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Covid vaccine not to be compulsory for university lectures

bbc - 2 hours 21 min ago
Ministers are no longer considering making two doses mandatory for students in England, the BBC learns.

Matthews hits 71 not out as Fire earn first win

bbc - 2 hours 21 min ago
Welsh Fire earn their first win of the women's Hundred with a nine-wicket victory against Manchester Originals in Cardiff.

Tokyo Olympics: Dina Asher-Smith reveals she tore her hamstring at British Olympic trials

bbc - 2 hours 48 min ago
Team GB's Dina Asher-Smith tells BBC Sport she tore her hamstring during the British trials after she failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics 100m final and pulled out of the 200m.

Tokyo Olympics: Dina Asher-Smith pulls out of 200m after hamstring tear

bbc - 2 hours 58 min ago
Great Britain's world champion Dina Asher-Smith pulls out of the Olympic 200m after revealing she tore her hamstring earlier this month.

Afghanistan: Fighting rages as Taliban besiege three key cities

bbc - 3 hours 1 min ago
Fears rise of a humanitarian crisis as Islamist militants seek to capture major Afghan urban areas.

Billie Eilish opens up to Clara Amfo on trolls

bbc - 3 hours 10 min ago
Eilish tells Amfo of her frustration with internet criticism in a new documentary to be broadcast on Saturday.

Covid: Pulse oxygen monitors work less well on darker skin, experts say

bbc - 3 hours 19 min ago
Pulse oximeters, which spot falling oxygen levels, may work less well on darker skin, experts warn.

Tokyo Olympics: Dina Asher-Smith & Asha Philip fail to qualify but Daryll Neita heads to 100m final

bbc - 3 hours 21 min ago
Watch highlights as Team GB's Dina Asher-Smith and Asha Philip fail to qualify for the 100m final but Daryll Neita advances as one of the fastest losers.

High Wycombe: Murder arrest after man found dead in street

bbc - 4 hours 33 min ago
Police officers found the victim in Micklefield Road, High Wycombe in the early hours of Saturday.

Focus point

Kuensel Feed - 4 hours 51 min ago

Children in nine dzongkhags receive Covid-19 vaccine 

Kuensel Feed - 4 hours 52 min ago

MoH hopeful to achieve herd immunity once all eligible children are vaccinated 

Younten Tshedup  

More than 32,600 children aged between 12 and 17 years have received their first dose of Covid-19 vaccine in the past two days.

The government started vaccinating children in the same age group on July 22. It began from Phuentsholing and Samtse where children were given the Pfizer vaccine.

Following the emergency use approval of the Moderna vaccine for children between 12 and 17 years, children in nine dzongkhags with high-risk populations were identified for the vaccination programme that began on July 29.

The identified dzongkhags are Chukha, Dagana, Samdrupjongkhar, Sarpang, Samtse, Zhemgang, Pemagatshel, Thimphu, and Paro.

Based on the National Statistics Bureau’s (NSB) projected population for 2021, the targeted population in these nine dzongkhags is 49,994 children.  

Thimphu has the largest number with more than 13,000 children followed by Chukha with over 7,000 children.

A student of Chang Rigphel Primary School in Thimphu, Pema Thinley, said that he volunteered to be one of the vaccine recipients to protect himself and his family members from the virus.

“The injection was painful but I took it because my mother told me that I should get it to protect my family and myself,” he said.

A student of Loselling Middle Secondary School in Thimphu, Sangay Choki, said that she was thankful to His Majesty The King and government for protecting the country and the people from Covid-19 pandemic. “Our Prime Minister has said that if we want to win this fight with the virus, we all need to get vaccinated. I came here to do my part today.”

The 13-year-old said that she was afraid of injection but would not mind getting the Covid-19 vaccine for the benefit of the country. “I’m doing this for my King and my country.”

Except for a few minor side effects including headache, fever, and nausea, officials from the National Immunisation Technical Advisory Group (NI-TAG) said that there were no major side effects reported as of last night.

Meanwhile, for the country to achieve the desired herd immunity by vaccinating 80 percent of the entire population, children below 18 years must be inoculated.

As per the NSB’s projected population for 2021, of the 756,129 people in the country, slightly over 533,000 were 18 years and above. Even after vaccinating the entire eligible adult population, the country would fall short by almost 10 percent or 72,000 people, to achieve herd immunity.

