Greenpeace International Greenpeace exists because this fragile earth deserves a voice. It needs solutions. It needs change. It needs action. Thu, 04 Mar 2021 00:03:04 +0000 en hourly 1 New report links 2020’s record-breaking fires in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands to world’s biggest meat processor Wed, 03 Mar 2021 18:26:17 +0000 Amsterdam, The Netherlands – The world’s largest meat processor JBS and its leading competitors Marfrig and Minerva slaughtered cattle purchased from ranchers linked to the 2020 fires that destroyed one-third of the world’s largest inland wetland in the Pantanal region of Brazil, according to a new report published by Greenpeace International. The Brazilian meat giants in turn supply Pantanal beef to food giants like McDonald’s, Burger King, French groups Carrefour and Casino, and markets across the world.

“Fire blazes the way for industrial meat expansion across South America. In the face of the global Covid-19 pandemic and the biodiversity and climate crises, the continued deliberate use of fire within the sector is an international scandal. How to stamp it out is a burning issue,” said Daniela Montalto, Food and Forest campaigner at Greenpeace UK. 

Making Mincemeat of the Pantanal documents 15 cattle ranchers that are linked to the 2020 Pantanal fires. At least some 73,000 hectares – an area larger than Singapore – burned within the boundaries of properties owned by these ranchers. In 2018–2019, these ranchers supplied at least 14 meat processing facilities owned by JBS, Marfrig and Minerva. Nine of the ranchers were also linked to other environmental violations such as illegal clearing or property registration irregularities at the time of identified trade with the meat processors.

As Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s anti-environment agenda continues to wreak havoc on the Amazon rainforest [1] and amid the chaos and economic upheaval caused by the global Covid-19 pandemic, Brazil’s beef exports still set a new all-time high in 2020

“The world’s largest wetland – a critical habitat for jaguars – is literally going up in smoke. By ignoring the destruction, JBS and the other leading meat processors, Marfrig and Minerva, are all but handing out the matches for this year’s fires,” said Daniela Montalto, Food and Forest campaigner at Greenpeace UK. 

In January 2021, Greenpeace International alerted JBS, Marfrig and Minerva to the environmental and legal risks in their Pantanal supply base exemplified by these ranchers. These included not only connections to the extensive fires, but also cattle supplies from ranches sanctioned for illegal clearance or where property registrations were suspended or cancelled. 

Despite Greenpeace’s findings, all the meat processors asserted that all the ranches that had supplied them directly were compliant with their policy at the time of purchase. None of the meat processors gave any meaningful indication that it had reviewed its Pantanal supply base for deliberate use of fire. None indicated that it required ranchers to comply with its policy across their operations, despite Greenpeace findings of significant movement of cattle between operations owned by the same individual. Indeed, JBS has even publicly stated that it has no intention to exclude ranchers caught violating its decade-old commitments. [2] [3]

“The industrial beef sector is a liability. While promising to maybe someday save the Amazon, JBS and the other leading beef processors seem willing to butcher the Pantanal today, making mincemeat of their sustainability pledges. Importing countries, financiers and meat buyers like McDonald’s, Burger King or French groups Carrefour and Casino need to end their complicity with environmental destruction. Closing the market to forest destroyers is not enough, it is time to phase out industrial meat.” said Daniela Montalto, Food and Forest campaigner at Greenpeace UK.


Images of the Pantanal fires and wildlife of the Pantanal available here.


[1] Amazon deforestation in the period August 2019 and July 2020 was equivalent to approximately 11,088 square kilometers, 9.5 percent increase compared to the same period the year before, according to deforestation data released by PRODES. In August 2019, ranchers reportedly set the Amazon alight in a massive coordinated ‘Day of Fire’ in support of Brazilian President Bolsonaro’s plan to open up the rainforest to development. 

[2] The scale of JBS’s environmental and social destruction became a global scandal in 2009, when Greenpeace International published, Slaughtering the Amazon, which exposed how JBS and other major players in the Brazilian beef industry were linked to hundreds of ranches in the Amazon, including some associated with illegal deforestation and other destructive practices, as well as modern-day slavery.

Following that report, in 2009, JBS and three of Brazil’s other big meat processors signed a voluntary commitment – the Cattle Agreement – to end the purchase of cattle whose production was linked to Amazon deforestation, slave labour or the illegal occupation of Indigenous lands and protected areas. The agreement included a commitment to ensure fully transparent monitoring, verification and reporting of the companies’ entire supply chains – including indirect suppliers – within two years to achieve zero-deforestation in its supply chain.

Despite that commitment, in the decade since, the company has continued to be linked to corruption, deforestation and human rights scandals

[3] Food Navigator, 22 February 2021: JBS doubles down on deforestation as Greenpeace denounces ‘five more years of inaction’ 

Marcio Nappo, Sustainability Director at JBS Brasil, reported statements: “Right now, we’re not going to block them [rogue suppliers], we’re going to try to help them solve the issue. Sometimes it’s paperwork, sometimes they need to put together a conservation plan, sometimes they need to reforest part of their property. We are going to help them and we’re hiring people to help these suppliers.”

“We think excluding the property and the supplier is a negative approach. It won’t solve the problem because they’ll go to the next meat packer and try and sell it. We don’t want that because it won’t address the issue.” 


Greenpeace UK Press Desk:, +44 7500 866 860

Greenpeace International Press Desk:,  +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

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Making Mincemeat of the Pantanal Wed, 03 Mar 2021 17:45:00 +0000 In 2020, thanks to two consecutive years of severe drought, some 30% of the Brazilian Pantanal – the world’s largest contiguous wetland – burned. In many cases ranchers are suspected of starting fires deliberately.

