Archive | Environment

‘World Has Never Seen a Threat to Human Rights of This Scope,’ UN Rights Chief Says of Climate Emergency

“The window of opportunity for action may be closing—but there is still time to act.”

byAndrea Germanos

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, listens to the meeting introduction before delivering opening remarks while hosting a debate on key human rights issues in the country at ICS—Instituto de Ciências Sociais da Universidade de Lisboa on April 29, 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal. (Photo: Horacio Villalobos#Corbis/Corbis via Getty Images)

“We are burning up our future—literally,” the United Nations human rights chief said Monday, as she called the climate crisis a “rapidly growing and global threat to human rights.”

In fact, said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, “The world has never seen a threat to human rights of this scope.”

Bachelet’s warning came in her remarks to the Human Rights Council on the opening day of the body’s September session in Geneva.

No corner of the globe is untouched by the impacts of the warming planet, said Bachelet, noting that the crisis is already worsening hunger, conflict, and extreme weather. Among the current manifestations are the burning of the Amazon rain forest, the full impact of which “may never be known.”

While the fires’ impact may “catastrophic” on “humanity as a whole,” their worst effects, Bachelet said, “are suffered by the women, men, and children who live in these areas—among them, many indigenous peoples.”

The high commissioner also pointed to Hurricane Dorian, which devastated the Bahamas last week. The storm “accelerated with unprecedented speed over an ocean warmed by climate shifts, becoming one of the strongest Atlantic hurricanes ever to hit land,” she said, and took “a terrible toll on human life.” But worse could be yet to come for the Bahamas and other Caribbean nations, she said, as rising sea levels may submerge portions of the countries and unleash “an inestimable loss for humanity.”

Laying out some of the impacts of the crisis, she said:

WHO expects climate change to cause approximately 250,000 additional deaths per year between 2030 and 2050—from malnutrition, malaria, diarrhea, and heat stress alone. In many nations, chaotic weather patterns and other manifestations of our environmental emergency are already reversing major development gains; exacerbating conflict, displacement and social tension; hampering economic growth; and shaping increasingly harsh inequalities.

Environmental human rights defenders are performing “a great service… to humanity,” said Bachelet, yet they face violence and abuse, particularly in Latin America. One activist she noted by name was Swedish teen Greta Thunberg. Bachelet said she was “disheartened” by the verbal abuse levied at Thunberg and other young activists, “who galvanize support for prevention of the harm their generation may bear.”

“The demands made by environmental defenders and activists are compelling,” Bachelet added, “and we should respect, protect, and fulfill their rights.”

Bachelet stressed the urgency of climate action, saying, “The window of opportunity for action may be closing—but there is still time to act.” She pointed to the U.N.’s Climate Action Summit later this month as a moment when states should commit to “the strongest possible action to prevent climate change, and to promote the resilience and rights of your people in dealing with environmental harm.”

“Effective action on climate requires bringing the uncommitted and unconvinced into a shared, just, and truly international effort,” said Bachelet. “Human rights can help galvanize that movement.”

Posted in Environment, UN0 Comments

Nestlé and the Privatization of Water

Nestlé’s Power within the Swiss Government. Swiss Development Aid

By Franklin Frederick

Global Research

Last February, the Government of Switzerland announced the creation of a Foundation in Geneva, under the name ‘Geneva Science and Diplomacy Anticipator’ (GSDA). The purpose of this new foundation is to regulate new technologies, from drones and automatic cars to genetic engineering, which are examples mentioned by the Swiss Foreign Minister Ignazio Cassis at the public launch of this initiative. According to Cassis, new technologies are developing very fast and this Foundation must ‘anticipate’ the consequences of these advances for society and politics. The Foundation will also be a bridge between the scientific and diplomatic communities, hence its strategic placement in Geneva, which houses several international organizations, from the UN to the World Trade Organization.

Image result for Peter Brabeck-Letmathe

The Swiss Foreign Ministry will contribute 3 million Swiss francs – just over 3 million dollars – to the Foundation’s initial phase from 2019 to 2022. The city and the Canton of Geneva will each contribute 300,000 Swiss francs for the same period and contributions from the private sector are also expected.

As President of this new Foundation, the former CEO of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe (image right) was chosen. The Vice-President is Patrick Aebischer, the former President of the Lausanne Federal Institute of Technology – EPFL is the French acronym. Patrick Aebischer has also been a member of the Nestlé Health Science Steering Committee since 2015, founded in 2011 by Nestlé and located right on the EPFL campus.

The choice of Peter Brabeck and Patrick Aebischer – both with strong connections to Nestlé – to run this new foundation has a very clear rationale. It primarily represents the recognition of Nestlé’s power within the Swiss Government – a former Nestlé CEO is, by definition, competent to drive this initiative. More upsettingly, Peter Brabeck’s choice is yet another example of the ever-closer “partnership” between governments and large transnational corporations, leading to the establishment of an international corporate oligarchy that is gradually taking over power within Western democracies.

Amply documented, Nestlé as a private corporate entity has battled various form of State regulation, the best-known case being the regulation of infant food marketing standards, particularly milk powder. The conflict between Nestlé under the direction of Peter Brabeck and the IBFAN – International Baby Food Action Network – is well known. (See the Muller report)

But the biggest irony – and the biggest danger – is that Brabeck’s choice to chair this Foundation indicates that the real purpose of this initiative is precisely to prevent any form of regulation by the government that might impose  limits on profits from the technological advances of the private sector.

