Deeply Good’s Climate Change Playlist

Here it is, the first instalment of our curated mixtape, featuring songs from many different genres. Their one uniting theme? They are all inspired by, and are artistic responses to, climate change.

The Climate Change Playlist #1‘ (Yes, there will be more), contains genres that range from folk, classic rock, to hip hop and even electronic genres such as techno and industrial. When researching for this playlist, we were met with an avalanche of environmentalism-inspired songs, but understood that to create a playlist that sounded like a mixtape, we would have to consider which songs to keep in, and which songs to leave out.

Hopefully we have created something that flows nicely, something to work to, or to chill out with while travelling, or even sitting with a cup of tea. It’s up to you. From The 1975 and Greta Thunberg, to Björk, to Childish Gambino, to Thom Yorke, to Led Zeppelin and Bon Iver, we hope you enjoy.

As always, some songs will be more relevant than others, but it is up to you to figure out which ones you connect with the most. Why not send us your thoughts via our twitter @deeplygoodmag?

 

 

 

Greta Thunberg contributes stirring monologue to The 1975’s latest track

Pop music, but at its most poignant.

In a move that came truly out of the blue, the young climate activist Greta Thunberg has collaborated with indie band The 1975 on their latest track.

The song, released today, coincided with what was to be Britain’s hottest day on record – a day that unfortunately has been held in high regard by mainstream media.

The track is simply called, The 1975, and is intended to be the intro track to the band’s upcoming new album Notes on a Conditional Form, which is set to be released in February 2020. We are not here to critique The 1975 in their work, which has seemed to polarise music fans, seemingly fitting into both the ‘underrated’ and ‘overhyped’ categories, but for a band with an undeniably massive presence within younger audiences, for them to ask to Greta to pen an original monologue for the intro, it is nothing short of prophetic.

“We are right now, in the beginning of a climate and ecological crisis” Thunberg begins, in her now well-known accent. “And we need to call it what it is. An emergency.” It is the classic combination of hard-hitting truths and a realistic and moving sense of optimism we have come to admire and respect from the young climate activist.

“We have to acknowledge that older generations have failed. All political movements in their present form have failed. But homo sapiens have not failed.”

“Unless we recognise the overall failures of our current systems, we most probably don’t stand a chance.”

One of the most poignant parts of the track is probably its shortest line. Thunberg states “Now is the time to speak clearly.” In the age of ‘fake news’, Cambridge Analytica, and the political echo chambers of social media, speaking clearly is an increasingly radical act. This, amongst the other messages of the track, will hopefully speak volumes within the minds of fans worldwide. And speak clearly Greta does.

“You say that nothing in life is black or white. But that is a lie. A very dangerous lie. Either we prevent a 1.5 degree of warming, or we don’t.”

“There are no grey areas when it comes to survival.”

Thunberg also touches upon an issue inherent within the realm of environmental action, the war between systematic change and individual action. Forms of mainstream media, global multinationals, and neoliberalism itself do a great job of convincing us that we, the everyday citizens of the globe, are to blame. In part, they are correct, our consumer actions influence every corporate decision. Yet, it is the choices of a few incredibly rich individuals that have an incredibly large impact also, and our systems of government allow those decisions to be carried out. Thunberg does well to encapsulate this idea, and provide a succinct argument to align both ideas: “We need a system change rather than an individual change, but you cannot have one without the other.”

What is most inspiring about this piece in terms of its context within music history and culture, is that the ‘lyrics’ resemble early anarchic punk rock songs, the traditional ‘tear down the government’ politic. Yet this song is seemingly more ‘punk’ than any of those. Here we have a 16 year old imploring the minds of youths to change the world, not by smashing glass and wearing plaid jeans, but by restructuring both our economics and our politics into forms that do not exploit the living world.

“We can no longer save the world by playing by the rules. The rules need to be changed.”

Aesthetically speaking, this is a slow and sombre piece. It will have no sympathy for those moved to sadness by Thunberg’s words. We’d argue that this track is The 1975’s way of saying, ‘we are not here to play games’. Rather heroically on their part, all proceeds for the track will be going to climate activism group Extinction Rebellion.

“Everyone out there, it is now time to civil disobedience.” Thunberg says in the penultimate line, and then the music stops.

“It is now time to rebel.”

 

 

THE LONG READ: Why Europe’s reaction to the ‘migrant crisis’ casts a grave, genocidal shadow for future refugees

Written by Lewis Dale (@__ldale)

“You can’t blame someone for wanting a better life.” 

My uncle wished to reiterate before draining his beer. We sat across from each other in a popular bar chain on Deansgate, Manchester – bellies swelling full of half-digested pizza and effervescing, gurgling ale.

He was visiting the north for work, and following a very tongue-in-cheek series of emails ignited by a thinkpiece I’d published on the notion of Britishness we’d agreed to meet for a catch up and the kind of politically hued conversations only a sociopath could enjoy in the UK, 2019.  He’s a Tory (“no no, not a Tory. Just someone who voted Conservative”), and voted for Brexit; I, formerly Labour though more recently Green and a Remainer. I daresay it was the most productive and well-mannered back and forth in these isles since 2016. Enjoyable even. During the evening he told me detailed and colourful yarns of a life since lived; of climbing Mount Kenya, and his assistance in the delivery of one of the local tribespeople’s pregnancies some thirty plus years ago; how he’d never felt so fulfilled in a job than in that moment. I told him I was worried about the future, of my frustration rooted in an institutional poker face, playing a poor hand of human lives across a table of brinkman-faced bluffers. 

“You can’t blame someone for wanting a better life.”