The world’s largest meat processor JBS and its leading competitors Marfrig and Minerva slaughtered cattle purchased from ranchers linked to the 2020 Pantanal fires, according to a new report published by Greenpeace International. The Brazilian meat giants in turn supply Pantanal beef to food giants like McDonald’s, Burger King, Nestlé, French groups Carrefour and Casino, and, reportedly, Walmart, as well as numerous other companies and retailers in markets across the world.

This investigation exposes continued failure by the meat processors to guarantee that cattle from rogue ranchers linked to environmental destruction or legal violations are excluded from supply. Such failures contribute to the industrial meat sector’s continued role as a leading global driver of land-use emissions, biodiversity loss and social injustice. Of particular concern is the potential for cattle linked to deliberate or illegal use of fire to find their way into the international market.  

Given such structural failings, it is untenable for international consumer goods companies, supermarkets and fast food companies that claim to have zero deforestation policies to continue to trade with the meat processors named in this report. Further, if trade blocs such as the European Union and the United Kingdom are to end their consumption of products linked to environmental destruction then they must swiftly enact and enforce the necessary laws to ensure that products from these groups find no place in these markets.

The overproduction of meat and dairy is literally costing the earth. To halt and begin to reverse the current crisis, decisive action is needed from governments, finance and consumer companies to shift away from industrial meat and close markets to companies contributing to forest and ecosystem destruction. Without these vital steps our food system will continue to be a driving force of deforestation, climate change and future pandemic risk.

Making Mincemeat of the Pantanal Report is available here.

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5 reasons we need wildlife in order to survive Wed, 03 Mar 2021 02:30:15 +0000 Our natural earth is dying. It is on the brink of collapse. 

Just 15% of the world’s forests remain intact, and only 3% of the world’s oceans are free from human pressures

Mainly due to human pressures, the planet is losing species – its biodiversity – at an alarming rate, thought to be comparable only to the 5th mass extinction 65 million years ago.

Wildlife in the Savanna in Tanzania. ? Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace
Flamingos and pelicans at Lake Natron, Rift Valley, Tanzania, Africa. ? Markus Mauthe / Greenpeace

What is biodiversity and why is it important?

Biodiversity is built from three intertwining threads: ecosystem diversity, species diversity, and genetic diversity. Put simply, the more diverse these interwoven natural systems are, the more resilient they are to disturbances.

The relationships between all living plants and animals create “the web of life”, which can be seen as a safety net that helps ensure the survival and welfare of all living things on this planet, including us humans.

When there’s balance, all these things work together to clean our water, purify our air, maintain our soil, regulate the climate, stop disease outbreaks, recycle nutrients and provide us with food.

But whenever a species disappears it’s like a thread in the web is cut, leaving holes in the planet’s safety net and shifting the finely balanced systems.

Coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef. ? Victor Huertas / Greenpeace
Coral bleaching in the Great Barrier Reef ? Victor Huertas / Greenpeace

For example, corals create habitat for so many marine species that if they disappear, the whole ecosystem can collapse creating a cascade of wildlife mortalities and species loss.

That’s exactly what’s happening on Australia’s Great Barrier reef, one of the world’s most diverse reef ecosystems, which has lost more than half of its coral population since 1995 due to mass coral bleaching events and is dying before our eyes.?

Here are 5 ways biodiversity supports life on earth:

  1. Nature gives us what we need. Food, clean air, and water are the foundations of life and Earth’s biodiversity has provided civilisations with the essentials we need to survive on this planet.
  1. Nature protects us. Some of the most important roles of biodiversity are defensive. Our ecosystems help to regulate our climate and insure against disease outbreaks like Covid-19. You might already know that forests are important carbon sinks and essential for fighting the climate crisis, but oceans also play an important role.
  1. Nature keeps things flowing. Nitrogen and phosphorus are the two primary biological nutrients required by all life on earth that circulate through Earth’s ecosystems. Human activity has so thoroughly disrupted Earth’s natural nutrient cycles that we have degraded soils and created aquatic dead zones.
  1. Nature nourishes our spirit. As many Indigenous and forest peoples know well, we are part of nature, not apart from it. There are so many spiritual and recreational benefits in nature. Even in western science, the psychological benefits of nature are widely documented.
  1. Nature could solve future problems. Scientific knowledge continues to grow and evolve. The more that we can keep alive and thriving, the greater that knowledge can be. For example, nature has helped, and continues to help in important medical advances.
Deforestation and Fire Monitoring in the Amazon. ? Christian Braga / Greenpeace
Deforestation and fire monitoring in the Amazon, 2020 ? Christian Braga / Greenpeace

So what’s destroying our biodiversity?

As societies (and economies) have grown, so has their ecological footprint. Extractive capitalism has commodified nature, and caused some to forget its true value. The pursuit of limitless economic growth is a huge source of injustice, exploiting people and the planet alike. 

Destructive industries are piling more pressure on our planet’s web of life than at any other point in human history. Mega corporations are burning polluting fossil fuels, are setting forests on fire to clear land to grow agricultural commodities and for single use products, and are plundering ever deeper and more remote areas of the oceans, they’re also polluting politics and holding our governments hostage in the process.

Rather than working on a solution, governments are propping up the problem. Bailing out pesticide giants and destructive industrial farming with public money, or pumping billions into dirty energy.

Endless pursuit of limitless growth, on a planet with finite resources, has a predictable end that’s already in sight. So much of the wildlife on this planet, including humanity most likely, is heading for extinction.

Post-Election Climate Strike in Vancouver. ? SaeSung / Greenpeace
Marching for climate justice in Vancouver, Canada, with Indigenous leaders, Sustainabiliteens, Greta Thunberg and other student strikers in the wake of federal election results, October 2019. ? SaeSung / Greenpeace

How can we save nature and ourselves?

Governments must stop prioritising corporate profits and rethink the way we produce and consume food and other goods to ease the pressures on nature. Transform our systems to value both people and the planet we rely on, and to put our wellbeing at the heart of spending and policy decisions.

