Friday, December 17, 2010

Dark cloud over good works of Gates Foundation | Global Empire |

Dark cloud over good works of Gates Foundation

Chairman and Chief Software architect of Microsoft Bill Gates and his wife Melinda stand beneath an umbrella after he received an honorary knighthood at Buckingham Palace in London.. (Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

Ebocha, Nigeria — Justice Eta, 14 months old, held out his tiny thumb.

An ink spot certified that he had been immunized against polio and measles, thanks to a vaccination drive supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

In Ebocha, Nigeria: The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation invests in the oil plant in the background, which doctors say harms babies like Justice Eta, whose immunizations were funded by the foundation. (Edmund Sanders/Jan 5, 2007)
But polio is not the only threat Justice faces. Almost since birth, he has had respiratory trouble. His neighbors call it "the cough." People blame fumes and soot spewing from flames that tower 300 feet into the air over a nearby oil plant. It is owned by the Italian petroleum giant Eni, whose investors include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Justice squirmed in his mother's arms. His face was beaded with sweat caused either by illness or by heat from the flames that illuminate Ebocha day and night. Ebocha means "city of lights."

The makeshift clinic at a church where Justice Eta was vaccinated and the flares spewing over Ebocha represent a head-on conflict for the Gates Foundation. In a contradiction between its grants and its endowment holdings, a Times investigation has found, the foundation reaps vast financial gains every year from investments that contravene its good works.

In Ebocha, where Justice lives, Dr. Elekwachi Okey, a local physician, says hundreds of flares at oil plants in the Niger Delta have caused an epidemic of bronchitis in adults, and asthma and blurred vision in children. No definitive studies have documented the health effects, but many of the 250 toxic chemicals in the fumes and soot have long been linked to respiratory disease and cancer.

Thousands of tons of putrid chemicals are pumped into the air each year by this Mondi paper mill and a nearby Sapref oil refinery, which sit among homes near Isipingo, South Africa. Studies have found extraordinarily high carcinogen emission levels and childhood asthma rates. Major polluters
(Jeffrey Barbee/For the Times/November 20, 2006)

"We're all smokers here," Okey said, "but not with cigarettes."

The oil plants in the region surrounding Ebocha find it cheaper to burn nearly 1 billion cubic feet of gas each day and contribute to global warming than to sell it. They deny the flaring causes sickness. Under pressure from activists, however, Nigeria's high court set a deadline to end flaring by May 2007. The gases would be injected back underground, or trucked and piped out for sale. But authorities expect the flares to burn for years beyond the deadline.

The Gates Foundation has poured $218 million into polio and measles immunization and research worldwide, including in the Niger Delta. At the same time that the foundation is funding inoculations to protect health, The Times found, it has invested $423 million in Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp. and Total of France — the companies responsible for most of the flares blanketing the delta with pollution, beyond anything permitted in the United States or Europe.

Indeed, local leaders blame oil development for fostering some of the very afflictions that the foundation combats.

Oil workers, for example, and soldiers protecting them are a magnet for prostitution, contributing to a surge in HIV and teenage pregnancy, both targets in the Gates Foundation's efforts to ease the ills of society, especially among the poor. Oil bore holes fill with stagnant water, which is ideal for mosquitoes that spread malaria, one of the diseases the foundation is fighting.

Investigators for Dr. Nonyenim Solomon Enyidah, health commissioner for Rivers State, where Ebocha is located, cite an oil spill clogging rivers as a cause of cholera, another scourge the foundation is battling. The rivers, Enyidah said, "became breeding grounds for all kinds of waterborne diseases."

The bright, sooty gas flares — which contain toxic byproducts such as benzene, mercury and chromium — lower immunity, Enyidah said, and make children such as Justice Eta more susceptible to polio and measles — the diseases that the Gates Foundation has helped to inoculate him against.

Investing for profit

AT the end of 2005, the Gates Foundation endowment stood at $35 billion, making it the largest in the world. Then in June 2006, Warren E. Buffett, the world's second-richest man after Bill Gates, pledged to add about $31 billion in installments from his personal fortune. Not counting tens of billions of dollars more that Gates himself has promised, the total is higher than the gross domestic products of 70% of the world's nations.

Like most philanthropies, the Gates Foundation gives away at least 5% of its worth every year, to avoid paying most taxes. In 2005, it granted nearly $1.4 billion. It awards grants mainly in support of global health initiatives, for efforts to improve public education in the United States, and for social welfare programs in the Pacific Northwest.