We found common ground that evening with our pitchforked tongues eschewing the throat of the failings of current political systems in place. A symptom of breathing blackened city air. A symptom of broken party politicking, of a nationwide dissatisfaction manifested somewhere between thumbs ablaze in 240 character frenzies and a weary “change the channel” sodden malaise. With regards to the EU, I conceded that the institution, while beneficial, is far from perfect. With regards to migration, it became very clear that his socio-economic concerns appeared conflicted by his clearly drawn desire to help those who ‘rather sensibly’ wish to help themselves. 

A symptom of humanity. You can’t blame someone for wanting a better life.

PUBLIC OPINION AND THE MIGRATION ‘CRISIS’

According to the European Commission’s Eurobarometer reports, the spring of 2015 saw a major shift in where EU citizens placed their political priorities. For the first time, immigration overtook the economy, as well as unemployment and the state of member states’ public finances as the most important concerns facing the EU between August 2014 and September 2015. This is a significant shakeup of public opinion. Europe at this time was still recovering from the 2008 global recession, which saw the continent yo-yo between negative and positive growth for over half a decade. Independent nation states entered periods of crisis, mass unemployment and political fissuring, the aftershocks of which can still be felt today. 

This public concern was born of the ongoing ‘migrant crisis’, where 2015 saw an increased influx of refugees displaced mostly from a Syria embroiled within a famously brutal civil war, which according to the Migrant Data Portal created some 4.9 million refugees in 2015 alone, although they were mostly sheltered in neighbouring states of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Nevertheless, by the end of 2015, just shy of 900,000 refugees had been distributed between EU states, and Syria had overtaken Afghanistan as the world leading source of refugees, breaking a 3 decade long streak that began in 1981.

Following this trend, in 2014 Libya entered their second civil war within the decade, and according to some reports almost a third of the population had fled, mostly to neighbouring Tunisia. In 2015, six of the ten largest national populations of refugees were from Sub-Saharan African states, and as of March 2018 there has been almost a million legal Sub-Saharan asylum applicants accepted to Europe, with the most dramatic increase taking place between 2013 and 2015, rising from 91 thousand to 164 thousand annually on the back of a series of localised conflicts and ecological disasters. Though not every African or Middle Eastern nation were undergoing periods of strife during this time, the draw of a stable (save for the obvious exception of Ukraine) and a now economically progressing Europe was overwhelming, especially when being pushed from your homeland for your own safety.

Nevertheless, the 2015 Eurobarometer showed that 73% of Europeans were in favour of a common policy on migration, though 56% were negative about immigration from outside the EU.

EU LEGAL AND DIPLOMATIC REACTION TO THE MIGRANT CRISIS

It’s worth pointing out that studies have shown that it is unusual for a refugee to leap eagerly to travelling across the world, to enter a foreign culture, a new way of life of unknown customs and minimal points of contact, without attempting first to relocate and shelter locally.

It’s similarly worth pointing out that it is rare that refugees have a destination in mind upon setting off, and journeys have taken on average 1.7 years, and are often directed by the profitable human trafficking market. 

It’s also worth pointing out that in a 2016 study by UNHCR, every single Afghan refugee across Europe interviewed admitted that they had been physically abused, faced acts of violence against them, or witnessed death, accidental or otherwise on their journey.

Migrants and asylum seekers attempting to enter Europe have historically had a choice of three routes; West Europe, a land and sea route between Morocco and Spain, the Eastern route, via land and sea through Turkey and into Greece, and the perilous Central route, across the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, usually from Libya and into Greece or Italy. 

In 2014 the Spanish and Moroccan governments attracted criticism from human rights groups for reinforcing and extending a series of barbed wire and concrete anti-migrant fortifications along the border of Melilla, the Spanish enclave in North Africa. A video report on the wall by Vox media points out that Morocco has Advanced Status Partnership with the EU, affording them economic and political advantages in trade and international relations. Considering that the EU accounts for over half of Morocco’s international trade, and they supply aid to the North African nation, Spain have since been able to outsource much of the anti-migrant effort to Morocco themselves. It’s been pointed out that this does not act as a deterrent to migrants, but rather forces them to take more perilous procedures to find a better life.

In the East, the EU and Turkey struck a deal in 2016 wherein EU nations would be able to remove non-asylum status refugees to Turkey, who will in turn act as host wherein they will be placed at the back of the asylum applicant queue. In return, the application process for Turkey to enter the EU as a member was sped up, visa restrictions on Turkish nationals entering Europe were eased, and a financial incentive of upwards of 6 billion euros was promised. This too was criticised by human rights groups.

If the central route was not already difficult enough, as the EU began to develop the diplomatic infrastructure to push refugees onto its neighbours in the East and West route, so they have sought to create further barriers than the length of the Central Mediterranean. A policy beginning in 2017 saw the Italy sign a “memoriam of understanding” with the United Nations-supported Libyan Government of National Accord, wherein search and rescue operations by the EU were reduced, in favour of increased action by the Libyan coastguard in return for funding and political favour. Libya is not a signatory of the 1951 refugee convention, and as such do not recognise the status of refugee, and as such, ‘in a system that does not assess refugee claims, this will inevitably result in a high record of refoulement or chain-refoulement put in practice by Libyan authorities.’

There have since been reports of systemic failings of subsequent search and rescue attempts, reports of immediate violence against migrants upon rescue, incarceration in concentration camps upon retrieval, in many cases leading to rape, torture and murder. As such, there are stories of migrants diving from boats as the Libyan coastguard become visible on the horizon, preferring to drown in the Mediterranean than face the reprieves that await. Since the memoriam of understanding has been signed, attempts to cross the sea have dropped, though the number of deaths per crossing attempt has risen dramatically. Italy are not unaware of this. Though gauging accurate numbers on crossing deaths is practically impossible, the Guardian were able to report:

in 2014, there were around 1,700 deaths recorded in and off the coast of Africa ascribed to migrants trying to get to Europe; by 2017 this had almost doubled, while deaths in Europe halved over the same period.

