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Latest news from Greenpeace
letzte Aktualisierung: 24.03.2017 14:12:02
  • Melting sea ice breaks new records — an Arctic sanctuary is more urgent than ever

    With sea ice at record low levels this winter, the Arctic needs us now perhaps more than ever. Last week, a vote in the European Parliament showed that Arctic protection has become an established conversation in the corridors of power – but we don’t need words; we need action.  

    An Arctic sanctuary would give permanent protection to the area covering the international waters around the North Pole. Its creation would show that humans can respond to tragedy with hope and that, instead of exploiting every last wild place, we can hold back the drillers and trawlers that are encroaching on the Arctic as the sea ice melts.

    Ice floating on the Arctic Ocean in April 2016. 01/04/2016 © Nick Cobbing / GreenpeaceFloating Arctic sea ice in 2016.

    But being hopeful is not enough; we also need to be smart. Always happy to take advice from clever people, I was attracted to this quote from Albert Einstein: “Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.” Can this advice be useful for those of us campaigning for Arctic protection?

    Lessons learnt

    A lesson that we surely have to learn from history is that hopeful words are no substitute for action. The European Parliament second resolution on the Arctic which was voted on last week sends, like its 2014 predecessor, a strong signal that speedy and collaborative action is needed to protect the Arctic from the impacts of climate change and exploitation. Sadly, as with any Parliamentary resolution, the Parliament’s call for action is just that - a rallying cry, which governments now have to firm up with multilateral agreements, new laws and enforcement action to set up the sanctuary and to prevent the harmful exploitation of Arctic resources, from oil to fisheries.

    Urgent action  

    The resolution does set out some concrete action that should follow. For example, it supports the work happening in the UN to create a new international oceans treaty. This could be exactly what is needed to protect waters like the area around the North Pole, but only if it is agreed in record time. The resolution also calls for continued EU work within an international convention known as OSPAR to protect the international waters directly north of Europe – however, this process is currently being blocked by Norway, Denmark and Iceland.

    The Parliament backs a ban on the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic seas which, if spilled, would cause a devastation but could be outlawed by a body called the International Maritime Organisation. The resolution also calls for a moratorium on industrial-scale fishing, including bottom trawling, in the previously unfished parts of the Arctic. Here, EU governments should and could take an immediate first step and prohibit their own vessels from venturing into such fisheries. Last but not least, the resolution talks about a legally binding agreement to prevent the Central Arctic Ocean from unregulated fishing, negotiations have been going on for years in other forums.

    When Einstein says ‘live for today’, I guess we could interpret that to mean we must stay awake to the opportunities that are happening now and to work in and around these forums to get the best results possible - something that Greenpeace intends to continue.

    Ice in Arctic Ocean in Svalbard in 2016. 13/04/2016 © Nick Cobbing / GreenpeaceArctic ice in Svalbard, 2016.

    Questions unanswered

    Einstein’s final advice, “not to stop questioning”, is easy to follow because many issues remain unanswered. Given that the European Parliament favours a fishing moratorium in the previously unfished parts of the Arctic, and given that a group of global seafood brands including McDonald's and Young's last year said “no” to the further expansion of cod fishing into the previously-frozen Northern Barents Sea, why are EU governments still allowing vessels to catch fish in those areas?

    And if the European Parliament wants to preserve the Arctic, how can it be right that the oil lobby had so much influence over edits to the text? The original resolution was much stronger – calling on the EU to work towards a future total ban on the extraction of Arctic oil and gas. But Norway, which is undertaking a big new push for new Arctic oil, lobbied hard. Norway clearly feels defensive, planning up to 16 new exploratory Arctic wells for this summer, while facing off criticism, campaigning and a big legal challenge.

    In the end, simply not enough MEPs stayed strong and the resolution now only talks about a ban in icy Arctic waters. That’s a good start, but it doesn’t take the principled standpoint that any new drilling is too much of a risk for the climate - nor does it define the distance of drilling from the ice edge.

    Polar Bear Swimming in Svalbard. 10/04/2016  © Nick Cobbing / GreenpeacePolar bear swimming in Svalbard.

    The reality is that, across the Arctic region, exploration has lost its appeal. For example, Royal Dutch Shell, long at the forefront of exploration in Alaska, abandoned its drilling programme there in 2015. In 2016,  Barack Obama declared a huge swath of Arctic waters “indefinitely” off-limits to exploration as part of a joint move with Justin Trudeau of Canada, citing environmental concerns and the unique risk that would be presented by an oil spill in remote Arctic waters.

