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Planet Junk: Is Earth the Largest Garbage Dump in the Universe?

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Is Earth the largest garbage dump in the Universe? I don’t know. But it’s a safe bet that Earth would be a contender were such a competition to be held. Let me explain why.

To start, just listing the types of rubbish generated by humans or the locations into which each of these is dumped is a staggering task beyond the scope of one article. Nevertheless, I will give you a reasonably comprehensive summary of the types of garbage being generated (focusing particularly on those that are less well known), the locations into which the garbage is being dumped and some indication of what is being done about it and what you can do too.

But before doing so, it is worth highlighting just why this is such a problem, prompting the United Nations Environment Programme to publish this recent report: ‘Towards a pollution-free planet’.

As noted by Baher Kamal in his commentary on this study: ‘Though some forms of pollution have been reduced as technologies and management strategies have advanced, approximately 19 million premature deaths are estimated to occur annually as a result of the way societies use natural resources and impact the environment to support production and consumption.’ See ‘Desperate Need to Halt “World’s Largest Killer” – Pollution’ and ‘Once Upon a Time a Planet… First part. Pollution, the world’s largest killer’.

And that is just the cost in human lives.

So what are the main types of pollution and where do they end up?

Atmospheric Pollution

The garbage, otherwise labelled ‘pollution’, that we dump into our atmosphere obviously includes the waste products from our burning of fossil fuels and our farming of animals. Primarily this means carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide generated by driving motor vehicles and burning coal, oil and gas to generate electricity, and agriculture based on the exploitation of animals. This is having a devastating impact on Earth’s climate and environment with a vast array of manifestations adversely impacting all life on Earth. See, for example, ‘The World Is Burning’ and ‘The True Environmental Cost of Eating Meat’.

But these well-known pollutants are not the only garbage we dump into the atmosphere. Airline fuel pollutants from both civil and military aircraft have a shocking impact too, with significant adverse public health outcomes. Jet emissions, particularly the highly carcinogenic benzpyrene, can cause various cancers, lymphoma, leukemia, asthma, and birth defects. Jet emissions affect a 25 mile area around an airport; this means that adults, children, animals and plants are ‘crop dusted’ by toxic jet emissions for 12 miles from a runway end.

‘A typical commercial airport spews hundreds of tons of toxic pollutants into our atmosphere every day. These drift over heavily populated areas and settle onto water bodies and crops.’ Despite efforts to inform relevant authorities of the dangers in the USA, for example, they ‘continue to ignore the problem and allow aviation emissions to remain unregulated, uncontrolled and unreported’. See Aviation Justice. It is no better in other countries.

Another category of atmospheric pollutants of which you might not be aware is the particulate aerosol emitted into the atmosphere by the progressive wear of vehicle parts, especially synthetic rubber tyres, during their service life. Separately from this, however, there are also heavier pollutants from wearing vehicle tyres and parts, as well as from the wearing away of road surfaces, that accumulate temporarily on roads before being washed off into waterways where they accumulate.

While this substantial pollution and health problem has attracted little research attention, some researchers in a variety of countries have been investigating the problem.

In the USA as early as 1974, ‘tire industry scientists estimated that 600,000 metric tonnes of tire dust were released by tire wear in the U.S., or about 3 kilograms of dust released from each tire each year’. In 1994, careful measurement of air near roadways with moderate traffic ‘revealed the presence of 3800 to 6900 individual tire fragments in each cubic meter of air’ with more than 58.5% of them in the fully-breathable size range and shown to produce allergic reactions. See ‘Tire Dust’.

A study in Japan reported similar adverse environmental and health impacts. See ‘Dust Resulting from Tire Wear and the Risk of Health Hazards’.

Even worse, a study conducted in Moscow reported that the core pollutant of city air (up to 60% of hazardous matter) was the rubber of automobile tyres worn off and emitted as a small dust. The study found that the average car tyre discarded 1.6 kilograms of fine tyre dust as an aerosol during its service life while the tyre from a commercial vehicle discarded about 15 kilograms.

Interestingly, passenger tyre dust emissions during the tyre’s service life significantly exceeded (by 6-7 times) emissions of particulate matters with vehicle exhaust gases. The research also determined that ‘tyre wear dust contains more than 140 different chemicals with different toxicity but the biggest threat to human health is poly-aromatic hydrocarbons and volatile carcinogens’. The study concluded that, in the European Union:

‘Despite tightening the requirements for vehicle tyres in terms of noise emission, wet grip and rolling resistance stipulated by the UN Regulation No. 117, the problem of reduction of tyre dust and its carcinogenic substance emissions due to tyre wear remains unaddressed.’ See ‘Particulate Matter Emissions by Tyres’.

As one toxicologist has concluded: ‘Tire rubber pollution is just one of many environmental problems in which the research is lagging far behind the damage we may have done.’ See ‘Road Rubber’.

Another pollution problem low on the public radar results from environmental modification techniques involving geoengineering particulates being secretly dumped into the atmosphere by the US military for more than half a century, based on research beginning in the 1940s. This geoengineering has been used to wage war on the climate, environment and ultimately ourselves.

See, for example, ‘Engineered Climate Cataclysm: Hurricane Harvey’,‘Planetary Weapons and Military Weather Modification: Chemtrails, Atmospheric Geoengineering and Environmental Warfare’‘Chemtrails: Aerosol and Electromagnetic Weapons in the Age of Nuclear War’ and ‘The Ultimate Weapon of Mass Destruction: “Owning the Weather” for Military Use’.

With ongoing official denials about the practice, it has fallen to the ongoing campaigning of committed groups such as GeoEngineering Watch to draw attention to and work to end this problem.

Despite the enormous and accelerating problems already being generated by the above atmospheric pollutants, it is worth pausing briefly to highlight the potentially catastrophic nature of the methane discharges now being released by the warming that has already taken place and is still taking place.

A recent scientific study published by the prestigious journal Palaeoworld noted that ‘Global warming triggered by the massive release of carbon dioxide may be catastrophic, but the release of methane from hydrate may be apocalyptic.’ This refers to the methane stored in permafrost and shelf sediment.

Warning of the staggering risk, the study highlights the fact that the most significant variable in the Permian Mass Extinction event, which occurred 250 million years ago and annihilated 90 percent of all the species on Earth, was methane hydrate. See ‘Methane Hydrate: Killer cause of Earth’s greatest mass extinction’and ‘Release of Arctic Methane “May Be Apocalyptic,” Study Warns’.

How long have we got? Not long, with a recent Russian study identifying ‘7,000 underground [methane] gas bubbles poised to “explode” in Arctic’.

Is much being done about this atmospheric pollution including the ongoing apocalyptic release of methane? Well, there is considerable ‘push’ to switch to renewable (solar, wind, wave, geothermal) energy in some places and to produce electric cars in others.

But these worthwhile initiatives aside, and if you ignore the mountain of tokenistic measures that are sometimes officially promised, the answer is ‘not really’ with many issues that critically impact this problem (including rainforest destruction, vehicle emissions, geoengineering, jet aircraft emissions and methane releases from animal agriculture) still being largely ignored.

