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right to water
Submitted by Patricia Jones on Wed, 06/15/2011 - 11:30am.
This year, July 25–30, the International Affairs Conference at Star Island — "Water as a Resource and a Right" — will feature crucial information and discussion on the human right to water. As manager of UUSC's Environmental Justice Program, I'm excited to be speaking at the conference about UUSC's work on this issue.
Conference Chair Nicholas Dembsey included UUSC in this year's conference to highlight human-right-to-water efforts in the United States and around the world. Other speakers include Juliet Christian-Smith, Pacific Institute (California); R. Allyn Clarke, Bedford Institute of Oceanography; Christopher L. Kukk, Western Connecticut State University; and Shimon C. Anisfeld, Yale University.
The speakers are experts in their fields and will present panels on many interesting and critical topics. Clarke will highlight water as "the drive train for the climate system." Kukk's talk is "The Meribah Syndrome: Modern Quarrels over Water." Christian-Smith will focus on a current topic of concern for many congregations involved in the discussion on ethical eating: "Water and Food: Retooling Agriculture to Promote Sustainable Water Management." Anisfeld will present "Understanding the Water Crisis: From Local to Global."
On Wednesday morning, I will speak on UUSC's environmental-justice work on the human right to water, exploring the issue in a talk entitled "Making Right Our Water Wrongs — Finding a Place for Everyone in Our Blue Boat Home." On Friday morning, the panelists will participate in an interactive session on the intersections between the topics discussed earlier in the week.
If there are members of your congregation who may be interested, please pass on this information about the conference in July. And don't forget to register yourself!
Submitted by Shelley Moskowitz on Fri, 06/03/2011 - 1:00pm.
UUSC and partners UULMCA, EJCW, CA Rural Legal Foundation, and Food and Water Watch work toward the human right to water in California.
As you may know, I've been out in California over the past couple of weeks helping support our partners as the Human Right to Water (HRW) package of six bills moves through the California State House. I'm pleased to say that the Human Right to Water policy bill AB685 (Eng) passed the California State Assembly with a bipartisan 52-24 vote!
If AB685 is passed by the Senate and signed into law by the governor this summer, the state will have the "duty to consider" the human right to water policy when setting priorities, policy, and criteria for funding.
We are working hard to make sure that this happens. UUSC is proud to partner with the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California, which has worked with congregations across the state to gather and deliver over 1,000 letters in support of the HRW package. UUs have been among the most visible supporters of the bills. Last week, five out of six of our bills made it through the committee phase and at least four of our bills have survived floor votes.
The update as of now is:
- AB 938 (Perez), Language Access on Public Health Notifications, requires public health agencies to give notice of non-compliance with drinking water quality standards in the appropriate language for consumers (passed to Senate).
- AB 983 (Perea), Access to Clean Up and Abatement Funding, allows the state Department of Public Health to take action to improve access to drinking water project funding for small and disadvantaged communities (passed to Senate)
- AB 1187 (Fong), Drinking Water Plans, requires the California Department of Water Resources to include access to safe drinking water plans in updates of the California Water Plan, which is to include current and future unmet needs of marginalized communities (did not pass out of Appropriations Committee)
- AB 1221 (Alejo), Drinking Water Funding Eligibility, allows nonprofits and Native American tribes to receive funding for clean-up of wastes/water pollution to address unmet needs (approved by Assembly)
- SB 244 (Wolk), General Plans Required to Assist Disadvantaged Unincorporated Communities, addresses needs for safe drinking water, sanitation, and other services (passed to Assembly)
There have been lots of twists and turns to get to this point and we are happy to report this good news!
Submitted by Shelley Moskowitz on Fri, 05/27/2011 - 7:33am.
Rev. Lindi Ramsden, head of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California, speaks about the human right to water.
Here is the latest update on the Human Right to Water from the California State Capitol in Sacramento. The package of bills is in the Appropriations Committee and we are on track to have two floor votes this Friday, May 27, 2011. One bill, AB938, would require that public health notifications about water be made available in the languages the community speaks; and S.244 would require municipalities to include a plan to provide services to island or fringe communities when they update their general plans. If these bills are not heard on Friday, they will be heard next week.
The rest of the package-the remaining four bills-come up in the Assembly Appropriations committee this Friday afternoon and floor votes are scheduled for the following Friday. We are cautiously optimistic that the bills will survive this process but we will need to continue our work here. These bills are:
- AB 685, which establishes the human right to water in California
- AB 983, which promotes water-system consolidation for small communities to provide sustainable, affordable solutions where possible
- AB 1187, which requires that the state water plan include provisions to provide everyone in California with safe drinking water
- AB 221, which ensures access to funding for disadvantaged communities to clean up contamination
We met with the Speaker's office and Appropriations Committee and several of our bill authors' staff yesterday. Rev. Lindi Ramsden, head of the Unitarian Universalist Legislative Ministry of California, delivered another huge stack of UU letters from around the state, and our coalition partners and community members joined us for some productive staff meetings. We will visit some more offices today.