It invests the other 95% of its worth. This endowment is managed by Bill Gates Investments, which handles Gates' personal fortune. Monica Harrington, a senior policy officer at the foundation, said the investment managers had one goal: returns "that will allow for the continued funding of foundation programs and grant making." Bill and Melinda Gates require the managers to keep a highly diversified portfolio, but make no specific directives.

By comparing these investments with information from for-profit services that analyze corporate behavior for mutual funds, pension managers, government agencies and other foundations, The Times found that the Gates Foundation has holdings in many companies that have failed tests of social responsibility because of environmental lapses, employment discrimination, disregard for worker rights, or unethical practices.

One of these investment rating services, Calvert Group Ltd., for example, endorses 52 of the largest 100 U.S. companies based on market capitalization, but flags the other 48 for transgressions against social responsibility. Microsoft Corp., which Bill Gates leads as board chairman, is rated highly for its overall business practices, despite its history of antitrust problems.

In addition, The Times found the Gates Foundation endowment had major holdings in:

  • Companies ranked among the worst U.S. and Canadian polluters, including ConocoPhillips, Dow Chemical Co. and Tyco International Ltd.

  • Many of the world's other major polluters, including companies that own an oil refinery and one that owns a paper mill, which a study shows sicken children while the foundation tries to save their parents from AIDS.

  • Pharmaceutical companies that price drugs beyond the reach of AIDS patients the foundation is trying to treat.

Using the most recent data available, a Times tally showed that hundreds of Gates Foundation investments — totaling at least $8.7 billion, or 41% of its assets, not including U.S. and foreign government securities — have been in companies that countered the foundation's charitable goals or socially concerned philosophy.

This is "the dirty secret" of many large philanthropies, said Paul Hawken, an expert on socially beneficial investing who directs the Natural Capital Institute, an investment research group. "Foundations donate to groups trying to heal the future," Hawken said in an interview, "but with their investments, they steal from the future."

Moreover, investing in destructive or unethical companies is not what is most harmful, said Hawken and other experts, including Douglas Bauer, senior vice president of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors, a nonprofit group that assists foundations on policy and ethical issues. Worse, they said, is investing purely for profit, without attempting to improve a company's way of operating.

Such blind-eye investing, they noted, rewards bad behavior.

At the Gates Foundation, blind-eye investing has been enforced by a firewall it has erected between its grant-making side and its investing side. The goals of the former are not allowed to interfere with the investments of the latter.

The foundation recently announced a plan to institutionalize that firewall by moving its assets into a separate organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Trust. Its two trustees will be Bill and Melinda Gates. The trust will invest to increase the endowment, while the foundation gives grants.

"We've been operating under these principles for many years," said Harrington, the foundation policy officer. "But having an official separation makes it even more clear."

With the exception of tobacco companies, asset managers do not avoid investments in firms whose activities conflict with the foundation's mission to do good.

"Because we want to maintain a focus on the programmatic work," Harrington said in a written response to Times questions, "we have made it a policy to not comment on individual investment holdings."

Finally, the foundation does not invest any portion of its endowment in companies specifically because they advance its philanthropic mission.

Much of the rest of philanthropy, however, is beginning to address contradictions between making grants to improve the world and making investments that harm it. According to recent surveys, many foundations, including some of the nation's largest, have adopted at least basic policies to invest in ways that support their missions.

Major foundations that make social justice, corporate governance and environmental stewardship key considerations in their investment strategies include the Ford Foundation, worth $11.6 billion, the nation's second-largest private philanthropy; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Rockefeller Foundation; and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation.

Moreover, nearly one-third of foundations participate directly in shareholder initiatives, voting their proxies to influence corporate behavior. A few have become shareholder activists. In recent years, for instance, the Nathan Cummings Foundation, with an endowment of $481 million, has sponsored proxies to force corporations to address environmental sustainability and political transparency.

Harrington said the Gates Foundation's investment managers vote proxies, but declined to give any specifics. The foundation would not make its chief investment manager, Michael Larson, available for an interview. In May, Harrington told the Chronicle of Philanthropy that the Gates Foundation did not get involved in proxy issues.

At the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, on the other hand, Michael J. Smith, its chief investment officer, said voting proxies to improve corporate behavior had become a fiduciary necessity.

"Companies that have good governance are generally well-managed," he said, "and have a good record of profitability."

Even the relatively tiny Needmor Fund, with a $27-million endowment, screens its investments to bar companies with poor environmental records, antagonism to worker rights or tolerance for repressive governments.