    Yet, with their heads firmly stuck in the sand, a number of EU oil companies, including OMV, Eni, Lundin and DEA, who have licences to drill in the Arctic still push for access. This goes seemingly unquestioned by the governments in their home countries, including Sweden, Germany, Austria, Poland, the UK and Italy.

    So, let's keep questioning all governments, including those in the EU, why they are not doing much more to halt new fossil fuel extraction and invest in renewables. After all, it is only by successfully tackling climate change that we can stop the sea ice melt.

    Right now oil rigs are preparing to go further north, and closer to the ice edge, than Norway has ever allowed before - sign up here to support a court case that could stop them

    Sophie Allain is an Arctic Campaigner with Greenpeace International.

  • Why Brazil’s rotten meat scandal is a big problem — and not just for Brazilians

    Food scandals like this happen more often than you think and may affect you more than you know — even if you don’t live in Brazil.

    Livestock Farm in Brazil. 30 Mar, 2009  © Ricardo Funari / Lineair / Greenpeace

    Have you heard about the shocking rotten meat scandal that’s shaking the Brazilian society and economy this week? Over the weekend, Brazilian police unveiled an investigation exposing systemic bribing of Brazilian meat inspectors by major meat-packing companies (some of them top global companies) to conceal dirty meat by paying them to issue false “fit-to-eat” certifications.

    Details emerging from the investigation include practices such as adding chemicals to meat to conceal rotting odor, adding pigs’ heads to sausages and adding cardboard to processed poultry as filler. Some families are afraid to eat the meat in their freezers. Local press is also reporting that Brazil’s former agriculture minister admitted to caving into political pressure to appoint a livestock superintendent who would support the rotten meat cover-up scheme.

    More than 30 companies were implicated in the sting including JBS, the world’s largest beef exporter, and BRF, the world’s largest poultry exporter. China, Hong Kong, Chile and the European Union have issued temporary bans on Brazilian beef imports until its safety can be confirmed.

    Hours after the scandal broke, Brazilian President Michel Temer went into damage control mode by inviting 19 ambassadors to a Brazilian steakhouse to send the signal that the country’s meat is safe to eat.

    But sadly, this is not a problem that can be fixed in a single meal. And it’s not a problem confined to a single country. All of this points to a deep disease in the industrial meat and dairy system worldwide. Industrialized farming has been linked time and time again to outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella, listeria, bird flu, swine flu and even Mad Cow disease.

    The same mega-corporations behind these scandals are pushing their dangerous industrial meat and dairy model across the globe. The whole industrial meat model relies upon one basic principle: raise and slaughter animals as quickly as possible and by whatever means necessary to  maximize profits. This often means keeping cows, swine and chickens in high-density confinement with other animals, surrounded by their own fecal matter, making them petri dishes for disease.

    A worker handles butchered livestock in a slaughterhouse facility in Brazil. 1 Apr, 2009  © Ricardo Funari / Lineair / Greenpeace

    The best way to protect your family from outbreaks is to change this system and commit to less and better meat, if you choose to eat it at all. The reality is that when it comes to meat, we need a new normal. We don’t need it in every meal to be happy and healthy. With new meat-free alternatives emerging on the market and plant-rich cooking on the rise, now’s the time to think seriously about less meat and more plants.

    And if you do eat meat, “better meat” simply means to know where it comes from and how it’s produced. The Brazilian scandal makes it clear: better meat does not come from mega-corporations. It comes from local farmers who use nature and biodiversity, not chemicals, to grow animals with high welfare standards, rejecting antibiotics, monoculture of genetically-engineered feed and accelerated lifespans for profit.

    In addition to protecting your health, less meat protects the planet. Humanity’s appetite for meat and dairy and expanding industrial production are catastrophic for the environment — from destruction of forests and grasslands to pollution of water and air and major contributions to global climate change (more than 14% of global greenhouse gas emissions). A plant-based diet is best for health, climate, forests, global food security and your own health.

    Whether vegetarian or reducetarian, we all can be part of solutions by committing to plant-rich diets which reduce this runaway global demand for meat. We also must hold our governments accountable for protecting public health and the health of the planet so we can make scandals like this a story of the past.

