Do you remember TTIP, the proposed trade deal between the US and the EU? Its negotiations were stopped by the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets in the capitals of Europe. 3.3 million signatures were collected against it. Greenpeace played a key role in the resistance against TTIP, by publishing the leaked texts in May 2016. It caused many European politicians to harden their stance, leading to a breakdown in the trade talks.
Protest ahead of Vote on EU-Canada Trade Deal at EU Parliament in Strasbourg, Feb. 2017
But guess what: while TTIP is now in cold storage CETA, the proposed EU-Canada trade and investment deal is not. It has been ratified by the European parliament, although it has many of the characteristics that made TTIP infamous: special tribunals for multinationals, special access to decision-makers for multinationals, and a lack of environmental safeguards.
Canada has weaker food safety standards than the EU. They have an agricultural economy more heavily dependent on chemical inputs and GMOs. In three new briefing papers, Greenpeace Netherlands and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade policy (IATP) warn that the trade deal gives North American corporations tools to weaken European standards regarding growth hormones, chemical washes, GMOs, animal cloning, and Country of Origin labelling. What they have not achieved so far, via the WTO, they can now start undermining via CETA.
Today is the first day of CETA’s ‘provisional application’, when over 90 percent of the deal enters into force. This is before national and regional parliaments of EU member states have even approved it. The provisional application includes lower tariffs, expanded trade and ‘regulatory cooperation’, which gives corporations privileged access to decision makers.
Through CETA, the EU will become even more embroiled with the Canadian (North American) meat industry. The lack of mandatory US labelling laws on cloning, combined with the frequent trade of live cattle, pigs, genetic material and other animal products between the US and Canada, make the presence of cloned material and cloned offspring in the Canadian meat supply highly likely. This undermines the de facto ban on animal cloning in the EU.
Since last year, GM Salmon is allowed in Canada. About 4.5 tonnes of GM salmon fillets have already been sold in Canada – without labelling. This means that Canadians are not able to distinguish between GM salmon and normal salmon. CETA will enable the salmon exports from Canada to the EU to grow, by lowering tariffs and expanding quota. How will the EU guarantee that no GM Salmon enters it market?
The battle against CETA is far from over. About 30 regional and national parliaments in Europe will decide over the coming months whether to ratify CETA or not. Please get in touch with your MPs: EU member state parliaments should vote no to CETA!
Kees Kodde is a trade campaigner with Greenpeace Netherlands
After perpetrating what is probably the worst oil-related catastrophe on Earth - a 20,000 hectare death zone in Ecuador, known as the “Amazon Chernobyl” - the Chevron Corporation has spent two decades and over a billion dollars trying to avoid responsibility. In 2011, Indigenous and peasant villagers won an $9.5-billion compensation judgment in Ecuador. Chevron, despite accepting jurisdiction in Ecuador to avoid a US jury trial, refused to pay.
Image courtesy of Amazon Watch
The company sold its assets in Ecuador to avoid seizure, left the country, and threatened the victims with a "lifetime of litigation" if they pursued compensation. The 30,000 plaintiffs, however, have not given up. The case now moves to Canada, where Chevron holds assets, and where the victims hope, at last, to gain justice.
This tragic story reveals almost unthinkable corporate irresponsibility, intimidation, and arrogance, not just by Chevron executives, but by their 60 law firms, 2,000 lawyers and paralegals, six public relations firms, squads of private investigators, thugs and bribed witnesses, and at least one severely compromised US judge. Chevron has probably spent more money trying to weasel out of this case than any corporation in world history.
If we sometimes wonder why significant ecological progress appears so monumentally difficult, this blood-curdling case will give us some clues.
Crimes in the oil patch
In 1964, Texaco (now Chevron) discovered oil in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest where the Indigenous Cofán, Siona, Secoya, Quichua, and Huaorani people lived traditional lives, untouched by industrial civilization. Over the next 28 years, the oil producers perpetrated some of the most horrendous ecological crimes in history.
Texaco/Chevron dumped some 16 billion gallons of wastewater laced with carcinogens into rivers and streams. The company abandoned hundreds of toxic waste pits in the rainforest -- containing toxic oil sludge, in violation of basic industry standards. The Indigenous inhabitants were left with poisoned land, food supply, and drinking water. The region's river sediment remains contaminated with heavy metals and chemical toxins.