It is also not expected that this Foundation will defend any protection of the public sphere or the environment against possible threats posed to society by new technological advances. On the contrary, Brabeck’s choice indicates that this Foundation’s primary objective is to defend and support  the private sector. What can be expected from this Foundation are proposals for self-regulation by the private sector in  cases of overly explicit conflicts, which is nothing effective. Since this Foundation is an initiative of the Government of Switzerland – certainly after talks with the private sector – and is located in Geneva, it will have an enormous influence  and I believe that organized social movements must carefully follow the future steps of this Foundation, as it embodies a huge threat to democracy.

Image result for Christian Frutiger

Just a few months after the launch of this new Foundation, the Government of Switzerland announced that Christian Frutiger (image left), Nestlé’s current Global Head of Public Affairs, will soon take over the Vice-Presidency of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation – SDC – which is the Swiss Government Agency responsible for development aid projects in other countries. Another example of the growing collaboration between the private sector and the government, but this time in a much more sensitive area: development cooperation.

This constitutes yet another example of the growing influence and presence  of Nestlé within the Government of Switzerland. This presence is neither new nor recent, and it is important to remember that the SDC not only supported the creation of the Water Resources Group – WRG – the initiative of Nestlé, Coca-Cola and Pepsi to privatize water, topics on  which I’ve written a few articles – (see this) as the SDC Director himself is a member of the WRG Governance Board.

The contradiction of the fact that Switzerland has one of the best public sanitation and water distribution services in the world, but uses Swiss citizens’ tax money to support water privatization in other countries through the SDC partnership with Nestlé, does not seem to be a problem.

The budget of Switzerland’s international cooperation for the period 2017-2020 is around 6.635 billion francs – a little over 6.730 billion dollars. As Deputy Director, Christian Frutiger will have a great deal of influence over decisions regarding the application of part of this budget. Most importantly, as Deputy Director, Frutiger will be directly responsible for the SDC’s ‘Global Cooperation’ Division and for the WATER program. Christian Frutiger started his career at Nestlé in 2007 as a Public Affairs Manager after working at the International Red Cross.

In 2006, Nestlé’s “Pure Life” bottled water brand became its most profitable brand and in 2007, with the purchase of the Sources Minérales Henniez S.A. group,

Nestlé became the leading company in bottled water within the Swiss market. In 2008, just a decade after its release, “Pure Life” became the world’s top-selling brand of bottled water. Within this context, it was only natural that Christian Frutiger’s work at Nestlé should focus on the topic of WATER.

In 2008, the Nestlé espionage scandal broke out in Switzerland. A  Swiss TV journalist denounced in a program that Nestlé hired security firm SECURITAS to infiltrate spies within Nestlé-critical groups within Switzerland, particularly the ATTAC group. Proven espionage took place between 2002 and 2003 but there is evidence of spying until 2006. ATTAC filed a lawsuit against Nestlé and SECURITAS, and in 2013, the Swiss court finally condemned Nestlé for organizing this espionage operation, indicating the involvement of at least four company directors in the operation.

The fact that Nestlé organized an illegal espionage operation within Switzerland and was condemned by the Swiss courts for doing this had no effect on the company’s relations with the Swiss Government and especially with the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, as one would expect. No one asked Nestlé’s CEO Peter Brabeck then if his company was capable of such actions within Switzerland itself, what could we expect from the behaviour of the same company in other countries of weaker democratic guarantees?

Infiltrating undercover agents under  false identitites to spy the ATTAC gorup is, to say the least, grossly unethical. But it seems that ethics was not one of the criteria that the SDC took into account when hiring Christian Frutiger who, throughout this episode, kept silent, never apologized to the people who were spied on by the company he worked for, and did everything to minimize the impact of the problem, which means that he complied with his employer’s lack of ethics. But the appointment of Frutiger as Deputy Director of the SDC points to much deeper and far-reaching problems, especially with regard to WATER, as it seems clear to me that his choice for this position is all about this topic.

Peter Brabeck’s appointment to chair the new foundation of the Swiss Government in Geneva and Christian Frutiger’s appointment as Vice-President of the Swiss Agency for Development Cooperation reveal a link between the private sector and the Swiss Government to deepen the privatization policies – especially water – and corporate control over public policies. But this articulation goes beyond the Government of Switzerland, it will take place above all at the level of the international agencies and organizations present in Geneva as Christian Frutiger will be responsible for the contacts with many of these organizations. These new roles also indicate that the transnational corporate sector is very consciously organizing and articulating itself at various government levels to ensure that its demands and policy proposals are met.

Not much reaction from the major Swiss NGOs should be expected in the face of all this, especially as SDC is the main financier of almost all of them, which explains the deep silence around Nestlé and its actions within Switzerland. A recent example of this silence occurred in Brazil at the World Water Forum held in Brasilia in March 2018. Since this Forum is in fact the Forum of large private enterprises,

Nestlé and WRG were present within the official Swiss pavilion, along with organizations such as HELVETAS, HEKS/EPER and Caritas Switzerland, three of Switzerland’s largest private development agencies and all supported by SDC. HEKS/EPER – which are German and French abbreviations – is linked to the Protestant Church of Switzerland, as Caritas Switzerland is linked to the Catholic Church.