Governments need to restore the balance of power to communities and listen to the Indigenous custodians of lands and oceans. Working in partnership with people who are connected to, and rely on nature, is the surest way to protect wild places.

We need to protect what biodiversity is left, so that it can, to some extent, recover. Creating vast ocean sanctuaries and rights-based protections on land can help tackle climate breakdown, species loss, food security and the risk of future pandemics. 

Important global agreements like the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) which holds its  COP15 meeting in Kunming this year is an opportunity for governments to forge a new relationship with nature. If we protect nature, we can build up resilience to combat climate crises and future epidemics, and help protect people and the planet.

This year, Greenpeace is calling on governments to agree to an ambitious and implementable rehabilitation plan for nature. We’re calling for a commitment to bold targets that protect at least 30% of our lands and oceans by 2030, with a clear plan for how to get there in partnership with local and Indigenous communities, and enough funding and resources to make it happen.

We cannot risk destroying the web of life that sustains us. We are part of nature, and if it disappears, our future will disappear with it. Protecting biodiversity is a way to protect ourselves.

Want to do more? 

Right now we have the chance to Protect the Oceans. Call on governments to create the world’s biggest network of marine sanctuaries.

Marie Bout is a Global Communications Strategist with the Greenpeace International Political Unit.

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Memories of Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919-2021) aboard a Greenpeace ship Wed, 03 Mar 2021 01:00:00 +0000 On Monday, 22 February 2021, American poet, publisher, and innovative book seller, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, died from lung disease, at the age of 101.

In the summer of 1977, Ferlinghetti joined the crew of the Greenpeace ship during the whale campaign and he wrote an historic poem in the ship’s dreambook. 

Ferlinghetti was born in New York in 1919, earned a B.A. in journalism at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, completed a doctoral degree from the Sorbonne in Paris, and published his first short stories in Carolina Magazine. He moved to San Francisco in 1951, and founded the first all-paperback bookstore in the US — the now-famous City Lights Books — to “democratize” modern literature by making new and innovative writers widely available. 

City Lights began publishing their own books in 1955, featuring international writers such as Charles Baudelaire and Pablo Naruda, and became known for publishing renowned American beat-era writers such as Jack Kerouac, Diane di Prima, Allen Ginsberg, and Anne Waldman. 

In 1957, US agents arrested Ferlinghetti on obscenity charges for publishing Ginsberg’s “Howl.” After an historic freedom of speech trial, the court acquitted Ferlinghetti, who became an international cultural hero. His City Lights bookstore became a hub for progressive politics and revolutionary writers.

Ferlinghetti’s own first collection of poems, A Coney Island Of The Mind, written in 1958 for jazz accompaniment, became his most iconic work. Nevertheless, “The greatest poem,” Ferlinghetti later wrote, “is lyric life itself.”

In September 1977, the Greenpeace ship James Bay, a Canadian mine-sweeper rechristened Greenpeace VII, had just confronted the Russian whaling fleet off the coast of California, when the crew arrived in San Francisco with photographs and film. 

Soviet Whaling Tour in the North Pacific. ? Greenpeace / Rex Weyler
Greenpeace confronts Russian whalers, 1977: “I am what is left of Wild Nature.” ? Greenpeace / Rex Weyler

Ferlinghetti visited the ship at Pier 32 in San Francisco harbor. After a tour of the ship, and a talk with several of the crew members, I invited the elder poet to join the crew, an invitation I knew I would have to clear with our skipper, George Korotva. Ferlinghetti eagerly accepted, and Korotva agreed. The poet and publisher had business to attend to so we departed, and he caught up with us in Seattle a week later, in early October. 

Back at sea, we searched for the Russian whaling fleets, but they appeared to have retreated from the eastern Pacific. Over a coffee in the ship’s galley, Ferlinghetti told me the ship reminded him of his service in the US Navy during World War II. He recalled his experience as skipper of a submarine chaser — similar to the mine-sweeper James Bay — during the Normandy invasion. He told me that he had arrived in Nagasaki with the US Navy just weeks after the bomb had been dropped and that the experience had turned him into a lifelong pacifist. Ferlinghetti thumbed through a large black notebook that sat on the galley table, filled with entries from the crew.

He asked me about it, and I explained that two years earlier, during the first whale campaign, musician Mel Gregory had brought a notebook on board, labelled it “Greenpeace Dreambook,” and left it on the galley table for crew members to enter their dreams. This was Volume Two. The poet smiled and settled back to read the entries.

On the morning of 14 October, off Cape Flattery at the entrance to Juan de Fuca Strait outside Vancouver, Ferlinghetti sat down at the galley table, opened the Dreambook and wrote down his recollections from the night before:

Dreamt of
Moby Dick the Great White Whale
Cruising about
with a flag flying
with an inscription on it
“I am what is left of Wild Nature”
and Ahab pursuing in a jet boat with a ray gun
and jet harpoons and super depth charges
and napalm flamethrowers and electric
underwater vibrators and the whole gory
glorious efficient military-political
industrial-scientific technology
of the greatest
civilization the
earth has ever
devoted to
the absolute extinction and
death of the natural world as we know it
And Captain Ahab Captain Death Captain Anti-Poetry
Captain Dingbat No Face Captain Apocalypse
at the helm
of the Killer Ship of Death
And the blue-eyed whales
exhausted and running
but still
to each other . . .

Ferlinghetti published this poem the following year, in Northwest Ecolog (City Lights, 1978). Thereafter, whenever I visited San Francisco, I looked him up. He was always gracious with his time, and we typically had tea in his City Lights Bookstore office. He gave me signed copies of his books, and revised another poem from Northwest Ecolog, “Rough Song of Animals Dying,” to publish in our newspaper, Greenpeace Chronicles, which we did in November 1978. This poem had also emerged from a dream: 

In a dream within a dream I dreamt a dream
of creatures everywhere dying out
in shrinking rainforests
in piney woods & high sierras
on shrinking prairies & tumbleweed mesas
. . .  a dream
of the earth heating up & drying out
in the famous Greenhouse Effect
under its canopy of carbon dioxide
breathed out by a billion
infernal combustion engines . . . 

