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Latest news from Greenpeace
letzte Aktualisierung: 28.06.2017 13:10:56
  • Protecting the Earth knows no borders - not in Hungary, not anywhere

    Three people, dressed in protective clothing, are standing on the bank of the Szamos River that separates Hungary from Romania. A Hungarian, a Romanian and a Slovak. It’s 30ºC. The air isn’t moving, sweat drips down their backs. But the chemical sampling must be carried out. Locals have signaled that there is something wrong with the river, yet the authorities are slow and reluctant to react. Greenpeace has been called in because we have the technology and scientific know-how to conduct water tests in a professional credible way.

    Pollution of the Szamos River is just one example of the kind of cross-border environmental disasters that an international organisation like Greenpeace is tackling every day. But as a new law comes into effect in Hungary, work like this may be at risk: Greenpeace Hungary and other groups that receive support from people outside the country, as well as inside, are being labelled as ‘foreign funded NGOs’. The need for solidarity is great.

    Protecting the Earth knows no borders. 27/06/2017 © GreenpeaceProtecting the Earth knows no borders

    Waging struggles for a healthy environment together with 4,000 colleagues, 40,000 volunteers and 42 million supporters — across five continents and in 55 countries from Argentina to the Philippines — is an incredibly uplifting and empowering experience. I never lose sight of the fact that we are not alone but joined with millions of others working to achieve common goals: cleaner air, soil, water and food.

    This international strength is now being stigmatised in Hungary. A law on “the transparency of organisations funded from abroad” enters into force on 27 June. This law is unprecedented in the European Union and demands that a number of civil society groups, including Greenpeace, register as foreign-funded organisations.

    To enable the continuity of our work, Greenpeace Hungary will follow the special registration procedure set out in the law. But we will fight this law, using all legal means. This is an unnecessary and harmful piece of legislation that violates Hungary's treaty obligations under international law, and can threaten all who work for the well-being of the people and the planet.

    We are thankful to have the whole organisation behind us in the midst of all this turmoil. From the US to South-Korea, from Argentina to China, from India to Russia, Greenpeace offices are standing in solidarity. We feel the power of this unity, the same power that enables us to fight for clean air, clean soil and clean oceans that we and future generations depend on.  

    Hungary cannot be left out of the global environmental movement that we have been building. We owe this to our 8,500 Hungarian donors, to our tens of thousands of Hungarian followers, to humanity and to the Earth. It is our responsibility to both enable Hungarians to take part in global action for a healthy planet and to invite international support against domestic pollution. Hungarians expect us to continue our struggle for a cleaner environment, both inside and outside Hungary’s borders.

    With the onslaught of the global climate crisis, this work is more relevant and urgent than ever. As part of a global organisation, Greenpeace Hungary will muster all its strength to help push the international community to take decisive action to honour the pledges enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement. And we will push the Hungarian government to implement agricultural, energy and transport policies that are in line with Hungary’s pledges and obligations. We are proud to be able to rely on both Hungarian and foreign experts, volunteers and funds to be effective in our work. Because protecting the Earth knows no borders.

    Hajnalka Schmidt is the Director of Greenpeace Hungary

  • 5 ways tech companies are making your devices die too soon

    Imagine a world where your electronic gadgets would last, or a place where your devices could be easily repaired. Imagine all the money saved!  

    ...But we know that world is purely imaginary, because unfortunately, the growing trend among major IT brands is to make our phones and other devices more difficult to repair and maintain.

    Greenpeace in partnership with US-based company iFixit, has just assessed over 40 of the most popular smartphones, tablets and laptops from the past two years, to see how easily companies are allowing consumers the access to repair or make spare parts and repair manuals available.

    This is what we found:

    1. Devices are purposefully made difficult to repair and maintain

    Replacing memory or upgrading the hard drive isn’t as easy as it used to be. Why? Because pieces are soldered onto the board, making repair even harder. Some of LG and Samsung´s latest smartphones alongside Apple's laptops are example of this type of design.

    2. Believe it or not, some phones are becoming more fragile than sturdy

    Hands up if you’ve ever broken your phone. Annoying right? A major reason is that they are largely made of glass, and while electronic manufacturers have introduced stronger types of glass over the years, cracked screens are still endemic. In fact, most of the new generation phones are being built with expansive glass front, making them more prone to breaking. For example, Samsung’s latest S8, designed with edge to edge glass on the front and back, has been called “the most fragile’ phone ever made”.

