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Updated: 21 min 46 sec ago

Amazing News for the Amazon Reef! Brazil has stopped the sale of Oil Blocks in the Amazon Mouth Basin

Thu, 2017-11-16 17:12

We’ve prevented new threats to the Amazon Reef, and this is the latest – other oil giants won’t be able to bid for the Amazon Mouth Basin blocks in the 15th bidding round happening next year in 2018. Well done Brazil’s Energy Policy Council (CNPE) for making this happen, whilst we still wait for Total (BP’s partner in crime) to present their last environmental assessment.They shouldn’t be granted their licence, and we’ll still keep pressuring BP to withdraw from the region until they withdraw.

Let’s take it back a bit…

Why are bidding rounds important?

A bidding round is an auction. The government sells blocks for oil companies, giving them an opportunity to start oil exploration and exploitation projects.

In 2013, the 11th bidding round gave Total and BP these blocks to drill for oil near the pristine Amazon Reef. After this, the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) was made, to show the project was safe for the surrounding environment. Except, it wasn’t safe which is why they’ve had to resubmit several times. They also have to share the opinions of local communities at public meetings, as they’ll be affected by the oil drilling too.

BP’s public meetings are happening right now in Amapa.

The blocks can’t be offered until 2019, and we’ll keep working for them to be removed forever.

Oil drilling near this incredibly unique ecosystem just shouldn’t be an option. Over the last year, we’ve exposed the risks associated with oil projects in the Amazon Mouth Basin alongside concerned scientists, local communities and the environmental agency responsible for granting oil drilling licenses – IBAMA. On August 29th, they rejected Total’s environmental impact assessment due to concerns that an oil spill could reach the Amazon Reef. Most significantly, there would be up to 30% chance of oil reaching it in the event of a spill. This could impact neighbouring countries, possible new and endangered species, and local and traditional communities that depend on thriving oceans to live.

Total and BP haven’t been able to present a proper environmental documentation to justify the viability of their projects, and that’s because they can’t! They haven’t been able to prove that drilling near the Amazon Reef is not going to represent a big risk for this amazing and unexplored biome – and no other company will ever be able to. Any company trying to drill there will face the same problems, and we need to keep working to stop the oil industry from drilling near the Amazon Reef.

It’s not over yet- but we have a lot to celebrate!

What a year it’s been. More than 1.3 million people, the scientific community, IBAMA and the local communities have already said no to Total and BP’s plans to drill near the Amazon Reef, and now CNPE removed all the Amazon Mouth Basin blocks from the 15th bidding round. This is another clear message to Total and BP, who should immediately withdraw from drilling near the Amazon Reef.

We’ve prevented new and even more concerning threats for the Amazon Reef, but we need to work even harder to make this a definitive victory making sure that Total, BP and all other oil companies stay far away the Amazon Reef.


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Categories: Activist News

Antarctic krill – not just whale food

Thu, 2017-11-09 15:18

Krill is whale food. In fact, it’s a commonly held misbelief that ‘krill’ in Norwegian literally means ‘whale food’. It doesn’t, but it’s still true. Massive swarms of krill, a tiny micro-shrimp in the Antarctic Ocean, provide the principal food for blue whales – the largest animal that ever lived.

But krill is so much more than just whale food.

Antarctic Krill
Copyright: Uwe Kils/NOAA

There are lots of species of krill, and they exist in seas all over the world, but it’s in the Southern Ocean that they are most essential and where the marine life depends so directly on them. Krill are tiny crustaceans that look like a scaled-down shrimp and live in massive swarms of individual animals. They have some amazing talents, like the ability to produce glowing light (known as bioluminescence) and a neat trick of spontaneously moulting their shell to try and escape from predators.

In Antarctic seas, the largest species of krill is found – Antarctic krill. Colder waters are often home to bigger varieties of animal species, and at up to a whopping 6 centimetres long Antarctic krill weighs in as the biggest of the world’s 85 krill species. It also has the longest lifespan, growing to the ripe old age of 6 or 7 years, if it doesn’t get eaten first. Depending on the ice edge for food and shelter, krill munch on tiny plant plankton and inadvertently turn it into delicious food for pretty much everything else that can swim or dive in the icy southern seas.

