This summer, the United Nations International Resource Panel (IRP), published 'Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity', a report that admits what ecologists have been saying for decades: resources are limited, human consumption trends are unsustainable and resource depletion diminishes human health, quality of life and future development.
The report shows that consumption of Earth's primary resources (metals, fuels, timber, cereals and so forth) has tripled in the last 40 years, driven by population growth (increasing at about 1.1% per year), economic growth (averaging about 3% per year over the same period) and consumption per person, worldwide.
Coal Mines at the source of the Yellow River, China
Economic growth has helped lift some regions from poverty and created more middle-class consumers, while enriching the wealthiest nations the most. The UN report acknowledges, however, that advances in human well-being have been achieved through consumption patterns that are "not sustainable" and that will "ultimately deplete the resources − causing shortages [and] conflict".
In 1970 — when ecologists in Canada founded Greenpeace and Club of Rome scholars prepared the original 'Limits to Growth' study — a human population of 3.7 billion used 22 billion tons of primary materials per year. Forty years later, in 2010, with a population of 6.7 billion, humans used 70 billion tons. Now, in 2016, we require about 86 billion tons and the UN Resource Panel estimates that by 2050 we will require annually some 180 billion tons of raw materials, which Earth's ecosystems may not be able to provide.
Furthermore, modern technology has not made our economies more efficient, as promised. As technology has advanced, material consumption accelerated. Fossil fuel consumption has grown annually by 2.9%, metal ores by 3.5%, and non-metalic minerals by 5.3%. Since 2000, even as economic growth and population growth slowed, material demand accelerated. Frivolous consumption has increased among the rich and we now spend increasing amounts of energy to extract lower grade resources, reducing productivity.
Wires and cables brought to the Lyari River, Karachi, to be burned.
According to Alicia Bárcena Ibarra, co-chair of the panel, "the alarming rate at which materials are now being extracted … shows that the prevailing patterns of production and consumption are unsustainable... We urgently need to address this problem before we have irreversibly depleted the resources that power our economies and lift people out of poverty. This deeply complex problem … calls for a rethink of the governance of natural resource extraction."
Meanwhile, large economic gaps remain between rich and poor nations, between North America and Europe on one hand, and all other world regions. To achieve economic justice and UN development goals, low income nations will require increasing quantities of materials.
Today, the average citizen in Africa consumes about three tonnes of material resources each year, including infrastructure. In Asia, Latin America, and Eastern Europe, the average citizen consumes about 3-times as much, 8-10 tonnes of materials each year. In Europe and North America, average citizens consume about 20-30 tonnes of materials each year, 7-10-times the average African. The super-rich, elite, with multiple homes, airplanes, and exotic holidays, consume much more, in the range of 100-times the average African citizen, ten-times the middle-class citizen in Asia. The US, with less than 5% of world population, consumes about 30% of global materials.
Social justice goals and ecological goals sometimes appear in conflict, but the real conflict arises between the extravagant consumption of the wealthy and the subsistence consumption of the rest of the world.
Olusosum Dump site, Lagos, Nigeria
In 2008, the Global Footprint Network prepared the following chart that shows how nations measure up to the UN Human Development Index (vertical scale) and the Global Footprint Index (horizontal scale). Those nations above the horizontal 0.800 line meet the UN Human Development goals; those below fall short. Nations to the left of the vertical red line live within the budget for a per-capita fair share of Earth's resources. Those to the right use more than their fair share per person. The average person in the US uses about five times their fair share of Earth's resources. The average person in Sierra Leone uses about half of a fair share. Several Asian and South American nations come close to achieving both — meeting UN Human Development goals with a fair per-capita share of resources — but the only nation that does achieve both goals is Cuba.
A vast proportion of consumption in rich nations is wasteful; products are designed to be wasteful and grow obsolete. According to industrial ecologist Robert Ayres, 99% of human-produced goods are consumed or become waste within six months.
The UN panel warns that "rapid economic growth occurring simultaneously in many parts of the world will place much higher demands on supply infrastructure and the environment's ability to continue supplying materials." If Earth cannot provide the material increases expected, then total human resource consumption will have to stabilise. How is this to be achieved?
Coal Train in Powder River Basin, USA
Economy and materials
The imperative of industrial economy is growth, but the ecological data tells us to slow down. The conflict may be the supreme challenge of our age, almost entirely ignored by status quo politicians. The UN Resource Panel avoids the challenge by proposing twin strategies of "efficiency" and "decoupling" to allow global economic growth to continue.
