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Greenpeace news

Latest news from Greenpeace
letzte Aktualisierung: 26.01.2015 21:56:29
  • Major breakthrough for Ocean Lovers: UN takes landmark step towards high seas biodiversity agreement

    A Long-snouted Spinner Dolphin (Stenella longirostris) swims in the waters off Sri Lanka. 04/18/2010 © Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

    It is time for Ocean Lovers worldwide to celebrate! After years of political foot-dragging, and four hectic days of negotiations at the United Nations, a breakthrough came in the wee hours of Saturday morning, 24 January: governments around the world agreed to develop a legally-binding treaty to protect marine life beyond national territorial waters. With this historic decision, they began the process of setting rules to create ocean sanctuaries and protect the high seas – the vast areas of the ocean that belong to you, me and everyone. The agreement could also make it mandatory to conduct environmental impact assessments before human activities are allowed to take place in the vast ocean commons.

    This significant progress would not have come without a passionate call for high seas protection from all over the globe. This week alone, #OceanLovers put the spotlight on the UN meeting with almost 6000 tweets and thousands more Facebook posts, letting delegates know the world expected them to act.

    The UN has formally recognised that Ocean governance is about protection, not simply about 'managing the exploitation' of the oceans' resources. We now have a golden opportunity to set global standards for oceans protection and integrate the patchwork of ocean organisations, enhancing cooperation between those regulating fishing, mining, shipping, and pollution.

    Of course, this will be a huge undertaking. Setting the rules that will govern the protection of the largest biosphere on earth will not be quick or easy, and it will take even longer for these rules to be implemented out at sea. But the #waveofchange we wanted finally begins, here and now.

    Big change looks impossible when you start, and inevitable when you finish – Bob Hunter

    It was nearly a decade ago that we first challenged the world's governments to create a global network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world's oceans with the publication of our Roadmap to Recovery.

    Proposal for a global network of marine reserves - click to view interactive mapclick to view interactive map

    This groundbreaking proposal demonstrated that there was sufficient scientific information available to establish an effective system. Since then, the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted similar criteria and started to identify areas on the high seas in need of protection (including the waters around the North Pole where we want to establish an Arctic sanctuary). Of course, having set out this vision we then had to see how such a network could actually be established since there is currently no mechanism to create ocean sanctuaries on the high seas. Thus grew the notion and the campaign for the UN High Seas Biodiversity Agreement, attracting thousands of supporters wordwide.

    In 2012, we managed to secure one of the very few positive outcomes of Rio+20: a deadline of September 2015 by which the UN had to come to a decision on whether to commence negotiations for this new crucial high seas agreement.

    Postcard desk UN

    Last week, with the Rio+20 deadline looming, Ocean Lovers' calls for ocean protection were met with overwhelming support from the majority of countries. Together, those calls became an irresistible force, and the support gave our champions the strength to convince the handful of (powerful) countries that had been opposing the agreement for years. A key #OceanLovers Resolution for 2015 called governments to "Say YES! to a High Seas Biodiversity Agreement" and in the small hours of Saturday, they finally did.

    We were particularly happy to see the United States come onboard, as they have been leading the opposition for many years. It is clear that the thousands of messages sent to US Secretary of State John Kerry – a declared Ocean Lover – had a lot to do with this change. In June 2014, Greenpeace and others around the world (including in Sweden, Germany, France, India, Australia, Korea, and Argentina) sent "Dear John" letters to US embassies and to Secretary Kerry directly, urging him to "Act for the High Seas" during the Our Ocean conference in Washington DC. Last week alone, John Kerry's Twitter account received more than a thousand messages in just one day, asking him to listen and act for the ocean. A massive 'thank you' to all you #OceanLovers out there who took action. As John Kerry said at his conference: "The Ocean movement is a hard ass group of folks"!