Being eaten is an ever-present threat for krill. Not only do blue whales gulp down massive mouthfuls of millions of krill, but humpback, fin and minke whales travel to the Antarctic every year to gorge on them too. Antarctic penguins like Adélies and Gentoos also eat krill directly (something that is very evident when it makes their poo pink!) and regurgitate it for their fluffy chicks, as do other seabirds. Small fish eat krill, and there’s even an Antarctic seal (confusingly called a ‘crabeater’) which has evolved krill-catching dentistry to allow it to feast on these tiny crustaceans too.


Blue whale feeding on krill. Original video by Todd Chandler, Oregon State University/YouTube:


Krill is the living lifeblood of the Antarctic Ocean. Anything that doesn’t eat krill tends to eat something that just did, so the toothfish, leopard seals, albatross and orcas all depend on it too.

These tiny critters have a lot of ecological responsibility, yet very slim shoulders – so it’s lucky that there are plenty of them. It’s thought that Antarctic krill might number in the trillions and, by weight, be one of the most abundant animals on the planet. But we know their numbers fluctuate widely from year to year, and with their dependence on sea ice, it’s believed that climate change is having a hugely adverse effect too. So in truth, we simply don’t know how many krill there are or how dependable their populations will be in years to come.

There’s also the growing threat of the krill fishing industry to contend with, which is intent on expanding in the Antarctic and is lobbying governments hard to block any ocean sanctuary that would make waters off-limits to industrial fishing.

That’s bad news if you’re a hungry penguin, or a migrating whale that has travelled thousands of miles to feed. And it’s a massive worry for all of us who care about the penguins, seals, whales and seabirds of the Antarctic too.

After all, krill isn’t just whale food, it’s so much more important than that.

The Antarctic needs krill, and krill needs a break too. Please add your voice to our call to create a new massive Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary, and protect the amazing marine life living there.


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Categories: Activist News

Nice Try Coke But Your New European Bottle Strategy Isn’t Good Enough

Thu, 2017-11-09 09:35

This week Coca-Cola released their European sustainability strategy. Thanks to continued pressure from you, it looks like they are finally starting to own up to their enormous plastic footprint and the impact that it’s having on our oceans. Some of the pledges that Coca-Cola have made sound encouraging but is it all what it’s cracked up to be?

Are They Switching to Reusables?

Coca-Cola have pledged to make their products 100% recyclable or reusable by 2025. Given that polyethylene terephthalate (PET) – the material that they use to make their bottles –  is 100% recyclable the first part sounds like marketing spin. However a switch to reusables would be significant and reduce the number of bottles that choke our oceans. However they need to be more specific about the details, specifically what percentage of their bottles are they planning to make reusable? Also it’s important to note the timeline. By 2025, we’ll have about 100 million additional tonnes of plastic in our oceans. Our oceans are already choking with plastic. We need urgent action now.

Similarly, their pledge to work with local and national partners to collect 100% of their packaging is ambitious but what does it mean exactly? If the past is anything to go by, this means more emphasis on recycling schemes which shifts the blame to consumers. It’s not clear from this announcement whether Coke will now have a policy of supporting deposit return schemes (DRS) – which can lead to bottle return rates of 95% – across Europe. Following pressure from Greenpeace and others, Coke GB recently came out in support of DRS across the UK but they aren’t actively supporting it in other European countries. Is this set to change?

50% Recycled Plastic Content Is Nothing to Celebrate

Coke Europe say they want to ensure that all of their bottles are made from 50% recycled plastic content by 2025. But that isn’t ambitious when you consider that other soft drinks companies have managed to create bottles using 100% recycled plastic. Also globally Coke are only use a paltry 7% recycled plastic in the bottles. When will this change?