    Davin Hutchins is a Food For Life Campaigner at Greenpeace International

    This blog is the first in a series on Greenpeace’s less and better meat campaign against industrial livestock


     

    UPDATE: Less than one week after the rotten meat scandal broke, Brazilian meat corporations were caught in a separate investigation buying 58,000 cattle from illegally deforested lands, even after signing an agreement promising to protect the Amazon from deforestation. More here.

  • Samsung, the clock is ticking

    Galaxy Note7 is the most talked about phone release in years — unfortunately for Samsung however, for the wrong reasons. Anyone travelling on a plane since November anywhere in world will have heard about the overheating issues and the global recall.

    Since then Samsung has been doing everything it can to reassure, calm, and save its image. It seems the corporation's latest tactic after some hip adverts and an (almost) slick press conference is to just try to get everyone to forget, move on, and focus on its new product, the Galaxy S8.

    There is one thing they can’t just sweep under the carpet — 4.3 million Smartphones and the tonnes of precious resources they contain. For the past 5 months we have been trying to get Samsung to tell us what they are going to do. Thousands of you phoned them up, sent them emails, wrote on their wall, damn, we even crashed their event in Barcelona to remind Samsung that putting your company on silent mode doesn’t get the job done.

    Greenpeace activists protest at the World Mobile Congress in Spain, February 2017. Greenpeace activists protest at the World Mobile Congress in Spain, February 2017. 

    Why does it matter?

    Every year global corporations like Samsung extract millions of tonnes of resources at a huge human and environmental cost for our planet, to make millions of Smartphones, designed not to last with these same resources then wasted instead of being properly recycled or reused. With Note7, Samsung has a huge opportunity to do things differently: walk the talk and be the innovative leader it claims to be by recycling or reusing the Galaxy Note7.

    On 29 March Samsung will reveal its latest in a long line of new models, the S8 — at a no expense spared, star-spangled event in the heart of New York City. A cynical attempt to dangle a shiny new toy in front of us with a few uninspiring new features to try and make us forget about the fiery mess that was the Note7.

    Well, Samsung, we haven’t forgotten and we are still waiting.

    Samsung, the clock is ticking.

    There have been rumours in the press about refurbishments, vague statements about meeting local regulations or “hearing people's demands” but still no publicly available plan. Samsung, instead of just burying your head in the sand and trying to distract our attention with yet another new model, if you really want to put the Note7 fiasco behind you and help us all move on, just show us the plan.

    Robin Perkins is a Senior Global Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia

  • How community land rights can save our forests and climate

    Almost exactly two years ago, the local communities of Mahan forest, in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh, had plenty of reason to celebrate. On the eve of the International Day of Forests 2015, they received news that their ancestral lands would not be auctioned off for coal mining. This was the result of a long and intense struggle to secure their communal rights over the forest that provide livelihoods to thousands of people living there.

    Mahan Forest Victory Celebration in India.  © Greenpeace / Sudhanshu MalhotraMahan Forest Victory Celebration in India. © Greenpeace / Sudhanshu Malhotra

    The villagers of Mahan may have won a hard-fought victory against the coal companies and the authorities seeking quick cash, but as long as their community rights and their role as stewards of the forest are not fully recognised, the coal under their feet will remain a source of temptation and tension.

    And they are not alone. From the First Nations in Canada resisting pipelines for tar sands on their ancestral lands, to the Khanty reindeer herders of Western Siberia trying to protect their lands from oil exploration, hundreds of communities worldwide see their land rights threatened by fossil fuel companies. In fact, an estimated 30 percent of oil and gas production by U.S. companies alone is being sourced on or near indigenous lands.

    Reindeer Herder Stepan Sopochin and Children in Russia. © Alexey Andronov / GreenpeaceReindeer Herder Stepan Sopochin and Children in Russia. © Alexey Andronov / Greenpeace

    For decades, we have witnessed widespread destruction of the environment for hungry exploration of coal, oil and gas. This assault on communal lands is not only a tragedy for the affected communities, but for all of us. Research by Rights and Resource Initiative and World Resources Institute has shown that where Indigenous peoples and local communities have secure legal rights to their lands, carbon storage is higher and deforestation rates are lower, thereby contributing to mitigating global warming.

    Yet globally, communities only hold legal ownership rights to 20 percent of their customary lands, leaving the door open for states and private companies to reach in, evict villages and cut down the trees in order to reach the fossil treasures beneath. In their wake, once pristine and valuable forests and rivers are turned into barren wastelands.