These visions appear familiar now, but in 1979 they felt shocking. Almost no one had yet heard of the Greenhouse Effect. This was 10 years before Bill McKibben’s famous book on the subject of global warming, 35 years before Elizabeth Kolbert’s The Sixth Extinction

Remembering Lawrence Ferlinghetti ignites in me a reminder that poets typically lead cultural change, serve as pioneering voices that might awaken an emerging zeitgeist, a new awareness arising in humanity. Ferlinghetti wrote his dark dreams not to lead us to despair, but rather to action. 

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Photographing Fukushima for the future Mon, 22 Feb 2021 04:11:34 +0000 Images of temporary housing where many must live with inconvenience and a mountain of bulk bags full of radioactive soil – these are all photographs taken by 73-years old Mr. Toru Anzai after the 2011 March TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster forced him to evacuate from his home of many years in Iitate, Fukushima.

Mr. Anzai was forced to evacuate from Iitate, his home of many years, following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Mr. Anzai was forced to evacuate from Iitate, his home of many years, following the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. ? Greenpeace

Mr. Anzai started photography as a hobby when he was in his twenties, at a time when film cameras were still in their heyday. He recalls being especially fond of taking landscape photographs, capturing beautiful rural scenes or the sun rising from in between mountains.

“I’m not a professional, but I never wanted to miss an opportunity for a photograph, so I always had my camera with me. I even took it with me to work sites with heavy machinery, so sometimes my precious camera ended up getting broken.”

Those fond days when he was able to enjoy his hobby, capturing on film the landscapes that caught his imagination, were brought to an abrupt end.

No more photographs

Mr. Anzai himself was not hurt during the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and subsequent Fukushima Nuclear disaster. Immediately after the accident, he joined search efforts to locate missing persons and saw with his own eyes a townscape completely transformed by the earthquake, and the unrecognisable bodies of victims as they were recovered from underneath buildings and rubble. 

“Has anyone… has anyone… seen Granny?” The voices of family members desperately searching for missing loved ones haunted his ears. 

“I always had my camera with me. And I knew that I should be taking pictures to keep a record of what was happening, but I just wasn’t able to bring myself to photograph what I saw.”

Greenpeace radiation specialist conducting survey of the home of evacuee Mr. Toru Anzai in Iitate, Fukushima prefecture, Japan. 
? Christian ?slund / Greenpeace
Greenpeace radiation specialist conducting survey of the home of evacuee Mr. Toru Anzai in Iitate, Fukushima prefecture, Japan. ? Christian ?slund / Greenpeace

From that day, Mr. Anzai became unable to take photographs in the way that he had. Every time he picked up his camera, the scenes he saw during the rescue efforts, the destroyed townscape and the heartbreaking calls of people searching for family members, came rushing back, and his hands would freeze. 

Three months after the disaster in June 2011, Mr. Anzai evacuated to Fukushima city from his house which was located 35 kilometres from the nuclear power plant. At the time, he thought that he would eventually be able to return home, however the radiation pollution was worse than imagined, and he ended up living in temporary housing for more than seven years. The temporary housing lacked facilities and he was often unwell due to the stress of living there. Overwhelmed by daily struggles, he stopped taking photographs.?

Rediscovering his passion

In December 2012, Mr. Anzai was invited by a friend to visit Yamaguchi prefecture and talk about his experiences during the nuclear disaster and his subsequent day-to-day life. It was on this occasion that he met the late photojournalist, Mr. Kikujiro Fukushima. Hailing from Yamaguchi prefecture, Mr. Fukushima launched his career as a photographer documenting the lives of atomic-bomb survivors as they struggled with the after-effects of the bomb. He then went on to use his photography to expose many social issues, such as pollution, and became known as the “defiant photojournalist” for his reputation for challenging the establishment through his photography.

“You are a photographer too, right, Mr. Anzai?”

“Yes I am, but I’m not very good,” replied Mr. Anzai modestly when questioned by Mr. Fukushima. Although he loved photography to the extent that he never went anywhere without his camera, after the disaster, he found himself unable to take pictures as he wished. “And besides, I can’t bring myself to photograph things anymore,” he added as the emotions that he had been holding back suddenly spilled out.

Seeing Mr. Anzai deep in thought, the old photographer, who was 91 at the time, spoke slowly after a moment’s silence. 

“There’s no such thing as a ‘good’ photo or a ‘bad’ photo. Just take photographs, whatever. 30 or 40 years later they will come to life.”

From that day onwards, Mr. Anzai started taking photos again. His lens has captured images of townscapes cleaned up through recovery efforts and other hometowns that remain evacuated with residents still unable to return. His photographs capture Fukushima seen through his eyes, undisguised and as it is. Mr. Anzai has held exhibitions in Tokyo, Fukushima and Yamaguchi, sharing his work with many people 

Bags with nuclear waste in Obori, Namie-town inside the highly contaminated exclusion zone in Namie, Fukushima prefecture, Japan. 
? Christian ?slund / Greenpeace
Bags with nuclear waste in Obori, Namie-town inside the highly contaminated exclusion zone in Namie, Fukushima prefecture, Japan. ? Christian ?slund / Greenpeace

“At some point I need to go through them all properly and sort them, but in total I think there are about 40,000 photos. I’ve also been taking videos”. There was a sense of certainty in his voice as he told me this.

Documenting Fukushima now for the future

In 2018, Mr. Anzai was left with no choice but to demolish his home in Iitate, where he had lived since his birth for more than 60 years. It was an agonizing decision he was forced into after the house fell into disrepair as his evacuation dragged on, and it became impossible to maintain or renovate. He tried to document the demolition, but as the workers did not like being photographed, he captured the last moments of his home from a distance, through a telescopic lens.

