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My first time in the Arctic

This week held huge hope for the Arctic. We could have seen the start of a sanctuary protecting one of the most pristine and beautiful parts of our planet. But OSPAR nations meeting in Tenerife, Spain have failed the Arctic. Three countries, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, refused to engage in negotiations. As a result, the icy waters remain exposed to threats such as destructive fishing and risky oil drilling. 

As a deckhand on the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, these last few urgent weeks of campaigning brought me to the Arctic. I witnessed first hand, for the first time, what millions of us worldwide are campaigning so hard to project.  

One week ago, the Arctic Sunrise was sailing from Longyearbyen, on the west coast of Svalbard, Norway, up to uncharted waters to the north. A crucial week leading up to the OSPAR meeting that could result in the protection of the first ten percent of this sanctuary, and the first internationally recognized protection for the North Pole. I’m below deck cutting giant letters spelling Save the Arctic out of particle board with a table saw, encased in noise-canceling headphones and goggles, trying to keep the edges straight and not cut off my fingers. The boson, a long-haired Kiwi named Grant, comes over to check up on the deck crew and tells us to go outside, because it’s really beautiful.

When I walk onto the deck, I gasp.

Arctic Sunrise in Svalbard, 16 April 2016. © Rasmus Tornqvist / GreenpeaceThe Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise in Svalbard

We are surrounded absolutely by wilderness amid myriad pieces of ice, some as big as a truck, others the size of my fist. Ringing our horizon are snow-capped mountains, veins of snow weeping down their sides. The sea is glassy, reflecting a mirror image. In front of the bow, 500 kilometers away, is the towering, cracked wall of a surging glacier. All is still and silent, save for the tinkle and slap of water and ice. It’s like being in a frozen cathedral, voices intuitively hushed by the sheer power of this alien land.

I’ve spent years talking about the Arctic, knocking on doors and telling people why we need to protect this place from extractive industries like oil drilling, companies like Shell and Gazprom who take advantage of the melting sea ice brought on by a global climate crisis they helped create. I’ve watched documentaries, I’ve looked at countless photos, but nothing could prepare me for this moment, for actually being here. A year ago, to the day, I was in a kayak in the port of Seattle, Washington, paddling in a watery blockade in front of the Polar Pioneer, Shell’s giant oil rig that was headed for the Arctic. I never imagined I would actually be in the Arctic the following year.

 Sun over the Arctic Ocean in Svalbard, 11 April 2016. © Nick Cobbing / GreenpeaceSun over the Arctic Ocean in Svalbard

It’s the most beautiful place I’ve ever been. Tears of awe fill my eyes.

I want to be outside all the time, drinking in the beauty of this place. Every piece of ice is different. There are dark brown ones caked in mud, translucent chunks, electric blues, perfectly white mounds. As they melt, the waterline tends to melt faster, giving the illusion the icebergs are levitating a few inches above the sea. A seal keeps poking its head up to watch our activities, and when I’m crewing the RHIB, one of our small boats, he pops up just a couple meters away, black eyes looking curiously in our direction, with an eerily human-like face like that of a wise old man. Fulmars and gulls circle the ship, and little auks, being really bad at flying, paddle around the increasingly slushy ocean. Every now and then we hear a noise like thunder, and a pillar of ice calves off and fall into the sea, sending up a white cloud and moving the fabric of the ocean in rolling waves as the great chunks of ice tipped to find balance in the sea.

We’re here just two never-ending days, confusing our internal rhythms with the twenty-four hours of daylight. The longer we stay, the more we’re reminded just how wild this place is. The glacier crumbles before our eyes with increasing frequency, filling the ocean with more and bigger ice, the water covered in slush between the bigger growlers and bergy bits (each size of floating ice has a name, I found out through listening in to our ice navigator giving lessons on the bridge). As we heave the anchor to leave, I’m lucky enough to catch a sort of Fourth of July fireworks show grand finale, as towering pillar after pillar cracks off and smashes into the sea.

Ice Floating on the Arctic Ocean, 1 April 2016. © Nick Cobbing / GreenpeaceIce Floating on the Arctic Ocean

Before I came here, I understood on an intellectual level why we need to save the Arctic, but never before have I felt the power of a place like this so deeply. Being here, surrounded by this frozen wonderland, it’s unconscionable to think of an oil rig or a trawling ship plowing through these waters. I think of the delegates of OSPAR, deciding on the fate of ten percent of the Arctic sanctuary that we’ve been working for, and I wish that instead of meeting in sunny Tenerife, they could have met here, voices hushed as they take in one of our last wild places, and perhaps our friend the seal could witness them breathe in the cold air, all debate melting like ice back into the sea. If they had witnessed the beauty of the Arctic this week, maybe their decision would be have been different.

Raise your voice to protect the Arctic.

Paloma, from Los Angeles, California, USA, is a Volunteer Deckhand onboard the Arctic Sunrise.

Protesting at Siemens in defense of the Amazon’s Tapajós River

Greenpeace activists are asking the company not to get involved in the construction of an enormous hydroelectric dam in the heart of the Amazon.

Greenpeace activists protest in front of Siemens Germany headquarters in Munich against Siemens' plans to get involved in the new mega-dam project at the Tapajos River in the Amazon. 15 Jun, 2016 © Bastian Arlt / Greenpeace

Last week, Greenpeace activists gathered at Siemens headquarters in Germany and the Netherlands to protest the company’s likely involvement in the São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam. If constructed, this massive dam would flood almost 400km² of Amazon rainforest and destroy the livelihoods of the Munduruku Indigenous people who’ve lived there for centuries.

