Nuclear Power news

Meet the engineers who make machines for understanding the universe

She may not be one of CERN’s vaunted physicists, who theorise about what happened nanoseconds after the Big Bang; but without engineers like Marta Bajko, who work on the giant magnets of the Large Hadron Collider, these physicists wouldn’t be able to test their theories. At pop concerts there are the rock stars, who make the music, and there are the roadies, who make sure the music happens; tuning the instruments, and plugging in and powering up the amplifiers and speakers. The rock stars at Geneva-based CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, are the particle physicists. They get most of the attention when the centre discovers a new subatomic particle that helps us understand what the universe was probably like at its birth, and what it’s composed of today. But without the engineers who design, construct, and test the complex machines and instruments that send those particles colliding into each other (on purpose) at nearly the speed of light, the mathematics ...
Read more [Swissinfo.org: sci & tech]

Belgium to double offshore wind energy capacity as it exits nuclear power

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Belgium will double the area of its North Sea waters made available to offshore wind parks after 2020, the government announced on Friday, as part of its exit strategy from nuclear power.
Read more [Reuters]

Magnitude 5.9 quake strikes southern Iran, no casualties reported: TV

ANKARA (Reuters) - A magnitude 5.9 earthquake on Thursday struck Iran's southern province of Bushehr, which is home to a nuclear power plant, state television reported, but there were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. 
Read more [Reuters]

Quiet no more, French village becomes center of anti-nuclear protest

BURE, France (Reuters) - The 82 residents of the French village of Bure lived a quiet life until the government began testing the feasibility of storing nuclear waste there. Now Bure is rocked by protests as a final decision on the project looms.
Read more [Reuters]

Experts fail to find origin of nuclear pollution cloud over Europe

OSLO (Reuters) - International experts have not been able to find what caused a cloud of radioactive pollution that spread over Europe last year and prompted fears of a nuclear leak, Swedish authorities said on Monday.
Read more [Reuters]

Japan energy panel sees role for nuclear in 2050 emissions targets

TOKYO (Reuters) - An influential Japanese energy panel on Tuesday left the door open to building nuclear plants to help meet long-term emissions targets, urging rapid technology improvements to allow industry to develop safer and more economic reactors.
Read more [Reuters]

Nuclear Disarmament: How Helmut Kohl Nearly Prolonged the Cold War

Newly released secret documents reveal that Chancellor Helmut Kohl opposed negotiating with Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the late stages of the Cold War. Had the West German leader prevailed, it's likely the conflict would have ended very differently.
Read more [Spiegel Online]

Earth Hour 2018: Globe unites to celebrate people's connection to our planet

SINGAPORE, 25 March 2018 – Individuals, businesses and organizations in a record 188 countries and territories worldwide joined WWF's Earth Hour to spark unprecedented conversation and action on stopping the loss of nature, a day after 550 scientists warned of a 'dangerous decline' in global biodiversity.

Close to 18,000 landmarks switched off their lights in solidarity as people across the globe generated over 3.5 billion impressions of #EarthHour, #connect2earth and related hashtags to show their concern for the planet. The hashtags trended in 33 countries.
 
"Once again, the people have spoken through Earth Hour," said Marco Lambertini, Director General, WWF International. "The record participation in this year's Earth Hour, from skylines to timelines, is a powerful reminder that people want to connect to Earth. People are demanding commitment now on halting climate change and the loss of nature. The stakes are high and we need urgent action to protect the health of the planet for a safe future for us and all life on Earth."

From Colombia to Indonesia to Fiji, Earth Hour 2018 mobilized people to join efforts to protect forests and mangroves. In Romania, hundreds of people showed their commitment to safeguarding nature by writing symbolic letters to rivers, forests and wildlife. In Africa, 24 countries celebrated Earth Hour to highlight the most pressing conservation challenges they face such as access to renewable energy, freshwater resources and habitat degradation.

This Earth Hour, for the first time, people across the globe also joined the conversation on connect2earth to share what nature means to them, in the places they live in and care about. The platform, created in partnership with the Secretariat of the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity and supported by Germany's Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety with funding from the International Climate Initiative, aims to build mass awareness on the values of biodiversity and nature to our lives, health and well-being.

"The science is clear: the loss of nature is a global crisis. Wildlife has declined by close to 60 per cent in just over 40 years. Our planet is at a crossroads and we cannot have a prosperous future on a depleted, degraded planet. Together as a global community we can turn things around. People must mobilize and join governments and companies toward stronger action on biodiversity and nature - the time to act is now," added Lambertini.

The impacts of accelerating biodiversity loss and climate change on the planet are profound, as are the consequences for humanity. As President of France Emmanuel Macron stated in a special message for Earth Hour, 'the time for denial is long past, we are losing our battle against climate change and the collapse of biodiversity'. If this trend continues, our planet's ecosystems will collapse, along with the clean air, water, food and stable climate that they provide.

To drive further global awareness and action on nature and the environment, WWF has also joined forces with the World Organization of the Scout Movement this Earth Hour. The energy and voices of 50 million Scouts worldwide send a resounding message to decision-makers worldwide that the time to act on nature, for nature is now.