Alternative Delivery Systems Not More Plant Bottles

Coca-Cola’s pledge to lead the way in pioneering sustainable packing  is important. We need smart and innovative ways of delivery drinks like the smart fountains and refillable bottles that they are currently piloting at the University of Reading. We need to see schemes like this rolled out across Europe and for Coke Europe to release a detailed and concrete plan on how they aim to achieve this. What we don’t need are more plant bottles made from biodegradable plastic. Bio-plastic acts just like plastic in a marine environment. They become choking and entanglement hazards for wildlife and break down into microplastics causing the same environmental harm. Plant bottles are not the answer.

Plastic Pollution Isn’t Just in Europe

Overall, these commitments need to go further if Coke are going to stop their plastic bottles choking our oceans. It’s important to note that this is just their strategy for Europe. But our oceans know no boundaries. Plastic that ends up in the ocean from the UK can travel on the ocean’s current around the world. We need Coke to reduce their global plastic footprint and stop producing the 110 billion single use plastic bottles that they churn out each year.

The good news is that Coke is starting to listen to the thousands of you who have taken action. So let’s keep up the pressure! Coca-Cola are currently working on their global sustainability report due at the beginning of next year. Let’s get them to come up with a global sustainability plan that goes further. Keep signing and sharing the petition. We can win this!

The post Nice Try Coke But Your New European Bottle Strategy Isn’t Good Enough appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News

The Evidence is Clear – We Need a UK-Wide Deposit Return Scheme

Wed, 2017-11-08 15:35

Watching the latest episode of Blue Planet II, it was mesmerising to discover the secret world of the deep sea. From the the cute flapjack octopus search the seabed looking for worms to the sea toad who walk instead of swim, our seabeds are full of wonderful and rare sea creatures. But in the UK, there is a new and very unwelcome visitor threatening this environment.

Last week, Defra released their England Natural Environmental Indicators data report for 2016. The report included the latest figures on marine litter on seabeds around England. Instead of reporting a decrease in litter as was the case for the past three years, it was found that marine litter had actually increased. In 2016, 358 litter items were found per square kilometre of seabed. That is a 158% increase from last year! And the most commonly found items were plastic which made up 78% of the items found.

With up to 12 million tonnes of plastic entering our environment every year, this report is further proof of the threat plastic poses to our oceans. Once plastic enters the ocean it becomes a hazard for animals. They can become entangled in the plastic or mistake it for food and eat it. Larger plastics then break down over time into microplastics which have been found in everything from our sea salt, to our drinking water and in the seafood that we eat. We must do more to end ocean plastics and that involves individual, industry and government action.

As individuals we can all work to reduce our plastic footprint. We can swap our single use water bottles and coffee cups for reusable ones. We can refuse straws when we order drinks at restaurants. We can bring our own bags when we shopping. We can also try to purchase food at grocery shops that are not wrapped in plastic if we have the choice. Finally you can take our plastic pledge for find more ways you can reduce your plastic footprint.

Corporations that produce single use plastic bottles – one of most commonly found plastic item on beach cleans and the ocean’s surface – must do more to reduce their plastic footprint. This is why we’re calling on Coca-Cola who produce over 110 single use plastic bottles to reduce their plastic footprint. This can be achieved by using more recycled plastic in the production of their bottles or by looking at different ways to deliver their product like using smart fountains.

But we need government action on this issue which is why a UK-wide deposit return scheme (DRS) is important. These schemes involved paying a little more for a plastic bottle when you first purchase it and then getting the money back when the bottle is returned. About 150 million people use DRS worldwide from Germany to Australia to Sweden. The schemes have been credited with increased plastic bottle collection of up to 94% in some cases. With up to 16 million plastic bottles ending up in our environment every day and plastic bottle usage set to double in the coming years, it is clear that we need more action on plastic bottles.

Scotland is leading the way and are working hard to introduce a Scottish DRS scheme after 25,000 of you called on them to act. The UK government is currently taking evidence on the possibility of having a DRS scheme in England. We need to show them that their is public support for a UK-wide DRS. If you haven’t already, sign our petition and share with friends and family so we can work together to end ocean plastics.