“After I demolished the house, I felt a bit down again. But I’m starting to take pictures again. When it gets warm, I’m going to go out to all sorts of places with my camera.” 

Mr. Fukushima’s words, telling him to “just take photographs, whatever,” gently push him forward everytime he finds himself about to get stuck.

Currently, Mr. Anzai lives in a house in Date, Fukushima. On the surface, it appears that the peaceful life he enjoyed before the disaster has returned. However, just a short drive away are many areas classified as ‘difficult to return zones’ where the movement of people is still  restricted and invisible but high levels of radiation remain.

What remains of Mr. Anzai’s home in Iitate, Fukushima. After maintenance of the house became difficult during the prolonged evacuation, it was knocked down in 2018.
What remains of Mr. Anzai’s home Iitate, Fukushima. After maintenance of the house became difficult during the prolonged evacuation, it was knocked down in 2018. ? Greenpeace

Mr. Anzai’s hometown has been altered completely, and he has lost the house that was full of memories of time spent with his family. All he wants is to get his old life back, but he can’t. That is what the last ten years have been to Mr. Anzai.

“It is said that a single photo can move the world. I hope that I can leave a record of the Fukushima that I have witnessed, so that 50 or 100 years on in the future, people can know what happened here.”

Ten years since the disaster, while recovery efforts are progressing, memories have also faded. More and more new generations will be born who do not know what the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and ensuing nuclear disaster were like. Generations who do not know what the people who lived there went through. Mr. Anzai continues to document the ‘now’ of Fukushima so that it can be carried on into the future.

Mitsuhisa Kawase is a senior communications officer at Greenpeace Japan.

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The biggest little whales Fri, 19 Feb 2021 15:56:20 +0000 When we talk about whales, a lot of the words that come to mind describe how big they are:  ‘enormous’, ‘huge’, ‘giant’, ‘largest-ever’, ‘leviathans’. We measure them by comparisons to buses, herds of elephants and dinosaurs. So it might surprise you to learn that there are some whales which get totally different descriptions – like the ‘pygmy blue whales’ which make the Indian Ocean home.

Pygmy blue whales are a tropical subspecies of the blue whale, and though they are only a few metres shorter in length, reaching about 24m as opposed to the 30m, they are often about half of the overall weight of a blue whale in the Antarctic. 

Pygmy Blue Whale in Mozambique.
A pygmy blue whale (Balaenoptera musculus brevicauda) breaks the surface in the waters 250 miles west of Maputo, Mozambique. ? Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

Many subspecies of whales have only been discovered relatively recently. So many whales, especially larger ones like blue whales, were annihilated by commercial whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries that we are only now understanding the full impacts for local populations, species and the oceans as a whole. Only when whaling countries came together to form the International Whaling Commission in 1946, we began to understand just how many whales were being hunted. Even then there was disagreement on how species were recorded. Current science is showing us how much we still don’t know about the world’s whales – from their breeding habits to their communications and culture – and the discovery of new subspecies and species is still happening.

"Sea of Hope" Exhibition at Central Station in Copenhagen. ? Mathilde Grafstr?m / Greenpeace
Sea of Hope exhibition at Copenhagen Central station, highlighting both the beauty and challenges of the world’s oceans. ? Mathilde Grafstr?m / Greenpeace

But why does that matter? Well, when we realise that what had once seemed to be a single whale species (or any other animal) is actually made up of separate populations or subspecies, they are at more risk than if they were one big population. Local availability of feeding and breeding grounds, and any human disturbance, is important because they are more specialised and limited in range.

Globally, industrial-scale commercial whaling reduced the number of blue whales to an estimated ONE percent of their previous numbers. We may already have lost some subspecies or distinct populations forever without even realising.

For example, Indian Ocean pygmy blue whales are not the same as their Antarctic cousins. They face increasing threats from the industrialisation of our oceans, with ocean noise, ship strikes and habitat destruction being big dangers to their ongoing survival, as well as the global threat from climate change. 

Pygmy Blue Whale. ? Greenpeace / Paul Hilton
A Pygmy blue whale swims underwater through shafts of light. ? Greenpeace / Paul Hilton

Yet at the same time we know  these animals are not only incredible in their own right, but also heroes in tackling climate change and keeping our wider oceans healthy and full of life.

These big ‘little’ whales have a huge role to play in the ecosystem, and the only way to secure their future now is to properly protect their ocean home. For long-living, far-travelled animals, that means making sure that large areas of ocean are set aside as ocean sanctuaries – protecting vital feeding and breeding grounds and also giving them space to live and thrive.

Arctic Sunrise in the Arctic Sea. ? Daniella Zalcman / Greenpeace
Deckhands Rita Ghanem and Silja Zimmerman look at a glacier from the bow of the Arctic Sunrise, as the ship nears the sea ice edge. ? Daniella Zalcman / Greenpeace

In 1986—thanks to an overwhelming amount of public support—commercial whaling was banned worldwide. Now global cooperation is urgent again – to create a network of ocean sanctuaries to protect whales and their home. The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is sailing the Indian Ocean to document the threats our oceans face and to put pressure on governments to protect them. Join 3.5 million people worldwide and add your name to call for the protection of whales and the oceans they call home.

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What is fossil capital? And how does it fuel social injustice Fri, 19 Feb 2021 14:14:05 +0000 What is fossil capital?

The world we live in has been built around an economic system that prioritises never-ending growth over the welfare of people and the planet. This system plunders our planet’s resources while oppressing our most vulnerable. It perpetuates structural inequalities and deepens the climate crisis and fossil fuels are at its core and is known as “Fossil Capital”

How it works

In 2008, using the financial crisis as an opportunity, fossil fuel companies and governments sacrificed our future in the name of economic growth, punishing the least responsible with “austerity” measures. All while exacerbating the climate crisis, and perpetuating a damaged and deeply unfair system that rewards their greed at the cost of the planet and people. 