During the Forum, 600 women from the Landless Movement occupied Nestlé’s premises in São Lourenço, Minas Gerais for a few hours, to draw attention to the problems caused by the company and the water bottling industry. None of these Swiss organizations expressed any solidarity with the Landless Movement, none condemned Nestlé’s practices, nor did they even mention on their return to Switzerland that this occupation had taken place. But HEKS/EPER and Caritas Switzerland claim to fight for the human right to water and “support” social movements – but not when they stand against Nestlé. In São Lourenço, located in the Circuito das Águas region in MG, and in many other places in Brazil, there are problems with Nestlé’s exploitation of water and citizen’s movements trying to protect its waters. HEKS/EPER has an office in Brazil but has never approached the groups that fight Nestlé in Brazil.

The SDC does not consider problems with Nestlé in many parts of the world – not just in Brazil – as a reason to re-evaluate its partnership with the company. There are very well-documented problems with Nestlé’s bottling operations and water pumping in the U.S.A, Canada, and France, for example – countries considered to be established democracies. What is common among all of these countries is that the governments always stand in favor of the company and against their own citizens. In the town of Vittel, France, the situation is absurd: studies by French government agencies indicate that the aquifer from which the Vittel population draws its water and from which Nestlé also collects bottled water as “VITTEL” is at risk of depletion. The aquifer is not in a position to withstand the long-term demands of the local population and Nestlé’s bottling company. The solution proposed by the French authorities: to build a pipeline about 50 km long to seek water in a region neighboring Vittel to meet the needs of the population – leaving Nestlé free to exploit the Vittel aquifer waters!

In Wellington County, Canada, a local group called Wellington Water Watchers was created to protect its waters from Nestlé exploration, which has the support of the local government to renew its permission to continue bottling water. In Michigan, U.S.A, the problem is similar. None of this seems to bother the Swiss Government, the SDC, or Christian Frutiger – and if such problems occur in these countries, what couldn’t happen in countries that are much more fragile in their social and political organization? As current Head of Public Affairs of Nestlé, Christian Frutiger has done his best to ignore completely the problems created by his employer in many countries.

As I write, Europe is suffering from an intense heat wave. There is water rationing in France, and fire hazards in many places. Big cities like Paris suffer from record-high temperatures never recorded before, and water consumption only tends to increase. On the other hand, glaciers are melting at an increasing rate and water is becoming increasingly scarce. Groundwater sources, many of them fossil water, are an important reserve for the future and should remain untouched. But the greed of bottling companies like Nestlé are acquiring more water sources. The picture is the same all over the planet – the remaining unpolluted waters are increasingly in the hands of a few companies.

In Brazil under the Bolsonaro government, the situation is even worse, with an environmental minister whose task is to facilitate the taking of Brazilian natural resources by foreign capital. It is important to remember that the main shareholder of the AMBEV group is the Swiss-Brazilian citizen Jorge Paulo Lemann, who has excellent communication channels with the Swiss Government. AMBEV is also part of the WRG which has already opened its first office in Brazil to support the privatization of SABESP, the public water company in the state of São Paulo. (see more here).

What is happening in Switzerland is just the tip of the iceberg – the visible part is the international articulation of big corporations, and the taking over of public space for political decisions by the world corporate oligarchy. We have to be vigilant and well organized to defend our waters, our earth and our society from the corporate attack on the common good.

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Leaked UN Draft Report Warns Rising, Warming Oceans ‘Poised to Unleash Misery’ Worldwide

The assessment details anticipated declines in fish stocks as well as increases in damage by superstorms and displacement due to rising seas

by: Jessica Corbett

A dock sits damaged near the Statue of Liberty

A dock sits damaged near the Statue of Liberty, which remained closed to the public six weeks after Hurricane Sandy on December 13, 2012 in New York City. (Photo: John Moore/Getty Images)

A draft United Nations report warns “the same oceans that nourished human evolution are poised to unleash misery on a global scale unless the carbon pollution destabilizing Earth’s marine environment is brought to heel,” according to Agence France-Presse, which exclusively reported on the 900-page scientific assessment Thursday.

The forthcoming report from a U.N. body that assesses science related to the human-caused planetary emergency is due to be released to the public Sep. 25, after diplomats and experts meet in Monaco to approve the final Summary for Policymakers.

AFP, which obtained a draft of the U.N. assessment, reported:

Destructive changes already set in motion could see a steady decline in fish stocks, a hundred-fold or more increase in the damages caused by superstorms, and hundreds of millions of people displaced by rising seas, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) “special report” on oceans and Earth’s frozen zones, known as the cryosphere.

As the 21st century unfolds, melting glaciers will first give too much and then too little to billions who depend on them for fresh water, it finds.

Without deep cuts to manmade emissions, at least 30 percent of the northern hemisphere’s surface permafrost could melt by century’s end, unleashing billions of tonnes of carbon and accelerating global warming even more.

The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate will follow the IPCC’s recent reports about what the world would look like with 1.5°C of warmingabove pre-industrial levels—the lower target of the global Paris climate agreement—and the need for transformative changes to land use to address both planetary heating and hunger.

In a statement earlier this year, Debra Roberts, co-chair of IPCC Working Group II—which focuses on the vulnerability of socio-economic and natural systems to the climate crisis—noted that the U.N. body’s October report showed the broad benefits to people and natural ecosystems of limiting global warming to 1.5°C.

“The Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate takes this story one step further by evaluating how human and natural communities with be affected by the impacts of climate change on two earth systems that touch all of our lives directly or indirectly, the ocean and the frozen areas of the world,” Roberts said. “It also assesses how we can set the course for a more sustainable and equitable future by reducing or better managing this impact.”