Greenpeace activists are protest in front of Siemens Germany headquarters in Munich. 15 Jun, 2016  © Bastian Arlt / Greenpeace

Greenpeace Germany protesters hold a sign in front of Siemens headquarters that reads “Siemens, we want innovation instead of Amazon destruction” in German.

In Germany, the activists used the trunk of an illegally logged Amazon tree to highlight the deforestation the project would cause if it became a reality. They also marked a red line around the Munich-based headquarters to symbolize the ongoing unofficial demarcation of the Sawré Muybu Indigenous Territory, started last week by the Munduruku Indigenous People with the support of Greenpeace activists. Official recognition of Munduruku territory from the Brazilian government – known as demarcation – is the only way indigenous communities can gain the rights to their ancestral lands.

During the protest, Greenpeace Germany forest campaigner Sandra Hieke had a chance to present the CEO of Siemens, Joe Kaeser, with details of the destruction the São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam would cause to the Amazon rainforest and the Munduruku Indigenous People. She gave him a new Greenpeace report that explains the problems hydro-dams cause in the Amazon and a new company briefing on Siemens (in German). This was the first direct conversation between the CEO and members of Greenpeace. Hieke also spoke with him about the human rights violations that occur as part of the construction of many hydroelectric dams in the Brazilian Amazon, like the Belo Monte Dam on the Xingu River.

Amazon protest at Siemens Headquarter in Munich. 15 Jun, 2016, © Bastian Arlt / Greenpeace

Companies like Germany’s Siemens, who provide the technology for hydroelectric dams, must publicly commit to not become involved in the Tapajós project. Instead of contributing to the destruction of the Amazon, Siemens and other companies should help Brazil develop a future with truly clean energy, like solar and wind, to meet the country’s energy supply needs.

Greenpeace offices around the world have asked Siemens not to get involved in this devastating project. But the company has yet to distance itself.

Your voice can help make the difference. Join the call to protect the heart of the Amazon and stand in solidarity with the Munduruku people to stop the São Luiz do Tapajós dam.

Jannes Stoppel is a Forest Campaigner at Greenpeace Germany.

At 8 million strong, the Arctic story is just beginning

The movement to save the Arctic has become a great story. It crystallises some of the big challenges of our time into something simple and compelling, a way for millions of people to make sense of the world and work together to improve it. For three years people across the world have joined together to seek a protected sanctuary around the north pole, and an end to destructive industry across the Arctic.

Volunteers create a human 'I Love Arctic' banner in Buenos Aires. 20 Apr, 2013,  © Martin Katz / GreenpeaceVolunteers and activists take part in an “I love Arctic” event in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

We’ve come a long way towards that vision. Today, over eight million people have joined our movement. We have helped force one of the richest oil companies on earth - Shell - into almost total retreat. Thirty brave people risked their liberty in Russia and helped put the issue under a fierce global spotlight. Arctic drilling now looks less likely than at any point in the last two decades, and it’s thanks to the incredible global community who make up this movement.

Greenpeace supporters protest in central Satiago to demand the release of the Arctic 30. 5 Oct, 2013Candlelight vigil held in Mumbai, India in solidarity with the Arctic 30, the activists and journalists detained after a peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Russian Arctic.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been just three years since we launched the campaign. In 2013 the Arctic was far from the political or financial agenda. The oil companies saw it as just another ‘play’, the logical next step in the hunt for the last drops of oil on earth. Politicians assumed that it would be carved up, exploited, sold. We set out to change this tired old story, to turn drilling for oil in the Arctic into a rallying call for people power.

Protest against Shell at Fredericia in Denmark. 30 Jun, 2015, © Jason White / Greenpeace“Kayaktivists” in Denmark protest against Shell’s Arctic drilling as part of a global wave of action.

We’ve seen real drama along the way. The sight of a giant icebreaker forced to turn around in Portland was an incredible symbol of what people working together can do. On the other side of the world, thousands rode bicycles in Bangkok to celebrate a part of nature they might never see. These are just two amongst hundreds of events, rallies and actions. It is impossible to list them all.

'Act for Arctic' Ice Ride in Thailand. 4 Oct, 2014,  © Roengchai Kongmuang / GreenpeaceCyclists take to the streets in Thailand as part of a global “Ice Ride” for the Arctic.

Behind the scenes, this campaign has chipped away at the foundations of power. Through working with big institutional investors we've helped transform the Arctic from a source of industry bravado to a place of massive risk, both financial and reputational. We’ve made it harder for companies looking to drill and fish in the far north to clean up their image through brand partnerships, diminishing their cultural influence. The impacts of this have extended beyond the Arctic circle, helping to weaken relationships between corporations and politicians elsewhere in the world.

Save the Arctic Ice Ride in Quezon City in the Philippines. 15 Sep, 2013, © Pat Roque / GreenpeaceCyclists with polar bear helmets in Quezon City, Philippines take part in the global “Ice Ride” event.

And the politics are starting to change. Some of the most powerful countries in the Arctic now openly embrace an agenda of protection, not exploitation. We’re still some way from creating a sanctuary, but this dream seems more possible than ever before. We’ve put together a coalition of people, groups and cultural figures who see the importance of this work, and who lobby independently on its behalf.

Audrey Siegl and Emma Thompson at Shell HQ Protest in London. 2 Sep, 2015, © Jiri Rezac / GreenpeaceActor Emma Thompson and Audrey Siegl, a First Nations activist from Canada, join giant polar bear Aurora outside Shell’s London HQ to protest its Arctic drilling.

We always hoped that the Arctic campaign could ripple outwards across the world. The past three years has shown this happening in ways we never expected. When we win the campaign and create an Arctic sanctuary, when the oil companies retreat and Indigenous Peoples are treated with the respect they deserve, we will turn these small ripples into great waves of change. Together, we will save the Arctic. Thank you for being a part of this movement!