Sowai Lyonpo Dechen Wangmo said that as children were more vulnerable to Covid-19, it was a priority for the government to vaccinate all the eligible children, especially in the high-risk areas.

Lyonpo said: “If we can vaccinate all the eligible children, we can achieve the theoretical target of 80 percent coverage to achieve herd immunity.”

With over 80,000 children in this age group, the existing number of Moderna vaccines (50,000 plus) cannot fully cover all the children. For this, the government is actively involved in securing more mRNA vaccines for children.

The two mRNA vaccines — Pfizer and Moderna — are the only vaccines approved for emergency use in children between the age of 12 and 17 years so far.

The government remains hopeful that additional vaccines would arrive in the country before the second dose is due for children. NI-TAG has recommended the second dose be administered between 4 to 8 weeks after the first dose.

Edited by Tshering Palden




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Students learn traditional music 

Kuensel Feed - 4 hours 52 min ago

Staff Reporter  

To encourage youth in learning the intangible culture of the country, the Royal Academy of Performing Arts conducted a 10-day traditional music training for students in Thimphu that ended this week.

Seven senior artistes from the academy taught more than 40 students, one each from the schools in Thimphu thromde, to play flute, bass lute, dulcimer, and fiddle.

The academy’s principal, Tshering Zangmo said that the students wanted to continue their training but there was no opportunity. “We’ll approach schools to start similar training on weekends for the students.”

She said that the academy has plans to conduct similar training for students, including those in the dzongkhags, during their summer and winter vacations. “The schools can write to us and depending on the demand we’ll arrange the training,” the principal said.




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Customs (amendment) Act 2021 comes into force

Kuensel Feed - 4 hours 53 min ago

Government to refund customs duty in excess of new rates

MB Subba

The Ministry of Finance (MoF) has notified that it will refund the customs duty levied in excess of the new rates passed by the summer session of Parliament.

The Customs (amendment) Act 2021 reduces the customs duty to 10 percent from the existing rates of up to 50 percent on about 500 goods from third countries, which is expected to make them cheaper in the local market.

The ministry has decided to refund the excess customs duty as the new Act became effective from the day it was presented in Parliament in compliance with the Public Finance Act. The (amendment) Bill, which received the Royal Assent recently, was introduced in Parliament on May 31, from which the refund is applicable.

The ministry on July 23 notified that it had promulgated rules, as per which the refund will be only eligible on the commodities that are sold at a reduced price due to the reduction of the duty.

The refund is also applicable on unsold commodities that were imported on or after May 31. But a business or importer will not be eligible for refund if it or its sister companies have any outstanding customs duty, fines and penalties or interest to the government.

The customs duty on the goods imported on or after May 31 and sold to consumers has already been transferred to consumers. In such cases, observers say that the importers and wholesalers are expected to enjoy the refund.

However, Finance Minister Namgay Tshering in the rules stated that in the case of sold goods, the claimant should submit a copy of the invoice or cash memo substantiating that the sales were made at reduced prices due to the reduction in the duty rates.

In the case of the unsold commodities, the claimant should submit the detailed inventory of the unsold stock. Importers must file their claims with the nearest regional revenue and customs office within a year from the date of import of goods, as per the ministry.

According to Section 144(5) of the Customs Act of Bhutan 2017, an applicant who fails to comply with the government notification and conditions are liable to pay a fine ranging from Nu 5,000 to Nu 100,000.

In addition, as per section 146(5) an applicant who commits forgery of documents related to import of goods will be a criminal offence and liable for prosecution as per Penal Code of Bhutan.

The application for refund should be filled and signed by the importer as per the form prescribed in the Customs Rules and Regulation of Bhutan 2017.

Officials hope that the benefits of the reduced duty would trickle down to consumers.

Economic affairs minister Loknath Sharma in a recent interview said that the prices of third country goods would decrease prices for consumers. He said that prices would be further decrease once the Covid-19 restrictions in transportation of goods are eased.

The duty reduction is being implemented at a time when inflation rates remain high amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

The overall consumer price index for the month of May 2021 increased by 8.69 percent from May 2020, according to data published by the National Statistics Bureau  on July 13. This means that the prices of goods and services consumed by the households are 8.69 percent costlier in May this year compared to the same month last year.

