Can you imagine a world where Greenpeace and other advocacy groups are no longer able to stand up for our forests, oceans and climate? A giant logging corporation called Resolute Forest Products is fighting to make this sinister vision a reality.
For years, Greenpeace has campaigned to protect the Great Northern Forest from unsustainable logging. Major companies, like Kimberly Clark—the makers of Kleenex—have worked with us to change their ways and now demand that their paper sources act responsibly.
But Resolute has refused to work on real solutions. Instead, it's sunk its efforts into an all-out assault on Greenpeace; launching two major lawsuits against Greenpeace Canada, Greenpeace USA, Stand.Earth, and Greenpeace International so big they could sink us.
We will not be silenced, even when faced with multi-million dollar lawsuits. That’s why Greenpeace supporters are speaking up—literally.
All around the world, Greenpeace supporters are recording their own voices, saying “our voices are vital.” These recordings will be used to show Resolute that it has picked the wrong battle. The global Greenpeace community is bigger than it imagined.
We’ll make sure Resolute gets the message: that the Greenpeace community is ready to get LOUD when it comes to protecting our right to speak out.
Add your own voice today!
We’ll use your voices in a short film that we will make sure Resolute sees and hears.
Follow these instructions to send your message directly to Greenpeace International:
- Make sure you have WhatsApp downloaded on your phone.
- Add us as a contact: go to your address book, create a new contact for "Greenpeace" with this number +1 415 781 9471
- Go to WhatsApp and start a new conversation with "Greenpeace".
- Click on the microphone icon and hold it while you submit your simple voice message: “our voices are vital!”
No matter who you are—a builder, a painter, a writer or an activist—your voice is vital to creating a better world. Now, corporate attacks on free speech are trying to take your voice away.
Greenpeace supporters are bold and courageous. When someone tries to silence us, we only get LOUDER. Make some noise with us today.
Great work! 500 of you left voice recordings, so artist Hannah Rosengren has created digital backgrounds for your phone and computer.
Click on an image below to download:
Wow! With your help, we quickly reached the next goal of 1500 voices! Mark Deklin recorded a video for Greenpeace supporters. Enjoy!
Read more about Designated Survivor actor Mark Deklin and check out his (non-violent) fight choreography video.Jill Pape is an online campaigner at Greenpeace US.
This week, representatives from all the major brands - from fast fashion retailers like H&M, Asos and Zara, through to luxury labels like Burberry and Swarowski - are gathering in Copenhagen to discuss sustainability in the global fashion industry.
The fashion industry is one of the most lucrative and destructive industries on earth. It generates €1.5 trillion every year and produces over a billion clothes every year. With global garment production set to increase by 63% by 2030, this model is reaching its physical limit.
This year's Copenhagen Fashion Summit is focusing on “circularity” – an industry buzzword that promises relief to the problem of limited resources within one of the world’s most resource intensive industries. In 2015, the fashion industry consumed nearly 80 billion cubic meters of fresh water, emitted over a million tonnes of CO2 and produced 92 million tonnes of waste. The Summit admits that the industry has a disastrous environmental impact and that we face “increasingly higher risk of destabilising the state of the planet, which would result in sudden and irreversible environmental changes”.
Panelists at the Copenhagen Fashion Summit, 10 May 2017. Credit: Copenhagen Fashion Summit
While their focus on circularity sounds promising, it’s simply not enough.
Industry leaders rarely talk about the real solution: reducing the overall volume of production. All their talk about sustainable investing and innovative new materials and technologies comes under the assumption that the industry continues to grow. But unlimited growth is impossible on a planet with finite resources.
The industry wants to place the responsibility on consumers to educate themselves and recycle their own clothes, while continuing to heavily market cheap fast fashion at us.
Real change is not going to happen without investing in designs and strategies to extend the life of clothing and reduce the environmental impact of production at the design stage. Fashion brands need to redefine their marketing strategies and start involving customers in a new narrative where people buy less and clothes are more durable and repairable. We need to slow down.
Trash queen street performance in Taipei, November 2016
It’s not enough to sell customers placebo solutions that ultimately leave shopping patterns untouched and guilt free. Even if we encourage people to recycle more, we have to remember that recycling is a resource intensive process relying on chemicals and vast amounts of energy, with many unsolved problems making it far from commercially viable.
If the Fashion industry really wants to be “an engine for a global and sustainable development”, it needs to think about how to shift the business model beyond the current paradigm of continuous economic growth. We hope that the fashion industry doesn’t wait until 2030 to realise that.Chiara Campione is a Senior Corporate Strategist for Detox My Fashion
Free speech is a right. So how can a corporation possibly stop you from speaking out? Using a legal tactic called a SLAPP, corporations like the massive Canadian logging company, Resolute Forest Products, are attempting to crack down on free speech by suing their critics into submission.
