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The palm oil industry promises reform, but...

It was ten years ago that Greenpeace first published an investigation into Indonesia’s palm oil industry. We showed that the world’s biggest brands got their palm oil from companies destroying Indonesia’s rainforests - threatening local people as well as tigers and orangutans.

Children play without wearing any protection at the playground while the air is engulfed with thick haze from the forest fires at Sei Ahass village, Kapuas district in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo island, Indonesia.Children play without wearing any protection at the playground while the air is engulfed with thick haze from the forest fires  in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia.

As people learned the truth about their shampoo, cosmetics and chocolate bars, brands and their suppliers started to feel the pressure. In 2013, Wilmar became the first palm oil trader to adopt a No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation (NDPE) policy. Others followed suit, and by the end of 2014, most household brands and big palm oil companies had sworn to protect Indonesia’s rainforests.

Greenpeace doesn’t take companies at their word – we watch them closely to make sure they’re keeping their promises. A couple of years ago, we investigated household brands and weren’t that impressed with what we found. So this year, we took a look at the biggest palm oil traders - the companies that brands get their palm oil from.

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 (2016).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 (2016).

The results are alarming. Not one of the traders could prove it wasn’t buying from palm oil companies that destroyed rainforests. Most could not even say when there would be no deforestation in their supply chains. Instead of cutting out dirty palm oil, traders have a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy - they pretend everything is under control while Indonesia’s forests go up in smoke.

Indonesia’s people and environment are paying for the industry’s failure. The country has lost 31 million hectares of forest – an area almost the size of Germany – since 1990. A recent study on Borneo and Sumatra orangutans showed that the population has significantly declined, with destruction of their habitat a leading cause of the crisis. Forest destruction has also contributed to the annual fires and haze crisis that threatens the health of people across Southeast Asia. One study estimated that the 2015 fires crisis contributed to over 100,000 premature deaths. NGOs have also uncovered widespread human rights abuses in palm oil plantations, including child labour and worker exploitation.

This should be a wake-up call for brands like PepsiCo, Unilever, Procter & Gamble and Mondelez. These brands promised their customers they would cut ties with forest destruction. For too long, brands have passed the buck to their suppliers - the traders whose progress we assessed and found wanting.

An excavator constructs a canal in recently cleared land in an oil palm concession owned by PT Andalan Sukses Makmur (PT ASMR) concession, a subsidiary of Bumitama Agro Ltd.  (2013)An excavator constructs a canal in recently cleared land in an oil palm concession owned by PT Andalan Sukses Makmur (PT ASMR) concession, a subsidiary of Bumitama Agro Ltd.  (2013)

It’s time brands took responsibility for the palm oil they’re using. The first step is to tell us where their palm oil really comes from. Then brands need to clean up their supply chains and cut out anyone still destroying forests. That’s the only way we’ll get this destructive industry to change.

Thankfully it’s not all bad news. Just a few weeks ago, scientists discovered a whole new species of orangutan in Sumatra! This is an amazing discovery - but like the rest of the orangutan popular, there’s a big risk that their habitat gets destroyed. It’s up to us to make sure that these amazing creatures have healthy branches to swing on in the future.

Bagus Kusuma is a forest campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia

Great news for the Arctic AND the Antarctic!

Today is a great day for oceans at both ends of the earth.

Last night, governments from around the world agreed to protect a huge part of the Arctic Ocean against all commercial fishing. Thanks to the millions of you who supported our Save the Arctic campaign, an area roughly the size of the Mediterranean Sea will be safe from industrial fishing for at least the next 16 years.

Polar Bear on Sea Ice in Baffin BayPolar Bear on Sea Ice in Baffin Bay

This means we have an even stronger platform to push countries to commit to more long-term protection for this vulnerable ocean and remove the threats of destructive fishing and fossil fuels for good.

Humpback whale in Southern OceanHumpback whale in Antarctica

On the other side of the planet, a massive ocean sanctuary in the Antarctic’s Ross Sea comes into force today. An area of ocean twice the size of Spain is now protected from all kinds of extractive industries and can remain one of the most exceptional shallow oceans left on Earth.

This is amazing news for polar bears AND penguins - as well as all of us who depend on healthy oceans across the world.

Adeli Penguins in the Southern OceanAdeli Penguins in the Southern Ocean

These two victories are proof that people power works. When we work together, incredible things can happen. So if anyone tells you it’s impossible to save the Arctic or create the biggest protected area in the Antarctic, show them this blog. It always seems impossible until it’s done.