If you live in California, you can help us. Please visit the UU Legislative Ministry of California website.
Submitted by Rachel Ordu Dan... on Mon, 03/28/2011 - 10:13am.
A bill to repeal the exemption for hydraulic fracturing (also called "fracking") contained in the Safe Drinking Water Act was introduced in the United States Congress on March 15, 2011. The exemption, passed in 2005, ignores mounting evidence that fracking poses serious threat to drinking-water sources and to human health. The Fracturing Responsibility and Awareness of Chemicals (FRAC) Act of 2011 would make it law that corporations involved in hydraulic fracturing must disclose all chemicals used in fracking operations, with the exception of proprietary information.
Hydraulic fracturing is a process that involves injecting millions of gallons of water, chemicals, and sand particles underground to crack open rock formations and release natural gas and oil for collection. A recent New York Times investigation revealed that wastewater from fracking operations containing high levels of radioactive contaminants is being released into waterways supplying drinking water.
The bill was introduced in the Senate by Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa) and a similar version was introduced in the House of Representative s by U.S. Representative Diana DeGettte (D-Colo). We hope this bill passes. Success could lead to the adoption of policies by the government and corporations to protect public drinking-water sources and the environment from fracking hazards.
As part of its shareholder-advocacy program, UUSC has co-filed shareholder resolutions with ExxonMobil and Chevron, requesting that they disclose known and potential environmental impacts of their fracturing operations to the public. The resolutions also urge that policy options above and beyond regulatory requirements and existing efforts be adopted to reduce or eliminate hazards to air, water, and soil quality from fracturing operations.
Submitted by Patricia Jones on Mon, 03/28/2011 - 8:33am.
The U.N. Human Rights Council passed a resolution Friday, March 25, extending the mandate of the independent expert on the human right to safe water and sanitation for another three years. The resolution, passed by consensus, also gave the U.N. Independent Expert Catarina de Albuquerque the powers of a special rapporteur.
This is good news for many reasons. The first is that, as a special rapporteur, de Albuquerque now has different powers. In addition to assisting governments to define the scope and content of the rights, she can engage with governments about complaints from affected individuals, communities, and civil-society organizations on issues and violations of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation.
Secondly, the resolution explicitly states the full list of criteria for the human rights to water and sanitation. The U.N. General Assembly and the U.N. Human Rights Council resolutions did not list the full criteria, which is outlined as follows in the resolution:
"Encourages the Special Rapporteur, in fulfilling his or her mandate: (a) To promote the full realization of the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation by, inter alia, continuing to give particular emphasis to practical solutions with regard to its implementation, in particular in the context of country missions, and following the criteria of availability, quality, physical accessibility, affordability and acceptability."
Submitted by Rachel Ordu Dan... on Thu, 03/24/2011 - 12:35pm.
UUSC and its partner the Tanzania Gender Networking Program (TGNP) are working with a team of students from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) on an innovative and exciting project called Advancing the Quest for Uninterrupted Access (AQUA). The goal is to help communities in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, solve pressing water and sanitation problems.
Team AQUA is one of this year's competitors for the MIT Global Challenge Awards. The MIT Global Challenge connects students with the passion and talent to improve the world with the experience and resources of the MIT worldwide community. It supports innovation and entrepreneurship as public service through an annual competition that awards up to $25,000 per team for the best ideas to tackle barriers to well-being.
Team AQUA is working to develop an innovative mobile and online game named AQUA that will spread hope, raise awareness, and gather necessary funds to solve water and sanitation problems in developing countries, beginning with Tanzania. With support from UUSC and UUSC's partner TGNP, the team is now in Tanzania to learn more about the water and sanitation issues that communities there are facing. Learn more about team AQUA.
In addition to several other awards, the top five Global Challenge teams with the most votes are eligible to receive Community Choice Awards of $5,000 to implement their projects for one year. Team AQUA needs your vote! Register on the MIT website and then vote starting April 6 (through April 25).
Here's how to register:
- Go to globalchallenge.mit.edu.
- You will see "Not signed up yet? Register »" at top right corner. Click "Register"!
- Click "Yes, I am an MIT Friend" and register.
- You will receive confirmation via e-mail. You have to verify it by clicking the URL in the e-mail.
- Now you are registered! Starting on April 6, visit globalchallenge.mit.edu and vote for AQUA!
Submitted by Patricia Jones on Mon, 03/21/2011 - 12:06pm.
After UUSC's work on U.N. Independent Expert on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation Catarina de Albuquerque's mission to the United States, I returned to my desk to an e-mail from Abby. She is a member of the First Parish Unitarian Universalist congregation in Bedford, Mass., where UUSC's Board of Trustees Chair Rev. John Gibbons is minister. Ariel Jacobson, senior associate for UUSC's Economic Justice Program, and staff writer Jessica Atcheson have kept us informed about what we can do to stand in solidarity with the workers of Wisconsin and what is at stake for the country. What I didn't expect was the question in Abby's e-mail:
"Buried deep in the proposed new Wisconsin budget is a proviso to NOT REQUIRE MUNICIPALITIES TO DISINFECT THEIR WATER. I am a biologist, and this has me really, truly deeply worried. Is there anything that UUSC can do about this?" Abby sent me a follow-up e-mail with a news article about the issue.