As the hour rolls to a close in the Pacific Ocean's Cook Islands, WWF and Earth Hour teams around the world will continue to empower individuals, communities, businesses and governments to be a part of environmental action. In his video statement for Earth Hour, UN Secretary-General António Guterres reiterated the need for people to work together to build a sustainable future for all. Strengthened by the support shown this weekend, teams will renew the charge to tackle issues such as sustainable lifestyles, deforestation, plastic pollution and ocean conservation across continents.

Earth Hour 2018: Facts and figures (based on initial estimates on 25 March 2018, 7:30 a.m. GMT):

  • 188 countries and territories focused on environmental action and issues such as protecting biodiversity, sustainable lifestyles, deforestation, plastics and stronger climate policy;
  • lights out at around 17,900  landmarks including the Sydney Opera House (Sydney), Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament (London), the Tokyo Sky Tree (Tokyo), the Empire State Building (New York), the Pyramids of Egypt (Cairo), Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (Abu Dhabi), Christ the Redeemer statue (Rio de Janeiro) and the Eiffel Tower (Paris);
  • 3.5 billion + impressions of official campaign hashtags between January and March 2018. Related hashtags also trended in 33 countries;
  • Around 250 celebrities and influencers worldwide also raised their voice for the planet including Andy Murray, Jared Leto, Ellie Goulding, The Killers, Amitabh Bachchan, Li Bingbing, Park Seo-joon, Claudia Bahamon, and Roger Milla;
  • Earth Hour partners include Zinkia Entertainment Ltd, creators of popular cartoon character Pocoyo, and crowdsourcing platform Userfarm.
Since 2007, Earth Hour has mobilized businesses, organizations, governments and hundreds of millions of individuals to act for a sustainable future. Earth Hour 2019 will take place on Saturday 30 March 2019 at 8:30 p.m. local time.

---ends---

Notes to Editors:
Images from Earth Hour events around the world can be found here and please contact news@wwfint.org for any additional video footage request.

You can also find Earth Hour videos on the links indicated below:To know more about WWF's work on biodiversity, please visit: http://wwf.panda.org/about_our_earth/biodiversity/

What is connect2earth? Read more here.

Connect2earth.org was created in partnership with the secretariat of the United Nations Convention of Biological Diversity and supported by Germany's Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety with funding from the International Climate Initiative.

For more information, please contact:
Julien Anseau, WWF International, Singapore: news@wwfint.org; +6590601957
Rucha Naware, WWF International, Brussels: news@wwfint.org; +32465751339 
Read more [WWF]

Japan court rejects lawsuit against construction of nuclear plant

TOKYO (Reuters) - A court in northern Japan on Monday rejected a lawsuit to halt construction of a nuclear plant, said the company building the facility, Electric Power Development Co (J-Power).
Read more [Reuters]

Third court rules Tepco, government liable over Fukushima disaster: media

TOKYO (Reuters) - Kyoto district court on Thursday ruled that Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) and the Japanese government were liable for damages arising from the Fukushima nuclear disaster of 2011, the Asahi newspaper said
Read more [Reuters]

Tepco's 'ice wall' fails to freeze Fukushima's toxic water buildup

OKUMA, Japan (Reuters) - A costly "ice wall" is failing to keep groundwater from seeping into the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, data from operator Tokyo Electric Power Co shows, preventing it from removing radioactive melted fuel at the site seven years after the disaster.
Read more [Reuters]

Luxemburg to join Austria in suing EU over Hungary nuclear plant

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Luxemburg will join Austria in suing the European Commission for allowing Hungary to expand its Paks atomic plant, it said on Monday, in a stand against nuclear energy.
Read more [Reuters]

French Greenpeace activists convicted over nuclear plant intrusion

PARIS (Reuters) - Greenpeace France anti-nuclear activists have been given prison sentences for breaking into a nuclear plant last year, during a protest to highlight the plant's vulnerability to attack.
Read more [Reuters]

Give us the options, energy debate commission tells French government

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government should await the findings of a public debate before it drafts how it will meet its goal of reducing the share of nuclear energy in power generation, the commission tasked with organising the forum said on Tuesday.
Read more [Reuters]

German renewable power expansion will need gas as back-up: Wingas

ESSEN, Germany (Reuters) - Germany's new target of nearly doubling renewable power's share of its electricity mix by 2030 needs to be backed up by more gas-fired capacity as nuclear and coal-fired plants are retired, a top gas manager said on Monday.
Read more [Reuters]

Connecticut says Dominion should show why nuclear plant needs subsidy

(Reuters) - Connecticut state regulators said Dominion Energy Inc should offer evidence that its Millstone nuclear power plant is in danger of closing before participating in a state power procurement process that could boost its profits.
Read more [Reuters]

Poland to decide later this year on building nuclear plant

WARSAW (Reuters) - Poland will decide later this year whether to build its first nuclear power plant to lower carbon emissions as part of a plan to reduce dependence on coal in the long term, the country's Energy Minister Krzysztof Tchorzewski said on Monday.
Read more [Reuters]