Resolute has filed two lawsuits — one in Canada against Greenpeace Canada for CAD$7 million, and a CAD$300 million suit in the United States against Greenpeace Fund, Greenpeace Inc, Greenpeace International, Stand.earth and several individuals. Resolute is relying on the fact that this tactic is obscure and confusing, so arm yourself with all the information you need to protect your right to free speech.
1. The clue is in the name SLAPP
SLAPP stands for “Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation.” As the name implies, they’re used by corporations trying to shut down public participation. SLAPPs are often filed without any kind of merit, just to cause financial harm to individuals and organisations who have to hire lawyers and engage in costly legal battles to continue their work.
2. They are more than just a SLAPP on the wrist
Many SLAPPs are for amounts of money that are nearly impossible to pay, forcing activists to choose between massive legal costs or shutting up. Resolute is suing Greenpeace in two separate suits for CAD$300 million and CAD$7 million respectively. The whole purpose? Intimidation.
3. Corporations are getting SLAPP-happy
You’re not the only one who thinks this should be illegal. A handful of countries around the world and 28 state legislatures in the United States have enacted anti-SLAPP laws to prevent frivolous lawsuits from being filed. The idea is that, if lawsuits intended to burden individuals and organisations are terminated early, their impact could be limited. But the laws remain imperfect and need to be strengthened and expanded to protect people everywhere. And even though anti-SLAPP legislation is popping up everywhere, SLAPPs continue to be on the rise.
4. That one where the residents of a small town in Alabama, US got sued for USD$30 million for standing up against a coal ash landfill
The ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) represented individuals in the city of Uniontown, Alabama — a poor, predominantly black town — who were sued by Green Group Holdings for USD$30 million for standing up to a coal ash landfill in their town. Due to public outcry and the support of the ACLU, they reached a settlement in February and agreed to better environmental protections — but they shouldn’t have had to deal with this corporate bullying in the first place. There are hundreds of others across the US and beyond who won’t be so lucky.
5. Sometimes it gets personal
In the Resolute v. Greenpeace lawsuits, Resolute chose to name individuals because by serving them with a massive lawsuit, in their home, the company can provoke a reaction. “It can be intimidating to be personally named in a fat lawsuit,” said Greenpeace USA Forest Campaign Director Rolf Skar. “You know you’ve got piles of legal papers and suddenly you wonder about, what does this mean for me? When do I have to show up in court? What does this mean for my future?” Companies like Resolute count on this intimidation to make individuals think twice about speaking up.
6. Wait, what does the mafia have to do with this?
If you’re following the Greenpeace case, you might have seen that Resolute is using RICO laws to inflate the amount of money in the U.S. lawsuit and claim triple damages. Does RICO sound familiar? You might know about RICO laws from when they were first created: in an effort to prosecute the mafia more effectively. The filings in the U.S. call Greenpeace a “global fraud” and claim that “soliciting money, not saving the environment, is Greenpeace’s primary objective.”
7. When you’re SLAPPED, stand FIRM.
We created this easy acronym to remember what to do if you or your organisation faces a SLAPP, or you want to stand up and support Greenpeace. Stand FIRM. Fight back: SLAPPs don’t stand up to scrutiny and it’s important to explore your legal options and build a strong legal defense. Investigate: continue to examine and expose the practices of the corporation suing you — they wouldn’t resort to these tactics if they didn’t have something to hide. Rally. Bring together your free speech allies to help support the cause and amplify your message. Make some noise. Refuse to be silent. Don’t give up your free speech.
And most of all, don’t let Resolute silence you! Take action now!
Molly Dorozenski is the Communications Director at Greenpeace USA
Do your clothes make you happy? Or, after the excitement of the shopping spree fades, does your new stuff tend to lose its in-store magic by the time it’s reached your wardrobe?
A new survey of international buying habits has found that we buy far more than we need and use. Two thirds of Hong Kong residents admit they own more than they need. The same is true for 60% of Chinese and over half of German and Italian respondents. But the mindless overconsumption of fashion has become our cultural norm.
Shopping in Hong Kong, 23 Nov, 2015.
Online shopping fuels this overconsumption. It’s easier than ever to buy new clothes by clicking through social media feeds whenever you see something you like. And it’s a time consuming habit: the average Chinese consumer spends at least two hours online shopping every day.
The reasons for this are emotional and social. For many, comfort buys occur when people need to channel their anxieties. Shopping is a way to kill time, relieve stress, and avoid boredom. But the cheap thrill of buying something new dies away pretty fast. Half of the people surveyed said that the immediate excitement of a shopping spree lasted less than a day. After the binge comes the hangover.
