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.

School Climate Strike: Why we need the youth to protest

On Friday, schools across the UK noted a significant drop in pupil numbers. Those pupils were out on the streets protesting against the ineffectual governmental action on climate change.

When Christiana Figueres, the former UN climate chief, said it was “time to heed the deeply moving voice of youth”, she couldn’t have been more correct. To see the youth of this country understand the issue and the drastic action needed to be taken better than those in charge, is both inspiring and shocking.

With at least 60 protests occurring from Glasgow to London, it is estimated that more than 10,000 pupils left their scheduled lessons to protest against the mounting ecological crisis, with some even being threatened with punishments of detention and suspension.

“The size of the Youth Strike 4 Climate is testament to the passion and awareness among young people that we need to fight for a future that simply doesn’t exist because we’ve been betrayed by the inaction of those in positions of power.” said Jake Woodier, a member of the UK Youth Climate Coalition.

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A protest held in Edinburgh on Friday. Credit: Fiona Mansfield

“Joining so many school children for the last Friday For Future School strike was very emotional.” said student and environmental activist Jo Becker, who attended one of the strikes in Edinburgh on Friday. ” Seeing these kids out of school to ask for a future made my heart ache. But also it was an extremely positive day. Seeing so many children from different age groups and backgrounds come together and taking the lead at a demonstration was truly empowering. Adults have a lot to learn from these passionate, brave youngsters – and we have to start listening to them if we want to ensure a safe future.”

The movement that led up to today’s protests began when Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old student from Sweden who began protesting outside the Swedish parliament during her school hours over the effects of climate change. Since then she has gone on to become the face of the movement, and a prominent activist and voice within the environmental activism community.

Thunberg recently travelled to Davos to attend and speak at the World Economic Forum, where she told a panel “Some people, some companies, some decision makers in particular have known exactly what priceless values they have been sacrificing to continue making unimaginable amounts of money. I think many of you here today belong to that group of people.”

“I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. We owe it to the young people, to give them hope.”

The youth who participate in today’s protests, and the protests that will inevitably happen more regularly from now on, are doing what needs to be done in terms of negating the effects of climate change: they are speaking truth to power.

These grassroots movements such as #SchoolStrike4Climate and the work of Extinction Rebellion is being mirrored in political parties across the world, from the UK’s Green Party, to the recent Green New Deal being proposed by American congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez. These are not the ineffective climate secretaries we have seen in the past, these are, like the youth that follow and emulate them, people who are more than willing to make drastic change.

In the midst of the strikes being held in Australia after the highest seaside temperature ever in the Southern Hemisphere was recorded, high school student Imogen Viner said “Without activism, there’s no point in going to school, because there won’t be a future we want to live in.”

Traditionally, climate groups have been passive, nonpartisan; but that is not the case anymore. With the rise of political interaction within the younger generations, and the worsening degrees of ecological destruction, these groups are becoming more militant, more passionate, and more social-media savvy. They call out fossil fuel industries, corporate powerhouses, and climate change deniers to their face, and take no prisoners while doing so.

While some within the older generations may feel a sense of complacency and comfort, the younger generations can see the future that is being given to them, and quite frankly, they fear it. 12 years is the number they have been given, 12 years to alter the course of global history for the better. It’s a gargantuan task, and the weight of failure is something too dark to think about.

17 year old Rosie Smart-Knight, who participated in the strikes, wrote in an opinion piece “Even if the climate strike doesn’t prompt the change we need and demand, it has given so many young people across the country a chance to raise their voice and make it heard. This movement is allowing young people to realise they’re not alone, that others care about the climate, and are worried about the future. I will continue to raise awareness of the climate crisis, and I will continue to demand change”

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An image of Extinction Rebellion’s first ‘Rebellion Day’. A large majority of the protesters were young.

One hopes that the momentum of the growing climate activism movement, which consists of a myriad of groups across the world, does not falter. Guardian columnist George Monbiot writes that, for the movement to ultimately succeed, it needs a rigorous framework from which it acts from. Monbiot cites the need for a ‘narrative’, writing that it may go something like this:

“The world has been thrown into climate chaos, caused by fossil fuel companies, the billionaires who profit from them and the politicians they have bought. But we, the young heroes, will confront these oligarchs, using our moral authority to create a movement so big and politically dangerous that our governments are forced to shut down the fossil economy and restore the benign conditions in which humans and other species can thrive.”

In his piece, the writer also calls upon the movement to develop for itself a set of key tenets or ‘tangible objectives’, such as a date by which we operate a zero carbon economy, or a promise from the UK government to completely divest in fossil fuels. “This ensures that the activists, rather than the government, keep setting the agenda.”