Efficiency is the long-sought holy grail of technology, the belief that machines will produce the goods we want with less demand on resources. Decoupling describes the theory that more efficient machines, and wise strategies can create economic growth without consuming resources. Let's examine these beliefs.
Efficiency: In 1865, William Jevons published 'The Coal Question', showing that technological efficiencies did not reduce coal consumption but increased consumption. Historically, when we become more efficient with a resource, we use more of it. The "Jevons paradox" applied to resource use in general. Efficiency often increases consumption.
Gridlocked Motorways in New Delhi, India
Energy efficient automobiles increased leisure driving, vehicle size, and suburban sprawl. Refrigeration efficiency led to larger refrigerators and more electricity consumption. In North America, according to research by William Rees, as modern heating systems improved efficiency by 10-30%, living and working space per person increased on the scale of 100-300%, ten times faster, increasing total energy consumption for heating. According to a 1994 study by Mario Giampietro, the so-called "Green Revolution", increasing food production with hydrocarbons and fertilizers, led to increased population growth, degraded land, a trail of toxins and more starving people.
Computer technology was going to solve this, making modern life more efficient, but in 1990, at the dawn of the personal computer revolution, global productivity stopped improving and, since 2000, productivity — economic production per unit of resource use or labour — declined. Computers sped up global economy and we now use more fossil fuels, paper and other materials than we did when personal computers became available.
Decoupling: The UN panel's other theory proposes: "to decouple economic growth and human well-being from ever-increasing consumption of natural resources", the panel claims, "many countries have initiated policies to facilitate decoupling," but cannot offer any evidence of success.
The global economy now needs more materials per unit of GDP than required 20 years ago. Meanwhile, lower net energy, higher energy costs for resources and growing environmental destruction per unit of economic activity undermine the hypothesis of decoupling. The UN appears to realise this since they project that annual resource extraction will increase to 180 billion tons by 2050.
Similarly, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change proposes "mitigation technologies" such as carbon capture, even though these technologies have not even slowed the growth of carbon emissions. Germany, the world leader in solar installations, has seen no drop in emissions since 2009, while coal and LNG plants remain open. The UN agencies mean well but cling to delusions. "They bombard us with adverts, cajoling us to insulate our homes, turn down our thermostats, drive a little less," says Tim Jackson, of the UK Sustainable Development Commission. "The one piece of advice you will not see on a government list is 'buy less stuff!'"
Energy-efficient public library, Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain
For the poorer nations, economic growth remains important, but the blind spot of international politics remains the taboo against recognising the limits to aggregate global economic growth. We have now reached those limits and wealthy countries must embrace this ecological reality.
"Civilization has a metabolism, about 7.1 milliwatts per dollar of GDP (2005 US$)," explains ecologist Nate Hagens at the University of Minnesota. "Currently, 80% of nitrogen in our bodies and 50% of the protein comes indirectly from natural gas." A study published in Bioscience by J.H. Brown and colleagues points out that "energy imposes fundamental constraints on economic growth and development [similar to] scaling of metabolic rate with body mass in animals.
"Additional economic growth and development will require some combination of (a) increased energy supply, (b) decreased per capita energy use, and (c) decreased human population... The ruins of Mohenjo Daro, Mesopotamia, Egypt, Rome, the Maya, Angkor, Easter Island, and many other complex civilizations provide incontrovertible evidence that innovation does not always prevent socioeconomic collapse."
Canary Wharf in London, UK
During the global financial crisis of 2008 and 2009, global material use actually slowed. Historically, economic recessions provide the only examples of reduced consumption — and here we may recognise the genuine solutions to resource consumption: allow and encourage wealthy economies to stabilise and contract. The UN report recognises that "the level of well-being achieved in wealthy industrial countries cannot be generalised globally based on the same system of production and consumption."
This part, they get right. Humanity needs a new economic model that does not require the delusion of endless growth in a finite global habitat.
Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.
UNEP Report: Global Material Flows, Resource Productivity, 2016.
Energy Skeptic: Limits to Growth? 2016 United Nations report provides evidence
Huffington Post: Consumption Of Earth's Resources Tripled In 40 Years, UNEP
Last week, in Kigali, Rwanda, governments across the world agreed on a landmark deal to phase down HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons). HFCs are greenhouse gases that are up to a thousand times more powerful than CO2. They are used as refrigerants in things like air conditioners, and contribute the rapid warming of our planet.