When they’re not shopping, around a third of the East Asian people surveyed admit feeling empty, bored or lost. What’s more, around half feel guilty about their shopping habits, sometimes hiding their purchases from others for fear of negative reactions or accusations of wasting money. Shopping does not make us happy. We already own too much and we know it.
So why do we shop? We are searching for excitement, looking to increase our self-worth, confidence and recognition. The American media activist and advertising critic, Jean Kilbourne, has commented about how deeply advertisers insinuate themselves by exploiting basic human desires like friendship, happiness and success in advertising for profit.
The result is “Stuffocation,” a term coined by British cultural forecaster James Wallman. It describes a state where people’s lives are trapped in a vicious cycle of working and accumulating products in order to keep up with the pace of consumerism. This fuels the anxiety of modern life; destroying the planet while keeping us from leading more imaginative, fulfilling lives. Materialism is eating us inside out.
So how do we stop it? Our survey showed that ads, promotions and 1-click buying functions are all designed to trigger impulse buying. The rate of buying increases the more companies speed up delivery. Therefore, the slower the buying process, the lower the desire to shop. To break free from the cycle of consumerism, we need to slow down.
Next time you find yourself about to buy something new online, give yourself a few minutes to think. Sleep on it, and see if you still want it in the morning. When we switch off our phones and go outside instead of into shopping malls, we won’t buy so much.
The joy of life is ultimately defined by our relationships to each other and the connection we feel to the natural environment. Instead of stuffocating ourselves, let’s enjoy the genuine happiness that stems from leading a fulfilled life.Frances Lo is a campaigner at Greenpeace Taiwan, working on overconsumption
Speaking truth to corporations has been the backbone of Greenpeace’s global forest campaign for over two decades. Putting pressure on companies buying products from forest destruction has successfully helped protect the Great Bear Rainforest in Canada, create moratoria on deforestation due to soya and cattle expansion in the Brazilian Amazon, and deliver multiple zero deforestation policies inside and outside Indonesia — as well as a myriad of other protections, regulations and steps towards safeguarding the world’s forests from further destruction and senseless greed.
Dvinsky Forest, Russia. 13 September, 2016
With the launch of Greenpeace’s Great Northern Forest campaign late last year, it should have come as no surprise to companies buying products from the destruction of this vast boreal forest ecosystem that our campaigners would soon be knocking on their doors calling for urgent action.
In early March, the campaign launched a major investigative report into the destruction of the last remaining Intact Forest Landscapes (IFLs) in the Arkhangelsk region of northwest Russia. It named many of the customers of the logging companies and mills involved in this destruction – which all have certification from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).
Dvinsky Forest, Russia. 13 September, 2016
A month after the launch of our Eye on the Taiga report, the Russian division of the FSC posted a response to the report on its website. Whilst FSC Russia doesn’t explicitly agree with our conclusion that there needs to a complete phase out of the logging of IFLs in Arkhangelsk, the organisation at least appears to recognise that there needs to be a shift away from the business-as-usual ‘timber mining’ of these valuable primary forests as highlighted in the report. (Once logging companies have extracted the harvestable wood from one area, they simply move their operations to a new area, with no regard for the long-term management of the forest).
In its conclusions, FSC Russia agreed that bringing about a logging industry transformation in Arkhangelsk, while helping to establish the Dvinsky Forest Reserve, customers of FSC-certified companies in the region could be putting pressure on these companies to help bring about these much-needed changes.
Designated protection area in the Dvinsky forest, Askhangelsk region, Russia
Even before the launch of the report, Greenpeace campaigners across Europe have been engaging with companies named in the report to request that they take immediate action. To date, the responses have been mixed — from stone cold silence (eg Arctic Paper) or ‘we have a policy to source paper that is produced sustainably’ type response (eg Smurfit Kappa) to ones where companies (eg Nestlé, Stora Enso, SCA) are actively engaged and starting to put pressure on their suppliers, exactly as proposed by FSC Russia. Some are arranging field visits to help them come up with an appropriate action plan.
However, further customer pressure is urgently needed on Pomor Timber, Titan and Arkhangelsk Pulp & Paper (APPM), particularly concerning the creation of the Dvinsky Forest Reserve. Greenpeace now understands that for the reserve to be formally established by the end of 2017 – the ‘Year of Natural Protected Areas and Year of Ecology’ in Russia – these companies need to give their formal support for the planned Reserve by end of June 2017 at the very latest. So time is rapidly running out.
The endangered Lobaria pulmonaria, a red-listed lichen. 13 Sep, 2016
Given the urgency of this situation, and in light of the FSC Russia statement, Greenpeace is requesting that the customers of the three companies demand that their suppliers publicly support the planned reserve, based on the 2011 proposed 489,000-hectare boundary.