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk




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A Bhutanese YouTube channel owner violates copyright of a film 

Kuensel Feed - 4 hours 56 min ago

Chhimi Dema

In less than a month after Samuh, an over-the-top media platform, went online the company saw the first case of its copyright infringement.

The copyright violation case was reported to the police on July 22 against a Bhutanese YouTube channel for streaming their film Pot of Gold on the YouTube channel. Samuh is the film’s legal owner and copyright holder.

On July 21, Samuh commented on the video post asking the owner to remove it and reported to YouTube. The video was removed by YouTube the next day for violating copyrights. 

The Copyright Act of Kingdom of Bhutan 2001 protects the rights of literary and artistic works which includes writings, oral works, stage productions, and audiovisual works, among others.

The Act states that the infringer shall be entitled to the payment of damages for the prejudices suffered and expenses caused by infringement, including legal costs.

“Any infringement of a right protected under this Act, if committed wilfully, or by gross negligence, and for profit-making purposes, shall be punishable by imprisonment for a period of up to one year of by a fine of up to Nu 100,000 or by both,” stated the Act.

According to Samuh’s complaint letter filed to the police, a YouTube account uploaded the recorded version of Pot of Gold on its channel which was recorded when the film was aired on Bhutan Broadcasting Service during the nationwide lockdown.

The film Pot of Gold was uploaded by the account in two parts­–part one was uploaded on July 18 and part two was uploaded on July 20, the complaint letter stated. The YouTube channel also used Samuh’s poster as the thumbnail of the YouTube post.

The complaint letter stated that considering the timing of the film streamed on YouTube which coincided with the release on Samuh’s weekend cinema segment, the intention of the person was “clearly malicious in nature and to harm [Samuh’s] business.”

It has harmed the business since part one of the film streamed on YouTube had 3,500 views and part two had 1,000 views on July 22, the complaint letter stated.

Samuh’s chief executive officer, Nyema Zam, said that protecting copyright was important for the company because of the company’s involvement with a lot of people working in the creative industry.

“We are not just talking about one film, we have hundreds of films on our platform, and some of the content that we show is exclusive on Samuh,” she said, adding that realising this, the company put in place a zero-tolerance policy towards piracy.

Samuh identified the owner of the YouTube channel, Nyema Zam said, the details of the person are shared with the police and now they were waiting for a written statement from the YouTube account holder.

“There is a rampant need for advocacy on intellectual property rights. People need to know the repercussion of what happens to themselves, and how it affects the business,” she said.

The police and the intellectual property rights department need to work together for intellectual property rights implementation, she added. 

Edited by Tshering Palden




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Worth the wait?

Kuensel Feed - 4 hours 56 min ago

A group of friends, one their way to offer wishes to a recently promoted friend, took nearly 30 minutes to locate the “new building” at Bebena, the place of the ceremony. They didn’t even know where the new Drathsang guest house, the landmark given to find the building “opposite the Dratshang Guest house.” 

Another group heading to a baby-shower ceremony is given the address: Wangchen Restaurant, Behind RSPN building, Kawajangsa. The group has to first find out the RSPN building and then the restaurant. A bakery’s delivery boy couldn’t find Norpheling Hotel in Babesa to deliver the cake to the caller who resides “near the Norpheling Hotel.”

Getting around Thimphu can be a nightmare, especially if time is not on your side. We still have to look for the tall yellow or white building or other popular landmarks to look for places behind, in front or beside them. It has become more complicated with new buildings that almost look identical popping up every now and then. The capital city has grown beyond recognition and a proper addressing system seems to be the only solution. The city has expanded into the forests surrounding it. There will be no landmark to give directions to friends visiting or delivery service agents. 

That the National Land Commission and Thimphu Thromde has readied a geospatial data for the city’s addressing system (CAS) is welcomed. It will be submitted to the Cabinet and we could soon see it rolled out. It should receive the Cabinet’s priority, as a proper address system is long overdue. Attempts for a street address system were made as early as 2001 when the grand Thimphu structural plan 2002- 2007 was being finalised. It has been almost two decades, but it is worth the wait if we can come up with a good CAS. 

The capital’s residents are not used to streets and lanes even if we have named streets. Apart from Norzin and Changlam, not many know the other streets by their name. With a CAS and a mobile App system, getting around and finding places would become easier. For instance, Bhutanese arriving in a new country with geospatial systems can start driving from places to places guided by GPS. 