More strength within the movement will come from proper training, communication, and a strong defence against divisive political intent. Already the School Strike and Thunberg are being targeted by rumours, criticism, and misinformation. They also need to be prepared for the passion-draining effect of emotional despair. Already groups have sprang up on Facebook designed to assuage the effects of climate-based depression or anxiety, with one being aptly-named ‘UK climate grief & eco anxiety hub for academics and concerned citizens‘.

It is clear that while politics and bureaucracy have an important part to play, they will not be enough without the firebrand and emotive voices and actions of the younger generations all over the world, for it is those generations that shall eventually take on ownership of this world. They do not want to be left a barren wasteland, they do not deserve such a poor legacy to inherit.

We need the youth because they are not deeply entrenched within the ideologies of a world which is slowly breaking apart through it’s own devices.

 

 

‘Food in the Anthropocene’: new ‘plant-focused’ diet could save the planet

A new diet report, created by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, has been proposed as a diet that could both poor global nutrition and avert environmental disaster caused by present-day food production methods.

The report states, “Because much of the world’s population is inadequately nourished and many environmental systems and processes are pushed beyond safe boundaries by food production, a global transformation of the food system is urgently needed.”

Key tenets of the diet include a radical change in food production, a great reduction in red meat consumption in traditional western diets, and a reduction in sugar consumption.

“Transformation to healthy diets by 2050 will require substantial dietary shifts.” said Prof. Walter Willet, one of the leaders of the commission. “Global consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes will have to double, and consumption of foods such as red meat and sugar will have to be reduced by more than 50%. A diet rich in plant-based foods and with fewer animal source foods confers both improved health and environmental benefits.”

The main bulk of the report itself is devoted to three sections, the goal, the targets, and the strategies. The goal stated by the EAT-Lancet Commission is ‘To achieve planetary health diets for nearly 10 billion people by 2050″. The targets include and require red meat and sugar consumption to be cut in half globally, while the consumption of vegetables, pulses, fruit, and nuts, must double. This range is not universal, but geographically specific, stating that instead of halving their red meat intake, North Americans need to eat 84% less, and up their bean and lentil consumption six times. In Europe, we must reduce our red meat consumption by 77%.

The report is wise in it’s differing estimations, noting that “some populations worldwide depend on agropastoral livelihoods and animal protein from livestock. In addition, many populations continue to face significant burdens of undernutrition and obtaining adequate quantities of micronutrients from plant source foods alone can be difficult” 

The introduction of the report stated that their were four scenarios that could develop in the future; win-win, win-lose, lose-win, and lose-lose. According to the scientists behind the report, win-win would prevent the deaths of 11 million people worldwide, and prevent the collapse of the natural world, which is currently under an immense amount of pressure.

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An example of the plant-focused, flexitarian plates that the report endorses. Source: EAT-Lancet Commission Summary Report

Our global food system is inherently broken, with distribution favouring wealthier countries, who both consume more than they need, and waste much. There are also issues with physical production, in terms of the environmental degradation caused by overfishing, and the footprint of the meat industry. Reducing meat and dairy products, or avoiding them altogether, may be the greatest way the individual can reduce their environmental footprint.

In a report published by Springmann et al, it was stated that a 90% drop in red meat consumption and reductions in other meat categories were essential to introduce into our lifestyles in an attempt to avoid the effects of climate breakdown.

“Humanity now poses a threat to the stability of the planet,” said Prof Johan Rockström at the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden, another author of the report. “[This requires] nothing less than a new global agricultural revolution.” The ‘planetary health diet’ strongly recommends only one portion of red meat per week, the size of an average beefburger, and stresses that most protein should come from plant alternatives. The steep rise in plant-based and vegan diets in the last two years has shown that, at least in western countries, this change in protein source is highly possible, and no longer a ‘radical’ idea.

Willett emphasises that this is not a diet of ‘depravation’, but rather “a way of eating that can be healthy, flavourful and enjoyable.”

To keep in line with the 2C limit of global warming set by the Paris Agreement we can assume that “world agriculture will transition toward sustainable food production, leading to a shift from land use being a net source of carbon to becoming a net sink of carbon. “

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“Actions considered for reducing environmental impacts from food production.” Source: EAT-Lancet Commission Summary Report

“Global food production threatens climate stability and ecosystem resilience.” said Prof. Johan Rockström, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research & Stockholm Resilience Centre. “It constitutes the single largest driver of environmental degradation and transgression of planetary boundaries. Taken together the outcome is dire. A radical transformation of the global food system is urgently needed. Without action, the world risks failing to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the Paris Agreement.”