While those working on the IPCC’s ocean report aim to provide the international community with yet another tool to help avert the most catastrophic potential consequences of rising temperatures, AFP pointed out that the crucial advice for policymakers will be released “too late to be considered by world leaders gathering two days earlier for a summit convened by U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to extract stronger national commitments in confronting the climate crisis.”

When it comes to the September summit, which is focused on the key goals of the Paris accord, AFP reported that “Guterres may be disappointed by what the world’s major greenhouse gas emitters put on the table, according to experts tracking climate politics in China, the United States, the European Union, and India.”

“The Big Four—accounting for nearly 60 percent of global fossil fuel-based emissions—all face devastating ocean- and ice-related impacts, but none seem prepared just announce more ambitious goals for purging carbon from their economies,” AFPcontinued, detailing some of those impacts based on the IPCC draft.

By 2050, many low-lying megacities and small island nations will experience “extreme sea level events” every year, even under the most optimistic emissions reduction scenarios, the report concludes.

By 2100, “annual flood damages are expected to increase by two to three orders of magnitude,” or 100 to 1,000 fold, the draft summary for policymakers says.

Even if the world manages to cap global warming at 2°C, the global ocean waterline will rise enough to displace more than a quarter of a billion people.

Experts are divided on the anticipated timeline for such mass displacement due to sea level rise. However, Ben Strauss, CEO and chief scientist of the U.S.-based research group Climate Central, told AFP that “even if the number is 100 or 50 million by 2100, that’s still a major disruption and a lot of human misery.”

Strauss, whose research informs some of the IPCC report’s conclusions, added that “if we warm the planet by 2°C by 2100 we will only be at the beginning of a runaway train ride of sea level rise.”

In an op-ed published Thursday by Reuters, Greenpeace International executive director Jennifer Morgan declared that “tackling the climate emergency and protecting our oceans go hand-in-hand,” noting that “the oceans naturally take in huge amounts of carbon dioxide and are a key defense against the worsening impacts of climate change.

Morgan called on world leaders attending the U.N. summit in September to “commit to adopting a strong Global Ocean Treaty in 2020.” She wrote:

The scope of this new global agreement could be huge: almost half of the planet. The High Seas, oceans beyond borders, cover more space on our planet than all continents combined. Sadly, today these international waters are being ruthlessly exploited. In addition to climate change, pressures from overfishing, deep sea mining exploration, oil drilling, and plastic pollution are pushing our oceans to the verge of collapse. Only around 1 percent of the global seas are properly protected. There is no effective legal instrument that allows the creation of ocean sanctuaries—areas off-limits to harmful human activities—on international waters.

“Scientists are clear that we need to protect at least 30 percent of our global oceans by 2030 if we are to safeguard wildlife and to help mitigate the impacts of climate change,” Morgan added. “But that will only happen if an ambitious ocean treaty is adopted fast and opens the door to creating effective ocean sanctuaries in international waters.”

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Global Climate Movement: Darkest Before the Dawn

Climate action from above—like proposals for a Green New Deal—is both driven by and will only be achieved by determined and relentless pressure from below

byRoy Morrison

A cimate change activist in a hammock occupying Oxford Circus in the busy shopping district of central London on April 18, 2019 wakes on the fourth day of an environmental protest by the Extinction Rebellion group earlier this year in the United Kingdom. (Photo: Isabel Infantes/AFP/Getty Images)

Wildfires burning  in the Amazon and Siberia, unrelenting heat waves, 100-year floods happening yearly are signs of our times—the worst of times.

A global climate change movement is emerging as we face the real threats to life and  to global civilization posed by accelerating climate change. This is a matter of survival, not a blinkered environmentalism to benefit the rich.

The sudden appearance of millions of people in the streets of Hong Kong in defense of democracy is a glimpse of the billions that will fill the streets in the coming years to demand and achieve effective and swift climate change action and climate justice for all.

“Locally, city-wide, state-wide, nationally, internationally we must join the fight as if our lives depends upon it, because they do. Now’s the time to join the movement for stopping global climate change and for climate justice.”

The emergence, for example, of a Green New Deal advanced by AOC is followed by aggressive climate plans by Jay Inslee and Bernie Sanders, and by forthcoming candidate climate debates. This is reality. But accomplishing real action must be pushed relentlessly by a determined non-violent grassroots movement that will not countenance business and carbon pollution as usual.

This is a movement that will that will encompass groups ranging from Extinction Rebellion,, Greenpeace, China Youth Climate Action Network, Climate Group India and on and on. This will include many thousands of local groups encompassing the range of global cultural diversity like Swayam Shikshan Prayog in India that takes an ecological approach working with women entrepreneurs. It will be a movement led by working people and their unions, by students, by farmers, and foresters, by fishers, by senior citizens, and business people.

In retrospect,  we will say it was darkest before the dawn of a climate movement with unprecedented numbers and Gandhian persistence in demanding and accomplishing  healing change.

Cause and Effect

Climate change is the consequence of global pollution, the common practices of industrial civilization powered by fossil fuels combusted with 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide pouring into the atmosphere unabated each year.