Chevron's own environmental audits (by Fugro-McClelland) confirm these crimes and show that the company never conducted basic monitoring of its pipelines and never developed a plan to clean up its routine oil spills. Records reveal that 38 pipelines ruptured in a single month - September 1978 - in just one of the oil fields.
In 1972, to hide the crimes, a Texaco/Chevron executive in Ecuador ordered that “only major [environmental] events . . . are to be reported," and defined a "major event" as one that might "attract the attention of the press and/or regulatory authorities." The policy stated that “no reports are to be kept ... and all previous reports are to be removed ... and destroyed.” Evidence showed that Chevron never approved a budget for environmental clean-up in Ecuador.
Each of 54 judicial site inspections during the trial in Ecuador found that Chevron left oil contamination in violation of national legal standards that are ten times more lax than typical U.S. standards. Some Chevron pits showed contamination 900-times higher than the Ecuadorian standard, and the average pit contained 20-times the allowable Ecuadorean contamination (200-times the US standard).
Rainforest inhabitants testified that Chevron's waste pits overflowed into streams, that local drinking water became noxious, that family members became ill, and that some died from exposure to the toxins. The contamination contained human carcinogens and other toxins including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and benz[a]anthracene. Samples revealed illegal levels of barium, cadmium, copper, mercury, lead, and other metals that can damage the immune, nervous and reproductive systems and cause cancer.
Chevron's own documents reveal that the company adopted these practices to save money. By conducting its Ecuador operation in ways that were illegal in the US, and around the world, Texaco saved an estimated $3 per barrel of oil - approximately $5 billion over 20 years. During that time, the company made profits of about $25 billion.
In 1993, lawyers for 30,000 local inhabitants filed a lawsuit asking a New York Federal court to order a cleanup and payment of damages. In response, Texaco/Chevron staged a phony "clean-up," proven by later court evidence to be a sham. Evidence from Chevron's environmental auditor, two court-nominated Chevron experts, and third-party investigators showed that 83% of Chevron’s allegedly “remediated” pits contained illegal levels of petroleum contamination.
Image courtesy of Amazon Watch
In 2001, Chevron bought Texaco and succeeded in shifting the case to Ecuador where the company accepted jurisdiction and probably believed it could influence the court with a politically-engineered dismissal of the case. When the trial finally commenced in 2003, Chevron’s top executive in Ecuador met with the Ecuadorean Justice Minister and asked him to pressure the trial judge to dismiss the case. That effort failed.
The evidence clearly stood against Chevron: the open toxic pits, the 16 billion gallons of contaminated waste water, poisoned rivers, the company's own records, and reports from Chevron’s own environmental consultants.
Witnesses testified about a culture of disdain for the Indigenous inhabitants and how the company remained unresponsive and openly hostile to grievances from the local people. The court heard how Texaco oil workers committed acts of sexual violence, ridiculed Indigenous people for customs and dress, and told inhabitants that oil run-off was full of vitamins, similar to milk.
Secoya leader Ricardo Piaguaje, testified how Texaco "drilled wells and set off dynamite next to our people's houses" and how "oil spills and petroleum waste products" contaminated their home. The court heard how contamination had reduced fish and game stocks, such that subsistence hunting communities could not survive. Those who did endure experienced a catastrophic public health crisis, loss of food sources, and poverty.
Corporate rescue squad
In 2009, facing a landslide loss on the evidence, Chevron hired notorious New York law firm, Gibson Dunn, the self-described “rescue squad” for scandal-plagued clients. The firm possesses an historic track record of being sanctioned by courts for unethical dirty tricks. Chevron appears to have hired the firm precisely because of its willingness to cross the ethical line.
In 2007, the Montana Supreme Court assessed a $9.9 million fine against Gibson Dunn for "maliciously trying to intimidate" its adversary with "legal thuggery." A New York federal judge sanctioned the firm for making "deceptive" statements, hiding documents, and for other "unacceptable shenanigans."
In 2005, a California federal court sanctioned Gibson Dunn for tampering with a witness, noting that the firm's "culture promoted obstruction, gamesmanship, and flagrant disregard of this Court's orders." A California state court ordered Gibson Dunn’s clients to compensate a documentary filmmaker and a human rights lawyer for illegitimate SLAPP lawsuits designed to silence criticism.