In all, the report advocates the ‘Great Food Transformation’. “The data are both sufficient and strong enough to warrant immediate action. Delaying action will only increase the likelihood of serious, even disastrous, consequences. ” The report outlines five strategies for this immense change:

  1. Seek international and national commitment to shift toward healthy diets
  2. Reorient agricultural priorities from producing high quantities of food to producing healthy food
  3. Sustainably intensify food production to increase high-quality output
  4. Strong and coordinated governance of land and oceans
  5. At least halve food losses and waste, in line with UN Sustainable Development Goals

The report goes on to state that food will be the “defining issue of the 21st Century”. Richard Horton and Tamara Lucas, editors at Lancet, wrote “Civilisation is in crisis. We can no longer feed our population a healthy diet while balancing planetary resources. If we can eat in a way that works for our planet as well as our bodies, the natural balance will be restored.”

 

 

 

 

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.

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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.

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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.”

 

 

 

Companies campaigning to end plastic waste ‘investing billions in new plants’

This week a number of firms announced their impending collaboration surrounding plans to tackle plastic pollution, while also being the world’s biggest investors in new plastic production plants.

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste is made up of these companies: BASF, Berry Global, Braskem, Chevron Phillips Chemical Company LLC, Clariant, Covestro, Dow Chemical, DSM, ExxonMobil, Formosa Plastics Corporation, Henkel, LyondellBasell, Mitsubishi Chemical Holdings, Mitsui Chemicals, NOVA Chemicals, OxyChem, PolyOne, Procter & Gamble, Reliance Industries, SABIC, Sasol, SUEZ, Shell, SCG Chemicals, Sumitomo Chemical, Total, Veolia, and Versalis.

According to a European NGO Recycling Netwerk, the companies have invested an estimated £778m in reducing plastic pollution, and yet have tens of billions dependent upon the industry increasing in production over the next decade.

“The signatories claim to invest over a billion dollars to “end plastic waste”. But an overview of pending investments in the expansion of plastic production, quickly reveals the hypocrisy of the Alliance. Without tackling the production of plastic at its source, all clean-up efforts will be in vain”, Said the NGO. Click this link and scroll down to see the list of investments from each company.

ExxonMobil has begun production on a new polyethylene line in Texas, which will produce 650,000 tons per year. Shell plan to build a new plastic plant in Pennsylvania, which will turn shale gas into 1.6 million tons of polyethylene per year. Given these investments, the Alliance appears to be nothing more than a ‘greenwashing’ operation.

Since 2010, fossil fuel companies have invested more than $180 billion in new fracking facilities, or ‘cracking’ as it is known, which will increase plastic production by 40% over the next decade.

Rob Buurman, the director of Recycling Netwerk, said: “It is interesting to see [the plastics industry] finally acknowledge that there is a problem with their plastics. But unfortunately, this initiative does not tackle the problem at its source: the gigantic production of 400 million tonnes of plastic each year, with 60 million metric tonnes produced in Europe alone.”

It is estimated that each year around 8 million tonnes of plastic waste finds its way into the sea. This plastic goes on to choke, infect, and kill multiple marine creatures, and can destroy habitats.

A spokesman for the alliance said: “Reducing the amount of plastic required to create products while preserving the benefits people rely on and making plastics easier to recycle is definitely part of the solution. Not all alliance members produce plastic. Some of the members do produce plastic, and some have announced expansions to meet the demands of a growing population.

“Plastic provides many critical health, safety and sustainability benefits that help improve and maintain living standards, hygiene and nutrition around the world and replacing it could, in the end, do more harm than good.”

While both arguments are valid, it must be stressed that trust cannot be placed in the hands of big business. It has been a neoliberal con that has placed the consumer as the one who is to blame for plastic pollution. Public opinion in recent years, especially, 2018 has changed for the better, and yet it leads to organisations such as the Alliance To End Plastic Waste which talk of progressive change, but mask realities.

Graham Forbes, global plastics project leader at Greenpeace, said: “This is a desperate attempt from corporate polluters to maintain the status quo on plastics. In 2018 people all over the world spoke up and rejected the single-use plastics that companies like Procter & Gamble churn out on a daily basis, urging the industry to invest in refill and reuse systems and innovation. Instead of answering that call, P&G preferred to double down on a failed approach with fossil fuel giants Exxon, Dow and Total [which] fuel destructive climate change.”

“Make no mistake, plastics are a lifeline for the dying fossil fuel industry, and this announcement goes to show how far companies will go to preserve it.”

With many of the investments of these companies being linked to fracking, we cannot view an organisation like the Alliance as an inherently good thing, and must ask the question, are these apparent progressive environmental campaigns a costly but effective way of disguising and safeguarding future plastic investment and production.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.’