But we’re not stopping here. Back in the 1980s, millions of people persuaded their governments to ditch plans to open up the continent of Antarctica for mining and protect it forever. Now we have an opportunity to make history by creating the largest protected area on the planet, in the Antarctic ocean.

An Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary would not only be a safe haven for penguins, whales and seals, but it would keep those waters off-limits to huge industrial fishing vessels sucking up the tiny shrimp-like krill, on which all Antarctic sea life relies.

This historic day for the protection of polar oceans is a reminder that together we can succeed. So celebrate these decisions, keep going and help us restore our blue planet - all the way from the Arctic to the Antarctic!

Louisa Casson is an Oceans camapigner at Greenpeace U.K.

The wave is rolling!

As the People vs. Arctic Oil Trial comes to an end, the battle against climate change continues in courtrooms around the world

After seven days of court hearings, the People vs. Arctic oil trial has come to an end. 

We expect a judgment during the first weeks of January 2018.

This is our chance to take a look at what happened inside and outside the courtroom and at the growing movement of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to defend and restore our planet.

What happened inside the courtroom

Greenpeace and Nature and Youth argued that Article 112 of the Norwegian Constitution grants people and future generations the right to a healthy environment, which can be enforceable in the courts if the government’s actions violate that right. By opening up new areas for drilling for oil and gas in the Arctic, the Norwegian government is in violation of this article.  This meant we could invoke the highest law in the land for this case - the Constitution.

Greenpeace Nordic and Nature and Youth take on the Norwegian government in court 14/11/2017  © Edward Beskow / GreenpeaceGreenpeace Nordic and Nature and Youth in court, Nov 2017

While the State attorney called opening up a new area for drilling “an ordinary decision” it is anything but in these extraordinary times. We simply cannot afford to burn more oil if we want to keep the global average temperature rise to below 1.5C, as the world agreed in Paris.

Developed nations like Norway committed to take the lead under the Paris Agreement. Their efforts in combatting climate change should reflect the highest possible ambitions to maintain the temperature targets. But the Norwegian government is breaking their international commitment by opening up new areas for drilling in the Arctic.

What happened outside the courtroom

As the trial continued inside the court, something incredible was happening outside. The bank managing the largest wealth fund in the world, the Norwegian Central bank, recommended the Norwegian Government to divest from oil and gas. They were essentially echoing what our expert witnesses' were saying: there is great economic risk in the uncertainty of the future of oil and gas.

Greenpeace activists protest in front of the Norwegian Embassy in Berlin 14/11/2017  © Gordon Welters Greenpeace activists protest in front of the Norwegian Embassy in Berlin, Nov 2017

As the court listened to our arguments about how drilling for oil in the Arctic is also a human rights  issue, affecting the lives of many outside of Norway, a UN Committee called upon Norway to revise its policy on Arctic oil drilling on the basis that that climate change disproportionately affects women.

The wave is rolling!

The fight for climate justice continues not just in Norway but around the world. Ordinary people are paying attention and rising up:

21 youth plaintiffs sued the US government for failure to act on climate change. On 11 December 2017, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court will hear oral arguments on the latest attempt from the Trump administration to stop the case. If the youth prevail, we expect the trial to start on 5 February 2018.

The Commission on Human Rights in the Philippines have called on 47 carbon producers to attend its investigation into their responsibility for climate-related human rights abuses. On 11 December 2017, the Commission will hold its preliminary conference to consider witnesses and evidence and set the next steps of the inquiry.   

An appeals court in Germany declared admissible a Peruvian Farmer’s claim against a German energy giant for contributing to climate change. On 30 November 2017, the Court will decide on next steps.

The Dutch government has filed an appeal against the successful climate case brought by Urgenda. The trial is set to begin on 28 May 2018.

Looking to the future

Over half a million people signed their name to support this court case.

The People vs. Arctic Oil trial may be over but the movement to hold governments and corporations accountable for climate change has begun - and it’s only going to get stronger!

Michelle Jonker-Argueta, Attorney Greenpeace International

Samsung: fuelling climate change

As extreme weather increases, the world is being forced to wake up to the realities of climate change.

The good news is that every day more and more people are coming together, taking action to ensure a greener future for us all.

Unfortunately, there are still a handful of outspoken people and backward-looking companies who either outright deny climate change is real or are just sticking their heads in the sand, or should we say coal?

One of those is Samsung Electronics. Yes, that’s right. One of the biggest companies in the world is still using dirty, polluting energy sources like coal to make the millions and millions of gadgets many of us use every day. 19th century coal to make 21st century gadgets.