A global problem must be solved by global action by all. This is focused not only on global policies, but on what happens where we live, where we work. It is action that must demand and implement prompt action on all levels:

  • On slashing carbon and other green house gas emissions, on removing existing excess carbon dioxide from the atmosphere toward sustainable preindustrial levels of 300 parts per million. This is measured individually  for your Town by  carbon dioxide emissions limited to about 3 tons per person per year  and similar levels of carbon sequestration per year in soil and biomass
  • On building the renewable energy infrastructure to power our civilization;
  • On allowing sustainable ecological practices in agriculture, forestry, industry, industry

Climate Action from Above and Below

Climate action from above—like proposals for a Green New Deal—is both driven by and will only be achieved by determined and relentless pressure from below. A global climate movement’s global demands will only be as effective as the strength of power from below manifested through non-cooperation and non-violent action in the streets and voter action at the polls.

Under business as usual, Mitch McConnell can refuse to bring a climate change bill to  a vote that he knows will pass, but it will make a considerable difference if hundreds of thousands are non-violently shutting down the nation’s Capital for weeks.

We are in a fight for our lives and for the generations to come. Locally, city-wide, state-wide, nationally, internationally we must join the fight as if our lives depends upon it, because they do. Now’s the time to join the movement for stopping global climate change and for climate justice. Raise your voice. Offer your skills. Now.

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‘It Is Time to Rebel’: Listen to The 1975’s New Track Featuring Speech by Climate Leader Greta Thunberg

At the Swedish teen activist’s request, all proceeds will go to Extinction Rebellion

byJessica Corbett

Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and The 1975's Matty Healy

Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg and The 1975’s Matty Healy pose for a photo. (Photo: Jordan Hughes)

British pop rock band The 1975 released the first track of their forthcoming album Wednesday, which features Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg delivering an instrumental-backed speech about the global climate emergency.

“Music has the power to break through barriers, and right now we really need to break through some barriers if we are to face this emergency.”—Extinction Rebellion“We are right now in the beginning of a climate and ecological crisis. And we need to call it what it is. An emergency,” 16-year-old Thunberg says on the nearly five-minute song, which closely resembles her speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last year. “It is now time for civil disobedience. It is time to rebel.”

Each of the band’s past three albums has kicked off with a track titled “The 1975,” but this latest version for Notes on a Conditional Form is a notable departure from the previous ones. At Thunberg’s request, all proceeds from the track will go to the climate action group Extinction Rebellion.

Speaking about the song to The Guardian, Thunberg said: “I’m grateful to get the opportunity to get my message out to a broad new audience in a new way. I think it’s great that The 1975 is so strongly engaged in the climate crisis. We quickly need to get people in all branches of society to get involved. And this collaboration I think is something new.”

Promoting the track on Twitter Thursday, the Nobel Peace Prize nominee noted that any money made from the song will go to Extinction Rebellion, whose members engage in civil disobedience across the globe to demand that governments take bolder action to address the human-caused climate crisis.

Extinction Rebellion issued a “massive thank you” to Thunberg and the band in a statement Thursday.

“Greta you are an outstanding human,” said the group. “You were there when Extinction Rebellion launched back on Parliament Square in London just nine months ago. Again and again you show your support in meaningful ways—from small kind acts to things like this. We salute you sister. “

“To the 1975s, we thank you massively for your rebellious contribution and promise to put this to good use,” the group added. “We’re loving your commitment to rebel for life with us. Music has the power to break through barriers, and right now we really need to break through some barriers if we are to face this emergency. We are currently heading towards 4 degrees of heating for the world.”

Read the full text of Thunberg’s speech from the track, as transcribed by The Guardian:

We are right now in the beginning of a climate and ecological crisis.

And we need to call it what it is. An emergency.

We must acknowledge that we do not have the situation under control and that we don’t have all the solutions yet. Unless those solutions mean that we simply stop doing certain things.

We admit that we are losing this battle.

We have to acknowledge that the older generations have failed. All political movements in their present form have failed.

But homo sapiens have not yet failed.

Yes, we are failing, but there is still time to turn everything around. We can still fix this. We still have everything in our own hands.

But unless we recognise the overall failures of our current systems, we most probably don’t stand a chance.

We are facing a disaster of unspoken sufferings for enormous amounts of people. And now is not the time for speaking politely or focusing on what we can or cannot say. Now is the time to speak clearly.

Solving the climate crisis is the greatest and most complex challenge that homo sapiens have ever faced. The main solution, however, is so simple that even a small child can understand it. We have to stop our emissions of greenhouse gases.

And either we do that, or we don’t.

You say that nothing in life is black or white.

But that is a lie. A very dangerous lie.

Either we prevent a 1.5 degree of warming, or we don’t.

Either we avoid setting off that irreversible chain reaction beyond human control, or we don’t.

Either we choose to go on as a civilization or we don’t.

That is as black or white as it gets.

Because there are no grey areas when it comes to survival.

Now we all have a choice.

We can create transformational action that will safeguard the living conditions for future generations.

Or we can continue with our business as usual and fail.

That is up to you and me.

And yes, we need a system change rather than individual change. But you cannot have one without the other.

If you look through history, all the big changes in society have been started by people at the grassroots level. People like you and me.

So, I ask you to please wake up and make the changes required possible. To do your best is no longer good enough. We must all do the seemingly impossible.

Today, we use about 100 million barrels of oil every single day. There are no politics to change that. There are no rules to keep that oil in the ground.

So, we can no longer save the world by playing by the rules. Because the rules have to be changed.

Everything needs to change. And it has to start today.

So, everyone out there, it is now time for civil disobedience. It is time to rebel.