Banner Painting with with kids from a Haida Gwaii community. 23 May, 2015,  © Greenpeace / Keri Coles.A young girl shows off her work at a banner painting workshop hosted on the Greenpeace ship MY Esperanza with kids from a Haida Gwaii community in Canada.

If you haven’t already, join more than 8 million people worldwide who want to #SaveTheArctic: www.savethearctic.org

Trillia Fidei-Bagwell is the Digital Engagement Team Leader for the Arctic campaign at Greenpeace International.

The future of food: a necessary road map from uniformity to diversity

Are you concerned about pesticides in your food? Are you wondering how we could switch to more ecological farming? Then you’ll be excited about this report. It’s by an independent group of experts on food security, agro-ecosystems and nutrition (the interntional Panel of Experts on Sustainable food systems, or iPES-food), and describes how to move from industrial agriculture to a sustainable, ecological food model. It’s a roadmap towards our sustainable food future. Here’s what they have to say:

Industrial agriculture threatens itself

Monocultures are good for one thing: producing a lot of the same on a large scale. Be it cows in feedlots, pigs in mega-stables, fields with soy or corn or orchards of apples and almonds, monocultures can only be maintained with toxic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or antibiotics. In their uniformity they are extremely vulnerable to so-called ‘stress factors’ such as pests, diseases and drought. This high-productivity impacts our farming ecosystem, be it polluting water, climate change, loss of pollinators (like bees), loss of fertile soils and a decrease of insects that control agricultural pests causing an even higher use of chemicals. In this industrial one-size-fits-all agriculture, chemicals rule the daily business of farmers.

Agricultural experts are ringing the alarm bells about the existential threat of this industrial food system to itself - it undermines the ecological basis it relies on and threatens our food security in the long run.

Source: iPES-Food. From Uniformity to Diversity: a paradigm shift from industrial agriculture diversified agroecological systems

Working with nature, not against it

From the Netherlands to Brazil, from Ghana to China, farmers and communities are proving that farming based on working with nature, instead of against it — “agroecological farming”, or “ecological farming” — is feasible and the way to go. Agroecological models are not only protecting and fostering the ecological basis of farming and food production, such as enough clean water, fertile soils and ecosystem services like pollination, they provide farmers with a higher and more stable income. Farmers and farming are much more resilient to the effects of climate change, pests and diseases, and also market prices. If a farmer has a diversity of crops to rely on, low market price or a bad harvest of one specific crop is a manageable risk and not a cause for bankruptcy.

Source: iPES-Food. From Uniformity to Diversity: a paradigm shift from industrial agriculture diversified agroecological systems

Industry perpetuated myths are blocking a food revolution

The facts are clear: Fair and sustainable food production today and tomorrow need a fundamental shift in the way we organise the food chain. Front-runners are successfully working with innovative new models of production. Community-supported agriculture initiatives are taking off, sales of organic products are increasing. Sustainable food is hip and happening. But why is it still perceived as a ‘niche market’? Why is the transition to ecological farming happening so slowly? The scientists conclude that there are powerful forces that keep us locked in the current situation.

Companies profiting from the industrial food model, such as pesticide producers and feed traders get no benefits from changing their production. Their core business is industrial agriculture. So they lobby against policies which could benefit diverse eco farming and restrict industrial production. The privatisation of research and technology development is also a problem. Agricultural universities are working with and for big business, and much less on ecological farming innovations. The reasoning is sad, but logical. Ecological farming means less profits for industry and big business.

How we, as a society, perceive our agriculture also blocks real change. After years of industry PR we believe that we need industrial agriculture to ‘feed the world’. While the truth is that it is exactly the opposite: in the long run, we cannot feed the world with industrial agriculture, because it’s destroying our soils, water and ecosystem services which food production relies on, while putting farmers in a stranglehold.

At Eatwell Farm in California. Farmers Lorraine and Nigel allow the land around the vine to grow naturally to add to the fertility of the soil.  © Peter Caton / Greenpeace

How can we then feed the world with fair and ecological food for all?

The iPES-Food report can be seen as a ‘roadmap’ for a sustainable food future. It shows the way for governments and business. Policies must restrict the worst practices of industrial agriculture immediately and promote ecological farming, which can be done by shifting agricultural subsidies, banning bee harming pesticides and deforestation, for example. Food producers should help shaping a new food future by ending the rat race for always cheaper and uniform food. Also, we, as consumers, need to tackle the problems related to industrial agriculture, by reducing our meat consumption or switching to organic food.

Only if all actors start working together can we move from uniformity to (bio)diversity on our fields and plates. See our vision for ecological farming and join the movement today!

Herman van Bekkem is an Ecological Farming Campaigner at Greenpeace Netherlands.

Ludovico Einaudi performs with 8 million voices to save the Arctic

The beauty of the Arctic is overwhelming. The cold, the silence and extraordinary sounds as the ice creaks, rumbles and falls. The pristine environment, with life popping out to welcome you when you least expect it. A unique place that people across the world want to protect.

Brede glacier in Viking bay, Scoresby Sund fjord, east coast of Greenland. 6 Sept 2015 © Christian Åslund / Greenpeace Brede glacier in Viking bay, Scoresby Sund fjord, east coast of Greenland.

Two weeks ago the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise set off from the Netherlands carrying a very special load: the voices of eight million people. Messages from around the globe calling for governments to save the Arctic from threats such as oil drilling and destructive fishing.