The phase down is a move in the right direction, but progress is simply not happening fast enough. We need to stay below 1.5ºC of global warming to alleviate its worst effects and we only have a few more years to take action before damage to the planet becomes irreversible.
We need transformational change, not just incremental change. If nations are ambitious and have the courage to take bold action to get rid of HFCs, we could actually decrease temperatures by 0.5ºC by the end of the century.
Together, we need to demand a phase out of HFCs by 2020. Sustainable alternatives, like GreenFreeze, are already available in most cooling appliances. Natural refrigerants are the solution, not their highly polluting alternatives which the chemical lobby is pushing for: HFOs.
Removal of CFCs at electronic waste recycling facility in Slovakia
The pace of negotiations to phase down these gases has always been dictated by the industries that produce them. Since the Montreal Protocol was signed in 1987, the chemical industry has profited from marketing new generations of fluorocarbon chemicals; transitioning from one generation of fluorocarbons to the next. But they have failed to solve the global crises which their products. The costs of cleaning up has been left to the public. And even today, the industry is pushing for new fluorocarbon blends as replacements for HFCs.
Natural refrigerants have been a sustainable alternative since the beginning; climate and environmentally friendly, more energy-efficient and cheaper to produce. But, the chemical industry can’t profit from this technology, so they stand in the way of it. Our socio-economic system is built around profit at all costs. That means that corporate power can take over a process that was originally set up to repair the ozone layer and protect the planet from overheating.
The world has changed dramatically in the seven years since negotiations started. But there are some old power dynamics that won’t change until someone decides that they have to. And that is why we need to keep pushing industry to prioritise the health of the planet and its people over their profits.
We will keep on fighting for the ‘impossible’ until it becomes possible, because that is what we do. We fight for people power. And eventually, we win.
Paula Tejón Carbajal is a Strategist and F gases expert with Greenpeace International.
For 20 years, the people of Okinawa, Japan have opposed the construction of a US military base that will damage the marine environment and endangered sea creatures like the Japanese dugong. Now the construction threatens to take over their forest. Japanese photojournalist, Takashi Morizumi has been documenting the Okinawa people’s movement for nine years. Read his journey and meet the people who are fighting to keep their home.
Children swimming in the brook in the Yambaru forest
Driving north along the highway towards Higashi village, Okinawa I’m immediately struck by the lush, green Yamburu Forest. Home to over 4,000 species of plants and animals, including protected endemic and endangered species like the Okinawa woodpecker, Ryukyu black-breasted leaf turtle, and Ishikawa's frog, it makes sense that this “Galapagos of the East” is currently in the process of being registered as a world natural heritage site.
As sunlight strikes through the canopy hitting my windscreen I feel spiritually healed in the forest mists and wonder: what right does a helipad construction have to take away the nature and desire of the residents who are peacefully living here?
Sunlight streaming through the Yambaru forest
This is what the Japanese government has decided to do - cut down the forest in order to construct six helicopter pads for the United States military, including on sites in the district of Takae in Higashi village. With 140 residents in Takae, they have twice adopted a resolution opposing the construction, but the government has forcefully began construction anyway. To live in peace, residents of Takae have no other choice than to protest at the gates where construction vehicles enter. This is what their lives are like.
Mr Gentatsu Ashimine - cafe owner
Mr Gentatsu Ashimine
Gentatsu Ashimine opened his own café to offer a place of spirituality and calm for city-dwellers. In 2003 he moved from central Okinawa to Takae, looking for a sustainable life. The cafe - constructed without blueprints, and built using his own tools - is situated on the brook in front of his house so that the bubbling stream and bird and insect songs can be heard. It’s paradise.
However, in 2014 two of the helipads were built 400 meters from his place. Thunderous military aircrafts now hover overhead, shattering the peace and tranquility. When night-time military training began, his children could not go to school due to lack of sleep. He was forced to evacuate them to a neighboring village.
“Because of the helipads, we cannot live here. But we didn’t do anything wrong. We don’t want to run away from here,” said Gentatsu.
Military aircrafts now hover over Takae.
Ms Akino Miyagi - entomologist
Ms Akino Miyagi
In 2007, Akino Miyagi saw an insect exhibition, which changed her life forever. She went to Malaysia to study insects and is now a leading expert on butterflies in Yambaru forest. Takae is where the Riukiuana Rings and other endemic butterflies live.
“If the Japanese government continue to cut down the trees, rare butterflies will become extinct,” Miyagi warns. “It takes only a moment to destroy the forest for the construction of helipads. However, these trees have been nurturing innumerable animals for hundreds of years. Human beings cannot nurture these living creatures.”