Leadership, however, is open to the Gates Foundation. It has unique power to move the debate, said Bauer, of Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors. If Gates adopted mission-related investing, Bauer said in an interview, the shift in the world of philanthropy would be "seismic."

The foundation did not respond to written questions about whether it might change its investment policies.

Life in 'Cancer Valley'

AT a clinic in Isipingo, a suburb of the South African port city of Durban where the HIV infection rate is as high as 40%, Thembeka Dube, 20, was getting a checkup.

Dube had volunteered for tests of a vaginal gel that researchers hope will be shown to protect against HIV. The tests are part of a study conducted by the New York-based Population Council, and funded by a $20-million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

South Africa: Thembeka Dube is taking part in a Gates Foundation-funded study to test a vaginal gel for protection against HIV. The foundation has made much more money from its investments in area polluters than it has given to the study. (Jeffrey Barbee / For the Times / Nov 20, 2006)

Dube's boyfriend won't use condoms. She hoped the tests would show she could use the microbicidal gel, called Carraguard, and stop worrying about AIDS.

Research into prophylactics such as Carraguard can fight AIDS by empowering women, Bill Gates told the International AIDS Conference in Toronto in August. "Whether the woman is a faithful married mother of small children, or a sex worker trying to scrape out a living in a slum … " he said, "a woman should never need her partner's permission to save her own life."

Two days before Gates spoke, Kyrone Smith was born only a few kilometers from the Isipingo clinic. At the same time the Gates Foundation was trying to help Dube, it owned a stake in companies that appeared to be hurting Kyrone.

At six weeks, his lungs began to fail. Kyrone struggled to cry, but he was so weak that no sound came out — just husky, labored breaths.

Renee Smith's baby Kyrone was rushed to the hospital with failing lungs. Some blame nearby oil refineries. (Jeffrey Barbee / For the Times / Jan 5, 2007)

His mother, Renee Smith, 26, rushed him to a hospital, where he was given oxygen. She feared it would be the first of many hospital visits. Smith knew from experience.

"My son Teiago was in and out of hospital since the age of 3," she said. "He couldn't breathe nicely…. There are so many children in this area who have the same problems."

Two of the area's worst industrial polluters — a Mondi paper mill and a giant Sapref oil refinery — squat among the homes near Isipingo like sleepy grey dragons, exhaling chemical vapors day and night.

The Sapref plant, which has had two dozen significant spills, flares, pipeline ruptures and explosions since 1998, and the Mondi plant together pump thousands of tons of putrid-smelling chemicals into the air annually, according to their own monitoring.

In 2002, a study found that more than half of the children at a school in nearby Merebank suffered asthma — one of the highest rates in scientific literature. A second study, published last year, found serious respiratory problems throughout the region: More than half of children aged 2 to 5 had asthma, largely attributed to sulfur dioxide and other industrial pollutants. Much of it was produced by companies in which the Gates Foundation was invested.

Asthma was not the only danger. Isipingo is in what environmental activists call "Cancer Valley." Emissions of benzene, dioxins and other carcinogens were "among the highest levels found in any comparable location the world," said Stuart Batterman at the University of Michigan, a coauthor of both studies.

The Gates Foundation is a major shareholder in the companies that own both of the polluting plants. As of September, the foundation held $295 million worth of stock in BP, a co-owner of Sapref. As of 2005, it held $35 million worth of stock in Royal Dutch Shell, Sapref's other owner. The foundation also held a $39-million investment in Anglo American, which owns the Mondi paper mill.

The foundation has held large investments in all three companies since at least 2002. Since then, the worth of BP shares has shot up by about 83%, Royal Dutch Shell shares by 77% and Anglo American shares about 255%. Dividends have padded the foundation's assets by additional millions of dollars.

The foundation has gotten much more in financial gains from its investments in the polluters than it has given to the Durban microbicide study to fight AIDS.

Sapref said it had cut sulfur dioxide emissions by two-thirds since 1997 and spent more than $64 million over 11 years on environmental initiatives. It said lead in its gasoline and sulfur in its diesel fuel were reduced a year ago. Plant officials said: "Sapref does not accept any responsibility for any health issues in South Durban."

Mondi said that its Merebank paper mill had cut "chemical oxygen demand," a key pollutant, in 2005, and that it was cutting its sulfur dioxide emissions. But by the company's own estimate, the mill still releases about three times the combined amount of sulfur dioxide produced by Mondi plants in five other nations, and the other plants operate at nearly six times the capacity. Merebank uses a coal-fired power plant, while the others burn cleaner fuel.