    Munduruku and Greenpeace Demarcate Indigenous Lands in the Amazon. © Rogério Assis / GreenpeaceThe Munduruku Demarcate Indigenous Lands in the Amazon. © Rogério Assis / Greenpeace

    So while many states and corporations continue to regard our forests and lakes as endless storage rooms for commercial exploitation, Indigenous and local communities respond by standing up for their rights and protecting their environment. They show us an alternative vision of the world - a system which respects our symbiotic relationship with nature and is based on sustainable use and collective management of resources for the benefit of all.

    On International Day of Forests, and this entire month, local and Indigenous communities around the world, supported by thousands of citizens, are taking peaceful action under the umbrella of the Break Free movement, to protect their lands and forests, demand recognition of their rights and keep coal, oil and gas in the ground.

    By recognising communities’ rights over their ancestral lands, we can and should contribute towards achieving all of these. Because not only the climate, but our very environment and the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people are at stake.


    Fionuala Cregan is the coordinator of
    Land Rights Now, an international campaign to secure land rights of Indigenous People and local communities worldwide. On Earth Day 22 April 2017 participants of Land Rights Now are mobilising across more than twenty countries to show that secure land rights are central to fighting climate change and protecting the earth.

  • When reindeer have nowhere to run

    For hundreds of years the Khanty people of Western Siberia have lived in harmony with nature. But as the oil industry seizes more and more of their land, their animals perish in oil spills and reindeer herders are losing their last pastures.

    Oil company road construction on Sopochin family ancestral land, Western Siberia, Russia, 3 Feb, 2017 © Alexey Andronov / Greenpeace Members of The Sopochin family, 3 Feb, 2017.

    The Sopochin are a large family of Khanty people. Born and raised on ancestral lands in the forest tundra, they are among those who still preserve their Indigenous culture and way of life in the industry-dominated modern world.

    Reindeer herder and his daughter, Sopochin family, Western Siberia, Russia 3 Feb, 2017 © Alexey Andronov / Greenpeace Reindeer herder with his daughter, 3 Feb, 2017.

    Their ancestral land stretches far across the horizon: 16 families of reindeer herders live on almost the same area that Russia’s capital city, Moscow, occupied in 2011 (before the addition of New Moscow in the south-west).

    A large area of land is essential for the families' survival in the tundra: with low temperatures and short growing seasons, farming is not sustainable, so Indigenous people breed deer, hunt, fish and gather berries.

    The Sopochin family has more than 200 deer. A female deer usually gives birth to only one calf per year. Female deer always go to the same safe place for giving birth. But the oil industry is building the road in that place. Western Siberia, Russia 3 Feb, 2017 © Alexey Andronov / Greenpeace Female deer usually return to the same place to give birth each year. But the oil industry is now building a road here. 3 Feb, 2017.

    Deer feed on grass and yagel (lichens, which grow very slowly, only 3-5 mm per year), so they can’t graze in one place for long. That’s why reindeer herders need a large range.

    But this delicate balance with nature is under threat. Everything the Sopochin value is now in danger. The subsidiary company of Gazprom Neft has announced plans to extract oil and gas on their ancestral lands.

    Sopochin family members erect a tent in the path of a planned oil industry road. They want to protect the place that female deer come to give birth each year. Western Siberia, Russia 3 Feb, 2017 © Alexey Andronov / Greenpeace Sopochin family members erect a tent in the path of the planned road. 3 Feb, 2017.

    The area is in a watershed where oil pollution can affect water in streams and rivers from which many people and animals drink, far beyond these lands. Even before oil production begins, the company conducts exploratory work and builds its infrastructure. The reindeer pastures will be cut by roads.

    The situation is getting worse as we speak. The Sopochin are already squeezed between two oil companies. This is the last land where they can still graze deer. But now, the subsidiary company of Gazprom Neft is building a road, without consulting reindeer herders, in the place where female reindeer come to calve in the spring.

    Oil company road construction on Sopochin ancestral land, Western Siberia, Russia, 3 Feb, 2017 © Alexey Andronov / Greenpeace Road construction is moving ahead without approval of the reindeer herders. 3 Feb, 2017.

    Sadly, this situation is not an exception - on the contrary, it is typical. There is no official information on how many conflicts of interest occur between Indigenous people and oil companies in Russia, but the system operates in such way that conflicts are inevitable, with consequences for animals, people and an entire way of life.

    We need to fix this. Indigenous people are working hard to protect their culture and avoid unnecessary conflicts, but the system is working against them. Regulations under which oil companies operate in Russia should at least be in line with international norms that respect Indigenous rights.