France rules out increasing CO2 as it closes nuclear reactors

PARIS (Reuters) - France will not increase carbon emissions as it reduces its reliance on nuclear energy in coming years, a junior minister told energy newsletter Enerpresse.
Read more [Reuters]

France crimps debate on reducing reliance on nuclear: activists say

PARIS (Reuters) - The French government is hampering discussion about how to reduce the country's reliance on nuclear energy by limiting debate about more radical alternatives, renewable energy advocates said on Thursday.
Read more [Reuters]

A tribute to Jon Castle

James (Jon) Castle - 7 December 1950 to 12 January 2018

Over four decades Captain Jon Castle navigated Greenpeace ships by the twin stars of ‘right and wrong’, defending the environment and promoting peace. Greenpeace chronicler, Rex Weyler, recounts a few of the stories that made up an extraordinary life.

Captain Jon Castle onboard the MV Sirius, 1 May 1996

James (Jon) Castle first opened his eyes virtually at sea. He was born 7 December 1950 in Cobo Bay on the Channel Island of Guernsey, UK. He grew up in a house known locally as Casa del Mare, the closest house on the island to the sea, the second son of Robert Breedlove Castle and Mary Constance Castle. 

Young Jon Castle loved the sea and boats. He worked on De Ile de Serk, a cargo boat that supplied nearby Sark island, and he studied at the University of Southampton to become an officer in the Merchant Navy. 

Jon became a beloved skipper of Greenpeace ships. He sailed on many campaigns and famously skippered two ships during Greenpeace’s action against Shell’s North Sea oil platform, Brent Spar. During his activist career, Jon spelt his name as "Castel" to avoid unwanted attention on his family.

Right and wrong

Jon had two personal obsessions: he loved books and world knowledge and was extremely well-read.  He also loved sacred sites and spent personal holidays walking to stone circles, standing stones, and holy wells.  

As a young man, Jon became acquainted with the Quaker tradition, drawn by their dedication to peace, civil rights, and direct social action. In 1977, when Greenpeace purchased their first ship - the Aberdeen trawler renamed, the Rainbow Warrior - Jon signed on as first mate, working with skipper Peter Bouquet and activists Susi Newborn, Denise Bell and Pete Wilkinson.

In 1978, Wilkinson and Castle learned of the British government dumping radioactive waste at sea in the deep ocean trench off the coast of Spain in the Sea of Biscay. In July, the Rainbow Warrior followed the British ship, Gem, south from the English coast, carrying a load of toxic, radioactive waste barrels. The now-famous confrontation during which the Gem crew dropped barrels onto a Greenpeace inflatable boat, ultimately changed maritime law and initiated a ban on toxic dumping at sea.

After being arrested by Spanish authorities, Castle and Bouquet staged a dramatic escape from La Coruńa harbour at night, without running lights, and returned the Greenpeace ship to action. Crew member Simone Hollander recalls, as the ship entered Dublin harbour in 1978, Jon cheerfully insisting that the entire crew help clean the ship's bilges before going ashore, an action that not only built camaraderie among the crew, but showed a mariner's respect for the ship itself. In 1979, they brought the ship to Amsterdam and participated in the first Greenpeace International meeting.

In 1980 Castle and the Rainbow Warrior crew confronted Norwegian and Spanish whaling ships, were again arrested by Spanish authorities, and brought into custody in the El Ferrol naval base.

The Rainbow Warrior remained in custody for five months, as the Spanish government demanded 10 million pesetas to compensate the whaling company. On the night of November 8, 1980, the Rainbow Warrior, with Castle at the helm, quietly escaped the naval base, through the North Atlantic, and into port in Jersey.

In 1995, Castle skippered the MV Greenpeace during the campaign against French nuclear testing in the Pacific and led a flotilla into New Zealand to replace the original Rainbow Warrior that French agents bombed in Auckland in 1985.

Over the years, Castle became legendary for his maritime skills, courage, compassion, commitment, and for his incorruptible integrity. "Environmentalism: That does not mean a lot to me," he once said, "I am here because of what is right and wrong. Those words are good enough for me."

Brent Spar   

Action at Brent Spar Oil Rig in the North Sea, 16 June 1995

One of the most successful Greenpeace campaigns of all time began in the summer of 1995 when Shell Oil announced a plan to dump a floating oil storage tank, containing toxic petroleum residue, into the North Atlantic. Castle signed on as skipper of the Greenpeace vessel Moby Dick, out of Lerwick, Scotland. A month later, on 30 April 1995, Castle and other activists occupied the Brent Spar and called for a boycott of Shell service stations.

When Shell security and British police sprayed the protesters with water cannons, images flooded across world media, demonstrations broke out across Europe, and on May 15, at the G7 summit, German chancellor Helmut Kohl publicly protested to British Prime Minister John Major. In June, 11 nations, at the Oslo and Paris Commission meetings, called for a moratorium on sea disposal of offshore installations.

