Wednesday, December 20, 2017

The Right to Transparency of Environmental Information: We Are Going Backwards

In 2010 I published a book chapter on "transparency" as a social responsibility strategy. You can see the chapter here, although its behind a pay wall (sorry).

At that time, the United Nations Environmental Development Program was attempting to take INFOTERRA online and make it available to the general public. INFOTERRA is a network of environmental monitoring information.

The right to access to environmental information is foundational for informed participation in environmental decision-making procedures. The first international effort to make environmental information accessible can be traced back to the UN 1972 Stockholm Conference on the Human Environment, which led to establishment of the Earthwatch system aimed at systematic environmental monitoring.

A number of programmes and networks were instituted with the Earthwatch system, including the Global Environment Monitoring System (GEMS) programme and INFOTERRA, the Global Environmental Exchange Network, charged by The United Nation Environmental Programme (UNEP).

The INFOTERRA system operates through a network of affiliated national centres. Although offering a range of environmental information products and services (including environmental bibliographies; directories of sources of information; query-response services; environmental awareness leaflets), governments vary considerably in their reporting standards and practices.

Today the Earthwatch system, and INFOTERRA in particular, are not easily accessed on the web and cannot be readily navigated when found.

Public access to information available on INFOTERRA and other Earthwatch systems should be guaranteed and enabled.

We need a better globally accessible system of environmental information. We need environmental transparency.

Transparency is most broadly defined as “the degree to which information is available to outsiders that enables them to have informed voice in decisions and/or to assess the decisions made by insiders” (Florini, 2007, p. 5).

As implied by this definition, high transparency is believed to overcome informational asymmetries that enable insiders to make self-interested decisions that might adversely impact “outside” stakeholders. This faith in the role of transparency in promoting accountability presumes that information availability is a, or even the, necessary precondition for reducing fraud, corruption, and the abuse of power (see Christensen & Langer, 2007).

Transparency is therefore linked to the governance quality and stakeholder accountability of NGOs (non-governmental institutions), corporations, financial markets, and democratic government institutions, ranging from school boards to national governments (see Vishwanath & Kaufmann, 2001).

Most broadly, transparency is formulated as a security mechanism that stabilizes macro systems by insuring the good governance of specific institutions and the efficient, stable operations of financial markets.

We need transparency of environmental information to truly price the costs (especially social, health, and environmental) and benefits of our energy and industrial supply chains.

We see with the TRUMP administration how national governments are attacking transparency through outright CENSORSHIP of information and by surveillance of scientists:
Halpern, Michael (2017, December 19) The Trump Administration Word Ban Extends to Other Federal Agencies. Its Ongoing Assault on Science Is Much Worse. Reader Supported News, 19 December 17,

Jessica Ravitz (2017, December 16). Word ban at CDC includes 'vulnerable,' 'fetus,' 'transgender'. CNN,

Jessica Ravitz (2017, December 16). Word ban at CDC includes 'vulnerable,' 'fetus,' 'transgender'. CNN,

We are GOING SHOCKINGLY BACKWARDS in environmental transparency compared to where we saw ourselves going in 2010:


  1. The 1% has been sharpening up their knives, as they got Trump in. Nothing stands in their way. The idiots wallow in insanity while he eviscerates them, and everything else.

  2. Why is it that all these people say they are concerned about Monsanto, roundup, GMO food, pesticide armageddon, Fukushima insanity, support Trump , Majia? Please tell me. Are they real? Are the insane?
    These same people defend his toxic support of Abe, Monsanto, his hiding all nuclear and chemical poisonings.
    Trump has ushered in, in a toxic Corporate dictatorship.
    Corporations can again dump, as much of the most toxic chemicals into the environment, water, and food now as they want.
    We are not even allowed to talk about it, question it, sue over it. They can poison and kill us with impunity and, with the endorsement of Trump and the republicans. Theses strange people say they are against it in one breath, and support it in the next.
    e do no longer have access to information abput the tools of our slaughter. It is done purposely.
    There were these people who are so against the dakota pipeline and so pro Trump, Yet trump shut down the protests and madesure the pipeline corporation got its way. Same people are anti GMO and Monsanto and Roundup and pesticide, yet trump has done everything he can to support and enable Monsanto, roundup, GMOs.
    Trump and his minions are reallowing some of the most toxic chemicals known to man to be freely dispersed onto people again so corporations can get richer. Trump now lets nuclear and chemical corporations create unregulated nuclear and chemical dumps. Dumps that don't have to be cleaned-up, into the middle of pristine areas and towns again.


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