The consequences of this model have resulted in a multitude of interlinked crises, including climate change, social and economical inequality, all of which deepened with the coronavirus pandemic. And as we try to recover from COVID-19, they are trying to do this again.

Fighting Inequality Concert in Manila. ? Jilson Tiu / Greenpeace
A global week of action was organized by the Fight Inequality Alliance to highlight the growing gap between the rich and the poor. In the Philippines, national movements, people’s organizations, non-government and civil society groups held an assembly and concert at an impoverished community in Intramuros at the heart of the country’s capital, Manila. ? Jilson Tiu / Greenpeace

Why it matters.

As with all crises, the people already facing the most oppression and inequalities are the ones paying the highest price. And, the only ones benefiting from it are the ones who already have the most power.

To date, thousands of people have already been killed by climate disasters and millions have been impacted, especially Indigenous and marginalised communities. The youth of the planet is suffering from unemployment, low wages, stagnant job markets, and obstacles to building their own future. Women and lower-income communities are also the hardest hit. And, at the same time, biodiversity loss is increasing at an unprecedented rate

Sea Level Rise in India. ? Greenpeace / Peter Caton
Dukhdev Tikadar, living in Ghoramara island, is one of the many people affected by sea level rise: “I fish in the river and I love this place.” Scientists estimate that over 70,000 people, will be displaced from the Sundarbans due to sea level rise by the year 2030. ? Greenpeace / Peter Caton

As Togo’s climate justice activist Kaossara Sani states, “Rich supremacy is killing the planet. Every silence and inaction in rich and industrialised countries for climate is a crime against nature, humanity and a threat to social justice in poor countries.” 

? Activist, Kaossara Sani, co-founder ,ACT ON SAHEL MOVEMENT
Kaossara Sani, co-founder ACT ON SAHEL MOVEMENT ? Kaossara Sani

What can we do?

We can’t be silent, we have to act.

It’s time to break the system, it’s time to unite and reclaim our power from the ones who have used it against life in all its forms. It’s time to resist and make them accountable for the damage they have made. It is time for the #FossilFreeRevolution! Stay tuned!

Georgia Whitaker, Lead Campaigner Greenpeace Fossil Free Revolution

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It’s chilly in here – How the polar vortex is causing temperatures to plummet and what we can do Thu, 18 Feb 2021 22:30:00 +0000 Record-breaking frosty temperatures, ice and heavy snowfalls have gripped huge areas of the Northern Hemisphere this winter. For example, cities in East Asia such as Beijing and Seoul shivered in two of the coldest snaps either had experienced for decades, over in Europe. Spain experienced record low temperatures of -25 Celsius and much of the Netherlands froze over, while snowstorms smothered the northeastern US with more than half a metre of snow.

This extreme weather, impacting more than a billion people worldwide, is yet another sign of the climate crisis despite the fact it looks like global cooling rather than global warming.  How so? Well, it’s got a lot to do with a warming Arctic prompting the collapse of the polar vortex. Does that all sound a bit complicated? Never fear, we will explain exactly what a polar vortex is, how it’s affecting our weather and linked to the climate crisis, and what we can do about it.

Japanese rock garden after an ice storm in winter. ? Shutterstock

So, what’s a polar vortex then?

The polar vortex is a giant swirling ring of cold air that rotates high up in the atmosphere at both the North and the South Poles, but for this blog, we will focus on the polar vortex in the North Pole. It always exists near the poles, but weakens in summer and strengthens in winter. Being cut off from the sun’s warmth in the Arctic makes it very much colder than the equator, which stays hot year-round.

The atmosphere tries to balance that extreme temperature difference by setting the cold air in the North Pole spinning – and that’s the polar vortex. This giant spiral of freezing winds is in the stratosphere, at least 16km above the Earth’s surface, so it’s too high to directly affect our weather, but it does have an indirect impact. When it’s rotating nicely, all that cold air stays in the vortex, but when the vortex gets wobbly, that cold air escapes southward and starts a chain reaction that sends the temperature dropping. 

NASA’s Atmospheric Infrared Sounder (AIRS) instrument captures a polar vortex moving from Central Canada into the U.S. Midwest from Jan. 20-29. ? NASA

What makes the polar vortex go ‘wobbly’?

It’s a bit hard to unravel, but meteorologists think it’s got something to do with a sudden temperature spike in the air in the stratosphere above the North Pole. A rapid and extreme rise in temperature there tips the swirling polar vortex off its axis, and it starts to wobble and extends much further south than it usually does. During this wobbling, the cold air – also known as jet stream – is also pushed southwards. 

Early this year, weakened polar vortex brought record-breaking cold waves across East Asia. Now the vortex warped into two “legs” that protruded into North America and Europe. Those legs caused the frigid air closer to the earth’s surface (which is what directly affects our weather) to bulge southwards, forcing cold front down across much of Europe and North America this winter.

A map of the polar vortex. ?

OK. So what’s climate change got to do with it?

There is a lot of evidence that the climate crisis is one of the main reasons that the polar vortex got pushed off course, causing an unusually harsh winter. We know that the Arctic is warming at a speed double that of the rest of the world. This has shrunk glaciers and melted away a significant amount of sea ice in the area. Scientists think it’s possible that this has made the polar vortex more prone to wobbling. One theory is that with less sea ice to reflect solar radiation, Arctic waters are getting warmer, causing clouds of warmer air that create ripples that dislodge the polar vortex. 

There’s a lot more going on than this, but what is certain is that the polar vortex going wobbly has been happening much more frequently over the past decade or so. And that means that unusually harsh and dangerous winters, something which used to be a rare event, are now becoming much more common like other climate crisis-linked extreme weather events.