Here are a few of the reasons why:

  • For its unique wildlife, including polar bears, narwhals and Arctic foxes
  • For future generations
  • Because it regulates the climate
  • Because it is a global treasure worth protecting from corporate greed

As the ship stopped in Svalbard, Norway, Europe’s gateway to the Arctic, it welcomed aboard a very special guest: renowned pianist and composer, Ludovico Einaudi. With him a grand piano, to undertake his most challenging performance yet, in the Arctic surrounded by ice.

Acclaimed Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi performs one of his own compositions on a floating platform in the Arctic Ocean, in front of the Wahlenbergbreen glacier in Svalbard, Norway. 16 June 2016 © Pedro Armestre / Greenpeace Acclaimed Italian composer and pianist Ludovico Einaudi performs on a floating platform in the Arctic Ocean.

Ludovico Einaudi has turned eight million voices into music, Elegy for the Arctic, specially composed to help protect what we love. As he performed this piece for the first time — in front of a magnificent surging glacier — the music echoed across the ice, a moment that will remain in our minds forever. 

The timing of Einaudi’s performance is not by chance. This week, delegates at the OSPAR Commission meeting in Tenerife, Spain, have an opportunity to take an important step in protecting the Arctic. The proposal before them would safeguard 10% of the Arctic ocean, an area roughly the size of the UK.

Polar Bear at OSPAR Meeting in Ostend. 24 June 2015, © Pedro Armestre/GreenpeacePolar Bear at OSPAR Meeting in Ostend.

And it is urgent. The Arctic ocean is the least protected sea in the world, its high seas currently have no legal safeguards. As the ice cover decreases with rising temperatures, this unique area is losing its frozen shield, leaving it exposed to reckless exploitation, destructive fishing trawlers and risky oil drilling.

The OSPAR Commission has a mandate to protect the marine environment of the northeast Atlantic, including part of the Arctic ocean. But three countries, Norway, Denmark and Iceland, who are listening to corporate interests, are keen to stop that from happening.

As Arctic states, even though they do not govern over the Arctic high seas, which fall north above their national waters, their opinion is weighted heavily and their influence is great.

We must show them that what they have is unique, that the Arctic is worth protecting and not to be risked for short term profit.

Ludovico Einaudi in the Arctic Ocean. June 16 2016 © Pedro Armestre / GreenpeaceLudovico Einaudi in the Arctic Ocean.

Until they they change their view, those who would risk the Arctic should not be heard over those calling to protect what we love, not over Ludovico's music, not over the piano and the glacier, not over 8 million voices.

Thank you for raising your voices to save the Arctic.


Elvira Jiménez and Erlend Tellnes are Arctic Campaigners with Greenpeace Spain and Greenpeace Nordic.

This is my walk, what's yours?

Jay - Detox Wales walker.  © Greenpeace | Malcolm Carroll

My name is Jay and today I’m studying a map of Wales, as I prepare to walk across the country on Saturday for the Greenpeace Detox campaign. That’s my walk, #whatsyourwalk?

Why walk across Wales? Not just because it’s there, but to raise awareness about the Greenpeace campaign to Detox outdoor clothing, challenging brands to ditch PFC chemicals that are damaging our environment.

I’m from Lincolnshire, which is famous for being flat. Wales is not. This walk is going to be the challenge of a lifetime. Even at its thinnest point the county is 42 miles across, which is a long a day’s hike. But with local knowledge from Malcolm, my Welsh Sherpa (and Greenpeace network developer), I’m confident we'll do it in 14 hours.

I'm expecting the weather to be hot, cold, dry and wet, often at the same time. I’m relying on my outdoor gear to protect me from the elements. However, much of the outdoor gear on the market is considered toxic because of the PFCs used to make the gear waterproof and breathable. The production of some PFCs releases persistent organic poisons into to the environment; the very environment the gear is supposed to help us enjoy.

So I’m instead kitted out with high-tech, high performance gear, PFC-free gear, from Páramo, which does less harm to the environment and enables me to enjoy it. All 42 miles of it. Especially the hilly bits... ok maybe not the hilly bits. I’m from Lincolnshire, remember.

If you’d like to see how far I get, follow me on #whatsyourwalk

That’s my walk, what’s yours? Whatever the weather, if you’re out on the hills or flats this weekend, join me in walking for a PFC free future. Share your exploits on #whatsyourwalk, and please make it a PFC free one. Together we can Detox the outdoors.

Finally, if you’d like to drop The North Face a line, and ask them why they aren’t doing more to Detox their outdoor clothing lines, please include @TheNorthFace in your tweet and/or you can sign the global petition to their CEO.

Jay is a volunteer with Greenpeace UK.

This blog originally appeared on the Greenpeace community site Greenwire.

Earth is in danger, but only we can save ourselves

I’ve been a captain for Greenpeace for 35 years, fighting for our environment in every corner of the globe. I’ve confronted polluters, poachers, smugglers, terrorists, criminals – both private and corporate – armies, navies, vigilantes and you-name-it. I’ve been arrested, jailed, had my ships chased, shot at, boarded and attacked, and had French commandos bomb and sink my ship under my feet – killing a crew-mate in the process.

Rainbow Warrior bombing 1985 On July 10, 1985 the Rainbow Warrior was bombed by the “action” branch of the French foreign intelligence services. The Greenpeace ship was in the port of Auckland, New Zealand on its way to a protest against a planned French nuclear test in Moruroa. Photographer Fernando Pereira drowned on the sinking ship.

Wherever I go, people ask me why I continue to take the risks that I take in defending the Earth. For me, the answer is simple: I care about what our planet will be like in the future. Not in the distant future, but the very-near-term-future in which my daughters Anita and Natasha (ages 24 and 20) will be living while raising their own children.

Many environmental activist organisations like Greenpeace, are very much involved in stopping human suffering caused by pollution, slavery, nuclear radiation, toxic waste and climate change. In more than 400,000 miles of sailing for Greenpeace, I have seen the human cost of environmental destruction in every corner of the planet.

