrialized countries will provide the majority of financial support of at least 100 billion euro a year to help developing countries – particularly the poorest and most vulnerable – to shift to low carbon prosperity and adapt to the damaging effects of climate change that are already taking place.
  • Agree to accelerated transfer of clean energy technologies to developing countries on preferential terms, to enable their economies to grow in a more sustainable way.

Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, former Prime Minister of Norway and the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy on Climate Change said: “Coming generations expect that today’s leaders will see the opportunities and take responsibility for a low-emission, sustainable world. We urge all leaders to take action to safeguard our common future; one that requires a new level of shared commitment, based on common, but differentiated responsibilities.”

Jimmy Carter, former US President said: “Averting climate change is possible, and is much cheaper than living with the consequences. But no meaningful agreement can be reached without the United States. I urge all Americans to think carefully about the fact that our own young people face a harsh and perilous future if nothing is done to stop climate change.”

Martti Ahtisaari, former president of Finland and 2008 Nobel Peace Laureate said: “Compromise has its place, but climate change is different. The laws of physics and chemistry do not wait, nor will they compromise. Either Copenhagen sets us on a course of radically reduced greenhouse gas emissions or the future of humanity is in jeopardy.”

Ela R. Bhatt, Ghandian and founder of India’s million-member Self-Employed Women’s Association said: “Our current industrial mode of production is clearly not sustainable. It is out of balance and unjust towards people and towards Nature. Let us practise a more holistic way of living. Diversity is essential to inclusion. Let us embrace the green, the local, the communal, the sustainable – because our survival depends on it.”

elders-3Ela Bhatt shows her grandson, Rameshwar Bhatt, 8, her life lines.

Former UN Envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said: “We must invest now in mitigation to assist those who are already losing their land to floods, rising seas or droughts, and to help poor countries adapt to climate change. The benefits of investing now will far outweigh the cost to future generations of dealing with climate catastrophe.”

Elder, Lakhdar Brahimi walks with his grandsons through a wooded path.Elder, Lakhdar Brahimi walks with his grandsons through a wooded path.

Mary Robinson, former Irish President said: “I have been meeting and listening to small farmers and indigenous leaders from the poorest countries, many of whom are women – and it is clear that desertification, droughts and increased cyclones are causing huge suffering already. The impact of climate change is not only an ethical and moral issue; it is an issue of justice. Industrialized nations must meet their historic responsibility.”

Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General, said:  “Climate change is not an abstract or future threat. It is happening now, with damaging consequences. Failure to take meaningful action in Copenhagen will not only fail those who are suffering today, but will also jeopardize the wellbeing of our planet and future generations. Leadership has never been more needed than it will be in the following days and weeks….we must help our political leaders have the vision and courage to set aside national and sectional interests to confront the climate challenge.”

Fernando Henrique Cardoso, former President of Brazil, said: “Developed nations and fast growing economies like Brazil, China and India must share in the common effort to put the future of the planet before short term profits.”

Graça Machel, international activist on women’s and children’s rights, said: “First of all we urge all leaders to attend the talks – this is a critical international turning point and its outcomes affect us all. And we urge all leaders to leave behind ‘political as usual’ with its deals and delaying tactics. Leaders must lead, and do all that is necessary to preserve a liveable and sustainable planet by reaching an ambitious, fair and effective agreement.”

Above all, The Elders urge leaders not to despair; there are opportunities as well as challenges in tackling climate change.

Desmond Tutu said: “We have lived through periods when change seemed impossible. But our greatest leaders never give up hope. As you prepare for Copenhagen, look into our grandchildren’s eyes, and into your own children’s eyes, and remember: without a liveable planet, nothing else will matter.”

Oct. 8 2009 — 7:13 am | 13 views | 0 recommendations | 2 comments

Campaigning for Presidency in Afghanistan

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Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, a former Afghan foreign minister, emerged from a crowded field of candidates as the most potent rival to President Hamid Karzai in this year’s presidential election in Afghanistan.

Abdullah — an ophthalmologist by training — campaigned across the country in an effort to win supporters beyond the ethnic Tajik minority of northern Afghanistan, with whom he is most closely identified. Many of the areas he visited in the weeks before the Aug. 20 vote were in the heartland of the insurgency — southern and eastern Afghanistan. Those regions are home to Afghanistan’s largest ethnic group, the Pashtun, President Hamid Karzai’s people. Dr. Abdullah knew he needed to win support among the Pashtuns majority in order to be elected.

Whether his efforts bore fruit remains an open question. Afghan election authorities and U.N.-backed electoral fraud investigators are still sorting through allegations of vote rigging, most of it on behalf of President Karzai.

While no pre-election polls indicated Dr. Abdullah would win the election outright, they did find he could possibly force a second-round runoff against President Karzai.

In the coming days electoral officials are expected to complete their fraud investigations and decide whether there will be a runoff.  No matter what, Western diplomats and observers say Dr. Abdullah’s strong showing has catapulted him into a tier of Afghan politics that was once inhabited only by President Karzai. He’s likely to remain a force in Afghan politics and could become the kind of effective opposition leader needed to keep a deeply corrupt government a little more honest, something Afghanistan has lacked for the past eight years.

Jun. 29 2009 — 12:03 am | 45 views | 1 recommendations | 2 comments

Pakistan’s Displaced

An estimated 3 million Pakistanis have been displaced due to Taliban activity and the recent military offensive in Swat. While the military asserts they now have control of the valley, no one knows when Pakistan’s displaced will feel confident enough to return home. Fears of further displacement are on the rise as new operations are expected to begin in neighboring Waziristan.

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May. 20 2009 — 2:59 pm | 7 views | 1 recommendations | 1 comment


“To blockade, after all, is to attempt strangulation–and sovereign states are entitled not to have their State strangled. The blockade is by definition an act of war, imposed and enforced through violence. Never in history have a blockade and peace existed side by side.”  

From “The Israel/Arab Reader” Second ed. Ed. Walter Laqueur (1971 ed.) pp. 219.

What RemainsA Palestinian woman in Rafah cleans what remains of her home. 4,000 homes were destroyed and 17,000 damaged during Operation Cast Lead. If construction materials are prohibited under the blockade, how can people rebuild their lives?

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    About Me

    Kate Brooks began working as a freelance photojournalist in Russia at the age of 20, documenting child abuse in state orphanages. Her photographs from the orphanages were published worldwide and used to campaign for orphans’ rights.

    Brooks moved to Pakistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks to photograph the impact of American foreign policy in the region and life in Afghanistan in the wake of the U.S-led invasion that ousted the Taliban.

    She then covered the U.S. invasion of Iraq and the beginning of the insurgency there for Time magazine.

    Brooks has since worked extensively in the Middle East and South Asia, working to document daily life and covering many of the major news stories in both regions, including the Pakistan earthquake in 2005, 2006 war in Lebanon, the aftermath of Israel’s assault on Gaza this year and Afghanistan’s recent elections. At the same time, she has established herself in the field of environmental and political portraiture.

    Brooks has been the recipient of numerous international awards and her photographs are regularly published in American and European magazines. She has exhibited in group and solo shows in Europe, the United Sates and the United Arab Emirates and has contributed to various book projects.

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