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Greenpeace news

Latest news from Greenpeace
letzte Aktualisierung: 03.07.2015 16:35:34
  • Why FSC's move to protect Intact Forest Landscapes is key for the Congo Basin

    Coastal Rainforest in Cameroon. 9 Nov, 2012 © Greenpeace / Alex Yallop

    In September 2014, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) members voted with an overwhelming majority at their General Assembly to protect "the vast majority" of Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) in and around FSC certified forest management areas. IFLs are the last remaining forests free from large-scale industrial development – they hold tremendous social, ecological, as well as economic value. FSC is the only global forest certification system to make such a commitment.

    The Congo Basin is home to the world's second-largest rainforest in the world – more than half of which is in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and still largely intact. The forest provides food, water, shelter, medicine, spiritual and cultural significance for tens of millions of people, as well as habitat for threatened species such as gorillas, bonobos and forest elephants. The forest region also constitutes the fourth largest carbon reservoir in the world. With such resources it is very much a jewel that should be protected.

    But protection is still far off, scientists have calculated that 10% of global degradation of intact forest landscapes takes place in Africa and DRC, the Republic of Congo and Gabon are on the forefront of that degradation. Industrial logging, roadbuilding and other infrastructure, mining and hydrocarbon developments all have devastating impacts.  The increased international demand for commodities and natural resources has led to destructive and often illegal industrial logging practices, which is devastating for the rainforest; logging in the region has exacerbated poverty and social conflict, as well as destroying the habitat of critically endangered animals such as the bonobo.

    With this context, the FSC's commitment to protecting IFLs is critical. 60 million people and many wildlife species depend on the Congo Basin forest for their survival.FSC logo

    In recent years, the FSC has extended its reach into the Congo Basin.  Great caution must be exercised when extending forest certification to a region where: there is poor governance, human rights abuses in the forest sector are common, forestlands are leased out to large corporates, and local communities have no or few rights over their forests nor do they gain a fair share of the benefits from the forestry sector.

    In order that the FSC's project is a success, not only must there be a 'high bar' for IFL protection, but land use plans must involve and obtain the free, prior and informed consent of forest communities living in or adjacent to intact forests, and all permitted low impact activities must directly benefit them. This model could serve to benefit both the people of Congo Basin's rainforest, as well as its rich biodiversity.

    I hope the FSC's commitment to IFL protection will make a real change in the Congo Basin by supporting real alternatives to the current concession based logging model. As well as the other forest regions that still have IFLs, such as in Canada, Brazil, Russia, PNG and Indonesia.

    View this slide show on how and why FSC commitment to protecting the Congo Basin's Intact Forest Landscapes is so important.

    Irene Wabiwa-Betoko is the forest campaign leader with Greenpeace Africa.

  • Adventures in testing: Detoxing the great outdoors

    Eight Greenpeace teams have returned from expeditions on three continents carrying water and snow samples from remote areas for laboratory testing. The tests will show just how far contamination from PFCs – persistent and hazardous chemicals used to make outdoor gear waterproof – has spread.

    Detox Expedition in Italy, Pilato Lake. © Roberto Isotti / Greenpeace

    Some of the expeditions were very challenging, with extreme weather conditions and hundreds of metres to climb. Others were pleasant hikes with stunning landscapes and wildlife.

    In China, we took samples from a snow peak above 5,100 metres. The expedition team woke at dawn to climb 1,000 metres, gather samples and return to the base-camp before sunset.

    In Chile's Torres del Paine national park, the team faced temperatures of minus 13 Celsius and winds of over 50 kilometres per hour as they trekked 64 kilometres over snow and ice to collect samples at the base of the mountains.

    "It felt like a thousand needles when I was taking samples. I couldn't feel my fingers!" says Leonel Mingo, a Greenpeace Detox campaigner who took part in the Chile expedition.

    "We completed the sampling successfully but then we had to get out quickly because a snowstorm was approaching fast and it was totally dark. We began a six-hour descent from the mountain in extreme weather in the middle of the night. We could not break to rest because we risked freezing every time we stopped," he adds.

    In southern Siberia, we visited the Golden Mountains of Altai, a UNESCO World Heritage site that ranges from taiga, or snowforests, to alpine meadows, glacial zones and high mountain tundra.

    "We didn't meet the bear, but it was quite close judging by the footprints on the track," says Nina Lesikhina, a Toxics campaigner with the Russian expedition team.

    "There were violets, iris, cedar and larch everywhere. And as we crossed the pass between Mongolia, China and Kazakhstan, we saw Red Book snow leopards and black vultures," she adds.

    Everywhere we were welcomed by local people keen to know more about our investigation, and about the possible presence of toxic chemicals. In the Alps, for example, the Swiss National Park gave the team special permission to sample the pristine lakes of Macun and provided a guide to support the work.