It is not just by diplomatic means that Europe has begun to safeguard themselves from any direct responsibility for the wellbeing and burden of migration for years to come. Now legal and authoritative measures are being implemented. Last week, Italian authorities revealed that they wish to bring charges against Pia Klemp, a German ship master who rescued over a thousand drowning migrants in compliance of Article 33 of the SOLAS accord

The captain of the Iuventa, a former fishing vessel owned and operated by an NGO that was seized in 2017 by Italian authorities, and her crew of 9 could face up to 20 years in jail each. They are accused of collaborating with migrant groups, suggesting that her actions are even encouraging more migrants to attempt the crossing, in the hope that they are picked up. An independent research group led by academics at Goldsmiths University in London have since stated that there is no evidence to support this. Nevertheless, Matteo Salvini, Italy’s far-right backed interior minister is maintaining that they are seeking to press charges, in an attempt to deter future NGO humanitarian attempts to save refugees from drowning, or face abuses of their rights. 

Unfortunately, the EU’s policy of holding responsibility at arm’s length, even if that means placing refugees in regions that frequently breach human rights legislation, is better for PR and requires less effort on their part. While the policies of EU member states are not as high profile and visibly despicable as the concentration camps employed by the USA on US territory to hold Central American migrants along the US/Mexico border, as award-winning humanitarian and migration journalist Sally Hayden points out, this policy is sentencing migrants to death. This will be the legacy of such short sighted and dismissive migrant policy of the EU. 

With such barriers firmly cemented in place, it’s a good job that there isn’t any reason to believe that soon the world will face mass displacement in the foreseeable future, or else these actions could be contributing to an impending genocide.

PROJECTED CLIMATE CHANGE-FORCED DISPLACEMENT

2015 saw the first ever legal case of ‘climate refugee’ seeking refuge in a host nation. Ioane Teitiota, sought refuge in New Zealand for fears of rising sea levels already affecting his low lying island home. Climate change is threatening to displace the islanders of Kiribati; not only are the rising tides swallowing the land, but destroying crop growing land, polluting their fresh water supplies, and increasing storm damage. 

In this landmark case, the New Zealand courts saw fit to return Teitiota back to Kiribati, a nation made up of 33 islands, and home to over 100, 000 people and growing. The highest point of the Kiribati islands is little over 2 meters above sea level. The nation is so alarmed by their future prospects that they bought a plot of land on Fiji. It is estimated that in the case of emergency, this estate could hold between 60, 000 and 70, 000 people although this has not been met with scepticism from the inhabitants of Kiribati and the Natoavatu Estate, as the Atlantic reported:

Two-thirds of the property, called the Natoavatu Estate, was covered by impenetrable forest and the rest was an abandoned coconut plantation where some 270 Solomon Islanders practice subsistence agriculture…The Solomon Islanders said they didn’t think the land could feed more than a couple of hundred more people.

Extreme weather patterns and rising sea levels will not only displace the pacific populations of low lying islands. Over 700,000 Bangladeshis have been displaced annually, internally or externally, for the last decade, and it has been recommended that the Bangladesh government need to begin embedding climate migration and national plans at the forefront of their future policies going forward. 

The nation lies largely at sea level, and at the height of the wet season over a fifth of the nation can be underwater. A report by the World Bank estimated that by 2050, there will be 13.3 million displaced native to Bangladesh alone. That same report highlighted three regions: Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Latin America, as being the most at risk, with conservative estimates suggesting that 143 million will be displaced internally (86, 40, and 17 million respectively). 

Global climate change does not only displace via unpredictable and unstable weather patterns; it has been noted by scholars that the socio-political events that led to the aforementioned Syrian Civil War were exacerbated by an increase in seasonal drought intensity in a region that historically has seen much conflict over access to fresh water resources and crop failures. This is not the first instance of climate change fanning the flames of discontentment into violent warfare. Ban Ki Moon attributes the 2007 Sudanese civil war to being the first “climate change conflict”, such was the effect of the water scarcity in the region caused by abnormal rainfall patterns, something still affecting South Sudan today. It’s been thought that by 2050 there could be up to 1 billion climate migrants displaced internally or across borders.

DEFINING MIGRANT/REFUGEE IN THE AGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE

In popular discourse, ‘migrant’, ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’ are often utilized interchangeably, fleetingly, with little concern for the differences between each term. 

Me too.

The terms often overlap; after all, technically a refugee is a migrant, and was once an asylum seeker, and besides: nobody at the dinner table is about to pull you up on a lack of specificity or a semantic difference (unless your dinners are considerably livelier than mine, which for your sake I hope isn’t the case). However legally speaking there is an enormous difference – a migrant is often said to be everything between refugee or an economic migrant who has moved from state to state off the back of a better paid job; basically anyone who crosses borders indefinitely, which isn’t the case. 

In the interest of clarity, I’ll quickly explain the difference between each:

Refugee – As defined in the 1951 Refugee Convention, is a person forced to flee their home because of a threat of persecution based on “race, religion, nationality, or membership of a particular social group/political opinion”, and who has had their appeal for refuge/asylum verified and accepted by a host nation.

Asylum seeker – An asylum seeker is a potential refugee who has not yet had their claim verified and accepted by the host nation, although it is pending.

Migrant – Officially, this is defined as someone who does not move for fear of persecution, but rather to improve their quality of life.

Legally this matters. Migration is dealt with on a national government level, and as such the restrictions are very rarely affected by international law other than the obvious human rights laws. On the other hand refugee crises are. While these lines are blurred, refugees are afforded extra legal protection, which can be a cause for great distress or suffering should the two be conflated. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to determine between the two.