If they do not publicly support the planned reserve by end of June 2017 – along with making progress to address the other issues outlined in the Eye on the Taiga report – Greenpeace is highly likely to ask customers to suspend contracts with these companies until they make significant progress on such issues. This is where a boycott campaign would need to kick in… stay tuned for further reports.
Alexey Yaroshenko is a forests campaigner with Greenpeace Russia
On March 1 1954, on Bikini Atoll, in the Marshall Islands, the US military detonated the world’s first lithium-deuteride hydrogen bomb, a thousand times more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs. The radiation blew downwind, to the southeast, and irradiated the residents of Rongelap and Utirik atolls, and the crew of tuna boat Fukuryu Maru, “Lucky Dragon.”
The islanders and fishing crew suffered radiation sickness, hair loss, and peeling skin. Crew member, Aikichi Kuboyama, died six months later in a Hiroshima hospital. Island children, suffered lifelong health effects, including cancers, and most died prematurely. The Lucky Dragon sailors were exposed to 3-5 sieverts of radiation.
One sievert will cause severe radiation sickness leading to cancer and death. Five sieverts will kill half those exposed within a month (like the workers who died at Chernobyl within the first few week). Ten sieverts will kill any human being. Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims received 150 Sieverts. Even microorganisms perished.
Castle Bravo nuclear weapons test on Bikini Atoll
Today, inside the crippled Fukushima nuclear reactor-2, the melting core releases 530 sieverts per hour, enough to kill a human instantly and melt steel robotic equipment within two hours.
The meaning of “collapse”
When we hear the term “collapse of industrial society,” some may picture a doomsday or a Hollywood apocalypse film. But the collapse of societies – like in Rome, Mesopotamia, or the Rapa Nui on Easter Island – doesn’t work like that. The “collapse” of a complex society usually involves ecological habitat degradation that can take centuries. So, what does “social collapse” really look like?
James Kunstler calls the collapse of industrial society a “long emergency” - a process that unfolds in fits and starts over generations. Some social conflicts we witness in the world today – banking crises, war, refugees, racism - can be understood as symptoms of this long, ecologically-triggered collapse. Russian author Dmitry Orlov describes the five stages of collapse: Financial, commercial, political, social, and, finally, cultural. When business-as-usual becomes impossible, communities seek alternatives to currency trading; markets fail, faith in government disappears, trust of neighbours erodes, and people lose faith in common decency.
Dr. Joseph Tainter, professor of Environment and Society at Utah State University describes collapse as a “simplification” of society, a reversal of the process by which the society became increasingly complex. “To understand collapse,” he explains, “we have to understand complexity.”
Societies evolve complex solutions to solve social problems that arise, generally from environmental limits. Eventually, the marginal benefits of these alleged solutions decline. Consider oil, military aggression, or nuclear power as solutions to problems, that later manifest unintended consequences. As technical solutions meet bio-physical limits, added investment leads to less benefit, until the society grows vulnerable to catastrophe, such as global warming, war, or radiation.
Societies collapse, according to Tainter, when technical complexities cost more than they return as benefits. This understanding of social collapse fits the state of chaos now unfolding at the nuclear plant at Fukushima.
Socialise the cost
TEPCO, the company that owns the Fukushima reactors, ignored early warnings of risk, from both inside and outside the company, because the safeguards were too expensive. Thus, the 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the plant’s cooling systems and led to a core meltdown in all three reactors.
Today, six years later, the reactor cores are melting down through the rock, and radiation levels are so intense that even robots can’t survive long enough to locate the burning fuel rods. Removal of the rods, originally scheduled for 2015, then delayed until 2017, has been delayed again, with no end in sight. Meanwhile, 300 tons of radioactive water floods into the Pacific Ocean every day.
Cleanup cost estimates have risen to several billion Euros per year and decommissioning is now expected to take about 40 years. In December, 2016, the Japanese government announced that the estimated cost of decommissioning the plant and storing radioactive waste, if they can achieve this at all, would reach over 21 trillion yen (€180 billion; US$ 200 billion). This scenario is based on no major earthquakes occurring before the 2050s.
TEPCO will likely go bankrupt before it will pay these costs, so the government has stepped in, which means the citizens pay the costs, just as they bailed out the banks after the last economic collapse. This is a core policy for large, modern corporations: Privatise the profits, socialise the costs.
The nuclear “solution” to growing energy demand - now a massive technical and financial black hole, with negative marginal returns, draining scarce resources from struggling communities - is what industrial collapse looks like in the real world.
Aerial view of the damage to Fukushima I nuclear power plant.