Just as the Gates Foundation investments in Mondi, BP and Royal Dutch Shell have been very profitable, so too have its holdings in the top 100 polluters in the United States, as rated by the University of Massachusetts, and the top 50 polluters in Canada, as rated by the trade publication Corporate Knights, using methods based on those developed by the university.

According to the foundation's 2005 figures, it held a $1.4-billion stake in 69 of those firms. They included blue chips, such as Chevron Corp. and Ford Motor Co., as well as lesser-known companies such as Lyondell Chemical Co. and Ameren Corp.

At the same time, the foundation held a $2.9-billion stake in firms ranked by the investment rating services as among the worst environmental stewards, including Dominion Resources Inc. and El Paso Corp.

Without double-counting companies flagged by both the University of Massachusetts and the rating services, the combination totals an investment of about $3.3 billion.

The Gates Foundation did not respond to written questions about its investments in companies that were high polluters or those rated as poor environmental stewards.

Drugs out of reach

NEARLY every morning, a 56-year-old retired soldier named Felix makes a short trek from his house on the outskirts of Lagos, Nigeria, to a factory to purchase a 40-cent block of ice.

Felix has a pressing, private reason to get the ice: He needs it to keep his medicine from melting.

Two years ago, Felix's wife died from AIDS, and he learned he was HIV-positive.

He told his six children, now 16 to 24 years old, but no one else. He was afraid of the stigma of HIV. He agreed to be interviewed only if he was identified by his first name alone. "I thought the world had come to an end for me," Felix said. "Everyone believes that once you have it, you're a living ghost."

He took antiretroviral drugs and felt better. But his treatment was interrupted frequently because he could not afford the cost: $62 a month. His pension as a former staff sergeant was $115 a month, and the money came sporadically.

Worse, his body soon stopped responding to the drugs. His kidneys began to fail, and his count of immune cells crucial to fight off infections plummeted.

In May, Felix began taking Kaletra, a second-line AIDS drug — needed when the first round of treatments fail.

His health rebounded, but it came at a cost.

Gel capsules of Kaletra melt in Nigeria's sweltering climate, where temperatures often top 100 degrees. Felix kept his Kaletra in a small chest filled with ice.

Each day, he had to go get more ice. And each day, he had to take Kaletra precisely at 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. These things made it difficult for him to work, even at odd jobs.

A new version of Kaletra does not require refrigeration. But his physician, Dr. T.M. Balogun, who helps run the AIDS program at Lagos State University Teaching Hospital, told him not to get his hopes up.

The hospital is helped by the Nigerian government, which gets money from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. The fund has been awarded $651 million by the Gates Foundation. Yet the hospital does not offer the new Kaletra. It is too expensive.

In August, private pharmacists said they could sell it for $246 a month. But that was far out of Felix's reach.

Kaletra is made by Abbott Laboratories. As of this September, the Gates Foundation held $169 million in Abbott stock. In 2005, the foundation held nearly $1.5 billion worth of stock in drug companies whose practices have been widely criticized as restricting the flow of key medicines to poor people in developing nations.

On average, shares in those companies have increased in value about 54% since 2002. Investments in Abbott and other drug makers probably have gained the foundation hundreds of millions of dollars.

Drug makers say they need price protection for research and development. "Our global needs and global systems are in conflict," Miles White, Abbott's chief executive, wrote in the Financial Times last year. "This threatens to harm one goal, innovation, in the name of another, access to medicine."

In 1994, however, the drug makers, with other research-intensive businesses, lobbied hard and successfully for the international Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights, which made it harder to move from costly brand-name drugs to cheap generics. The agreement protected new-drug monopolies for 20 years or more.

This meant no low-priced generic for Kaletra. The pact locked in Abbott as its sole supplier, and Abbott set prices for the world.

Under pressure from activists, Abbott and other companies cut prices for key AIDS drugs in poorer nations. In Guatemala and Thailand, the new Kaletra costs $2,200 per patient per year, plus taxes and fees — a fraction of the more than $8,000 it costs in the United States. In poorer Nigeria, the official price was $500 a year.

But this was still too costly for most patients, including Felix.

The industry's approach "has the effect of making medicines available only to a narrow spectrum of a rich elite in a developing country," said Brook Baker, an intellectual property expert at Northeastern University.

He called it "pharmaceutical apartheid."

Drug companies say critics overlook billions of dollars' worth of drugs they donate to developing nations. Abbott says it has given AIDS drugs to 25,000 patients, along with millions of test kits, and has underwritten a major project to improve AIDS services in Tanzania.