Japan's elderly - activists
Takae’s elderly join hands against the riot police
Jostling and shoving, elderly people join hands against the riot police. Many experienced the battle of Okinawa 71 years ago, when a fourth of all Okinawans died.
“We don’t want our youth to experience hell. In order not to fight in a war, we fight now,” I overhear from a group of elderly activists.
Okinawan resistance is committed to non-violence.
Mr. Masatsugu Isa - craftsman
Mr Masatsugu Isa
Masatsugu Isa carves Tohtohmeh, a tablet to enshrine ancestors’ spirits. Over 20 years have passed since he and his father moved from Okinawa City to Takae. The Northern Training Area is across the street from his workshop. Now he helps represent the residents opposing the helipad construction.
“If we allow this, we will not be able to raise our voices against the atrocious behavior of our government,” says Mr Isa.
Residents who staged a sit-in protest in front of a training area gate in 2007 were sued by the government for “traffic interference”. He brought his fight to the Supreme Court, but lost. However, he will not desist. The blood of his father and grandfather, who also opposed the war and subsequent occupation, flows in his veins.
Takashi Morizumi is a photojournalist who covers topics in Japan and overseas such as the effects of U.S. military bases, radiation contamination, and environmental problems.
Join the hundreds standing up for peace. Send a message to Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe, here.
Last weekend (14-16 October, 2016), farmers, scientists and activists from all over the world gathered at the Monsanto Tribunal in the Hague, Netherlands, to present the case against destruction caused by one of the corporate giants that promotes industrial farming.
Monsanto Tribunal in The Hague, 15 Oct, 2016
The symbolic Monsanto Tribunal aimed to hold Monsanto - the giant agrochemical company - to account for its alleged atrocities against humanity and the environment. This event is far from over. It will echo back through the food system as the tribunal’s participants bring home lessons, solutions and renewed hope for change.
First day of the tribunal, judges Tulkens (left) and Fall Epse Sow. 15 Oct 2016
Five internationally renowned judges heard 30 witnesses. Experts gave their accounts of the environmental damage wrought by Monsanto. One testimony described how monoculture has caused a great loss to seed variety. They compared the patenting of seeds to a new form of colonization.
Seng Channeang, Cambodian smallscale farmer. 15 Oct 2016
These testimonies will give people all over the world a well-documented legal brief to be used in lawsuits against other similar corporations.
“Although this is not legally binding, it is legally sound,” said Arnaud Apoteker, member of the steering committee of the Tribunal. “The witnesses were presenting real cases to real judges. The lessons from this event can be used in ensuing local battles.”
One of the thirty witnesses, Feliciano Ucam Poot, a Mayan farmer from Mexico, submitted evidence to support his allegations that glyphosate and other chemicals are linked to childrens' sickness. He said, "before the introduction of glyphosate and other agrochemicals, I did not see our people suffer from sickness like this… A lot of people are suffering like us, and this Tribunal will ensure that our stories will be heard around the world.”
Scene from the Monsanto Tribunal Press Conference, 15 Oct 2016
Do we need these agrochemicals to feed the world? A question asked of Hans Herren, a renowned scientist and president of the Millennium Institute at the Monsanto Tribunal, “By producing less waste we can feed 10 million people. We need to make more health per acre, not calories per acre.”
Running parallel to the Tribunal hearings was a People's Assembly, where people from around the world discussed solutions to the impacts caused by industrial agriculture. As many of the witnesses pointed out, one of the greatest challenges they face is to make their voices heard. This Assembly provided a much needed forum for communities to come together and find sustainable solutions to common problems.
The People's Assembly, The Hague. 15 Oct 2016
“We should fight for ourselves. Nobody is free from danger if our food is toxic,” said Farida Akhter of UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternatives), Bangladesh.
The stories of people like Feliciano and the concerns of Farida are echoed by millions of voices from across the world; from beekeepers in Mexico to small scale producers in France and farmers in India.
The judges of the tribunal will assess these allegations, examine all evidence put forth and publish their findings in December.
Judges at the Monsanto Tribunal, 15 Oct 2016
These issues aren’t limited to farmers and environmentalists - they concern us all. We all have a choice: as citizens and consumers, we can all make decisions to shape the future we want.
With this historic court case a new generation is now taking action to stop oil companies from kidnapping our future. Nature & Youth and Greenpeace Nordic, alongside a broad coalition, have filed an unprecedented people-powered legal case against the Norwegian government.