In fact, Samsung even admits the company uses only 1% renewable energy in its production!

Yulin, located in Shenfu coalfield, together with Ordos and Shuozhou (Shanxi), is known as the “Golden Triangle of Coal” in China.

Yulin, located in Shenfu coalfield, together with Ordos and Shuozhou (Shanxi), is called the “Golden Triangle of Coal” in China.

Thanks to the tireless work of people like you, hundreds of companies, including its arch-rival Apple, have woken up and are going 100% renewable.

We are all doing our part, now it’s Samsung's turn.

A company like Samsung is just too big to ignore. In 2016 alone it produced about 400 million smartphones, provided parts for other companies like Apple, Huawei and even Tesla and turned in a profit of 10 billion USD! This is a company whose adverts tell us to “do what you can’t” and “do bigger things”. We think it is about time Samsung took a look in the mirror and started to walk the talk.

The trouble is, we are running out of time.

The more time spent talking instead of acting, following instead of leading or stepping instead of leaping, the more uncertain our future, and their future becomes. Samsung Electronic’s leadership faces a choice to decide which side are they on: the progressive, responsible companies looking to the future or those who history will judge for their inaction and for holding us back.

Together we can create a movement companies like Samsung can’t ignore.

Add your voice to convince Samsung to #DoBiggerThings: stop fueling climate change and choose renewable energy. 

Insung Lee is an IT campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia, Seoul office.

True climate leadership still missing

The world is moving ahead without Trump - but not as fast and decisively as needed.

Another round of climate negotiations is over. And, like last year, President Trump has failed to stop the global climate talks from moving forward. Indeed, his announcement to withdraw from the Paris Agreement has brought even louder and clearer voices for climate leadership from the United States to Bonn. Civil society, cities, governors and some businesses have shown the true face of America here, exposing how Trump and his regressive fossil fuel agenda does not stand for the majority of Americans. America is still in - and Americans are rising up for climate action.

We have also seen some positive announcements in recent days: a new alliance pledging to phase out coal was formed; Europe's biggest coal port, Rotterdam, decided to phase out coal to deliver on the Paris Agreement and the Pacific Island Development Forum nations signed on to the Lofoten Declaration, that calls for a just transition - a managed phase out of fossil fuels. We have also seen the largest wealth fund in the world announcing that they want to divest from oil and gas.  

Overall, though, there has been too much talk and not enough action. France, Germany and China have claimed to be leaders here - but Chancellor Merkel embarrassed herself on the global stage when she failed to commit to a coal phase-out; French President Macron has put off the phase out of nuclear, which will slow down the urgently needed French energy revolution. And China, too, has seen emissions rise this year again after three years of coal consumption decline (though that may turn out to be a temporary blip).

In a year that has seen ever more devastating climate impacts, that is simply not good enough. This conference was led by Fiji - the first time a climate summit was led by a Pacific island nation. The Pacific has been dealing with the devastating impacts of climate change for years - and this meeting did not deliver as much hope and support to them as would have been warranted and just.

One of my highlights of the last two weeks has been watching our Fijian volunteers, Alisi Nacewa and Samu Kuridrani, interview people about climate change - and these, at times crazy, negotiations. I encourage you to watch their Kava Chats. It's for the home of people like Alisi and Samu that we are fighting for.

We will not win against dangerous climate change unless we work together across sectors and movements. This week, we held a joint event with the International Trade Union Confederation, discussing how we can unite to advance a just transition - and make climate action work for workers and the planet alike. We also brought together activists from climate impacted communities with National Human Rights institutions. We hope that many of them will follow the example of the Philippine Human Rights Commission, that is investigating the human rights impacts of 47 carbon producers, including ExxonMobil, Shell, BP, Chevron, and Total.

There is an encouraging wave of legal action against polluters. This week a German court accepted a case brought by a Peruvian farmer against energy giant RWE. RWE, he argues, must share in the cost of protecting his hometown Huaraz from a swollen glacier lake at risk of overflowing from melting snow and ice. And our legal colleagues have been in a courtroom in Norway making the case that additional oil drilling in the Arctic not only undermines the Paris Agreement but actually undermines the Norwegian constitution. Add your name to this case of The People vs Arctic Oil here.

We will hold polluters accountable for their impacts. We will continue to push for quicker climate action so that even more devastation is prevented. The world is moving ahead. But we are in a race against time. And we need governments and corporations to move faster than we have seen them doing over the last two weeks here in Bonn.