In emergencies, critics welcome donated drugs. The problem, they say, is that donations scare away generic suppliers. Donations, said Ellen 't Hoen, who directs a drug-access program for Doctors Without Borders, "remove the prospect of any stable supply."

And when the free drugs are gone, patients die.

Most medicines are reliably profitable. In the most recent quarter, Abbott posted a gross profit margin of 59% of sales, and recently paid its 331st consecutive quarterly dividend. A congressional analysis shows that during the first six months of 2006, the 10 largest drug companies earned $39.8 billion in profits.

The Gates Foundation's top priority is stopping AIDS, Bill Gates told the International AIDS Conference in August. Since its inception, the foundation has donated more than $2 billion to fight the disease.

The foundation did not respond to written questions about the problems of patients who cannot obtain needed AIDS drugs due to pharmaceutical company policies.

Meanwhile, the foundation holds its grant recipients to a far higher standard than the drug companies on which it bets large portions of its endowment. Its grant form says it expects recipients "to exercise their intellectual property rights in a manner consistent with the stated goals of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to promote the … availability of inventions for public benefit in developing countries at reasonable cost."

Some critics say the foundation's failure to use its own investments "to promote … public benefit in developing countries at reasonable cost" might trace back to the source of most of its money — Microsoft — which Bill Gates serves as chairman.

Microsoft monopolies in computer operating systems and business software depend upon the same intellectual-property and trade-law approaches favored by drug companies.

"The Gates Foundation is in a position to change the dynamic, to make sure that drugs get first to the places they are most needed," said Daniel Berman, deputy director in South Africa for Doctors Without Borders. "But it conflicts with the interests of Microsoft."

In response to written questions, Harrington, the Gates Foundation policy officer, said the foundation tried to guarantee that grantee discoveries made in partnership with for-profit companies trickled down to people in developing nations.

"The foundation's goal is to help ensure that new scientific knowledge is broadly shared … and that lifesaving health advances are created and made available and affordable to those most in need," she said. "We also recognize that private industry needs adequate incentives to develop new drugs."

The foundation's pharmaceutical company investments, Harrington said, "are completely separate from what's being done on the programmatic side to help spur the development and delivery of drugs/vaccines."

Contact the authors:

Sanders reported from Nigeria, Dixon from South Africa and Piller from San Francisco. Times staff writer Doug Smith, data analyst Sandra Poindexter and researchers Maloy Moore and Robin Mayper contributed to this report.


Foundation investments

A sampling of the Gates Foundation's largest investments*:

More than $1.5 billion

Berkshire Hathaway Inc.**

Canadian government

Between $1 billion and $1.5 billion

Fannie Mae

German government

Between $100 million and $1 billion

Abbott Laboratories

Archer Daniels Midland Co.

BP (formerly British Petroleum)

Canadian National Railway

Exxon Mobil Corp.

Freddie Mac

French government

Japanese government

Merck & Co.

Schering Plough Corp.

Tyco International Ltd.

Waste Management Inc.

* May include stocks, bonds and other securities

** Warren E. Buffett committed his first installment of Berkshire Hathaway stock in June 2006.

Sources: Gates tax and SEC filings


Ethics-based investing

Some foundation trustees shun ethical investments out of concern about inferior returns. But several studies conducted over the last decade by financial analysts have eased that worry. Despite some exceptions, many mutual funds, for instance, that consider the social and environmental impact of their investments compete well against standard funds.

In the 12 months that ended in November, several funds that consider the impact of their investments upon social welfare — including the New Alternatives Fund, the Parnassus Fixed-Income Fund and the Catholic Equity Fund I — performed in the top ranks of standard mutual funds in the same categories, according to SRI World Group.

Broad indexes of stocks selected because of their companies' social concerns also have tended to keep pace with standard indexes. The Domini 400 Social Index is modeled on the Standard & Poor's 500 Index, a widely used measure of market performance. While results from the two indexes tend to leapfrog each other over short periods, from 1990 through November the Domini index has outperformed the S&P 500 by nearly 6%.

From its inception about 18 months ago through November, KLD Research & Analytics' Global Climate 100 Index — made up of companies selected for their efforts to reduce climate change — rose 22.03%. In the same period, by comparison, the MSCI World Index, which measures general corporate performance in the U.S. and 22 other major developed nations, rose 20.73%.

"After controlling for investment style," said economists at Maastricht University in the Netherlands who studied U.S., U.K. and German mutual funds, "we find little evidence of significant differences in risk-adjusted returns between ethical and conventional funds.

