The Big Choke

Attention Seven-Sea Travelers:
Plastic Will Be Your Global Host

Here’s something else that gets aggravated with climate change and the rising seas: plastic pollution. From landfills to coastlines, deserted islands to the poles, our insatiable thirst for bottles and straws are choking marine life and killing Earth’s biggest food source. Maybe because we treat it that way.
Ok, so you’ve heard all about this before, but now isn’t the best time to think about it, for you’re taking off on vacation. Fine, but here’s a spoiler alert: masses of stray plastic are likely to greet you at every destination you may land, no matter how remote or exotic.
Granted, there’s a level of undisguised jealously in bringing this up, just in time some lucky few are planning a deserving time off. The way it goes, though, it may get even worse by the time the other 95% finally have their turn by the beach under the sun.
In the end, we all pay for this waste one way or another. That is, us, who trade the future for a little comfort. For much of what’s happening out there in the open sea got started at our own oh so cozy homes.
That’s not blaming, only a much needed accountability for dead turtles and sea birds, guts busted open with spilled containers and utensils, whose pictures are all over the Internet. Still, we insist on having that extra plastic bag, or iPhone case, at our local retailer.

WHAT TO DO? LOOK AROUND THE HOUSE
What follows debunks naggers’ excuses. There are things one can do, and they are a lot. A number of sites list hundreds of steps anyone can take to gradually eliminate plastic from their lives. Not all of it, for sure, but most of it.
Besides consulting them and checking how much effort you need to put in order to accomplish something towards ocean plastic pollution – and you do need to put on an effort -, you may also use your common sense and take a good look around your place.
Do you have a million plastic bags, for garbage and shopping? A bunch of tupperware containers under the sink? Do you store food and beverages in plastic bottles in your fridge? A load of broken pens and useless things laying around? There you go. Start by these; you’d be surprised (maybe), at how far it all gets.

WHAT NOT TO RELY UPON? RECYCLING
We know you’re diligent separating your recyclables; we spied on you through the camera of your plastic-clad laptop (just kidding). You even know that, apart from sorting your rejects out, you also make sure you drop each pile in different bins.
Good for you. Just don’t dump it and forget it. Have you seen those spilled garbage bags on the streets, that fell out of sanitation trucks? Don’t blame the underpaid guys and relax, no one will ask you to pick them up or after anybody else.
But do not expect your city recycling companies to have it all covered. Yes, they’re for profit enterprises, but by far much more important than some industries you patronize. So be sure them, and your elected representatives, know you do care about and value their work.

WHAT DON’T YOU KNOW? IT’S OUT OF CONTROL
You may have heard that there are now a number of patches of garbage, like the Texas-sized Great Pacific Gyre, floating far from any land. But what about Henderson Island, which certainly may have a least one plastic item you’ve disposed sometime last year. Like it, there are also many others.
You may’ve also heard of the battle to force Coca-Cola to pitch in the collection of millions of water bottles that are dumped in the Grand Canyon every year, right? Well, if no one talks about it, it’s because Coke weaseled it out of its responsibilities. So, the bottles are still there.
Now, the same is happening in the high seas, and plastic (more)
_______
Read Also:
* Last Drops
* Faux Jellyfish
* Beneath the Waves

Continue reading

Rain (Forest) Check

The Amazon’s Skydiving
Spiders & Other Updates

Wonder what’s up with that other, more vital Amazon? Turns out, not nearly as grand as with its namesake commercial enterprise. In fact, weak regulations and public apathy have made its country host Brazil far from a safe harbor to the world’s largest rainforest.
Illegal logging continues rampant all over. Then there’s a just-established, and disturbing, link between its wildfires and Atlantic hurricanes; plus an expected ‘Godzilla’ El Niño season. But never mind climate change: worst of all are those pesky skydiving spiders falling all over the place.
Wonders are never in short supply, though. Take the research showing that the Amazon is way more diverse than originally thought, for instance. A recent study found a ‘hidden tapestry‘ of plant-based chemicals that determines growth and direction of its luscious species.
Or the Matsés, a tribe based in Brazil and Peru, that’s just compiled a 500-page encyclopedia summarizing its traditional medicine. Put together by five shamans, it’s likely the first treatise of its kind, with entries for therapies indicated to a massive variety of illnesses.
And then there are the efforts of forest activists who, despite mortal danger represented by armed gangs who roam the place on big landowners’ account, have been able to sustain an unsung but absolutely heroic battle to preserve what used to be called the ‘lungs of the world.’
To be fair, Brazil’s slowed down deforestation in the Amazon, albeit not nearly enough. Still its vastness, potential, and significance can’t be overstated. If we could only match its ability to wonder with a few miracles of our own, we’ll be in better shape now.