Daniel Mittler is the Political Director of Greenpeace International

A focus on gender at the UN climate talks

Each year at the UN climate talks, gender becomes a central thematic element in the negotiations. Today is that day, six years after the first Gender Day was incorporated into the UNFCCC.

Since then, every year, COPs have not only scheduled thematic days around agriculture and food security, cities, energy, forests, oceans, etc. but also dedicate a day to numerous events, special activities and initiatives focused on integrating the gender perspective in climate negotiations.

Greenpeace activists at the climate march in Bonn 4/11/2017 Bernd Lauter Greenpeace activists at the climate march in Bonn, 4 November 2017 

But what is the gender approach? Gender is the social role assigned to men and women simply for being that: male or female. This leads to serious inequalities and can stall fair and peaceful progress.

By taking into account gender issues, we seek to address inequalities, shed light on them and try to advance solutions to a whole range of problems.

According to the FAO (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations):

 “The impact of environmental degradation is gender-differentiated in terms of workloads and the quality of life; gender disparities in natural resource management and participation in policy-making must be clearly understood.”

Taking gender into account allows us to understand the different vulnerabilities of both men and women. Like many other environmental and social problems, it is women who are the most vulnerable to climate change in many countries.

Ghalia Fayad on board the Rainbow Warrior 4/11/2016 © Jeremy Sutton-HibbertGhalia Fayad, speaking on board the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior 4 Nov, 2016

Gender differences are also noticeable in consumer habits. For example, women are more likely to choose sustainable consumption such as eating less meat and have a greater openness to organic foods.

As stipulated in the Paris Agreement, during last year’s Marrakesh COP the parties adopted a series of decisions to improve how climate policy incorporates gender issues in all activities relating to adaptation, mitigation, as well as in decision-making on climate policy application.

Finally, on November 11 at COP23, the delegations of the UNFCCC adopted the Gender Action Plan. This should be approved this week in the COP plenary.

Greenpeace welcomes the inclusion of this approach in climate negotiations. We believe that in order to stop climate change we need an energy transition as well as fair and transformative policies that take into account the entire population.

Atmospheric CO2 levels are now at the highest level for the past 800,000 years. This is due to an industrial revolution characterised by a set of industrial, scientific and technological changes and developments that inevitably meant the design and implementation of the current economic model.

This is a model based on an intensive production system, the consumption of resources and dependence on fossil fuels to expand and develop, where tasks and jobs are based on the extraction and burning of coal, oil and gas, and where it is men who mainly hold the roles to achieve this production-based system.

The gender approach deals with these issues by analysing the division of labour, access to and control of resources and political participation in decision-making.

The fight against climate change, the move away from fossil fuels and the transition to an energy model based on 100% renewable energy is our chance to build a fair, peaceful and green future.

Greenpeace believes women are agents of change. If we want to advance more sustainable societies where health and wellbeing are a priority, it is essential to increase the number of women in decision-making positions and those taking part in climate and energy negotiations.

We, women and girls, make up 52% of the global population. There must be no negotiation of any kind that does not take into account half the population.

We are not a minority group, we are people with full rights. Although women are involved with climate and its protection on a daily basis, let's take advantage of Gender Day at the climate change talks to amplify our voice.

Tatiana Nuño is a climate campaigner with Greenpeace Spain and a member of the Spanish Gender Team

Fire and Rain

The year 2017 may become a historic milestone where the visceral effects of global heating - extreme storms and wildfires - finally reach public consciousness.

 Homeowners Access Hurricane Irma Damage - 12 Sep, 2017Homeowners Access Hurricane Irma Damage - 12 Sep, 2017

Humans have known about the effects of carbon in the atmosphere for two centuries, since the work of Joseph Fourier at the French Academy of Science. A century ago, Swedish chemist, Svante Arrhenius, calculated that doubling atmospheric CO2 would increase Earth's average temperature by 5-6°C, which now appears accurate. In 1981, Dr. James Hansen wrote the first NASA global temperature analysis, and in 1991, the UN convened the first climate conference in Berlin. As of today, none of this has significantly altered the actions of human society enough to actually reduce carbon emissions.

In the last few years, we have witnessed more wildfires and violent storms that are directly linked to global heating. This year, communities around the world have experienced a dramatic increase in climate-related natural disasters, costing thousands of lives and billions of dollars, and leaving behind devastation. 