With CAS, more and more people will become used to the numerous new street names that today are not aware even among those who came up with it (names). Besides, a proper address system will come with many other advantages.  As it involves mapping every street, road and building in the city, such information would be extremely useful for urban planning, prompt response to disasters and many more.  In an emergency situation, we need not look for the tall building or the red building but punch the address of the house or office and get to it straight.




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Media misinformation creates wrong knowledge in the society

Kuensel Feed - 4 hours 57 min ago

In recent times, there were reports by mainstream media where media reported without understanding the laws possibly creating confusion or even misinformation to the public. Since media plays a vital role as a bridge between the state and its subjects, the media need to understand the law first before reporting as any misinformation can create distrust among the media consumers in the justice system.

The reports of child molestation convicted for thirty years and rapist for nine years to the detention of sixteen days as punishment of Penjor  Penjor are some of the most recent examples. Such news would create a perception in the society that the penalty for child molestation is more severe than committing an offence of rape or detention for sixteen days is illegal.

For example, in case of thirty years for child molestation, it was done under Section 210 of Civil and Criminal Procedure Code (CCPC), 2001 which authorizes the court to either sentence concurrently or consecutively.”  Concurrent sentence means where the judge can convict a person to “serve all of their sentences at the same time, where the longest period is controlling.” Consecutive sentence means “defendants have to finish serving the sentence for one offence before they start serving the sentence for any other offence.” In case of child molestation, the Penal Code of Bhutan, 2004 (PCB) prescribes a minimum sentence of three years and a maximum of less than five years. Since there were ten victims, so the possibility is that they were sentenced consecutively making it thirty years whereas in the case of rape nine years since there was only one offence.

Similarly, in the case of detention of Penjor Penjor for sixteen, it is absolutely within the detention period provided under the CCPC 2001. Section 191 states until the preliminary hearing, a person can be detained for “forty-nine days, if satisfied that adequate grounds exist or up to one hundred and eight days, where the investigation relates to a heinous crime as long as the court authorizes such detention.” Further, detention is not a punishment but only for investigation.” Equating penalty for defamation and detention is no correct as a penalty for defamation applies only if the accused is convicted. But any detention is counted while calculating the prison term.  

In fact, under Section 212A of CCPC Amendment 2011, “a person detained and acquitted thereof or subjected to unlawful detention is entitled to be compensated for the loss of income caused by the criminal proceedings or unlawful detention and to be reinstated at the former place of work.” Therefore, any person who is eventually acquitted has the right to remedy his legal injury by claiming compensation.  Simultaneously, the accused if acquitted also bring an additional civil suits against the state such as the Office of the Attorney General or  Police or prosecuting agency.

Studies have revealed that “crime stories are commonly presented as dramatic entertainment” by media and media sets the agenda to seek more “audiences to believe that those issues merit more attention.”  In a democracy, the primary role of media is ensuring “transparency and accountability, and to raise the public awareness and to facilitate a place for public discussion.” Therefore, any misinformation can also lead to wrong perceptions in the society including public confidence and trust in the justice system. Media as a medium of information must provide correct information to its consumers. 

Sonam Tshering

Lawyer, Thimphu

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are author’s own.




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Rilangthang farmers revive fallow land after a decade 

Kuensel Feed - 4 hours 58 min ago

Choki Wangmo | Tsirang

After more than a decade, 12 households in Rilangthang, Tsirang resumed paddy cultivation in the six acres of fallow fields this year.

Farmers couldn’t grow paddy since 2012 due to a shortage of water. A forest fire damaged the irrigation canal. The dzongkhag spent about Nu 400,000 to restore the irrigation canal.

Although located in a favourable climatic condition and landscape at 540 metres above sea level, officials said that farmers lost interest in farm activities and were inclined towards off-farm activities. Rilangthang has 23 acres of agricultural land.

However, residents had been growing cereals, vegetables, and winter chillies but on a smaller scale. Villagers said that they had a shortage of farm labour.

As a pilot project, last year, the dzongkhag provided 250kg of IR-28 (rice type) to farmers of Rilangthang, which according to the dzongkhag agriculture officer Dorji Gyeltshen, was a success.

“The dzongkhag provided people with irrigation facilities such as drips, tanks, and pipes and farm machinery for land preparation,” Dorji Gyeltshen said.