    Detox Expedition in Switzerland, Lakes of Macun. © Greenpeace / Christian Breitler

    "It's breathtaking to see such extraordinary and diverse landscapes," says Mirjam Kopp, a project leader with the Detox team. "But it deeply concerns me to think that persistent hazardous chemicals like PFCs have probably already reached these pristine areas."

    The snow and lake water samples we collected are now being analysed for PFCs in a dedicated laboratory. Stay tuned to find out the results of our investigation and join us to detox the great outdoors!

    Image Gallery.. 

    Gabriele Salari leads communications for the Detox Outdoor project with Greenpeace Italy.

  • Joni Mitchell: A tribute to the artist

    On 31 March, 2015, Joni Mitchell – who helped launch Greenpeace with a 1970 benefit concert, and emerged as one of the greatest songwriters and performers of the last 50 years – experienced a brain aneurysm. Friends found her unconscious at her home in Los Angeles. She regained consciousness in the ambulance and entered intensive care at UCLA Medical Center. She was alert and communicating before and after treatment.

    "Joni is a strong-willed woman," her friend Leslie Morris said, "and is nowhere near giving up the fight." The public may send messages to Mitchell at We Love You, Joni!. Joni is now at home in Los Angeles and undergoing daily therapies. Although her condition is serious, a recovery is expected.

    Vulnerable young artist

    I first heard Joni Mitchell's music in the summer of 1969, when Stephen Stills introduced her at the Big Sur Folk Festival in California. A year later, I saw her at the Isle of Wight festival in England, with some 600,000 other music fans drawn by stars of 1960s music: The Doors, The Who, Miles Davis, Jimi Hendrix, Donovan, Joan Baez, and Joni Mitchell.

    By Saturday, when Mitchell played, fans outside the fence – who could not afford the £3 (about £30 or €40 today) weekend ticket – had grown restless. They stormed the corrugated iron barriers and broke through, as Mitchell sang her new song "Woodstock … we are stardust, we are golden…"

    Joni Mitchell, Isle of Wight Pop Festival Britain, 1970 © BRIAN MOODY/REXJoni Mitchell, Isle of Wight Pop Festival Britain, 1970. © Brian Moody/Rex

    A young man rushed onto the stage shouting that the festival should be free. A visibly shaken Mitchell – 26, and just beginning her career – stopped her performance. "Look, I've got feelings, too," she pleaded in a trembling voice. "It's very difficult to lay something down before an audience like this. Please be respectful." The vulnerable young artist broke down into tears and left the stage, but returned to perform her current radio hit, "Big Yellow Taxi," singing, "You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone." She then left the stage, weeping in her manager's arms. The scene felt heartbreaking.

    A year later, Mitchell headlined the concert in Vancouver, Canada that launched Greenpeace.

    Canadian Prairie Girl

    Joni Mitchell was born Roberta Joan Anderson, on 7 November, 1943, in Fort Macleod, Alberta, where her Norwegian father instructed young World War II pilots at the Canadian airbase. Her Scots/Irish mother inspired a love for literature, her father urged her to study piano, and she taught herself guitar from a Pete Seeger instructional record.

    Joni Mitchell youth in Saskatoon, Canada. © Blu-rayDefinition.comJoni Mitchell youth in Saskatoon, Canada. ©

    Polio struck her at the age of nine, and in the hospital, she performed songs for other patients. She recovered, but the polio limited her dexterity, and she found normal guitar fingerings difficult. She devised alternative tunings to make complex chords easier to play. By 1961, she was performing in Saskatchewan nightclubs and attending art school. In 1962, Joni played her first paid gig at the Louis Riel folk/jazz club in Saskatoon.

    In 1964, at the age of 20, she left home to become a folk singer in Toronto, and wrote her first song, "Day After Day," on the train ride east. She became a well-loved phenomenon in Toronto clubs, met Michigan folk-singer Chuck Mitchell, married him, and began touring with him in Michigan, at the Rathskeller in Detroit and the The Folk Cellar in Port Huron. She appeared on the CBC folk music show, "Let's Sing Out."

    By 1967, her marriage had dissolved, and Joni moved to New York City, performing as a solo artist at Cafe Au Go Go, the Gaslight, and other clubs. She learned more sophisticated guitar tunings from American musician Eric Andersen, and other artists began performing and recording Joni's songs. Tom Rush recorded "Urge For Going," Buffy Sainte-Marie covered "The Circle Game," and Judy Collins had a top ten hit with "Both Sides Now."

    Joni Mitchell became known for her wide-ranging contralto voice; her use of modal, chromatic, and pedal tone harmonies; exotic guitar tunings; and extraordinary, lyrical songs. Throughout her career, Mitchell wrote songs in over fifty different guitar tunings that supported her unique harmonies.

    As Mitchell's fame spread, Joan Baez attended her show in New York, and at a Florida club, she met David Crosby, who invited her to Los Angeles and convinced Reprise Records to record her first album, Song to a Seagull, produced by Crosby, with Stephen Stills, playing bass.