The wealthy may not notice collapse in the early stages, as the first victims are the poorest and most vulnerable. The nuclear meltdown at Fukushima displaced over 150,000 people. Some 1,600 died during evacuation, and the survivors live in makeshift camps on meagre allotments of food and supplies. As families abandoned their homes, lifelong dreams shattered, childhoods were disrupted, families broke apart, and modest enterprises lost forever.
Women and children suffered the greatest challenges and risks due to “a yawning gender gap” in Japanese society, as Kendra Ulrich writes in “Unequal Impact.” Among the 34 highly developed countries, ranked for gender wage gap, Japan stands at the bottom with South Korea and Estonia. After the nuclear meltdown, single mothers faced financial and social barriers to recovery. Radiation puts fetuses and young children at the greatest risk for future health effects.
Last year, Ichiro Tagawa, 77, returned to his village of Namie and reopened the bicycle repair shop that had been in his family for 80 years. “I am so old,” he told a New York Times reporter, “I don’t really care about the radiation levels.”
A special light painting technique reveals radioactive contamination in Fukushima.
To save money, the Japanese government has declared some towns near Fukushima “safe,” by increasing the radiation limits and then cancelling evacuee housing and insisting that citizens return to those “safe” villages. Sending people back to that environment could amount to random murder, since some will attract cancer and die from the radiation.
Corruption and cover-up have become a way of life inside TEPCO and the nuclear industry. The Japanese government and TEPCO also increased “safe” radiation limits for plant workers by about 700-times, and then ordered scientists to stop monitoring radiation levels in some areas of the plants that exceed even these new, dangerous regulations. According to Tomohiko Suzuki’s book, Yakuza to Genpatsu (The Yakuza and Nuclear Power), TEPCO subcontractors pay bribes to Japanese crime gangs, the Yakuza, to obtain construction contracts, and the Yakuza pay politicians and media to keep quiet. Workers lured into the plant include the homeless, the mentally ill, illegal immigrants, and former Yakuza debtors.
The deadly industry
The story of how nuclear generated power came to be starts in the 1950s. After WWII, the US, UK, France, Russia, and China set out to build arsenals, but required more plutonium than could be furnished by their respective military programs. A US Atomic Energy Commission study concluded that commercial nuclear reactors for power were not economically feasible because of costs and risks. Dr. Charles Thomas, an executive at Monsanto, suggested a solution: A “dual purpose” reactor that would produce plutonium for the military and electric power for commercial use.
Companies profited from these dual markets, while leaving the public to assume responsibility for research, infrastructure, and risk: Privatise the profits, socialise the costs. The real purpose of a “nuclear power” industry was to provide plutonium for weapons and profit for a few corporations.
This deadly industry has now left dead zones and ghost towns around the world. The Hanford nuclear storage site in the US, Acerinox Processing Plant in Spain, The Polygon weapons test site in Kazakhstan, the Zapadnyi uranium mine in Kyrgyzstan, and countless other uranium mines, decommissioned plants, nuclear waste dumps, and catastrophes like Fukushima and Chernobyl.
No one knows exactly how many people have died due to the Chernobyl meltdown. The Russian academy of sciences estimates 200,000 and a Ukrainian national commission estimated 500,000 deaths from radiation’s health effects.
Abandoned baby shoes in Pripyat's kindergarten.
In 1983, a Yorkshire television station uncovered evidence that child leukemia had increased ten-times in the village of Seascale, near the Sellafield/Windscale nuclear site. It has become a deadly radioactive blotch on the landscape, leaking radioactive plutonium-24, americium-241, and caesium-137 into the surrounding environment, and sending bomb grade plutonium into the world's political environment. According to the BBC, the cost of cleaning up the mess is now estimated at £70-billion, and rising annually, as one corporation or consortium after another fails to make progress, but always makes money. These cleanup costs now consume most of the UK’s “climate change” budget since nuclear power was once considered a solution to carbon emissions.
In February, the EDF Flamanville nuclear plant in France - three-times over budget and years behind schedule - closed after an explosion and fire. France faces a €200 billion cost to decommission 58 reactors at the end of their life. Germany set aside €38 billion to decommission 17 nuclear reactors, and the UK estimates a cost between €109‒250 billion to decommission UK’s nuclear sites.
This is the face of industrial collapse, when alleged solutions become bigger problems. Nuclear power has now become a massive liability, draining resources from communities that need schools, hospitals, and the essentials of life. Joseph Tainter, Jared Diamond, and other researchers point out that some societies – Tikopia island, Byzantine society in the 1300s - avoided collapse, not by increasing complexity with better technology, but by down-sizing intentionally, learning to thrive on a lower level of complexity.