    Reindeer herder and his children, Sopochin family, Western Siberia, Russia 3 Feb, 2017 © Alexey Andronov / Greenpeace Sopochin family members, Western Siberia, Russia. 3 Feb, 2017.

    A delegation from the United Nations Expert Mechanism on the rights of Indigenous Peoples visits Russia on March 17-21 and they can help change this situation. Send a letter to let them know the truth.

    Konstantin Fomin is a press officer with Greenpeace Russia.

    Witness the lives of the Khanty firsthand, in this 360° VR video from the region.

  • Mars and Nestlé just stepped up to protect the ocean and workers. Here's how.

    Thanks to the hard work of pet owners and activists like you, Mars and Nestlé — the two largest pet food companies in the world — are committing to make immediate changes to help ensure their pet food supply chains are safer for our oceans and workers.

    What exactly did Mars and Nestlé do?

    The companies are committing to address a shifty practice in their supply chains called transshipment. This practice enables fishing vessels to offload their products to other boats at sea, far from sight, and continue fishing for months or years at a time. Transshipment is often associated with human rights abuse, illegal fishing and smuggling of shark fins.

    Nestlé has committed to a full ban on transshipment at sea in its supply chains, while Mars has committed to suspend the use of transshipped products in their supply chains if its seafood suppliers cannot adequately address the human rights and illegal fishing issues associated with the practice in the coming weeks.

    Over the last few years, explosive coverage by the Guardian, Associated Press, New York Times and others has exposed human trafficking, forced labour, debt bondage and other human rights abuses on fishing fleets supplying seafood to brands and retailers around the world.

    Massive companies including Mars, Nestlé and Thai Union were implicated, triggering a new focus on supply chain traceability across the seafood industry. More and more restaurants, food service companies, supermarkets and pet food companies recognise that they need to get a handle on where their seafood is coming from, who caught it and how those workers were treated.

    It’s great news that Mars and Nestlé are taking positive steps to clean up their supply chains. But more needs to be done to tackle these pervasive problems in the seafood industry.

    How does transshipment lead to labour abuse and environmental destruction?

    Transshipment allows vessels to hand over their fish at sea and continue fishing. This is problematic from an environmental standpoint, as 24-7, year-round fishing creates heavy pressure on fish stocks that are already in trouble. It also enables pirate fishing vessels to launder their catch, mixing it with legal fish from other boats without ever going into port for inspection.

    In February, Global Fishing Watch published a report revealing the startling scale of transshipment for the first time: they found evidence of thousands of transshipments in the last year alone.

    Tuna transshipment on high seas in the Indian Ocean between the Jetmark 101, a Manila-registered longliner and the Tuna Queen, registered in Panama. 25 Apr, 2013, © Jiri Rezac / Greenpeace

    The human impacts of transshipment can be horrific, as fishermen can literally be trapped on board for over a year at a time without any chance of escape. We have interviewed fishermen– many who were trafficked from Cambodia and Myanmar – who described hellish treatment: beatings, sleep deprivation, 20 hour workdays, sexual abuse and even murder of co-workers who dared to complain or simply got too sick to work. Many fishermen reported being forced to eat bait to survive, and several later died from beri beri, a disease found on sailing ships hundreds of years ago that makes no sense on the boats supplying billion dollar businesses today.

    How is this still going on?

    As revealed in Greenpeace Southeast Asia's investigative report on human rights abuses and illegal fishing in Thailand’s overseas fishing industry, many of the most notorious vessels for transshipment simply move to areas where there was even less scrutiny and regulation. And their fish has shown up in pet food and tuna cans in Europe, the United States and beyond.

    The good news is that more companies, NGOs and governments are beginning to recognise the dangers of transshipment at sea, and the challenges it creates for efforts to track seafood back to the source.

    The spotlight on this concerning practice is shining brighter with companies like Mars and Nestlé showing leadership by stepping forward to clean up their supply chains. But more must be done. That's why we are calling on companies to join the call to tackle unchecked transshipment at sea.

    How can we hold the seafood industry accountable?

    Clearly, ANY slave labour in our products is unacceptable. And Thai Union, a supplier for both Mars and Nestlé, has not taken the same steps the pet food companies have to clean up its own supply chains. That’s why we are using this victory to demand progress from the global seafood giant — to ensure that Mars’ and Nestlé’s commitments translate to immediate, significant change at sea.