    3. Batteries are harder to replace

    Remember the infamous exploding Samsung Galaxy Note7? The company might have been able to avoid recalling millions of devices if the phone’s design had enabled easy battery removal. Unfortunately, nearly 70% of all devices we assessed had batteries that were impossible or difficult to replace, due to design decisions and the use of strong adhesives to affix the battery to the casing. Samsung’s Galaxy S8 smartphone and Apple’s Retina MacBook’s batteries are completely adhered to the device panels.

    4. Accessing the tools to self-repair are hard to obtain

    Even when repairing could be possible, it's very expensive and time consuming, and often special tools are required to work with proprietary screws and other parts. Apple’s iPhone, Oppo's R9m, and Huawei’s P9 are just some of the devices that require special tools to conduct repairs.

    5. Repair manuals or spare parts aren't easily available to the public

    Very few electronic manufacturers provide users with information about how to fix their products. Out of the 17 brands represented in our assessment, only three - Dell, Fairphone and HP - provide all spare parts and repair manuals.

    Greenpeace volunteers group organizes a smartphone repair event in Beijing, China where visitors can repair their smartphones. Broken displays or a defective battery are no reason not to use the gadgets any longer.Greenpeace volunteers group organises a smartphone repair event in Beijing, China where visitors can repair their smartphones.

    So what environmentally friendly products can you buy?

    A few best-in-class products we found, such as Fairphone, Dell and HP, show that designing with repairability in mind is possible.

    Making devices that last longer and can be repaired is the most significant step that electronic brands can take to reduce the various environmental impacts associated with electronics manufacturing - from the extraction of virgin raw materials, the use of hazardous chemicals and large amounts of energy in manufacturing through to generation of millions of tonnes of e-waste every year.

    After all, tech companies recruit some of the brightest minds on the planet, so why can’t they come up with something that takes into account our Earth’s limited resources?

    Elizabeth Jardim is Senior Corporate Campaigner at Greenpeace USA

    Together, we can change the system. Join hundreds of thousands around the world demanding that leading IT companies like Apple, Samsung and others rethink our tech, and design products that are longer-lasting, and that don’t cost the earth.

    Join the movement to rethink technology! www.rethink-it.org

  • Why we leaked hundreds of pages of a secret trade deal that threatens our rights and our planet

    Behind closed doors and countless documents, details of a proposed deal between two of the world’s largest economies are being kept from us. Until now.

    Chances are that the planned trade deal between the European Union and Japan has not been on top of your mind recently. And there is a reason for this. Governments have gone to great lengths to leave their citizens in the dark about a deal that can significantly impact our lives and the world we live in—with massive implications reaching from labour rights to environmental protection.

    This is unacceptable. Which is why today Greenpeace Netherlands is releasing large parts of the secret EU-Japan deal.

    Transparent Public Reading Room for leaked TTIP Documents in Berlin. 2 May, 2016 © Daniel Müller / GreenpeaceTransparent public reading room for leaked TTIP documents, Berlin, 2 May, 2016 

    JEFTA, as it is commonly referred to, will ultimately affect the daily lives of more than 630 million European and Japanese citizens who until today’s leakhave not been informed by their governments as to what exactly is being negotiated on their behalf.

    Global trade has significant ramifications for environmental protection and climate change. How many, and what kind of products are traded and often shipped over long distances impacts our planet, as do the health, safety and environmental standards for these products. Which is why the rules governing such trade matter a great deal.

    Uncovering what lies beneath JEFTA

    The documents Greenpeace Netherlands released today show that JEFTA will mainly benefit large corporations at the expense of people and the planet. The agreement could make it harder for the EU and Japan to take the environmental measures necessary to reach their Paris Agreement obligations. For instance, the agreement will likely undermine efforts to reduce illegal logging around the world, including in Europe. With hardly any tangible or concrete commitments on environmental protection, JEFTA opens the door for corporate lobbyists to attack Europe’s environmental standards.

    Greenpeace volunteers highlight the need for the Romanian government to legally protect the forest. 15 Aug, 2016 © Mitja Kobal / GreenpeaceGreenpeace volunteers in Romania call on the government to protect the forest. 15 Aug, 2016

    Over three million Europeans signed a petition calling for the end of special rights for foreign corporations, but prioritising investor protection is nevertheless part of JEFTA. Rather than having to make their case before domestic courts (like every one of us), the deal would grant foreign investors and corporations the possibility to use a separate court system. This would enable them to sue the state over environmental (or other) regulations that they don’t like. At the same time, the state or the public get no special rights to sue the corporations for labour and environmental violations. This undermines both democracy and the rule of law.