Historic Lawsuit against Arctic Oil in Oslo, 18 Oct, 2016.
It has the potential to become a rallying point for people resisting fossil fuel exploration around the world. This case is about holding back the oil industry at the final frontier. It is about protecting the fragile Arctic. It is about a new generation stepping up to hold governments accountable to their climate promises.
Climate March in Oslo, 28 Nov, 2015
We will argue in court that we must take action to keep the Paris climate agreement on track, and we will invoke the Norwegian people's right to a healthy and safe environment, as it is written in article 112 of Norway's Constitution. This lawsuit demands that Norway upholds its constitutional guarantee for future generations:
“Every person has the right to an environment that is conducive to health and to a natural environment whose productivity and diversity are maintained. Natural resources shall be managed on the basis of comprehensive long-term considerations which will safeguard this right for future generations as well. The authorities of the state shall take measures for the implementation of these principles”.
Borebreen Glacier in Svalbard, 25 June, 2016.
Norway was among the first countries in the world to ratify the Paris Climate agreement and has promised to reduce its emissions by ambitious targets. At the same time, the Norwegian state-owned oil company, Statoil, has announced a major new exploration campaign in the Barents Sea. They want to drill up to seven new exploratory wells in the Arctic next year.
How can it be right to agree to a 1.5 degree limit on global warming in Paris and just weeks later announce you are starting a new chapter for Arctic oil? The science is already clear, we have to keep 80% of the proven fossil-fuel reserves in the ground to avoid catastrophic climate change.
Production platform Goliat in the Barents Sea, Norway. 6 Dec, 2015
This will be a case of the people vs. Arctic oil. This is not just a Norwegian issue, but a global one.
As the polar ice cap melts, desperate oil companies are attempting to move even further north to drill for more of the same oil that is behind the global warming and which threatens the Arctic nature and wildlife with devastating oil spills. If we, together, don´t stop them, they could destroy one of the world’s last great wilderness areas forever and push our climate beyond saving.
This is a critical moment. Oil is warming our world and polluting our oceans. No one wants this to be the legacy we leave for future generations. But if enough people join us in this case, it can be a catalyst for similar legal actions in other parts of the world to keep the fossil fuels in the ground. As millions of us come together and take the climate crooks to court, we continue to build a movement to take back our future. Starting in the Arctic, it is time to end the oil age.
Please help us have the best chance possible - we need thousands of people to show their support - add your name here and it will be submitted to the court to demonstrate this is a global concern.
A new wave of oil drilling threatens the Arctic - but today saw the start of the fight back. This morning a lawsuit was filed that could stop the expansion of this reckless industry northwards - but we need your help.
This is The People vs. Arctic Oil.
As the Arctic melts, oil companies are moving in to drill for more oil. Next year, the Norwegian owned oil company Statoil will drill further north than ever - unless we stop them. An unprecedented case was filed this morning that could do just that.
This case is about holding back the oil industry at this final frontier, it is about protecting the beautiful Arctic, and it is about people stepping up to hold governments to account. If we win, millions of barrels of oil could be kept in the ground. We will argue in court that we must take action to keep the Paris climate agreement on track, and we will invoke Norway’s constitutional right to a healthy and safe environment for future generations.
The largest network of young environmentalists in Norway, appropriately called Nature and Youth, have partnered with Greenpeace, and together we are the co-plaintiffs. The defendants are the Norwegian government who granted 13 oil companies licenses to drill in the Arctic. The case will be heard in Oslo - but the eyes of the world will be watching.
Already, statements of solidarity and offers of help have come from around the world, including from scientists, lawyers and activists who themselves have incredible stories about battling the oil industry at the front lines. Some of the most respected leaders in the struggle against the oil industry have travelled to Oslo to witness the moment the case was filed. We are calling these supporters ‘Friends of the Case’.
Audrey Siegl, First Nations artist and activist from Canada who stood in the way of Shell’s oil rig in 2015 as it headed to the Arctic. She travelled to Shell’s HQ in London in September 2015, with a message of resistance, following in the footsteps of her First Nations ancestors who travelled to London 100 years ago to demand Indigenous rights.
Niillas Beaska, Sámi politician and traditional fisherman, from Deatnu/Tana, Sápmi. Member of the Sámi Parliament, and in 2014 elected the Head of the Norwegian Saami Association. Long term campaigner against exploitation and extraction activities in the Sámi lands, and advocate for the defence of nature in the whole Sámi area.