    If Thai Union commits to end transshipment, it can help lead the charge for the entire industry, creating a brighter future for seafood workers and ocean biodiversity.

    Sign the petition to tell Thai Union to join Mars and Nestlé and make a strong commitment to address out-of-control transshipment at sea now.

    John Hocevar is the Oceans Campaign Director for Greenpeace USA 

  • In Brazil, dams threaten rivers, the environment and people's lives

    Today is the International Day of Action for Rivers: a time to remember and honour the communities who have been impacted by the construction of dams and the movements trying to prevent disastrous new dam projects.

    For Brazil, the profound impacts dams and hydropower projects can have on communities and the environment couldn’t be clearer. Here are just three recent stories of communities impacted by dams — and how they are fighting back.

    A year of mud: Samarco’s dam catastrophe

    A view of the district of Bento Rodrigues, in Mariana, Minas Gerais state. On November 5th, a dam containing mineral waste from Samarco, a Brazilian mining company controlled by Vale and British-Australian BHP, collapsed, flooding the region with toxic mud. One month later, the situation is still critical.  6 Dec, 2015 © Todd Southgate / Greenpeace

    In 2015, above the town of Mariana, two dams holding mining waste collapsed — dumping 40 billion liters of contaminated mud into the nearby River Doce. The wall of waste released from the dams killed 21 people and wiped out the fauna and flora along 700 km of the river.

    Activists Ask for Justice in Mariana. 5 Nov, 2016  © Julia Moraes / Greenpeace

    Now, more than a year later, the community of Mariana is still demanding justice. Meanwhile, the mining company Samarco — a joint venture between mining giants BHP Billiton and Vale — continues to delay the repair of those affected and the environment. The company will even resume operations in the second half of the year.

    The impacts of Belo Monte

    Construction of Belo Monte Dam, on the Xingu river, Belo Monte Site. Altamira, Pará, Brazil.18 Oct, 2014  © Carol Quintanilha / Greenpeace

    In Altamira, Brazil, thousands of people were forced to leave their homes due to the construction of the Belo Monte hydroelectric dam.* Indigenous People and other communities living along the river continue to suffer from the changes the dam caused the Xingu River. Already, more than 16 million tons of fish died and turtle nesting sites have been impacted.

    Belo Monte Dam Project Site. 12 Feb, 2012  © Daniel Beltrá / Greenpeace

    The Belo Monte dam has led to serious violations of human rights and environmental destruction. The municipality on the banks of the Xingu is experiencing an explosion of violence since the construction began, ranking among the ten cities with the highest homicide rates in the country.

    Fighting for the Tapajós River

    Munduruku and Greenpeace Demarcate Indigenous Lands in the Amazon. 14 Jun, 2016  © Anderson Barbosa / Greenpeace

    Along the Tapajós River in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, the Munduruku Indigenous People continue to fight to prevent the construction of dams that could destroy their way of life. Over 40 dams are planned or under construction in the Tapajós River basin alone, putting the whole region and its biodiversity at risk.

    To challenge these dams, the Munduruku are fighting for official recognition (known as demarcation) of their traditional lands threatened by the plans of the Tapajós hydroelectric complex. Stand with the Munduruku in their fight to protect their way of life.

    Greenpeace Joins the Munduruku to Protest Damming of Tapajos River. 18 Mar, 2016.  © Fábio Nascimento / Greenpeace

    Shine a light on this destruction

    While people across Brazil are struggling to survive and protect the country’s rivers and forests, many politicians in Brazil’s National Congress are rushing to protect the interests of companies that profit from the construction of destructive dams instead. In fact, there are two laws being proposed right now in Brazil that would lead to further irresponsible exploitation of Brazil’s natural wealth and widen social inequalities.

    Stories of exploitation, violations of human rights and environmental destruction aren’t limited to Brazil. The fight against destructive dams is a global one. This International Day of Action for Rivers, share these stories and stand with the communities impacted.

    Luana Lila is a communication officer at Greenpeace Brazil.

    *Want more information on the Belo Monte dam? Watch the documentary "Belo Monte: After the Flood" — made available for free download on the film's website and on its Facebook page in celebration of the International Day of Action for Rivers.

  • The world is ready to Break Free. Will you join us?

    This weekend marked the global kick-off of the Break Free movement calling for a world free from fossil fuels. Break Free is a wave of individuals, communities, local and international organisations taking a firm stance against fossil fuels and dirty energy and demanding a fair shift to an era of renewable energy.