    Activists at the European conference centre in Luxembourg call on ministers to reject CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). 18 Oct, 2016 © Xavier Bechen / GreenpeaceActivists at the European conference centre in Luxembourg call on ministers to reject CETA (Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement). 18 Oct, 2016

    A threat to our rights

    JEFTA is a threat to our democratic rights, our health and environment. It is also a missed opportunity. The exchange of goods and services — but also of ideas — can help open and connect the world in a way that achieves social and environmental objectives that keep us within our planetary boundaries. Environmental treaties, human rights agreements, and international labour standards — with principles of equality and intergenerational responsibility at their heart — must guide trade rules, not be threatened by them.

    If negotiators want to demonstrate that this agreement advances the public interest, they need to start by voluntarily publishing all the texts, enshrining social and environmental standards in the agreements. Above all they mustnot lose sight of the true end goal: trade as a means to achieve wellbeing for people and planet, not as an end in itself.

    For more on Greenpeace’s vision for trade, read our Ten Principles For Trade. For access and further analysis of the EU-Japan deal, visit www.trade-leaks.org.

    Shira Stanton is a Senior Political Strategist and Sebastian Bock is a Senior Business Strategist at Greenpeace International

  • What happened when we demanded that publishers hear the voices of 500,000 of you

    More than half a million people have stood up for free speech and for the Canadian boreal forest, raising their voices to call on the largest global publishers to pay attention and be our allies. 

    We bound the signatures in a handmade book, along with dozens of photos of people in front of significant trees in their communities, showing how much the forest means to all of us. Thank you to each and every one of you that have joined this campaign so far and enabled us to represent people power in a physical object.

    Seeing what 500,000 names looks like on page after page of a beautiful book is humbling. But it does not even begin to honour what half a million people around the world calling for the same thing can do.

    Greenpeace delivered to publishers the voices of more than 500,000 people around the world who are asking them to stand up for free speech and the Canadian Boreal forest. The largest global publishers are buying paper from Resolute Forest Products, a logging company who is suing Greenpeace in two separate multi-million dollar lawsuits aimed at silencing our criticism of its controversial and destructive logging practices. 14 Jun, 2017  © Stephanie Keith / Greenpeace

    Why we are speaking up

    The largest global publishers, including Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster and Hachette are buying paper for their books from Resolute Forest Products. This logging company is controversial to say the least. It logs in intact forests and threatened species’ habitat. It has lost environmental certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)on more than 6 million hectares of forestland. And it is suing environmental advocates like Greenpeace that believe the world has a right to know what it is doing.

    Given the true weight of these books and the seriousness of the topic, we had hopes that the publishers receiving them would also see the gravity of the situation and be compelled to do something.

    What the publishers had to say

    Last Tuesday, Hachette Livre showed that they were ready to act. The third largest publisher in the world wrote an open letter to the CEO of Resolute Forest Products calling its legal attacks on free speech and environmental groups “excessive” asking whether there are not “other ways to deal with Greenpeace’s claims.” Hachette also recognised that it had made promises to its readers to only purchase sustainable paper and that Resolute needs to do better for the forest if it wants to continue to be Hachette’s supplier.

    Boreal Forest - Montagnes Blanches, Quebec. 2 Oct, 2011 © Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace

    Unfortunately Hachette Livre’s leadership in taking this first step is not yet indicative of the entire publishing industry. So last week I visited publisher after publisher, all headquartered in New York City, to deliver the book with its 500,000 signatures to represent the power of the people calling for action.

    Greenpeace Campaigners Amy Moas and Shane Moffatt bring the "Our Voices Are Vital" message to the MacMillan Publishing offices in the Flatiron Building in New York. Greenpeace delivered to publishers the voices of more than 500,000 people around the world who are asking them to stand up for free speech and the Canadian boreal forest. The largest global publishers are buying paper from Resolute Forest Products, a logging company who is suing Greenpeace in two separate multi-million dollar lawsuits aimed at silencing our criticism of its controversial and destructive logging practices. 14 Jun, 2017 © Stephanie Keith / Greenpeace

    First, we made a delivery to Macmillan in the historic Flatiron building. When we asked the CEO and other company representatives to plan for time to come accept the book, we were instructed to simply leave it with the security guard. They are trying to ignore the voices of 500,000, but for how long?