TIMBER TRACKING & NOT MUCH ELSE
In the past decade, Brazil has cut down greenhouse gas emissions more than any other country, which is commendable. But a recent visit by embattled President Dilma Rousseff to Washington failed to (more)
_______
Read Also:
* Amazing Zone
* Damned Project
* Rainforest at Risk

Continue reading

The Ungiven

A Year in the Life of
a Turncoat Saying No

I did it. Or rather, I did not. First, let’s take exception and write this post in the first person, lest no one else take the fall for my unspeakable acts of omission, negligence, and absolute lack of empathy: I have refused to make end-of-the-year donations.
I don’t mean once, or twice, or heaven forbid, three times, but have deleted all desperate emails, coming from all corners of the world, for my urgent help saving individuals, communities, natural resources, ideas, or for Ebenezer Scrooge’s sake, the whole planet.
Worst: not so secretly, I actually enjoy receiving these last-minute solicitations from such noble causes, vainly nursing the obnoxious idea that, somehow, just having been chosen to receive them is a sign of my superior humanitarian condition, and public acknowledgement of my own goodness.
Feeling so overwhelmed by such displays of goodwill towards my potential to add a savior’s hand to a worthy fight or effort, towards the betterment of mankind, I go to self-centered lengths of congratulating the face in the mirror, for being so gifted and touched by, no question about, a divine inspiration.
Except that I didn’t. Methodically and systematically, I’ve treated them all like spam, and as the quests for help intensified towards the end of the year, December being the very apex of the marathon of sign-ins and petitions, I matched it all with equal intensity by sending them all to trash.
Never mind what came in through regular mail, tons of envelopes stuffed with free addresses and chances to win duffel bags, stuffed animals, bumper stickers, badges to be displayed showing my allegiance, that I judiciously took care of, tearing it all apart with bare hands or scissors.

WHY SHOULD I?
I did it without a second thought, and even now, I’m not sure I regret having done it so. After all, they all seemed to be addressed to someone with way deeper pockets than mine, and a bigger heart too, willing to go out of the way and having finger cramps just signing checks or providing credit card numbers.
It all did look as if they were not talking to me, but someone higher up in the big hierarchy of the good giving and the well willing. So, fine, I did feel a bit pressured to perform my very best, and obviously, failed miserably, for otherwise there wouldn’t be reasons for a post like this.
So, I said no, and now I’m saying, I’m sorry, ACLU, AFSC, Alaska Wilderness League, America’s Wolves, Amnesty, AnimalHaven, ASPCA, Audubon, Bird’s Nest, Care, ColorOfChange, Common Dreams, Covenant House, Earthjustice, EEF, FoodBank, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, Heifer, and HOPE.
I sincerely apologize League of Women Voters, LGBT, MADRE, Media Matters, Mercy Corps, Mother Jones, Native Americans, Nature Conservancy, Oceana, OpenSecrets, OWS, Oxfam, PETA, PFAW, Pro-Publica, RootsAction, Save the Rainforest, Sierra Club, Smithsonian, Solar & Wind Power, Truth Out, UNICEF, UN Refugee Fund, Union of Concerned Scientists, Utne Reader, WIN, Working Families, and WWF.

LACK OF ATLAS
Plus, my deepest regrets for not having heeded the appeals of an assortment of local charities, housing organizations, hunger programs, Continue reading

Cut the Crop

As Farmers Go For Round Two Against
Monsanto, Investors Remain Oblivious

Farmers will appear today before the U.S. Court of Appeals to seek protection against Monsanto, which is threatening them if any of its patented seeds is found in farms that it does not own. The case may be a turning point in the long-running struggle between the two sides.
Arguing on the farmers’ behalf, the Organic Seed Growers Association is appealing an earlier dismissal of their case by a federal judge, even though Monsanto was, as it still is, ready to take legal action against growers whose seeds may have been accidentally contaminated.
Since we’ve written about it last April (story below), the giant food corporation’s balance sheet has only grown stronger, though, while ever more vilified among independent farmers and consumer advocates. Ironically, then as now, it reported earnings gains, to glowing reviews by investors and analysts.
But although Monsanto’s unregulated research into genetically manipulation of seeds and crops is the focus and reason for its widespread unpopularity, this lawsuit is about yet another highly arguable claim: that it has the right to sue if what considers its property is found, say, in your own backyard.
In the case of farmers, that mean an impossibility, since seeds are carried along since immemorial times by natural forces such as birds, insects, wind, even erosion. No one should have to hire expensive lawyers to protect themselves from what may as well be the definition of ‘an act of god.’
THE LORD OF THE FRANKENSEEDS
Not for Monsanto, apparently, which has the financial muscle to sustain long battles, while it continues financing ways to manipulate crops guided only for the need to feed its corporate bottom line. We’ve tried to be as broad and comprehensive in our report, which is based on a variety of stories about the company.
We’re also thinking of the transcendence of what’s about to be decided in Washington, in the context of a more populated and hungrier world than ever. It’s quite clear which side most of us are in this issue: if Monsanto succeeds stomping down the resistance to its claim, that will be really great only to its shareholders.
If the farmers win, however, that will bring benefits across the board, and way beyond the absurd component of this lawsuit. Never mind the wind; Monsanto will have to prove beyond doubt that its seeds are not contaminating, in a wrong, disastrous way, the crops of those who chose to plant them the way it’s been done for centuries.
Plus, the greater focus will hopefully turn to Monsanto’s genetically manipulation of seeds, as such an enterprise should never be pursued solely under the premise of increasing profits, and without proper Continue reading