If you want to make a difference on this biosphere-threatening issue of atmospheric pollution, you have three obvious choices to consider. Do not travel by air, do not travel by car and do not eat meat (and perhaps other animal products). This will no doubt require considerable commitment on your part. But without your commitment in these regards, there is no realistic hope of averting near-term human extinction. So your choices are critical.

Ocean Garbage

Many people will have heard of the problem of plastic rubbish being dumped into the ocean. Few people, however, have any idea of the vast scale of the problem, the virtual impossibility of cleaning it up and the monumental ongoing cost of it, whether measured in terms of (nonhuman) lives lost,ecological services or financially. And, unfortunately, plastic is not the worst pollutant we are dumping into the ocean but I will discuss it first.

In a major scientific study involving 24 expeditions conducted between 2007 and 2013, which was designed to estimate ‘the total number of plastic particles and their weight floating in the world’s oceans’ the team of scientists estimated that there was ‘a minimum of 5.25 trillion particles weighing 268,940 tons’. See ‘Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea’and ‘Full scale of plastic in the world’s oceans revealed for first time’.

Since then, of course, the problem has become progressively worse. See ‘Plastic Garbage Patch Bigger Than Mexico Found in Pacific’ and ‘Plastic Chokes the Seas’.

‘Does it matter?’ you might ask. According to this report, it matters a great deal. See New UN report finds marine debris harming more than 800 species, costing countries millions’.

In his seminal classic ‘Ecological Globalistan’, prof. Anis H. Bajrektarevic formulates: “acidifying of oceans and brutalization of our human interactions, as well as over-noising both of them, are just two sides of a same coin. What is the social sphere for society that is the biosphere for the very life on earth.”

Can we remove the plastic to clean up the ocean? Not easily. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has calculated that ‘if you tried to clean up less than one percent of the North Pacific Ocean it would take 67 ships one year’.

See ‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’. Nevertheless, and despite the monumental nature of the problem – see ‘“Great Pacific garbage patch” far bigger than imagined, aerial survey shows’ – organizations like the Algalita Research FoundationOcean Cleanup and Positive Change for Marine Life have programs in place to investigate the nature and extent of the problem and remove some of the rubbish, while emphasizing that preventing plastic from entering the ocean is the key.

In addition, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity outlined a series of measures to tackle the problem in its 2016 report ‘Marine Debris Understanding, Preventing and Mitigating the Significant Adverse Impacts on Marine and Coastal Biodiversity’.In February 2017, the UN launched its Clean Seas Campaign inviting governments, corporations, NGOs and individuals to sign the pledge to reduce their plastic consumption. See #CleanSeas Campaign and ‘World Campaign to Clean Torrents of Plastic Dumped in the Oceans’.

Sadly, of course, it is not just plastic that is destroying the oceans. They absorb carbon dioxide as one manifestation of the climate catastrophe and, among other outcomes, this accelerates ocean acidification, adversely impacting coral reefs and the species that depend on these reefs.

In addition, a vast runoff of agricultural poisons, fossil fuels and other wastes is discharged into the ocean, adversely impacting life at all ocean depths – see ‘Staggering level of toxic chemicals found in creatures at the bottom of the sea, scientists say’– and generating ocean ‘dead zones’: regions that have too little oxygen to support marine organisms. See ‘Our Planet Is Exploding With Marine “Dead Zones”’.

Since the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in 2011, and despite the ongoing official coverup, vast quantities of radioactive materials are being ongoingly discharged into the Pacific Ocean, irradiating everything within its path. See ‘Fukushima: A Nuclear War without a War: The Unspoken Crisis of Worldwide Nuclear Radiation’.

Finally, you may not be aware that there are up to 70 ‘still functional’ nuclear weapons as well as nine nuclear reactors lying on the ocean floor as a result of accidents involving nuclear warships and submarines. See ‘Naval Nuclear Accidents: The Secret Story’ and ‘A Nuclear Needle in a Haystack The Cold War’s Missing Atom Bombs’.

Virtually nothing is being done to stem the toxic discharges, contain the Fukushima radiation releases or find the nuclear weapons and nuclear reactors on the ocean floor.

Waterways and Groundwater Contamination

Many people would be familiar with the contaminants that find their way into Earth’s wetlands, rivers, creeks and lakes. Given corporate negligence, this includes all of the chemical poisons and heavy metals used in corporate farming and mining operations, as well as, in many cases around the world where rubbish removal is poorly organised, the sewage and all other forms of ‘domestic’ waste discharged from households.

Contamination of the world’s creeks, rivers, lakes and wetlands is now so advanced that many are no longer able to fully support marine life. For brief summaries of the problem, see ‘Pollution in Our Waterways is Harming People and Animals – How Can You Stop This!’‘Wasting Our Waterways: Toxic Industrial Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act’ and ‘China’s new weapon against water pollution: its people’.

Beyond this, however, Earth’s groundwater supplies (located in many underground acquifers such as the Ogallala Aquifer in the United States) are also being progressively contaminated by gasoline, oil and chemicals from leaking storage tanks; bacteria, viruses and household chemicals from faulty septic systems; hazardous wastes from abandoned and uncontrolled hazardous waste sites (of which there are over 20,000 in the USA alone); leaks from landfill items such as car battery acid, paint and household cleaners; and the pesticides, herbicides and other poisons used on farms and home gardens. See ‘Groundwater contamination’.

However, while notably absent from the list above, these contaminants also include radioactive waste from nuclear tests – see ‘Groundwater drunk by BILLIONS of people may be contaminated by radioactive material spread across the world by nuclear testing in the 1950s’ – and the chemical contamination caused by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) in search of shale gas, for which about 750 chemicals and components, some extremely toxic and carcinogenic like lead and benzene, have been used. See ‘Fracking chemicals’.

There are local campaigns to clean up rivers, creeks, lakes and wetlands in many places around the world, focusing on the primary problems – ranging from campaigning to end poison runoffs from mines and farms to physically removing plastic and other trash – in that area. But a great deal more needs to be done and they could use your help.

Soil Contamination

Our unsustainable commercial farming and soil management practices are depleting the soil of nutrients and poisoning it with synthetic fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides and antibiotics (the latter contained in animal manure) at such a prodigious rate that even if there were no other adverse impacts on the soil, it will be unable to sustain farming within 60 years. See ‘Only 60 Years of Farming Left If Soil Degradation Continues’.

But not content to simply destroy the soil through farming, we also contaminate it with heavy metal wastes from industrial activity, as well as sewer mismanagement – see ‘“Black Soils” – Excessive Use of Arsenic, Cadmium, Lead, Mercury…’– the waste discharges from corporate mining – see, for example, ‘The $100bn gold mine and the West Papuans who say they are counting the cost’ – and the radioactive and many other toxic wastes from military violence, discussed below.