     Greenpeace Campaigners Amy Moas and Shane Moffatt bring the "Our Voices Are Vital" message to the MacMillan Publishing offices in the Flatiron Building in New York. Greenpeace delivered to publishers the voices of more than 500,000 people around the world who are asking them to stand up for free speech and the Canadian boreal forest. The largest global publishers are buying paper from Resolute Forest Products, a logging company who is suing Greenpeace in two separate multi-million dollar lawsuits aimed at silencing our criticism of its controversial and destructive logging practices. 14 Jun, 2017 © Stephanie Keith / Greenpeace

    Next we handed over the book to Penguin Random House and received a respectable reception with someone who seemed to appreciate the book and what it represented. I have my fingers crossed that we'll be hearing good things from them again soon. The largest publisher in the world cannot ignore all of us. They cannot ignore the best science, or the promises they have made to their readers and choose inaction which is effectively choosing the side of corporate bullies and a sad future for free speech.

    Greenpeace Campaigners Amy Moas and Shane Moffatt bring the "Our Voices Are Vital" message to the MacMillan Publishing offices in the Flatiron Building in New York. Greenpeace delivered to publishers the voices of more than 500,000 people around the world who are asking them to stand up for free speech and the Canadian boreal forest. The largest global publishers are buying paper from Resolute Forest Products, a logging company who is suing Greenpeace in two separate multi-million dollar lawsuits aimed at silencing our criticism of its controversial and destructive logging practices. 14 Jun, 2017 © Stephanie Keith / Greenpeace

    We then handed over the book to Simon & Schuster. Unfortunately in order to get the opportunity to hand over the book, I had to promise not to talk about it. So this is me not talking about it. But I can ensure you all that our continued voices are going to be vital with this one.

    Lastly we headed to the headquarters of the second largest publisher in the world, HarperCollins. Sadly, 500,000 people are not enough to warrant a single person from the company to talk to us. We personally called the Vice President of Corporate Communications and the security guard called up to the front desk. We were once again refused. So our book lies with an uncertain future inside HarperCollins’ mailroom. But what is not uncertain is Greenpeace’s resolve to continue to insist that HarperCollins stands up for free speech and forests. We will not back down and we ask you all to continue to stand with us.

    Greenpeace Campaigners Amy Moas and Shane Moffatt bring the "Our Voices Are Vital" message to the MacMillan Publishing offices in the Flatiron Building in New York. Greenpeace delivered to publishers the voices of more than 500,000 people around the world who are asking them to stand up for free speech and the Canadian boreal forest. The largest global publishers are buying paper from Resolute Forest Products, a logging company who is suing Greenpeace in two separate multi-million dollar lawsuits aimed at silencing our criticism of its controversial and destructive logging practices. 14 Jun, 2017 © Stephanie Keith / Greenpeace

    Our voices are vital

    In the end, I felt humbled to have the opportunity to personally deliver these books and cannot thank you all enough for contributing to them. It is our voices that are vital for free speech and for forests. Greenpeace will continue to bravely face the biggest challenge to our 45 year-history with you all by our side. Lets see what the future holds and hope that a second volume of these books is not needed before publishers live up to the promises they have already made and start being part of the solution for healthy forests and free speech.

    See the digital version of the book HERE 

    Amy Moas, Ph.D. is a Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace USA

  • We speak for the trees

    When Resolute Forest Products, Canada’s largest logging company, threw two multi-million dollar lawsuits at Greenpeace and Stand.Earth for speaking out for the protection of the Canadian boreal forest, people around the world did not sit idly by.

    In over 25 countries around the world, people took to the forest and their most iconic trees to send a message of unity and solidarity in the face of Resolute’s legal attempt to silence its critics and stifle freedom of speech.

    Greenpeace Indonesia staffs, volunteers and supporters stand in solidarity with the message #OurVoicesAreVital to unite against Canadian logging company Resolute's multiple lawsuits to stifle free speech and the organisation's work to protect the Great Northern Forest in Canada. 24 May, 2017  © Jurnasyanto Sukarno / Greenpeace

    From the tropics of Indonesia, people gathered in defense of the forests of Canada in front of a giant Kenari Babi tree to send their message to Resolute.

    Standing next to a 3000 year old cedar tree at the Shouf Biosphere Reserve in Lebanon, Greenpeace Med Arab World Programme stand in solidarity with the message #OurVoicesAreVital to unite against Canadian logging company Resolute's multiple lawsuits to stifle free speech and the organisation's work to protect the Great Northern Forest in Canada. 25 May, 2017  © Charbel Bouez / Greenpeace 

    Drawing on the symbol of their national flag, a group in Lebanon sent their message from an ancient 3,000 year old cedar tree in the Shouf Biosphere Reserve.

