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What the US needs to heal is MLK’s radical revolution of values | USA

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This month marks the 90th birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr the iconic American civil rights and human rights leader who forced America to live up to its rhetorical ideals of freedom, democracy and equality. For his efforts, he was assassinated in 1968.

The fallen Nobel laureate and “drum major for justice” – vilified, ostracised and loathed in life, monitored and hunted by the government – was honoured posthumously with a federal holiday in the United States. Yet, as that holiday has been diluted and repositioned into a national day of service, and Dr King’s character has been neutered and rendered a passive, innocuous and idealistic dreamer who gave rousing speeches, Americans have lost sight of the man’s revolutionary philosophy.

Five decades ago, Martin Luther King warned of America’s triple evilsracism, economic exploitation and militarism. These evils continue to plague the country to this day, necessitating the radical restructuring of society the black leader so urgently promoted.

“I am convinced that if we are to get on to the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values,” King said in his “Beyond Vietnam” speech. “We must rapidly begin … the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

Racism, the original American sin born from the enslavement of Africans and the genocide of indigenous peoples, has not abated. In his 1963 “I Have A Dream” speech, King said as black people were concerned, the US had failed to honour its promises written in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. “Instead of honouring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked ‘insufficient funds’. But we refuse to believe that bank of justice is bankrupt,” he said.

Today, the US has yet to address reparations to African Americans to repair the damage of enslavement and the continuing legacy of institutional racism, including both de jure and de facto racial and economic discrimination.

Open and avowed white supremacists operate in the government, engaging in whites-only policies based on a false racist theory of white genocide, with an immigration policy of ethnic cleansing, separation of migrant families and imprisonment of 15,000 children – all designed to keep whites in the majority. Meanwhile, white supremacist hate groups are thriving in the streets, with a sharp increase in hate crimes and school bullying in the era of Trump.

The US is a “flawed democracy” according to the Economist’s 2018 Democracy index, ranking only 25th globally in terms of political participation and culture, governmental functions, electoral process, civil liberties and pluralism. In states such as Georgia and North Carolina, white conservatives of the Republican Party employ segregation-era voter suppression tactics against people of colour and the poor, including restrictive and unjust voter ID laws, voter purges, rigged elections and votes stolen, and gerrymandered legislative districts.

Despite professing to be the self-proclaimed “land of opportunity”, the US maintains a predatory capitalist system with pathological levels of economic inequality. In a land of abundance, only a handful enjoy its wealth. With 40 million people in poverty, the US is the most unequal advanced nation, with the least social and economic mobility in the developed world. The US profits from misery through private prisons, and a for-profit healthcare system that forces people to go bankrupt and into poverty while paying for medical bills.

The wealthiest one percent owns 40 percent of the nation’s wealth, while the top 10 percent controls 77 percent of the wealth. While working Americans are drowning in nearly $1.5 trillion student loan debt they are unable to pay off. And as conservatives shake their heads and proclaim nothing can be done, the nation engages in policies of plunder of poor and working people, such as a $1.5 trillion tax cut almost entirely for the benefit of the top one percent.

Meanwhile, Trump forces a government shutdown over his vanity border wall that leaves 800,000 federal workers without pay, and he advises furloughed workers to make adjustments and, barter with their landlords and hire an attorney.

A culture of corruption precludes the US from solving its problems. Politicians are beholden to moneyed interests rather than held accountable to the public, a Harvard Business School report suggests. Laws promoting gun proliferationenvironmental degradation and “loyalty oaths” to other nations reflect the largesse bestowed upon these politicians by lobbyists who seek to enact them. 

Martin Luther King, aware of the connections between injustice at home and abroad, spoke out against US proclivity for war. “As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems,” King said. “I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.”

Today, the US meddles in the affairs of other nations, waging drone wars and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians in the name of the “war on terror”, assassinating people and engaging in regime change. Decades of US intervention in Central America caused skyrocketing levels of corruption and violence that fuelled a migrant crisis.