After three weeks, British police managed to evict Castle and the other occupiers and held them briefly in an Aberdeen jail. When Shell and the British government defied public sentiment and began towing the Spar to the disposal site, consumers boycotted Shell stations across Europe. Once released, Castle took charge of the chartered Greenpeace vessel Altair and continued to pursue the Brent Spar towards the dumping ground. Castle called on the master of another Greenpeace ship, fitted with a helideck, to alter course and rendezvous with him. Using a helicopter, protesters re-occupied the Spar and cut the wires to the detonators of scuppering charges.

One of the occupiers, young recruit Eric Heijselaar, recalls: "One of the first people I met as I climbed on board was a red-haired giant of a man grinning broadly at us. My first thought was that he was a deckhand, or maybe the bosun. So I asked if he knew whether a cabin had been assigned to me yet. He gave me a lovely warm smile, and reassured me that, yes, a cabin had been arranged. At dinner I found out that he was Jon Castle, not a deckhand, not the bosun, but the captain. And what a captain!"

With activists occupying the Spar once again, Castle and the crew kept up their pursuit when suddenly the Spar altered course, heading towards Norway. Shell had given up. The company announced that Brent Spar would be cleaned out and used as a foundation for a new ferry terminal. Three years later, in 1998, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) passed a ban on dumping oil installations into the North Sea.

"There was no question among the crew who had made this possible, who had caused this to happen," Heijselaar recalls. "It was Jon Castle. His quiet enthusiasm and the trust he put into people made this crew one of the best I ever saw. He always knew exactly what he wanted out of a campaign, how to gain momentum, and he always found the right words to explain his philosophies. He was that rare combination, both a mechanic and a mystic. And above all he was a very loving, kind human being."

Moruroa

After the Brent Spar campaign, Castle returned to the South Pacific on the Rainbow Warrior II, to obstruct a proposed French nuclear test in the Moruroa atoll. Expecting the French to occupy their ship, Castle and engineer, Luis Manuel Pinto da Costa, rigged the steering mechanism to be controlled from the crow's-nest. When French commandos boarded the ship, Castle stationed himself in the crow's-nest, cut away the access ladder and greased the mast so that the raiders would have difficulty arresting him.

Eventually, the commandos cut a hole into the engine-room and severed cables controlling the engine, radio, and steering mechanism, making Castle's remote control system worthless. They towed the Rainbow Warrior II to the island of Hao, as three other protest vessels arrived. 

Three thousand demonstrators gathered in the French port of Papeete, demanding that France abandon the tests. Oscar Temaru - leader of Tavini Huiraatira, an anti-nuclear, pro-independence party - who had been aboard the Rainbow Warrior II when it was raided, welcomed anti-testing supporters from Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Philippines, and American Samoa. Eventually, France ended their tests, and atmospheric nuclear testing in the world's oceans stopped once and for all.

“Moral courage”

Through these extraordinary missions, Jon Castle advocated "self-reflection" not only for individual activists, but for the organisation that he loved. Activists, Castle maintained, required "moral courage." He cautioned, "Don't seek approval. Someone has to be way out in front... illuminating territory in advance of the main body of thought."

He opposed "corporatism" in activist organisations and urged Greenpeace to avoid becoming "over-centralised or compartmentalised."  He felt that activist decisions should emerge from the actions themselves, not in an office. We can't fight industrialism with "money, numbers, and high-tech alone," he once wrote in a personal manifesto. Organisations have to avoid traps of "self-perpetuation" and focus on the job "upsetting powerful forces, taking on multinationals and the military-industrial complex."

He recalled that Greenpeace had become popular "because a gut message came through to the thirsty hearts of poor suffering people ... feeling the destruction around them."  Activists, Castle felt, required "freedom of expression, spontaneity [and] an integrated lifestyle."  An activist organisation should foster a "feeling of community" and exhibit "moral courage." Castle felt that social change activists had to "question the materialistic, consumerist lifestyle that drives energy overuse, the increasingly inequitable world economic tyranny that creates poverty and drives environmental degradation," and must maintain "honour, courage and the creative edge."

Well loved hero

Susi Newborn, who was there to welcome Jon aboard the Rainbow Warrior way back in 1977, and who gave the ship its name, wrote about her friend with whom she felt "welded at the heart: He was a Buddhist and a vegetarian and had an earring in his ear. He liked poetry and classical music and could be very dark, but also very funny. Once, I cut his hair as he downed a bottle or two of rum reciting The Second Coming by Yeats."

Newborn recalls Castle insisting that women steer the ships in and out of port because, "they got it right, were naturals." She recalls a night at sea, Castle "lashed to the wheel facing one of the biggest storms of last century head on. I was flung about my cabin like a rag doll until I passed out. We never talked about the storm, as if too scared to summon up the behemoth we had encountered. A small handwritten note pinned somewhere in the mess, the sole acknowledgment of a skipper to his six-person crew: ‘Thank You.’” Others remember Castle as the Greenpeace captain that could regularly be found in the galley doing kitchen duty.