The post The Evidence is Clear – We Need a UK-Wide Deposit Return Scheme appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News

Help create the largest protected area on Earth: an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary

Wed, 2017-11-01 10:47

If you tuned in to Blue Planet II on Sunday night, marvelling at the wonders beneath the waves (and, spoiler alert, the fish *flying* above them) then this should be an easy question. More or less ocean protection?

Almost half of our planet is a vast ocean beyond national borders which belongs to us all. These blue expanses are bigger than every continent combined and are home to an amazing array of sea creatures. Sitting on one end of our big blue planet is a thriving ocean where whales, seals and penguins live and raise their young: the Antarctic Ocean.


Two Hourglass dolphins breach.


But a warming climate and an ever-expanding commercial fishing industry are threatening this undisturbed area and its iconic creatures. The recent news that just two penguin chicks survived out of a colony of nearly 40,000 birds is a sign that something’s very wrong in the Antarctic.

The good news is: we have a chance to create the world’s largest protected area – a massive Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary (add your name to the petition). This would create a safe haven for incredible wildlife like whales and penguins, putting the waters off-limits to the industrial fishing vessels sucking up the tiny shrimp-like krill, on which all Antarctic life relies. Not only that, ocean sanctuaries ensure healthy oceans which soak up carbon dioxide and help us to tackle climate change.

To create this massive Antarctic Sanctuary, we need to act together to make sure our governments stand up for ocean protection. That’s why Greenpeace has just launched a new global campaign for an Antarctic Sanctuary five times the size of Germany, in the Weddell Sea. This sanctuary will cover 1.8 million square kilometres of ocean, protecting the home of Emperor penguins and the great whales.


Humpback whales show their flukes while feeding near the Antarctic ice edge.


The UK Government is part of an Antarctic Ocean Commission, which has the mandate to protect the seas surrounding Antarctica. These governments will make a decision in 12 months’ time on whether to create this enormous Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary.

But frustratingly this body is riddled with infighting and inaction. Just last week, the commission failed to agree on creating a new sanctuary in the East Antarctic region. Why? Because countries were lobbied by the fishing industry to water down the agreement so much, it was hardly worth passing. Without public pressure in support of protection, these Antarctic nations will continue to fall short on protecting our shared ocean.

We know campaigning works. In the 1980s, Greenpeace supporters around the world helped create a World Park in Antarctica, putting the landmass off-limits to companies seeking to drill and mine for fossil fuels and minerals. 


Greenpeace declares world park Antarctica


Just last year, we celebrated the creation of the Ross Sea Sanctuary in a triumph for Antarctic Ocean protection.

But the Ross Sea was just the beginning. Leading scientists say we should put in place strong protections for at least one-third of our oceans to allow the oceans to recover and build resilience to multiple threats. Our oceans are a key ally in tackling climate change and provide food for billions of people. What happens in the ocean definitely doesn’t stay in the ocean.

It’s not very often we get the chance to protect something before vested interests destroy it. But over the next 12 months, we can create the largest protected area on Earth. As industrial fishing companies step up their lobbying to block this Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary, our voices for protection need to become even louder. So while you wait for your next weekly fix of Blue Planet II, give something back to help our oceans thrive. Add your voice today to call on the government to protect the Antarctic ocean – home to over 9,000 incredible creatures – and help us make history.



The Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza

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Categories: Activist News

5 peaceful protests that prove you can still change the world

Fri, 2017-10-27 12:44

NBA players kneeling against white supremacy. Catalonians marching for independence. Quakers disarming Saudi-bound jets. In turbulent times, it’s inspiring to see protest happening — but when change doesn’t come, even the most ardent of campaigners can feel disheartened. What’s worse is that many who’ve never taken a stand can wonder whether they should bother getting involved at all.

Yet once your feet stop being sore, once the toxic tweets and critical column inches die down — quite often, we protesters win. Here are five times that peaceful acts of disobedience have transformed our world. Maybe they’ll inspire you — or someone you know — to get active.