In Ecuador, lawyers from another firm representing Chevron threatened judges with jail if they ruled against Chevron, but the dirty tricks campaign failed. Ecuadorean judges rebuked Chevron's lawyers for their tactics, and in 2011 issued the $9.5 billion judgment against Chevron for two decades of ecological and civil rights abuses. Eight appellate judges, including Ecuador's highest court, unanimously upheld the verdict. Chevron refused to pay and removed its assets from Ecuador to avoid collection by its victims.
US and Canadian courts
Meanwhile, the Gibson Dunn "rescue squad" filed "racketeering" charges in the US against the Ecuadorean villagers and their lawyers, claiming they used "fraud" to gain victory in Ecuador, clearly a SLAPP lawsuit designed to suppress legitimate advocacy and obstruct the villagers from collecting payment in the US.
Chevron's claim relied heavily on the testimony of a disgraced former Ecuadorean judge, Alberto Guerra, who admitted openly under oath in a subsequent case that he had accepted bribes as a judge before being removed from the bench. Chevron helped Guerra flee to the US and has paid him roughly $2 million for his cooperation.
After spending weeks rehearsing his testimony with a Gibson Dunn legal team headed by lawyer Randy Mastro, Guerra claimed in US federal court that lawyers for the plaintiffs wrote the Ecuador judgment and gave it to the trial judge on a flash drive. This ruse appeared similar to a 2015 case, in which the High Court of England sanctioned Gibson Dunn for fabricating evidence to frame the political opponent of a client, the President of Djibouti.
In the US, however, the Chevron scheme worked. U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan, a notorious pro-business judge, displayed relentless bias against the Ecuadorean victims and their lawyers, refused to sit a jury, insisted on ruling by himself, accepted the testimony of Guerra - even after his deceits had been exposed - and ruled in favor of Chevron's claim.
Guerra later admitted under oath to lying about having been offered a $300,000 bribe by the lawyers of the Ecuadorian victims. A forensic analysis by one of the world’s leading computer experts debunked Guerra’s story by showing that the Ecuador trial judge had written the judgment, without interference, on his office computer over several months.
Judge Kaplan's decision almost certainly violates US law and the international comity principle that require the courts of one country to respect the judgments of foreign courts. An earlier attempt by Kaplan to block the Ecuador judgment was overturned for violating this principle. The U.S. appellate court that supervises Kaplan shockingly refused to review his acceptance of Guerra’s lies, and the U.S. Supreme Court declined review.
Chevron, however, cannot use a U.S. court to block enforcement of a foreign judgment in Canada or in any other country. The victims are now moving the case to Canada for collection. Enforcing foreign judgments against those who refuse to pay is considered routine internationally, and Canada has domestic laws governing this practice. Canada's Supreme Court – unlike the U.S. court – already has backed universal legal principles by unanimously rejecting another Chevron attempt to deny jurisdiction to the Ecuadorians. An Ontario trial court will soon commence a trial to enforce the judgment.
Chevron has already begun a campaign of intimidation against Canadian politicians and judges, mocking Canadian courts for accepting the case, and calling it a “crock” and a “waste of time and money.” Chevron claims the Ecuadorians cannot collect in Canada because its assets are held by a wholly-owned Chevron subsidiary – a subterfuge that, if accepted, would offer corporations impunity for environmental crimes the world over.
Chevron holds some $15 billion in Canadian assets and takes about $3 billion in annual profits from Canadian operations in the Beaufort Sea, Newfoundland, and the Alberta Tar Sands. The company, however, has started dumping Canadian assets. In April 2017, Chevron sold a refineryin British Columbia, and has sold 213 Canadian fuel stations. The plaintiffs may find it necessary to ask Canadian courts to freeze Chevron assets, before they dump them all to avoid payment, as they did in Ecuador.
Image courtesy of Amazon Watch
The International Human Rights Program at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law has filed a “friend of the court” brief supporting the villagers' rights to pursue Chevron’s assets in Canada. Lawyers for the indigenous and peasant villagers of Ecuador have not been intimidated by 24 years of attacks and dirty tricks by Chevron and its agents. They vow to endure until they collect compensation for the victims and the cost of restoring the Amazon rainforest.