    A year later, in 1969, she released her second album, Clouds, which earned her first Grammy Award. The collection includes hit songs "Chelsea Morning" and "Both Sides Now," the haunting chromatic "Songs to Aging Children Come," and the anti-Vietnam-War anthem "The Fiddle and the Drum." Later that year, she sang harmony vocals on David Crosby's first solo album and on James Taylor's inaugural album, Mud Slide Slim. She would help launch Taylor's career at the Greenpeace concert.

    Stop the bombs

    In Vancouver, Canada, in June 1970, the fledgling Greenpeace organization made plans to sail a boat into the US nuclear test zone in the Aleutian Islands. To raise money, co-founder Irving Stowe decided to stage a benefit concert, and wrote a letter to Joan Baez. Although Baez could not attend, she sent a check for $1,000, recommended he call Joni Mitchell and stalwart anti-war activist Phil Ochs, and gave Stowe their phone numbers. Both agreed to perform, and the date was set for 16 October, 1970 at the Vancouver Coliseum.

    Amchitka CD, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor © GreenpeaceA week before the concert, Mitchell phoned Stowe at his home and asked if she could bring a guest. Stowe covered the phone and whispered to his family, "She wants to bring James Taylor. Who's James Taylor?" His fourteen year-old daughter Barbara thought he meant James Brown. "He's that black blues singer!" she said. Stowe nodded, and spoke into the phone, "Yeah, sure. Bring him."

    The next day, they visited a record store and discovered that James Taylor had just released his second album, Sweet Baby James, already at the top of the charts, with hit song "Fire and Rain." The local producer added British Columbia band Chilliwack, with a hit single of their own, "Lydia Purple." There was no public advance notice of the mystery guest, James Taylor, but tickets sold out quickly.

    Phil Ochs, opened the show and spoke directly to the raison d'etre of the evening with his song "I Ain't Marchin' Anymore." Chilliwack got the crowd into a rock-'n'-roll frenzy. James Taylor stunned the crowd with his cryptic "Carolina On My Mind" and "Fire and Rain." Joni Mitchell appeared visibly nervous, still uncertain about her headline status, but her popular songs "Chelsea Morning" and "Big Yellow Taxi" brought shrieks of joy from the audience. James Taylor joined her for an encore, singing Bob Dylan's "Mr. Tambourine Man." Irving Stowe raising the peace sign and delivered flowers to Mitchell on stage. After expenses, the event netted $17,000. This money, and the attention from the concert, lifted the nascent Greenpeace to a new stature. Attendance at the meetings swelled, and money poured in.

    Joni Mitchell, Amchitka benefit, 1970. © George Diack, Vancouver SunJoni Mitchell, Amchitka benefit, 1970. © George Diack, Vancouver Sun

    In 1973, after the first two Greenpeace anti-nuclear campaigns, Joni Mitchell returned to Vancouver and appeared at an opening of her photographs, with Graham Nash, at the Gallery of Photography in North Vancouver. Greenpeace was still a modest group, planning the first whale campaign. We told Mitchell about our plans, and she promised to help if she could. Three years later, in 1976, after two successful whale campaigns confronting Russian whalers, Joni appeared at the "California Celebrates the Whale" benefit concert in Sacramento, with legendary jazz bassist Jaco Pastorius, and world music percussionist Bobbye Hall, signalling a new direction in her extraordinary musical career.

    Beyond folk-rock

    At the time of the Sacramento whale concert, Mitchell was recording the spectacular Hejira album with Pastorius on bass and Hall on percussion. The innovative artist was blazing a new musical trail, inspired by classical and chamber jazz and rock-inspired jazz-fusion, driven with Latin and African rhythms.

    She had recently released three jazz-inspired albums. For the Roses included Hall on percussion, Tom Scott from the jazz-fusion band L.A. Express on woodwinds and reeds, and Wilton Felder from Jazz Crusaders on bass. Some of these same musicians played on Court and Spark, with rock musicians David Crosby, Graham Nash, and Robbie Robertson, plus famed flamenco and bolero guitarist José Feliciano. The album sold over 2 million copies, earned "Best Album of the Year" from Village Voice, reached #1 on the Cashbox Album Charts, and won her second Grammy Award. The following album, Hissing of SummerLawns, released in 1975, featured jazz pianist/percussionist Victor Feldman on congas and vibes, with John Guerin on the new Moog synthesizer.

    Joni toured with L.A. Express, and released a live double album from their shows at the Los Angeles Universal Amphitheater. The eighteen songs included jazz-influenced re-workings of her popular hits, "Big Yellow Taxi," "Woodstock," "Carey," and "Both Sides Now."

    She appear on the Bob Dylan Rolling Thunder Review with Joan Baez, and then in 1976 performed at the Band's famous The Last Waltz concert, singing a version of "Coyote" in an unusual C9 tuning with extended chords, pushing the musicians, and raising the energy of the star-studded event.