Bunna Lawrie, is an elder, medicine man and whale songman from the Mirning Tribe on the Nullarbor Plains in South Australia, which surrounds the Great Australian Bight, the place of the White Whale Jeedara. Bunna has been a leading activist against BP’s and Statoil's plans to drill for oil in the pristine whale sanctuary of the Great Australian Bight. Plans that have now been dropped. Bunna is in Oslo to do what he can to make sure that Statoil does the same in the Arctic.
Ivan Ivanov, From the Komi Republic, in Russia, which is blighted by terrible oil spills caused by companies like Lukoil, who have been granted licences in Norway’s waters. He is an active blogger on oil spill issues, and an observer on official commissions responsible for monitoring oil spills. Ivan is not Indigenous, but he is a member of the Save the Pechora Committee, which has many members who are Indigenous Komi peoples and campaigned since 1989 in traditional land use territory of Komi people in the Pechora river basin.
James Hansen, An American activist, climate scientist and professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at Columbia University. He is best known for his research in climatology, his 1988 Congressional testimony on climate change that helped raise broad awareness of global warming, and his advocacy of action to avoid dangerous climate change.
Jostein Gaarder, Philosopher, intellectual, novelist and author of Sophie’s World, which has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide. He has been involved in the promotion of sustainable development for nearly two decades. He established the Sophie Prize in 1997, an international award bestowed on foundations and individuals concerned with the environment.
Bill McKibben, is an author, environmentalist, and activist. In 1988 he wrote The End of Nature, the first book for a common audience about global warming. He is a co-founder and Senior Advisor at 350.org, an international climate campaign that works in 188 countries around the world.
If you believe this case matters to everyone everywhere please add your name here, and we will submit your name with thousands of others to the court, to demonstrate this is a global concern. Together we can be the generation that ends oil.
In this case the decision we are challenging is known as the Norwegian ‘23rd licensing round’, and came just months after the international climate deal was made in Paris, where the Norwegian government had been a champion of strong climate goals. In fact the country has one of the most environmentally progressive constitutions in the world, and it was updated and strengthened as recently as 2014.
This case isn’t just about Norway - it raises some of the most pertinent questions of our time. If you want to find out more about the legal arguments we will be making in court, you can read an English translation of the full document that was filed today.
This is urgent. Statoil want to drill five to seven new exploratory Arctic oil wells next year - including in their most northerly block ever. This is a bold case to stop them, We are using untested law, but it just might work - and we owe it to future generations and to the Arctic to try.
Please help us have the best chance possible - we need thousands of people to show their support - add your name here and it will be submitted to the court to demonstrate this is a global concern.
Sune Scheller is an Arctic campaigner with Greenpeace Nordic.
For months, the Standing Rock Sioux and allies have been protecting their water by resisting construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline, which would carry 500,000 barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to Illinois in the United States. Peter Dakota Molof spent a week supporting water protectors at resistance camps set up along Lake Oahe – this is what he saw.
As I turn off the two-lane highway that courses through the Standing Rock Indian Reservation into Oceti Sakowin Camp (technically an overflow camp from the original Camp of the Sacred Stones that formed in April of this year), I am bursting with feelings. I’ve been on the road for three days in Greenpeace’s Rolling Sunlight to provide solar power to #NoDAPL resistance efforts.
Without strong cell reception, it’s been hard to know what to expect when I arrive, so I’ve spent long days anxiously trying to imagine what it will be like at camp. But I don’t think there’s any way to prepare for a place like this. There isn’t any way to prepare to witness history in the making.
From the road, the valley flat provides an incredible view of the expanse of Oceti Sakowin, the surrounding camps and the mass of protectors who have come from Nations far and wide to defend water from the Dakota Access Pipeline. After a brief chat with some helpful camp security, we begin pulling our 13-ton truck down the avenue of flags representing the Indigenous nations who have lent their support.
I will spend the next week working with the hundreds of people who have pledged to peacefully and prayerfully stop the Dakota Access Pipeline. Each day, there are non-violent direct action or peace-keeper trainings designed to ground us all in the principles of camp and our purpose here.
The conversations are rich, delving into what the role of a protector is versus a “protester,” and how to hold each other accountable to the principles we’ve agreed to.
#NoDAPL camps at Standing Rock are peaceful & nonviolent. Ask anyone who has been there.
I am struck by how unique this moment is – to be training with members of so many nations, with so many relatives from so many different places, and with so many people who have never before taken action on their principles in this way. These are our prayers in action.