Human rights advocates the world over need to carefully study Chevron’s playbook of spending massively to buy witnesses against its adversaries to evade paying compensation to the people it harmed. If U.S. courts refuse to provide the Ecuadorians a fair hearing, then Canada’s courts must do so for the sake of corporate accountability, universal principles of justice, and Indigenous rights.
Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.
Sources and Links:
Ecuador Indigenous communities affected: ChevronToxico
Ecuador's Supreme Court unanimous judgement vs. Chevron.
Summary of evidence against Chevron found by Ecuador's courts: evidence
Environmental Impacts of Chevron in Ecuador: ChevronToxico
A Rainforest Chernobyl: ChevronToxico
Chevron's health impacts on indigenous groups: independent health studies cited by the court.
Chevron's Gibson Dunn lawyers threatened Ecuador's judges with jail
Video, Chevron in Ecuador: video on the case
Video: 60 Minutes segment
Shareholders rebuke Chevron, June 2017, Amazon Defense Coalition
How the US courts got it wrong: rebuttal, Chevron RICO case. Steven Donziger
Chevron's bribery and fabrication of evidence in U.S. courts to evade Ecuador judgment
"Chevron Law Firm Gibson Dunn Blasted by High Court of England For Falsifying Evidence": Chevron Pit, 2015
Gibson Dunn's Ecuador narrative crumbling; the firm's unethical tactics: The Chevron Pit
"Plaintiffs cannot collect $9.5-billion judgment in the U.S. against Chevron": LA Times, 2016
Gibson Dunn firm frequently criticized and sanctioned by courts for crossing the ethical line.
Chevron selling assets in Canada: Business in Vancouver, April, 2017.
A letter signed by over 40 US environmental and civil rights organizations (including Greenpeace, Amazon Watch, Rainforest Action Network, Sierra Club, and Friends of the Earth) stating that Chevron's tactics "targeted nonprofit environmental and indigenous rights groups ... designed to cripple their effectiveness and chill their speech."
Today the world’s biggest motor show gets underway in Germany. The Frankfurt Motorshow is the moment many of the world’s best known car manufacturers get together for a grand display of vehicles that have been polished so hard it’s a miracle there’s any paint left on them.
But while the firms exhibiting at the event will be keen to tell you how fast their cars get from zero to 100 kilometers an hour, what you’re unlikely to hear is how the car industry is looking increasingly irrelevant as consumer choices, technology, and government policies are rapidly forcing the industry to change.
Here are five reasons why.
1. Climate change
While some car firms are keen to brag about how efficient their petrol and diesel models have become, the reality is the vehicles they produce now contribute more than 20% of the total CO2 emissions in many countries.
In many countries around the world the electricity generation sector has started to reduce its carbon footprint, yet road transport has failed to get its total emissions down. With the need to tackle climate change becoming more and more urgent, car firms can only stay stuck in their old ways for so long.
2. Air pollution
In Europe, nearly half a million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution. But in other areas of the world, the situation is even worse.
With public concern about air pollution on the rise, car firms that remain fixated on making petrol and diesel vehicles look out of step with what people want.
3. Petrol and diesel bans
The Frankfurt motor show is taking place while some governments are unveiling plans to ban petrol and diesel vehicles. A number of car firms have switched on to this, like Volvo who recently declared that all its new cars will be electric or hybrid from 2019.
Meanwhile, most of the big car firms at the Frankfurt motor show are still so focused on the internal combustion engine. It really begs the question - what planet are they on?
It’s been almost two years since Volkswagen was caught cheating emissions tests and the truth was uncovered about how some diesel cars were emitting “up to 40 times more pollution" than allowed.
While other car companies, like Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover, have committed to phasing out diesel and petrol vehicles, VW still has a long way to go to clean up their act. And now, on the back of the Dieselgate scandal, even more of Germany’s biggest car firms, like BMW and Daimler, are under pressure to change.
5. Car sharing
In many European cities, younger generations are already shifting away from owning cars and choosing bicycles and public transport instead.
With more and more of the world’s population moving to cities - a trend that is set continue in years to come - this could mean an increasing number of people begin to see the idea of owning their own car as an expensive and cumbersome option in comparison to car sharing.
This blog is based on a new Greenpeace report: “Why the Automobile Has No Future. A Global Impact Analysis” – download it here.
Richard Casson is a campaigner for Greenpeace UK
This week, a courageous group of activists from across Europe are joining Greenpeace Poland to stop illegal logging in the ancient Białowieża Forest.