 

Timber skyline: The rise of the wooden skyscraper

Rapid urbanisation of cities is becoming more and more apparent. This immediately presents issues in terms of the carbon footprints of buildings. The bigger cities get, the taller buildings get, the more greenhouse gas emissions we produce in their construction. In order for us to make our cities bigger, taller, more environmentally-friendly, cities need to find ways to future-proof themselves.

By 2050, the global population is expected to rise to 10 billion, and around two-thirds of us will live in cities. Of course, the solution to this in terms of space will be high-rise complexes.

The materials we use now to build with, mainly concrete and steel, have a large carbon footprint. The answer may lie in something called cross-laminated timber, or CLT.

We are currently in a somewhat renaissance for timber. Wood, of course, is a renewable resource. Currently, the world’s tallest building at 53m tall is the Brock Commons Tallwood House in Vancouver, which was completed in 2017, just beating the then world’s tallest wooden building, the Treet building, at 52.8m, in Bergen. These however may be left in the proverbial timber dust, with a proposed building in Tokyo known as the W350 Project planned to reach 350m (although this is scheduled for completion in 2041).

In Brummundal, Norway, an 81m high residential building is being constructed from Norwegian timber. Vienna is currently working on an 84m high wooden building. In the Parisian district of Terne, an entire wooden building complex is under construction, and in Germany, an eight-story wooden house was built on an area that used to belong to the United States army in the Bavarian town of Bad Aibling. It is a current showpiece for energy-efficient construction.

Concrete and steel are both costly to produce and heavy to transport, whereas wood can be grown sustainably and is far lighter. Concrete manufacturing is the world’s third largest producer of greenhouse gases, and is also 15 times less thermally efficient as timber.

Another boon to using timber as a construction material is it’s ability to sequester carbon from the atmosphere as it grows, trapping that within it’s makeup. For example, Kielder Forest in Northumberland has 150 million trees. These trees sequester 82,000 tonnes of carbon annually. “This means that as a rough estimate each tree at Kielder is locking up 0.546 kg of carbon per year – equivalent to 2 kg of carbon dioxide.”

Credit: The Economist

It has been shown that a timber building can reduce it’s carbon footprint by up to 75% in contrast to a building of the same size made of conventional building materials. American architectural firm Skidmore, Owings, and Merrell (SOM) , who designed Dubai’s Burj Khalifa, have designed a 42m tower, which, if built, will have a carbon footprint 60% less than a conventional build.

“Wood environments make people happy”, gleefully asserted the exhibition ‘Timber City‘ at the National Building Museum, which ran from 2016 to 2017. The exhibition included “architectural models, a video about managed forests and a world map that highlights more than 30 notable recent wooden buildings.” There was also a selection of tree stumps, wood manufacturing examples, and different types of lumber waste, nearly all of which can be used commercially and are recyclable in some way or another.

Regular timber unfortunately isn’t malleable like steel or concrete – it cannot be poured and set as those materials can. It is not strong enough to build high. This is where CLT comes in. It is a wood-panel product made by gluing layers of solid-sawn lumber together, with each layer glued perpendicular to one another. By gluing the layers perpendicular, the finished panel achieves better structural rigidity in both directions.

Whole sections can be pre-made and erected quickly on-site. Due to the relative strength and lightness of the wood, it is also suitable for closing gaps, or construction projects on existing buildings.

In April, plans were proposed for an 300m high wooden building, consisting of 80 storeys, which would be integrated with London’s Barbican Centre, a scheme which was developed between Cambridge University’s department of architecture alongside PLP Architecture and the engineers Smith and Wallwork. The project, if realised, could create over 1,000 new residential units.

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The skyline for the proposed timber tower at the Barbican. Image: PLP Architecture / Cambridge University

“If London is going to survive it needs to increasingly densify”, says Dr Micheal Ramage, director of Cambridge’s Centre for Natural Material Innovation. “One way is taller buildings. We believe people have a greater affinity for taller buildings in natural materials rather than steel and concrete towers.”

For those of you whose immediate thought is – are we not forgetting the Great Fire of London? The fires that frequented the city of Edo (The name for 17th century Tokyo)? Fortunately for those afraid of house fires, CLT does not burn like conventional timber, as the above video will testify.

“Every well-trained firefighter knows today that an adequate solid wood construction made from cross-laminated timber will withstand fire long enough for them to rescue the residents,” said architect Tom Kaden.

Using CLT and other wooden materials offers new design potential, and ultimately, space to grow. The transition from concrete and steel to construction using timber may possibly have a wider positive impact on urban environments and build form.

It is possible that these new ideas will allow architects, designers, and engineers to reformulate the aesthetics of architecture, but also the inherent structural methodologies that architecture has generally become accustomed to. New innovations in timber could lead to a greener revolution in architecture for the 21st Century and beyond.