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Northern Lights against POPs

Northern Lights against POPs: Combatting Toxic Threats in the Arctic

Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 400
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  • Book Info
    Northern Lights against POPs
    Book Description:

    Northern Lights against POPs tells the many-faceted scientific, policy, legal, and advocacy story that led to the Stockholm convention. Unique in its perspective, scope, and breadth, it reveals the key links among environmental and health science, international politics, advocacy, law, and global negotiations. Never before have public health concerns articulated by northern Indigenous peoples in Canada and throughout the circumpolar Arctic had such a direct impact on global policy-making. Authors show how research on POPs (persistent organic pollutants) in the Arctic from the mid-1980s influenced international negotiations and analyze the potential for the convention to be effective. Contributors include elected representatives, researchers, civil servants, Indigenous people who participated in the negotiations, and scientists who provided the compelling Arctic data that prompted the United Nations Environment Programme to sponsor negotiations. Contributors include David Anderson (Minister of the Environment, Canada); Nigel Bankes (University of Calgary); John Buccini (Consultant, former chair of the Global POPs Negotiations); Sheila Watt-Cloutier (Inuit Circumpolar Conference-Canada); Barry Commoner, Paul Woods Bartlett, Holger Eisl, Kimberly Couchot (Center for the Biology of Natural Systems, Queens College, City University of New York); Eric Dewailly (Laval University); David Downie (Director of Educational Partnerships, Columbia Earth Institute, Columbia University, New York); Terry Fenge (Inuit Circumpolar Conference-Canada); Henry Huntington (Consultant, Anchorage) and Michelle Sparck (Circumpolar Conservation Union, Washington, D.C.); Harriet Kuhnlein, Laurie Chan (Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment, McGill University), and Olivier Receveur (formerly Centre for Indigenous Peoples' Nutrition and Environment, McGill University); Lars-Otto Reiersen (Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme Secretariat,Oslo); Henrik Selin (Massachusetts Institute of Technology); David Stone, Russell Shearer (Northern Contaminants Program, Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, Canada); Klaus Topfer (Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme).

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-7067-2
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Foreword
    (pp. ix-xii)
    David Anderson and Klaus Töpfer

    The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, adopted on 22 May 2001, is a great achievement in humanity’s efforts to protect itself and the environment from the threats posed by chemical pollution. For the first time, countries worldwide have agreed to legally binding obligations to eliminate or severely restrict production and use of pesticides and industrial chemicals and take actions towards eliminating the release of chemical by-products.

    Persistent organic pollutants represent a subset of the roughly 70,000 to 100,000 chemicals that are currently on the market. In general, industrial chemicals and pesticides provide important benefits to societies by helping them...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    David Leonard Downie and Terry Fenge
  5. Introduction
    (pp. xv-xxii)

    In the mid-1980s, scientists began to find surprisingly elevated levels of certain toxic chemicals in the blood and lipid tissues of Inuit and then other Indigenous peoples in northern Canada. Many doubted that toxic residues from pesticides, insecticides, fungicides, industrial chemicals, and waste combustion could be found so far from the closest possible emission source – hundreds and sometimes thousands of kilometres away. Over the next thirteen years, however, detailed research in Canada and other circumpolar countries determined that certain toxic chemicals, known as persistent organic pollutants (POPs), were indeed transported over long distances to the Arctic and that they bioaccumulated...

  6. Acronyms and Abbreviations in the International POPs Arena
    (pp. xxiii-xxvi)
    (pp. xxvii-xxx)
  8. SECTION ONE Persistent Organic Pollutants:: Global Poisons Threaten the North

    • 1 POPs, the Environment, and Public Health
      (pp. 3-21)

      In June 1985, the Public Health Research Unit of the Laval University Medical Research Centre was implementing a large provincial survey in Quebec to monitor for possible breast-milk contamination by PCBs and other chlorinated organic contaminants.¹ The research team had discussed including populations in Nunavik, James Bay, and along the lower North Shore of the St. Lawrence River in the study but for practical and budgetary reasons had decided not to include these remote communities. Moreover, these communities were located in what was thought at that time to be a pristine environment far from industrial and agricultural activities and pollution....

    • 2 Canadian Arctic Indigenous Peoples, Traditional Food Systems, and POPs
      (pp. 22-40)

      Information on PCB contaminants in sea mammal food items in the mid-1980s triggered both concern and action by Arctic peoples about toxic hazards in their traditional food resources. This chapter presents major findings from several POPs-related projects conducted by the Centre for Indigenous Peoples’ Nutrition and Environment (CINE) at McGill University.

      In 1985, Health Canada’s Medical Services Branch decided to investigate dietary intake of traditional food resources among Inuit on Baffin Island, who were thought to be the greatest consumers of sea mammal species. One community was selected based on local advice and community harvest data generated by the Baffin...

    • 3 Canadian Research and POPs: The Northern Contaminants Program
      (pp. 41-59)

      Canada’s North comprises three territories with ninety-three communities, most of them home to small populations of First Nations, Métis, or Inuit people. The total population numbers fewer than 100,000 and most are spread thinly across more than 3,775,000 square kilometres (1,458,000 sq. mi.).¹ The population in the North is young, with forty-five per cent under the age of twenty-five, and about half is Aboriginal. Throughout the North, cultural identities, including stewardship of the land, remain strong and traditional harvesting and arts and crafts are important dimensions of the economy.

      Scientists had been monitoring contaminants in the Canadian Arctic since the...