1. Gandhi’s Salt March

Long before you could invite thousands to protests with the click of a Facebook button, Mahatma Gandhi led a march of tens of thousands of people to defy British rule in India.

Under colonial rules, as Brits cashed in on salt, Indians were forbidden from producing it. So in 1930, Gandhi set out in search of salt and as word spread of his brave plan, he gathered a crowd.

After months of walking and despite resistance from the police, Gandhi picked up the salt and in that one moment inspired civil disobedience across the country. He became a leader of the movement for independence and though it took 17 years from the Salt March, India eventually threw off the chains of British rule.

2. The Tree Sitters of Pureora

In 1978 logging companies planned to destroy a rainforest in New Zealand. Conservation activists built platforms in the treetops and stayed there to prevent the trees from being cut down. In response to the protests the government was forced to stop the logging and officially protect the area.

Using your body to stop something bad from happening is a well-established and effective strategy — right now, anti-fracking protesters have delayed fracking at the UK’s first ever fracking site by blocking trucks and vans in all types of creative ways. We should do well to remember the victory brought about by the Tree Sitters of Pureora when watching, or taking part, in those protests.

3. The Singing Revolution

In the 1980s most in the Baltic States had grown sick of the Soviet regime and many began taking peaceful action to gain independence. Across Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, groups began to spontaneously sing patriotic songs that had been banned by the Soviet regime in a sign of defiance. In 1989 two million people across the three countries’ capital cities joined hands in a ‘Baltic chain.’ Within months, Lithuania declared independence and other countries followed.

4. Civil rights sit-ins

Pelted with American fast food, covered in ketchup, beaten and arrested. That was often the fate of those who took part in peaceful sit-ins in 1960s USA. The peaceful movement for an end to segregation had already become strong but these young students knew what they would face when they sat on the cold restaurant seats merely asking to be served. Over just one summer, 1500 students taking part in the sit-ins had been arrested but soon their sacrifice paid off — many restaurants started to ditch segregation for good.

5. The Kingsnorth Six

Exactly ten years ago, Ben, Tim, Kevin, Huw, Will & Emily climbed the chimney of a UK coal plant that was producing as much carbon dioxide as 30 countries combined. Aiming to persuade the Labour government to abandon plans for new coal plants, the Greenpeace activists attempted to paint “Gordon, bin it” on the Kingsnorth coal chimney.

When they descended, the six volunteers were arrested and feared being sent to prison. But after 8 days in court, evidence from NASA’s climate change expert among others, convinced the jury that they should be exonerated. The precedent this decision set was huge — it justified further direct action against fossil fuel companies — and that night on BBC News it was reported that government plans for new coal plants now hung in the balance. Later the coal plants were cancelled for good and the UK is in the process of phasing out coal by 2025.

Of course there are countless acts like these that have made our world a fairer, more peaceful, and more green world. But these 5 protests show that all kinds of peaceful tactics, in all kinds of situations can create change. While some had immediate success, for other campaigns it took years.

Since a ship full of chequered shirt wearing Canadian activists set off to stop nuclear tests, Greenpeace hasn’t stopped believing in the power of peaceful direct action. We hope you never stop believing either.

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Categories: Activist News

Why, with your help, we’re taking the Norwegian Government to court

Thu, 2017-10-26 16:15

For the first time in 20 years the Norwegian government is opening up a new oil frontier in the Arctic and it puts our precious wildlife and planet at risk.

We believe this contravenes their own constitution that says the State shall ensure for everyone, including future generations, the right to a safe and healthy environment. And if that wasn’t enough it also violates the Paris Agreement which exists to prevent a dangerous rise in global temperatures of more than 1.5 degrees. So we’re going to court to prove it.

We can’t allow governments to put short term profit before the planet and it’s people like us that need to hold them to account.

So on 14 November, we’ll be going up against a powerful government and the interests of the richest industry in the world. That’s why we need you – to help us show the court that there’s a global movement backing this case. Because we know that what happens in the Arctic happens to us all.

