The páramos of Colombia – a region of the Andes too high for trees to grow and too low to be covered in snow – holds an ecosystem unlike any other on earth. One that millions of people rely on.
Home to thousands of unique species, including daisies as tall as trees, this beautiful and boggy region acts as a sponge – holding water from rains during the winter and slowly releasing it into streams and rivers in the summer. An astounding 70% of the water from the Andes makes its way through the páramos – a primary water source for the people of Colombia.
Even though the páramos play a vital role in the lives of Colombians, the government continued to allow coal mining in the region, threatening the páramos ecosystem and the quality of its water.
That is, until this week.
After pressure from both local communities and Greenpeace Colombia, the highest environmental authority in Colombia just ordered multinational mining company Hunza Coal to abandon part of its operation in the páramos. And that’s not all. Colombia’s constitutional court has revoked all 347 coal mining licenses in the region.
This is a huge victory for the people of Colombia and for the páramos. More than 70,000 Colombians signed to protect the páramos, and their voices have been heard: water is worth more that coal profits.
Though there is certainly more to do to ensure full protection for the páramos, it now faces one less threat.
Celebrate the protection of the páramos with us, and share the good news!
Silvia Gomez is the campaign coordinator for Greenpeace Colombia
After successfully climbing Cerro Torre, my next goal was to climb the route opened by the legendary Italian climbers Casimiro Ferrari and Vittorio Meles in 1976, called Pilar Este on the Eastern Face of Fitz Roy in Patagonia, on the border of Argentina and Chile.
The route is 1,400 metres of extremely difficult and technical vertical granite. The exposure, the difficulty of the route and the extreme climate of Patagonia have repelled many attempts to repeat this route over the last 40 years. But my friend Matteo and I wanted to give it a try.
So on the 16th of January we loaded our backpacks with food and gear and started the journey towards Paso Superior. The weather forecast looked grim for Monday night but it seemed like it would be fine for the rest of the week. After a six hour climb we settled in for the night, looking up at this beautiful mountain and our goal.
At 4am we started to climb. Extremely difficult pitches and getting our haul bags up the wall slowed us down, but we had to climb at least 15 rope lengths a day if we wanted to make it to the top. At the end of the first day we got to a very small ledge where we made camp for the night. But then it started to snow. Luckily my Páramo PFC-free clothing kept me dry all night. The problem was my sleeping bag, which got soaking wet. We still had three days to go and hopefully we’d be able to dry it somehow.
The second day met with very difficult conditions on our climb; the sun was melting the ice on the wall which meant I was continually getting soaked with water, but I was very happy that my clothing dried very fast. The right gear is fundamental on such big climbs.
After climbing another 15 hard rope lengths, we found a very uncomfortable bivy site. We spent the night eating some energy bars and rehydrating. The next day would hopefully be the last. We needed to climb another 500 metres to get to the top.
There was a lot of snow and ice in the cracks which slowed us down and we were tired from the days before. Again, we were getting wet from the melting ice and once the wind started, the water would freeze over our clothes. I was extremely satisfied with my PFC-free clothing; it was keeping me warm and dry, even in these extreme conditions.
After another 12 hours of climbing, we reached the Summit of Mount Fitz Roy, having climbed one of the longest and hardest routes in Patagonia. It was 6.30pm and we brewed some tea while taking some pictures from the top. We decided to sleep on the summit because the descent would take a whole day and be long and difficult.
After a very cold night, we enjoyed the sunrise over Cerro Torre and Lake Viedma and began the difficult descent back to Paso Superior and El Chalten. 12 hours after leaving the summit, we safely reached El Chalten happy and fulfilled by this incredible adventure in Patagonia.
Thank you, Greenpeace, for providing the Páramo equipment necessary for this expedition. I have to say again that the PFC-free clothing performed better than I could have imagined. PFCs shouldn’t have a future in the outdoor world; they are completely unnecessary.
Change is most difficult but also most effective when it happens at the root of a problem. This is why we are now working with Italy’s Prato region to Detox the companies that supply renowned fashion brands, including Gucci, Prada and Armani.
As of today, 20 companies in the Prato textile district, the oldest in Italy, have joined the Greenpeace Detox campaign. They have already made great strides to remove hazardous chemicals from their factories and they are eager to make more.
Together we are shaping a future supply chain that will eliminate the use of hazardous chemicals such as persistent and bioaccumulative PFCs, brominated and chlorinated flame retardants, organotin compounds, and amines associated with azo dyes which can have negative effects on human reproductive systems and cause cancer.