    Greenpeace activists display signs and banners that read:“#OurVoicesAreVital“ in a forest near Werbellinsee in Brandenburg to show solidarity with Greenpeace Canada, Greenpeace USA and Greenpeace International. These Greenpeace offices are being sued by the Canadian company Resolute Forest Products in Canada and the USA for their work in forest protection. The Greenpeace offices argue that they should not be silenced. 29 Apr, 2017  © Fred Dott / Greenpeace

    From Germany, where the iconic beech forests form a part of their cultural heritage, hundreds of people gathered to tell Resolute that they will not be silenced.

    Even when Resolute tries underhanded tactics to silence our voices, the forests and trees of the world unite us. Right now, the need for protecting our forests is more important than ever as they are hotbeds of biodiversity and store vast amounts of carbon that we can not afford to release into the atmosphere if we are to keep global temperature rise under 2 degrees Celsius. And if nothing else, these lawsuits from Resolute show us that the right to speak out is more precious than ever and must be defended.

    Nothing in nature acts in isolation. From the microscopic chains of fungi in the soil, to the complexities of the animal kingdom, even the earliest scientists observed the world as a vast interconnected ‘web of life’. And so too are we, as a global movement of people, united together for the protection of the forest and in defense of free speech everywhere.

    Sign the petition to ask book publishers to defend the forests and free speech.

     

    Ethan Gilbert is a mobilisation coordinator at Greenpeace Nordic.

  • Brazil’s president must step down. Here’s why

    If you ask Google to translate the Portuguese word “temer”, the result is “to fear”. Temer is the name of the current president of Brazil. And fear is what many Brazilians have been feeling lately.

    Temer took office after the controversial impeachment process that ousted former President Dilma Rousseff at the end of August 2016. Now, less than a year after later, Temer is not only deeply involved in corruption scandals worthy of a TV series, he’s also slashing human rights and environmental protections across Brazil.

    The environment

    Deforestation in the Amazon Caused by Forest Fires. 17 Aug, 2016  © Rogério Assis / Greenpeace 

    Even though Brazil is part of the Paris agreement, the rate of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has risen 29% last year. But instead of strengthening environmental protections, Temer chose a different path. Only a few months after taking office, Temer himself wrote two proposals to reduce protection of 600,000 hectares of the forest in the state of Pará -- an area more than half the size of Jamaica. He’s due to sign these bills any day now, and they are just the beginning. 

    A very conservative Congress and Senate is not only pushing for similar changes to happen in other protected areas in the state of Amazonas, but also discussing ways to make it easier to build big infrastructure projects in the region, such as hydro dams, roads and ports -- all of which would cause more deforestation.

    President Temer and his allies in the agribusiness lobby are a direct threat not only to the climate and local biodiversity, but also to communities and Indigenous People whose livelihoods depend on the Amazon rainforest.

    Indigenous rights under threat

     © Mídia Ninja / Mobilização Nacional Indígena

    Indigenous People are fighting for their rights all around the world, including Brazil. The country has long history of violence against Indigenous communities, with dozens of Indigenous People being injured or killed in conflicts with farmers and ranchers over land each year. Violence against Indigenous People has increased exponentially in recent months because of land disputes with farmers.

    Less than two months ago, more than 3,000 Indigenous People marched in Brasília, the capital of Brazil to protest the rising violence and to demand rights to their ancestral lands. Instead of being received with respect, they were met with police violence, only reaffirming that Temer’s government is not open to dialogue with Indigenous People. 

    The right for free speech

    Indigenous People Deliver 200 Coffins at Brazilian Congress in Brasilia. The coffins were placed on the water and on the lawn in front of the entrance of the Brazilian Congress building, together with a 25 x 5 meter message reading in Portuguese "Demarcação Já!" (Demarcation Now!). Only few minutes later, the police responded with tear gas, violently scattering the peaceful indigenous protest. 25 Apr, 2017 © Rogério Assis / MNI

    Amongst all this outrageous news, Temer is also heavily involved in corruption scandals. In May, shocking accusations were published by the Brazilian media showing the involvement of president in bribery. Still Temer is refusing to resign as political crisis deepens.