Meanwhile, King predicted “spiritual doom” for an America that continues to spend more on war than on social uplift. Today, a nation which claims it must cut social welfare spending and cannot afford free universal healthcare or college spends trillions of dollars on defence – 37 percent of world military spending and more than the next seven highest spenders combined – and yet cannot account for how the military allocates that money.

Rather than heed his message, America killed King, the messenger. Then, it watered down his message to render it more palatable and digestible to the white moderate who is “more devoted to order than to justice”, and prefers that we wait for a “more convenient season” for freedom rather than take direct action now. If America hopes to redeem itself, it must change now. 

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

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Canadian report reveals spike in food-related litter during pandemic

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TORONTO — Restaurants’ inability to offer their usual dine-in service during much of 2020 may explain why an unusually high amount of food-related litter was found across the country, a new report says.

The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup (GCSC) is an annual program in which volunteers are encouraged to clean up green spaces and other natural areas.

Last year, single-use food and beverage containers made up 26.6 per cent of waste collected through the program – nearly twice as high a percentage as in 2019, before the pandemic.

“We suspect the change may be one of the many implications of COVID-19, including more people ordering restaurant takeaway and consuming more individually packaged foods,” GCSC spokesperson Julia Wakeling said in a press release.

While food- and beverage-related litter accounted for a greater percentage of waste uncovered by GCSC than in the past, it wasn’t the single largest category of items picked up through the program last year.

That dubious honour goes to cigarette butts and other smoking-related paraphernalia, which comprised nearly 29 per cent of all items collected. There were more than 83,000 cigarette butts among the 42,000 kilograms of waste found and clean up last year.

So-called “tiny trash” – little pieces of plastic and foam – also accounted for a sizeable share of the waste, making up 26.8 per cent of the total haul.

In addition to smoking-related items and tiny trash, the main pieces of litter removed by GCSC volunteers last year included nearly 22,000 food wrappers, more than 17,500 pieces of paper, more than 13,000 bottle caps and more than 10,000 beverage cans.

Discarded face masks and other forms of personal protective equipment were also detected and cleaned up, although not tallied in their own category.  PPE waste has been repeatedly cited as a concern by environmental advocates during the pandemic; a robin in Chilliwack, B.C. is the earliest known example of an animal that died due to coronavirus-related litter.

The GCSC is an annual program organized by Ocean Wise and the World Wildlife Fund Canada. Its operations were disrupted by the pandemic as well; only 15,000 volunteers took part in the program last year, versus 85,000 in 2019, due to delays and public health restrictions making large group clean-ups impossible.

Still, there was GCSC participation from every province and the Northwest Territories in 2020. Nearly half of the volunteers who took part were based in B.C., where the program began in 1994.

Data from past GCSC reports was used as part of the research backing Canada’s ban on certain single-use plastic items, which is scheduled to take effect by the end of 2021.

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Canada: Significant Changes To Canada’s Federal Environmental Protection Regime Proposed

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On April 13, 2021, the government of Canada proposed significant changes to the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (“CEPA”)1 through the introduction of Bill C-28, Strengthening Environmental Protection for a Healthier Canada Act (the “Amendments“).2

With these Amendments, the government hopes to modernize Canada’s environmental regime which has not undergone significant change in over 20 years. CEPA is the primary statute through which the federal government regulates and protects the environment. CEPA and its accompanying regulations regulate among other things the treatment and disposal of chemicals and hazardous waste, vehicle and engine emissions, equipment and other sources of pollution, and the prevention and impact of environmental emergencies such as oil and chemical spills.

This bulletin provides an overview of the major changes to CEPA that have been proposed.

The Right to a Healthy Environment and Certain Soft Rights

Significantly, the Preamble under the Amendments will officially recognize Canadians’ right to a healthy environment. Section 2 of CEPA will require the government to protect that right when making decisions relating to the environment.3

The Amendments set out specific obligations the government must undertake to safeguard this right, including developing an implementation framework to set out how this right will be considered in the administration of CEPA as well as conducting research, studies and monitoring activities to support this goal.