Year of the fire

I've lived on the west coast of Canada for 45 years, and during that time, I've witnessed a few days of smoke from wildfires in the interior fir and cedar forests. For the past two summers, however, the entire coast has been blanketed in thick smoke through July and August, the summer sun barely piercing the haze. Citizens experience respiratory problems, tourism is disrupted, and firefighting teams from the northern and southern hemispheres now routinely trade support teams in alternate seasons.

In February, the North Pole experienced a staggering +30°C temperature anomaly, unprecedented in modern record-keeping. The melting permafrost releases methane gas, a greenhouse-gas far more powerful than CO2. The Arctic contains about 1.8 trillion tonnes of carbon, stored as methane, and the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has not yet accounted for this significant positive feedback of global heating. The 2017 data so far shows that over the last decade, Earth is heating about twice as fast as IPCC scientists had predicted.

Grass Fire in the Astrakhan Nature Reserve, Russia - 13 Mar, 2015Grass Fire in the Astrakhan Nature Reserve, Russia - 13 Mar, 2015

This extra heat means drier grasslands and forests, resulting in more frequent, more intense fires. Warmer temperatures add moisture to the atmosphere, which we might assume would dampen fires, but it has the opposite effect. Increased precipitation during the winter means that grasslands grow more. Then, during the drier summers, this extra growth becomes added fuel to the fires. Even a fraction of a degree increase to winter temperatures allows insects like pine beetles to move toward the poles, into boreal forests, killing more trees that also add fuel to fires.

During the summer of 2017, fires raged across Europe, killing hundreds, devastating communities, and leading the European Union to declare a state of emergency. Portugal suffered the worst fire season ever recorded, scorching almost 520,000 hectares of forest. It was six times the annual average for recent years, and killed over 100 people. The Interior Minister, Constanca Urbano de Sousa, remarked that she had wanted to quit after 64 people were killed in June wildfires and after investigators had chastised the official response. When October fires killed 42 more citizens, de Sousa resigned.

Meanwhile, four people died from fires in the Galicia region of northwest Spain. Fires in Croatia destroyed homes and other buildings in the village of Podstrana, and the historic town of Split. Along the Dalmatian coastline of the Adriatic Sea, grasslands and woods burned, along with homes, cars, and public buildings. On the southern Adriatic coast, in Montenegro, fires burned through the historic Lustica Peninsula town of Tivat, which had to be evacuated. Montenegro, unprepared for the scale of fires, asked NATO for firefighters, aircraft, and assistance with evacuations.

In Italy this year, some 900 wildfires burned over 130,000 hectares. Residents and tourists were forced to evacuate parts of Rome and Naples, including Mount Vesuvius national park and the Castelfusano coastal pine forest, south of Rome. A beach resort on the island of Sicily had to be evacuated. This is a typical impact of global heating. Italy experienced 30% less rain and 30% more wildfires. In July, fires burned near Castagniers and Nice, in southeast France and on the French island of Corsica. In southwest Turkey, fires destroyed 40 homes as communities evacuated. 

July was the hottest month in 130 years of Moscow's recorded climate history, and smoke from fires blanketed the region. Within a few days in July, fires burned some 150,000 hectares during an historic heat wave and drought.

In May, under record high temperatures and dry conditions, China and Mongolia grew even hotter and drier, leading to some of the largest fires on Earth in recent history. Fires burned through the Greater Hinggan Mountains, threatening the Hanma Nature Reserve and the city of Hulun Buir. In early July, Mongolia's National Emergency Management Agency fought 11 major forest fires across northern Mongolia, exhausting their supply of fire extinguishing equipment. President Khaltmaa Battulga and Prime Minister Jargaltulga Erdenebat prohibited people from entering the forest areas, called an emergency meeting, and instructed their engineers to attempt creating artificial rainfall. Legions of Mongolian citizens, communicating through social media, joined the fire brigades, but by the end of July, they faced more than 20 major fires, some threatening the capital at Ulan Bator.

Fires in western North America, broke records in Alaska, Canada, Washington, Oregon, and California. The Seattle region experienced a +10°C temperature anomaly in August as fires burned through Washington state forests. Wildfires ravaged Oregon and killed 30 people in northern California, destroying some 3,500 homes and businesses in California's wine region, obliterating neighborhoods. Throughout the western United States, over a million hectares burned this summer.

Santa Rosa, California, Fire Devastation - 13 Oct, 2017Santa Rosa, California, fire devastation - 13 Oct, 2017

"Climate change is turning up the dial on everything," said LeRoy Westerling at the University of California. "Dry periods become more extreme, wet periods become more extreme, and fires are increasing. The ecosystem is changing."