We also lose vast quantities of soil by extensive clearfelling of pristine forests to plant commercially valuable but ecologically inappropriate ‘garbage species’ (such as palm oil trees – see ‘The Great Palm Oil Scandal’ – soya beans – see ‘Soy Changes Map of Brazil, Set to Become World’s Leading Producer’ – and biofuel crops). This leaves the soil vulnerable to rainfall which carries it into local creeks and rivers and deposits it downstream or into the ocean.

Staggering though it may sound, we are losing tens of billions of tonnes of soil each year, much of it irreversibly.

Is anything being done? A little. In response to the decades-long push by some visionary individuals and community organizations to convert all farming to organic,biodynamic and/or permaculture principles, some impact is being made in some places to halt the damage caused by commercial farming. You can support these efforts by buying organically or biodynamically-certified food (that is, food that hasn’t been poisoned) or creating a permaculture garden in your own backyard. Any of these initiatives will also benefit your own health.

Of course, there is still a long way to go with the big agricultural corporations such as Monsanto more interested in profits than your health. See ‘Killing Us Softly – Glyphosate Herbicide or Genocide?’‘Top 10 Poisons that are the legacy of Monsanto’ and ‘Monsanto Has Knowingly Been Poisoning People for (at Least) 35 Years’.

One other noteworthy progressive change occurred in 2017 when the UN finally adopted the Minimata Convention, to curb mercury use. See ‘Landmark UN-backed treaty on mercury takes effect’ and ‘Minamata Convention, Curbing Mercury Use, is Now Legally Binding’.

As for the other issues mentioned above, there is nothing to celebrate with mining and logging corporations committed to their profits at the expense of the local environments of indigenous peoples all over the world and governments showing little effective interest in curbing this or taking more than token interest in cleaning up toxic military waste sites. As always, local indigenous and activist groups often work on these issues against enormous odds. See, for example, ‘Ecuador Endangered’.

Apart from supporting the work of the many activist groups that work on these issues, one thing that each of us can do is to put aside the food scraps left during meal preparation (or after our meal) and compost them. Food scraps and waste are an invaluable resource: nature composts this material to create soil and your simple arrangement to compost your food scraps will help to generate more of that invaluable soil we are losing.

Antibiotic Waste

One form of garbage we have been producing, ‘under the radar’, in vast quantities for decades is antiobiotic and antifungal drug residue. See ‘Environmental pollution with antimicrobial agents from bulk drug manufacturing industries… associated with dissemination of… pathogens’.

However, given that the bulk of this waste is secretly discharged untreated into waterways by the big pharmaceutical companies – see ‘Big Pharma fails to disclose antibiotic waste leaked from factories’ – the microbes are able to ‘build up resistance to the ingredients in the medicines that are supposed to kill them’ thus ‘fueling the creation of deadly superbugs’. Moreover, because the resistant microbes travel easily and have multiplied in huge numbers all over the world, they have created ‘a grave public health emergency that is already thought to kill hundreds of thousands of people a year.’

Are governments acting to end this practice? According to the recent and most comprehensive study of the problem ‘international regulators are allowing dirty drug production methods to continue unchecked’. See ‘Big Pharma’s pollution is creating deadly superbugs while the world looks the other way’.

Given the enormous power of the pharmaceutical industry, which effectively controls the medical industry in many countries, the most effective response we can make as individuals is to join the rush to natural health practitioners (such as practitioners of homeopathy, ostepathy, naturopathy, Ayurvedic medicine, herbal medicine and Chinese medicine) which do not prescribe pharmaceutical drugs. For further ideas, see ‘Defeating the Violence in Our Food and Medicine’.

Genetic Engineering and Gene Drives

Perhaps the most frightening pollutant that we now risk releasing into the environment goes beyond the genetic mutilation of organisms (GMOs) which has been widely practiced by some corporations, such as Monsanto, for several decades. See, for example, ‘GM Food Crops Illegally Growing in India: The Criminal Plan to Change the Genetic Core of the Nation’s Food System’.

Given that genetic engineering’s catastrophic outcomes are well documented – see, for example, ‘10 Reasons to Oppose Genetic Engineering’ – what are gene drives? ‘Imagine that by releasing a single fly into the wild you could genetically alter all the flies on the planet – causing them all to turn yellow, carry a toxin, or go extinct. This is the terrifyingly powerful premise behind gene drives: a new and controversial genetic engineering technology that can permanently alter an entire species by releasing one bioengineered individual.’

How effective are they? ‘Gene drives can entirely re-engineer ecosystems, create fast spreading extinctions, and intervene in living systems at a scale far beyond anything ever imagined.’ For example, if gene drives are engineered into a fast-reproducing species ‘they could alter their populations within short timeframes, from months to a few years, and rapidly cause extinction.’

This radical new technology, also called a ‘mutagenic chain reaction’, combines the extreme genetic engineering of synthetic biology and new gene editing techniques with the idea ‘that humans can and should use such powerful unlimited tools to control nature. Gene drives will change the fundamental relationship between humanity and the natural world forever.’

The implications for the environment, food security, peace, and even social stability are breathtaking, particularly given that existing ‘government regulations for the use of genetic engineering in agriculture have allowed widespread genetic contamination of the food supply and the environment.’ See ‘Reckless Driving: Gene drives and the end of nature’.

Consistent with their track records of sponsoring, promoting and using hi-tech atrocities against life, the recently released (27 October 2017) ‘Gene Drive Files’ reveal that the US military and individuals such as Bill Gates have been heavily involved in financing research, development and promotion of this grotesque technology. See ‘Military Revealed as Top Funder of Gene Drives; Gates Foundation paid $1.6 million to influence UN on gene drives’ and the ‘Gene Drive Files’.

‘Why would the US military be interested?’ you might ask. Well, imagine what could be done to an ‘enemy’ race with an extinction gene drive.

As always, while genuinely life-enhancing grassroots initiatives struggle for funding, any project that offers the prospect of huge profits – usually at enormous cost to life – gets all the funding it needs. If you haven’trealised yet that the global elite is insane, it might be worth pondering it now. See ‘The Global Elite is Insane’.

Is anything being done about these life-destroying technologies? A number of groups campaign against genetic engineering and SynBioWatch works to raise awareness of gene drives, to carefully explain the range of possible uses for them and to expose the extraordinary risks and dangers of the technology. You are welcome to participate in their efforts too.

Nanoparticles

A nanoparticle is a microscopic particle whose size is measured in nanometers. One nanometer is one billionth of a meter. In simple English: Nanoparticles are extraordinarily tiny.

Nanoparticles are already being widely used including during the manufacture of cosmetics, pharmacology products, scratchproof eyeglasses, crack- resistant paints, anti-graffiti coatings for walls, transparent sunscreens, stain-repellent fabrics, self-cleaning windows and ceramic coatings for solar cells. ‘Nanoparticles can contribute to stronger, lighter, cleaner and “smarter” surfaces and systems.’ See ‘What are the uses of nanoparticles in consumer products?’

Some researchers are so enamored with nanoparticles that they cannot even conceal their own delusions. According to one recent report: ‘Researchers want to achieve a microscopic autonomous robot that measures no more than six nanometers across and can be controlled by remote.

