Not every penguin is up to the challenge of living in the Antarctic, but those that do are a special sort of awesome. Remember, they don’t have the luxury of being able to fly away again if the weather turns bad.
In honour of Penguin Awareness Day today and while we’re in the Antarctic campaigning to protect their home*, here’s our countdown of the most flippering fantastic Antarctic penguins.
Prepare to be impressed.
*And you can join the movement to create the world’s largest protected area and a safe haven for penguins - an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary.
Gentoo penguin in the Antarctic, 17 Jan 2018
Gentoo penguins are easy to identify by the natty white triangular patch above their eyes, which stretches across the top of their heads. They prefer ice free areas, so they stick to the coastline of the Antarctic Peninsula and offshore islands.
Gentoos have sticky-out brush-like tails, and can throw their heads back to make a very loud trumpeting noise, a honk that sounds much more impressive than their 75cm stature would suggest.
Plucky little gentoos can make hundreds of dives every day while foraging for fish, krill and small squid, and are thought to be the fastest swimming penguin underwater, reaching speeds up to 36km per hour.
Macaroni penguins, Macquarie Island, 1 Feb 1990
No, it’s not just a type of pasta, it’s also a species of penguin, close cousin to the better-known Rockhopper. The monogamous Macaroni is the most southerly of the crested penguins, doesn’t seem to venture much beyond Antarctic waters, and nests on the Antarctic Peninsula as well as nearby islands. With a splendid yellow mop of a crest, these krill-munching bumbling blond bombshells might seem more suited to political office...
Chinstrap penguin in the Antarctic, 17 Jan 2018
These are the penguins that look like they should be wearing a helmet. Chinstraps can look squat and serious, and that’s fair enough, as their lot is no laughing matter.
Monogamous, they return to the same partner and busy breeding site every year, often choosing hard-to-reach rocky islands to keep themselves and their chicks safe – but that safety comes at a cost as they have to navigate perilous rocky cliffs, and stormy Antarctic seas to be able to feed their mate and their young. A helmet might not be a bad idea after all, guys…
Emperor Penguin in the Antarctic, 1 Jan 1989
Narrowly missing out on the top spot is the daddy of them all – the Emperor penguin. The biggest living penguin species, they can reach a whopping 1.3 metres tall, and weigh up to 40kgs, about the same as a 12 year old child. Not only are they the biggest, but they also dive the deepest, down at least 550m into the icy Antarctic ocean to catch fish and squid.
Scientists have recently discovered that emperor penguins are especially well adapted to life underwater thanks to bubbles making them as streamlined and hydrodynamic than any Olympic swimmer. Emperor penguins are proper hardcore - not only do they survive the harsh winter on the continent of Antarctica, but they also breed and raise their fluffy chicks in the middle of it.
Massive huddles of stay-at-home dads continuously shuffle around to stay warm and protect their eggs and newly-hatched chicks, whilst the females go off hunting to bring back food. They are undoubtedly the most Antarctic of all the penguins, and definitely win a ‘best dad’ award too.
But since you missed out on the prize by a beak, sashay away Emperors!
Adélie penguin colony in Antarctica, 17 Jan 2018
Top of the pile, is the Antarctic’s very own rockstar penguin – the cute, cuddly, and utterly badass Adelies. Growing to no more than 70cm, these pocket rockets might seem ill-equipped when waddling on land, but are top krill-catching torpedoes in the water.
These little penguins are ridiculously adorable, and probably the most penguiny of all penguins, but behind those cute and cuddly looks lies a tough Antarctic specialist. Found all around the Antarctic coast, they breed nowhere else on earth, and spend winters offshore in the Antarctic ocean.
They are so tough, that they make their nests out of rocks! Rocks and pebbles are the currency that keeps Adelie society functioning – being offered as love tokens to woo a mate, pinched from neighbours when they are not looking, and, err, traded for stolen moments of passion.
Yes, the big brave Emperors are the undisputed king on the icy continent itself, but for sheer penguin awesomeness, entertainment and pebble-pinching prowess, we think the pint-sized pluck of the Adelies makes them Antarctic’s top penguin.
Willie Mackenzie is an oceans campaigner at Greenpeace UK
Plastics are in the air. Not only literally. Everyone's talking about plastic pollution and the need to take action.
You don’t need to be conducting a scientific research to see that plastic waste is invading our environment, specially our oceans. With up to 12 million tons of plastic entering the oceans every year it is not surprising that we find plastic everywhere, not only polluting the water and severely impacting marine species, but also accumulating in the food chain.
Plastic-Spitting Dragon Protests at Our Oceans Conference in Malta. 5 Oct. 2017.