In addition, the Preamble will recognize some additional considerations, including confirming the government’s commitment to implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as well as recognizing the importance of considering vulnerable persons, reducing or replacing the use of animal testing, and the right of Canadians to have access to information on product labels.

Project Impact Assessment

With respect to risk assessments under CEPA, under the new provisions the federal government must consider impacts on vulnerable populations and possible cumulative effects of the proposed conduct. Vulnerable populations will include groups of people with elevated biological susceptibility, such as children, and groups with elevated exposure risks, such an indigenous communities. Consideration of cumulative effects of proposed conduct takes a holistic approach to substance management by considering the compounding risks of exposure to various chemicals during daily life rather than looking at substances on their own.

Chemicals Management

The federal government has identified the management of chemicals as a key target area under the new CEPA.

The Amendments thus propose to overhaul this regime in order to better protect Canadians from the evolving risks of harmful chemicals and pollution. To accomplish this, the government has proposed wide ranging changes relating to risk assessment, public accountability, management of toxic substances and new substances, which are discussed in turn below.

Risk Assessment

The government must consult, develop and publish a Plan of Chemicals Management Priorities which will set out an integrated plan for the risk assessment of various chemical substances currently being used in Canada. The Plan will establish priorities for the management of substances, taking into account a number of factors including among others the views of stakeholders and partners, public comments, the effects on vulnerable populations, the toxicity of the substance, the ability to disrupt biological reproduction or endocrine systems, and whether there are safer and more sustainable alternatives.4 The government will also be empowered to make geographically targeted regulations to address pollution “hot spots”.

Additionally, the Amendments will establish a mechanism through which any person can submit a request to the Minister to assess a substance to determine its toxicity and risk to the environment. The Minister must provide a response within 90 days, indicating whether they intend to assess the substances and their reasons for their decision.

Public Accountability Framework

The Amendments intend to increase transparency and public participation in risk assessments by the government for the categorization and management of potentially toxic chemicals. Currently, CEPA contains a public accountability framework under section 77 and provides time limits for the government to assess substances under sections 91 and 92. However, these provisions only apply to certain risk assessments being conducted by the government such as substances placed on the Domestic Substances List that in the opinion of the Minister present the greatest potential for exposure to Canadians or are persistent or bio-accumulative. The proposed Amendments plan to amend section 77 to expand these transparency and accountability measures to all substance risk assessments for toxic or capable of being toxic substances, with the exception of assessments for new substances.5

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Scientists, Homalco First Nation team up to probe massive B.C. landslide — and its impact on salmon

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When the side of a B.C. mountain gave way on Nov. 28, 2020, crashing into a glacier fed lake and creating a 100-metre high tsunami, no one was around to see the destruction or hear the sound of rocks and trees tearing through the valley below. 

But scientists say the force, which was picked up by seismographs across North America, was the equivalent of a 4.9-magnitude earthquake. 

Fortunately, no one was in the slide’s path, but experts believe that a melting glacier likely contributed by making the slope less stable — and climate change means it is a growing risk. 

As more of Canada’s glaciers recede, scientists say there is great interest in finding out what exactly triggered this slide, and how the rocks and sediment have impacted the salmon population of nearby Elliot Creek and Southgate River. 

The mountain, which is located about 220 km north west of Vancouver, is on the traditional territory of the Homalco First Nation. 

It’s an area of remote wilderness, only accessible by air or by boating 80 km up Bute Inlet.

When the slide hit last year, more than 18 million cubic meters of rock barrelled down the slope hitting the lake within 30 seconds. 

“That is the equivalent of all of the cars in Canada coming down the hill at once,” said Marten Geertsema, a geomorphologist who works with the B.C. government studying landslides. 

He is one of several scientists, along with members from the Homalco First Nation, who have been studying the landslide and its cascading environmental impact on the watershed and salmon habitat. 

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