Rainforest at Risk

Activists Critical of Rousseff’s
Vetoes to Brazil’s New Forest Code

When the text of the new Brazilian Forest Code landed on President Dilma Rousseff’s desk last week, it had already traveled a serendipitous path through the country’s Congress, agricultural lobby, landowners and exporters, all in favor of easing regulations protecting the Amazon and other wild forests of Brazil.
But environmentalist groups immediately saw the risks it’d represent to the region and found no reason to praise the bill. It heavily favored the logging and timber industry, and would open the door to even more destruction of its natural resources. The bill also offered a generous amnesty to many of the companies directly linked to the record deforestation of the 1970s and 80s.
The president did veto most of the clauses related to that but sadly, it isn’t nearly enough. The government is yet to present its alternatives to the bill and resend it to Congress to another round of debate and vote. But the new code won’t have a resolution before Rio hosts a U.N. Conference on Sustainable Development in late June, and that was the its intention all along, critics say.
In fact, grassroots organizations such as Web-based Avaaz, with the support of Greenpeace, WWF, Brazil’s Academy of Science and even the Catholic Church, had presented the president a petition with over two million signatures demanding a veto to the whole bill which, according Continue reading

Big Spill

While BP’s All But Done With It,
Wildlife in the Gulf’s Still Reeling

Two years ago today, the Deepwater Horizon, an oil rig operated by subcontractors working for BP Inc. in the Gulf of Mexico, exploded, caught fire and killed eleven people, in what became the U.S.’s biggest environmental disaster. It took 87 days for the giant British concern to cap the well, after an estimated five million barrels of oil had already spilled into once pristine gulf waters.
BP was forced to set aside a $20 billion fund to cover the cleanup efforts, which were undertaken along with U.S.’s environmental agencies and local organizations, and pay for reparations. Such amount’s still to be fully spent and legal battles still rage over who should pay what and to whom.
It may take years before we know for sure the true extent of the damage to wildlife, fisheries and the ecosystem the spill has caused. But disturbing reports about deformed shrimp and lung-damaged dolphins are no comfort for those who’ve been fighting for years against the use of fossil fuels, exactly to prevent what seems now statistically inevitable: another ecological disaster.
It won’t be easy. And it’s not just because BP, despite settling billions of dollars of claims from the spill, has again asked a U.S. judge for yet another delay to resolve remaining disputes. But energy policies in the U.S. and pretty much every other big western economy are still in large part controlled by the oil and gas industry.
Particularly in the U.S., such fight to end our oil dependency has been disheartening, and the Obama administration’s done less than expected supporting research of alternative energy sources. On the contrary, Continue reading

No Saint

Monsanto’s Profit Grows Despite
Worldwide Aversion to Gen-Alt Crops

What’s a food corporation to do when it’s increasingly vilified around the world, not just for introducing genetically-altered crops before there’s proof there’s no harm to both consumers and the environment, but also for fighting attempts to have products made out of them labeled as such in stores? It raises its profit forecast, of course.
Monsanto, whose weed killer Roundup’s been linked to mutations in frogs, is also accused of strong-arming small farmers by waging court battles against them in several states, over issues concerning its patent-protected seeds. But even thought its crops have been banned in seven European Union nations so far, the company’s been able to get on the good side of most U.S. courts.
So much so that, in at least one instance, the Supreme Court may be asked to weight on the issue of when its proprietary claims may be crushing farmers’ rights. Judging by recent decisions, though, potential litigants against it may first try to win wider support in the court of public opinion: the current crop of U.S. justices may not even accept to review the issue, and that would benefit Monsanto.
That a food company that’s been involved in so much litigation has still managed to expect even higher profits may not be easy to grasp, if all you know about it, you’ve learned from the headlines. In that case, we’re very sorry to say, but this is not even the place to start your education. Still, stick around and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what’s Continue reading