In 2008, with the small yacht Musichana, Castle and Pete Bouquet staged a two-man invasion of Diego Garcia island to protest the American bomber base there and the UK's refusal to allow evicted Chagos Islanders to return to their homes. They anchored in the lagoon and radioed the British Indian Ocean Territories officials on the island to tell them they and the US Air Force were acting in breach of international law and United Nations resolutions. When arrested, Castle politely lectured his captors on their immoral and illegal conduct.

In one of his final actions, as he battled with his failing health, Castle helped friends in Scotland operate a soup kitchen, quietly prepping food and washing up behind the scenes.  

Upon hearing of his passing, Greenpeace ships around the world - the Arctic Sunrise, the Esperanza, and the Rainbow Warrior - flew their flags at half mast.

Jon is fondly remembered by his brother David, ex-wife Caroline, their son, Morgan Castle, born in 1982, and their daughter, Eowyn Castle, born in 1984. Morgan has a daughter of eight months Flora, and and Eowyn has a daughter, Rose, who is 2.   


Read more [Greenpeace international]

Swedish regulators disagree on safety of nuclear waste plan

OSLO (Reuters) - Sweden's radiation safety authority (SSM) and an environmental court issued diverging recommendations to the government on Tuesday on whether to allow the construction of a nuclear waste repository.
Read more [Reuters]

Austria to sue EU over allowing expansion of Hungary nuclear plant

VIENNA (Reuters) - Austria is planning to sue the European Commission for allowing Hungary to expand its Paks atomic plant, it said on Monday, not viewing nuclear energy as the way to combat climate change or as being in the common European interest.
Read more [Reuters]

Listening for Justice in Davos

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing” - Arundhati Roy

I can hear her too. I have spent my working life trying to help others hear her. I wonder, when attending the annual World Economic Forum meeting this week, in the cold mountain air of Davos, if I will still be able to hear her?

 Statue of Justice Activity in Davos, 18 Jan 2018

Seven women will chair this year’s Davos, but I still wonder if lady justice will rise above the chorus of backroom deals and rhetoric about co-creating a better future. I wonder if we will be able to find the empathy and connectivity to not only debate the most pressing challenges facing the world today, but to also seize the opportunities they present to build a more sustainable and equitable future together.  The time for simply tinkering with the existing system to preserve the status quo is long gone.

Of course I will be reaching out in Davos with special attention on gender equality and justice as vital drivers of the changes we need to see in the world. I will appeal to all those I speak with to look inside themselves and ask how they feel about what is happening in the world. I will ask them to identify what they can do and simply implore them to get it done.

Each year just ahead of the Davos meeting, the WEF publish a Global Risks Report. Over the last few years, we at Greenpeace, and the broader environmental and social justice movements, have made many of the same points about risks, urgency and solutions The very systems from which corporations and politicians draw their power and profit are breaking down and creating the fractured world we now live in.

Extreme weather events (and make no mistake they are more extreme due to climate change) are once again for the second year running, what political and business leaders themselves say is the world’s biggest threat.  They are also ranked close to weapons of mass destruction in terms of potential impact. We have clearly entered the era of alternative WMD – Weather of Mass Destruction.

What more relevant place, therefore, than to have this conversation at Davos, where many of the individuals who can ensure we turn the ship in time before hitting the iceberg, are present?

Of course we have to appeal to those in power as human beings, as citizens, as parents and grandparents. We must not forget to appeal to their humanity. At the same time they have specific power and responsibility.

I will also be promoting a new Greenpeace report “Justice for People and Planet.” It calls on governments to impose effective and binding rules on corporate behavior, to make them accountable toward people and the planet. It shows how, rather than imposing these rules, governments have willingly, or unwillingly, become enablers of corporate impunity.

The report’s analysis of 20 specific cases shows how corporations have exploited corporate law, tax and investment treaties, regulatory capture and a series of barriers to justice to profit at the expense of human rights and the environment.

The report documents, among others, how differences in legal standards saw VW fined billions in the US for the dieselgate scandal, but escape unpunished in Europe; how Resolute Forest Products and Energy Transfer Partners have used SLAPP suits in an attempt to silence critics; how Glencore pollutes the environment and climate and uses private arbitration courts to pressurize governments; and how Spanish ACS group became an accomplice to an environmental and social catastrophe when it joined the construction of the Renace hydroelectric power project in Guatemala.

In response we outline common sense Corporate Accountability Principles that include ‘Holding corporations and those individuals who direct them liable for environmental and human rights violations committed domestically or abroad by companies under their control.’ and ‘Promoting a race to the top by prohibiting corporations from carrying out activities abroad which are banned in their home state for reasons of risks to environmental or human rights.’

Whenever possible in conversation I will relay the latest climate science, with a specific focus on the connection between extreme weather events, climate change, and corporate liability. This is a rapidly evolving field scientifically, and, as the impacts are hitting more often and more intensively, one that corporate leaders should be aware of. The recently announced case New York City divesting from fossil fuels against Exxon is based on this latest science. 