The Arctic Sunrise, photographed above from a helicopter, moored to an ice floe by stakes hammered into the ice. Tiny figures can be seen working on the floe, drilling holes into the ice. The Arctic Sunrise is one of three Greenpeace ships seeking to bring attention to the effect of climate change and Save the Arctic.The Arctic Sunrise, photographed above from a helicopter, moored to an ice floe by stakes hammered into the ice. Tiny figures can be seen working on the floe, drilling holes into the ice. The Arctic Sunrise is one of three Greenpeace ships seeking to bring attention to the effect of climate change and Save the Arctic.

In 1985, I brought the Rainbow Warrior to Rongelap Atoll, in the Marshall Islands/South Pacific, to evacuate an entire town to another island because their home island had been poisoned by the fallout from a US thermonuclear/hydrogen bomb. The US knew the islanders were going to be in the fallout zone, and deliberately left them there as human guinea pigs to study the effects of radiation on real people.

For three decades these gentle people had suffered through birth defects, jelly-fish babies (born without spines or bones, and with strangely coloured skin), cancer and just plain-old neglect. Greenpeace brought them to a clean island where they could rebuild their lives. Now, 30 years later, these same islands are being drowned – literally – by rising seas.

An elderly Rongelapese villager being brought aboard the Rainbow Warrior. For nearly three decades the island had been intentionally subjected to U.S. hydrogen bomb testing. Greenpeace helped to move the entire village to a new island so they could rebuild their lives and culture. An elderly Rongelapese villager being brought aboard the Rainbow Warrior. For nearly three decades the island had been intentionally subjected to US hydrogen bomb testing. Greenpeace helped to move the entire village to a new island so they could rebuild their lives and culture.

We think about saving endangered species like the snail darter, spotted owl, or the blue whale. But what about the endangered people of Rongelap? All the other low-lying atolls in the Pacific? The millions of people around the world whose lives will be destroyed if the sea levels rise just a little bit more. Coastal zones around the world have three-times the population density compared to the rest, and almost one-quarter of the world’s population in these near-coastal zones. That’s more than a billion human beings.

These people are just as endangered in the same way birds and fish are. We are destroying their natural habitat and it’s our natural habitat too. We don’t live in a bubble that is separate from the environment (although if we keep fouling our air and water, things might come to that). We are destroying and using up our environment and we are, and will continue to be, affected by it. Most animal species avoid fouling their own nests. It’s a primal instinct. But somehow humankind – supposedly the smartest of all Earth’s species – has lost that instinct. We are destroying our own habitat.

A young girl in the fishing village Te O Ni Beeki on Tarawa Island, Kiribati. The Pacific island nation is considered one of the least developed and poorest countries in the world, with their livelihood and survival challenged from the threats of climate change and overfishing.A young girl in the fishing village Te O Ni Beeki on Tarawa Island, Kiribati. The Pacific island nation is considered one of the least developed and poorest countries in the world, with their livelihood and survival challenged from the threats of climate change and overfishing.

Another human cost of environmental destruction is slavery. In the Amazon, thousands of slaves are being forced to deforest their own land for illegal grazing and logging. The pesticides used for farming on the cleared land flow into the rivers that are used for drinking and bathing for hundreds of miles downstream. Another instance of the human toll I’ve seen is Liberian stowaways hiding in shipments of illegally logged old-growth African forest, and heard eyewitness accounts of similar refugees who jumped off the ships with their hands tied behind their backs, committing suicide rather than be returned to the forced labor lumber camps.

The Munduruku people have inhabited the Sawré Muybu in the heart of the Amazon, for generations. But the Brazilian government currently plan to build a series of dams in the Tapajos River basin, which would severely threaten their way of life. The Munduruku people have inhabited the Sawré Muybu in the heart of the Amazon, for generations. But the Brazilian government currently plan to build a series of dams in the Tapajos River basin, which would severely threaten their way of life. 

In the Philippines, I witnessed the suffering of hundreds of families being poisoned by the PCB’s, dioxins, heavy metals, solvents and waste oil that the US military had left behind on their old bases. One beautiful little six-year-old girl in Manila, Crizel Valencia, had terminal leukemia caused by the toxic materials. This creative and determined girl had painted many of the graphics that we used in the campaign to get the US military to acknowledge their responsibility and clean up the mess. (Sadly, this still has not happened). During her tour of the second Rainbow Warrior (the first was the ship blown up by the French government), Crizel died in the ship’s infirmary, and I saw her mother carrying her off the ship in tears. Seeing that strengthened our resolve to carry on fighting for our environment.

Crizel Valencia on wheel of a Greenpeace inflatable boat, living out her wish to be on the Rainbow Warrior. To her left is Greenpeace Captain, Peter Willcox.Crizel Valencia on wheel of a Greenpeace inflatable boat, living out her wish to be on the Rainbow Warrior. To her left is Greenpeace Captain, Peter Willcox.

An analogy I like to use about our planet is that we’re all on one boat, and with more than 7 billion people on it, it’s actually a pretty small boat. As we drill holes into the bottom of the boat we’re all living on, the water is rising. And yet we keep on drilling holes, faster and faster, ignoring the fact that the water is lapping at our knees. How much longer can we continue to ignore that what we are doing to our planet is affecting us all? Saving the whales, the forests and the atmosphere is great, no question. One of the main reasons that environmentalists and activists do what they do is that we are trying to save us from ourselves.

When boats are in mortal danger, they send out an S.O.S. call. Our ship, Planet Earth, and the passengers on it are in mortal danger so I’m sending out a different S.O.S. signal: “Save Our Selves.” Only we can rescue us from ourselves so I hope we get the message.