This is why it is especially reprehensible that what should have been called a ‘refugee crisis’ was widely dubbed a ‘migrant’ crisis on an institutional level, whether from the media or governmental bodies. While there were/are refugees attempting to make their way into Europe by the same means as migrants, the predominant nationalities attempting to enter Europe were from the likes of Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, South Sudan, and Somalia among others – all war torn nations divided by social, religious or political lines, and as such ought to have been afforded the special legal protection.

This is just the start of it, however.

As you just read, a refugee is only defined as someone living in credible fear of violence based on “race, religion, nationality, or membership of a particular social group/political opinion”. As such, there is no such thing, legally speaking, as an environmental/climate refugee. This is something that the EU was briefed upon in 2018 and 2019. In the case of environmental disaster, if someone manages to reach Europe safely, they have next to no legal protection from being turned around at the border for being migrants, not asylum seekers, even if they have no home to return to. 

In the brief, it is pointed out that:

In his 2015 State of the Union speech, European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, said: ‘Climate change is one of the root causes of a new migration phenomenon. Climate refugees will become a new challenge – if we do not act swiftly’.

It goes on to point out ways that the EU have already committed to combatting the issue, which includes

A strategy paper for a European Commission project with a €179 million budget over the 2011–2013 period, which included funds for ‘cooperation with third countries in the areas of migration and asylum’, explicitly committed to working more on the nexus between climate change and migration.

Beyond this, many nations called for climate refugees to be granted refugee status, though individual nation states protested, and as such this was not granted. Instead, in 2017 the EU took the mind that they ought to continue addressing the ‘root causes’ of migration, aligning economic migration along with climate changed-forced displacement, and ‘swiftly’ signed the Paris Agreement, a deal that is neither legally binding nor effective enough in combating irreversible climate change.

The ‘migrant crisis’ could be viewed as a brutal litmus test for the impending challenges of the EU will face, a test which in outsourcing the rescuing of refugees to nations who did not sign the refugee convention, or nations that have repeatedly violated human rights legislation, or nations that are themselves facing mass displacement on account of political instability/civil war, and actively seeking legally to keep its citizens from helping refugees, they have failed and failed miserably. Instead of working together to develop a relevant and necessary political infrastructure that could save millions of lives in the future, they have condemned thousands already to face atrocity and death. Here, the EU’s mask has slipped dramatically. It is not a bastion of freedom, safety and security. It does not believe that human rights exist outside of its borders.

I am not suggesting that the responsibility was Europe’s and Europe’s alone, but it must be recognised that this was never going to be the case anyway. In 2015, according to the migration data portal, neither the UNHCR estimates nor UN DESA estimates show a single European nation above the likes of Turkey, Jordan, Lebanon, Pakistan, South Africa, Iran, Ethiopia, or Uganda, the world leading destinations for refugees. Only one of these nations  (Turkey) make the top 20 largest economies in the world in 2015. Six EU nations did. Nevertheless, this is the case until 2017, where the UN DESA estimates place Germany fifth, although this is not corroborated by UNHCR statistics.  My point is simply this:

If Europe does not soon develop and agree upon the necessary infrastructure to aid refugees in relocating inside and outside of Europe, instead of shirking responsibility to less developed nations while continuing to contribute heavily, albeit directly or indirectly, to the factors leading to such displacement, it will be responsible for the deaths of millions. 

It will be committing an incidental genocide. 

Furthermore, on this topic: Just recently, Philip Alston, the UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, said in a report that drastic climate change is likely to undermine both basic human rights, as well as democracy and the rule of law. Alston claimed that the steps taken by the UN have been “patently inadequate”, and “entirely disproportionate to the magnitude of the threat”. The report further condemns the Trump administration for silencing the climate science and policy organisations, and Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro for rolling back protections on the Amazon rainforest, opening it up to minin companies. Read more about Alston’s report here.

 

You can read more of Lewis Dale’s work on his site by clicking here.

Anonymous artivist ‘Gray’ sculpts life jackets from ice to highlight the link between migration and climate change

This morning, 15 life jackets appeared at the front of the Tate Modern and in Parliament Square. They were all made of ice. You may ask yourself, why make life jackets out of ice? The link and reason that anonymous artivist ‘Gray’ wants you to see is this: Climate Change.

The piece, which has been created in support of environmental activism group Extinction Rebellion is called ‘Tipping Point’, and has been designed to highlight the link between current and future immigration and the ecological emergency that we find ourselves in. It is fairly evident to say that the use of ice is to emphasise that these issues are inherently stuck to a finite timescale.

Ice Lifejackets - @SnowflakeFoxtrot 04.02.19 (13 of 15).jpg
Photo credit: @SnowflakeFoxtrot

“‘Tipping point’ is about the relatively untalked about link between migration and climate change.” Stated the artist behind the piece.

“As 300,000 – 400,000 people lose their lives annually due to climate change, many more in climate change hot-spots are already left with no choice but to move, including some of those who have risked their lives to cross the Mediterranean.”

“I am part of a grey artivist group who invite others to participate and enter into a safe exchange using art to reflect on what is happening in society. This artivism is part of a new movement which invites collaboration across the arts, advocacy, policy & education to respond to today’s unprecedented challenges. As Western-based artists we are keen to hear more from people with lived experiences of displacement.”

“Amitav Ghosh in his essay on the subject ‘Confluence and Crossroads’ has said ‘… experts estimate that by 2050 there will be as many as 700 million climate change refugees across the world.’”

Migrations of peoples north from both the Central Americas and the Middle East that have been occurring within the last decade have been directly contributed to, if not exacerbated by, climate change.