Climate change – Antarctic glacier melt due to global warming. ? Shutterstock

What’s so bad about a bit of cold though?

Severe cold weather is a huge and often tragic problem. People die from the cold or from accidents caused by extreme weather such as car pile-ups. More than a dozen people were left dead from record snowfalls in Japan, while in Spain, a freezing blizzard left four people dead from hypothermia, flooding and suffocation from a snow pile up. Snowstorms paralyse transportation systems including road, rail and air; freezing winters lead to crop failures and livestock deaths that disrupt food production; and extreme inclement weather can cut off energy supplies causing blackouts and hardship. Storms at sea can cause loss of life and economic damages. This is not just a bit of cold weather – extreme weather events are almost always dangerous.

Heavy snow jams the road in Seoul, South Korea. ? Shutterstock

In the United States, Texas is experiencing record cold temperatures and the failure of its fossil-fueled electric power grid. The blast of frigid weather in February left millions of Texans without power or the ability to heat their homes for multiple days. Conservative politicians who have taken millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests throughout their careers were quick to blame wind turbines and Green New Deal policies that the state hasn’t even implemented yet. The reality is that frozen instruments at gas, coal, and nuclear plants are largely to blame. What is happening in Texas makes clear that fossil fuels aren’t just polluting, they’re unstable. 

The polar vortex is also wreaking havoc across areas of northern Mexico, with the dangers of the cold exacerbated by the failures of the fossil-fueled electric power grid in the US. Given the impact on electricity generation in Mexico, the Federal Electricity Commission requested the National Center for Energy Control to declare an Operational State of Alert.

What can we do about it?

We can go to the heart of the problem and take immediate actions to mitigate the climate crisis. We need urgent policy shifts to massively transform our economies to carbon-neutral ones as soon as possible. 

Basically, the only way to truly tackle extreme weather events is to tackle the climate emergency. 

That means phase out ALL fossil fuels (don’t even mention the word, coal), 100% renewable energy everywhere and for everything, and smart energy saving and energy efficiency. We can all do our part, and that’s extremely important. Many of you are already taking action by opting for public transport, biking or walking, switching to a renewable energy provider, and being smart about energy use. But ultimately governments and big corporations must ultimately lead the way to get to the heart of the problem. 

And they must start leading now.

At one of the biggest wind farms in Fukushima prefecture, Japan, 33 wind turbines are producing electricity equivalent to power demands of 35,000 households’ demands per year. Fukushima prefecture has declared to become 100% renewable by 2040. ? Guillaume Bression / Greenpeace

And that’s where East Asia comes into play

Last year, China, Japan and Korea committed to going carbon neutral by 2050 or 2060. They demonstrated real leadership. But promises are just words, and what we need now is real action. These three countries – collectively responsible for one-third of all global carbon emissions in 2018 – must now publish long-term, concrete plans to meet these announced targets and a detailed timeline for how they will move to 100% renewable energy. 

Greenpeace East Asia is making this campaign an absolute priority this year. We will take your voice to the halls of power, the boardrooms of shareholder meetings, and everywhere and anywhere we can to propel this vibrant and fast-moving corner of the world – to take action, and make real and positive changes for our climate. Will you join us?

Dinah Gardner is a freelance writer.

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Remember the Norilsk oil spill? Well, the polluters will pay. Fri, 12 Feb 2021 15:59:47 +0000 What happened?

On May 29, 2020 over 20 thousand tons of diesel leaked into the water and soil from a storage tank owned by Norilsk Nickel near Norilsk, turning the Ambarnaya River red. According to official data, the oil spill in Norilsk is the largest ever in the polar Arctic. Norilsk Nickel were taken to a local court for the damage by the Rosprirodnadzor (the Federal Service for the Supervision of Natural Resources), a regulator which is part of the Ministry of Natural Resources in Russia.

The Ambarnaya River runs red with a layer of petrochemicals. ? Anonymous / Greenpeace

The Ambarnaya River runs red with a layer of petrochemicals. ? Anonymous / Greenpeace ? Anonymous / Greenpeace

What now?

The Krasnoyarsk Arbitration Court ordered the Norilsk Nickel to pay 146 billion rubles (nearly 2 billion USD) for the oil spill in the Taimyr Peninsula. And although the amount of damage was slightly less than the one requested by Rosprirodnadzor.

Why it matters.

The accident immediately attracted the attention of journalists and environmentalists from all over the world. Greenpeace in Russia was one of the first to begin to cover this topic in detail, and also posted space images in which the ecological disaster was visible even from space.

As like so many incidents when polluters don’t check themselves and the environment is hurt, the damage lands heaviest on local communities.

It is the largest compensation for environmental damage in the history of Russia.

The deeper story.

Greenpeace, together with Novaya Gazeta, organized an expedition to Taimyr to take soil and water samples and survey the banks of the Pyasina River, where Indigenous Peoples are engaged in fishing. The company has repeatedly tried to restrict the access of journalists and specialists to the crash site, and also prevented the export of samples from the peninsula.

As a result, it was not possible to take samples at some important points, and the selected ecologists and journalists were able to take out later than the deadline set by the laboratory (on the fourth attempt).

Samples from Pyasina River Arrive in Saint Petersburg. ? Greenpeace / Dmitry Sharomov
Samples collected from Pyasina River Contaminated by Oil in the Russian Arctic arrive in Saint Petersburg, Russia 29th of May, 2020. ? Greenpeace / Dmitry Sharomov

Despite these circumstances, oil products were found in some of the samples, which means that the spilled diesel could not be stopped at the mouth of the Ambarnaya River (as the company stated), and the oil products were carried out towards the Kara Sea.

What Greenpeace Russia is saying about it.