Will you stand with us? Donate now

Burning oil fuels climate change and there is already more oil in existence than we can afford to burn – we don’t need new areas being opened for oil drilling especially in fragile environments like the Arctic.  Burning oil melts Arctic ice and fuels extreme weather events such as the recent hurricanes and floods we’ve seen around the world. We believe it’s not legal or logical so we’re taking the Norwegian government to court to stop them.

And It’s not just the Arctic at risk; BP and Total want to drill near the mouth of the Amazon Reef the Great Australian Bight is under threat from Chevron and vast areas of northern Alberta, Canada are all in immediate danger from expansion from tar sands affecting the people, land, water and wildlife. Big oil companies won’t stop unless someone takes a stand against them. That’s why we need you, to help us show in court there’s a global movement backing this case.

Whales in the Great Australian Bight

It takes time and money to take on a government so we’re currently asking our supporters to help fund the best legal team to block the Norwegian government’s decision to drill for oil in the Arctic. It could make sure no new oil drilling sites are opened up in the Arctic and set an international precedent that could stop oil expansion in other fragile places around the world. That, to me, would make it worth every penny.

Your financial support could help us gather the evidence needed to uncover and broadcast Statoil’s drilling plans and make sure we have the strongest case possible to win. With your help we stand a good chance of keeping millions of barrels of oil in the ground.

Greenpeace and it’s supporters are uniquely placed to make an example of this court case because we’ve been to the Arctic and showed the world what we have to lose if there is an oil spill in the treacherous waters there. We’re also working with our Norwegian friends Nature and Youth who have already helped us get more than 390,000 people to sign a petition that we’ll submit as evidence of the growing global movement against Arctic drilling.

Will you join them? Donate now

We’ve taken on Big Oil in the past and won; in 2015 Shell backed out of drilling in the Arctic and earlier this year we stood with the Inuit people of Clyde River, Canada to stop an oil project that threatened their wildlife.

Winning this case would be a massive blow to the expansion of the oil industry. And even if we lose we will continue to protect the planet, now and for future generations.

Thanks to you we can make a real change from dirty fossil fuels to smart, cheaper and renewable energy sources. With your help we will do everything in our power to keep oil in the ground to safeguard our planet.

A historic lawsuit against Arctic oil in Oslo, Norway

Please support us today –  Donate now

Please note your gift is vital and will fund the campaign area of greatest need, if appropriate.

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Categories: Activist News

Black History Month: How Fannie Lou Hamer inspires the modern climate movement

Thu, 2017-10-26 10:18

Tisha Brown is an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK. She has campaigned with both the environmental and anti-racism movements and is interested in the ways they intersect. She has chosen to write about US voting rights and food justice activist Fannie Lou Hamer for Black History Month.

Born in Mississippi in 1917, Hamer was the youngest of 20 children. From the age of 6, she picked cotton with her family who worked as sharecroppers on a plantation. Hamer would eventually become the plantation’s time and record keeper. In the 1960s, Hamer got involved in the civil rights movement. At the time, many Southerns states had enacted legislation like poll taxes and literacy tests that disenfranchised black voters. As an activist, she would frequently sing African-American spirituals like, ‘This Little Light of Mine’ during protests.

Although Hamer was quite well known for her work as a voting rights activists, she was also a food justice pioneer.  During the late 1960s, the civil rights movement focus shifted towards economic justice. Hamer advocated communal farming as a possible solution. She formed the Freedom Farm Cooperative in 1969 with Harry Belafonte in Wisconsin. The initiative provided poor families with food and farmers land to work and food to eat. Over 1,500 families were members of the co-operative that grew everything from cucumbers, soybeans, cotton and collard greens. The project accepted zero funding from the federal government and was 100% lead by grassroots activists.

Unfortunately during this same time, lots of factories were opening up in large northern cities across America. There was also a significant decline of farming work in the south as machinery began to replace the work of humans working the land.  As a result the Freedom Farm Cooperative struggles to compete with other farms in the area and eventually closed.