Peter Willcox is the author of Greenpeace Captain: My Adventures in Protecting the Future of Our Planet with Ronald B. Weiss, published by Thomas Dunne Books. He has been a captain for Greenpeace for more than 30 years and has led the most compelling and dangerous Greenpeace actions to bring international attention to the destruction of our environment.

Anomalies and suspected falsifications in the nuclear industry: a dozen countries affected

On May 3rd, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) announced that Areva had informed it of “irregularities in components produced at its Creusot Forge plant.” The problems concern documents attesting to the quality of several parts manufactured at the site. The ASN specifies “inconsistencies”, pointing to shortcomings in quality control (as a best-case scenario) but also mentions “omissions or modifications” related to the potential falsification of manufacturing reports.

Greenpeace activists beam a “target” symbol, “Nuclear madness made in France” and “Stop plutonium” onto the AREVA reprocessing facility at La Hague  © Greenpeace / Pierre Gleizes

What was found

At least 400 of the 10,000 quality documents reviewed by Areva contained anomalies. Problems concern the concentration levels of carbon and other elements contained in metallic parts, which determine the resistance of machined components. These levels were incorrectly reported or not reported at all. The possible explanation is that figures which did not comply with regulatory safety requirements were masked using this process.  

However, this equipment must be extremely robust and operate to the highest mechanical standard to ensure total safety.

Entrance of the Areva La Hague nuclear reprocess facilities.  © Nicolas Chauveau / Greenpeace

How were the irregularities discovered?

Questions over quality control were first raised after irregularities were found in late 2014 in the EPR vessel in Flamanville following an ASN request. Finding Areva’s audit of parts manufactured since 2010 too limited and superficial, the ASN requested a more detailed assessment going back to 2004, when the first EPR parts were made. Areva, which has owned the Creusot site since 2006, decided to review reports on all parts made since the plant began operating in 1965.

Trust in quality control: broken

Fraud at this level, if it is proven, deeply challenges this entire system and our trust in how safe it is. It is therefore all the more shocking to hear the French minister in charge of nuclear safety downplay the initial findings the same way EDF and Areva have.

For example, on 4 May, France’s environment minister Ségolène Royal affirmed on RTL radio:

“I reviewed the matter this morning before coming here and can safely say that initial results are good: the parts are compatible – it is the documents which are defective”.

EDF, in turn, stated that “safety was not compromised”, but did not produce any new evidence. Its analysis seems to be based on additional data provided by Areva. In view of the concerns regarding the technical quality and the sincerity of Areva’s documents, this move can by no means be regarded as sufficient.

These declarations seem premature, to say the least. When errors are mistakenly or intentionally included in manufacturing documents, the true quality of the components cannot be known with certainty without verification or new tests. Like those under way for the upper and lower heads of the EPR vessel, these tests will be long and complex. It is currently impossible to predict acceptable results. The ASN itself has said that “the proof provided so far is insufficient to arrive at that conclusion.”

Greenpeace activists block a truck transporting a lid that is to be installed on the vessel of the Flamanville EPR. 12 activists chained themselves to the truck and display banners with the message "Nuclear, dead end". Greenpeace denounces the non-compliance with minimum safety standards after the discovery by the French Nuclear Safety Authority of serious anomalies in the composition of the steel vessel of the Flamanville EPR.  © Nicolas Chauveau / Greenpeace

Parts in service: at least a dozen countries potentially affected

In over 200 reports on the most safety-sensitive equipment in nuclear reactors, around 60 parts are thought to be currently in service in 19 operating reactors at nuclear plants across France. All of EDF’s reactors, as well as other large components in other nuclear facilities, may be affected by parts produced at Creusot Forge.

In Europe, potential problems were confirmed in at least three countries:

• United Kingdom: ONR, Britain’s regulator confirmed in a communiqué dated May13th that the Sizewell B reactor is equipped with potentially affected parts from the Creusot site and stated it was waiting until May 31st for detailed information from Areva confirming whether the parts were in fact affected. The reactor vessel, and the replacement vessel closure lid, may be affected.

• Sweden: Similarly, Vattenfal, which operates the country’s Ringhals station, said on May 18th that two components used in the Ringhals 4 reactor may be affected. Steam generators in reactors 3 and 4 have been replaced with Creusot-made parts.

• Switzerland: vessels in the Beznau 1 and 2 reactors as well as replacement steam generators were supplied by Creusot. While there has been no official confirmation, Swiss media [FR] covered an ASN report suggesting that parts from Creusot may need more extensive testing.

Stations operating in other European countries which may also be affected include:

• Belgium: Tihange and Doel use replacement steam generators, vessel closure lid and pressuriser supplied by Creusot.

• Spain: Replacement steam generators used at Asco and Almaraz.

• Slovenia: Replacement steam generators used at Krsko.

Elsewhere, potentially affected parts are used in operational reactors on three continents:

• United States: various reactors use potentially affected vessel components (Prairie Island 1 and 2), replacement lids (North Anna, Surry, Three Mile Island, Crystal River 3, Arkansas, Turkey Point, Salem, Saint Lucie, D.C. Cook...), steam generators (Prairie Island 1, Callaway, Arkansas, Salem, Saint Lucie, Three Mile Island) and pressurisers (Saint Lucie, Milestone).

• Brazil: Angra II uses replacement steam generators.

• China: equipment in the Guangdong 1 and 2, Ling Ao 1 and 2 and Ling Ao 3 and 4 reactors, as well as replacement reactor lids at the Qinshan station.

• South Korea: parts in the Ulchin 1 and 2 reactors.

• South Africa: parts in the Koeberg 1 and 2 reactors.