    The next phase of our campaign will nonetheless be tough, especially as we need to stand together and fight ocean exploiting industries such as those behind the poorly performing Regional Fisheries Management Organizations (RFMOs) which have overseen a dramatic fall in the majority of world fish stocks.

    We still have a long way to reach our final destination of a network of sanctuaries covering 40% of our oceans. The formal outcome of the meetings last week now must be adopted by the UN General Assembly by September 2015 in order to move forward with negotiations for a legally binding agreement under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), which must be implemented over the coming years. Our voyage for Oceans Protection has begun and the growing strength of the Ocean Lovers movement will support us through the many battles that will lie ahead. Stay with us for the course of this journey, #OceanLovers: we have turned a significant corner but we will need all your help to achieve total victory for our oceans.

    Show your support

    Sofia Tsenikli is a Senior Political Advisor on Oceans for Greenpeace International.

  • A textbook example of an Arctic conference out of sync

    Few would doubt that climate change exists and that it is man-made. Why then is Big Oil allowed to steal the show at one of the Arctic's most important events?

    This week scientists, NGOs and ministers from as far away from Singapore gathered in northern Norway at the high-level conference Arctic Frontiers. Sadly, it turned out to be a textbook example of everything a prestigious Arctic-themed conference should not be.

    What it should be is a forum for constructive talks on the challenges ahead of us. A place where in-depth, honest discussions on issues such as Arctic oil, indigenous rights, climate change in the North and sustainable development were at the height of the agenda.

    Instead what could be witnessed was a manifestation of a new form of climate denial, where everyone agrees on the urgency, while at the same time way too many are praising a continuous race down a dead-end road. Ancient approaches were certainly invited to the table, so to speak. And unfortunately, they did not meet much opposition.

    Floating ice and icebergs off the coast of West-Greenland. 08/20/2009 © aFloating ice and icebergs off the coast of West-Greenland. © Markus Mauthe / GreenpeaceMarkus Mauthe / Greenpeace

    2014 was the warmest year on record so far and climate change is accelerating at a pace more rapid than anybody could have foreseen just a decade ago. Most of the presenters acknowledged this unprecedented risk. The exact same people, however, did not recognise the gravity and logical consequences of what they themselves said. There was hardly any recognition of the discrepancy between the current open-door policy for Big Oil to carve up the Arctic and the reality of climate change.

    It is a fact that if we are to limit the global temperature rise to 2 degrees above pre-industrial temperatures, we have already found significantly more fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gas than we can allow ourselves to burn. According to the latest research, this reality also sets in stone that Arctic oil drilling is a complete no-go.

    Instead of discussing how much oil we can get from new, fragile areas such as the Arctic, we should be discussing how we can move beyond fossil fuels and yet still ensure development for those who need it. This was not the case in Tromsø. Instead, politicians and oil companies were falling over each other to express excitement over the new "opportunities" the Arctic provides. And, yes, the Arctic holds plenty of opportunities, but oil extraction must not be one of them. It is not something either the Arctic or the global community can afford.

    There was a hopeful period around the 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen, where some of the oil companies such as BP seemed like they understood the gravity of the situation and were ready to be a positive force in the needed transition beyond fossils. This week's Arctic Frontiers conference clearly showed that this was a short-lived hope. Oil companies such as ConocoPhilips and Statoil, who have built their exorbitant fortunes by destroying our planet, all had the same message: Drill, baby, drill!

    The Leiv Eiriksson off the coast of Greenland. 05/25/2011 © Steve Morgan / Greenpeace

    It cannot surprise anyone that oil companies aren't able to change their ways, but how they can be allowed so much room at venues such as the conference (Big Oil had more of a presence than NGOs and indigenous-peoples groups combined) – and why politicians (and even some scientists) act as headless chickens in their vocal or silent agreement with Big Oil – is beyond me.

    And this is what seems to be at the very core of this new stage of climate denial. Almost everybody recognises that climate change exists and is man-made. Almost everybody agrees that we in principle should keep the temperature rise to 2 degrees. However, oil companies (and some politicians) in the same sentence somehow argue for the sanity of drilling for more and more oil.