In Syria, from 2006 to 2011, large swaths of land suffered through extreme droughts which in turn lead to increased poverty and relocation by rural people to urban areas “That drought, in addition to its mismanagement by the Assad regime, contributed to the displacement of two million in Syria,” said Francesco Femia, of the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Climate and Security.

“That internal displacement may have contributed to the social unrest that precipitated the civil war. Which generated the refugee flows into Europe.”

The 2014 IPCC report, known as AR5, defined climate change as a ‘threat’, in that it could be either responsible for political and security risks, or exacerbate political and security risks that are already commencing.

The research on climate-related migration is still imprecise. The number of predicted migrants moving as a repercussion of  climate change over the next 40 years varies from 25 million to 1 billion. While climate change does incur the increased possibility of migration, it does not guarantee it. What climate science does suggest is that those in poorer countries that lie on and around the equator will be incredibly vulnerable to the effects of a warming climate.

In some cases, while climate change may influence poorer communities, who exist on a subsistence income, to move, their financial situation may not allow them the ability to migrate. Relocation costs would vary in each circumstance, and some families who rely on income from agricultural production (an industry that would be greatly affected by climate change), simply may not have the money to move.

The World Economic Forum wrote in 2015 that “Middle-income countries show a (small) positive correlation while poor countries show a negative correlation between temperature and emigration rate changes.”

The migrant caravans that are currently travelling from Guatamala, Honduras, and El Salvador, into North America may have been influenced by the exacerbating climate change in those countries, as communities experience crop failures and other issues. This in turn may have affected the rise of far-right politics within the US.

One report estimates that there could be 150 million to 350 million people displaced by climate change by 2050, so a new system would have to be put in place to manage that amount of migration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

EU report names the UK as largest contributor of fossil fuel subsidies

A new report published by the European Commission, has shown that the UK has the largest amount of fossil fuel subsides in the EU, finding that £10.5 billion a year supports fossil fuels in the UK. This is in contrast to the £7.2 billion given to renewable energy. These remain at the same level as 2008.

What these subsidies do is act as an hindrance to what both the EU and the G20 pledged  in 2009 to do; phase out subsidies for fossil fuels in efforts to transition to renewable green energy.

While such policies are being pursued with intent to cut carbon emissions in an effort to meet the 2C warming limit set by the Paris Climate Agreement, fossil fuel subsidies within the EU have not decreased. The report stated that “EU and national policies might need to be reinforced to phase out such subsidies.”

“Spiralling climate change is going to cost people and our economy huge sums of money, through the damage, disruption and instability it causes.” said Friends of the Earth CEO Craig Bennett. “It’s astonishing that the UK government is still throwing taxpayers’ money at some of the world’s largest oil and gas companies. Ministers must switch funding to rapidly boost energy efficiency and renewables.”

The report stated that €55bn was given as fossil fuel subsidies in 2016, and that “Overall European energy subsidies have increased in recent years, from EUR 148 bn in 2008 to EUR 169 bn in 2016”. The UK, France, The Netherlands, Sweden, and Ireland gave the most in subsidies to fossil fuels, while Germany provided the highest amount for renewables, at €27bn.

sub
Financial support to fossil fuels in the EU- Source: EC, Trinomics

While the news of the UK’s fossil fuel obsession is bleak, the renewable sector is looking promising. “The increase was driven by the growth in renewable energy subsidies which reached EUR 76 bn in 2016.” stated the report. 45% of the subsidies over the EU went to renewable energy, compared to 33% for fossil fuels.

“Renewable energy growth also plays a direct role in mitigating and diminishing the negative impact of uncertain global fossil fuel prices and exchange rate risks. Thus, the ambitious 2030 renewable energy and energy efficiency targets recently agreed will help reduce the EU’s dependence on fossil fuel imports and vulnerability to global fossil fuel price shocks and uncertainty.”

“At the same time, energy efficiency and renewable energy investments set the EU on the path to compliance with the Paris Agreement and will stimulate the innovation needed to achieve the energy transformation.”

“We do not subsidise fossil fuels,” a government spokeswoman said. “We’re firmly committed to tackling climate change by using renewables, storage, interconnectors, new nuclear and more to deliver a secure and dynamic energy market at the least possible cost for consumers.” This claim is based on how the UK government defines ‘subsidy’. It is however, false. The WTO definition of ‘subsidy’ includes the definition “government revenue that is otherwise due, foregone or not collected”.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer, Phillip Hammond, said in September that the UK government had ‘forgone’ around £46 billion after it chose not to implement a scheduled rise in fuel duty, in apparent efforts to keep bills down. Germany and Italy call tax breaks, such as this decision to not raise fuel duties, ‘subsidies’. Providing a semantic smokescreen for fossil fuel subsidies is nothing more than “playing games”, as put by Shelagh Whitley of the Overseas Development Institute, who went on to say that the government’s claim of providing no fossil fuel subsidies was simply “continuing to prop up a centuries old energy system.”

 

 

 

Record numbers sign up for Veganuary 2019

Veganuary. The month that people dedicate to changing up their diet by consuming solely plant-based, vegan produce. With people entering 2019 with the phrase ‘new year, new me’ rooted deeply in their mindset, will we see them sticking to the change of diet?

This year, record numbers have signed up to the Veganuary pledge, with over 250,000 from 193 countries signing up. On Sunday 30th December 2018, 14,000 people signed up at a rate of one every six seconds.

2018 saw a real boom in the rise of veganism, with numbers of products available and adherents to the vegan lifestyle increasing exponentially.

“In 2018 there hasn’t been a week that has gone by without veganism hitting the headlines, whether it is a magazine editor being fired or Waitrose launching a new range of products,” said Rich Hardy, Head of Campaigns at Veganuary.