He said that such initiatives would contribute towards food self-sufficiency and security among communities. “We hope that people will show continued interest in the future.”

In the future, the dzongkhag plans to provide technical assistance and introduce new farm technologies while employing more youth in agriculture, Dorji Gyeltshen said.

Dhan Maya Gurung who owns five acres of land in Rilangthang said that she was overjoyed to work in the paddy fields again. “Without irrigation water, we did not have many livelihood opportunities.”

She had been growing vegetables on a portion of her land. “I hope to increase my rice production next year.”

Tikaram Gurung said that he won’t have to buy imported rice anymore. “I am happy that I will be able to grow my own rice.”

Edited by Tshering Palden




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Samdrupjongkhar football ground could have lights soon 

Kuensel Feed - 4 hours 59 min ago

Kelzang Wangchuk | Samdrupjongkhar

Every summer, football enthusiasts in Samdrupjongkhar spent their days at home either watching television or running errands. With temperatures soaring above 35 degrees centigrade, it becomes too hot for football.

The ground remains booked for the rest of the day. Without a lighting facility on the ground, not many matches could be played in the evening.

A football player, Jigme, said, “Setting up the lights at the artificial turf ground is the only option so all the football lovers can get equal opportunity to play. Installing the lighting facilities would help promote football,” he said.

Another football enthusiast, Ugyen, said the town has so many interested football players that in winter the ground remains engaged throughout the day.

However, thromde officials said that work to install lights on the ground has been awarded to a contractor.

Thromde’s chief engineer, Nima Dorji, said the thromde awarded the lighting installation work to the contractor in April to be completed in six months.

He said that the contractor could not start the work since he could not import the materials because of the lockdown. “The contractor will start work soon as he is importing the materials.”

Nima Dorji said the contract package worth Nu 7.03 million is funded by Bhutan Olympic Committee and also includes the development of a tennis court and parking area.

Meanwhile, the dzongkhag Covid-19 task force stopped sporting activities in Samdrupjongkhar after detecting the Covid-19 positive cases from the community in May this year.

Sports lovers said since there are no positive cases reported in Samdrupjongkhar in the past few months, the concerned authorities could consider allowing certain sports.

“There are high chances of people getting involved in gambling such as playing cards and dice if the concerned authorities do not allow the sports even after the second jab,” one of the sports enthusiasts said.

Edited by Tshering Palden




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Bhutan records two new different color morphs of Asiatic Golden Cat

Kuensel Feed - 5 hours 31 sec ago

Asiatic Golden Cat (Catopuma temminckii) is one of the widely distributed wildcat species in Bhutan from lower subtropics to areas above 3,000m. It is one of the largest of all the other small cats geographically distributed over South Asia (Nepal, Bhutan, and North-Eastern India) through parts of China to South-Eastern Asia (Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, and Sumatra). The Asiatic golden cat is generally found in forested habitats with some records from scrubs, open rocky terrain, and grasslands from sea level to 4,000m.

The feeding habit of the Asiatic golden cat usually is nocturnal, and it feeds on birds, lizards, small mammals, barking deer, monkeys, and mouse deer. There are also records of hunting of sheep, buffalo calves, sheep, and goats, the prey larger than their body size. The wide range of distribution and food habits of the Asiatic golden cat is due to its adaptive physical modifications—they exhibit different coat color variations known as color morphs.

In Bhutan, four different morphs of Asiatic golden cats (Golden form, ocelot form, melanistic form, and grey form) were recorded. However, the new study revealed the presence of two new color morphs, cinnamon and the rosetted morphs of the Asiatic golden cat. It is believed that the Asiatic golden cat’s polymorphism helps them overcome competition and predation from larger carnivores in the wild.

Cinnamon

This finding was the result of the joint research project on resolving population estimation biases from camera-trap studies undertaken by the World Wildlife Fund and the Department of Forest and Park Services in collaboration with the Zoological Society of London, Panthera International, Flora and Fauna International, and the University of Southampton with a lead researcher from the Department of Forest and Park Services. The study site was in the Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and Royal Manas National Park in central Bhutan.

The study for calibrating camera-trap bias deployed 300 cameras in 100 2 x 2 km survey grid cells for 14 months period in Tingtibee Range (Administrative block) of Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park and Gomphu Range of Royal Manas National Park. The camera-trap pictures reveal the presence of the Asiatic golden cat from 800 to 2500 m in this study area.