Swarms of these nanobots could clean your house, and since they’re invisible to the naked eye, their effects would appear to be magical. They could also swim easily and harmlessly through your bloodstream, which is what medical scientists find exciting.’ See ‘What are Nanoparticles?’

Unfortunately, however, nanoparticle contamination of medicines is already well documented. See ‘New Quality-Control Investigations on Vaccines: Micro- and Nanocontamination’.

Another report indicates that ‘Some nanomaterials may also induce cytotoxic or genotoxic responses’. See ‘Toxicity of particulate matter from incineration of nanowaste’.What does this mean? Well ‘cytotoxic’ means that something is toxic to the cells and ‘genotoxic’ describes the property of chemical agents that damage the genetic information within a cell, thus causing mutations which may lead to cancer.

Beyond the toxic problems with the nanoparticles themselves, those taking a wider view report the extraordinary difficulties of managing nanowaste. In fact, according to one recent report prepared for the UN: ‘Nanowaste is notoriously difficult to contain and monitor; due to its small size, it can spread in water systems or become airborne, causing harm to human health and the environment.’

Moreover ‘Nanotechnology is growing at an exponential rate, but it is clear that issues related to the disposal and recycling of nanowaste will grow at an even faster rate if left unchecked.’ See ‘Nanotechnology, Nanowaste and Their Effects on Ecosystems: A Need for Efficient Monitoring, Disposal and Recycling’.

Despite this apparent nonchalance about the health impacts of nanowaste, one recent report reiterates that ‘Studies on the toxicity of nanoparticles… are abundant in the literature’. See ‘Toxicity of particulate matter from incineration of nanowaste’.

Moreover, in January, European Union agencies published three documents concerning government oversight of nanotechnology and new genetic engineering techniques. ‘Together, the documents put in doubt the scientific capacity and political will of the European Commission to provide any effective oversight of the consumer, agricultural and industrial products derived from these emerging technologies’. See ‘European Commission: Following the Trump Administration’s Retreat from Science-Based Regulation?’

So, as these recent reports makes clear, little is being done to monitor, measure or control these technologies or monitor, measure and control the harmful effects of discharging nanowaste.

Fortunately, with the usual absence of government interest in acting genuinely on our behalf, activist groups such as the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Organic Consumers Association campaign against nanotechnology as part of their briefs. Needless to say, however, a lot more needs to be done.

Space Junk

Not content to dump our garbage in, on or under the Earth, we also dump our junk in Space too.

‘How do we do this?’ you may well ask. Quite simply, in fact. We routinely launch a variety of spacecraft into Space to either orbit the Earth (especially satellites designed to perform military functions such as spying, target identification and detection of missile launches but also satellites to perform some civilian functions such as weather monitoring, navigation and communication) or we send spacecraft into Space on exploratory missions (such as the Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity).

However, getting spacecraft into Space requires the expenditure of vast amounts of energy (which adds to pollution of the atmosphere) and the progressive discarding of rocket propulsion sections of the launch craft. Some of these fall back to Earth as junk but much of it ends up orbiting the Earth as junk.

So what form does this junk take? It includes inactive satellites, the upper stages of launch vehicles, discarded bits left over from separation, frozen clouds of water and tiny flecks of paint. All orbiting high above Earth’s atmosphere. With Space junk now a significant problem, the impact of junk on satellites is regularly causing damage and generating even more junk.

Is it much of a problem? Yes, indeed. The problem is so big, in fact, that NASA in the USA keeps track of the bigger items, which travel at speeds of up to 17,500 mph, which is ‘fast enough for a relatively small piece of orbital debris to damage a satellite or a spacecraft’. How many pieces does it track? By 2013, it was tracking 500,000 pieces of space junk as they orbited the Earth. See ‘Space Debris and Human Spacecraft’. Of course, these items are big enough to track. But not all junk is that big.

In fact, a recent estimate indicates that the number of Space junk items could be in excess of 100 trillion. See ‘Space Junk: Tracking & Removing Orbital Debris’.

Is anything being done about Space junk? No government involved in Space is really interested: It’s too expensive for that to be seriously considered.

But given the ongoing government and military interest in weaponizing Space, as again reflected in the recent US ‘Nuclear Posture Review 2018’, which would add a particularly dangerous type of junk to Space, the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space has been conducting an effective worldwide campaign since 1992 to mobilize resistance to weapons and nuclear power being deployed and used in Space.

Military Waste

The carnage and waste produced by preparation for and the conduct of military violence is so vast that it almost defies description and calculation. In its most basic sense, every single item produced to perform a military function – from part of a uniform to a weapon – is garbage: an item that has no functional purpose (unless you believe that killing people is functional).

To barely touch on it here then, military violence generates a vast amount of pollution, which contaminates the atmosphere, oceans, all fresh water sources, and the soil with everything from the waste generated by producing military uniforms to the radioactive waste which contaminates environments indefinitely.

For just a taste of this pollution, see the Toxic Remnants of War Project, the film ‘Scarred Lands & Wounded Lives’‘U.S. Military World’s Largest Polluter – Hundreds of Bases Gravely Contaminated’‘Depleted Uranium and Radioactive Contamination in Iraq: An Overview’ and ‘The Long History of War’s Environmental Costs’.

Many individuals, groups and networks around the world campaign to end war. See, for example, War Resisters’ International, the International Peace Bureau and World Beyond War.

You can participate in these efforts.

Nuclear Waste

Partly related to military violence but also a product of using nuclear power, humans generate vast amounts of waste from exploitation of the nuclear fuel cycle. This ranges from the pollution generated by mining uranium to the radioactive waste generated by producing nuclear power or using a nuclear weapon. But it also includes the nuclear waste generated by accidents such as that at Chernobyl and Fukushima.

Again, for just a taste of the monumental nature of this problem, see ‘Emergency Declared at Nuclear Waste Site in Washington State’‘Disposing of Nuclear Waste is a Challenge for Humanity’ and ‘Three Years Since the Kitty Litter Disaster at Waste Isolation Pilot Plant’.

While the London Dumping Convention permanently bans the dumping of radioactive and industrial waste at sea (which means nothing in the face of the out-of-control discharges from Fukushima, of course) – see ‘1993 – Dumping of radioactive waste at sea gets banned’ – groups such as Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace continue to campaign against the nuclear industry (including radioactive waste dumping) and to promote renewable energy.

They would be happy to have your involvement.

Our Bodies

Some of the garbage that ends up being dumped is done via our bodies. Apart from the junk food produced at direct cost to the environment, the cost of these poisoned, processed and nutritionally depleted food-like substances also manifests as ill-health in our bodies and discharges of contaminated waste. Rather than eating food that is organically or biodynamically grown and healthily prepared, most of us eat processed food-like substances that are poisoned (that is, grown with large doses of synthetic fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides that also destroy the soil and kill vast numbers of insects –

see ‘Death and Extinction of the Bees’ and ‘Insectageddon: farming is more catastrophic than climate breakdown’ – and then cook this food in rancid oils and perhaps even irradiate (microwave) it before eating. Although microwave ovens were outlawed in the Soviet Union in 1976, they remain legal elsewhere. See ‘The Hidden Hazards of Microwave Cooking’‘How Your Microwave Oven Damages Your Health In Multiple Ways’ and ‘Microwave Cooking is Killing People’.