The Confindustria Toscana Nord, representing the largest textile district in Europe, has assured us that they are very serious in making this positive change. They are investing finances and resources to track progress, ensure transparency, and reform action plans to fully detox their products. These actions will be felt throughout supply chains around the globe and will work their way into brands that have been unable or unwilling to enlist their suppliers in the past.
We are impressed with the determination and focus of the companies who have joined and are eager to see who will follow their lead. The level of commitment being shown by Prato means that future industry commitments will be measured against this new gold standard.
What excuse can fashion brands like Gucci, Prada, or Armani now use when it comes to Detox?
Their own suppliers in Prato are showing a level of ambition that they weren’t stylish enough to achieve.
We hope to see more companies, inspired by Prato, join the campaign and pledge to Detox by 2020. We also hope to see more people follow their conscience and demand chemical free fashion. Above all, we hope to see our air and rivers become cleaner through Detox. Today’s news strengthens that hope.
One week, 150 actions, 21 countries. Outdoor lovers around the globe have taken to the streets, shops, fields, mountains and woods everywhere to ask The North Face and Mammut to stay true to their values of love and respect for nature and stop using hazardous chemicals now.
These activities were designed together with outdoor enthusiasts and Greenpeace supporters in the spirit of open campaigning. One of them shares their story:
My name is Fion Lam, I’m an engineer in the healthcare industry in Hong Kong. Five years ago I was shocked by a series of documentaries showing isolated cancer villages in Asia, surrounded by factories that are poisoning our air and water. That’s when I decided to take part in environmental protection.
I first heard about the problem of PFCs being used in outdoor products from Greenpeace. PFCs are hazardous chemicals and some can be dangerous to human health and the environment. I was surprised to find out that PFC pollution has now spread almost everywhere - they were found in Hong Kong’s reservoirs and even in the Arctic!
I want to urge manufacturers to quit using PFCs in outdoor products, so I joined a local group to develop direct, non-violent actions. I attended several workshops as part of the co-creation project for the Detox Outdoor campaign. During the workshops we were inspired to brainstorm as many ideas as possible, without any boundaries. This really helped us to think out of the box.
We discussed and chose activities, and in late 2015 we formed a team of 40 people. Together we hiked to the top of a mountain with the most beautiful views of Hong Kong. In very cold weather, dressed only in boxer shorts and undershirts, we spelled out our message calling for outdoor brands like The North Face and Mammut to Detox.
Our next activity, planned for late February, will take place right in front of The North Face’s shops. We want to make sure that messages like "A PFC-free Outdoors" reach staff, management and the customers.
I'm happy to be part of the Greenpeace co-creation team, to take part in direct action, to raise public awareness, and to put pressure on The North Face and Mammut to re-think and re-design outdoor products.
Just a month ago, if you passed by Tajamar in Cancún, Mexico you would have seen 57 hectares of thriving mangrove forest lining the coast. Today, only stumps remain.
Image courtesy of Salvemos Manglar Tajamar.
For years, hundreds of citizens – including a group of children – worked to protect the Tajamar mangroves, one last swathe of wetlands in tourist-dominated Cancún. But in the middle of the night on 16 January, developers hoping to build a new resort – “Malecón Tajamar" – made their move. Under cover of darkness, they tore down the mangroves.
Local authorities allowed this destruction despite evidence that those promoting the resort had provided highly irregular information – even denying the mangroves were there at all.
Ultimately, the battle between these profit-driven developers and the local community came down to one question:
What’s a mangrove worth?
Image courtesy of Salvemos Manglar Tajamar.
Local government officials and developers touted the number of construction jobs and the income this new resort would produce. But they ignored the mangroves’ social, environmental and economic value – the heart of community protests.
Mangroves are a part of the natural ecosystem in Cancún, home to crocodiles, iguanas, birds, snakes and other species. Losing that biodiversity is devastating, and it's only part of the story. The economic and social costs of losing the mangroves are staggering as well.
The National Commission for the Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) estimates that mangroves produce about US$37,500 per hectare per year for fisheries; US$6,700 for health services in Mexico (that figure would reach US$200,000 in some cities of the country). And the protection offered by the coast from storms, cyclones and tsunamis is estimated to be about US$3,000 per hectare.