Source: Times reporting


About this series

This series is based on more than 90 interviews and hundreds of documents, including thousands of pages of Gates Foundation grant descriptions and policies, evaluation reports, tax forms, filings to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission through September 2006 and lists of endowment holdings from 2002 through 2005.

Information was used from four leading services that provide guidance for investors regarding corporate performance: Calvert Group Ltd., Innovest Strategic Value Advisors, KLD Research & Analytics Inc. and Oekom Research. None of the companies was directly involved in The Times' assessment of the Gates Foundation portfolio; they have taken no position on The Times' conclusions.

The research groups consider companies in context and weigh their efforts to improve. The Times tally of Gates investments in companies that contradict its goals included only those firms that were ranked among the worst by the investment rating services.

Companies among the 100 highest-polluting in the United States were derived from rankings by the University of Massachusetts Political Economy Research Institute. These rankings consider total air pollution released, toxicity of pollutants and the number of people at risk of exposure. The top 50 polluters in Canada were rated by the trade publication Corporate Knights, based largely on the University of Massachusetts approach.

The Times used several studies that reviewed or evaluated actions of the pharmaceutical industry regarding intellectual property rights, patents and drug pricing in developing nations. A preliminary list of relevant companies was drawn up using studies or evaluations conducted by Innovest, KLD, Oekom, the nonprofit medical group Doctors Without Borders, and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility, a coalition of 275 faith-based institutional investors that includes religious groups, pension funds, endowments, hospital corporations and colleges.

The list was refined and validated in interviews with experts and through a review of more than 40 technical papers and analyses, including studies by the World Bank and the World Health Organization. Those sources were supplemented with reports and announcements from the pharmaceutical companies and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, a leading trade group.

Companies in the sub-prime industry were compiled from National Mortgage News and Inside Mortgage Finance, leading trade publications.

Information about proxies was gathered from the EthVest database, sponsored by the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility. The data were supplemented by interviews with officials from various foundations.

The overall figures in this series may significantly understate the volume of Gates Foundation investments that tend to conflict with its charitable goals. The Gates Foundation did not provide details for about $4.3 billion of investments it characterizes as loans.

Source: Los Angeles Times

Wednesday, December 15, 2010



Dear Friend,

Legendary film actor Sir Roger Moore has teamed up with PETA once again, narrating a new video that highlights the abhorrent abuse suffered by ducks and geese on foie gras farms.

Foie gras is an unspeakably vile food that is produced under horribly cruel conditions. It is made by ramming a pipe down the throats of ducks and geese and pumping vast amounts of grain, maize and fat directly into the birds' stomachs. The process of force-feeding these gentle animals is so violent that the pipes often tear holes in the birds' sensitive throats. It can also cause the birds' internal organs to painfully rupture. Birds who are used in foie gras production live in constant pain and wait in fear of the next assault. Those who survive the force-feedings suffer intensely as their livers swell to up to 10 times their normal size, only to then be sent to slaughter so that their swollen and diseased livers can be sold as foie gras!

Like us, Sir Roger Moore desperately wants to see the day when the production and sale of this "torture in a tin" is banned worldwide. As you will no doubt remember, he teamed up with us last year to help get foie gras off the shelves at internationally renowned department store Selfridges. Moore knows that we get results and that we won't quit until we win. That's why he has narrated an exclusive new video calling for public support of PETA – a video I hope you will show to everyone you know, as well as any restaurateur, caterer or party planner who serves foie gras.


To join PETA and Sir Roger Moore in saying "No" to the cruel industry that's responsible for the horrific pain and suffering endured by birds who are raised for foie gras, please watch the video and pass it on (perhaps in an e-mail link).

Just last month, we reached another important milestone in our campaign against foie gras. After a series of letters and meetings with our team of expert campaigners – and with the help of Sir Roger Moore – we convinced high-end department store Harvey Nichols to remove foie gras from its restaurant menus starting in January.

With you behind us, we are winning important battles in the fight against the hideously cruel foie gras industry, but we need your help now to maintain pressure on the retailers and restaurants that continue to sell this vile product across the country.

Together, we can work to prevent the suffering of ducks and geese on foie gras farms. Thank you for caring and acting.

Very truly yours

IEN sig.jpg

Ingrid E Newkirk

PS Please watch Sir Roger Moore's exclusive new video today. Then forward it to everyone you know and urge them to get behind our campaign too.