Unfortunately, however, considerable official effort still goes into developing new ways to nuclearize (contaminate) our food – see ‘Seven examples of nuclear technology improving food and agriculture’ – despite long-established natural practices that are effective and have no damaging side effects or polluting outcomes.

But apart from poisoned, processed and unhealthily prepared food, we also inject our bodies with contaminated vaccines – see ‘New Quality-Control Investigations on Vaccines: Micro- and Nanocontamination’‘Dirty Vaccines: New Study Reveals Prevalence of Contaminants’ and ‘Aluminum, Autoimmunity, Autism and Alzheimer’s’ – consume medically-prescribed antibiotics (see section above) and other drugs – see ‘The Spoils of War: Afghanistan’s Multibillion Dollar Heroin Trade. Washington’s Hidden Agenda: Restore the Drug Trade’– and leave the environment to deal with the contaminated waste generated by their production and the discharges from our body.

Many individuals and organizations all over the world work to draw attention to these and related issues, including the ‘death-dealing’ of doctors, but the onslaught of corporate media promotion and scare campaigns means that much of this effort is suppressed. Maintaining an unhealthy and medically-dependent human population is just too profitable.

If you want to genuinely care for your health and spare the environment the toxic junk dumped though your body, the ideas above in relation to growing and eating organic/biodynamic food and consulting natural health practitioners are a good place to start.

‘Ordinary’ Rubbish

For many people, of course, dealing with their daily garbage requires nothing more than putting it into a rubbish bin. But does this solve the problem?

Well, for a start, even recycled rubbish is not always recycled, and even when it is, the environmental cost is usually high.

In fact, the various costs of dealing with rubbish is now so severe that China, a long-time recipient of waste from various parts of the world, no longer wants it. See ‘China No Longer Wants Your Trash. Here’s Why That’s Potentially Disastrous’.

Of course there are also special events that encourage us to dump extra rubbish into the Earth’s biosphere. Ever thought about what happens following special celebrations like Christmas? See ‘The Environmental Christmas Hangover’ or the waste discharged from cruise ships? See ‘16 Things Cruise Lines Never Tell You’.

Does all this pollution really matter? Well, as mentioned at the beginning, we pay an enormous cost for it both in terms of human life but in other ways too. See ‘The Lancet Commission on pollution and health’.

Junk information

One category of junk, which is easily overlooked and on which I will not elaborate, is the endless stream of junk information with which we are bombarded. Whether it is corporate ‘news’ (devoid of important news about our world and any truthful analysis of what is causing it) on television, the radio or in newspapers, letterbox advertising, telephone marketing or spam emails, our attention is endlessly distracted from what matters leaving most humans ill-informed and too disempowered to resist the onslaught that is destroying our world.

So what can we do about all of the junk identified above?

Well, unless you want to continue deluding yourself that some token measures taken by you, governments, international organizations (such as the United Nations) or industry are going to fix all of this, I encourage you to consider taking personal action that involves making a serious commitment.

This is because, at the most fundamental level, it is individuals who consume and then discharge the waste products of their consumption. And if you choose what you consume with greater care and consume less, no one is going to produce what you don’t buy or discharge the waste products of that production on your behalf.

Remember Gandhi? He was not just the great Indian independence leader. His personal possessions at his death numbered his few items of self-made clothing and his spectacles. We can’t all be like Gandhi but he can be a symbol to remind us that our possessions and our consumption are not the measure of our value. To ourselves or anyone else.

If the many itemized suggestions made above sound daunting, how does this option sound?

Do you think that you could reduce your consumption by 10% this year.?And, ideally, do it in each of seven categories: water, household energy, vehicle fuel, paper, plastic, metals and meat? Could you do it progressively, reducing your consumption by 10% each year for 15 consecutive years? See ‘The Flame Tree Project to Save Life on Earth’.

I am well aware of the emotional void that makes many people use ‘shopping therapy’ to feel better or to otherwise consume, perhaps by traveling, to distract themselves. If you are in this category, then perhaps you could tackle this problem at its source by ‘Putting Feelings First’.

No consumer item or material event can ever fill the void in your Selfhood. But you can fill this void by traveling the journey to become the powerful individual that evolution gave you the potential to be. If you want to understand how you lost your Selfhood, see ‘Why Violence?’ and ‘Fearless Psychology and Fearful Psychology: Principles and Practice’.

You might also help ensure that children do not acquire the consumption/pollution addiction by making ‘My Promise to Children’.

If you want to campaign against one of the issues threatening human survival discussed briefly above, consider planning a Nonviolent Campaign Strategy.

And if you wish to commit to resisting violence of all kinds, you can do so by signing the online pledge of ‘The People’s Charter to Create a Nonviolent World’.

In the final analysis, each of us has a choice. We can contribute to the ongoing creation of Earth as the planet of junk. Or we can use our conscience, intelligence and determination to guide us in resisting the destruction of our world.

Robert J. Burrowes has a lifetime commitment to understanding and ending human violence. He has done extensive research since 1966 in an effort to understand why human beings are violent and has been a nonviolent activist since 1981. He is the author of ‘Why Violence?’ His email address is flametree[at]riseup.net and his website is https://robertjburrowes.wordpress.com/

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Green Planet

Grey whale’s disappearance from Atlantic Ocean holds clues to possible return

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By  SOFIA STRODT

Youri van den Hurk is preparing for a possible big welcome-home event – the return of the grey whale to European waters after an absence of about 500 years.

The grey whale disappeared from the eastern Atlantic in the 15th century and from the western Atlantic around the 17th to 18th century, according to van den Hurk.

A research fellow at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), van den Hurk is part of a project inspired in part by several sightings in the Atlantic Ocean over the past decade of individual grey whales from the North Pacific population.

‘The grey whale is the only whale species that has completely disappeared from an entire ocean,’ he said. Van den Hurk is part of the Horizon-funded Demise of the Atlantic Grey whale project (DAG), which is looking into whether the species might eventually return to European waters.

A better view of the future, of course, requires a clearer understanding of the past. That’s why DAG is also assessing the causes of the grey whale’s eradication in the eastern Atlantic five centuries ago, seeking information on factors that might lead to a return of the coastal cetaceans.

Grey whales can grow to as many as 15 metres long and weigh up to 40 tonnes – equal to the combined weight of about 20 cars. Their lifespan is generally 50 to 70 years.

Baleen whales

They are part of a class of whales whose mouths feature comblike plates of bone known as baleen rather than teeth. All baleen whales eat by filtering plankton, krill and small fish out of the seawater. 