Extreme Storms 

Global heating has increased ocean temperatures, adding energy to storms. By October, the year 2017 already approached the all-time record for both total measured storm energy and accumulated damage. This summer, hurricanes Nate, Harvey, Irma, and Maria pounded the Caribbean and Southeastern US. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the US has experienced 15 weather disasters this year that cost more than $1 billion, an all-time record. A study from 13 US federal agencies concluded that "extreme weather events have cost the United States $1.1 trillion since 1980." 

Hurricane Harvey Flooding Rescue in Texas - 27 Aug, 2017Hurricane Harvey Flooding Rescue in Texas - 27 Aug, 2017

Storms have been getting stronger since the mid-1980s. An analysis of 167 years of data by the Associated Press found that no 30-year period in history had seen this many major storms. Typically, North Atlantic ocean temperatures remain too cool to support hurricane-level storms. This year, warmer than normal North Atlantic temperatures fueled tropical storm Ophelia to hurricane status on October 14, as it moved toward Ireland. Hurricane-force gusts of 192 km/hour hit Ireland, flooding coastal towns, and causing structural damage, vast power outages, and two deaths.

The Atlantic coasts of Ireland, England, France, Spain, and Portugal now face, for the first time, the sustained threat of hurricanes. Four years ago, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute predicted that by 2100, global warming would increase the frequency of hurricane winds in western Europe.

The extreme fires and storms of 2017 signify more than just a 'new normal'. With each fraction of a degree that Earth's average temperature increases, these fires and storms will increase in intensity. The effects of climate change are not linear. A one-degree increase in temperature will yield about four-times the intensity of fires and storms. Some evidence suggests that by mid-century, fires and storms could double in their destructive power. 

A study published in Nature suggests that limiting global heating to the Paris goal of 2°C is now "unlikely". The UN now estimates that the median projected global temperature increase is 3.2°C with a likely range up to 4.9°C and a high end of 8°C. The "new normal" will be constant change; a growing intensity of storms, fires, and other extreme weather, for as long as human carbon emissions continue.

We can still act decisively to shift these disturbing trends. Here are "seven megatrends" published in the Guardian that will help. 

Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.

26/11/2017: Updated to include "seven megatrends".

Sources and Links:

 How climate change is "turning up the dial" on wildfires: CBS News

"The Uninhabitable Earth,' David Wallace Wells: New York Magazine, June 2017

"Spain, Portugal Wildfires Kill at Least 39":  

"Wildfires Roar Across Southern Europe": New York Times  

Fires in Russia: the Telegraph

Forest fires in N. Mongolia: Xinhua news

Huge forest fire in northern China: South China Morning Post

Video, Fires in Mongolia / China: China People's Daily

Maps of 2017 global fires: Popular Science

Wildfires, Hurricanes, Tornadoes, October 2017: Countercurrents  

Storms: weather and global warming: MPR News  

Historic Storm: Ophelia Strikes Ireland with Hurricane Force: Robert Scribbler

Hurricane Ophelia Batters Ireland: Weather Underground

"Less than 2°C warming by 2100 unlikely": Nature, July 2017 

"C02 Levels 50 Million Years Ago Tell Us About Climate Change Today": Clean Technica

Tropical forests no longer carbon sinks: Washington Post

Why you shouldn't buy anything on Singles' Day

120,000 mobile phones sold in a minute, 1 billion things sold in one day - this is the reality of Singles' Day. It's the world’s biggest online shopping day and it's happening on November 11.  

Created by the Chinese company, Alibaba, in 2009, Singles' Day is now a big event for Chinese and international spenders, where online consumers participate in a massive 24-hour shopping spree. They are on track to top last year's sales of $17.8 billion.

That's more than the total e-commerce sales of Brazil in 2016. Alibaba founder Jack Ma refers to Singles' Day as a “Global Shopping Festival” and retailers around the world are quickly picking up on the trend.

But it's intensifying the worst aspects of consumerism; environmental damage, unnecessary spending, wasteful behaviour and dissatisfaction for shoppers.

Online shopping amplifies environmental costs of consumption

The production of the goods sold on Singles' Day use natural resources and pollute our environment. Fashion alone accounts for 28.5 % of the sales and has a direct impact on the local environment. 20% of rivers and lakes in China have been contaminated as a result of dying, printing, and treatment from the textile industry.