But officials in Mexico and other countries around the world continue to undervalue the services wetlands provide. Over the last few decades, Mexico has lost more than 35 percent of its mangroves due to logging, climate change and coastal development. Meanwhile, flooding is noticeably more frequent in areas that have lost this natural barrier.
Power of community activism
When the local protesters in Cancún first heard the mangroves had been destroyed, their reactions were immediate – to document the destruction that had occurred in secret.
Here are just some of the images they captured:
Image courtesy of Carlos Matus.
Image courtesy of Salvemos Manglar Tajamar.
Later, federal officials attempted to downplay the damage to the mangroves, but because of the quick actions of the public, there was clear evidence of full extent of the damage to the Tajamar mangroves.
Hope grows for Tajamar
The Tajamar mangroves had already been decimated, but the fight is far from over. After their destruction became public knowledge, thousands of people across Mexico stood with the community protesters in outrage. And their voices made a huge impact.
Just this week, in response to a case brought to court by Greenpeace Mexico and ally organisations, a judge ordered a moratorium on all work for the Tajamar project. This is a huge victory for people and the environment over the private interests of a few.
However, the road is long before the project is truly cancelled. The Mexican government now has the opportunity to permanently end the project and begin restoration, or to allow the construction of more buildings whose service to the community could never equal the costs of the mangrove forests they replace.
But if officials choose money over mangroves again, they can be sure to expect more public attention – from local communities, and people around the world.
Image courtesy of Carlos Matus.
There is even new hope for the Tajamar. Now that construction is suspended, the mangroves have a chance to recover.
Miguel Rivas is an oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Mexico.
For the past 15 years, Canadian mining firm Gabriel Resources has been trying to obtain a permit to extract 300 tonnes of gold from underneath Roșia Montană, a picturesque village in western Romania, with a population of almost 4,000 people. But today, the Romanian government has added the village and its surroundings to their official nominee list for the UNESCO world heritage site. This decision comes a few weeks after Roșia Montană was declared a site of historic interest by the Romanian Ministry of Culture, and stands as a testament to the power of peaceful protest. The story of how the government changed its mind starts with the story of the Romanian people speaking up against irresponsible corporations and environmental destruction.
In September 2013 Romania saw the biggest street protests since the 1989 Revolution. Thousands of people, mostly young people, took to the streets holding up signs saying “The corporation doesn’t make the legislation”, “Corruption = Cyanide” and “We want nature, not cyanide”. They were speaking up for Roșia Montană, a little village in the north of Romania that sits on top of a gold mine.
Since 2001, Canadian firm Gabriel Resources had been in negotiations with the Romanian government for the rights to build a cyanide gold mine in the beautiful, resource-rich area of Roșia Montană. Their plan was to relocate the local residents and to pump 12,000 tonnes of cyanide a year into an open-pit mine to extract 300 tonnes of gold. Local authorities and residents had been successfully opposing the project for years. But in August 2013, a new law was drafted which planned to grant unconstitutional rights to private companies, including the right to issue compulsory purchase orders to residents who refused to sell their houses and lands. This put Roșia Montană directly in the sights of Gabriel Resources, who would finally be able to force residents from their homes, and begin to pump tons of cyanide into the earth in the search for gold.
There was little news of the vote in the mainstream media, but social media amplified the voice of independent journalists and local NGOs, to show how Roșia Montană was at risk of losing the battle against the mining company. Discontent at this injustice grew across the country, and on September 8th 2013, 15,000 protesters marched through Bucharest, with about 5,000 more following in other cities around the country. Protests and marches were scheduled every day for weeks to follow.
The “hipster revolution”, as the media called it, was the coming of age of the Romanian civil society. Never before in Romania’s short democratic history has an issue raised so much public support and created such healthy debate amongst its citizens. The post-communist generation had united for the first time since the revolution, and had done so to rally behind an environmental cause – to protect Roșia Montană and its residents from another ecological disaster like the Baia Mare cyanide spill.
What can we learn from Romania’s new found civil strength? That people care about injustice, and care about environmental issues. That by using new tools such as social media, we have the power to spark and spread information, and to inspire peaceful protest. We learned that we have the responsibility to hold the people in charge accountable for their decisions. And that if we take that responsibility seriously, we can drive change.
The fight to save Roșia Montană happened on the streets and on the internet. It’s motto was #unitisalvam - Romanian for “United, We Save”. In these times of corporate greed and environmental destruction, this is a motto which can inspire us all.