But Hamer’s legacy lives on today. After the financial crisis of 2008 and the steady decline of the American automotive industry, cities like Detroit became ghosts towns. Many lost their homes and entire neighbourhoods became lined with empty properties adorned with foreclosure signs. Over time, these homes were demolished and empty lots stood in their places. In the spirit of Fannie Lou Hamer, the local communities groups like the Georgia Street Community Collective have reclaimed the land. The site of former homes have now turned into an urban farms fit to feed the whole community.

Similar urban farming schemes have popped up in other cities like Los Angeles which is home to Ron Finley the self styled ‘gangsta gardner’. In a popular Ted Talk, he spoke about 26.5 million American that live in food deserts – an urban area where it is difficult to buy affordable or good quality fresh food. As a solution to the lack of affordable and healthy food in his home of South Central Los Angeles, he and his group LA Green Grounds began to plant fruit and veg in any free space of land they found.  Called guerilla gardening, they successfully used this tactic to not only feed their community but to also train young people in agriculture.

Fannie Lou Hamer’s work neatly bridges the civil rights and environmental movements. We could learn a lot from her example as we strive to find ways to build a mass movement to fight climate change.

The post Black History Month: How Fannie Lou Hamer inspires the modern climate movement appeared first on Greenpeace UK.

Categories: Activist News

London takes bold step to clean up toxic pollution

Mon, 2017-10-23 08:29

Today, the toxicity charge (or T-charge) goes live in London – meaning that cars bought before 2006 will be charged an extra £10 to enter central London between 7am and 6pm.  This is a first step in a series of measures introduced by the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, aiming to bring down the appalling levels of air pollution in the capital.

What’s the problem?

Amongst a long list of evidence, two reports released in the last week bring home the seriousness and extent of the air pollution crisis. The first showed that  95% of Londoners live in areas that exceed World Health Organisation emission guidelines by a whopping 50%.

The second linked air pollution in the UK to 50,000 deaths a year, the worst rate of any western country. This shocking statistic is due to the huge numbers of toxic diesel vehicles on UK streets – which is why the Mayor’s office is using the t-charge to crack down on these in London.

Is the T-charge fair?  

There are some who say it’s unfair to charge drivers and that economic costs are too high.  But central London has one of the best transport systems in the world so most people don’t need to drive a car into central London. Disabled people who hold blue badges will rightly be exempt from the T-charge, as well as people who live in the regulated areas.

Some businesses and self employed workers driving very old vehicles will have to upgrade or pay the charge. For some that will be difficult (and in those cases there should be a government scrappage scheme to help out) but in most cases it should be possible, with the cost of  a new vehicle outweighed by savings in improved fuel consumption. While many businesses can make a choice over what vehicles they buy, those suffering from conditions linked to air pollution have no choice but to breathe air pollution that breaches legal limits. The right to drive whatever, wherever and whenever you want is not the equivalent to the right to clean air.

It’s clear that Londoners agree – the T-charge has the broad support of Londoners with a Yougov poll on Friday showing three quarters of the city’s residents are in favour.

The economic consequences

It’s important not to dismiss the impacts of the charge on some businesses and there will be an economic impact both due to this charge and future charging schemes. But what critics consistently fail to point out is the economic benefits of these charges. Firstly, people will mostly shift from driving to other modes of transport increasing revenues in these important areas. Secondly, any reduction in congestion has significant economic benefits reducing costs for many London businesses. And finally, while the economic benefits of improved air quality are spread over many years, they are huge and, in addition to the impact on individuals’ quality of life, are worth billions of pounds to the economy.

So, problem solved?   

Sadly no. The T-charge won’t solve London’s air pollution crisis – no single policy could – but it’s an important first step.  It’s critical this charge is followed by the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in 2019 covering a wider number of cars in central London and by an expanded ULEZ covering all of inner London in 2021 at the latest. Equally important is investment in improving, expanding and cleaning up the public transport and the  reallocation of  road space to buses and cycling.  

London is a great city with toxic air and congested streets. With the right policies and the guts to implement them it could become a great city with clean air and revitalised public spaces built around a culture of walking cycling and public transport.

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Categories: Activist News

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