    Politicians and organisers can continue to let Big Oil keep clouding our minds, trying to seal the lid on some much-needed discussions, or they can choose to move into the next phase of combating climate change. If these conferences are going to regain their relevance, they need to be more than just an opportunity for corridor talk. They need to be as brave and as bold as the situation demands and refuse to be reduced to a poster-child for Big Oil.

    Jon Burgwald on the Esperanza. 08/25/2010 © Will Rose / GreenpeaceJon Burgwald is an Arctic Campaigner with Greenpeace Nordic.

    This blog originally appeared as an op-ed on The Arctic Journal.

  • John Kerry I hope you're listening

    Reef Investigation in Apo Island. 07/11/2013 © Steve De Neef / Greenpeace

    The ocean crisis is deepening: overfishing, pollution, climate change and ocean acidification are causing damage from the icy polar oceans to the warm waters of the tropics. Worrying stories about ocean destruction and scientists' warnings are becoming both more frequent and more alarming. Only last Friday, a new scientific study published in Science magazine and featured on the front page of the New York Times warned that the industrialisation of the oceans may lead to mass extinctions, but that there is still time to avert catastrophe if steps are taken immediately.

    This week we could see real progress in our fight for the oceans; a crucial meeting of the United Nations Working Group is taking place right now. At the end of this meeting, we are hoping to see delegates make a recommendation to the UN General Assembly concerning an agreement that would protect all the marine life that inhabits international waters. Ocean lovers from around the world are following this meeting closely; sharing their oceans resolutions to create a growing awareness, demanding solutions, and speaking up in support of the politicians working to turn the tide in favour of ocean protection.

    We needn't look too far for leaders willing to step up for the oceans: United States Secretary of State John Kerry has done a great deal to raise the public and political profile of the oceans crisis and point to solutions. Just last summer, he convened the international 'Our Ocean' conference where he brought together many ocean experts and politicians, as well as key influencers such as Leonardo Di Caprio to help forge a "global political plan for the oceans."

    But right now, we need him to ensure that his team at the UN support the growing consensus at the meeting. The agreement is seen as desirable by most countries, yet the US appears unmoving in its opposition. The US government's position is clearly contrary to their generally positive position on oceans issues and completely at odds with Secretary Kerry's passionate advocacy for ocean protection. The US government must do better.

    The high seas cover 64% of the planet and are home to countless whales, sharks and turtles, yet they are virtually unprotected. In fact, these waters, which belong to us all, have become a 'wild west' where industrial operations can operate almost entirely free from regulation.

    A UN Agreement to protect the marine life of the high seas would enable the creation of a global network of ocean sanctuaries that would safeguard the myriad ocean life and also provide the framework for regulating damaging industries. It would lay the foundation for exactly the sort of 'global political plan' Kerry called for in 2014.

    At Our Ocean 2014, John Kerry reminded us that we all have a responsibility to speak up for the oceans, drive the issue up the political agenda and hold politicians accountable. Secretary of State, ocean lovers worldwide are doing that right now. I hope your team is listening – both to you and to them.

    Sign the petition to protect the oceans

    John Hocevar is the Oceans Campaign Director at Greenpeace US.

  • Shanghai 1 - Beijing 0. The latest score in a food safety match

    As a proud Beijing citizen, I was appalled to learn that neighbourhood markets in the city are selling vegetables which are not only contaminated with chemical pesticides well in excess of Chinese standards, but are even worse affected than those sold in Shanghai markets. Indeed, while Shanghai's market food is hardly chemical-free, it contains lower levels of pesticides than both Beijing and Guangzhou, the other megacities covered in a Greenpeace East Asia investigation into the "Vegetables Basket Programme", a government initiative aimed at ensuring food security and safety standards.

    Example of chemical products used in industrial agriculture. © GreenpeaceExample of chemical products used in industrial agriculture.