    Roger McGuinn, Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan. Rolling Thunder tour 1975. © APRoger McGuinn, Joni Mitchell, Richie Havens, Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Rolling Thunder tour. © AP 1975

    In 1977, Mitchell released the spacey, improvisational, Don Juan's Reckless Daughter, again mixing rock forms with jazz, accompanied by Pastorius, legendary saxophonist Wayne Shorter, and percussionists Manolo Badrena and Alex Acuña.

    Joni Mitchell with Charles Mingus in 1978. © Sue MingusUpon hearing this recent work, jazz legend Charles Mingus (right, photo by Sue Mingus, 1978.) asked Mitchell to work with him. Mingus died during the recordings, but Mitchell completed the album, Mingus, released in June 1979, which rose to #17 on Billboard album charts. She then toured the Mingus material, accompanied by Pastorius, Shorter, jazz guitarist Pat Metheny, pianist Herbie Hancock, and percussionists Peter Erskine, Don Alias, and Emil Richards. The tour included a duet with the Persuasions on Motown classic, "Why Do Fools Fall in Love?".

    In 1982, Joni married Larry Klein, bassist on the album Wild Things Run Fast, who co-produced five albums with her and won Grammys for his work on Turbulent Indigo (1994) and Both Sides Now (2000). In 1983, they toured Japan, Australia, Ireland, UK, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Scandinavia, and the US, producing the live video/DVD, Refuge of the Roads. Mitchell and Klein divorced in 1994, after 12 years of marriage, but continued to work together musically.

    I last saw Joni in Vancouver, in 1998, when she toured with Bob Dylan and Van Morrison, a stunning show by perhaps the three greatest songwriters of the rock era. Mitchell played with a jazz-based band, including Klein, sang "Black Crow" and "Amelia" from Hejira, an adaptation of the William Butler Yeats poem "The Second Coming," and performed an encore of "Big Yellow Taxi" (with a Dylan impersonation) and "Woodstock." The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted Mitchell in 1997. In 2005, she released Songs of a Prairie Girl, a compilation of her songs that referenced Saskatchewan, and in 2007 she released her last studio album, Shine, with James Taylor playing guitar on the title track.

    As of this writing, she remains at home in Los Angeles. She is not yet walking, but appears to be improving daily. Since her hospitalization, musical performers around the world have offered tributes to Joni Mitchell, one of the seminal musicians of our age, and an enduring advocate for the natural world.

    Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.

  • Breakthrough! Saving the vaquita just got one step closer

    Remember these little guys? There are only 97 vaquita left in the world and you’ve been part of a global campaign to save them. In fact, in just the last 5 weeks, 100,000 of you have stood up and demanded they be protected. And good news…

    Image: Flip Nicklin / Minden Pictures

    Your voices were heard!

    Thanks to you and the enormous buzz we’ve helped create around the world (here, here, here and here!) the USA and China last week agreed for the first time ever to tackle the smuggling of the totaoba fish, which is another endangered fish caught using gillnets. It is these gillnets that tragically trap and drown the vaquita.

    Right now, this is the major threat to the vaquita’s existence. But the totaoba fish is being recognised as a priority by both countries. This is a huge breakthrough to save these species – and many more! Let me tell you why, because…

    Saving the vaquita is not a simple, or straightforward story.

    Drift-net fisherman in the Gulf of California in Mexico (2006)

    Just last year, your help meant we were able to delivered over 480,000 signatures to the Mexican President demanding that their habitat in the Gulf of California be officially protected. And you helped secure that!

    But then, we investigated a illegal trade of another endangered fish – the totoaba – which is highly prized in China as a prestigious gift or investment. These fish are often smuggled across the Mexican border into the US, where they are then taken by airplane into China, often through the city of Hong Kong. Before the announement between the US and China, things were looking really dire, with the most recent International Whaling Commission report stating that there are less than 97 in the wild.

    Campaigners from Greenpeace East Asia and Mexico hold fake dried totaoba

    The vaquita have been caught up in an international black market which is decimating their numbers. Protecting the vaquita means protecting the totaoba.

    So, what’s next?

    Our aim is to shut down the market for totaoba by targetting Hong Kong authorities and demanding they take urgent action. Hong Kong is often seen as a gateway for the trade in endangered species which then find their way into China.

    We’ve reached one major breakthrough. Now, we need to close this ugly chapter and safeguard the vaquita’s future: protect their home in Mexico, shut down the trade in Hong Kong, China and the US and ensure the authorities step up to the task. Will you join? 

    If you haven’t already, please add your voice here.

    Gloria Chang is the Vaquita Project Leader at Greenpeace East Asia, based in Hong Kong.

  • The People vs Shell: Why I took to the water to stop Arctic drilling

    Seattle Shell rig protest. 15 Jun, 2015 © Marcus Donner / Greenpeace

    Last month, activist James Blakely joined Greenpeace USA and local allies to courageously challenge Shell and its Arctic drilling plans. Greenpeace USA shares his story here:

    June 11, 2015

    It’s a beautiful, clear June day near my childhood home in Graham, Washington, and I am looking out across a grassy horse pasture towards the majestic Mt. Rainier. The mountain is looking less formidable these days as its glaciers recede and its snow pack melts earlier every season, exposing grey rock. I can’t quite recall a time when the mountain has looked so bare this early in the season. Neither can my mother.