“Vegan products are getting a lot better and it is becoming a lot more convenient to have a tasty plant-based diet.”

One of the reasons for the surge in active members in the vegan community has been the warnings from scientists across the globe about the damage meat production and consumption has on the living planet, in terms of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions the industry creates each year.

A report published in 2014 called ‘Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans in the UK‘, noted that the average emissions of meat eaters was 7.19kgCO2e/day compared to 2.89kgCO2e/day for those who consumed a vegan diet. In May 2018, an incredibly comprehensive analysis of the impact of animal agriculture was published, which stated that avoiding animal products was the single most productive way to reduce an individual’s environmental footprint.

‘Moving from current diets to a diet that excludes animal products has transformative potential, reducing food’s land use by 3.1 (2.8-3.3) billion hectares (a 76% reduction), including a 19% reduction in arable land; food’s GHG emissions by 6.6 (5.5-7.4) billion metric tons of CO2eq (a 49% reduction); acidification by 50% (45-54%); eutrophication by 49% (37-56%); and scarcity-weighted freshwater withdrawals by 19%.’

Recently, delegates who attended the COP24 meeting in Katowice, Poland were reprimanded for the menu served in the food court on site, a menu very high in meat-based products.

A third of UK consumers say they have deliberately reduced the amount of meat they eat, or excluded it from their diet entirely, according to the supermarket chain Waitrose. in 2018, one in eight Britons declared themselves as either vegetarian or vegan. 21% participate in a flexitarian diet, which is where a mostly plant-based diet is sometimes supplemented by meat, dairy, or fish.

Joseph Poore, of Oxford University, who led the research, said: “A vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth – not just greenhouse gases but global acidification, eutrophication, land use and water use. It is far bigger than cutting down on your flights or buying an electric car.”

Veganuary’s site states that the three main reasons to practice veganism are animal welfare, health, and environmental protection. It offers a practical explanation of all three reasons, including recommendations for videos, articles, discussions, and a list of vegan myths they take the time to dispel. There is also a ‘vegan starter kit’, advice on where to eat out, and a hundreds of recipes.

While Veganuary grows in numbers, environmentalists are worried that it will be hard to promote this lifestyle to the majority of people within the small time-frame that we have left to tackle climate breakdown.

‘Though dietary change is realistic for any individual, widespread behavioral change will be hard to achieve in the narrow timeframe remaining to limit global warming and prevent further, irreversible biodiversity loss.’

 

See the ice before it is gone: Olafur Eliasson brings Arctic icebergs to London

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson and Danish geologist Minik Rosing have brought twenty-four blocks of Arctic ice to London.

The work, entitled Ice Watch, has been set up outside of the Tate Modern. The small icebergs were taken from the Nuup Kangerlua fjord in Greenland after becoming separated from the main ice sheet. It has been created to increase awareness of man-made climate breakdown.

More and more icebergs are being produced as the planet warms due to man-made climate change, which in turn contributes to rising sea levels, which poses a threat to wildlife and low-lying coastal human settlements.

The hope is that Ice Watch will help people to conceive of the reality of climate breakdown and global heating. The general public has seen photos and videos of ice breaking from sheets, glaciers receding, animals such as polar bears forced to swim for miles as they have no ice to walk across, and yet in this country we never get the full effect from these pieces of evidence. We rarely have that first-hand experience.

The point of the project is interaction. “Put your hands on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it” says Eliasson. “Witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing.”

The artist is known for large installations employing natural materials such as light, water, and air temperature, which are used to enhance the viewer’s experience.

Increasingly warmer global temperatures causes the Greenland ice sheet to lose around 200-300 billion tonnes of ice each year, which is a number that is expected to increase dramatically in the future.

“I’ve been studying behavioural psychology, and looking into the consequences of experience,” says the Icelandic-Danish artist. “What does it mean to experience something? Does it change you or not change you? It turns out that data alone only promotes a small degree of change. So in order to create the massive behavioural change needed [to tackle climate change] we have to emotionalise that data, make it physically tangible.”

Both Eliasson and Rosing believe that when it comes to making the public more aware of climate breakdown, narratives based on fear or worst-case scenarios are the wrong way to go. “Instead of fear-based narratives, you need a positive narrative to make people change their behaviour,” says Eliasson, “and that’s why I think the culture sector has a strong mandate to take on some leadership here.”

“We have to provide a glimpse of hope,” adds Rosing. “People think the scientists come with the bad news about climate change but actually we come with the good news. We understand what’s happening, we know exactly what needs to be done and we actually have the means to fix it. The only reason we’ve been able to upset the global environment system is because we have enormous power. If we direct that same enormous power to improving the system, we can get it back on track.”

The temporary sculpture of Ice Watch, itself almost an homage to ancient sacred stone circles, allows us to see a fragile and yet powerful reverence that this environment has. As we engage with the ice directly, experience it’s cold, it’s age, it’s melting, we are transported to the areas where this happens unseen.

The artwork coincides with COP24, the meeting of United Nations delegates in Poland to determine how to employ strategies to keep to the climate regulations agreed at the Paris Climate Agreement three years ago.

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An unfortunate side effect of this installation is the environmental cost. The estimated energy that it cost to bring one of these blocks to London was equal to one person flying from London to the Arctic and back again.

What this temporary sculpture creates is a sense of time, or, more accurately, the knowledge of a time that is running out. Just as the sculpture is only in London from today to the 20th, giving audiences a small time-frame to experience it, so too is the amount of time we have left to limit the damage to ice sheets and their corresponding environments globally.

Ice Watch will be exhibited from the 11th December to 20th December. Well, they will be there until they melt away.

Find more information here.