This is now the challenge of industrial society. Can we, and especially the rich and powerful, change our habits of consumption and growth? Can we come back to Earth?
References and Links
James Kunstler: “The Long Emergency”
The Dynamics of Complex Civilisations, David Korowicz, Oil Drum, 2010
Gail Tverberg: Energy Flow, Emergent Complexity, and Collapse, Oil Drum
“The Collapse of Civilization,” New Scientist, April, 2008
“Les civilisations sont-elles vouées à disparaître?”: Les Cahiers de Science & Vie, (n. 109).
Jared Diamond: “Ecological Collapses of Pre-industrial Societies,” Tanner Lecture, University of Utah, 2000
“Culture and the Environment on Easter Island and Tikopia,” Ben Ewen-Campen, Swarthmore, 2003).
“Nuclear refugees tell of distrust, pressure to return to Fukushima,” Japan Times, March, 2016.
Tomohiko Suzuki, “Yakuza to genpatsu: Fukushima Daiichi sennyuki,” The Yakuza and Nuclear Power: Undercover Report from Fukushima Daiichi), Bungeishunju Ltd., Japan
“Energy/War: Breaking the Nuclear Link,” Amory Lovins, 1981; and Annual Report, Commonwealth Edison Company, 1952; at Nuclear Energy Information Service.
Sellafield, UK, £70bn clean-up costs, BBC, 2014.
Nuclear Power as a false solution, Rex Weyler, Deep Green: Atomic Renaissance Interrupted, R. Weyler, Deep Green, 2008. Nuclear Delusions, R. Weyler, Deep Green, 2011. Precaution and Common Sense, R. Weyler, EcoReport, 2013
Sailing across the nutrient rich waters of the West African Atlantic Ocean these past two months, I have been lucky enough to see an incredible array of wildlife. Whales, dolphins and pelicans, I have met them all in this trip. And I was just as thrilled to encounter smaller animals like flying fish and gannets, and to witness the magic of the seawater that lights up a brilliant blue at night as dinoflagellates – tiny plankton – emit light as the Greenpeace ship ploughs through the waves.
I am aboard the Greenpeace Esperanza, on a mission to investigate the poor regulations and overfishing of the area by industrial fishing vessels. I have seen awful things. But I have also been overwhelmed by the beauty of these oceans.
The current mission has brought us to the region for two and a half months, bringing us from the deep waters of the islands of Cabo Verde in the north west, to the desert of Mauritania, to the tropics of Guinea Bissau and Sierra Leone in the south. And it has been amazing.
In the colourful coral reefs in the deep waters of Cabo Verde we saw quantities of moray eels, spiny lobsters, soldier fish and more. Off the coast of Mauritania, the whales I had seen in a previous trip still swim here and the dolphins that love to play at the bow of the ship seem to have multiplied in number - we have seen thousands so far in this trip.
All of this life is fed by a process called upwelling, where the cool, nutrient-rich waters of the 4000 meter deep ocean are pumped up to the surface. That is what makes West Africa’s oceans so full of life.
We also saw the beauty of the land, especially around the remote island communities of the Bijagos archipelago in Guinea Bissau and the Turtle islands in Sierra Leone. They are flanked by mangroves and pearly white beaches and are so remote that the people still live in symbiosis with nature. They are also places where special animals like the small marine hippo and the manatee, also known as the ‘sea cow’, can still find a refuge.
The mangroves are dense forests that grow in salt water and, as major carbon sinks, are an important ally in our fight against climate change. It is important that they are protected and flourish.
The white beaches in this area are not only postcard-idyllic, they are also the most important breeding grounds in all of Africa for the green sea turtle, an endangered species.
All this natural beauty lives alongside the colourful bustle of West African life, where the people dress in lively patterned clothes and fish in brightly decorated canoe-like vessels known as pirogues. Towns and settlements here are alive with the sound of the fabulous local music and the laughs and smiles of local residents, in spite of the many adversities they face.
For me and the crew of the Esperanza it has been a great honour to be able to visit these amazing places. It has been a welcome break after spending weeks on the seas chasing the numerous illegal fishing vessels that exploit these fertile waters.
These were experiences which gave me enormous hope. While witnessing the ugliest sides of industrial fishing, and the devastation it leaves behind, I have also seen signs of hope. The extraordinary beauty of nature here, and the lifestyle of respect for nature that still exists in some of these remote places, strengthens my commitment to help save these places, and strengthens my resolve that we can save them.
Act now to protect this unique beauty. Sign our petition to demand an efficient and sustainable regional management of fisheries in West Africa.
Pavel Klinckhamers is an Oceans campaigner with Greenpeace Netherlands onboard the Esperanza
(Originally published by Greenpeace Africa on April 27, 2017)
In Canada, recent government decisions to address declining caribou populations are truly dumbfounding.