    As it turns out, Washington is experiencing a historically low snowpack this year and is already in a statewide drought emergency. What little snow fell over winter in the Cascades is quickly disappearing. Surrounding states are experiencing similar conditions.

    Gazing out towards the mountain I grew up so close to—less than 30 miles as the crow flies—I am reminded of why I am a climate activist: it is for the beautiful places such as Mt. Rainier. It is for the wolverine, whose survival is threatened by low snowpack. It is for my nieces and nephews and future generations who will bear the worst impacts of climate change.

    While Mt. Rainier’s glaciers melt, so does the Arctic. This past winter, the maximum extent of Arctic sea ice was the lowest ever recorded. The culprit: climate disruption fueled by the release of excessive amounts of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. Instead of curbing production and funding solutions to the climate crisis, oil companies such as Shell are lining up to pump even more carbon into the atmosphere by drilling in the Chukchi Sea off the northwest coast of Alaska.

    Currently, Shell is using the Port of Seattle as a launching pad for its Arctic drilling fleet. If Shell gets its way, the long-term effects on our atmosphere will be catastrophic. What happens in the Arctic affects us all. That is one of the many reasons why, on June 15, 2015, myself and other concerned citizens decided to take bold, non-violent direct action against Shell.

    James Blakely

    June 15, 2015

    It’s 4am on a Monday morning, a few days after visiting with my parents. A mix of adrenaline, fear, nervousness and excitement makes me oblivious to the cool, morning sea air as a spray of salty water splashes against my face. The bow of the rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) that I am crewing is pointed towards the mouth of the Duwamish River as we race across Puget Sound. It is at the Port of Seattle, Terminal 5, where our target lies: Shell’s Polar Pioneer, which we’ve dubbed the Polar Destroyer. The monstrous rig is waking and ready to move, hoping to sneak out of Seattle unnoticed in the early hours of dawn. But the people of Seattle will not make it easy.

    My RHIB reaches the middle of the channel near Terminal 5 and immediately the Coast Guard descends upon us. But they aren’t the only ones. A colorful wave of kayaktivists displaying red ‘Save the Arctic’ banners have materialized stealthily out of darkness. Off in the distance, I spot glowing, round lanterns which are affixed to other kayaks, swiftly moving in our direction. It is a beautiful sight.

    Calmness and chaos swirls all around. Nine hundred feet of floating line resembling an oil boom is deployed, stretching across the channel to contain the Polar Destroyer. Additionally, a 150 by 30-foot floating banner is unfolded reading ‘Shell No’. Kayaks begin to form a line on either side of the banner and behind the floating line as a physical blockade of what lies ahead. There has been a surge of energy brewing in Seattle for the past several months since Shell has rolled into town uninvited. Even Seattle’s mayor and city council have spoken out against Shell using the Emerald City as a hub for its destructive practices. On this glorious morning, that energy ignited into a beautiful collective action of the people.

    As kayaktivists stand their ground, the mooring lines are released from the Polar Pioneer and the giant machine begins to leave port, disregarding the safety of the dozens of people on the water. Although respectful to the activists, the Coast Guard sides with Shell and clears a path for the 40,000-ton rig that is putting our lives at risk. By mid-morning, authorities cut the floating line, wrangle up the massive banner and detain 24 activists and their boats.

    As my RHIB—filled with the chanting of the Raging Grannies—follows the Polar Pioneer out of Elliot Bay, a feeling of frustration and helplessness washes over me. My heart breaks against the waves of the tug boats as they pull the drilling rig North. However, through social media, we hear that the rig is being met with more resistance. More kayaktivists have taken to the water to form another blockade off the coast of Bainbridge Island which delays the rig a few more hours.

    Although we did not completely stop the Polar Pioneer, we did not necessarily fail. Every delay is less time that Shell gets to spend drilling in the Arctic this season. I am filled with a great sense of pride that I was able to be part of a wonderful group of activists that challenged corporate power and took action against Shell and its Arctic drilling plans. Every action we take will hopefully inspire others to fight for the places they love. Sometimes, we have to take great risks and put our bodies on the line for the greater good. The real victory from this action is that it was a signal to Shell and the world that when you put the people and planet at risk, we will stand up and fight back.

    There is still time to stop Arctic drilling. President Obama has the authority to revoke Shell’s Arctic drilling permits. If Obama is at all serious about reducing our country’s greenhouse gas emissions, ending the tyranny of oil, slowing the rise of the oceans, and healing the planet, then he cannot allow Shell or any other oil company to drill in the Arctic. This is perhaps the next Keystone XL fight for the climate movement.