As Executive Director of Greenpeace International I get asked if I should really be going to Davos. The answer is yes. My predecessors attended for one simple reason-- it is a rare opportunity to speak truth directly to power. Of course, as always, there is no guarantee those people will listen.

I will have many meetings with senior corporate leaders away from their large support teams. Somehow it feels like a more human interaction and a chance to speak heart to heart about facts, economic opportunities, as well as to help them find the compassion they need for these challenges.

Greenpeace is often the first one to turn up at oil spill, or at nuclear disaster so why not be the ones to show up at court of corporate executives straight at the top, and get them to sign up now to the future I am sure they want for their kids and grandkids. 

Jennifer Morgan is an executive director with Greenpeace International

 


Read more [Greenpeace international]

How do we make corporations more accountable?

Greenpeace is famous for campaigning against corporations.

We made “Choke” out of Coca-Cola's logo to draw attention to the massive plastic pollution impact they have around the world. 

Polar bear hijacks Coke’s holiday advertising in London. 5 Dec, 2017

We stand in the way of imports of dirty cars and expose corporate misbehaviour wherever we encounter it.

The public image of Greenpeace is often one of "corporate bashers". We can indeed be pretty harsh and irreverent when calling attention to corporate misdeeds, like in this satire video.

 

Of course, we don't believe that everyone in a corporation thinks like the man in the video. There are many in business - and many businesses - that want to do the right thing for people and planet. We applaud them.

Greenpeace never says no without offering an alternative. We are so committed to getting the solutions our world needs adopted fast, that we are, at times, willing to praise corporations that are still part of the problem.

We'll say “well done” to Coca Cola for eliminating climate damaging refrigerants from their cooling equipment because it benefits our climate and future generations. But we do so in the context of us demanding more fundamental change.  And we do so at the very same time as we campaign against them on plastic pollution.

We have “no permanent friends or enemies”. That's part of our core values - and it works to achieve change. The work with Coca-Cola to eliminate climate damaging gases, for example, also started as a brand jam when they were providing the “green Sydney Olympics” with cooling equipment that destroyed our climate.

Campaign against the use of HFCs in fridges by the Sydney Olympics sponsor, Coca-Cola. 14 Jun, 2000

It’s a fact, though, that corporations who misbehave are too rarely punished - and too often have captured our political leaders. The public good - our planet, our future - is the loser.

You can see that clearly in our new report Justice for People and Planet, which showcases 20 case studies of corporate capture, collusion and impunity. The report describes how some corporations have abused and violated human and environmental rights around the world. The examples are as shocking as they are diverse, ranging from deforestation, water and air pollution, plastic pollution, or waste dumping, to chemical spills, nuclear disaster, violations of Indigenous rights and more.

The report argues that it is the rules that govern our global economy (and lack thereof) that are the real reason behind such corporate misdeeds. Economic globalisation has created significant governance gaps. There are no enforceable social and environmental global rules governing global economic players.

That we lack these rules to deliver a sustainable and fair economy worldwide is the result of specific political choices by our leaders. The cases presented in our report show that corporate impunity for environmental destruction and human rights violations is a result of the current economic and legal systems.

The failure to protect human rights and the environment is often caused by state institutions and decision-makers being captured by specific corporate interests. This all too often leads to politicians failing to pass binding laws and failing to ensure corporations are held to account.

There is a different way. Effective state action could end corporate capture and close the governance gap. Global regulations with teeth are clearly possible – they exist! The World Trade Organisation, for example, can sanction countries that break its rules.

We need similarly strong roles for the environment and human rights. That’s why we're putting forward 10 Principles for Corporate Accountability:

  1. People and the environment, not corporations, must be at the heart of governance and public life.
  2. Public participation should be inherent to all policy making.
  3. States should abandon policies that undermine environmental and human rights.
  4. Corporations should be subject to binding rules both where they are based and where they operate.
  5. States should require due diligence reporting and cradle to grave responsibility for corporate products and services.
  6. States should promote a race to the top by prohibiting corporations from carrying out activities abroad which are prohibited in their home state for reasons of risks to environmental or human rights.
  7. States should create policies that provide transparency in all corporate and government activities that impact environmental and human rights, including in trade, tax, finance and investment regimes.
  8. Corporations and those individuals who direct them should be liable for environmental and human rights violations committed domestically or abroad by companies under their control.
  9. People affected by environmental and human rights violations should be guaranteed their right to effective access to remedy, including in company home states where necessary.
  10. States must actually enforce the regulatory and policy frameworks they create.

You can find much more detail about these principles (and why they are needed) in the report itself.

And you can, like us, take heart in some steps in the right direction that are already underway: France, recently required corporations to identify potential risks to people and the environment as a result of their activities, and act to prevent harm to people and the environment.

Switzerland is gearing up for a people’s referendum that would legally oblige corporations to incorporate respect for human rights and the environment in all their business activities.

New specialised laws such as the UK’s Modern Slavery Act also require businesses to tackle slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains.

All these show how governments can make rules with teeth to govern corporate activities around the world. If they want to.