    Besides intercity rivalries and Shanghai leading the race, the Greenpeace study released last week highlights the major food safety problem in Chinese megacities, which are failing to deliver healthy, good quality food to millions of people.

    The reason behind Shanghai's better score is its investment in ecological farming, an innovative production model based on people, science and nature and not reliant on chemical input. Shanghai has also invested in food traceability systems that ensure more transparency about food production sources.

    Ecological farm in the surroundings of Beijing. © GreenpeaceEcological farm in China.

    The investigations sampled 133 vegetables of 26 varieties sold in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou as well as their place of origin and tested them in an independent laboratory. For the first time in a Greenpeace investigation, GPS trackers were placed on the trucks transporting the vegetables to follow and track the entire supply chain to the three megacities.

    In addition, a GoPro camera was attached to a cucumber, as our video shows, in order to follow its journey from field to market, but also symbolically show the miserable life of a chemically farmed vegetable. Within 80 days, over 30 different types of chemicals were sprayed on the cucumber to meet so-called ‘commercial standards' on how straight and hard a cucumber should be, and the presence of a fresh flower on top.

    The lab testing results showed that vegetables collected in Beijing contained a mixture of pesticides, while more than one third of the vegetables in Guangzhou exceeded China's standard on maximum permitted residue. A cowpea sample from Guangzhou was found to have residues of omethoate, a toxic pesticide, 63 times the national safety standard. Shanghai came out top among the three cities with only one out of the 42 vegetables tested containing pesticide residues exceeding the national standard.

    © Greenpeace

    Although not perfect, the Shanghai model, based on ecological farming practices and better traceability systems, represents the right path and proof that an alternative system of food production is possible: a system that produces healthier and safer food for people but also avoids contaminating the planet with unnecessary chemical products like pesticides and fertilisers.

    The ecological farming model needs to be scaled up in order to further improve the quality of Shanghai's food supply but also ensure that safe food can reach Chinese people living in other megacities and throughout China. This change towards an ecological food system is what a growing movement is demanding around the world. Politicians, companies and philanthropies need to respond to public demand by shifting agriculture investments and funds away from destructive chemical agriculture and towards modern ecological farming.

    Jing Wang is an Ecological Farming Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

  • Cameroon timber trade: High risk, low reward

    Stockpile of timber in the Herakles Farms Talangaye palm oil concession near Nguti. 07/21/2013 © Jan-Joseph Stok / Greenpeace

    The fight against illegal logging in Cameroon has been a long one – several decades long in fact. Therefore the conclusion from the influential think tank Chatham House that this process has all but stalled must have been hard to swallow for everyone concerned.

    In its investigation – the results of which were published yesterday – Chatham House examined the extent of illegal logging and its associated trade and the response. It found that progress has stalled since 2010, with illegal activity accounting for nearly a third of all timber felled.

    The checklist of failure is a lengthy one: The proposed reform of the forestry sector's legislative framework is incomplete, the availability of information on forestry projects is inadequate, transparency and enforcement in the sector are very weak and on top of it all corruption remains rampant with little political will around to change this.

    At Greenpeace, these findings came sadly, as absolutely no surprise. We have been waving a big flag over many of these issues for a long time, both to the necessary authorities in Cameroon and to the European Union, a key player.

    As an example of some of the frustrations, in the report "Licence to launder" we revealed how a US palm oil company, Herakles Farms, aims to benefit from the commercialisation of wood from forest clearance to create its plantation – felled illegally. This is despite that the company was granted a logging permit to cut and sell the wood under the table. Cameroon law, however, stipulates that such titles can only be allocated by public auction.

    Three different state prosecutors were given the information proving this illegality but no action has been taken and suddenly the Ministry of Forestry claimed the permit was legal after all.