    With the Pacific Northwest—my home—expected to warm as much as 10 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century due to climate change, we have too much to lose. Mt. Rainier, an iconic symbol of the Northwest, will lose some of its grandeur without its glaciers. That is why many of us, myself included, were out on the waters of Puget Sound risking arrest

    If Obama won’t act to save the Arctic from drilling, then the people will.


    James is an organizer and activist for 350 Idaho, which he founded in 2014. He is active in expanding LGBT rights and enjoys traveling, writing and spending time in the woods and mountains. He currently resides in Boise, Idaho.  




  • Shell's drilling plans just got cut in half — by walruses

    Walrus in the Polar Sea, Arctic, Spitzbergen, Norway.24 Aug, 2012 © Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace

    The animal that comes most readily to mind when thinking of the Arctic, climate change, or sea ice melt is certainly the polar bear. Who woulda thunk, then, that the walrus would turn out to be the most headache-inducing megafauna for Shell as the global oil company tries to drill in the melting Arctic this summer.

    Yesterday marked a major development in the ongoing battle royale between Shell, the Obama administration, federal regulators, and environmentalists.  The quick and dirty? As part of Shell’s exploration plan to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of northern Alaska this summer, the company had planned to drill two simultaneous wells, 9 miles apart. Yesterday, the Department of Interior, the federal agency in charge of regulating Shell’s Arctic drilling project, said that Shell could only drill one well at a time. This ruling was part of a letter of authorization from the Fish & Wildlife Service granting Shell permission to “incidentally harass” mammals including the Pacific walrus.

    So. Shell wants two wells. The Obama administration says it now can only have one. How did we arrive here and what does it mean for all the parties involved? Before looking back at the recent history of the regulatory back-and-forth, let’s remember that the Obama administration is STILL allowing Shell to drill in Alaska this summer—meaning we need to keep the pressure on our President to kick Shell, a company with an astonishing history of incompetence, out of the Arctic for good. If President Obama has any interest in protecting his progressive legacy, which just had a historic week, he should certainly take heed.

    Polar Pioneer Tug Positioning 15 Jun, 2015 © Greenpeace / Tim Aubry

    Okay, some details: The Fish and Wildlife Service regulations stipulate that there must be a 15 mile “minimum spacing” requirement between Shell’s two rigs while Shell operates in the Burger prospect, the drill site in the Chukchi Sea, to minimize the impact on local walrus and other wildlife. Shell’s Exploration Plan and its Application for Permit to Drill involve both its rigs drilling simultaneous wells, which will only be 9 miles apart. If, unlike Shell, you can do basic math, this is a clear violation of the FWS regulation.

    In late June, EarthJustice, on behalf of other environmental NGOs including Greenpeace, asked Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to deny Shell’s individual drilling permits as well as pending FWS incidental take applications for walrus and polar bears, and to “address this basic deficiency in Shell’s plan,” ensuring that the US government’s position is “defensible and lawful.” Yesterday’s letter from the Department of Interior was essentially a response to the letter sent from those groups.

    Oh and “incidental take”, by the way, is defined by the Fish & Wildlife Service as “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct."

    So in a world where rules are rules, the Department of Interior would have responded to this blatant violation with a “no dice” response to Shell. Instead, regulators have introduced a workaround for Shell. The company can still drill this summer, if granted their remaining permits, as long as there is no simultaneous drilling.  This is yet another example of the US regulator colluding with Shell to enable Arctic drilling, rather than doing its job—which in Obama's own words is to regulate Arctic drilling to the highest possible standard.

    While some may consider this a serious setback for Shell, it’s sort of like getting caught robbing a bank and being told you can keep half the money—and come back for the rest during normal banking hours. Shell’s exploration plan is technically now invalid as it is in violation of a federal regulation. Yet the Department of Interior has catered to this billion-dollar company instead of taking the high road and requiring Shell to redo its exploration plan. Lest we forget that the letter in which this stipulation was introduced was federal permission for an oil company to harass wildlife including the Pacific walrus and polar bears.

    The wording of the Department of Interior’s document is vague, but it seems to say Shell can prepare both sites for drilling—bringing in drill rigs and any number of support vessels and laying elaborate anchor patterns on the seafloor—all activities which will affect the walrus population, but that Shell just can’t drill in both locations at once.  This clearly violates the intent of the 2013 regulation, which was to protect the walruses from harassment by human activity. 

    So while some interpretations of this development in the media consider this a “major blow” to Shell, Greenpeace won’t be popping any corks until Shell is kicked out the Arctic once and for all.

    One drill at a time is still one drill too many.