Dozens of people have been chaining themselves to trees and logging machinery to stop foresters from cutting down trees in Europe’s last remaining ancient lowland forest. The forest is home to many rare birds, lynxes, wolves and the biggest wild-ranging herd of European bison.
© Grzegorz Broniatowski / Greenpeace © Rafal Wojczal / Greenpeace Activist occupies trees - 6 Sept, 2017 Activist participating in the blockade
In case you haven’t been keeping up to date with the story, here’s what’s happened so far: the Court of Justice of the European Union has told the Polish government to immediately stop logging and removing trees from the most precious parts of the forest. But the Polish Minister of the Environment, Jan Szyszko, has been ignoring EU law and Poland’s commitments to UNESCO, and continues to allow logging in this unique fairytale forest.
This is the first time in the history of the EU that a member country has flatly refused to comply with an order from the European Court.
©Rafał Wojczal - activists march - 31 Aug 2017
The authorities in Poland argue that the removal of dead trees from the forest is a measure against a bark beetle infestation. But many scientists and the European Court confirm that bark beetles are not a threat to the forest, and if the natural ecosystem is left alone, it will thrive. Dead trees are extremely important for the biodiversity of the forest. The real threat to Bialowieza is deforestation.
Greenpeace has been working to protect the forest in Poland for many years. And we won’t stop now.
Some of the activists have already been removed by guards, but we aren’t moving until we know that this forest is protected.
© Grzegorz Broniatowski - an activist being removed from the protest - 6 Sept 2017
We will not let this ancient and fragile ecosystem be cut down for profit. We won’t stop resisting until the entire forest is recognised as a National Park.
Help defend this unique and ancient forest. Sign the petition to protect the Białowieża Forest.
Marianna Hoszowska is the head of communications for Greenpeace Poland
For the first time ever, a palm oil company has been forced to restore rainforest and peatland in order to continue supplying the global market.
Under pressure from customers and civil society, Malaysian palm oil company FGV has promised to restore over 1,000 hectares of the peat forest in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.
FGV is a subsidiary of FELDA, the world’s largest palm oil grower.
Bagus Kusuma, Forest campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said it was a sign that corporate ‘no deforestation’ policies were finally starting to bite.
"It sends a serious warning that other destructive palm oil companies should heed: deforestation has consequences,” Kusuma said.
The good news couldn't come at a better time for Indonesia's forests and its inhabitants.
A report released last week by Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry confirmed that the number of orangutans has plummeted since 2004.
Thirteen years ago there were an estimated 45 to 76 great apes per hundred square kilometres in Borneo. Today, that number has fallen to 13 to 47 individuals per hundred square kilometres, the survey said, adding that habitat destruction is one of the main causes.
The news won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been following the fate of one of the planet’s cutest (and smartest) animals. Orangutans have long faced the threat of extinction in Borneo and Sumatra due to habitat clearing across Indonesia.
But unfortunately, the latest survey proves in tangible terms the toll forest clearance and peatland drainage has been taking on the orangutan population.
A baby orangutan rescued from forest fires in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.
The survey also found that of the 52 orangutan meta-populations surviving across Sumatra and Borneo, only around a third (38%) are expected to remain viable over a 100 to 500-year time frame.
It wasn’t a good week last week for the much-loved orangutan.
An Associated Press investigation also revealed that an Indonesian company and its Chinese partner are pushing ahead with an industrial wood plantation in a tropical forest and (you guessed it) orangutan habitat.
Seemingly in total contravention of government regulations, photos and drone footage show heavy earth moving equipment and an extensive drainage canal full of water in Sungai Putri forest, AP reported.
The area is home to as many as 1,200 orangutans -- the third largest population in Indonesia.
“The government is clearly failing to protect Indonesia’s most iconic animal species, as companies continue to develop plantations in forests and peatland that are some of the last homes for orangutans,” Greenpeace Forest Campaigner Ratri Kusumohartono said.
Drainage canals are used to dry out the peatland, releasing carbon emissions and creating the right conditions for forest fires.
"If the government is serious about stopping fires it must stop this company from developing on peatland and protect this critical peatland forest," said Kusumohartono.
“Protecting this landscape is vital both for preventing the fires of the future and to save Indonesia’s crucial orangutan habitats. All deforestation must stop immediately.”