Statue of Justice Activity in Davos. 18 Jan, 2018

A more just and sustainable world is possible. If all who want a livable planet push for it - together. Are you in?

Daniel Mittler is the Political Director of Greenpeace International

 

 

 


Read more [Greenpeace international]

U.S. plan to aid coal, nuclear rejected in setback for Trump

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. power grid regulator on Monday rejected a directive by Energy Secretary Rick Perry to prop up aging coal and nuclear power plants, in a setback for the Trump administration that disappointed coal miners but pleased drillers, environmentalists and renewable energy advocates.
Read more [Reuters]

A Brief History of Environmentalism

"The goal of life is living in agreement with nature."
— Zeno ~ 450 BC (from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers)

Homo sapiens roamed the Earth. We can only speculate about how these early humans reacted, but migrating to new habitats appears to be a common response.

Jasper National Park in Canada, 2017

Ecological awareness first appears in the human record at least 5,000 years ago. Vedic sages praised the wild forests in their hymns, Taoists urged that human life should reflect nature's patterns and the Buddha taught compassion for all sentient beings.

In the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, we see apprehension about forest destruction and drying marshes. When Gilgamesh cuts down sacred trees, the deities curse Sumer with drought, and Ishtar (mother of the Earth goddess) sends the Bull of Heaven to punish Gilgamesh.

In ancient Greek mythology, when the hunter Orion vows to kill all the animals, Gaia objects and creates a great scorpion to kill Orion. When the scorpion fails, Artemis, goddess of the forests and mistress of animals, shoots Orion with an arrow.

In North America, Pawnee Eagle Chief, Letakots-Lesa, told anthropologist Natalie Curtis that "Tirawa, the one Above, did not speak directly to humans... he showed himself through the beasts, and from them and from the stars, the sun, and the moon should humans learn."

Some of the earliest human stories contain lessons about the sacredness of wilderness, the importance of restraining our power, and our obligation to care for the natural world.   

Early environmental response

Five thousand years ago, the Indus civilisation of Mohenjo Darro (an ancient city in modern-day Pakistan), were already recognising the effects of pollution on human health and practiced waste management and sanitation. In Greece, as deforestation led to soil erosion, the philosopher Plato lamented, "All the richer and softer parts have fallen away, and the mere skeleton of the land remains." Communities in China, India, and Peru understood the impact of soil erosion and prevented it by creating terraces, crop rotation, and nutrient recycling.

The Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen began to observe environmental health problems such as acid contamination in copper miners. Hippocrates' book, De aëre, aquis et locis (Air, Waters, and Places), is the earliest surviving European work on human ecology.

Advancing agriculture boosted human populations but also caused soil erosion and attracted insect infestations that led to severe famines between 200 and 1200 CE.

In 1306, the English king Edward I limited coal burning in London due to smog. In the 17th century, the naturalist and gardener John Evelyn wrote that London resembled "the suburbs of Hell." These events inspired the first ‘renewable’ energy boom in Europe, as governments started to subsidise water and wind power.

In the 16th century, the Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted scenes of raw sewage and other pollution emptying into rivers, and Dutch lawyer Hugo Grotius wrote The Free Sea, claiming that pollution and war violate natural law.

Netherlandish Proverbs (1559) - Pieter Bruegel the Elder. If you look closely at the mid-ground to the right, you can see a wealthy man dumping money into the sewage. 

Environmental rights

Perhaps the first real environmental activists were the Bishnoi Hindus of Khejarli, who were slaughtered by the Maharaja of Jodhpur in 1720 for attempting to protect the forest that he felled to build himself a palace.

The 18th century witnessed the dawn of modern environmental rights. After a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin petitioned to manage waste and to remove tanneries for clean air as a public "right" (albeit, on land stolen from Indigenous nations). Later, American artist George Catlin proposed that Indigenous land be protected as a "natural right".

At the same time in Britain, Jeremy Benthu, wrote An Introduction to Principles of Morals and Legislation which argued for animal rights. Thomas Malthus wrote his famous essay warning that human overpopulation would lead to ecological destruction. Knowledge of global warming began 200 years ago, when Jean Baptiste Fourier calculated that the Earth's atmosphere trapped heat like a greenhouse.

Then, in 1835, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote Nature, encouraging us to appreciate the natural world for its own sake and proposing a limit on human expansion into the wilderness. American Botanist William Bartram and ornithologist James Audubon dedicated themselves to the conservation of wildlife. Henry David Thoreau wrote his seminal ecological treatise, Walden, which has since inspired generations of environmentalists.

Man and nature in the Spessart Mountains, 2017

A few decades later, George Perkins Marsh wrote Man and Nature, denouncing humanity's indiscriminate "warfare" upon wilderness, warning of climate change, and insisting that "The world cannot afford to wait" - a plea we still hear today.

At the end of the 19th century, in Jena, Germany, zoologist Ernst Haeckel wrote Generelle Morphologie der Organismen in which he discussed the relationships among species and coined the word ‘ökologie’ (from the Greek oikos, meaning home), the science we now know as ecology.