Among us are also leaders from other historic moments of Indigenous resistance, like Wounded Knee II and Alcatraz. We listen humbly to our Elders as they remind us that we are responsible for one another’s actions as much as we are responsible for our own.
The days are long and the weather is turning cold. There is talk of what will happen when winter really hits, and protectors who have been here since last April recount how relentless the snow was last year. But no one is talking about leaving.
We share food together at one of the eight internal camps and affirm to each other that until the pipeline is stopped, no one is going anywhere.
Every day, more people arrive. Some are coming back after a brief period away (many people stay for a week, tend to matters at home, and then return), still more are laying their eyes on Oceti Sakowin for the first time. Sometimes, late into the night, you can hear the cries welcoming the arriving nations. I lay in my sleeping bag smiling, short on sleep but happy to be there.
Every night we powwow – nations offering songs of thanks, resilience and grief that we have to fight this pipeline at all. I wander back to my camp relatively early but the voices – the prayers – fill the night and begin early in the morning, greeting the sun as it rises.
As an Indigenous person, I am in awe of the solidarity our nations have shown with one another, but I’m not surprised.
The Dakota Access Pipeline is not the first time – nor, I fear, the last – a wealthy corporation has attempted to sacrifice the water and well-being of Indigenous people for profit. We know the stakes of this moment are high. With runaway climate change flooding our relatives’ ancestral lands and threatening our land-based connections, countless oil spills and mining waste threatening the water we depend upon for everything, and the unprecedented earthquakes causing the very earth beneath our feet to break open, there is no time to waste.
Environmental issues often impact Indigenous people first and hardest; in the end they will affect us all. There have been so many times where I haven’t seen this acknowledged by anyone but us. At camp, it becomes abundantly clear that while we clearly have work to do, we have come so far in understanding one another.
At a huge rally in Bismarck, North Dakota, at least 1,000 people round dance and celebrate. Fifty riot police watch on as we dance. We pray for them to lay down their weapons and join us in our fight and in creating a world without such tools of systemic violence. Mostly, however, we focus on our purpose.
We are here for the water and we can only hope that like the thousands of protectors camping, the world will soon understand the Dakota Access Pipeline must be stopped.
A symbolic trial being held in The Hague, Netherlands this week could shape the future of the food we eat. Agrochemical giant, Monsanto, faces people who have suffered from the corporation's approach to agriculture. Communities around the world are lining up to hold Monsanto to account for their alleged atrocities against humanity and the environment.
You eat, so you’re involved. Hopefully you’re eating three square meals a day, but chances are you don’t know how, or even where, that food was grown. We have become disconnected from one of the basic necessities of our lives. That’s why, on World Food Day (16 October), we’re taking back control.
2. Farmers need your support
As food production becomes more commercialised, we lose touch with what we eat and farmers lose control over what's grown and how. It doesn't have to be this way.
Together we can tip the balance of power away from the likes of Monsanto and Bayer – whose merger will create a mega-corporation that will seize more control over the world’s food supply.
Let's put power back in the hands of the people who grow our food – the farmers who toil every day so that we can all enjoy the food we love.
3. A better food system is possible
The industrial scale of agriculture today has broken our food system. Giant agri-businesses fail to take into account the health of the environment and the communities who depend on it. Monoculture and dependence on chemical fertilizers and pesticides are taking its toll on the planet, animals and us.
It’s time to make the switch to ecological farming – to a system based on innovation and science that not only respects biodiversity, keeps carbon in the ground and rebuilds soil fertility, but also sustains yields and provides a secure livelihood for farming communities. We need a food system that puts people, not corporations, at its heart.
4. Become part of an amazing movement
The Tribunal brings together people of different nationalities, ages and walks of life to discuss, plan and take action. Doctors from Germany, scientists from India, academics from France, farmers from Mexico and lawyers from across the world are meeting in The Hague, united in determination to reclaim food and farming from corporate control.
5. Protect your children’s food
Are you happy to let the next generation eat unhealthy, chemical loaded, processed food? Or would you rather your child enjoy earth's natural bounties and defend the land that grows them?
The future of food depends on the stand we take today. Show your support for the Monsanto Tribunal.
Angelica Carballo Pago is a media campaigner for Greenpeace Southeast Asia based in Manila, the Philippines.
The nations that have taken action are some of the biggest polluters, including the USA, China, India and the European Union. And it happened in record time: just 11 months after the deal was signed last December in Paris (the Kyoto climate change agreement, by comparison, took just over seven years). Momentum for action is building, and the Paris Agreement is a major step on the road to a future free from carbon pollution.