Grey whales suck food from the sea floor while swimming and rolling on their sides, a practice known as bottom-feeding uncommon for other baleen whales. The resulting “mud plumes” are important to the ecosystem because they churn up nutrients and crustaceans that enrich other sea

Located in the North Pacific, the population of grey whales totalled around 27 000 in 2016, according to the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service.

Grey whales have one of the longest known migrations of any mammal, leaving their Arctic feeding grounds in September-October and swimming south as much as around 10 000 kilometres along the coastline to breed in the warm waters off Mexico.

‘It’s unclear what triggered their disappearance from the Atlantic – whether it’s an environmental factor, a human factor or a combination of both,’ van den Hurk said.

Researchers do know that the population of Atlantic grey whales began to decline gradually approximately 50 000 years ago – a process that the experts suspect was driven by environmental factors. By the 16th century, various whaling cultures were active across Europe, leading van den Hurk to suspect they contributed to the whales’ extinction.

Still, determining the exact factors that caused this eradication remains the basic challenge.

Answering this question will be crucial to conservation efforts in Europe should the species return, according to van den Hurk.

Under the supervision of Dr. James Barrett, a historical and environmental researcher at NTNU, van den Hurk analysed the collagen preserved in the whale bones found at sites that various tribes across Europe, including Spain, south-western France, Normandy and Scandinavia used to inhabit. His total sample amounted to 717 bone fragments, including 109 from grey whales. 

‘Where people lived they often took bone remains of the species that they caught or it could also be that the whales stranded at the shore and that the locals took their bones with them to their settlements,’ van den Hurk explained.

The samples were taken to a laboratory at the University of Cambridge in England where researchers performed mass spectrometry, an analytical technique used to measure the mass-to-charge ratio of ions. A bone protein known as collagen plays a central role in the analysis.

‘We look at the collagen that is preserved in the bone,’ van den Hurk said. Subtle differences make it possible to tie the collagen to a specific whale species.

Furthermore, the stable isotopes preserved in bones sheds light on the migration routes of the grey whales.

Malign influences

Once the results have been compiled, the next step will be to model the whales’ migration routes to provide information on malign influences such as plastics pollution or ship noise, which are likely to affect any repopulation of the eastern Atlantic. 

Noise from vessels is the research focus of Jakob Tougaard, a professor at the Department of Marine Ecology at Aarhus University in Denmark. As part of another Horizon-funded research project called SATURN, he has been examining the responses of marine mammals to underwater noise from whale-watch boats.

‘Lots of noise, most of the time, that’s a problem,’ said Tougaard. ‘In open waters, the main source is commercial shipping and closer to shore it’s small, private boats.’

Such disturbances reduce the time whales spend hunting for food or feeding offspring, threatening their survival, he said.  

The SATURN project advises regulators and stakeholders on acceptable limits of vessel noise and best approaches to reduction of underwater radiated noise.

Underwater noise

While enacting new shipping regulations can generally be ‘a painfully slow process,’ he anticipates the implementation of tougher European rules to limit underwater noise.

‘I’m optimistic – there are many people who are screaming for action now,’ Tougaard said. In the coming years, he expects to see agreements within the EU setting new limits on ship noise.

Back in Norway meanwhile, as van den Hurk of NTNU contemplates the possible return of the grey whale to European waters, he thinks climate change may increase the chances.

As a result of rising temperatures, the Northwest Passage – the sea route between the Atlantic and Pacific via the Arctic – has been open for longer. This has prompted at least four whales to take a wrong turn in North Alaska, leading them into the Atlantic rather than back into the northern Pacific, according to van den Hurk.

In the summer of 2021, a grey whale ended up off the coast of Morocco and was spotted close to France and Italy as well.

Hopeful message

It could take decades for grey whales to reclaim their habitat in the eastern Atlantic, according to van den Hurk. In any case, the mere prospect of their return sends a ‘hopeful message,’ he said.

‘It shows that the impact we have on our surroundings can potentially still be reversed,’ van den Hurk said.

Research in this article was funded via the EU’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA).  This article was originally published in Horizon, the EU Research and Innovation Magazine. 

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Five ways media and journalists can support climate action while tackling misinformation

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It’s a fact: media shapes the public discourse about climate change and how to respond to it. Even the UN’s own Intergovernmental Panel of Experts on Climate Change (IPCC) warned clearly of this for the first time in the latest of its landmark series of reports.According to the IPCC, this “shaping” power can usefully build public support to accelerate climate mitigation – the efforts to reduce or prevent the emission of the greenhouse gases that are heating our planet – but it can also be used to do exactly the opposite.

This places a huge responsibility on media companies and journalists.

The Panel also noted that global media coverage of climate-related stories, across a study of 59 countries, has been growing; from about 47,000 articles in 2016-17 to about 87,000 in 2020-21.

Generally, the media representation of climate science has increased and become more accurate over time, but “on occasion, the propagation of scientifically misleading information by organized counter-movements has fuelled polarization, with negative implications for climate policy”, IPCC experts explain.

Moreover, media professionals have at times drawn on the norm of representing “both sides of a controversy”, bearing the risk of a disproportionate representation of scepticism on the scientifically proven fact that humans contribute to climate change.

So how can journalists be a force for good amid these challenges and what UN Secretary-General António Guterres has deemed a ‘current climate emergency’?

UN News spoke with Andrew Revkin, one of the most honoured and experienced environmental journalists in the United States, and the founding director of the new Initiative on Communication and Sustainability at Columbia University’s Earth Institute.

Mr. Revkin has been writing about climate change for decades, even before the IPCC was created 30 years ago, for renowned media organizations such as The New York Times, National Geographic and Discover Magazine. He has also participated in events led by the UN Environmental Programme, the UN Office of Disaster Risk Reduction, UN-Habitat and other UN agencies.

Drawing on Mr. Revkin’s broad experience, and the expertise of UNESCO and the IPCC, here are five ways in which journalism can support climate action and fight misinformation.

1. Stop being so (overly) dramatic

As climate change takes hold, people are increasingly demanding information about what is happening, and also about what they and their governments can do about it.

According to UNESCO, three of the media’s traditional roles – informing audiences, acting as watchdogs, and campaigning on social issues – are especially relevant in the context of a changing climate.

Mr. Revkin explains that journalists are attracted to voices that are out in the landscape, and “subservient” to how the story is being framed, whether it is by the UN Secretary-General, or by activists blockading a street in London or New York.

“I’ve been on the Greenland ice sheet. I’ve written hundreds of stories about sea level. The range of sea level rise by 2100 is still kind of where it was when I wrote my first story [for Discovery Magazine] back in 1988. So, when you put all that together, we end up conveying unfortunately more of a problem story to the public”, he says.

The journalist adds that modern media also tries to get people’s attention amid a lot of competing priorities, and there is a “tendency” to latch onto the dramatic angle.

“I run a programme where I’m trying to, among other things, get people to stop and think about the words they use. When you use the word “collapse” to talk about a glacier, are you thinking in the many centuries timescale that the scientists are thinking, or are you thinking about collapse like when the World Trade Centre [towers] fell? It’s really important to be clearer when we choose words and how they might convey a false impression,” he underscores.