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As Deadly Heat Waves Sweep Globe, Research Shows Planet Warming at Rate Not Seen in 2,000 Years

“Even when we push our perspective to the earliest days of the Roman Empire, we cannot discern any event that is remotely equivalent—either in degree or extent—to the warming over the last few decades.”

byJake Johnson, staff

A protester is seen holding a placard during a climate change demonstration. (Photo: Ronen Tivony/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

As France, India, the U.S., and other nations face unprecedented and deadly heat waves, new research published Wednesday showed the planet has warmed more quickly in recent decades than at any point in the past 2,000 years.

The new research, published in the journals Nature and Nature Geoscience, draws upon historical data which demonstrates warming in the 20th century has been more rapid and widespread than in the past, refuting climate deniers’ common refrain that current warming is part of a natural cycle.

As the BBC reported, the research team “reconstructed the climate conditions that existed over the past 2,000 years using 700 proxy records of temperature changes, including tree rings, corals and lake sediments” and “determined that none of these climate events occurred on a global scale.”

By contrast, the new research (pdf) states, “the warmest period of the past two millennia occurred during the twentieth century for more than 98 percent of the globe.”

“This provides strong evidence that anthropogenic global warming is not only unparalleled in terms of absolute temperatures,” said the scientists, “but also unprecedented in spatial consistency within the context of the past 2,000 years.”

Scott St. George, a physical geographer at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, said of the new research that the “familiar maxim that the climate is always changing is certainly true.”

“But even when we push our perspective to the earliest days of the Roman Empire,” St. George added, “we cannot discern any event that is remotely equivalent—either in degree or extent—to the warming over the last few decades.”

The research comes as people across the globe are pressuring their governments to treat the climate crisis as an emergency and act accordingly.

As Common Dreams reported Wednesday, thousands of people in more than 150 countries are expected to take part in climate strikes in September.

“Our house is on fire—let’s act like it,” says the strikes’ call-to-action. “We demand climate justice for everyone.”

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‘This Is Not Normal’: Record-Smashing European Heat Wave Sparks Demands to Combat Climate Emergency

“The climate is changing. Use your voice, wallet, and votes to fight it.”

byJessica Corbett

Europe heat

Heat records were smashed across Western Europe on Thursday. (Image: Copernicus Emergency Management Service)

Following days of warnings from meteorologists, temperatures soared to historic highs throughout Western Europe Thursday, eliciting impassioned demands for governments to take more ambitious action to combat the climate crisis.

“Without climate change we wouldn’t have hit the peaks that we’re hitting right now.”
—Peter Stott, the Met Office

Heat records were shattered Thursday in regions of Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

That came after, as the New York Times reported, “officials sounded high-temperature health alarms on Wednesday, mindful that some previous heat waves have claimed thousands of lives across a region where people are not used to such weather, structures are not built for it and few homes have air conditioning.”

Peter Stott of the U.K.’s national weather service, the Met Office, explained on BBC Radio 5 Live that the current heat wave is the result of “weather and climate acting in concert.”

“What we have at the moment is this very warm stream of air, coming up from northern Africa, bringing with it unusually warm weather,” he said. “But without climate change we wouldn’t have hit the peaks that we’re hitting right now.”

Karsten Haustein, a climate scientist and meteorologist at the University of Oxford, tweeted: “This. Is. Climate. Change.”

In a statement Thursday, Johannes Cullmann, director of the Climate and Water Department at the World Meteorological Organization, also connected the scorching temperatures that Europeans are enduring this week to the broader trend of anthropogenic global warming.

“Such intense and widespread heatwaves carry the signature of man-made climate change. This is consistent with the scientific finding showing evidence of more frequent, drawn out, and intense heat events as greenhouse gas concentrations lead to a rise in global temperatures,” Cullmann said. “WMO expects that 2019 will be in the five top warmest years on record, and that 2015-2019 is to be the warmest of any equivalent five-year period on record.”

Meteorologist Eric Holthaus took to Twitter to track various record-smashing measurements. In his tweets about Europe’s life-threatening heat wave, Holthaus repeatedly declared, “We are in a climate emergency.”

As the temperature in Paris continued to rise Thusrday, Holthaus continued to post updates. When it hit 108.7°F (42.6°C) in the late afternoon, he noted that “this breaks the previous all-time heat record by 4°F—a shocking amount for a city with such a long history.”

Responding to the updates out of Paris, Swedish teen climate activist Greta Thunberg wrote on Twitter, “The heat records are not just being broken all over the place… they are being smashed.”

Tweeting with the hashtag #HottestDayOnRecord, Greenpeace U.K. called out global governments for their failure to adequately address the climate emergency.

The U.K. arm of the advocacy group Friends of the Earth warned that “days like this will become the new normal unless governments unite to take real climate action.”

“This is not normal,” scientist and writer Andrew Steele tweeted about the new temperature records. “The climate is changing. Use your voice, wallet and votes to fight it.”

This is the second heat wave to hit Europe this summer, following one in last month—which, globally, was the hottest June ever recorded, according to multiple analyses.

Looking ahead, Bob Henson wrote for Weather Underground Wednesday that “toward the weekend, the intense heat will translate northward and eastward into parts of Scandinavia, where monthly and all-time records may fall. By early next week, upper-level high pressure—perhaps stronger than anything ever recorded at these latitudes—will extend from northern Scandinavia to the North Pole. This pattern may cause Arctic sea ice, which was already at a record low extent for the date on Wednesday, to diminish at a rapid rate into early August.”