    With approval rates falling into single digits, it is clear that Brazil’s population think their president is not fit to lead the country. Protests are on the rise across Brazil, and citizens are demanding new presidential elections. In response, Temer is using violence to repress the demonstrations. He has even asked for federal troops to intervene in protests. Though this decision was revoked, it sets the tone to how Temer is dealing with public opposition surrounding his office. 

    Political representatives start failing when they start working for the interests of corporations and themselves instead of the public. Greenpeace Brazil believes that only new direct elections can protect the country’s democracy and preserve the environment and social rights.

    Diego Gonzaga is a content editor for Greenpeace USA

  • Silent Spring, 2017

    In 1962, Rachel Carson published Silent Spring, drawing attention to the impact of DDT on bird populations. Her book inspired most nations to ban DDT by the 1980s. The ban and other protection efforts helped save some bird species from extinction, including the osprey, brown pelican, and white stork. However, fifty-five years after Carson's book, the rate of bird decline has accelerated globally, due to pesticide use, habitat loss, climate change, domestic cats, and other threats.

    A boobie bird takes a rest aboard the MY Esperanza.A Booby bird takes a rest on board the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza. 22 Nov, 2007

    In 2004, the Po'ouli or black-faced honeycreeper disappeared from Maui, the last member of its genus Melamprosops. Hawaii also recently lost two species of Nukupu'u honeycreepers, the O'ahu 'alauahio, and the Maui 'akepa. We have bid farewell in recent decades to Australia's masked owl, the Grand Cayman oriole, New Providence yellowthroat, Gonave Island chat-tanager, Santa Barbara song sparrow, and Florida's Dusky seaside sparrow. Gone forever.

    Ornithologists face a challenge to know if a species is technically extinct, since it is difficult to confirm that no breeding pairs exist. Some species, known to exist in remnants, appear "functionally extinct," including the Giant Ibis with less than 100 breeding pairs. Birds require specific habitats and diets, are vulnerable to domestic cats and other introduced predators, and serve as a fragile indicator for Earth's general ecological health.

    Global challenge 

    A 2005 Stanford Study analysed all 9,787 known living bird species and 129 extinct species; tracked distribution, ecological function, and life history; and collated 600,000 computer entries.  From one of the most comprehensive biological databases ever compiled, the authors of the study estimated that 25% of bird species would be functionally extinct by 2100.

    Of highest risk, were species in the northern latitudes  and highly specialized species in bounded range with limited food, particularly island birds. In 2008, Worldwatch Institute and the IUCN Red List determined that 1,227 bird species (12 % of known birds) are now threatened with extinction. Among 192 species in critical crisis are the Giant Ibis, India's Forest Owlet, with less than a hundred individuals; the New Zealand Kakapo owl parrot, about 150 individuals; and the New Caledonia owlet-nightjar, that has not been sighted in over a decade.

    Richard Inger at the University of Exeter surveyed bird populations in 25 countries over 30 years, and estimated that total population in those nations had declined by 421 million birds between 1980 and 2009. A 2015 review of his study in Current Biology explains that the bird crisis in Europe is not just about extinctions but massive declines among the once-common species, such as sparrows, swifts, and Jackdaws. The most abundant quarter of the species lost 83 percent in 30 years. These massive declines, even if the species survive, effect the  functioning of the wider ecosystem.

    Birds provide essential, symbiotic services to the ecosystem, including decomposition, seed dispersal, and nutrient recycling. Birds contribute to human agriculture through pollination and pest control. Scavenger birds clean up dead animals, limiting the spread of disease. In the 1990s in India, the rapid loss of vultures led to an explosion of rabid dogs and rats, that feed on carrion. As a result, in 1997, rabies claimed more than 30,000 human deaths in India, more than half of the world's annual rabies deaths.

    The Passenger pigeon case provides a lesson in ecology. The Passenger pigeon once swarmed North America in flocks of over a billion birds, but were decimated by human hunters and became extinct by 1914. The pigeons had competed with deer mice for acorns, keeping the mice population in check. With the demise of the pigeons, deer mice populations swelled and became a primary vector of ticks, which carried the Lyme spirochete into the human community, contributing to the modern Lyme disease outbreak that has debilitated thousands of people, especially along the Atlantic coast, where the Passenger pigeon thrived.

    Magnificent Frigate bird showing the red throat. It is sitting on a bush or tree.A Frigate bird. 1 Nov, 2001

    Cortes Island, where I live off the west coast of Canada, sits on the migration path for dozens of species of birds, some that travel between Mexico and the Arctic. We have witnessed a sharp decline in Barn swallows, Tree swallows, Goshawks, Rufous hummingbirds, Great blue heron, Great horned owl, and other species, reflecting a recent demise of birds throughout North America.