    Activists participate in the sHell No Flotilla 'Paddle in Seattle' protest.16 May, 2015 © N. Scott Trimble / Greenpeace

    There has never been more public opposition to Shell’s Arctic drilling plans as there is right now. Just yesterday, five senators, led by Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley, sent a letter to President Obama urging the White House to rescind Shell’s lease to drill in the Arctic. And “kayaktivistist” is a major contender for the buzzword of 2015 thanks to the incredible passion and action from people in Seattle. People from all walks of life, including native Alaskans, parents, children, and local politicians, were willing to paddle out in their kayaks to protest Shell’s 40,000 ton drilling rig the Polar Pioneer. This is all on top of the half a million Americans who have asked President Obama to step in and permanently cancel Shell’s drilling lease in the Arctic.

    President Obama should take this opportunity now to stop this catastrophe before it starts. If the President is serious about stopping the worst effects of climate change, it’s time for him to stop Arctic drilling for good. 

    Tell President Obama to cancel Shell's Arctic drilling plans for good.


    Cassady Sharp is a Media Officer at Greenpeace USA.

  • China begins the long march to Paris

    In the politics of climate change, it doesn't get much bigger than this. The world's biggest emitter last night announced how it intends to reduce its carbon emission beyond 2020. 

    China has joined 41 other nations to unveil its 'Intended Nationally Determined Contribution', or INDC in UN jargon. These are documents that every country attending this year's climate summit in Paris must submit. They are long and tedious, but we did the hard work for you.

    Here are three simple takeaways.

    1. China is joining the battle against climate change. This alone is BIG.

    For years China believed that it was industrialised Western nations who bore the primary responsibility for fixing the climate problem. This view has changed. China is now a fully active participant in the battle to keep global warming in check. Last November, China announced its intention to peak CO2 emissions earlier than 2030 and to ramp up clean energy use to around 20% by 2030. This gave the world an important preview of its long term plan.

    Workers at Dafeng Power Station. 11 Apr, 2011 © Greenpeace / Zhiyong Fu

    2. China's energy diet: cutting the carbs!

    China's commitment does not go far enough however. China has pledged a new carbon intensity reduction target of 60-65% by 2030 based on 2005 levels. This means that it will further reduce the quantity of CO2 emissions per unit of GDP. But Greenpeace believes that with the decline of China's coal consumption, which contributes close to 80% of China's energy related CO2 emissions, China could and has to do more than what was pledged today. 

    China's carbon reduction plan, coupled with the world's other two major emitters, the US and the EU, is not enough to keep global temperature rises within two degrees, after which scientists warn our climate could spin out of control.

    Steel Cities in China's Hebei Province. 2 Dec, 2014 © Lu Guang / Greenpeace

    3. All eyes are on Paris. Will it deliver?

    The announcement today marks huge progress, but it must be seen as the starting point for more ambitious actions. From our analysis, China's commitments will have a large impact in the run up to Paris and after, but their ambition falls short of what we had hoped for and what is necessary to keep the world within the safe zone of a two degree temperature rise.

    Local middle-aged women dance together with their backs to the Handan Stadium facing the Wen'an steel plants. 3 Dec, 2014 © Lu Guang / Greenpeace

    What China's INDC announcement shows more clearly than ever is that all countries at the Paris climate summit must ramp up their ambition, and lock in goals that can potentially avoid catastrophic climate change. From today, all eyes turn to the Paris Climate Conference.

    Li Shuo is a climate and energy policy officer with Greenpeace East Asia.

  • OSPAR victory: Arctic protection is one step closer

    We're closer to saving the Arctic because of you!

    The Arctic Ocean is currently the world's most vulnerable ocean. But the hope is this will soon change. At a meeting held in Ostend, Belgium, last week, the OSPAR Convention agreed to adopt specific measures to protect its Arctic region, including a commitment to secure a marine protected area (MPA) in 2016. This means an unprecedented agreement on Arctic protection, which could result in safeguarding the first piece of a future sanctuary in the High Arctic in just a few months' time.

    In 2016, the Arctic may finally receive well-deserved attention from OSPAR: a protected area equivalent in size to half of the surface of Spain (232,650 KM2). An area where no oil drilling or large industrial fishing will take place, and where the protection of threatened habitats and species will be the priority. A protected area where polar bears can live and thrive in their habitat without the threat of Shell finding oil and destroying their home.

    Today is a day for celebration. The OSPAR Convention may not be widely known but nonetheless it has shown willingness in fulfilling the United Nations’ commitments on high seas protection. OSPAR will work this year with the aim of protecting almost 10% of the international waters of the Arctic Ocean. However, the journey will not be free of obstacles, as OSPAR has already encountered strong opposition to limit Arctic protection. During this year’s meeting cycle, Iceland, Norway and Denmark have done everything they possibly could to remove any Arctic related issues from OSPAR’s political agenda. 

    But thanks to you we have been stronger. With your support, we put on our polar bear costumes, showed up to OSPAR’s political meetings, and talked face to face with its delegates. With your support, over the last few months we unfolded banners at the OSPAR meetings held in Bonn, London and Ostend, urging the delegates to take the lead on Arctic protection.

    Thanks to you, we were not alone. We are now 7 million people asking for an Arctic Sanctuary and thousands who have demanded OSPAR delegates to live up to the Convention mandate and history, and be the heroes capable of driving change on environmental protection.