The dangerous temperatures across the continent—as well as parts of the United States and Asia—come as new research reveals that the planet is warming at an unprecedented rate not seen in the past 2,000 years.

Posted in EnvironmentComments Off on ‘This Is Not Normal’: Record-Smashing European Heat Wave Sparks Demands to Combat Climate Emergency

Environmental and Public Interest Groups Demand EPA Revoke Monsanto’s License to Pollute

Groups deliver 149,559 petitions as EPA considers extending glyphosate registration

Todayenvironmental and consumer organizations are delivering more than 149,000 public comments to the Environmental Protection Agency advocating for a ban on glyphosate, aka Monsanto’s RoundUp, which is linked to cancer. The EPA is collecting public comments until July 5th for glyphosate’s proposed interim registration review, which could allow glyphosate to be used in the U.S. for another 15 years.

The science is clear about glyphosate. This dangerous herbicide causes serious health risks, including cancer, and threatens our environment,” said Jason Davidson with Friends of the Earth.“EPA must do its job and ban this toxic pesticide instead of prioritizing corporate profits.” 

Monsanto (now owned by Bayer (BAYRY), made $4.8 billion in revenue from glyphosate sales in 2015. The EPA claims that glyphosate does not cause cancerignoring the United Nations and California’s Office of Health Hazard Assessment, both of which have classified the herbicide as linked to cancer.However, EPA’s Office of Research and Development determined that the Office of Pesticide Programs did not follow proper protocol in its evaluation of glyphosate. EPA included Monsanto-funded studies in its evaluation of the chemical and has a history of collusion with industry.

“EPA is getting the science wrong on glyphosate, and needs to listen to international agencies and peer-reviewed literature on the dangers posed by widespread use of this herbicide,” said Drew Toher, community resource and policy director at Beyond Pesticides. “While continuing to pressure EPA, we encourage advocates to get active in their community, and work with their local elected officials towards organic policies that stop glyphosate and other toxic pesticides like it.”

“No company’s profits are more important than children’s health and the health of our fragile ecosystems. The EPA must uphold its mission and ban glyphosate,” said Brandy Doylewith CREDO Action.

“It’s time for the EPA to acknowledge that glyphosate, which is never used alone, if reapproved, will continue in the form of glyphosate herbicides, to contaminate our tap water, breast milk, baby food, formulas, cereals, thousands of food types, and cotton products,” said Zen Honeycutt, executive director, Moms Across America. “It will continue to destroy soil quality, which contributes to climate change, the decline of marine and wildlife and the environment. In short, the only way the EPA can do its job, is to revoke it’s license.”

“Getting cancers like non-Hodgkin lymphoma shouldn’t be a condition of employment in agriculture or landscaping—or a risk of using a weedkiller at home,” said Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association. “It’s time for the EPA to stand up to Monsanto-Bayer and protect farmers, farm workers, lawn care workers and consumers. If Trump’s EPA chooses to ignore the science, Congress should step in.”

“It is not enough for companies to offer some products that are organic to consumers who are willing to pay for them.  We need the EPA to protect all consumers from toxins in foods. And we need to protect our pollinators, farm workers, and the environment, so we can ensure that future generations have safe and healthy foods,” said Todd Larsen, executive co-director, Green America.

Posted in Campaigns, EnvironmentComments Off on Environmental and Public Interest Groups Demand EPA Revoke Monsanto’s License to Pollute

‘Existential’ Risk of Climate Crisis Could Lead to Civilizational Collapse by 2050,

‘Existential’ Risk of Climate Crisis Could Lead to Civilizational Collapse by 2050, Warns Report

“The world is currently completely unprepared to envisage, and even less deal with, the consequences of catastrophic climate change.”

A house burns during the Woolsey Fire on November 9, 2018 in Malibu, California.

A house burns during the Woolsey Fire on November 9, 2018 in Malibu, California. (Photo: David McNew/Getty Images)

Even by the standards of the dire predictions given in climate studies, this one’s extreme: civilization itself could be past the point of no return by 2050.

That’s the conclusion from Australian climate think tank Breakthrough National Centre for Climate Restoration, which released a report (pdf) May 30 claiming that unless humanity takes drastic and immediate action to stop the climate crisis, a combination of food production instability, water shortages, and extreme weather could result in a complete societal breakdown worldwide.

“We must act collectively,” retired Australian Admiral Chris Barrie writes in the foreword to the new study. “We need strong, determined leadership in government, in business and in our communities to ensure a sustainable future for humankind.”

Though the paper acknowledges that total civilizational collapse by 2050 is an example of a worst-case scenario, it stresses that “the world is currently completely unprepared to envisage, and even less deal with, the consequences of catastrophic climate change.”

David Spratt, Breakthrough’s research director and a co-author of the group’s paper, told Vice‘s tech vertical Motherboard that “much knowledge produced for policymakers is too conservative,” but that his new paper, by showing the extreme end of what could happen in just the next three decades, aims to make the stakes clear.

“Because the risks are now existential, a new approach to climate and security risk assessment is required using scenario analysis,” said Spratt.

The paper called on national security forces in Australia and across the world to step up to the challenge presented by the crisis.

“To reduce this risk and protect human civilization, a massive global mobilization of resources is needed in the coming decade to build a zero-emissions industrial system and set in train the restoration of a safe climate,” the report reads. “This would be akin in scale to the World War II emergency mobilization.”