Enough with the bad news. What can we do?!
This latest win shows that you CAN make a difference.
To keep peatlands from burning, we need total and permanent forest protection to #StoptheHaze once and for all in Southeast Asia. And for this, we need you.
Stand up with Greenpeace Southeast Asia to ensure total forest protection.
Juliet Perry is a Content Editor at Greenpeace East Asia
Looking back, one of the key moments that was to define both my professional and personal path was the moment I stepped onto the small atoll of Rongelap, in the Pacific Ocean.
It was 17 May 1985 and I was 24 years old.
At first glance, it appeared as if I had reached paradise; sandy beaches with coconut trees, water so crystal clear you could see the bottom, meters deep. And yet nothing was as it should be.
Waiting for us on the beach, with flowers, was the local community. The women held a banner reading ‘we love the future of our children.’
I was there with the crew of the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, to help them relocate. Their beloved island was making them sick, and what you couldn't see here could kill you.
Back in March 1954, the atoll received a massive dose of radiation when the US tested its most powerful nuclear weapon. The test was code named ‘Castle Bravo’ and the people of Rongelap were given no warning and offered no protection.
Radioactive fallout rained down on the island, falling for days. It dissolved into the water supplies, into the sea, and onto the houses, gardens and people. It contaminated them all.
In the tropics, where people spend a lot of time outside, the children played in the fine white ash, thinking it was snow.
In the years that followed, it became clear to the people that their island was no longer safe. The impact of the radiation poisoning, impossible to clean, was revealing itself with time. The number of children that had their damaged thyroids removed, the number of women that had children born with severe deformities, known as ‘jellyfish babies,’ was impossible to ignore.
They no longer trusted what the US military scientists were telling them about the safety of their island. They were left with no choice but to leave, with little hope of ever returning.
Evacuation of Rongelap Islanders to Mejato by the crew of the Rainbow Warrior.
The contrast between the beautiful setting and the criminal irresponsibility of the US military who used these people as guinea pigs is still heartbreaking this many years later.
Today, 29 August, marks the International Day Against Nuclear Tests.
And while every day during the past few months stands as a stark reminder as to why nuclear tests and nuclear weapons are so dangerous, today is a good day to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned in fighting nuclear tests, and, most importantly, how we carry on the fight to rid the world of this evil invention.
This year, we do so with renewed impetus.
As the last few months has revealed, the majority of the world’s nuclear warheads are in the hands of men for whom the idea of using them is becoming thinkable.
It is perhaps hard to imagine that not so very long ago, nuclear tests were common and held regularly. Hailed as a benchmark of scientific progress and the ultimate guarantee of security, nuclear weapons have been tested more than 2000 times since 16 July 1945, when the ‘Trinity’ test was conducted by the US army in New Mexico.
In the 60s and 70s, the number of tests peaked, before decreasing in number but continuing steadily until the late 90s.
The countries conducting the most tests were the US with 1,054 tests, the USSR with 715, France with 210, and the UK and China with 45 tests each.
Public outrage and the relentless efforts of determined individuals across the world eventually led major powers to stop testing in the physical environment. Greenpeace first set sail as an organisation in 1971 to stop nuclear weapons testing and the role that we played in this, alongside so many, fills me with pride.
Protest at the UN building in Geneva, encouraging nations to sign the CTBT.
In 1996, major states signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty pledging to discontinue all nuclear testing. Although the treaty has never entered into force, nuclear testing essentially screeched to a halt with its adoption.
It forged an international zero-tolerance stance against nuclear testing. The handful of nuclear tests conducted after 1996 received universal condemnation and unanimously adopted UN Security Council sanctions.
The only country to have performed nuclear tests in the 21st century is North Korea – completing 5 tests in the past 11 years.
With the end of the Cold War, and with major powers signing various treaties committing them to disarm, media and public interest died down. We entered a period where many were living under the false pretence that the threat of nuclear war was something of the past.
And yet, the countries that have committed to disarming have not done so.
They have stalled, found excuses or blatantly ignored their commitments. The result is stark. Nearly 25 years after the end of the Cold War there are still an estimated 16,300 nuclear weapons at 98 sites in 14 countries. Rather than disarm, the nine nuclear-armed states continue to spend a fortune maintaining and modernising their arsenals.
That false pretence under which we have been living has been shred to pieces during the last few months.