An open letter: 100 notable figures from around the globe sign a call-to-arms on climate breakdown

100 notable figures from around the globe have come together to sign an open letter which calls upon concerned citizens of the globe to rise up and radically organise against current governmental complacency on the ecological and climate emergency we are facing.

The 100 includes Vandana Shiva, Noam Chomsky, Naomi Klein, Chris Packham, Lily Cole, Bill McKibben, Dr Rowan Williams, and Bill Ripple of Scientists Warning amongst others.

The open letter, penned and organised by Dr Alison Green, Dr Richard House, and Dr Rupert Read, who are all representatives of climate advocacy and action group Extinction Rebellion, has been published today simultaneously round the globe, in media including The Guardian (UK), South China Morning Post (Hong Kong), Taipei Times (Taiwan), O Pais (Mozambique), Aftenposten (Norway) and Al Wihda (Chad).

The publication of the letter comes at the same time as the COP24 United Nations climate summit in Katowice, Poland, which is the first to be held since the IPCC report on climate breakdown and the proposed global temperature limitation of 1.5C was published in October.

At COP24, renowned environmentalist Sir David Attenborough declared in his speech, “Right now, we’re facing a man-made disaster of global scale. Our greatest threat in thousands of years: Climate Change. If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations, and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”

“The world’s people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out.”

As an organisation, Extinction Rebellion ‘rejects the complacency and denial exhibited by business and political leaders, and insists that the truth about the climate crisis is told.’ It uses non-violent direct action and civil disobedience to bring attention to the apparent ‘criminal activity’ of governments.

The group’s demands are as follows:

  • The Government must admit the truth about the ecological emergency, reverse all policies inconsistent with addressing climate change, and work alongside the media to communicate with citizens
  • The Government must enact legally binding policy measures to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2025 and to reduce consumption levels
  • A national Citizen’s Assembly must be created, to oversee the changes, as part of creating a democracy fit for purpose.

“We feel we have really struck a chord with this letter. People understand that there is nothing wrong with telling the truth,” commented Dr Alison Green, PVC Academic at Arden University.

“It has been heartening to have the support of so many high-profile people, and amazing that some of the biggest names were also the quickest to respond. Even people who felt unable to sign the letter commented that they supported the action.”

Fellow letter organiser and chartered psychologist Dr Richard House added, “I co-organised the famous press letter on ‘toxic childhood’ that went viral overnight in September 2006, and tellingly, the level of concern shared by our signatories to this letter surpasses even that. The ignoring or sidelining of this issue by corporations and governments is simply no longer an option.”

Read the full letter below.

Climate Emergency: An Open Letter to Concerned Global Citizens

This open letter appears today in major newspapers across the world.

In our complex, interdependent global ecosystem, life is dying, with species extinction accelerating. The climate crisis is worsening much faster than previously predicted. Every single day 200 species are becoming extinct. This desperate situation can’t continue.

Political leaders worldwide are failing to address the environmental crisis. If global corporate capitalism continues to drive the international economy, global catastrophe is inevitable.

Complacency and inaction in Britain, the USA, Australia, Brazil, across Africa and Asia… – all illustrate diverse manifestations of political paralysis, abdicating humankind’s grave responsibility for planetary stewardship.

International political organizations and national governments must foreground the climate-emergency issue immediately, urgently drawing up comprehensive policies to address it. Conventionally privileged nations must voluntarily fund comprehensive environment-protection policies in impoverished nations, to compensate the latter for foregoing unsustainable economic growth, and paying recompense for the planet-plundering imperialism of materially privileged nations.

With extreme weather already hitting food production, we demand that governments act now to avoid any risk of hunger, with emergency investment in agro-ecological extreme-weather-resistant food production. We also call for an urgent summit on saving the Arctic icecap, to slow weather disruption of our harvests.

We further call on concerned global citizens to rise up and organise against current complacency in their particular contexts, including indigenous people’s rights advocacy, decolonization and reparatory justice – so joining the global movement that’s now rebelling against extinction (e.g. “Extinction Rebellion” in the UK).

We must collectively do whatever’s necessary non-violently, to persuade politicians and business leaders to relinquish their complacency and denial. Their “business as usual” is no longer an option. Global citizens will no longer put up with this failure of our planetary duty.

Every one of us, especially in the materially privileged world, must commit to accepting the need to live more lightly, consume far less, and to not only uphold human rights but also our stewardship responsibilities to the planet.

You can see a full list of signatories here.

 

Australia: plastic bag use cut by 80% over three months

In the last three months, plastic bag use in Australia has dropped by 80%. An estimated 1.5 billion bags have been prevented from use, after two of Australia’s largest supermarket chains, Coles and Woolworths banned them from their stores this summer.

Although the decision was initially met with public backlash, it was a decision quickly accepted, with some retailers “reporting reduction rates as high as 90 percent”, according the National Retail Association’s David Stout. The Australian public seemingly haven’t found it to difficult to adjust to the change, which requires them to either bring their own bags to shop with, or to purchase a reusable one for a certain fee.

It is estimated that there is 5.25 trillion pieces of trash in our oceans, the majority of that number being made up of plastics of various sizes, and bans such as these do a little to weaken the environmental blow caused by plastics. That being said, plastics pollution is still a very real problem and will be for a long time to come.

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Image taken from ‘Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea‘.

There have been calls for the Australian government to promote a nationwide ban on plastic bags after pressure from environmentalists. The most populous state, New South Wales, is the only state that has no legislation in place currently ensuring it would phase out single-use plastic bags.

This news from Australia is not alone. According to reusable bag company ReuseThisBag, at least 32 countries have some form of ban or taxation in place, in an effort to limit the use and pollution of single-use plastic bags.