    There is a bumpy road ahead for those of us who dream of achieving protection for the Arctic Ocean. Together we can make these dreams a reality. The Arctic is our common heritage: we depend on it and what happens there affect us all. Thank you.

    Pilar Marcos is the Arctic Team Leader for Greenpeace Spain.

  • These images show why China could be ready to save climate politics

    Steel Cities in China's Hebei Province. 2 Dec, 2014 © Lu Guang / Greenpeace

    Air pollution.

    Nobody can escape it. Young or old, rich or poor, everyone is affected by the fine particulate matter hanging over many cities across China.

    These images by celebrated photographer, Lu Guang, take you on a visual journey through China's industrial heartland, where the environment and the health of the people who depend on it are being affected. It's grim.

    When I went to Jiangsu province I was shocked. These photos show how thick the air is, but you can't appreciate the odor through pictures. The smell is something I will never forgot.

    So I was shocked when I got back to Beijing and crunched the data. I found that 90% of the country's cities have air pollution that is off the charts, even by China's own air quality standards.

    Child in Protective Mask in Liguo Town. 4 May, 2015 © Lu Guang / Greenpeace

    And in Jiangsu and Hebei I was shocked again to find that 85% of factories were actually illegally polluting the air.  

    It makes me angry that despite progress we still face so many obstacles. But it's also driving me to take action.

    Steel Cities in China's Hebei Province. 3 Dec, 2014 © Lu Guang / Greenpeace

    As the world's largest emitter of CO2, it has been both key to global economic growth, as well as central to the response to global climate change.

    So will China set the pace for climate change politics this year?

    I think there is momentum within China to tackle air pollution and reduce emissions.

    Wind Turbines in China. 1 Apr, 2012 © Zhang Kecun / Greenpeace

    Our work in profiling the impacts of air pollution (here, here and here) is proving that another future is possible. Others across China are breaking ground with cutting edge documentaries, or creating art questioning the impacts of pollution, and Chinese leaders are talking up the need for an ambitiours climate summit in Paris this year.

    Any minute now, China will submit its plan for reducing emission after 2020. It could be many things, but in my heart I hope that some good will come out of these grim images of modern day China.

    Because we all deserve clean air and a safe planet. Ask your leaders to Act for Climate.

    Qiuxia Wang is a Climate Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia.

  • Silo restaurant: Pre-industrial food and "food interception"

    Cafe owner, Doug McMaster. He is pictured next to the Stoneground Mill, used to mill wheat grain for bread and sandwiches sold on site. 26 Apr, 2015 © Emma Stoner / Greenpeace

    What's that about you may well ask? That's the same question I asked myself when I visited their website.

    So I decided to check it out.

    Walking into Silo, I'm greeted by a table laden with sourdough sandwiches stuffed with roasted veggies and behind it a large industrial installation.

    Sebastian, one of the staff, explains that this is the heated composter – capable of aerobically digesting (processing) the restaurant waste within a day. Everything goes into the digester: the compostable cutlery, plates, food waste….and within a day is turned into a rich compost that goes back to the farmers that supply the restaurant or is picked up by enthusiastic Brighton allotment holders.

    Composter at Silo Cafe in Brighton. 26 Apr, 2015 © Emma Stoner / Greenpeace

    But where does the food come from?

    Sebastian explains that Silo "intercepts food" rejected by the supermarkets and on its way to landfill. This means that the menu changes everyday depending on what produce has been "intercepted". Silo also has 5-10 regular suppliers of local fruit and veg. Although not necessarily organic or local, Silo tries to source as much seasonal produce as possible from as close as they can. For example, the organic wheat comes from Sussex or neighbouring Kent and is stone ground on the premises.

    Mill at Silo Cafe in Brighton. 26 Apr, 2015 © Emma Stoner / Greenpeace

    What’s pre-industrial food? This is food prepared using "techniques both modern and ancient" to provide a more primitive diet. This means a lot of fermented foods, like the spelt (an ancient grain cultivated since 5000BC) or rye sourdough bread, fermented brown rice, fermented ramson (wild garlic) and porridge with activated grains.

    Despite opening only in October 2014, Silo seems to be doing well and is currently crowd-funding for extending the kitchen and installing a coffee bar.

    Local Population in Silo Cafe in Brighton. 26 Apr, 2015 © Emma Stoner / Greenpeace

    We need more 'conscious' and ecological restaurants like Silo where serving food is not only a business but also a contribution to our culture, our society and our planet.

    Silo is definitely part of the food movement composed of farmers, people, business and organizations that want to make the food system more ecological, healthy and humanised. You can be part of it too by challenging yourself to do something differently when buying, preparing or growing your food. Need some inspiration? Visit and pledge something today.

    Image Gallery.. 

    Iza Kruszewska is a senior food campaigner (and proud allotment holder) at Greenpeace International.