Nuclear war, it seems, is no longer inconceivable.
President Trump, who is the ultimate commander of the US’s nuclear arsenal, (believed to consist of 6,800 warheads) has threatened North Korea with ‘fire and fury’. North Korea has threatened to attack the US territory of Guam, in the Pacific Ocean. The threat of nuclear attack has become a bargaining chip, a threat spoken about all too easily and lightly.
These latest developments fill me with anger and even despair. Have we learned nothing from the past?
But I try to see the positive. At least the veil has been lifted, once again we are reminded of how high the stakes are, how fragile is our existence in a world where nuclear weapons are still so prevalent.
Activists hold a banner in front of the embassy of North Korea in Bern in 2006.
These weapons of mass destruction are designed for one purpose only: war. Their use and even the threat of their use poses an existential threat to all life on our precious planet.
The solution to the current crisis is clear: negotiation and diplomacy. Only this can bring us back from the brink. But this is not enough, we can wait no longer for the countries in possession of nuclear weapons to disarm.
In July, a historic milestone was reached at the United Nations in New York when 122 countries voted in favour of a new treaty banning nuclear weapons.
In September, the treaty will open for signature. Nuclear armed states and many of their allies have boycotted the treaty and have done all they could to try and derail the negotiation. They failed, but their absence is significant as unless a country ratifies the treaty, it is not bound by it.
Nevertheless, the importance of the treaty is enormous, it will make it harder for the proponents of nuclear weapons to describe them as a legitimate and useful means to provide security. The treaty sets the benchmark for a world where nuclear weapons are considered as a threat to security, not an avenue to it.
In this time where the threat of war has become thinkable again, world governments must use it as an impetus to come to their senses and disarm.
The message is clear: Norway, it’s time to choose people over oil. 35 activists from 25 countries around the world are in the Barents Sea to demand an end to Arctic drilling.
Today, activists from the Arctic Sunrise on inflatable boats and kayaks entered the exclusion zone of Statoil’s Korpfjell well, Norway’s most northern oil drilling site to date, and attached a giant globe to the rig Songa Enabler.
The globe carried written statements from people from all over the world, with a message to the Norwegian government to stop the oil drilling.
The activists halted the operation of the rig, and after several hours of demanding an end to the drilling in the Arctic, the Norwegian Coast Guard interfered with the peaceful protest, arresting the Arctic Sunrise ship, the activists and crew members.
Just 10 days before ratifying the Paris Agreement, in June 2016, the “environmentally friendly” Norwegian government granted new oil licenses. Now, a year later, Statoil has just started to drill for oil in the northernmost area ever licensed by Norway.
But this won’t stop us. It’s time to get ready for our new battleground: the courtroom—where Greenpeace Nordic, together with Nature and Youth, will face Actic Oil this November.
With your witness statements we will achieve it. Add your name to the more than 350.000 others and become part of the evidence that the people know a better world is possible.
Diego Gonzaga is a content editor for Greenpeace US.
A huge wildfire is raging in Greenland. 150 km from the Arctic Circle and just 50 km away from Greenland's ice sheet, large swathes of tundra have been burning for over a week.
Nobody has seen anything like this in recent times.
Satellite imagery of Greenland, 50 km from the ice sheet, 3rd August 2017
In the last few years, catastrophic fires have been increasing around the world. From Indonesia to Canada, across South America and Africa, from Southern Europe into Siberia, and now Greenland too. Many are fatal.
As you read this, over 1.6 million hectares of Russia are on fire. Forest fires of this scale are unmanageable and blazes like these have become the new normal in Russia.
Forest fires blazing in Siberia, 2016
Why do they keep getting worse?
Lack of forest management, insufficient funds for prevention and firefighting are partly to blame. But climate change is the real problem. The fire season in the boreal forests is getting longer every year. Hotter, drier weather spells make fire spread faster.
Fires like these aren’t just devastating because of the loss of forests, they also directly contribute to furthering climate change. As well as being massive emitters of carbon dioxide, satellite images show how the smoke from forest fires in Siberia travels north and reaches the Arctic. Black carbon pollutes the ice and makes it melt even faster.
Smoke from forest fires in Siberia on 7th August 2017, NASA satellite image
It’s a feedback loop of destruction. Increased wildfires lead to more rapid climate change which in turn, leads to more wildfires.