    As part of the Break Free movement, Greenpeace Croatia along with the local NGO Cyclists' Union and Green Action/FoE Croatia organised a protest bicycle ride in Zagreb, calling for an end to the fossil era and transition to renewable energy. Some 1500 cyclists attended. The participants made a brief stop in front of HEP, Croatia’s biggest utility, and spread a 16-meter banner reading “Break Free from Fossil Fuels.  © Branko Drakulic / GreenpeaceCyclists in Zagreb kickstart global Break Free movement in Croatia, 12 March 2017.

    Starting off three weeks of actions across six continents, this weekend saw 1500 people participating in a mass bicycle ride in Croatia and local communities denouncing air pollution from coal-fired power plants in Israel. Across the Arab world, an addictive online game to phase out fossil fuels was launched, while in the Philippines, a coalition of civil society groups and coal-impacted communities rallied at the headquarters of a major fossil fuel company.

    The strength of this open movement and how much it has grown in a year’s time is nothing short of amazing. It has broken down silos, uniting environmental, social justice, women and Indigenous movements from more than 40 countries around the world.

    From Chile to Thailand, South Africa to Poland, people are calling for a healthy future. Our families deserve clean air and water and a just economy that is not dependent on polluting fossil fuel corporations that will put our communities at risk.

    Communities and civil society organizations held a lightning rally in front of the San Miguel Corporation (SMC) headquarters, to demand that the company shut down its coal plant in Limay, Bataan, and instead lead the shift to renewables. The protest kicked off Break Free 2017, a series of peaceful community mobilizations across the Philippines, as part of the second global wave of actions against fossil fuels  © GreenpeaceBreak Free from fossil fuels protest in Manila, Philippines, 13 March 2017.

    Break Free provides a platform for all these diverse acts of courage to come together and reinforce each other as a united global movement. With already more than 80 events registered and more on the way, we stand in solidarity with those communities hardest hit by fossil fuels projects and the impacts of climate change.

    A fossil free future powered by renewable energy is already underway. Now is the time to stand up to those trying to slow us down and Break Free from dirty energy. Will you join us?

    Agustin Maggio is the project lead for the #BreakFree campaign with Greenpeace International

  • Biological Restoration of water and land

    According to the 2015 World Economic Forum Global Risks 2015 Report, the water crisis is the world’s #1 risk. The problem is not only the amount of water available in the world’s rivers, lakes, and aquifers, but the pollution of those resources from human contamination, including bacteria, toxins, and nutrient loading.

    Around the world, lakes are dying off through bacterial and algae blooms. Lake Erie between Canada and the US, Lough Neagh in the UK, Lake Taihu in China, to name but a few of the thousands of dead or swampy lakes around the world devastated by humanity’s commercial, agricultural, and septic runoff.

    Xuzhou Steel Group’s South Eastern steel plant is located near Weishan Lake.  © Lu Guang / GreenpeaceXuzhou Steel Group’s steel plant is located near Weishan Lake, China, 4 May, 2015

    In 2009, Earth systems scientist Johan Rockström and colleagues published “Planetary Boundaries” in the journal Nature, showing that human activity has threatened seven essential systems – including fresh water and the disruption of the world’s nitrogen and phosphorus cycles, which effect fresh water.

    Phosphorous and nitrogen are critical for organic molecules such as nucleic acids, adenosine triphosphate (ADT), and for DNA. All plants need phosphorous and nitrogen and have evolved to find and absorb these nutrients. However, nutrient loading from human sources leads to accelerated productivity in water – called eutrophication – signalled by algae blooms, oxygen depletion and dead zones. Agricultural fertilisers, phosphate soaps, and household septic systems all contribute to the nutrient cycle disruption.

    Human communities, factories and livestock also contribute bacteria to the world’s water tables. Health officials are particularly concerned with coliform bacteria, often used to indicate hepatitis or giardia, since those pathogens prove difficult to detect but often exist in combination with fecal coliform. In particular, health authorities monitor water for Escherichia coli (E. coli), a source of disease.

    Industrial and domestic toxic waste products including arsenic, fluoride, selenium, uranium, iron, manganese, mercury, pesticides, endocrine disruptors, pharmaceuticals and microbial pathogens are also major sources or water contamination.

    Fortunately, this triple threat of nutrient loading, bacteria, and toxins – can be mitigated using organic, biological methods, generally known as “bioremediation.”