    The 2016 Partners in Flight Bird population analysis reveals that North America has lost 1.5 billion birds in 40 years. The Rufous hummingbirds have lost 60 percent of their populations, and the Snowy owl and Chimney swift are also in steep decline. Twenty percent of the breeding species appear vulnerable to extinction.

    Boreal and polar habitats provide the world's nursery for thousands of bird species. Nature Canada's 2012 State of Birds survey revealed that avian insectivores had declined by more than 60% across Canada in 40 years. Chimney swifts, Field sparrows, Short-eared owls, Snowy owl, and the Oak titmouse, all lost more than half their populations. 

    Conservation programmes typically focus on charismatic and rare species close to extinction, species that enhance funding appeals: Who cares about a bloody sparrow? But the declines in common species have a dramatic impact throughout the web of life.

    The human factors

    We know why birds and other species are suffering historic declines: Human sprawl, the unrelenting advance of a single species, Homo sapiens. Habitat destruction appears as the primary cause of bird decline. Bird species evolve into very specific habitats. Most species nest in a particular species of tree, in a particular micro-climate that supports their food supply and protects them from predators. As we drain wetlands, level forests, and sprawl across grasslands and wetlands, we unravel this fragile web.

    In 1958, China's Communist leader Mao Tse Tung decided that four "pests" -- mosquitoes, flies, rats, and sparrows (who ate farmers' seeds) -- should be eliminated for public health and agricultural growth. Chinese citizens began to eradicate sparrows until 1960, when Chinese leaders realized that the sparrows had controlled insects. Insects increased, decimating crops, and China's agricultural yields declined. The Chinese Academy of Sciences advised Mao, and he ended the sparrow campaign, replacing them on the "Four Pests" list with bed bugs. "Mao knew nothing about animals," environmental activist Dai Qing told the BBC in 2004. "He just decided that the 'four pests' should be killed."  

    Bird feather in the Arctic, Spitzbergen, Norway.A bird feather in the Arctic. 23 August, 2012

    Human activity that contributes to bird declines includes our agriculture and forestry, pesticide use, power lines, windmills, buildings, vehicles, domestic cats, and climate change. Intense agriculture transforms river deltas, swamps, grasslands, and forests. Our pesticides, particularly from the neonicotinoid family that endangers bees, kill the insects that feed birds.

    After habitat destruction, cats and window collisions are the most lethal. A typical house cat that wanders freely might kill a dozen birds in a single night, and studies in North America show that cats kill over two billion birds annually. Cat owners can reduce bird deaths by limiting cat reproduction and providing cats with bright, visible collars and bells.

    Collisions with window glass kill over 600-million birds annually in North America and over a billion worldwide. Cars and power lines kill hundreds of millions more. Hunting claims over 100-million birds annually.

    The diversity crisis

    One of the fundamental laws of ecology states that stability in an ecosystem depends on diversity. We may save a disappearing bird species by breeding a few in a zoo, but this does not buy back the loss of diversity in our ecosystems. The impacts of human sprawl result in diversity loss across all classes of plant and animal life.

    In 2008, there were 44,838 species on the IUCN Red List. The World Wildlife Fund Living Planet Index declined by 52 percent between 1970 and 2010. Sixty percent of all amphibians are in dramatic decline due to the loss of wetlands. Forty-two percent of reptiles and 28 percent of all vertebrate species are in decline. According to some European studies, insect declines have reached 80 percent over 25 years.

    The current rate of of species loss has reached the order of 1000 to 10,000-times the historic background extinction rate. Over the long march of evolution, about one mammal species disappears every 400 years, and a whole family of species might disappear in a million years. In 2014, a study by Stuart Pimm at Duke University and colleagues at Brown University, estimated that the extinction rate was 1000-times faster than background. Biologist E O Wilson has estimated that the rate is 10,000-times background, and other biologists at IUCN and the Center for Biological Diversity believe he is correct.

    In the 1970s, as Greenpeace staged its first campaigns, Norman Myers estimated that Earth was losing one species per day, and this appeared as a tragic crises. Today, after almost fifty years of ecological actions, Earth is now losing about one species per hour.

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    Resources and Links

    National Academy of Sciences, 2005: 25% of bird species functionally extinct by 2100: Stanford.

    “Climate change and population declines in a long-distance migratory bird,” C. Both, et. al., University of Groningen, Nature 441, 81-83, 4 May 2006.