    • 4 Circumpolar Perspectives on Persistent Organic Pollutants: The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme
      (pp. 60-86)

      In a speech in Murmansk in October 1987, Mikhail Gorbachev, then president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.), called for international co-operation to address pollution in the northern part of the U.S.S.R. and the Arctic. This initiative was one of the first signals that the cold war was coming to an end and one of the first steps in a process that ultimately led to the establishment of the Arctic Council.

      A January 1989 Finnish initiative to promote international co-operation in the Arctic led to a consultative meeting on the protection of the Arctic environment in September 1989...

    • 5 The Deposition of Airborne Dioxin Emitted by North American Sources on Ecologically Vulnerable Receptors in Nunavut
      (pp. 87-108)

      The picture that most North Americans have of the Arctic – a pristine, snowy wilderness, sparsely peopled and unpolluted – is, unfortunately, unreal. Although there are few sources of pollution in the region itself, it receives emissions from sources far to the south that are transported mostly by the prevailing air currents. The North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC) engaged the Center for the Biology of Natural Systems (CBNS) to model the rates of deposition, in the new Canadian territory of Nunavut, of airborne dioxins (polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs) and polychlorinated dibenzofurans (PCDFS)) emitted by identifiable North American sources of these pollutants.¹...

  9. SECTION TWO Regional and Global POPs Policy

    • 6 Regional POPs Policy: The UNECE CLRTAP POPs Protocol
      (pp. 111-132)

      The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), through the Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP), started investigating persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the late 1980s as a result of changing scientific understanding and actions taken by Canada and Sweden.¹ Some of the chemicals now classified as POPs had been originally synthesized in the late nineteenth century, but large-scale manufacturing and use of most of them – to produce more and better food and cash crops, protect public health, and facilitate industrial development – began only after World War II. The first reports of the new substances were almost all positive,...

    • 7 Global POPs Policy: The 2001 Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
      (pp. 133-159)

      The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) represents a significant achievement for international environmental policy. Adopted by consensus at a diplomatic conference in May 2001, the convention is the first global treaty that seeks to eliminate substances specifically toxic to the environment and human health. It is, in a very real sense, the centrepiece of global POPs policy.

      The Stockholm Convention bans or limits the production, use, release, and trade of twelve particularly toxic POPs, often referred to as the “dirty dozen.” These are the pesticides aldrin, chlordane, DDT, dieldrin, endrin, heptachlor, mirex, and toxaphene; the industrial chemicals PCBs...

    • 8 The Stockholm Convention in the Context of International Environmental Law
      (pp. 160-191)

      This chapter considers the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants¹ (POPs) within the broader context of other multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs)² negotiated over the last couple of decades and focuses on three themes.

      The first theme is recognition of principles. What are the principles underlying the Stockholm Convention? How are those principles made operational? One of the last issues to be settled in the early morning hours of the final negotiating session in Johannesburg was the way in which the text was to recognize and incorporate the precautionary principle.³

      The second theme is that of relationships. What is the relationship...

    • 9 POPs and Inuit: Influencing the Global Agenda
      (pp. 192-213)

      Representatives of thirty-six nations gathered in Århus, Denmark, on 28 June 1998 to sign a protocol on persistent organic pollutants (POPs) to the 1979 United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) Convention on Long-range Transboundary Air Pollution (CLRTAP). Nearly three years later, representatives of 111 nations gathered in Stockholm, Sweden, to sign a global convention on POPs. Both conventions aim to significantly reduce emissions to the environment of certain POPs and both identify environmental and public health concerns in the Arctic as reasons for concluding these legally binding agreements.

      While yet to be fully ratified and implemented, these agreements effectively...

    • 10 POPs in Alaska: Engaging the United States
      (pp. 214-223)

      Alaska is home to several distinct Indigenous groups, each of which continues traditional pursuits of hunting, fishing, and gathering. These practices account for a substantial portion of the diet of many Alaskans, both Native and non-Native, who stock their freezers with wild fish and game.¹ Native foods and their acquisition have cultural and spiritual value greater than their sustenance value; many Natives feel that, without them, their existence as a people would be in danger. The discovery of contaminants, including persistent organic pollutants (POPs), in Native foods was a shock: their existence is seen as a major threat. This chapter...

    • 11 The Long and Winding Road to Stockholm: The View from the Chair
      (pp. 224-255)

      Shortly after the adoption of the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) on 22 May 2001, I was asked to contribute a chapter to this book that would include my personal perspectives as chair of different intergovernmental groups that were involved in the process. I agreed to do so believing that the experience gained in developing this convention might be not only of interest to some but especially of assistance to others who may one day find themselves in a situation similar to mine, where they are presented with an opportunity to participate in a leadership role in an...

    • 12 The Inuit Journey towards a POPs-Free World
      (pp. 256-268)

      My public role in the POPs process began with an invitation to speak at a forum organized by Physicians for Social Responsibility in Montreal, the day before the first United Nations negotiating session towards a legally binding agreement to eliminate persistent organic pollutants (POPs) at their source.

      However, my personal involvement started when I was a child growing up in a traditional Inuit world: hunting, fishing, and gathering; travelling on the land, ice, and water by dog team in the winter and by canoe in the summer. I was the youngest of a small family born to a single mother...


    • APPENDIX ONE Contributors
      (pp. 269-275)
    • APPENDIX TWO POPs Science and Policy: A Brief Northern Lights Timeline
      (pp. 276-282)
    • APPENDIX THREE Glossary of Terms and Concepts: POPs and International Negotiations
      (pp. 283-303)
    • APPENDIX FOUR The Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants
      (pp. 304-348)