Issue No. 6

Photo: Amanda Phung/Unsplash

Photo: Amanda Phung/Unsplash

Animals

Wildlife Trafficking

According to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), the illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest transnational crime in the world after drugs, weapons and human trafficking. It is now a $19 billion-dollar enterprise according to the World Wildlife Fund. The illicit trade includes elephant and rhino poaching, and the killing or theft of chimpanzees, gorillas and orangutans.

Food

New Restaurant Cred

The non-profit, wfpb.org has launched a “Restaurant and Menu Certificate” to identify healthy, whole food, plant-based meals. The accreditation will surpass both Michelin and Zagat in terms of the quality of food it certifies. The food won’t contain animal-derived, refined or processed ingredients; no cholesterol, added fats and sugars, chemicals, or metal and other toxins.

Climate Change

CO2 Levels Still Rising

In May, the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii detected atmospheric CO2 levels at 415.26 parts per million. This level hasn’t been reached in three million years – when global sea levels were several metres higher and Antarctica was covered by forest. “It shows that we are not on track with protecting the climate at all,” says Wolfgang Lucht of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

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speaking words of wisdom

“Nature is being eroded at rates unprecedented in human history … and we are undermining the entire natural infrastructure on which our modern world depends.”

“Change of the magnitude required will mean a different life for everyone, but the costs of doing nothing will be much higher. The future of humanity depends on action now.”

- Sir Robert Watson, Chair of the UN’s IPBES report on Biodiversity (opinion piece in The Guardian, May 6, 2019)

Photo: jdandco

on the horizon

Canada’s Version of America’s Green New Deal

Canadians are used to high ratings in surveys such as “best places to live”, or countries where people have best quality of life. Lately, though, we’ve been topping surveys we’d rather not. A recent report by the International Energy Agency shows Canadians drive the biggest, heaviest and least fuel-efficient vehicles in the world www.iea.org/topics/transport/gfei/ (and we can’t blame it all on our climate). A Canadian National Geographic survey (2017), showed Canada produces more waste per capita than any other industrial country canadiangeographic.ca/article/canadas-dirty-secret. And a report released by Environment Canada on April 2, said Canada is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world. None of this is helpful given Canada needs to reduce its Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions by approximately 50% by 2030 to meet the climate goals of the 2015 Paris Agreement.

And while a climate emergency has been declared in more than 300 Canadian cities, more needs to be done and more quickly. A Canadian version of the Green New Deal (championed by US Congresswoman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez), was launched on May 6 in Montreal. Inspired by Quebec’s “Le pacte pour la transition”, which was launched last year (and now has almost 300,000 signatures), the “Pact for a Green New Deal” is a vision of rapid, inclusive and far reaching transition to slash emissions, protect critical biodiversity, meet the demands of the multiple crises we face and create over a million jobs in the process. The goal is to develop massive grass roots support for social and economic transformation in light of climate breakdown such that political leaders will be compelled to act. Already it has attracted the support of more than 70 organizations including unions, environmentalists and indigenous leaders, as well as prominent Canadians such as K. D. Lang, David Suzuki, Naomi Klein and Rufus Wainwright.

Anyone can jump on board by signing the pact at greennewdealcanada.ca, and organizing or attending town hall meetings. Visit the website for more information on the movement and ideas on what we, as individuals, can do. 

perspective

The Media is Contributing to “Climate Silence”

Photo: Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash

Photo: Jeremy Bishop/Unsplash

A recent poll showing the US has the highest rate of “climate change deniers” in the western world is almost certainly linked to the lack of climate change coverage by US media. A study by the YouGov-Cambridge Globalism Project shows that 13% of Americans “do not believe human-driven climate change is occurring.” Only Indonesia at 18% and Saudi Arabia at 16% scored higher.  A compelling study by the Columbia Journalism Review (CJR) and The Nation, calls out the systemic barriers to effective coverage of this existential threat.

“At a time when civilization is accelerating toward disaster, climate silence continues to reign across the bulk of US media,” the CJR/The Nation study says. As an example, the ground breaking UN IPCC report on the climate crisis released last October was covered by only 22 of the 50 largest US newspapers.   

“Especially on TV, where most Americans get their news, the brutal demands of ratings and money work against adequate coverage of the biggest story of our time,” the study says. In the US presidential candidate TV debates of 2016 and 2012, the moderators did not ask one question on climate change. Another study of media coverage -- released very recently -- showed ABC News spent more time on the newest Royal baby, Archie, in one week than on climate change coverage for all of 2018.

The CJR/The Nation study says reasons for the lack of, or poor, quality coverage include: climate change stories are ratings killers; unfolding disasters are not connected to the climate crisis; focus on political rivalries rather than policy; and coverage that features “false debates” between scientists and deniers -- the latter often funded by fossil fuels interests, a fact not disclosed to audiences.

“US media have a history of covering the incremental at the expense of the immense, and coddling rather than confronting corporate power,” the study says.

Why is this important?  The study warned that “this journalistic failure has given rise to calamitous public ignorance, which in turn has enabled politicians and corporations to avoid action.”

The study shows that coverage of the climate crisis is much more advanced and comprehensive in Europe than in the US and cites the UK newspaper, The Guardian, as having the best coverage overall. And while the study focuses on US media, some of the same barriers appear to exist in other media markets such as Canada, although it seems to be improving as citizens become more concerned about the climate crisis and demand action. Media coverage of the Australian election campaign showed a strong focus on climate breakdown — although this has yet to translate into wholesale political change there as shown by the results of their recent elections.