Greenpeace activists create a solar symbol around the Arc de Triomphe, by painting the roads yellow with a non-polluting water-based paint to reveal the image of a huge shining sun. This action reminds politicians and governments that whatever they agree in Paris, the only credible way to beat climate change is to support and increase renewables energy systems.
That’s great! So the climate crisis is over then, right?
Not quite. The Paris Agreement legislates substantial cuts to emissions in coming decades, and the fact that the biggest, most polluting nations have agreed to cut emissions and protect people from the effects of a dangerously hotter planet is important. But even those countries agree that these targets need to be strengthened if we are going to make the kind of carbon pollution reductions we need to keep the planet safe.
People in Dharnai in Bihar, India, call for climate action and energy from 100% renewable sources ahead of crunch climate talks in Paris. Dharnai had no electricity until a Greenpeace initiative to supply power through solar panels brought energy to the village.
What does the Agreement mean for fossil fuels?
The targets in the Paris agreement effectively rule out any new fossil fuels projects, whether coal, oil or gas. It also means that we need to start phasing out the mining and burning of existing fossil fuel reserves so that we have a world with clean air and water, a liveable climate and a natural world that flourishes in all its beauty, rather than a warming planet marked by droughts, fiercer bushfires and hurricanes, and conflict over dwindling resources.
Over 800 participants join a 'Mini Marathon - Run for Clean Air' event organised by Greenpeace Southeast Asia, to raise awareness of the growing air pollution in Thailand, which mainly comes from the transportation sector and fossil fuel industries.
The windfarm Amalia at the Dutch North Sea taken from the cabin window of the Greenpeace ship, Arctic Sunrise.
But at the same time, we are seeing the solutions to the problem everywhere too. Solar and wind are breaking records in size and speed of installation – and they’re cheaper than ever. Local communities are liberating themselves from polluting fuels through cheap, decentralised renewables. And a powerful movement for change all over the world is demanding we do more to stop global warming and is pushing our leaders to match their words with real action.
Together we can win this fight, and protect the places and things we love for generations to come.
Nikola Casule is the Climate and Energy Campaigner at Greenpeace Australia Pacific
This morning, while most of the Netherlands was still asleep, my colleague Nilus and I - along with dozens of Greenpeace activists - slipped into Rotterdam’s port facilities. The temperature is just eight degrees celsius, my first time ever being this cold.
IOI Palm Oil Company Blockade in Rotterdam Harbour, 27 Sept 2016
Our mission must not fail: we are blockading the entry of dirty palm oil to IOI’s refineries. IOI is one of the largest palm oil companies in the world.
Thousands of kilometres away from Rotterdam, in our hometown, in West Kalimantan, Indonesia, forest fires occur every year. Fire has destroyed the peat forests and brought orangutans closer to extinction. IOI opens up palm oil plantations by drying out the peat, which makes it very flammable, leading to haze-making infernos.
Residents near burning peat forest in the village of Teluk Meranti, Pelalawan, Riau, 4 Mar 2014
I have known Nilus for several years. He has two children who live in Ketapang, where IOI has damaged the peat, leading to enormous fires. Nilus and his family have been breathing in peat smoke for years.
Haze covers children's playground in Central Kalimantan, 24 Oct, 2015
I came to Rotterdam to take action. To block this palm oil from entering Europe. The world must know the human cost contained in the products they consume every day. IOI’s palm oil is dirty and damaged. IOI must stop destroying Indonesia's peat forests.
IOI Palm Oil Company Blockade in Rotterdam Harbour, 27 Sep, 2016
Together, Nilus and I have joined a fire-fighting teams formed by Greenpeace Indonesia. The team is composed of 20 volunteers from several regions across my country. We are not only trained in how to extinguish fires, but much more importantly, trained in how to prevent fires. We do this because we want to end this era of fires and haze in Indonesia. Extinguishing fires is hard work, but it is important to protect the forests and peatlands. More importantly, palm oil companies need to make sure they do not create the conditions that allow fires to start so easily.
Orangutan Rescued in West Kalimantan, 18 Sep, 2015
Millions of people should not have their health damaged by smoke and fires just because plantation companies such as IOI destroy forests for their own profit.
Today we showed the world who IOI really is and the threat they are to my country’s forests and my people’s health. But beating these fires is not over. Now Nilus and I return to Indonesia to continue to protect out forests from companies like IOI.