    Oil palm nursery in a Herakles Farm's concession area. 11/09/2012 © Greenpeace / Alex Yallop

    This example is illustrative of the lack of political will of Cameroon for change and for the broader trend of the export of wood that results from forest clearance to make space for commercial agriculture, mining and infrastructure. The Chatham House report touches explicitly on the growing problem of forest clearance taking place for large infrastructure projects.

    Large quantities of wood extracted from forest "conversion" projects are reaching international markets illegally, in full knowledge of Cameroon's Ministry of Forestry and the EU. Such activity also undermines the credibility of the FLEGT partnership agreement ratified in December 2011.

    Another trend the Chatham House identifies is the shift in markets for products and wood destined for the timber sector, namely away from the EU towards China.

    It therefore important for that country's relevant authorities to tackle illegal timber imports as it obvious unsanctioned shipments to China is more and more a key driver for illegal logging in Cameroon and other countries in the Congo Basin.

    Another worrying thing about the findings in the Chatham House report is that they echo many of the worrying trends highlighted in the think tank's report on the Democratic Republic of Congo released only a year ago. Similarly Greenpeace was lacking in surprise at those findings and similarly we have long warned of the existing problems. It is evident that throughout the Congo Basin not enough is being done to stop illegal logging and that the world's second-largest rainforested area and the many communities who depend on it will continue to be threatened.

    Companies in Europe need to ensure they fulfill all requirements in the European Union Timber Regulation, the law that came into force in 2013 aimed at stopping illegal timber being placed on the European market. Timber from Cameroon should be treated as high risk and traders should built in additional checks and balances to avoid being liable and prosecuted.

    This year both the EUTR and the FLEGT action plan will be reviewed by the European Commision. We urge the commission to seriously address the loopholes in the agreement with Cameroon and the lack of implementation and enforcement by EU member states. If these are not being dealt with both legislation will be nothing more than a paper tiger and the forests and communities of the Congo Basin will ultimately be the ones who continue to suffer.

    Hilde Stroot is the Forest Campaign Leader at Greenpeace Netherlands.

  • Clean air doesn't come to those who wait

    "One thing that fascinated and shocked me the most was the fact that even on smoggy days, people still lived their lives as usual," said Chinese film director Jia Zhangke last week as the air outside in Beijing was a thick, soupy grey.

    "When the Air Quality Index hit 200 or 300, and the air turned opaque or grey, I still saw people dancing their square dances, young people still hanging out. Everyone was doing what they would normally be doing."

    The renowned film director is known for his gritty portrayals of contemporary Chinese society, and his latest short film commissioned by Greenpeace East Asia, is no exception. Shot in Beijing and Hebei, the industrial, coal rich province that surrounds the Chinese capital, Smog Journeys is a moving story of what happens when children see more days of smog filled days, then clear blue skies.

    The film follows the lives of two families: a working class family from the coal mining province of Hebei, and another from a middle class family in Beijing.

    But the story is the same all over China. In fresh data we released yesterday, over 90% of the of cities reporting pollution data last year are exceeding China's own limits for average levels of particulates (the dangerous kind known as PM2.5) in the air.

    No matter their social class, everyone breathes the same air. Air pollution is the great equalizer – and not even the wealthy elite in Beijing – with their indoor air filters and masks – can totally escape an Airpocalypse.

    According to statistics from China's Ministry of Environmental Protection (MEP), cities in China's Yangtze River Delta, Pearl River Delta, and Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei region suffer over 100 haze days every year, with PM2.5 concentration two to four times above the World Health Organization guidelines. In 2010 in Beijing alone, PM2.5 pollution could be attributed to 2,349 deaths.

    Local women dance together with their backs to the Handan Stadium facing the Wen'an steel plants. These women come here every day at the same time. Wu'an is home to dozens of steel mills, power stations, and coking plants. Whatever the wind direction, the pollution is always choking. Air pollution has become one of the most severe environmental problems in mainland China. 12/03/2014 © Lu Guang / Greenpeace

    "Clean air doesn't come to those who wait"

    "I wanted to make a film that enlightens people, not frightens them," said Jia. "The issue of smog is something that all the citizens of the country need to face, understand, and solve in the upcoming few years."