Forest fires are one of the most significant sources of CO2 emissions after fossil fuels. We can’t afford to ignore this problem if we want to effectively stop climate change.
Volunteer firefighters in Russia, 2016
The impact of wildland fires on climate change hasn’t been properly acknowledged yet. The global threat posed by wildfires is underestimated. If we want to win this fight, we need to change government policies and raise the public's perception of the problem. That starts with awareness. Share this blog to make the world listen.
In case you missed the news this week, here’s what we know so far: during the first week in August, the Dutch food safety authority (NWMA) announced that they discovered tens of thousands of eggs contaminated with fipronil - a toxic anti-lice pesticide, banned in food production in the EU. Dutch and Belgian police have since made arrests at the homes of buyers of the fipronil-laced pesticides.
Millions of eggs could be contaminated. The full extent isn’t known yet, but 180 Dutch farms have been temporarily closed and major German retailers like Lidl and Aldi have been pulling eggs off their shelves. Authorities in Germany are testing other products made with eggs; like pasta, mayonnaise and cakes.
This is just the latest in a long-line of global food safety crises. Industrialised farming has been linked time and time again to outbreaks of E. coli, salmonella, listeria, bird flu, swine flu and Mad Cow disease.
Dutch and Belgian authorities may have known about the egg contamination two months ago, but the public is only learning about it now. Why did they take so long to react?
This is the result of a greedy industrial system bending the rules because of poor government oversight. We exist in a broken food system where suppliers cut corners at the expense of public health just to make more profit. Outbreaks like these seem to be happening more and more. All of this points to a deep-seated disease in the industrial agricultural system.
Our insatiable demand for beef, pork, dairy and eggs has created a massive industrial livestock system globally that’s about high volume at any cost. Too often, that system needlessly puts public health at serious risk. It fosters inhumane conditions for animals, encourages runaway deforestation for feed and grazing, causes pollution of rivers and oceans and contributes massively to the climate crisis. It is a disaster for our planet.
The solution is not just avoiding this product or that product. The best way to protect ourselves and our families from outbreaks is to change this broken system once and for all. We need more transparency. Authorities must put public safety and consumer protection above all else.
We can all play our part. Find out where your food comes from. Read what the label says. Try to buy from trusted ecological farms, retailers or markets. Grow more of your own food, if you can. Eat fewer animal-based products like beef, pork, dairy and eggs, which are often linked to these food scares. Embrace a diverse diet with more plant-rich food.
Together, we can fix food.
Christiane Huxdorff is a sustainable agriculture campaigner for Greenpeace Germany’s Food campaign.
Davin Hutchins is a senior campaigner with Greenpeace International’s Meat and Dairy campaign based in the United States.
Researchers, naturalists, explorers and broadcasters are joining the call for oil companies to leave the Amazon Reef alone. The latest call to protect the reef came as an open letter highlighting the importance of this unique environment, and warning of the threat from an oil spill nearby.
BP and Total are trying to get permission to drill for oil near the Amazon Reef, but this group of experts called for the companies’ plans to be put on hold, saying that “The priority should be to protect the reef and surrounding waters in order to conduct further research.”
This letter adds more pressure on BP and Total to cancel their plans to drill. So far, over a million people have signed the petition against oil drilling near the Amazon Reef, and more than 29,000 people have written to BP’s CEO in protest.
A fascinating puzzle
For ocean scientists, the Amazon Reef is a fascinating puzzle, full of new discoveries and surprising twists. In just a few days of exploring the reef, researchers believe to have found not only three potential new fish species , but also dozens more that had not been spotted in the area before. Scientists believe the Amazon Reef is also home to large numbers of critically endangered fish—yet another reason why an oil spill nearby would be devastating to the environment.
This first expedition only covered a tiny fraction of the 600 mile-long reef, so with most of this ecosystem still unexplored, the biggest discoveries are likely still to come.
But BP and Total’s dangerous oil drilling plan could devastate this special place before we’ve had a chance to study it properly. There’s little evidence that the oil companies have taken the risk of a spill seriously, and they haven’t been able to show that they could deal with an accident in the strong currents and deep, murky waters near the mouth of the Amazon River.
Want to help stop BP and Total? Sign the petition to protect the Amazon Reef.
Mal Chadwick is a digital campaigner for Greenpeace UK