I admit I was shocked. After a little digging, I discovered that there are, in fact, two bills before the Wisconsin legislature: Assembly Bill 23 and Senate Bill 19. It seems that these proposals will do just what Abby is concerned about — allow municipalities to not disinfect drinking water. The two bills are in committee in Wisconsin. The human right to water, where it is implemented, guarantees access to safe, affordable water for every person to meet his or her daily basic needs. You may know that each state has federal requirements under the Safe Drinking Water Act to ensure that the citizens of that state have safe drinking water. These two bills, if passed, will take away the guarantees that citizens in those cities have for safe drinking water.
UUSC works in the United States and around the world on the human right to water. We depend on our members and constituents to tell us what is happening in each city, in each state; we do not have the human hands to track every state. That is one reason why we say the work of human rights is the work of many joining hands. Is something like this happening in your state? Let us know!
Look at what congregations and our partners in California are doing to ensure that every person has access to safe, affordable water. Acknowledge World Water Day, March 22, this year by making sure that your rights to safe water are not being eroded. If you are in Wisconsin, please be in touch with us about what is happening in your state! Abby in Massachusetts — and our members throughout the country — will be keeping an eye on the situation to support you. If it happens in Wisconsin, each of our states may face the same challenge!
Submitted by Kara Smith on Mon, 03/21/2011 - 11:20am.
What exactly is hydraulic fracturing? And what can we do about it?
Hydraulic fracturing, commonly called "fracking," is a process that seeks to extract natural gas deposits trapped deep in shale rock formations. Fracking achieves this by injecting water, chemicals, and sediment particles into the rock layers, breaking them apart and allowing natural gas to rise for collection.
While this process may release natural gas for energy companies, it damages fresh groundwater aquifers, polluting the local drinking water and negatively affecting the surrounding environment. In addition, the energy companies offer little to no information about what chemicals are used in the mixture, risking toxic spills, widespread pollution, and more.
The lack of transparency in the materials used and the impact of the process (ambiguous at best, incredibly harmful at worst) has started a movement of shareholders, the real owners of the companies. They are demanding to know what the true hazards of the process are and how to bring them to an end.
Investors, including UUSC, are pushing corporations to examine the long-term effects of toxic chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing and related operations on communities, the environment, and the company's reputation. This proxy season, we have co-filed two resolutions — one with ExxonMobil, partnering with As You Sow, and one with Chevron Corp, partnering with Sisters of St. Francis. Both of our partner organizations in these efforts are members of the Interfaith Center for Corporate Responsibility.
Learn more about fracking:
- Read the EPA's Draft Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan
- Listen to "Gas, Shale, and ‘Hydrofracking,'" an episode of On Point with Tom Ashbrook
- Watch the Oscar-nominated documentary Gasland, by Josh Fox
Submitted by Kara Smith on Mon, 03/21/2011 - 11:09am.
In 2009, grassroots activists, community organizations, and legislators made history in California: the Human Right to Water Act of California (AB 1242) passed both the assembly and senate. Unfortunately, the bill was vetoed by then-Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. In 2011, there is new governor, Jerry Brown; a new human-right-to-water bill (AB 685); and new hopes for the human right to water in California!
Assembly member Mike Eng (D-Monterey Park) is sponsoring a six-bill package that, if passed, would make the human right to water into California policy. In a press conference at the state capitol — with other legislators, safe-water advocates, faith-based community members, concerned residents, and the United Nations Independent Expert on the Human Right to Water and Sanitation Catarina de Albuquerque — Eng announced the set of bills to ensure all Californians have access to safe and clean drinking water. "In far too many communities, the sole water supply is contaminated, and families unable to afford treatment are left entirely without safe water," said Eng. Read the full bill.
For more information, visit UU Legislative Ministry’s website.
Submitted by Kara Smith on Mon, 03/21/2011 - 11:03am.
La Gotita, our international partner's human-right-to-water mascot, and human-rights activists carrying over 2,000 water-drop-shaped postcards signed by California UUs in support of the Human Right to Water Act of 2009.
Water is essential for all life on earth, and this year Unitarian Universalists will be honoring this connection on Earth Day. UUSC is happy to join the UUA Green Sanctuary Program, the UU Ministry for Earth (UU MFE), the UU United Nations Office, and statewide action networks to celebrate Earth Day — with the theme of "Sacred Waters" — this year on April 22.
The UU Ministry for Earth has taken the lead on this initiative, developing a web page and coordinating with the partner organizations, including UUSC, to create a host of environmental-justice materials. Visit the UU MFE web site for these great resources to use during Earth Day — you can also use them on World Water Day (March 22) and any and every day in between!
And don't forget to register any events that you are having in your community on their website! We'd also love to hear what you're up to — let us know by commenting below.