    China's top leaders have already issued a "war against pollution" and a national plan to improve air quality in the country in late 2013.

    In the short-term, Greenpeace calls for stronger enforcement of national and local action plans including shutting down the dirtiest industries, reducing local coal use, encouraging solar and wind power uptake, as well as better policy to protect vulnerable populations during heavy pollution days.

    Watch Smog Journeys and share it widely. Support our work to bring back blue skies.

    Zhang Kai lives in Beijing and is a campaigner with Greenpeace East Asia.

  • Democracy prevails

    Yesterday the courts were to decide if Greenpeace India's international funds blocked by the Ministry of Home Affairs would be released or not. Arundhati, a Greenpeace campaigner, had been at the Delhi High Court all day waiting for our hearing to come up. We were all waiting with baited breath for the verdict huddled inside the video conference rooms at Delhi and Bangalore offices, our ears glued to the speakers.

    My heart was racing as we finally received a call from Arundhati in the afternoon. Her voice broke as she conveyed the news: WE WON!! Our funds were unblocked!

    It was an unbelievable moment, a ray of light after months of struggle.

    It all started in June 2014 when Greenpeace was singled out through a "leaked" IB report full of half-truths and innuendo! For me it was not about the money but the need to establish that a different view point exists. That a point of view which reflects the interest of a marginalized adivasi or the endangered tiger does NOT make me anti-national! It was to be able to go home and reassure my family and friends that standing up for the voiceless and the minority does not make me "foreign"!

    Fittingly, the Delhi High Court went further to say that NGOs are entitled to have their viewpoint and merely because their views are not in consonance with the Government's views it does not mean the NGO is acting to the detriment of the national interest.

    The court noticed that the action of the MHA is arbitrary, illegal and unconstitutional. Talk about regaining our legitimacy!

    Divya Raghunandan is a Programme Director at Greenpeace India.

  • From "good to great": ecological farming is coming!

    Organic Farming in Negros. © Andri Tambunan / Greenpeace

    2014 has been a good year for ecological farming. Also called agroecology, this knowledge-rich type of farming which protects and sustains the diversity of life on earth is gaining recognition as farmers struggle to adapt to a changing climate and the out-dated, chemically intensive model of farming – including GE crops – increasingly comes into question.

    A special acknowledgement has come from the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter. In his final report he called for food democracy and agroecology:

    "We cannot continue in this impasse of an oil dependent food production system. … Agroecology is really common sense. It means understanding how nature works, to replicate the natural workings of nature on farms in order to reduce dependency on external inputs."

    In her first public speech, his successor Hilal Elver continued along the same lines:

    "The 2009 global food crisis signalled the need for a turning point in the global food system. … New research in agroecology allows us to explore more effectively how we can use traditional knowledge to protect people and their environment at the same time."

    More support for ecological farming has also come from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director-General, José Graziano da Silva. Speaking at a high-level roundtable closing the International Symposium on Agroecology for Food and Nutrition Security in Rome, he said:

    "Agroecology continues to grow, both in science and in policies. It is an approach that will help to address the challenge of ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms, in the context of the climate change adaptation needed."

    And while more voices are joining the call for agroecology, seen as critical to address climate change and water shortages, more robust evidence is emerging from scientists analysing the performance of ecological farming.

    A new study from the University of California Berkeley shows that farming with ecological practices – which build on biodiversity (rotations, polycultures, etc.) – is an effective way to increase yields and reduce the 'yield gap' between organic farming and conventional farming.

    The first important finding is that the difference between organic and conventional yields is less than some previous estimates: 19% lower yields for organic farming. Even more importantly, when biodiversity-based practices are applied in the best way, organic yields can be much closer to conventional, and, in some cases of a negligible difference.