We live in very odd times. We have politicians in powerful positions around the world who wish to take us back to the 1950s, or earlier, in terms of environmental and social policies.
We have governments rolling back hard-won environmental and social policies. And we have governments who use early twentieth-century resource management tactics to deal with species that are at risk of disappearing because their habitats are being destroyed at alarming rates.
Here in Canada, we have a crazy-making situation. Provincial governments in British Columbia and Quebec are stuck in the twentieth century in addressing the serious matter of declining caribou herds.
In British Columbia, the government encourages the killing of wolves who prey on southern mountain caribou as a means of dealing with that seriously declining herd. And in Quebec, the government is transporting the threatened Val-d’Or caribou herd to a zoo.
In both cases, governments are dealing with symptoms rather than causes. In both cases they are missing the forests for the trees — literally. Rather than deal with the root cause of caribou habitat destruction, which is a result of poor forest management and piecemeal conservation planning, these governments are sending these animals to zoos or killing off predators who play important roles in ecosystems.
The Quebec situation is especially problematic and unacceptable. Not only is this remaining herd being sent 400 kilometers away from its habitat into a zoo in order for it to be preserved, it sets a dangerous precedent for all endangered species in Quebec and in Canada.
Both the Quebec government and Canada federal government have legal responsibilities to protect endangered species like caribou — under Quebec’s caribou recovery plan and the Species at Risk Act (SARA), respectively. Instead, sending this endangered herd to a zoo is an abdication of their responsibilities to protect this species in the wild. This also means abdicating their responsibility to protect what remains of caribou habitat and that of other threatened herds.
Protecting habitat is much harder to do — especially when industrial forestry and other extractive industries come calling, threatening to continue decimating what remains. So rather than make wise land use decisions that set aside enough range that protects threatened herds, British Columbia encourages the killing of wolves from helicopters. And in Quebec, this seems to mean sending wild caribou to zoos (which, past record has shown has led to disastrous consequences of wild caribou dying while in captivity).
Zoos are no places for wild caribou, and the tactic has no place in smart twenty-first century conservation planning. The disastrous fate of this herd and the disappearance of boreal forests that have sustained them for millennia must serve as a political wake-up call.
Although the Canadian government released the boreal woodland caribou recovery strategy under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) nearly five years ago, there has been very little concrete action. The strategy developed a threshold of risk for managing caribou and set guidelines to maintain or restore each caribou range. Similarly a joint Federal-BC study on the Southern Mountain Caribou identified significantly declining numbers — but followed with little concrete action.
The science behind SARA and such joint studies, coupled with Indigenous knowledge, needs to be urgently applied so that the sad demise of the Val D’or and Southern Mountain caribou herds need not happen, and is not repeated elsewhere in the country. The Quebec, British Columbia and Canadian Federal governments in particular, and other provincial and territorial governments in general, must act immediately. With input from First Nations communities, they must strengthen caribou recovery and habitat protection management.
Once habitat is destroyed or species reach a critical number, it is increasingly difficult to protect them. In the case of British Columbia — killing wolves, regardless of one’s ethical views on such a strategy, won’t save the caribou there. And certainly neither will sending wild caribou to a zoo.
These animals deserve better. The public deserves better. Future generations deserve better.
There are some things you can do. Aside from contacting the provincial governments of Quebec and British Columbia to question them on their outdated ways of thinking in protecting caribou, you can also sign our petition calling on the Canadian federal government to implement threatened caribou recovery strategies, including protecting their forest habitats. Let’s get those caribou recovery strategies in place and avoid twentieth century solutions that do not suit the world of the twenty-first century.
Eduardo Sousa is a senior forest campaigner at Greenpeace Canada.
A version of this blog was originally posted by Greenpeace Canada here.
There's been a major development in our campaign to protect Indonesia's forests.
IOI, one of the largest palm oil traders in the world, has just made a significant commitment to protect rainforests. If put into practice, this would address the problems on the company's own plantations and set new standards for the whole industry.
This result comes after many years of campaigning by Greenpeace supporters, who persuaded big brands to stop buying palm oil from IOI until it showed it was serious about safeguarding forests. Pressure from people around the world was instrumental in pushing IOI towards these new commitments that go well beyond what other traders have agreed to. All eyes are now on them to follow IOI's lead.
IOI has not yet addressed the environmental and social impacts of its palm oil, but it has published an action plan and agreed to independent third-party verification of its progress in one year’s time. Greenpeace expects IOI to follow through on these commitments and will be watching it closely.
A Greenpeace investigator documents the devastation of a company-identified 'No Go' area of peatland in the PT Bumi Sawit Sejahtera (IOI) oil palm concession in Ketapang, West Kalimantan. This area of the concession suffered extensive fires in 2015.