According to UNESCO, and studies carried out by the Thomson Reuters Institute, the “doom and gloom” narrative can also make some people simply “turn off” and lose interest.

“[The dramatic angle] will get you the clicks. But one thing I say a lot these days is if clicks are the metric of success in environmental journalism, then, we’re kind of doomed because what you really want is to build an engaged back and forth with readers and with experts so that you as a medium, or journalist of a media company, become a kind of trusted guide,” Mr. Revkin highlights.

2. A climate change story goes beyond (the) climate

Part of getting away from the doom and gloom and inspiring that engagement with readers and science experts is to realize that climate change is not just “a story”, but the context in which so many other stories will unfold.

“If you start your day thinking about questions like ‘how do I reduce climate and energy risk?’, ‘how do I define it and help communities grapple with that?’ then it really changes everything. Because I could keep writing stories warning how global warming is [progressing] or how this is going to be the 4th hottest year in history, and that is part of what journalism does, but it doesn’t move us anywhere towards risk reduction,” Mr. Revkin argues.

He says that taking a more contextual approach can also create space for stories that might go unreported otherwise.

“It’s about creating a pathway for impact. Sometimes the output won’t be a story, but it could be a tool. For example, a [savings] calculator.”

As an example, the journalist cites an online calculator created by an American NGO called Rewiring America. By inputting a few personal details, individuals can learn how much money they may be eligible for under the Inflation Reduction Act (a recent Congressional legislation that reportedly sets up the largest investment in combating climate change in US history) by switching to cleaner energy options.

“Do you know as a person in Ohio, what the benefits of this new climate legislation will be for you? How easy could you transition your home to solar or think about getting an electric vehicle? And you know, what will be the benefits? That’s the kind of thing [it will show] and could be just as true anywhere in the world,” he highlights.

The calculator does not mention climate change on its website, but it motivates users to switch to cleaner energy because of the benefits they might get.

“In the case of developing countries, the most important new information to convey is about risk, environmental risk, flood risk and also energy opportunities. And this is very different from the way journalism operated when I was a lot younger,” Mr. Revkin explains.

Indeed, in a handbook for journalists, UNESCO states that contrary to popular belief, climate is an issue full of knock-on concerns that can sell newspapers and attract new audiences online, in print and on the airwaves;  journalists don’t really need to put ‘climate’ in their headlines to tell good climate change stories.

3. ‘Get local’ and think more about climate justice

The IPCC scientists have also recognized how “explicit” attention to equity and justice is important for both social acceptance and fair and effective legislation to respond to climate change.

By analysing local contexts and social factors, journalists can also create stories related to climate justice.

“Energy risk is not just about stopping fossil fuels if you are in a developing country that hasn’t contributed any greenhouse emissions at all, if you are living a life of 0.1 tons of CO2 per year in rural Rwanda… So, anyone who’s writing simplistic stories about fossil fuel use is missing [the point that] that energy vulnerability matters too,” Mr. Revkin says.

He also gives as an example the Durban floods and landslides in South Africa earlier this year that left nearly 450 dead and displaced some 40,000. A local geographer, Catherine Sutherland, studied the areas where people had drowned and where the worst damage had occurred.

“That problem [was about so much more than] climate. It was about vulnerability created by racial and poverty drivers. Where do you live when you have no money and no power? You live in the places where no one else will live because they know they’re going to get flooded. So that’s the story. That’s where the whole idea of climate justice comes from. It’s too simplistic to say it’s just about fossil fuels,” the journalist adds.

Mr. Revkin underscores that energy decisions and climate vulnerability are largely a function of local conditions, which means they are a “very important part of the story”.

“For example, the World Weather Attribution Project has been doing a rapid analysis of how much global warming contributed to the recent disaster in Pakistan. Journalists focused on climate change because it is important, but each of those reports also has a section on the other drivers of loss, like where and how people were settled, government policies related to how water damns are handled, and flood infrastructure that is too vulnerable.”

For the Columbia scholar, it is important to build a community of local journalists that has a “climate risk lens” in their reporting toolkit.

“Everyone will be better off because you’ll be able to navigate all these factors more effectively and potentially with more impact for your community,” he explains.

4. Build trust and engagement that can combat dis/misinformation

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, journalists from The Atlantic realized that there was a flood of unreliable information online and so, with the help of some epidemiologists, they created a COVID-19 tracker which became a vital tool for people.

The Atlantic is best known for doing nice narrative articles about things… but to me, the COVID-19 tracker exemplifies this other possibility, and the same can be said for climate,” Mr. Revkin notes.

He mentions the work of geographer Stephen M. Strader, which examines the “expanding bulls-eye” of climate hazards.

“Every year there’s typhoons, hurricanes and cyclones…But when a cyclone hits the shore the losses are [based on] of how many people are there, how much stuff is there and how prepared they are for taking a hit.”

Mr. Revkin provides as an example the case of Bangladesh, which he deems a remarkable success story.

“When I was a kid they had horrific losses, hundreds of thousands of people killed because of flooding related to cyclones. And while every death is terrible, the [fatalities] are now measured in the dozens, and from the same kind of storm [or stronger]. So, there is a way in which you can actually not just tell people and policymakers how big the storm is, but tell them what the expanding bullseye is, and not just report on the climate part, but the losses driven by the [overall] landscape.”

According to Mr. Revkin, normalizing and creating a simple way to have a “risk formulation” in journalists’ stories would be a major tool to combat misinformation.

“You build trust, you build engagement, and you get around this idea of “it’s a hoax” because you’re talking about risk…There will always be ideological arguments around that, just like there are around vaccination, I have a close relative who never got vaccinated. I love him, you know, but I’m not going to change him with a story. So, then I have to think at the community level. What can I do?”.

For him, a good example is the Solutions Journalism movement, which investigates and explains how people are trying to solve widely shared problems.

“I think a lot of traditional reporters think of solutions journalism, and they think ‘oh you’re like selling happy talk’, but no. [Taking into account the] expanding bullseye, for example, we can inform communities about practices that can foster resilience where vulnerability is greatest. And it’s still society’s responsibility to grapple with that, but it just makes it easier for them to figure out what to do”.

For Mr. Revkin, climate change is a complex and multidimensional issue. Thinking of that, he realized when he worked for The NY Times that sometimes a blog could fit the issue better than a “classic front-page story”. In that spirit, he created Dot Earth, which ran from 2007 until 2016.

“Who will succeed [in journalism] is the one who is more like a mountain guide after an avalanche than a traditional stenographer. Meaning that you have people develop an understanding and trust in you as an honest broker, amid all this contention and you know, conflicting arguments, and follow along”.

He calls it “engagement journalism”, reporting that gets past “the headline approach” and that emerges from a dynamic conversation with the community.

“I’d like to see ways for the big media, such as BBC, to adopt or integrate and give voice to the community of local journalists more, instead of [them] having to own the story,” he emphasises.

Another way to create this conversation, he argues, is to move away from an advertising business model and into a more subscription-based one.