    These groundbreaking results prove how close ecological farming – i.e. diverse organic farming – is to delivering both: high food productivity and high virtue for the planet. Something that chemical-intensive farming will never be able to deliver.

    If ecological farming received the same level of investment as conventional farming, in terms of Research & Development, training and extension, it could produce yields as high as those in conventional agriculture.

    Where the yield gap is larger for organic cereals, such as wheat, it is also where most of the investment in conventional agriculture research has been focused. Imagine the potential for organic yields if agroecology received similar levels of investment in R&D to identify best practice, develop seeds suited to organic farming and so on.

    This additional evidence that agroecology can help feed the world has prompted the US-based Union of Concerned Scientists to start a petition calling for increased public investment in agroecological research in the US, already signed by nearly 300 scientists.

    Feeding the world is of course a big concern but we all know that simply increasing yields will not end hunger in a world that already produces 1½ times more than enough food for everyone but wastes one third of it and sends edible maize to refineries for biofuel production.

    The current food system is broken.

    It's the way this food is produced that makes a difference. The key to ending global hunger is not to produce food for hungry people (who aren't able to afford it), but to allow people to feed themselves.

    Globally, the world's smallholders produce 70% of the world's food on 25% of the land. Yet these are also the poorest people. We don't need to produce more food to end world hunger. We need to create an equitable food system for the people who actually produce the world's food.

    Smallholders need more land, better access to knowledge, water, and basic infrastructure, more education and health services – not GMOs, chemicals, and global markets!

    And agroecology will suit them down to the ground because it builds on biodiversity and works with local resources.

    Let's shift those investments to agroecology! That would make 2015 a great year both for the planet and for our food!

    Fruits and Vegetables at Pahiyas Festival in the Philippines © Jed Delano / Greenpeace

    Iza Kruszewska is Ecological Food & Agriculture Campaigner at Greenpeace International.

  • Food movement on the march

    TTIP Demonstration in Berlin. 01/17/2015 © Gordon Welters / Greenpeace

    I joined the march against agribusiness in Berlin on Saturday, 17 January. It is too easy to be blasé about yet another demonstration. However, the large turnout of tens of thousands of people of all ages during a winter day was good for me. It reminded me that many others also care deeply about our food, where it comes from, and how it is produced. I know there is a vibrant food movement in North America and especially in the US, but I was pleasantly surprised to learn that it is also powerful and broad-based in Germany.

    TTIP Demonstration in Berlin. 01/17/2015 © Gordon Welters / Greenpeace

    Food system failure

    The rallying message for the march was 'We are fed up'. It appropriately encapsulated a growing and widespread outrage about how food is produced and the negative environmental and social impacts it has. The full list would be too long but let me mention a few: health and ecological impacts of pesticides, herbicides, genetically engineered seeds, industrial animal farming, water pollutions due to synthetic fertilizers, further weakening of environment and health protection by free trade agreement (TTIP/CETA), threats to pollinators like bees  the list goes on.

    TTIP Demonstration in Berlin. 01/17/2015 © Gordon Welters / Greenpeace

    Hope

    The strongest message of hope I took home from this march was that many people are doing more than just turning up to demonstrations. They are actually doing something directly about their food: changing their own diet with no (or less and organic) meat, buying more food directly from local farmers, and so on. Obviously some are full time organic (or soon-to-be organic) farmers but many are also part-time gardeners, others are involved in food justice and solidarity organisations, and more.

    TTIP Demonstration in Berlin. 01/17/2015 © Gordon Welters / Greenpeace

    Time for you to join the food movement

    Wherever you are, you can join the emerging global movement. Millions of farmers are taking control of their own future and the right to produce good food to feed people – not the pockets of agribusiness. You can buy more food from farmers' markets or get more healthy food from local ecological farms. Just connect to local food groups or even create your own. Be part of the trending movement! Get your hands dirty!