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Our members are already activists. They know how to generate interest and implement change, and they know that in numbers lies strength- that many, united can acccomplish what a few cannot.

It is time to unite on a global scale. EnvironmentalNetworking provides the communication, interaction, and networking to enable us to unite and preserve our world.

It is morally unacceptable for human beings to exploit nature so intensively that the living conditions on Earth dramatically change and the biotope of humans and other life forms deteriorate, decline or even disappear entirely. Future generations will be even more greatly confronted with the consequences thereof than the present generation. This is why it is crucial for humans to impose significant ecological restrictions on themselves. These should be directed at decreasing the use of space, raw materials, energy, plants and animals.

We must remove the veil of propaganda and ignorance, and enlighten the people to the painful truth that changes must be made in the way we all live for the sake of our global environment, our lives, and our children's future.

The Secret of Happiness

The Secret of Happiness | Brain Pickings

The Secret of Happiness from Maria Popova on Vimeo.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Empathic Civilisation

Bestselling author, political adviser and ‘social and ethical prophet’ Jeremy Rifkin investigates the evolution
of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society.

Jeremy Rifkin, economist and founder of The Foundation on Economic Trends, believes it is possible to expand the reach of our empathy to the entire human race, and beyond. He cites new research showing that humans are soft-wired with mirror neurons that cause us to empathize with one another. This emotion has evolved over time: What began as a feeling reserved for those of the same family has expanded to those of the same tribe, to religion, to nation.

Video created by The RSA, with Jeremy Rifkin and Cognitive Media


We Are Hard-Wired to Care and Connect: Recent research has shown that our brains are made to support caring, cooperation, and service.

You can also view a 10-minute RSA Animate of Jeremy Rifkin's lecture, which brings his talk to life through animation.

RSA Animate – Empathic Civilisation

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


GGCS 3 at UC Davis


As we await negotiations on an international agreement, we as subnational leaders can and must take action now. We must work to drive green projects that both stimulate our economies and protect and preserve our most precious resources.
The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has predicted that most of the implementation for climate-related policies will happen at the subnational level and that our role is crucial in moving climate policy forward. We are where the action is at now.
We must continue this approach and work together as we build this emerging green economy so all can benefit from the global green marketplace. Please join us as we chart the course towards a greener global economy through environmental stewardship.
Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger



Economic and Environmental Leadership Awards Ceremony

Governor Participates in Conversation with Prime Minister David Cameron

Governor Announces First-of-its-Kind Climate Action Coalition

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

R 20 Regions of Climate ACTION!

R20 — Regions of Climate Action

An innovative subnational public-private alliance that will implement concrete actions to solve climate change and build the global green economy

What is the R20?

Last December, at the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 15), California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger announced the concept for a new global organization that would break through the negotiations impasse and lead in the climate challenge through concrete actions at the subnational level: the R20 – Regions of Climate Action.

Heeding this call to action, California and other leading states and provinces from around the world will officially launch the R20 in November 2010 at the third Governors’ Global Climate Summit in California. The R20 will include an expanding and globally diverse group of subnational government members from developed and developing countries that are committed to taking real action on climate change. In addition, the R20 will partner with organizations and individuals from the private sector, academia, national governments, international organizations, and civil society to build momentum for climate action at the national and international levels.

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What will the R20 achieve?

The mission of the R20 will be to develop and implement low-carbon and climate resilient projects through cooperation among subnational governments from around the world.

During its first year, the R20 will facilitate public-private partnerships, share best practices, accelerate the development of green innovations, and begin implementing clean energy demonstration projects. Within five years, the R20 aims to have at least twenty subnational governments enact comprehensive low-carbon policies and implement projects, using successful models from progressive subnational leaders as a guide.

Through these efforts, the R20 will expand the global green economy, create new green jobs and build commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Demonstration projects will further show that 75 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions reductions needed by 2020 to limit the increase in world average temperature to 2°C can be achieved at no net cost and that many projects will generate new economic benefits.*

*Project Catalyst has determined that 75 percent of the 17.4 gigatons of CO2-equivalent that must be reduced from annual business-as-usual emissions by 2020 can be achieved through renewable energy, forest and land use practices, and energy efficiency at a net economic benefit to society. Center for American Progress & United Nations Foundation, Meeting the Climate Challenge: Core Elements of an Effective Response to Climate Change, October 2009.

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Why is the formation of the R20 so significant?

COP 15 failed to produce a binding international agreement on climate change, and there is now growing recognition that a new climate treaty is politically unlikely in the short term. The key reason for this setback lies with fundamental disagreements between developed and developing countries over climate finance and emissions reduction targets.