 “Singles' Day is a catastrophe for the environment. Not only does it create huge amounts of waste, but the CO2 emissions from manufacturing, packaging, and shipping are enormous,” says Greenpeace East Asia toxics campaigner, Nie Li.

Details from China indicate that:

  • Singles' Day apparel sales produced 258,000 tonnes CO2 emissions. We would need 2.58 million trees to absorb it all. 

  • The use of cell phones and computers to place online orders produced 3.22 million tonnes of CO2 in 2015.

  • The recycling rate of packaging materials remains low. Less than 10% of paper, cardboard and plastic packaging used in delivery are recycled.

From the shelves directly into waste

The aggressive 'Buy NOW' marketing that accompanies Singles' Days promotions amplifies our impulse to buy. People “keep getting duped, but because the items are so cheap, they don’t mind and just keep buying and buying, fuelling a vicious circle,” says Greenpeace campaigner Walton Li from Greenpeace Hong Kong.

Hong Kong Shopper © Sam Fong 2015 Greenpeace Hong Kong Shopper, 2015

In a survey commissioned by Greenpeace Hong Kong, the most cited reasons for throwing away unused goods from Singles' Day shopping sprees were poor quality, wrong fit and the product looking different from what shoppers expected.

One in every four fashion items that Hongkongers buy online are not worn more than twice before being thrown away. All of this is results in an estimated 5.8 million garments being disposed every year.

Walton Li: “Sure, the cost of regret is low, but the environment is footing the bill, and those costs are high.”

Shopping doesn't make us happy

Evidence suggests that shopping is not leading to real happiness. It's 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.

A new survey, commissioned by Greenpeace, of the shopping habits of people in Europe and Asia             Results from a Greenpeace commissioned survey on the shopping habits of people in Europe and Asia 

If you are tempted to buy something on Singles' Day, think of the consequences. Shopping is done in an instant, but the consequences for our beautiful planet linger. 

Why not MAKE SMTHNG instead of going shopping?


Lu Yen Roloff is the communications lead for the Detox my Fashion campaign. 



Big oil is destructive in more ways than one

This September I took my first trip to Russia to join the celebration of Greenpeace Russia’s 25 Year Anniversary.

In big cities like Moscow, oil powered transport is a major source of pollution and greenhouse gases emissions. This is why four major cities - Paris, Mexico City, Madrid and Athens - have moved to ban diesel vehicles by 2025.

Bunny in Moscow for the 25th Anniversary of Greenpeace Russia - 23 Sep, 2017In Moscow for the 25th Anniversary of Greenpeace Russia - 23 Sep, 2017

Energy based on oil can never be clean, whatever carmakers say. In Russia, I saw one of the darkest sides of the oil industry, hidden far away from the capital, deep in the forests of the north...

We travelled 1500km north, to the Komi region, one of the oldest oil producing regions in Russia. At first sight, I was amazed by the beauty of the country. We travelled on the great Pechora River in a small boat and watched endless white beaches and beautiful boreal forests bathed in the bright yellow colours of Autumn.

But when I looked closer, I saw a different picture: dead trees, black swamps, toxic water glistening with oil.

Dead forest in Komi Republic - 20 Aug, 2014Dead forest in Komi Republic - 20 Aug, 2014

We found a huge oil spill which had happened the previous spring. It looked like it could be up to 10 hectares wide. Little had been done to clean it up. We only saw a few tired workers trying to dig out oil with shovels. Russia is infamous for having thousands of oil spills, big and small, around the country.

In 1994, one of the biggest man-made oil catastrophes hit Komi. More than 100,000 tonnes of oil spilled into rivers and forests when an old pipeline broke. The traces are still visible as pieces of stone-hard oil in the soil.

We met activists from the Save the Pechora Committee, a local NGO that unites people determined to protect their native land. Many of them are indigenous Komi people whose ancestors lived in this northern region for centuries.

As recently as April there was another accident in the region. A huge fire broke out at an oil well dangerously close to Pechora river. Hundreds of firefighters were unable to stop it and the fire burned for an entire month. The inhabitants of the two small villages nearby had to breathe toxic stink damp air (polluted with hydrogen sulphide) and the snow was covered with black soot.


One of the local families warmly invited us to their house. They live in a village with just 10 homes and love their native land and its closeness with nature.  

But Lukoil (“one of the largest publicly traded oil and gas companies in the world accounting for more than 2% of the world's oil production,” according to their website) is closing its circle of oil wells surrounding the village.