    Eric Darier is a Senior Ecological Farming Campaigner at Greenpeace International.

  • Forced labor on Thai fishing vessels

    Crew on Rusting Fishing Vessel - Defending Our Oceans Tour. © Greenpeace / Pierre Gleizes

    UPDATE: Victory! One day after receiving our letter, the Thai government responded with complete withdrawal of their proposal, saying they "will not use prisoners on fishing vessels now or in the future."

    Plan to put prisoners on fishing boats sparks international condemnation – but what will US seafood businesses do?

    Late last year, Thai Union purchased the infamous Bumble Bee tuna brand. Given Bumble Bee's terrible track record, a change in ownership would appear to be a good thing. However, a Thai-based company taking over a brand already linked to ocean destruction and human rights abuses associated with longline fishing raises more questions than answers.

    Across the globe, this past year has seen some shocking revelations about labor rights violations, human trafficking and slavery in the fishing industry. In particular, exposés have made the headlines about how workers are misled as they search for an honest living to support their families only to end up in desperate situations aboard fishing vessels far out at sea – out of sight from the rest of the world.

    Here's what's going on. The demand for cheap seafood is on the rise. Marine wildlife is disappearing at an unprecedented rate, and there is only so much seafood to go around.

    One way industrial fishing vessels keep overheads down and seafood cheap is to break existing management and conservation rules by fishing in protected areas, using destructive gear or fishing on endangered species. Another way is to exploit labor.

    Thailand is a hotbed for such labor exploitation – although to be clear, not the only culprit. As one of the world's largest seafood exporters, Thailand relies heavily on migrant workers to catch and process fish and shrimp. Often migrant workers are not legally registered to work in Thailand and are therefore vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. The plight of these workers is truly heartrending. Many stories continue to be told about the fate of workers on fishing vessels, from debt bondage to physical abuse, and in extreme cases, murder at sea.

    I have witnessed some of this firsthand on my journeys with Greenpeace. Crew often board fishing vessels with no idea that they will be forced to stay out at sea for months and sometimes years at a time. Their papers are taken away from them and being at sea means they cannot escape, let alone communicate their situations. Often not speaking the same language, they are stripped of all human dignity, forced to work long days without adequate rest, sharing bunks in cramped quarters, and with little to no access to sanitation. These workers set out to find work to support their families only to lose contact with their loved ones for long stretches of time and with a mere pittance to send back, if they even get that opportunity.

    Following a new wave of scandals, the US government downgraded Thailand's ranking on its performance on trafficking in persons (TIP). It was a positive step, but we are far from addressing the problem at its core. In fact, things may well get worse with Thailand's recent proposal to allow prisoners to serve out part or their entire sentence on fishing vessels to make up for a labor shortage. These people are extremely vulnerable and will have no protection from abuse at sea. Thailand should be improving conditions onboard fishing vessels to attract workers voluntarily, rather than resorting to forced labor. Greenpeace Southeast Asia and over forty other organizations submitted a letter to the Thai government just yesterday voicing our concerns over this ludicrous proposition.

    Pointing the finger at the Thai government alone is not enough. All of us have a responsibility to question where our seafood comes from. That cheap can of tuna you find yourself reaching for could come at a hefty social and environmental cost. Retailers and seafood producers alike have a responsibility as well. Ultimately, they supply the market and should make every effort to guarantee that our seafood is caught sustainably and fairly. Our briefing on Slavery and Labor Abuse in the Fishing Sector outlines some of the steps government and industry can take to help tackle these issues.

    If you are in the US, chances are the tuna you buy is now owned by a Thai-based company. Thai Union is now the world's largest canned tuna company. Not only do they own Bumble Bee, they also own their competitor Chicken of the Sea. Given Thailand's recent history, I'd like to know what guarantees the new owners of Bumble Bee are making to ensure their products are slave free – wouldn't you?

    Farah Obaidullah is a Senior Oceans Campaigner with Greenpeace International.