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Image taken from ReuseThisBag.com.

“We’re still seeing a lot of small to medium bags being used, especially in the food category, and whilst I get some comfort that the majors have done this voluntarily I think there still needs to be a ban in place,” Said Stout. “For business, for the environment, for the consumer and of course even for councils which have to work to remove these things from landfills, there’s a multitude of benefits on a whole to doing this.”

The United Kingdom currently has a tax on plastic bags which has resulted in more use of stronger, more durable reusable bags. Some parts of the United States also operate either partial bans or taxes, but legislation is not yet countrywide.

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Image taken from ReuseThisBag.com.

The average lifespan of a plastic bag is around 12 minutes, then it is discarded in a variety of ways. When discarded, they inevitably find their ways into green areas, or more likely, are washed into waterways. They are estimated to kill around 100,000 marine mammals every year, and when they do eventually break down, simply become smaller and smaller particles known as microplastics, which circulate the oceans and lie in landfills for anywhere up to 1,000 years.

Some may say that banning plastic bags doesn’t work. There hasn’t been a large amount of studies done on plastic pollution in relation to bans, but progress seems to have been made in some parts of the world. For example in San Jose, California, there has been an 60% reduction in plastic bags found in creeks and rivers since a ban was put in place in 2012. Similarly, in Seattle there has been a 76% decline in plastic bag waste since their banning five years ago.

While things are looking a little brighter in terms of plastic bag use, it is still crucial that each an every country introduces measures to limit all kinds of single-use plastic from being used. Every second, as many as 160,000 plastic bags are used globally, and unfortunately, only 1-3% of them are recycled. Click that link to see the amount of plastic bags being produced, the number currently stands at 4.6 trillion. This is neither sustainable or environmentally-friendly.

 

 

 

 

COP24’s meat-heavy menu could contribute 4,000 metric tons of emissions to atmosphere

Right at this moment delegates from all over the world are meeting in Katowice, Poland, for COP24, the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change conference, to discuss the implementation of plans to limit greenhouse gas emissions so that global heating is restricted to 1.5C.

Of course, this means that delegates need to be fed. You would think that the fare on offer would as eco-friendly as possible. Unfortunately this is not the case. A new study by the Center for Biological Diversity, Brighter Green, and Farm Forward, has discovered that the menu on offer could potentially be responsible for 4,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions.

The report opens ‘While world leaders gather in Katowice, Poland, for the upcoming United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change conference (UNFCCC), or COP24, the main food court serving the conference’s estimated 30,000 visitors is offering twice as many meat-based entrees as plant-based entrees. This means a menu with an unnecessarily high carbon foodprint. If international climate conferences hope to lead the way in addressing the climate crisis, organizers can’t afford to overlook the food offered at their events.’

The study stated that the meat-based options generated around 4.1kg CO2e per serving, while the plant-based options emitted around 4 times less than that, at 0.9kg CO2e per serving. If each of COP24’s 30,000 visitors chose a meat-based dish during the conference, this would contribute the equivalent of ‘burning more than 500,000 gallons of gasoline or the greenhouse gas emissions attributed to 3,000 people flying from New York to Katowice.’

To put the menu into specifics, the least carbon-intensive entrée is cabbage and mushroom dumplings, which in comparison to the most carbon-intensive entrée, beef with smoked bacon, produced 35 times less greenhouse gas emissions. Now it may seem of interest to offer a wide-range of foodstuffs to cater to everyone’s individual tastes and dietary requirements, but when a group of people gather to lead the charge against climate breakdown, shouldn’t their personal actions reflect their lofty ideals?

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‘If the food court replaced the beef patties with plant-based patties on its cheeseburgers with Louisiana sauce, it could cut each burger’s carbon footprint by 82 percent, or 6 kg of GHG emissions each.’

“The meat-laden menu at COP24 is an insult to the work of the conference,” said Stephanie Feldstein, director of the Population and Sustainability program at the Center for Biological Diversity. “If the world leaders gathering in Poland hope to address the climate crisis, they need to tackle overconsumption of meat and dairy, starting with what’s on their own plates. That means transitioning the food served at international climate conferences to more plant-based options with smaller carbon footprints.”

30% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions are made up of emissions directly caused by the global food system, with a large amount of those emissions being caused by animal agriculture.

‘If current trends continue, food production will nearly exhaust the global carbon budget for all sectors by 2050.’

For us to effectively tackle climate breakdown, both the production and consumption of meat and dairy must be reduced significantly. If we want to keep global heating below 1.5C, a drastic shift in our diets needs to occur, especially with the high meat consumption in western countries, and the growing demand for meat in countries like China.

A report published in 2014 called ‘Dietary greenhouse gas emissions of meat-eaters, fish-eaters, vegetarians, and vegans in the UK‘, noted that the average emissions of meat eaters was 7.19kgCO2e/day compared to 2.89kgCO2e/day for those who consumed a vegan diet.

‘In conclusion, dietary GHG emissions in self-selected meat-eaters are approximately twice as high as those in vegans. It is likely that reductions in meat consumption would lead to reductions in dietary GHG emissions.’

Unfortunately, even though the science of agricultural emissions is sound, the issue is not one that has been covered in international climate negotiations and debates. This lack of attention is shown by the short-sighted menu offered at COP24.

“We know that we cannot meet the Paris Agreement goals, or the 1.5C target, with business as usual,” said Caroline Wimberly of Brighter Green, who will be in Katowice for COP24. “Food is not a matter only of personal choice, but an essential factor in solving the climate crisis. Demand-side policies and efforts, including food waste reductions and shifting diets—prioritizing populations with the highest consumption of animal-based foods—are critical in achieving a climate compatible food system and curtailing emissions.”