Ban on Metals Mining
In March 2017, the national legislature of El Salvador voted unanimously to ban all metals mining– the first such ban ever enacted on the national level. The ban was implemented in response to grassroots and religious groups across the country forming a coalition to educate the public and policymakers about the hazardous impacts of mining on soil and water health. After “countless marches, protests, petitions, testimonies, reports on the impact of mining, and study trips and delegations”, a corporate legal challenge to a temporary version of the moratorium was tossed out, and the legislative ban in its current form was born. It’s an exciting and uplifting tale, the entirety of which can be read in this article from Ethics & International Affairs: ‘Historic Wins for Democracy and Rights in El Salvador’.
Photo by Christopher William Adach (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Ever since 2008, it has been widely reported that Greece is in complete economic collapse. But the Greek economic crisis has also provided the people of Athens with a rare opportunity to step outside of the global economy – to come together to revitalize communities, share resources and re-shape public spaces to serve their own needs, rather than the needs of big business and commerce. Projects include Navarinou, a park run by a neighborhood committee, which maintains a busy schedule of public debates, films, children’s activities and urban gardening workshops, and the Social Cultural Centre of Vyronas, whose charter declares: “We put human needs above commerce and business interests.” To learn more about these projects, read ‘Athens’ unofficial community initiatives offer hope after government failures’, by Helena Smith. More information and a film on Navarinou can be found here http://alternation.info/navarinou-park/.
Disposable Plastic Bans
France & India
In the summer of 2016, France became the first country to completely ban plastic cups, plates and cutlery. Less than a year later, India’s National Green Tribunal (NGT) took it a step further by introducing a ban on all disposable plastic in Delhi, India’s capital city. This is particularly notable as India is the fourth biggest plastic polluter in the world, and is responsible for a considerable percentage of the many tons of plastic dumped into the world’s oceans each year. To learn more, read All Forms Of Disposable Plastic Banned In Delhi and France becomes the first country to ban plastic plates and cutlery.
Photo by Meena Kadri (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0) (Rope made out of re-purposed plastic)
Farm to Plate is a policy in the US state of Vermont, initiated by the Vermont Legislature in 2009. It tasked the Vermont Sustainable Jobs Fund with creating a 10-year Farm to Plate Strategic Plan (2011-2020). Project priority areas include: protecting and expanding affordable and environmentally sustainable farmland in agricultural production, improving the viability of local food and farm businesses, increasing local food availability and affordability, increasing consumer demand for local food, and creating as many good jobs as possible in the local food and farm economy. To learn more, visit Farm to Plate website.
Photo by Matt (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Foreign Junk Food Ban
The remote Torba Province in the northern part of the South Pacific Island chain of Vanuatu has banned all imports of foreign junk food in favor of an all-local and all-organic diet. Worried by the health threats from imported sugar, white flour noodles, and other western foodstuffs flooding into the rest of the country, local officials in Torba made the decision to stick with locally grown and harvested fish, crabs, shellfish, taro, yams, paw paw, pineapples and more that have kept them healthy for generations. To learn more, read South Pacific islands ban western junk food and go organic or As Obesity Rises, Remote Pacific Islands Plan to Abandon Junk Food.
Photo by ILO in Asia and the Pacific (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)
In Lincoln County, Oregon, in the northwestern United States, a group of residents formed this organization to help members of their community protect “their fundamental rights, their natural environment, their quality of life, their health and their safety”. It led to Lincoln County becoming the first county in the United States to ban aerial pesticide spraying through a vote of the people. In 2017, the group worked with the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund to file a lawsuit on behalf of their local river, the Siletz, and to draft a ‘rights of nature’ initiative for the riparian ecosystem. To learn more, visit the LCCR website or read these articles on the initiative from Truthout and Shareable.
Photo by Rio Davidson
In 2005, in the face of rapidly increasing land values, urban sprawl, and farmland development pressures, the forward-thinking Mouans-Sartoux town council purchased an old farm estate that was slated for development, and has since designated over 100 hectares of land in the area as protected farmland. The municipality also set a goal that 100% of the food served in their three public school cafeterias should be local and organic. To help meet this ambitious target, the local council updated their procurement policies to make it easier for small producers in the area to meet school catering needs.
But even after changing these policies, the supply of local produce was insufficient to meet the town’s needs. So the town took matters into their own hands by growing their own vegetables on the old estate purchased a few years earlier. In 2010 the town hired its first “municipal farmer,” invested in farming and storage equipment, and officially launched its régie agricole municipale or “municipal farming service.” By 2015 the municipally-run farm produced 85% of the organic vegetables used in local school meals. The program reduces food waste by coordinating cafeteria menus with what’s available on the farm, and by processing and storing produce harvested during school holidays. In addition to fresh produce, the municipal farm provides opportunities for school children and young adults to learn about farming and where their food comes from. The farm also sells vegetables at a discount to low-income residents and donates surpluses to the local food bank. To learn more, visit the program’s website (in French) or read the relevant entries in these reports from Access to Land and the Transnational Institute.
Photo from Wikimedia Commons; CC BY-SA 4.0
The Nilgiris district in India announced a far-ranging ban on plastic products, effective January 2018. The ban encompasses the usual suspects – Styrofoam, polypropylene (i.e. non-woven) bags, and single-use plates and cups, many of which have been banned since 2001 – but it goes the extra mile and also includes plastic gloves, silver foil covers, plastic and foil gift wrap, laminated brown paper, laminated bakery boxes, cling wrap, and plastic water bottles below one liter in volume among the banned items. Plastic waste accumulation has become a huge problem in this hilly and popular tourist destination, and a successful effort to reduce waste here could be exemplary for other regions (like Ladakh) which are struggling with the same problem. Read more about this policy in the Deccan Chronicle and Times of India.