    Bird populations in steep decline, Eric Andrew-Gee, Globe and Mail, Sep. 14, 2016 

    Partners in Flight Bird decline analysis

    Europe’s bird populations in decline, Michael Gross, Current Biology, 15 June 2015  

    Global Bird Species in Decline, 2008: Ben Block, Worldwatch Institute.

    Leading causes of bird deaths, Environment Canada, CBC, 2013

    State of Canada’s Birds, 2012: NABCI

    Mao's 4-pest eradication: China Sparrow Campaign

    Rate of species loss could reach 10,000 times background, E O Wilson

    Species loss 1,000 - 10,000 times background: Center for Biological Diversity:

    Extinctions during human era worse than thought: Brown Univ. study, 2014

    Stuart Pimm species diversity study, Duke University, Conservation Biology

    Where have all the insects gone?, Gretchen Vogel, 2017, Science magazine

     

     

     

  • Authors around the world stand up for free speech and forests

    Authors, journalists, poets and playwrights know that every time the right words are put to paper, or typed to a screen, our planet gets a little better. Because, without the right to express ourselves freely, we cannot make that positive change.

    More than 100 authors have pledged to defend free speech and those who peacefully protect the world’s forests. This pledge follows two multimillion dollar lawsuits filed by Resolute Forest Products, a Canadian company, to silence Greenpeace and Stand.earth’s exposure of its controversial logging in the boreal forest.

    Here’s what some of the authors have to say:

    Margaret Atwood

    Margaret AtwoodCanadian author of The Handmaid’s Tale, recently dramatised in the must-watch television show of the year. In the story, all but the most powerful women are forbidden to write and are denied access to books.

    “The endings of The Handmaid's Tale, 1984 and Brave New World are written. Ours is not. This is a chance to stand up for freedom of speech, the freedom to advocate for change, and the freedom to question authority, and to strengthen their protection under law. As a society, we need a positive outcome to this story.”

    Stephen Fry

    Stephen FryBritish actor, comedian, author of the memoir More Fool Me, and all-round lover of words, has made a career of speaking up.

    “Speaking as a serial blasphemer, I take freedom of speech very seriously. It’s not just about the satisfaction you get from speaking your mind, it’s also about telling uncomfortable truths that need to be heard, and Greenpeace has been incredibly successful at exposing what the powers that be want to keep secret. But this case goes beyond Greenpeace to threaten every whistle-blower and watchdog with information that the rich and powerful want suppressed. I’m worried, and I think you should be too.”

    Yann Martel

    Yann MartelAuthor of Life of Pi which was adapted into an Oscar winning film. His work is praised for its imagination and originality, and captured hearts and minds everywhere with its magical-realism and deftly drawn characters.

    "Ultimately we all benefit from free speech. If Resolute Forest Products manages to shut Greenpeace up with its heavy-handed legal tactics, we ALL lose. This is not just a question of preserving our environment but our civil society."

    Lev Grossman

    Lev GrossmanBook critic and fantasy writer of The Magicians trilogy. He values words for their magic and power beyond all measure.

    “I support Greenpeace in their urgent, important work defending the environment, and I support the right of everyone, everywhere to speak out in protest without fear of being bullied and silenced."

     

    Michelle Alexander

    Michelle AlexanderAuthor of the New York Times bestseller, The New Jim Crow, which has shaped the conversation on how our prison system contributes to systemic racism and legalized discrimination.

    “The right to speak truth to power is the foundation of democracy and must be vigilantly protected and defended. Now more than ever.”

     

    Lauren Groff

    Lauren GroffHer novel, Fates and Furies was Barack Obama’s favourite book of 2016.

    "Greenpeace works hard to maintain a healthy balance in our planet's ecosystems, from seas to mountain tops, for the benefit of future generations."

     

    Anthony Doerr

    Anthony DoerrAuthor of All The Light We Cannot See, which won the Pulitzer prize. His writing wins praise from both readers and critics for its perfectly crafted language and page-turning plot.

    “We must never silence the voices who speak to protect our children’s future. The more we can remember how interconnected we all are—the more we can train ourselves to empathise with the kids in our neighbourhoods, beyond our borders, and in our futures—the better off we’ll be."

    Rebecca Solnit

    Rebecca SolnitFollowing her book, Men Explain Things to Me, 'mansplaining' became a cultural concept. While she didn’t invent the word, she gives a voice to women everywhere with her sharp essays and culturally relevant writing.