CJR and The Nation are offering to help US media find solutions to the lack of coverage of this crucial issue, including how to link major news stories to the climate crisis and to show how real people are affected. The study recommends media focus on compelling story lines, for example, climate activists such as Greta Thunberg, and the School Strike 4 Climate and Extinction Rebellion movements.

Regarding the imperative to refocus media coverage on the climate crisis, study authors said, “It’s an enormous challenge and if we don’t get it right, no other story will matter.”

the deeper dive

Photo: Anh Tran/Unsplash

Photo: Anh Tran/Unsplash

the challenge

The mental effects of the increasing awareness of the climate crisis are becoming recognized by terms such as “eco-anxiety” and “climate grief”, and it represents a growing area of interest in psychology. “Psychology Today” defines it as a “fairly recent psychological disorder affecting an increasing number of individuals who worry about the environmental crisis”. And a 2017 report from the American Psychological Association, described eco-anxiety as a “chronic fear of environmental doom”. The number of scientific reports and studies issued of late on the various dimensions of the crisis -- from biodiversity loss to rising GHG emissions and melting sea ice -- are made all the more difficult to cope with because urbanized societies and technology-focused youth are increasingly disconnected from the land and from nature.

the response

Fortunately, for most people, there is an inexpensive, accessible solution to healing. And it’s right outside, you don’t have to trek to the mountains or the redwood forest. A new study shows that taking a 20-minute “nature pill” in an urban nature setting — think green spaces — helps lower stress levels.

A University of Michigan study, published in Frontiers in Psychology, is the first to quantify exactly how much “nature” one needs to experience to benefit from a measurable decrease in stress-related hormones. “We know that spending time in nature reduces stress, but until now it was unclear how much is enough, how often to do it, or even what kind of nature to experience,” says Dr. MaryCarol Hunter, Associate Professor, University of Michigan.

The study measured the change in stress hormone levels and found that taking 20 to 30 minutes a day in a setting that makes one feel in contact with nature will significantly lower cortisol levels.  Beyond that time frame, stress lowering benefits continue but at a lower rate. So, get up from your desk or the couch, go outside and take the 20-minute nature pill.  The research says you’ll feel less stressed. blog.frontiersin.org/2019/04/20-minute-nature-pill-relieves-stress

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freedom for hens

The strongest protection law for farmed animals in any US state was just signed by Washington governor, Jay Inslee. It will end the practice of confining hens (used for their eggs) in cages by 2023.

This should save approximately eight million hens each year from being forced to spend their whole lives crammed with other hens in tiny cages with no space to move or nest. The Humane Society of the US said, “While cage-free does not equal cruelty-free, this measure will significantly reduce the birds’ suffering.” The new law also takes hen welfare a step further by stating that hens should have access to scratching areas, perches, nesting and dust-bathing areas.

Photo: Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals

good news

1.  Indonesia’s new policies to control the rate of deforestation of primary rainforest appear to be working as the rate of its deforestation dropped by 40% in 2018 compared with the annual losses of the previous 15 years. That said, loss of primary rainforest is trending up globally dominated by clear cutting by loggers and cattle ranchers in Brazil, and significant losses in the DRC due to agriculture and fuel wood. Demand for beef, chocolate and palm oil are the main drivers of deforestation worldwide wri.org

2. Impossible Foods – one of the leading plant-based meat companies -- has raised $300 million in another round of funding bringing the total it has raised to $750 million. The money will be invested in expanding production capacity among other priorities. Investors include Jay-Z, Katy Perry and Will.i.am as the Bill Gates-backed company seeks to continue its rapid expansion.  

3. In another financial success story, plant-based meat company Beyond Meat’s recent IPO on NASDAQ was the most successful in nearly 20 years. Its shares are currently trading at almost three times their opening value. A Wall Street analyst commenting in Barron’s said, as the most valuable brands in the plant-based meat industry, Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat could become the Coca-Cola and Pepsi of the modern era.

4. Burger King successfully tested its plant-based Impossible Whopper in the St. Louis market in the US. It’ll now be rolled out across the US and Canada before the end of this year.

resources

1. The New York Times has published an interactive guide: “Your Questions about Food and Climate Change Answered”. Designed to help educate people on the climate impact of their food choices, it includes a quiz. Visit nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/30/dining/climate-change-food-eating-habits.html

2. Check out populationmatters.org for info on the different aspects of climate change and biodiversity loss as well as ideas for living more sustainably.

3. Check out photographer Isa Leshko’s book: “Allowed to Grow Old: Portraits of Elderly Animals from Farm Sanctuaries”. Isa says she discovered the incredible spirit of farmed animals (many of whom suffer traumatic lives in factory farms), given a rare chance to age with dignity.

4. And, if you’re into animal photography, visit photographer Janet Holmes’ website, www.frogoutofwater.ca.

5. “Our Planet Isn’t Dying” is a short, powerful video on the environmental impacts of fishing. You can watch it at Climate Save Movement on Instagram.

charting biodiversity loss

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Note: Eating less meat will help restore the balance.

Note: Eating less meat will help restore the balance.

*Editor’s note: planet friendly news has become a partner in a new initiative launched by the “columbia journalism review” and “the nation”, to transform the media’s coverage of climate change. the goal of “covering climate now”, is to create a community of journalists and news organizations dedicated to ensuring that climate change is at the forefront of national agendas around the world. we will be sharing our stories and have access to the writings of others as well. More to come in the run up to the UN summit on climate in new york in september.

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