Nina Volotovskaya, one of the residents described a sunset; “I saw that the sky above the river became bright red. I called the local council and they said everything was fine. The authorities only visited us once, reassuring us that there was no threat. All that time we smelled rotten eggs. Accidents often happen here. From our house, I can see ten oil wells, and there are more and more each year. Lukoil never informs us or warns us – why would they bother about the opinion of a few families?”

 Sending a message from the banks of the Pechora riverA message from the banks of the Pechora river

Nina and thousands of other people like her all across the world have to pay with their health for so-called oil prosperity. 

But these brave people give me hope. After 20 years of fighting against big oil, they haven’t given up. They’ve learnt how to map oil spills, how to measure water pollution and assess if the land was reclaimed in a proper way.

But they can’t stand alone against one of the most powerful industries in the world. They need our united efforts to ensure a future with clean air and clean water.

Lukoil, the company that has been poisoning Komi for years, is now heading to the Arctic. It is one of several fossil fuel companies that received licences from the Norwegian government to drill in the far north. These are areas that had never been exploited before. And we need to stop them. Click here to join us in suing the Norwegian government.

It’s up to all of us to remember that the oil we consume is destroying the planet and the lives of so many people across the globe.

Why we should MAKE SMTHNG instead of going...

Make something week

MAKE SMTHNG Week is about taking action for a better world.

From 2-10 December, at the start of the holiday shopping season, we want to invite you to make something with us. In cities around the world, makers are gathering to demonstrate how we can unite to create unique alternatives to buying something new.

We are calling all DIY mavens, minimalists, vegans and vegetarians, upcyclers, swappers, sewers, crafters and zero wasters - you’re all invited to join Greenpeace in collaboration with Fashion Revolution, Shareable and many others to inspire you to make the most of our resources.

Many of you have already started to rediscover the art, craft and joy of making: cooking, mending clothes, fixing electronics, upcycling used goods, growing your own food. You're making your own cosmetics; cleaning with vinegar and baking soda, ditching plastic and sharing your clothes, bikes and homes with each other. MAKE SMTHNG Week is your showcase for creative, innovative and unique alternatives to shopping something new.

DIY workshop during Beijing Design Week - 25 Sep, 2017DIY workshop during Beijing Design Week - 25 Sep, 2017

MAKE it happen

This movement is about much more than our organisation. Here’s what you can do:

  • Download our guidelines on how to get involved and share it with your friends

  • Watch out for our website where you'll be able to find an international event calendar and other resources.

  • Use our free branding toolkit to promote your own events and stories on social media, create posters, postcards and anything else.

  • Follow us on Instagram (@makesmthng) and tell the world about the things you’ve made by using the hashtag #makesmthng.

  • Get in touch with us by emailing if you'd like to collaborate.

DIY workshop during Beijing Design Week - 25 Sep, 2017 DIY workshop during Beijing Design Week - 25 Sep, 2017


Because we are buying too much stuff. There are billions of people on this planet who all shop for food, fashion and technology. To produce many of the goods we use, companies are contributing to climate change, destroying forests and polluting our oceans.

The amount of waste we create is mind-boggling. Every piece of plastic produced in the last 60 years still exists. As things get cheaper with planned obsolescence built in, we throw them away more often. In our consumerist societies, shopping counts for more than preserving things.

Plastic Waste Collected in GermanyPlastic waste collected in Germany 

We buy twice as many clothes as we did 20 years ago, and wear them for half as long. It’s now cheaper to buy new things than to repair them. Even though our technology is advanced enough to instantly connect all corners of the world, we still can’t repair our mobile phones.

We need to shift from a throw-away culture to one where we value things again. We envision a world where we make the most of our resources. Each of us can take small actions in our everyday lives that together create a monumental change.

Make it last

Clothes Swapping Party in GermanyClothes Swapping Party in Germany

Instead of buying fast fashion and throwing it out after wearing it a few times, we can make our clothes last by caring for them and repairing them. To turn away from mindless consumerism, we can stop supporting companies which produce phones that can’t be repaired or have replaceable elements and start fixing things again.

When we replace meat with vegan or vegetarian alternatives, we turn away from the most inefficient way of feeding the world’s population. And whenever we bring a reusable bag and say no to single-use plastic and polyester fashion, we are preventing another piece of plastic from polluting our planet’s oceans and beaches.

Help us change the story of hyperconsumption: MAKE SMTHNG!

Making something in BeijingMaking something together in Beijing.

Lu Yen Roloff is the communications lead for the Detox my Fashion campaign. 

Articles last updated at Dec 16, 2017 03:28:58am.
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