Doel Nuclear Power Plant near Antwerp in Belgium  © Bernd Arnold / Greenpeace

We need transparency now

To ensure complete transparency, Greenpeace France asks that this list of parts, along with detailed information about incriminated documents and the nature of the irregularities, omissions or modifications noted for each part, be made public

The little information available is not enough to measure the extent and gravity of the matter. The ASN have asked Areva to provide it with a list of the parts concerned. Greenpeace France believes more should be done.

In addition to the audit, systematic re-assessments of parts are needed

When an error or forgery in a document renders compliance uncertain, only a technical review of the concerned parts can clear up any doubt.

Greenpeace asks that once the list of concerned facilities is published, their operations be halted immediately so that an initial inspection can identify necessary tests and additional proof to be provided in order to clear up any doubt regarding the quality of all incriminated parts.

Reactors under construction: the uncertainty of EPR

The Flamanville EPR is the first among those affected by non-compliance problems. The first “serious anomalies” identified by the ASN in spring 2015 were found on the upper and lower heads of the vessel. Excess carbon in the central portion raises questions about their mechanical ability to withstand a sudden breakdown in certain conditions (notably, the need, in certain cases, to inject large amounts of cold water into the vessel, which can create a risk of thermal shock).

This means that the Taishan EPR under construction in China could also be affected by these discoveries, as is the Hinkley Point project in the UK (in the planning stages).

Above all, it demonstrates Areva’s inability to control and monitor processes in the nuclear industry and, as a result, confirms an urgent need to plan for a reduction in the share of nuclear energy in the multi-year energy plan which should be published following the energy transition law adopted by France last year.

Clément Sénéchal is the social media manager of Greenpeace France



Anomalies and suspected falsifications in the nuclear industry: a dozen countries affected

On May 3rd, the French Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) announced that Areva had informed it of "irregularities in components produced at its Creusot Forge plant." The problems concern documents attesting to the quality of several parts manufactured at the site. The ASN specifies "inconsistencies", pointing to shortcomings in quality control (as a best-case scenario) but also mentions "omissions or modifications" related to the potential falsification of manufacturing reports.

Greenpeace activists beam 'Nuclear madness made in France' onto the AREVA reprocessing facility at La Hague  © Greenpeace / Pierre Gleizes

What was found

At least 400 of the 10,000 quality documents reviewed by Areva contained anomalies. Problems concern the concentration levels of carbon and other elements contained in metallic parts, which determine the resistance of machined components. These levels were incorrectly reported or not reported at all. The possible explanation is that figures which did not comply with regulatory safety requirements were masked using this process. However, this equipment must be extremely robust and operate to the highest mechanical standard to ensure total safety.

Entrance of the Areva La Hague nuclear reprocess facilities.  © Nicolas Chauveau / Greenpeace

How were the irregularities discovered?

Questions over quality control were first raised after irregularities were found in late 2014 in the EPR vessel in Flamanville following an ASN request. Finding Areva's audit of parts manufactured since 2010 too limited and superficial, the ASN requested a more detailed assessment going back to 2004, when the first EPR parts were made. Areva, which has owned the Creusot site since 2006, decided to review reports on all parts made since the plant began operating in 1965.

Trust in quality control: broken

Fraud at this level, if it is proven, deeply challenges this entire system and our trust in how safe it is. It is therefore all the more shocking to hear the French minister in charge of nuclear safety downplay the initial findings the same way EDF and Areva have.

For example, on 4 May, France's environment minister Ségolène Royal affirmed on RTL radio:

"I reviewed the matter this morning before coming here and can safely say that initial results are good: the parts are compatible – it is the documents which are defective".

EDF, in turn, stated that "safety was not compromised", but did not produce any new evidence. Its analysis seems to be based on additional data provided by Areva. In view of the concerns regarding the technical quality and the sincerity of Areva's documents, this move can by no means be regarded as sufficient.

These declarations seem premature, to say the least. When errors are mistakenly or intentionally included in manufacturing documents, the true quality of the components cannot be known with certainty without verification or new tests. Like those under way for the upper and lower heads of the EPR vessel, these tests will be long and complex. It is currently impossible to predict acceptable results. The ASN itself has said that "the proof provided so far is insufficient to arrive at that conclusion."

Greenpeace activists block a truck transporting a lid that is to be installed on the vessel of the Flamanville EPR. 12 activists chained themselves to the truck and display banners with the message 'Nuclear, dead end'. Greenpeace denounces the non-compliance with minimum safety standards after the discovery by the French Nuclear Safety Authority of serious anomalies in the composition of the steel vessel of the Flamanville EPR.  © Nicolas Chauveau / Greenpeace

Parts in service: at least a dozen countries potentially affected

In over 200 reports on the most safety-sensitive equipment in nuclear reactors, around 60 parts are thought to be currently in service in 19 operating reactors at nuclear plants across France. All of EDF's reactors, as well as other large components in other nuclear facilities, may be affected by parts produced at Creusot Forge.

In Europe, potential problems were confirmed in at least three countries:

• United Kingdom: ONR, Britain's regulator confirmed in a communiqué dated May 13th that the Sizewell B reactor is equipped with potentially affected parts from the Creusot site and stated it was waiting until May 31st for detailed information from Areva confirming whether the parts were in fact affected. The reactor vessel, and the replacement vessel closure lid, may be affected.

• Sweden: Similarly, Vattenfal, which operates the country's Ringhals station, said on May 18th that two components used in the Ringhals 4 reactor may be affected. Steam generators in reactors 3 and 4 have been replaced with Creusot-made parts.