Madalina Preda is the Programme Functions Executive Assistant at Greenpeace International and the Communications Manager of Beats Against Coal.
As ecological farming and the market for organic food continues to grow across the globe, I’m heartened to see that the same is true in Spain, my home country, where we are going through one of the worst economic crises in recent history.
In challenging times, good news is welcome. This week we’re celebrating news from Valencia where the coastal region has just committed to more than double the share of agriculture land dedicated to organic farming, from 8 to 20 percent, by 2020.
This is great news for farmers, food lovers and bees!
On one hand, the demand for good food produced without harming the environment and wildlife is increasing. People are becoming more and more aware of the impacts of industrial agriculture on their health and ecosystems – and we are demanding ecological products on our shelves and plates.
On the other hand, many farmers, tired of being exploited by the industrial agricultural system, are seeing the benefits that ecological farming provides and they are choosing to jump ship. And it's not a leap of faith! People are in fact rediscovering the value of agriculture, good food, and the relationship of trust with farmers.
Food producers, consumers and researchers, in Spain and beyond, are contributing to a growing global food movement, made up of farmers markets, food co-ops, schools and community agriculture programmes.
But we need more: we need a firm commitment from our governments to spread ecological agriculture even further and supply healthy food for all. The current industrial food system is doomed to failure and we can’t allow it to drag us humans, wildlife and the planet as a whole to the edge of the cliff.
If we want to address important challenges such as climate change, water pollution and loss of biodiversity and soil fertility – even hunger in the world – we have to invest in ecological farming and set some ambitious goals, to be reached sooner rather than later.
The government of Valencia’s commitment to expand ecological farming is an ambitious step in the right direction for two reasons:
First of all, because the transition plan is backed by 23 million Euros to make it happen. Then, because Valencia is the region in Spain that ranks third highest for pesticide use per hectare, and second highest for use of insecticides, which we all know cause terrible damage to bees and pollinators across Europe and North America.
Hope and failure coexist in the Paris climate agreement. One may want to curse or cheer the deal, but it is history now, and we have to get on with it. The agreement provides an opportunity to assess our ecological progress and prepare to be effective in the future.
The journey to Paris
The road to a Paris climate agreement began two centuries ago in Paris, at the French Academy of Science, when Joseph Fourier researched ice age cycles and determined that atmospheric gases trap solar heat. A generation later, in 1896, Swedish chemist Svente Arrhenius calculated that doubling atmospheric CO2 would increase Earth's average temperature by 5-6°C.
Governments at the time showed no visible interest, as cheap energy from coal, oil, and gas fuelled the Industrial Revolution and accelerated population growth, consumption, and waste, especially carbon dioxide. By the 1950s, scientists understood complex climate feedbacks, including methane release and forest cover, and warned of a methane release from melting permafrost.
The emerging environmental movement caught on quickly. In 1964, Murray Bookchin, warned in Ecology and Revolutionary Thought, that "carbon dioxide … will lead to rising atmospheric temperatures … more destructive storm patterns, … melting of the polar ice caps… rising sea levels, and the inundation of vast land areas." A Science Advisory Committee report to US president Lyndon Johnston stated, "The melting of the Antarctic ice cap would raise sea level by 400 feet," and warned of "marked changes in climate, not controllable through local or national efforts."
In 1979, over a century after Fourier had identified the risk, the United Nations convened the world's first Climate Conference in Geneva. In that same year, British scientist James Lovelock sent the nascent Greenpeace Foundation a hand-drawn graph of atmospheric CO2 rising. We pinned the graph to the wall at our first office in Vancouver and opened a climate file.
In 1988, the hottest on record at that time, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warned of a 2-5°C average temperature increase during the next century, and urged governments to reduce carbon emissions. The following year, the petroleum industry began funding the climate denial campaign to cast doubt on the previous 150 years of science. The fight was on.
The IPCC met in Kyoto in 1990, the year intended to serve as the baseline for future carbon emissions reductions, but that is not how things turned out. Two years after Kyoto, in Rio, the nations formally recognized the risk and agreed to a "framework" for a deal. That framework appeared a quarter-century ago. Compare the pace of climate action to the pace at which human enterprise built a nuclear bomb after discovering the science that made it possible.