In 1892, John Muir founded the Sierra Club in the US to protect the country’s wilderness. Seventy years later, a chapter of the Sierra Club in western Canada broke away to become more active. This was the beginning of Greenpeace.

Environmental action

"That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology," wrote Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac, "but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics ... a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”

Customary landowner, Auwagi Sekapiya, of the Ubei Clan; Kosuo tribe in Papua New Guinea, 2003.  

In the early 20th century, the chemist Alice Hamilton led a campaign against lead poisoning from leaded gasoline, accusing General Motors of willful murder. The corporation attacked Hamilton, and it took governments 50 years to ban leaded gasoline. Meanwhile, industrial smog choked major world cities. In 1952, 4,000 people died in London's infamous killer fog, and four years later the British Parliament passed the first Clean Air Act.

Ecology grew into a full-fledged, global movement with the development of nuclear weapons. Albert Einstein, who felt morally troubled by his contribution to the nuclear bomb, drafted an anti-nuclear manifesto in 1955 with British philosopher Bertrand Russell, signed by ten Nobel Prize winners. The letter inspired the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, in the UK - a model for modern, non-violent civil disobedience. In 1958, the Quaker Committee for Non-Violent Action launched two boats - the Golden Rule and Phoenix - into US nuclear test sites, a direct inspiration for Greenpeace a decade later.  

Rachel Carson brought the environmental movement into focus with the 1962 publication of Silent Spring, describing the impact of chemical pesticides on biodiversity. “For the first time in the history of the world," she wrote, "every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals.” Shortly before her death she expressed the emerging ecological ethic in a magazine essay: “It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the Earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.”

Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss cited Silent Spring as a key influence for his concept of ‘Deep Ecology’ - ecological awareness that goes beyond the logic of biological systems to a deep, personal experience of the self as an integrated part of nature.

In The Subversive Science, Paul Shepard described ecology as a "primordial axiom," revealed in ancient cultures, which should guide all human social constructions. Ecology was "subversive" to Shepard because it supplanted human exceptionalism with interdependence.  

The ecology symbol designed by comic artist Ron Cobb

In India, villagers in Gopeshwar, Uttarakhand, inspired by Gandhi and the 18th century Bishnoi Hindus, defended the forest against commercial logging by encircling and embracing trees. Their movement spread across northern India, known as Chipko ("to embrace") - the original tree-huggers.

In 1968, the American writer Cliff Humphrey founded Ecology Action. One media stunt involved Humphrey gathering 60 people in Berkeley, California, to smash his 1958 Dodge Rambler into the street, declaring, “these things pollute the earth.” Prophetically, Humphrey told Greenpeace co-founder Bob Hunter, “This thing has just begun.”

A year later, inspired by the writings of Carson, Shepard, and Naess, and by the actions of Chipko and Ecology Action, a group of Canadian and American activists set out to merge peace with ecology, and Greenpeace was born.

Co-founder Ben Metcalfe commissioned 12 billboard signs around Vancouver that read:

Ecology

Look it up.

You're involved.

It’s hard to imagine now, but in 1969, most people did have to look it up. Ecology was still not a household word, although it soon would be.

Crew of the Greenpeace, the original voyage to protest nuclear testing in Amchitka, 1971, with the ecology logo on our sail 

In 1977, after two anti-nuclear bomb campaigns and confrontations with Soviet whalers and Norwegian sealers, Greenpeace purchased a retired trawler in London and renamed it the Rainbow Warrior, after a indigenous legend from Canada. The Cree story (recounted in Warriors of the Rainbow, by William Willoya and Vinson Brown) tells of a time when the land, rivers, and air are poisoned, and a group of people from all nations of the world band together to save the Earth.

Nearly a half-century after the foundation of Greenpeace, the global ecology movement has reached every corner of the world, with thousands of groups springing up to defend the environment. Meanwhile, the challenges facing us grow ever more daunting. The next half-century will test whether or not humanity can respond to the challenge.  

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

Resources and Links:

Environmental History Timeline: Radford University

Ramachandra Guha: Environmentalism: A Global History, 2000

The European Society for Environmental History: ESEH.org

Environmental History, Oxford Journals

Donald Worster: Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas, 1977

J. D. Hughes: Ecology in Ancient Civilizations (U. New Mexico Press, 1975): Oxford Academic  

Society for Environmental Journalists: sej.org

Letakots-Lesa (Eagle Chief) and Natalie Curtis on Pawnee songs: Entersection

William Willoya and Vinson Brown: Warriors of the Rainbow

Alice Hamilton, MD: Exploring The Dangerous Trades, 1943

Aldo Leopold: Sand County Almanac, 1949

Rachel Carson: Silent Spring, 1962

Barry Commoner: The Closing Circle, 1971

Paul Shepard: The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game, 1973

Gregory Bateson: Mind and Nature, 1978

Roderick Nash: The Rights of Nature, 1989

Deep Ecology for the 21st Century: A good survey of ecology writers, Arne Naess, Chellis Glendinning, Gary Snyder, Paul Shepard, and others


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