On Tuesday, the idea of emergency mobilization akin to a world war was echoed by Nobel-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz in an opinion piece for The Guardian.

Stiglitz called on world governments to recognize the level of threat that the climate crisis presents and to act accordingly:

Yes, we can afford it, with the right fiscal policies and collective will. But more importantly, we must afford it. Climate change is our World War III. Our lives and civilization as we know it is at stake, just as they were in World War II.

Spratt agreed that a sense of collective urgency must be seen as the crucial element for world governments.

“A short window of opportunity exists for an emergency, global mobilization of resources, in which the logistical and planning experiences of the national security sector could play a valuable role,” Spratt said.

Posted in Campaigns, EnvironmentComments Off on ‘Existential’ Risk of Climate Crisis Could Lead to Civilizational Collapse by 2050,

‘Bombshell’ Report: Internal Memos Show Trump EPA Ignored Agency Scientists’ Calls to Ban Asbestos


“If Administrator Wheeler and the Trump administration won’t act, then Congress must.”


“All types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs),” according to the World Health Organization. (Photo: DoctorButtsMD/Flickr/cc)

In a report that elicited calls for congressional action, the New York TimesrevealedWednesday that “senior officials at the Environmental Protection Agency disregarded the advice of their own scientists and lawyers in April when the agency issued a rule that restricted but did not ban asbestos.”

“I can’t think of an easier vote for members of Congress to cast than for a bill that bans a substance responsible for the deaths of so many.”
—Melanie Benesh, EWG

Asbestos is a group of fibrous, heat-resistant minerals used in manufactured goods, particularly building materials. According to the World Health Organization, “All types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs).”

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler said in a statement last month that the agency’s new rule “gives us unprecedented authorities to protect public health” and block certain products from the market. However, environmental and public health advocates raised concerns at the time about loopholes that remain, with one critic calling the regulation “toothless.”

Criticism of the rule resurfaced Wednesday when the Times reported on a pair of internal EPA memos (pdf) from last August, in which more than a dozen agency experts wrote:

Rather than allow for (even with restrictions) any new uses for asbestos, EPA should seek to ban all new uses of asbestos because the extreme harm from this chemical substance outweighs any benefit—and because there are adequate alternatives to asbestos.

Melanie Benesh, legislative attorney at the Environmental Working Group (EWG), was among those who demanded action from federal lawmakers following the “bombshell” report.

“The sheer number of lives cut short and families destroyed from asbestos exposure demand nothing less than an outright ban,” Benesh said in a statement. “I can’t think of an easier vote for members of Congress to cast than for a bill that bans a substance responsible for the deaths of so many.”

The reporting came as a subcommittee of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce held a hearing Wednesday morning to consider legislation that would amend the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) “to prohibit the manufacture, processing, and distribution in commerce of asbestos and asbestos-containing mixtures and articles.”

“If Administrator Wheeler and the Trump administration won’t act,” said Benesh, “then Congress must by passing this critical piece of legislation that finally bans asbestos.”

Sharing a link to the Times article on Twitter, Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-N.J.), the committee’s chairman, said, “This is exactly why we need to ban asbestos and why my committee is holding a hearing today on legislation that would fully ban this toxic material.”

Rep. Frank Pallone


This is exactly why we need to ban asbestos and why my Committee is holding a hearing today on legislation that would fully ban this toxic material. 

Debris contaminated with asbestos was removed from a burned home in Coffey Park, Calif., in 2017. 

E.P.A. Leaders Disregarded Agency’s Experts in Issuing Asbestos Rule, Memos Show

The rule, issued in April, restricted the use of asbestos, a known carcinogen, but agency scientists and lawyers had called in two memos for a ban.

During the committee hearing, Pallone noted that it has been 40 years since the EPA started its work to ban asbestos under the TSCA, 30 years since the agency finalized its ban, and 28 years since the ban was struck down in court—and yet, “asbestos is still being imported into the United States, it is still being used in this country, and it is still killing about 40,000 Americans every year.”

“Twenty-eight years of frustration, of sickness, and loss,” he said. “We have known the dangers of asbestos for decades. Enough is enough.”

The hearing centered on H.R. 1603 (pdf)—also known as the Alan Reinstein Ban Asbestos Now Act of 2019. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), the bill’s sponsor, took to Twitter Wednesday to highlight a testimony from the widow of the legislation’s namesake.

After Alan Reinstein was diagnosed with mesothelioma in 2003, Linda Reinstein and Doug Larkin co-founded the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization (ADAO). Alan Reinstein and Larkin both died in the years that followed, but Linda Reinstein remains ADAO’s president and CEO.

Suzanne Bonamici


Chairman @FrankPallone was right when he said at the beginning of today’s hearing that “enough is enough… We don’t have time for more legal maneuvering in a drawn-out court battle while tens of thousands of people are dying.” We must .

Suzanne Bonamici


The legislation is named in honor of Linda Reinstein’s husband, who lost his life to an asbestos-related disease. I am grateful to @Linda_ADAO for providing such a powerful testimony on behalf of all of the families who have hurt by asbestos.

Embedded video

“I’m honored to have H.R. 1603 named after my husband,” Linda Reinstein told lawmakers Wednesday, “but it’s really for the hundreds of thousands of Alans who have paid a price for this man-made disaster with their lives.”

Posted in USA, EnvironmentComments Off on ‘Bombshell’ Report: Internal Memos Show Trump EPA Ignored Agency Scientists’ Calls to Ban Asbestos

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