• Switzerland: Vessels in the Beznau 1 and 2 reactors as well as replacement steam generators were supplied by Creusot. While there has been no official confirmation, Swiss media [FR] covered an ASN report suggesting that parts from Creusot may need more extensive testing.

Stations operating in other European countries which may also be affected include:

• Belgium: Tihange and Doel use replacement steam generators, vessel closure lid and pressuriser supplied by Creusot.

• Spain: Replacement steam generators used at Asco and Almaraz.

• Slovenia: Replacement steam generators used at Krsko.

Elsewhere, potentially affected parts are used in operational reactors on three continents:

• United States: Various reactors use potentially affected vessel components (Prairie Island 1 and 2), replacement lids (North Anna, Surry, Three Mile Island, Crystal River 3, Arkansas, Turkey Point, Salem, Saint Lucie, D.C. Cook...), steam generators (Prairie Island 1, Callaway, Arkansas, Salem, Saint Lucie, Three Mile Island) and pressurisers (Saint Lucie, Milestone).

• Brazil: Angra II uses replacement steam generators.

• China: Equipment in the Guangdong 1 and 2, Ling Ao 1 and 2 and Ling Ao 3 and 4 reactors, as well as replacement reactor lids at the Qinshan station.

• South Korea: Parts in the Ulchin 1 and 2 reactors.

• South Africa: Parts in the Koeberg 1 and 2 reactors.

Doel Nuclear Power Plant near Antwerp in Belgium  © Bernd Arnold / Greenpeace

We need transparency now

To ensure complete transparency, Greenpeace France asks that this list of parts, along with detailed information about incriminated documents and the nature of the irregularities, omissions or modifications noted for each part, be made public

The little information available is not enough to measure the extent and gravity of the matter. The ASN have asked Areva to provide it with a list of the parts concerned. Greenpeace France believes more should be done.

In addition to the audit, systematic re-assessments of parts are needed

When an error or forgery in a document renders compliance uncertain, only a technical review of the concerned parts can clear up any doubt.

Greenpeace asks that once the list of concerned facilities is published, their operations be halted immediately so that an initial inspection can identify necessary tests and additional proof to be provided in order to clear up any doubt regarding the quality of all incriminated parts.

Reactors under construction: the uncertainty of EPR

The Flamanville EPR is the first among those affected by non-compliance problems. The first "serious anomalies" identified by the ASN in spring 2015 were found on the upper and lower heads of the vessel. Excess carbon in the central portion raises questions about their mechanical ability to withstand a sudden breakdown in certain conditions (notably, the need, in certain cases, to inject large amounts of cold water into the vessel, which can create a risk of thermal shock).

This means that the Taishan EPR under construction in China could also be affected by these discoveries, as is the Hinkley Point project in the UK (in the planning stages).

Above all, it demonstrates Areva's inability to control and monitor processes in the nuclear industry and, as a result, confirms an urgent need to plan for a reduction in the share of nuclear energy in the multi-year energy plan which should be published following the energy transition law adopted by France last year.

Clément Sénéchal is the Social Media Manager of Greenpeace France.

Protecting the Amazon, side by side with the Munduruku

This morning I woke up in the Sawré Muybu village with a strong sense of anticipation. Today we start a series of collaborations with the Munduruku Indigenous People to defend their ancestral territories and protect the heart of the Amazon – the Tapajós River basin. From the structure that we set up in the forest at the village of the Munduruku, I can see the coming day framed by the traditional roof. I can hear the nearby river and the wind shaking the leaves of the trees.

Blue-fronted amazon (Amazona aestiva) inside the house of Juarez Saw Munduruku, Cacique (chief) of village Sawré Muybu Indigenous Land, home to the Munduruku people, Pará state, Brazil. 21 Feb, 2016  © Valdemir Cunha / Greenpeace

Over the last few weeks I have been working with the Munduruku to prepare for the arrival of activists, Indigenous leaders and community members to draw the world's attention to the Tapajós River and the people who live there. The Munduruku have bravely resisted the Brazilian government’s plans to build dams on the Tapajós River for years – most recently the São Luiz do Tapajós mega-dam. And I am glad to stand with them now to keep the Tapajós River free.

Munduruku and Greenpeace Demarcate Indigenous Lands in the Amazon. 14 Jun, 2016.  © Anderson Barbosa / Greenpeace

Today the Munduruku publically identify their territory to demonstrate to Brazilian society and the international community the risk the dam poses to the Amazon forest and their way of life. Working with Greenpeace activists, they are undertaking a community led, unofficial demarcation of their traditional land – this means putting fifty big signs around the perimeter of their territory. The signs look similar to the official signs that the Brazilian government would use if they were doing what their very own departments recommend – recognising this area as Munduruku traditional land.

Map of Tapajós River Basin in Brazil.  © Greenpeace

The demarcation is another step in the global effort to stop the construction of the São Luiz do Tapajós hydroelectric dam, which, if built, would flood nearly 400 square kilometers of forest, including important cultural and traditional sites of the Munduruku people and other traditional populations that live around the Tapajós River. Currently the licensing process for the dam has been suspended due to Indigenous land claims, but the Tapajós won't be safe until the dam is cancelled for good.

Munduruku in the Tapajós river, next to Sawré Muybu Indigenous Land, home to the Munduruku people, Pará state, Brazil. 22 Feb, 2016  © Valdemir Cunha / Greenpeace

So today, we will walk around the perimeter of the Munduruku territory or go by boat along the Tapajos river, spreading signs that show another way is possible. Together, we will seek the support of all those who believe in a more just world – one where the Amazon and its Indigenous Peoples have their rights respected and placed above commercial interests.

Please join us: stand with the Munduruku to protect the heart of the Amazon.

Danicley de Aguiar is an Amazon forest campaigner for Greenpeace Brazil.


        

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