However, maximum captures were from the altitudinal range above 2000m.

The world of cats is as unique as it is diverse. The cuddly house cat purring peacefully beside the fireplace and the majestic tiger taking a snooze in the shade of luxuriant forest in the Himalayas belong to the same family, Felidae. Geneticists have found 37 different species of cats which fall under eight distinct lineages evolved over the past 10 million years.

Wild cats are magnificent ecosystem engineers, with most of them occupying the top position in the trophic. The role of small cats in controlling rodents population to the trophic cascade from big cats helps in the healthy regeneration of forests to maintaining the balanced ecosystem of the landscape. However, wild cats are one of the most conflicted animals with humans. Therefore, continuous monitoring and study of these wildcats are necessary for conservation intervention and mitigation of threats to their survival from negative interaction with the human settlements.

The study of wild cats in Bhutan dates back to the 1980s. The method adopted then was sign survey and interviewing local people. Over the years, with advancements in science and technology, camera traps are used as a passive monitoring tool. 

Camera traps are “wildlife-friendly” with no or little disturbance to wildlife. Camera traps have been the primary tool used to study wildlife, capturing fascinating images and video clips of terrestrial species. Camera trap collects a wide range of data, including data on species location, population sizes, and how species interact in a landscape. Using statistical analysis information from camera traps provides empirical evidence for conservation intervention and decision-making. 

Phrumsengla National Park captured the first camera-trap image of a tiger in Bhutan in 2000, and it was the first record of the Royal Bengal Tiger from the highest elevation (3000m). The first-ever systematic nationwide monitoring of the Tiger and Snow Leopard of Bhutan in 2015 and 2016 chiefly used the camera traps. The use of camera traps is now a gold standard method for monitoring wildcats worldwide.

Bhutan has 11 species of wild cats on record, nine confirmed, and the presence of lynx and fishing cats based on anecdotal sources. The camera traps had captured seven of the 11 species;

I. Tiger (Panthera tigris)

II. Common leopard (Panthera pardus), including the melanistic form known as the black panther

III. Clouded leopard (Neofelis nebulosa)

IV. Asiatic golden cat (Catopuma temminckii) including six color morphs

V. Marbled cat (Pardofelis marmorata)

VI. Leopard Cat (Prionailurus bengalensis)

VII. Jungle Cat (Felis chaus)

Considering that Bhutan only covers 0.03 percent of the earth’s surface, the number is even more fascinating. Jigme Singye Wangchuck National Park alone is home to seven wild cat species, possibly the world’s highest number of wild cat species sharing a single space in a landscape.

Interestingly, these species are present in all experimental grids monitored and retrieved so far.

Our preliminary judgment is that most small cats are found near human settlements where they have access to easy prey, and the big cats like tigers and leopards are found in deep forests where they mark their territory. While the iconic big cats receive due attention and conservation priority, small cats should not go into oblivion. They are an essential part of the ecosystem and are also globally threatened by habitat loss and anthropogenic pressures. They are small but beautiful.

Contributed by

Kuenley Tenzin, WWF Bhutan, and Lungten Dorji, University of Southampton




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Obscene imbalances in ‘One Earth Balance Sheet’

Kuensel Feed - 5 hours 2 min ago

The planet is clearly in a mess.  How did we get into this mess and how do we get out of it?

The trouble is that we are 7.8 billion passengers on Spaceship Earth, with the captain, chief engineer, crew and passengers all quarreling, whilst the critical zone outer skin is burning up.  First Class passengers like Jeff Bezos and Richard Branson are building their own escape pods.  Two viral diseases are spreading rapidly, one called COVID-19 and the other FakeNews.  Scientists and rational-thinking can’t seem to convince everyone that we should cooperate to fix the planet before we all burn up.

We don’t have a unified map of where we are and what to do about our dilemmas, so we may need a ‘One Earth Balance Sheet’ to unify the data from ecologists and economists and policymakers to get a total picture of where we stand.  The ecologists spent at least fifty years since the 1972 Limits to Growth Report trying to prove that our current lifestyles are unsustainable.  The economists retorted that if you can’t quantify it, we can’t measure its effect and anyway, the market and technology will solve all the problems.