IOI is the third-largest palm oil trader in the world, buying and selling from hundreds of other companies. It has its own landbanks in Indonesia and Malaysia where it had been replacing forests with plantations and coming into conflict with local communities.
Since 2008, we have been exposing how IOI has been linked to the destruction of valuable forest and peatland areas, exploitation of plantation workers including reports of child labour, and extensive fires on its land contributing to the thick pollution that often swathes large parts of Southeast Asia. And because IOI buys so much palm oil from hundreds of other growers and traders, it was linked to environmental and social problems happening on land controlled by those companies.
Over the years, IOI has produced a string of commitments about ending the destruction, but none of them were properly implemented and failed to make a difference on the ground. Then in March 2016, IOI was suspended by the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) following a complaint by environmental organisation Aidenvironment, which meant it could no longer call any of its palm oil 'sustainable'. IOI even sued the RSPO about the suspension, although later dropped the case.
The Greenpeace thermal airship A.E. Bates flies over the San Francisco Bay area near a facility where palm oil trader IOI imports its palm oil in the San Francisco Bay area, in October 2016.
Many of its major customers, such as Unilever and Nestlé, stopped buying from IOI and refused to go back even when the RSPO suspension was lifted a few months later. Some companies needed more persuading - General Mills, makers of Betty Crocker cake mixes, were happy to continue trading with IOI until thousands of Greenpeace supporters emailed the CEO to point out how irresponsible this was.
When activists blockaded IOI's refinery in Rotterdam, it was to remind the big brand companies that it was still a palm oil provider they should avoid. And delivering 300,000 signatures from around the world to their head offices in Kuala Lumpur took the campaign right to the company's front door.
Greenpeace activists close off access for all imports and exports from palm oil trader IOI in the harbour of Rotterdam, palm oil’s gateway into Europe, in September 2016.
Losing such big customers put IOI under enormous pressure and was instrumental in bringing about this change in direction. But if so many previous commitments have not been fulfilled, why should this time be any different?
Today's announcement goes much further than anything IOI has promised before. It has said it will commission independent verification of how well forests and the rights of workers and communities are being protected on its own land. IOI has also committed to resolve long-standing conflicts with local communities and respect the rights of plantation workers.
One of the most important points is that IOI will be actively monitoring its suppliers to ensure they too are safeguarding forests and people. Any company selling palm oil to IOI will need to prove it is protecting forests, so the impacts should spread far beyond IOI's own operations.
The big prize here is that IOI will be able to put pressure on the other big palm oil traders - Wilmar, Musim Mas, Golden Agri Resources and others - to step up their efforts. The traders sell palm oil to each other and other traders will need to interrogate their own suppliers to ensure IOI does not receive dirty palm oil.
Deforestation is still a huge problem for the palm oil industry and the traders need to act immediately to eliminate deforestation from their supply chains. They need to publish their own rigorous plans showing how they will screen their suppliers and cut off those that are continuing to destroy forests.
The proof, as always, is in how well these promises are put into practice. There is still a lot of work to do before IOI is completely free from deforestation. We will be monitoring progress closely and won’t hesitate to challenge IOI if we think it’s not keeping its word.
Right now, enormous thanks must go to everyone around the world who helped achieve this important breakthrough and brought an end to deforestation in Indonesia that little bit closer.
Annisa Rahmawati is a Senior Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia
I can’t imagine a world without bees. These fantastic little insects are not only a vital part of natural ecosystems, they also play a crucial role in food production.
Worldwide, three out of four of our food crops depend on pollinators like bees, butterflies and other small creatures. In Europe, 84% of all cultivated plants are pollinated by insects - primarily bees.
Bees and other pollinators have a huge part to play in our food supply and the global economy. Pollination affects both the quantity and quality of crops. Unsurprisingly, inadequate pollination of certain crops results in lower yields. The contribution of bees in global crop pollination is estimated at €265 billion.
But industrial agriculture threatens bees by depriving them of valuable food sources and exposing them to toxic chemicals. As a result, bees and other pollinators are under serious threat. This puts our food supply and ecological balance at risk.
We have a unique opportunity to change this. In March, the European Commission proposed an almost complete ban on three bee-harming pesticides. Our governments are voting on a full ban of harmful pesticides as soon as May. We need to make sure that all these bee-harming pesticides are banned, now. And we want all other chemical pesticides to be properly tested for their impact on bees, before they’re put into industrial use.
Politicians need to hear our buzz and act. They can’t play with our food any longer. Please act now to save the bees and other pollinators.
Luís Ferreirim is the ecological farming campaigner at Greenpeace Spain