    Bioremediation

    Certain microbes, bacteria, fungi, and plants can remove or metabolise pollutants in soil or water, including assisting in the removal of industrial chemicals, petroleum products, and pesticides. Some compounds – certain heavy metals, such as cadmium or lead, for example – resist bioremediation. However, some studies have found that fish bone and bone char can remove small amounts of lead, cadmium, copper, and zinc from soils.

    A healthy ecosystem is, in itself, a bioremedial network of organisms, processing each others’ wastes, and this process can be enhanced by design. Purely organic systems include bioswales, plant buffers, and biofilters regulated by microorganisms.

    Mexican Mayan farmers visit Finca Organopónica Cayo Piedra in Matanzas province, Cuba. Organoponics is a system of urban organic gardening in Cuba. This delegation visits at least five farms using ecological farming techniques that could be replicated in Mexico and other parts of the world.  © Anaray Lorenzo / GreenpeaceEcological farming Finca Organopónica Cayo Piedra, Cuba, 14, January, 2017

    Smart farmers and communities have used bioremediation for millennia. Permaculture and simple composting employ bioremediation to metabolise unwanted bacteria or pathogens in soils. Simply replanting native species along disturbed shorelines helps take up nutrients and bacteria. Microbes and mycelium can be added to soil, to enhance the natural uptake of unwanted compounds and organisms.

    Bionics to Biomimicry

    In the 1950s, American biophysicist Otto Schmitt copied the nervous system of a squid to help design an electronic trigger circuit that is still used today to remove noise from signals in digital circuits. He coined the word “biomimetics” to describe the process of taking design advice from organisms and ecosystems. His colleague Jack Steele coined the term “bionics,” later used in Martin Caidin’s novel Cyborg, associated with increasing human powers using artificial body parts.

    In 1997, Janine Benyus published Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature, expanding biomimetics and popularising the idea of using natural systems to design commercial products. The classic example is Velcro, patented in 1955 by Swiss engineer George de Mestra, designed after the surface of common burs.

    “When we look at what is truly sustainable,” wrote Benyus, “the only real model that has worked over long periods of time is the natural world.” Producing commercial products, however, is a different matter than restoring degraded ecosystems. Nevertheless, it remains feasible that nature-inspired design could help restore ecological balance.

    Last year, Jesse Goldstein at Virginia Commonwealth University and Elizabeth Johnson at University of Exeter, published Biomimicry: New Natures, New Enclosures to address these questions. They critique a “neoliberal illusion” that we help the ecosystem by creating a faster “bioeconomy,” using spider web chemistry to create bullet proof vests, or natural designs to create more powerful aeroplanes, faster computers, sharper video screens, or biotech patents.

    They warn that neoliberal economics overlooks biophysical limits and the inherent unsustainability of relentless economic growth. They suggest that the bioeconomy can become another form of private accumulation, whereby patents of nature’s creations replace fences to enclose the natural commons for private profit, driven by venture capital funding, not for the restoration of nature, but for the “reproduction of capital.”

    However, biotechnologies can include genuinely restorative systems, including bioremediation fields, a sharkskin design used in hospitals to repel bacteria, or a Nubian beetle technique of drinking from fog, used to collect water for buildings.

    “How,” Goldstein and Johnson ask, “can we imagine a form of production that can both reproduce beautiful lives and unmake the infrastructure of our ecologically catastrophic social formation?”

    Ecological restoration

    To create successful biological design, we not only have to ask, “How does nature solve this physical challenge?” but also ask: “What is natural economics?” The economy of an ecosystem is non-hierarchical It is a web of shared relationships that contribute materials, energy and services to other parts of the network, as growth fluctuates within natural limits.

    Lake Winnipeg in Canada suffered from high levels of phosphorus loading from the surrounding community, causing severe algae blooms. Researchers planted cattail to reduce nutrient flows. Certain plant species, such as cattail and canary grass produce sugar-like compounds that move through the roots, into the soil, and enhance nutrient collection and disease resistance. The Lake Winnipeg project has been so successful that researchers are now harvesting cattail as a heating fuel, further increasing the nutrient removal, since the plants are not left on the lakeshore to decompose.

    Biologist, Dr. John Todd, has designed what he calls “Living Machines” – bioremediation fields to clean up contaminated soil and water in the US, China, and elsewhere. The system on Moskito Island in the Virgin Islands, treats domestic sewage on a terraced hillside, using solar heat, gravity, and ecological systems to take up nutrients and distribute them to plants, animals, bacteria and fungi throughout the system.

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