“A tool and a portal through which communities can identify more clearly the risks and solutions around them… You’re not buying a story. You’re buying a relationship with a guide you know. I think that’s …how I would love to see that mature, as a real viable model for journalism going forward in a changing climate.”

5. Be guided by science and embrace ’yes’

Mr. Revkin talks about a shifting relationship between journalism and scientists that he sees as positive.

“It used to be me with a microphone interviewing you the glacier expert. Increasingly, you’re seeing these examples of scientists coming into the newsroom and helping to build models whether it’s COVID or climate. I’m sure there are many outlets around the world that have started to do this, so that requires a whole new learning curve.” he explains.

The journalist underscored that looking back over the more than 30 years of his experience, the story of environmentalism was for decades framed by the word “stop” (stop polluting, stop fracking), but has now shifted into a call for activism and is framed by the word “start”.

“For example, in the United States, there’s now 370 billion to spend in 10 years on clean energy. But how does that happen after decades of ‘stop’? How do we have more transmission lines? How do we do that in a way that is just for people who tend to be the dumping ground for all our infrastructure? That’s the news story. It’s a ‘start’ story … a ‘yes’ story. It’s activism of ‘yes’ and it’s for journalists. It’s been too easy to write the scary stories”.

Indeed, UNESCO tells us that coverage of climate change means several things. At the local level, it can save lives, formulate plans, change policy and empower people to make informed choices. Through informed reporting, journalists can shine a light on the wealth of activities that people are already undertaking to prepare for climate change.

On an international level, journalism can also bring regional stories to global audiences and help encourage the rich and powerful countries, their citizens and the companies based there, to act in solidarity with climate-vulnerable communities.

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Youth Pessimistic Attitude and Their Noteworthy Role as Climate Justice Norm Entrepreneur

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What we do or don’t do right now, will affect my entire life and the lives of my children and grandchildren. What we do or don’t do right now, me and my generation can’t undo in the future” – Greta Thunberg At the TEDxStockholm on November 23, 2018

That is just one of the many discordant statements voiced by Greta Thunberg (19) on behalf of her generation in order to respond to the inability of world leaders who are more likely to provide “lip service” yet lack of action to deal with the current climate crisis. According to her, the agenda of international climate negotiations is merely an opera, full of nonsense pledges and false hope, because behind it developed countries are still trying to find a way out to maintain their status quo and do not have to proceed with bigger sacrifices. Even though the world has collectively launched its commitment to Net Zero 2050. Net Zero by 2050. Blah, blah, blah”. Thunberg’s threw criticism again.

What is the importance of climate change for the youth?

Youth is a demographic category aged 15-25, according to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs definition. Kegan (1982) argued that youth have belief systems, values, views of the world, hold hope for the future and are at a stage where they actively try to connect themselves with their environment. Then why do they have a high awareness and concern for the climate? Based on the 2013 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, 2050 will be the time when children born in 2000 will live with CO2 concentrations across the atmosphere of 463 and 623 parts per million volume (ppmv), higher than 400 ppmv in 2016. They will live crammed on an earth that is 0.8 oC – 2.6 oC hotter with sea levels rising 5 – 32 cm compared to 1990s. Thus, what today’s world leaders decide, will borne by future generations. In addition, based on the narratives of Strazdin and Skeat, some scientists think that young people’s concern for the issue of climate change is also caused by the spread of ideas related to the adverse effects of climate change.

Thunberg doesn’t seem to be the only young person worried about the future. Based on the results of a collaborative study by Bath University with five other universities (2021) on 10,000 young people aged 16-25 years, 60% of them are worried and very worried about their survival in the future. Many of them also feel betrayed, ignored and even discarded by politicians in the form of adults.

As a logical consequence, nowadays, climate change activism is enlivened by the presence of young people. Name it Fridays For Future (FFF), for instance. This movement is a follow-up to school strikes for climate by school children in Sweden. No one thought that Thurnberg’s decision to skip school every Friday to demonstrate alone in front of The Riksdag (Swedish Parliament) on demand towards the government’s seriousness in dealing with climate change could give rise to a movement that is currently growing very rapidly. Relatively new, FFF has been able to attract 14 million people from 7,500 cities around the world (Fridays For Future 2022) to work hand in hand fighting the climate crisis and structural problems that surround it. The birth of Fridays For Future in 2019 represents the rise of a new face for the movement against global climate change (Moor 2020). Through a five-day consensus in Lausanne Switzerland in August 2019, Fridays For Future has adopted the Lausanne Climate Declaration with three points of demands to world leaders (Fridays For Future 2022). First, maintaining the increase in global temperature to remain below 1.5 oC compared to pre-industrial era levels. Second, ensuring the realization of climate justice and equality. Third, urges all stakeholders to not be anti-science and be guided by the existing epistemic community. Furthermore, Thunberg’s FFF is not the only attribute of the young generation’s struggle against climate change, besides encouraging stagnation of decision-making at the international forum. There are other great young figures, such as Vanessa Nakate, Mya-Rose Craig, Xiuhtezcatl, Nyombi Morris, Lycipriya Kangujam, Xiye Bastida, Lasein Mutunkei, Luisa Neubauer, Xiyun Wu, Daniel Koto Dagnon and Autumn Peltier. They are also struggling to prove the real power of youth as agents of change, and participate in fighting for climate justice for their communities and the world.

Youth as Climate Justice Norm Entrepreneur

Talking about climate change means talking about justice. This is validated by David Pellow’s opinion which states that climate change is an issue of justice. Justice requires recognition that allows marginalized groups to follow participatory decision-making procedures in a system. Climate justice is seen as a norm that must be agreed upon before combating the impacts of climate change. Norms in the science of International Relations are defined as standards of appropriateness of action that are accepted and mutually agreed upon or a set of collective expectations regarding actions that are considered appropriate by international actors. And youth can be considered as norm entrepreneurs. In her research, Dorota Heidrich explains that climate change activists by global youth (represented by Thunberg) can be categorized as norm entrepreneurs. Heidrich considered two things. First, do their activities meet the criteria to be called norm entrepreneurs? Second, do their activities provide a significant stimulus to encourage action by states, international institutions and the international system as a whole?

Answering first question, youth climate activism meets the requirements of norm entrepreneur. The most prominent character of their movement is the massive use of social media and the label of marginalized groups with unheard voices in the political space of adult domination as validation of their actions. Youth as a norm entrepreneur is present as a new element in the public sphere that enhances the process of formation, diffusion and internalization of norms, especially climate justice. Heidrich refers to the constructivism assumption, that actors with certain identities and interests have the capacity to bring changes in the structure. Climate change activism by youth can stimulate decision-making by other international political actors, particularly states and international governmental organizations. As tangible evidence, look at how Thunberg has been involved in various prestigious international climate forums, criticizing world leaders right in front of their eyes with her fierce shaming communication technique. Then she also personally met with big figures such as Barrack Obama, Jeremy Corbin, Pope Francis, Antonio Guterres to Angela Merkel for one purpose. Crystal clear, realizing climate justice for the sake of her generation.  

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