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Aug 31, 2017

In Episode 11 of Series 2 of The Rights Track Todd talks to the internationally acclaimed environmentalist photographer Garth Lenz about the idea of crimes against the environment and how his photography helps to make a case for environmental rights.

  • Garth talks about the power of photography in helping to change the way people think e.g. about injustice or war and how it can motivate people to demand change
  • He talks about why Canada where he is based is such a powerful example of “industrial sacrifice” because the sites are so vast and why photography is such a good medium for communicating that to a broad audience
  • Todd asks Garth about how he conveys the idea of vastness such as in his photos of industrialised landscape such as that at the Tar Sands Development 
  • Garth talks about finding a point of reference such as equating the size of a single truck being used with the size of a family home and how doing this helps link what’s happening with the environment and human rights
  • Todd outlines the tensions around the human rights arguments i.e the right to economic development and prosperity and the need to explore sustainable development and also the more philosophical debates around where the environment sits in debates around human rights 
  • Garth argues there is not a major tension between the needs of humans and the needs of the environment - he believes they both need a healthy ecosystem 
  • Garth talks about a recent project around Houston and Port Arthur in the US where he says there are huge Fortune 500 companies juxtaposed with some of the highest rates of unemployment, poverty and poor health     
  • Garth mentions recent work he has been undertaking for the Environmental Integrity Project in Pennsylvania looking at the human cost of fossil fuel development  particularly where people have signed over rights to  companies to extract fuels and then find, for example, that their water supply is contaminated  - he feels that nothing changes until the privileged and rich are affected in the same way.
  • Todd picks up and describes the so-called “fracking process” which is what Garth has been talking about and Garth goes onto talk about some of the knock ons success as earthquakes in places where they don’t normally happen. 
  • Garth goes on to mention recent wildfires in British Columbia and their impact on communities and individuals including his own asthmatic daughter - he says he could not imagine as a child a point in time when people would be scared to go out and breathe the air or drink the water without wanting to take action as a society
  • Discussion around some of the policy responses to environmental issues such as recent moves in France and the UK to ban the production of petrol and diesel vehicles and the shift towards hybrid vehicles 
  • Todd raises the question of where the power will come from to fuel electric cars - he mentions plans to develop nuclear power in the UK
  • Garth believes the moves in Europe are encouraging and agrees the fuel will need to come from a wind range of sources - he says the US and even Canada are far behind
  • He argues that plugging electric vehicles into coal powered stations for recharging is better for the environment than driving petrol or diesel fuelled cars because of the major reduction in greenhouse gases even though he acknowledged it’s not ideal
16.10 -end 
  • Discussion about President Trump’s preference not to be a signatory to the Paris Climate Change agreement and what motivates Garth to keep up his work
  • Garth points out that at a federal, state and local level people are saying that Washington may have a view but they will continue to make their own decisions and moves regardless and that this makes him feel more optimistic going forward 
  • Todd urges Rights Track listeners to watch Garth’s emotional and gripping Ted Talk