In 1995, as the Antarctic ice shelves began breaking up, the UN sponsored the first Conference of the Parties (COP 1) in Berlin. Two years later, the parties agreed to a Kyoto Protocol for action, but the emission targets remained too weak to stabilize atmospheric greenhouse gases. The US refused to ratify the deal, Canada withdrew, the UK and Australia missed their targets, and global carbon emissions continued to increase. Throughout the 1990s, nations signed about 15 international climate agreements every month, thousands of deals, none of which slowed total carbon emissions.
Then, in 2008, the International Siberian Shelf Study recorded methane — which traps 70-times the heat of CO2 within a 20 year period — rising from the arctic shelf, as scientists and ecologists had warned, and which threatened runaway global heating. The study estimated some 1,400 billion tons (Gt) of carbon locked in Arctic permafrost methane, and that a "highly possible" sudden release of 50 Gt would increase atmospheric methane by a factor of twelve. The following year, Woods Hole scientists predicted warming of 5 to 7°C this century, at which point runaway heating would be well underway.
When scientists first understood global warming, in the 1880s, human industry emitted some 50 million tons of carbon annually. As delegates assembled in Paris, in December 2015, global carbon emissions had grown by 200-times and reached over 10 billion tons annually. Japan's Meteorological Agency recorded December temperatures at 1.4 C above 1890, reflecting a strong El Niño year and continued greenhouse gas accumulation. Methane from melting permafrost had pushed the atmospheric gas heat forcing to an equivalent of 485 parts per million (ppm) of CO2, compared to pre-industrial 280ppm. For the first time in recorded human history, the North Pole could be observed melting in mid-winter.
In Paris, after 36 years of climate meetings, world governments targeted a maximum warming to 2°C, and even mentioned an "effort" to limit warming to 1.5°C. Nations submitted voluntary pledges to contribute to this effort. Predictably, the governments involved, and many environmentalists, celebrated the Paris deal as an historical moment. Time will tell, but governments are in the business of being popular, and as serious ecologists, we have a responsibility to be realistic.
The Paris "deal" is not actually a deal, as it remains non-binding. Since the 1990 Kyoto climate meeting, global emissions have increased by 67 percent. Government climate promises have a poor historic track record.
Secondly, talk about a 1.5° or 2°C warming limit may be delusional. To remain below 2°C, humanity can emit no more than about 771 Gt of carbon (2,900 Gt of carbon-dioxide). We have already emitted about two-thirds of that, emissions are still growing at about 2% per year, and at this rate, we would reach the carbon limit around 2040. The 2°C warming may already be baked into the cake.
If every nation signing the Paris agreement actually met its goal, we would still reach the limit around 2050, well on our way to 3°C or more. According to Kevin Anderson, Deputy Director of Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, at the University of Manchester, the combined pledges will result in a 4-6°C temperature increase, a 40-50% decline in agriculture, more droughts and violent storms, sea rise, and flooding. We already observe signs of potential runaway heating at 1°C, so at 2°C or more, we risk losing our ability to change the trend.
Furthermore, the pledges are not effective until 2020, so the nations are committing to five years of doing nothing. Steffen Kallbekken, Director of the Centre for International Climate and Energy Policy, explains, "by the time the pledges come into force in 2020, we will probably have used the entire carbon budget consistent with 1.5°C warming."
In the 1960s, when scientists warned political leaders, Earth's temperature was warming at about + 0.3°C/century. Today, fifty years later, Earth's temperature is warming at the rate of about +1.4°C/century. If this was our child, in bed with a fever, would we not feel the urgency and question our strategy?
The greater challenge, of course, is that global warming is a symptom, just as a child's temperature is a symptom. We need to understand and treat the underlying cause.
Global warming, species decline, desertification, nutrient cycle disruption, and so forth are symptoms telling us humanity has overshot the capacity of Earth's ecosystem to provide resources and process our waste. To reverse any of these trends, human enterprise, particularly the rich industrial nations, have to stop growing and ultimately must contract both population and consumption trends.
Pope Francis emerged as the leader who most clearly understood the deeper dilemma: "Even to limit warming below 3°C," Francis said, "a radical transformation of capitalism will be necessary." No governments, and few environmental groups, appear willing to accept this conclusion. Capitalism demands growth, but when a species overshoots its habitat, nature will insist that it stop growing, and nature doesn't negotiate.