Balance sheets are typically reports on the financial condition of an economic entity.  As consumers and investors now care a lot more about the environmental, social and governance (ESG) aspects of corporate behaviour, companies are beginning to measure and disclose (very patchily) their financial conditions and corporate responsibilities to society. By the way, the International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation has still not yet issued a unified reporting standard on ESG.  Only this year has the United Nations approved its System of Environmental-Economic Accounting-Ecosystem Accounting (SEEA EA) that measures the value of natural capital, so we can finally start implementing ESG reporting at the national level.   Natural capital tries to value biodiversity and natural resources, in contrast to produced and human capital, which is measured in national economic accounting.

We have national balance sheets, based on government, financial, corporate and household and foreign trade and financial data, but few of these actually incorporate data on natural capital.  So long as we see the world only through national eyes, we end up with geopolitical problems because the planetary problems are today far larger than any single country can solve.   So conceptually, a OneEarthBalanceSheet would help identify what every country, company or individual is doing to change our planet and humanity’s total condition, for better or worse.

The OneEarth perspective reveals at least four obscene imbalances in our planetary balance sheet.  Small wonder one wit said after the 2008 global financial crisis, nothing on the right side of the balance sheet is right, and nothing on the left side is left.  The world is running on empty.

The first is the pandemic injustice against poor countries.  As of May 24, 2021, over 75% of all vaccine doses had been administered in just 10 countries,  whereas in many low income countries, those who got at least one dose are less than 1% of the population.  The prestigious British Medical Journal claims that the US, UK and Holland are throwing away tens of thousands of doses of vaccines that are due to expire, even as the poor are starved of vaccines.

The second is military spending increase amidst global poverty.  Annual 2020 global military expenditure was USD 2 trillion, with the US accounting for 39% of total, and that rose 2.6% even as world GDP fell 4.9%.  Global net official development aid in 2020 was only USD 168 billion.  The IMF has estimated a vaccination strategy for poor countries would cost USD 50 billion, less than the 2020 increase in military spending.

Thirdly, the rich has got richer. Global high net worth individuals (HNW) who each own more than USD 1 million increased by 6.3% to 20.8 million and 7.6% to USD 79.6 trillion in wealth respectively in 2020 (Capgemini).   In the same year, the World Bank estimated that 88-115 million fell back to extreme poverty, and by this year, that may number 110-150 million.

Fourthly, climate disasters have reached alarming levels.   With flash floods in Europe, China and India, forest fires in California, freak typhoons, melting of Arctic permafrost, the Global Climate Risk Index 2021 signaled that climate warming and disaster costs may be much more severe than anticipated.

Who contributed most to the current state of affairs?  Actually, only a handful of countries and companies.   According to the Carbon Majors Database, just 100 companies accounted for 71% of carbon emissions that caused global warming since 1988.   The United States has emitted more CO2 than any other country or 25% of historical emissions, twice more than China – the world’s second largest national contributor; whilst the European Union contributed 22%.

The amazing thing is that the most sanctimonious countries on climate action may possibly become the worst offenders.  According to environmentalist Bill McKibben, if Canada allows its Alberta shale oil project to go ahead, the extraction of “a hundred and seventy-three billion barrels would produce about a hundred and twelve billion tons of carbon dioxide, which is 28 per cent of the world’s total remaining carbon budget if we want to have a fifty percent chance (not a guarantee—a fifty-percent chance) of meeting the climate goals we set in Paris.”

Those who commit crimes against mother nature may have to worry as lawyers have now conceived a concept of “ecocide”, as against “genocide”, defined as ““unlawful or wanton acts committed with knowledge that there is a substantial likelihood of severe and either widespread or long-term damage to the environment being caused by those acts.”   After all, ecocide in say, destroying the Amazon forest may have the same devastating impact on the Amerindian natives who live there.

If adopted by the International Criminal Court, life will become even more complicated.  Perhaps lawyers should work on a similar definition for “infocide”, a crime committed by those who wantonly commit misinformation, disinformation or FakeNews damage to others?

OneEarth is imbalanced because there are no limits to military spending, monetary creation or FakeNews.  The only defence against mutually assured destruction is moral in nature.  Those who don’t have moral obligations to Humanity and Nature, please buy your place in the next escape pod to space.

Contributed by  Andrew Sheng 

Asia News Network




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