This political situation does not change the climate reality: to avoid dangerous climate change, the world must reduce greenhouse gas emissions now. Further, between now and 2050, at least two-thirds of new emissions growth will occur in developing countries, many of which lack the capacity to develop and implement effective climate policies. While political debates continue, real actions must be taken to reduce emissions and build capacity on the ground.

Despite the disappointment of COP 15 and the lingering effects of the global recession, subnational governments such as California are pushing forward to move the world toward a low-carbon future and grow the global green economy. This momentum cannot be lost, and we must work to link these “bottom-up approaches” to national and global “top-down” goals.

The R20 will support, leverage, and extend subnational climate efforts to help build momentum for climate action at the national and international levels. By focusing on achieving concrete action through project activities, the R20 will achieve immediate results and demonstrate ways to move forward on clean technology deployment and accelerate low-carbon investment.

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Photo: Think Globally Act Locally

What is the relationship between the R20 and the United Nations?

The R20, while outside the United Nations framework, will maintain a close working relationship with the United Nations and play a complementary role, as it will with other international organizations.

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Why should we address climate change at the subnational level?

As progress on climate change has stalled at both national and international levels, there is growing consensus that new actors must help tackle the climate challenge. Subnational governments are key actors for many reasons:

  1. According to the UNDP, most investments to reduce GHG emissions and adapt to climate change—50 to 80 percent for reductions and up to 100 percent for adaptation—must take place at the subnational level;
  2. Subnational governments implement national policies, and can also provide solutions to climate change when national-level action stalls;
  3. Subnational governments, such as California, are global leaders in reducing emissions and creating green jobs and these efforts could be replicated and scaled up in both developed and developing countries;
  4. Subnational governments are politically close to where projects must be implemented yet remain sufficiently elevated to achieve wider benefits by integrating projects into regional planning; and
  5. Subnational governments provide a perfect interface for addressing both urban and rural issues and thus cover all key aspects of the fight against climate change.

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How will the R20 impact national climate policy and action?

Environmental policies and projects successfully implemented at the subnational level are often adopted by national governments. Subnational action will spur action at national levels.

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How will the R20 influence international climate action?

Climate change is an international issue that transcends political boundaries and requires actions at all levels. By fostering partnerships between subnational governments, businesses, NGOs, and academics around the world, and by encouraging national governments to take additional steps on climate change, the R20 can spur global climate action.

Further, the R20’s demonstration projects will serve as models to influence subnational and national governments to accelerate their implementation of international agreements, domestic targets, and nationally appropriate mitigation measures (NAMAs), as pledged under COP 15’s Copenhagen Accord. This cooperation between subnational governments of developed and developing countries will mobilize and leverage technology and private sector finance aimed at promoting robust economic recovery and based on a new green paradigm in partnership with the UNDP and International Energy Agency.

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Who will be R20 members and partners?

We are inviting progressive subnational government leaders from around the world to join as the official founding members of R20. In addition, the R20 will invite national governments to become observers to the organization, and will also be recruiting founding partners of the R20 from the private sector, academia, international organizations, and civil society. At the Governors’ Global Climate Summit this November, the founding members and partners will be announced and they will sign the R20 Charter.

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When will the R20 be established and where?

The R20 has been incorporated as a non-profit organization in Geneva, under Swiss law. As noted above, the official launch of the R20 will take place at the third Governors’ Global Climate Summit in Davis, California, on November 15 and 16.

Monday, November 15, 2010

One Person Can Make A Difference!

One Person Can Make A Difference!

Do you think that one person can't make a difference?

If everyone did one thing every day to make a difference in someone's life, imagine the multiplying effect...

millions of people would be doing something daily to make a difference for someone else!

The Starfish Story be inspired

One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.

Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”

The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”

“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”

After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf.

Then, smiling at the man, he said…” I made a difference for that one.

One Person Can Make A Difference!
It is the greatest of all mistakes to do nothing because you can only do little - do what you can!

Think about it. WE can ALL make a difference. It doesn't take a lot, either.

A simple act of kindness through the hustle and bustle of your daily lives can make a difference.

So as you go about your busy day, hold open the door for someone.

When you're sitting in a traffic jam, let a person merge in front of you.

You'd be amazed the effect a small act of kindness can do.

The person that you are nice too, may think about passing it on by being nice to someone else, and so on and on it goes.

You really can make a difference every day in someone else's life!


Hans Lak

One Person Can Make A Difference

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