As Albert Bates wrote in Paris Scherzo, "The Paris climate conference is really an economic conference, perched on the brink of a market crash in the fossil fuel sector." Some observers credited the Paris agreement with signalling the "end of the fossil fuel era," but the fossil fuel industry was already in decline, chasing the dregs of expensive, low-net-energy tar sands crude oil and shale gas, and fighting trillion-dollar wars to hang onto the declining mideast oil fields. M. King Hubbert had predicted this as the end of the fossil fuel era in the 1950s. The fossil fuel era will end, and we will build more renewable energy systems, but the fossil fuel producers show no signs of slowing down production.
Most nations in Paris did not promise to reduce emissions at all, but rather promised to improve "emissions efficiency," which means emissions per unit of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) or economic activity. So, if a nation's economy is growing at 4% per year, and they reduce carbon emissions growth to 3% per year, they can claim to be improving "emissions efficiency," even though their carbon emissions would still double in about 23 years. Some nations measure emission targets against "business as usual," based on their own expected growth rate, and in both cases, emission can continue to rise.
Bolivia and Costa Rica, however, showed that they understand the deeper challenges. Bolivia pledged to end illegal deforestation by 2020 and to double their renewables to 80% of national supply by 2030. They formally rejected neoliberal capitalism, including carbon market schemes that help rich nations hog the carbon budget. Instead, they proposed a strict carbon budget consistent with the 2°C goal, with most of that budget available to the world's developing nations.
Costa Rica used a "business as usual" formula that equalled a real 25% reduction from 2012 emissions, and they expect to be carbon neutral by 2021, partially through reforestation. However, Bolivia and Costa Rica together comprise about 1.3% of global carbon emissions, so even if they reduced their emissions by half, global emissions would keep growing.
China, the emissions champion, producing about 24% of world carbon, promised to cut emissions versus GDP by 60% of 2005 levels. However, for two decades, China's GDP has doubled roughly every eight years, and both China and the International Monetary Fund project growth to continue. China's emissions could double by 2030, when they claim the emissions might level off. China makes no promise of reducing actual emissions.
The US, Europe, and their NATO allies Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, comprise another quarter of world emissions, and they've pledged to try to reduce emissions, albeit with plenty of loopholes and exclusions. The US pledged to reduce domestic emissions 26% versus 2005, within ten years, not including their military, aviation, and transport emissions. Canada promised a 30% reduction by 2030, but new Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau returned home from Paris and began hedging on tar sands pipelines for the sake of the struggling Canadian economy. Australia pledged 26% emissions reduction by 2030, but the Australian Financial Review stated that coal exports would continue "rising quite significantly," undermining that pledge.
The EU pledged a 40% reduction in domestic emissions by 2030 compared to 1990 levels, a more ambitious target. The EU has already reduced emissions by 20% since 1990, although this reduction is partially due to economic recession and it excludes military, deforestation, and land use changes. The EU provides a tenuously hopeful sign, but not nearly enough to avoid a 2°C warming.
The language of "domestic reductions" provides another loophole. Although the earlier Copenhagen draft included aviation and shipping emissions, equal to Britain and Germany combined, the Paris agreement exempts both and exempts military emissions. Global militarism remains the world's largest fossil fuel consumer, and maritime shipping is the 6th largest emitter. According to the Sail Transport Network, just 16 of the largest ships, from the world fleet of some 90,000 large cargo ships, emit as much pollutants as all the world's cars. They get a pass.
The Paris agreement attempts to cover up these failures by invoking future geo-engineering technologies, sometime after 2050, to pull carbon back from the atmosphere. Kevin Anderson calls this take-back scheme a "fantasy," and Canadian energy geologist David Hughes says, "The IPCC realizes it is politically incorrect to tell people the truth. The outrageous assumption of massive amounts of CCS [carbon capture and storage] is just a convenient technofix to balance the books in its scenarios, even though it is likely impossible."
Naomi Klein called the agreement "scientifically inadequate," noting that the deal, even if achieved, would lead to a 3-4°C warming. The New Internationalist calls the Paris agreement an "epic fail," and a "disaster" for world's most vulnerable people. The agreement only mentions indigenous groups in a comment about indigenous ecological knowledge, without any commitment to protect that knowledge by protecting those communities. The UK, Norway, US, and EU all objected to any binding indigenous recognition.
Earth's advocates have nothing to apologize for by addressing these troubling realities. Asking for better is not asking for perfection, and exposing the loopholes in the Paris deal is not "pessimism," but realism. For the environmental movement, the Paris experience simply sends us back to work. We know a better world is possible. A realistic path for getting there remains the challenge. Patting ourselves on the back may not help.
Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.
The news passed quietly, but not without significance. I heard that a wounded and weakened loggerhead sea turtle washed ashore on the rocky Farmakonisi Island in the Aegean Sea, where it lay for several days slowly losing its strength.
Soon after, at the same isolated beach, a few hundred souls fleeing persecution and violence washed ashore after their boat capsized. Turtle and stranded refugees met each other there, exhausted from their long journeys.
The refugees had suffered their own losses, while the turtle was weakened and suffering hypothermia from the wintry waters. When another boat arrived to carry the people to safety on the island of Leros, media reports say the turtle went with them.
At Leros their paths separated.
The sea turtle pictured at the Archelon Sea Turtle Rescue Centre in Athens on Sunday, January 31. Credit: Alex Vamvakoulas / Greenpeace
After receiving first aid from a veterinarian, the turtle was airlifted off Leros by the Greek national airline, queue jumping long transport delays as a strike disrupted the sea ferry service.
Now housed at the Archelon Sea Turtle Rescue Centre in Athens, it is hoped that the turtle will find itself safely back to the Mediterranean Sea. She will be housed in warm waters, given medical care and released in April or May.
"It's amazing. The story I heard was that people who didn't know whether they would be alive tomorrow helped this animal. At other times these turtles are simply harmed by people," said Polymnia Nestoridou at the sea turtle rescue centre.
Days later, I do not know where the turtle's temporary companions are. Mainly Afghans seeking safety, I am also unsure where their journey will take them.
As a young man in Greece, I spent many years working with others to ensure that wildlife achieved the recognition it deserved, to guarantee protection for endangered species and to create protected areas for loggerhead sea turtles, such as the Marine Park of Zakynthos.
Circulars, ministerial decisions and presidential decrees emerged to provide legal and administrative protection for wildlife. Proudly, I watched a dream come true as Greece, the country with the biggest nesting population of sea turtles in the Mediterranean, established a specialised rehabilitation centre.
I saw collaborations with port authorities and airline companies, veterinarians and other specialists. Volunteers from around the world worked together to save the loggerhead. I feel proud to have played a role and believe it was a step forward for humanity, and our country in particular.
I never imagined that one day an injured turtle would have a place on a plane while traumatised people would be left out in the cold, rain and snow, or behind some barbed wire in the midst of Europe's biggest refugee crisis since World War II.
Today's reality surpasses my understanding and I imagine it surpasses everyone's understanding. Some people have fewer rights and opportunities than some animals.
I believe we must join our knowledge and forces together: environmental, development and humanitarian organisations, and every active citizen. We need to propose answers to the dilemmas that call us to choose between wildlife, growth and people.
I hope that the loggerhead sea turtle of Farmakonisi will have good health. I also wish a safe passage and a safe destination for the refugees who helped rescue it.
Occasions like this offer an opportunity to stop for a while, to take a breath, to rethink where are we going.
I am trying to find a combination of pieces to solve a puzzle called 'better life for all'. This is not an equation that one can solve alone. I do not have the answers, but that is no reason to stop trying.
Nikos Charalambides is the Executive Director of Greenpeace Greece and a member of the Marine Turtles Specialists Group (MTSG) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN).
Around the world, solar power is transforming communities and changing lives. From India to Canada, this clean and abundant energy source is creating jobs, providing clean water and powering schools.
In Brazil, the solar revolution is just beginning, but it is already making a difference for people across the country. Watch these snapshots of just some of the benefits solar is providing for Brazilians.
Drinking water was scarce for this community in Rio Grande do Norte. But today, solar power helps supply clean, fresh water to over 200 people.
This school was the first to receive solar panels in Brazil. There is now hot water on tap, the classrooms are brighter and students are teaching their parents and communities about the importance of investing in renewable energy sources.
Ice from the sun
This community in the middle of the Amazon rainforest has been transformed by solar energy. Residents can now drink cold water and refrigerate fish thanks to solar panels that supply energy to freezers and refrigerators.
Neide Silva’s life was transformed when she took a job installing solar panels on the rooftops of condominiums in the state of Bahia.
Despite all that solar can do for communities in Brazil, only 0.02 percent of the country’s electricity comes from solar panels. Just imagine how bright a future with more solar could be!
Want more solar inspiration? Head here for more powerful success stories. And don't forget to share them with family and friends.
Rebecca Field is a Multimedia Editor for the Americas at Greenpeace.