Elena Sakirko, Head of the Energy Department of Greenpeace in Russia, said: “The size of the claims of Rosprirodnadzor against the subsidiary company Norilsk Nickel, which was upheld by the court today, but you can’t put a price on nature. In Russia, accidents involving oil and oil products spills regularly occur. Some of these incidents do not even get into the official statistics, but if the company fails to hide the leak, then compensation for damage and the amount of fines often do not correspond to the consequences – dead forests, lack of fish in rivers – grave consequences for the entire ecosystem. Accidents often occur on the lands of Indigenous Peoples, which leads to the loss of the ability to continue the traditional way of life in the disturbed territories. Today’s court is in many ways a precedent that can help to truly solve environmental problems at the system level.”

The Ambarnaya River runs red with a layer of petrochemicals. ? Anonymous / Greenpeace ? Anonymous / Greenpeace

What needs to happen now.

The ideal solution to the problems associated with oil spills is to phase out oil as a source of energy. Oil and petroleum products pose a huge danger to the climate. It is necessary to move to new carbon-free energy technologies as soon as possible, especially in such a vulnerable region as the Arctic. 

Russia needs to adopt a green recovery package based on climate-friendly solutions and technologies. The Russian government must take serious measures to combat climate change and start a just transition to end the age of oil.

Elena Sakirko is the Head of the Energy Department with Greenpeace in Russia

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Meet the women fighting to save our oceans Thu, 11 Feb 2021 15:06:13 +0000 Today is the International Day of Women and Girls in Science, a day to highlight the gender inequality in the scientific sphere and to call for initiatives in which the role of women in science is visible and recognized, and thus creating references for girls, in order to push for real equality between women and men in the field. Of the researchers in the world, women represent less than 30%, and only 7% of 15-year-olds say they want to dedicate themselves to technical professions in the future.

The  work of the women scientists at Greenpeace is fundamental for our campaigns, from climate change, the protection of the oceans, or studies in relation to COVID and biodiversity.

Hydrophone Research in Svalbard. ? Daniella Zalcman / Greenpeace
18-year-old activist Mya-Rose Craig (r) and Lead Scientist Kirsten Thompson lower a small hydrophone into Svalbard’s Ymerbukta Bay. A Greenpeace team is in the Arctic to document the impact of the climate crisis and investigate marine life in the region. ? Daniella Zalcman / Greenpeace

The COVID-19 pandemic has made us see more clearly than ever the close relationship that exists between biodiversity and our health. Using the same metaphor as world biodiversity expert Sandra Myrna Díaz (1), biodiversity is like a tapestry that is beginning to lose the threads and knots that weave it together. The knots in the tapestry (the necessary connections between the variety of species and habitats) are breaking down and increasing the proximity between people and viruses, exponentially increasing the probability of disease transmission from animals that act as virus vectors to humans. If nature continues to deteriorate (breaking knots in the tapestry), we increasingly put our own health in danger.

And to take care of biodiversity, you have to know it. In March, aboard the Arctic Sunrise, Kirsten Thompson, biologist and professor of ecology at the University of Exeter (UK), will lead an investigation in the Indian Ocean in a particularly interesting area: the Saya de Malha bank.?

Life onboard the MY Arctic Sunrise in Troms?. ? Daniella Zalcman / Greenpeace
Polar guide Tom Foreman and lead scientist Kirsten Thompson look out to sea from the deck of the Arctic Sunrise. ? Daniella Zalcman / Greenpeace

Saya de Malha Bank, part of the Mascarene Plateau located between Mauritius and Seychelles, constitutes one of the largest shallow tropical marine ecosystems on Earth. It is home to one of the few shallow water coral reef ecosystems in the high seas and contains the most extensive seagrass meadow in the world. Seagrass meadows are intense carbon sinks, sequestering carbon in their sediments and beyond the area they occupy. The banks provide feeding habitat for endangered green turtles and seabirds, while the deep surrounding waters provide breeding grounds for pygmy blue whales and sperm whales.

Tuna Gilnetter in Thailand. ? Biel Calderon / Greenpeace
The tuna gillnetter Kor Navamongkolchai 8 docked in the port of Ranong on the Thailand-Myanmar border. Thai authorities rescued victims of trafficking from aboard this Illegal Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing vessel as it returned from the Saya de Malha Bank. ? Biel Calderon / Greenpeace

During the scientific expedition, Kirsten and a team will turn the Arctic Sunrise into an oceanographic ship that allows us to increase the scientific knowledge of the area. We’ll map the diversity of fish, sharks and whales in the area through environmental DNA sampling; through photography and film, we’ll study the underwater meadows and coral reefs. We will also carry out passive acoustic monitoring, visual observations and photo-identification of cetaceans in the area, particularly sperm whales.

Research is vital so that this area can be protected. And the ultimate goal that we set ourselves at Greenpeace is not just to protect a very valuable piece of sea, but the approval of a Global Ocean Treaty to protect 30% of the sea surface by 2030. We have to achieve it this year, because now is more important than ever. Taking care of the oceans, taking care of biodiversity, is also a natural vaccine against pandemics. This vital work is only possible with the full participation and empowerment of women and girls.

Crew onboard the MY Arctic Sunrise in Troms?. ? Daniella Zalcman / Greenpeace
On board the Arctic Sunrise’s 2020 Sea Ice Minimum Tour. (L-R) Polar Advisor Laura Meller, assistant cook Alice Potter, scientist Melissa Wang, campaigner Sarah Methven, lead scientist Kirsten Thompson, volunteer deckhand Silja Zimmermann, deckhand Rita Ghanem, journalist Natalie Thomas, and environmental activist Mya-Rose Craig. ? Daniella Zalcman / Greenpeace

Maria Jose Caballero is the Lead campaigner onboard the Arctic Sunrise

  1. Argentine biologist Sandra Myrna Díaz received the Princess of Asturias Award for Scientific Research in 2019 along with fellow American biologist Joanne Chory. She is one of the main authors of the IPBES report that in 2019 warned that more than a million species are in danger of extinction.

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