And so people all over the world are building up a movement to transition to a society free of single-use plastic and the throw-away culture it entails. Whether it be by individual action and changing everyday habits, by signing petitions or by creating change in their communities and local businesses.
The movement to #BreakFreeFromPlastic is on the rise and there’s no stopping it!
But where are we on policy? This week, the European Commission has released the European Plastics Strategy. A document that reflects the vision and the objectives of the Commission on this issue and that will be translated into measures and actions.
The European Union (together with countries in the North American Free Trade Agreement) is the second largest producer of plastic after China.
We need to change these numbers. It seems like this new EU strategy echoes this urgency and is certainly something worth praising. But once we get to the details, it seems to go down the usual path.
There’s certainly some good ideas, like treating microplastic ingredients (including cosmetic microbeads) as toxic pollution using the EU chemical regulation.
And it sets a target that by 2030, 100% of plastic packaging in the EU market will be reusable or recyclable, with a first legislative proposal in 2018 to tackle some single use items. Promising!
But again we find a text too focused on recycling. It’s all over the place. While reduction and reuse is hardly mentioned. Their target won’t be achieved without reducing the production and consumption of plastic packaging and single-use items, much of which are unnecessary in the first place and have already existing alternatives waiting to be scaled up.
Deposit return schemes are increasingly being implemented. Bulk stores are blooming in many places, water fountains are coming back to cities and public places, and reusable items are coming into fashion. But alternatives need to be backed up by bold and ambitious political measures.
So if you are a European citizen, watch out for changes in our legislations and be ready to ask your national government to ensure single-use plastic item bans are fast tracked as the crisis is urgent and the EU process can take years. It’s a real opportunity for change and we mustn’t let it slip!
And even if you’re not in Europe, we still need your support. In a globalised world, whatever happens in the European region will have impact in other regions, through companies headquartered in the EU, trade or by simply, and most importantly, setting an example for others to follow that ambitious measures can be taken to phase-out single-use plastic.
While we wait for the next political move, you can still do your part. Whether it be refusing straws, bags, using refillable bottles or taking community action. Every step counts, no matter how big or small. Pick yours and start today to join the movement! We can all #BreakFreeFromPlastic!
Elvira Jiménez is EU Plastics Project leader with Greenpeace Spain
Greenpeace is famous for campaigning against corporations.
We made “Choke” out of Coca-Cola's logo to draw attention to the massive plastic pollution impact they have around the world.
Polar bear hijacks Coke’s holiday advertising in London. 5 Dec, 2017
We stand in the way of imports of dirty cars and expose corporate misbehaviour wherever we encounter it.
The public image of Greenpeace is often one of "corporate bashers". We can indeed be pretty harsh and irreverent when calling attention to corporate misdeeds, like in this satire video.
Of course, we don't believe that everyone in a corporation thinks like the man in the video. There are many in business - and many businesses - that want to do the right thing for people and planet. We applaud them.
Greenpeace never says no without offering an alternative. We are so committed to getting the solutions our world needs adopted fast, that we are, at times, willing to praise corporations that are still part of the problem.
We'll say “well done” to Coca Cola for eliminating climate damaging refrigerants from their cooling equipment because it benefits our climate and future generations. But we do so in the context of us demanding more fundamental change. And we do so at the very same time as we campaign against them on plastic pollution.
We have “no permanent friends or enemies”. That's part of our core values - and it works to achieve change. The work with Coca-Cola to eliminate climate damaging gases, for example, also started as a brand jam when they were providing the “green Sydney Olympics” with cooling equipment that destroyed our climate.
Campaign against the use of HFCs in fridges by the Sydney Olympics sponsor, Coca-Cola. 14 Jun, 2000
It’s a fact, though, that corporations who misbehave are too rarely punished - and too often have captured our political leaders. The public good - our planet, our future - is the loser.
You can see that clearly in our new report Justice for People and Planet, which showcases 20 case studies of corporate capture, collusion and impunity. The report describes how some corporations have abused and violated human and environmental rights around the world. The examples are as shocking as they are diverse, ranging from deforestation, water and air pollution, plastic pollution, or waste dumping, to chemical spills, nuclear disaster, violations of Indigenous rights and more.
The report argues that it is the rules that govern our global economy (and lack thereof) that are the real reason behind such corporate misdeeds. Economic globalisation has created significant governance gaps. There are no enforceable social and environmental global rules governing global economic players.
That we lack these rules to deliver a sustainable and fair economy worldwide is the result of specific political choices by our leaders. The cases presented in our report show that corporate impunity for environmental destruction and human rights violations is a result of the current economic and legal systems.
The failure to protect human rights and the environment is often caused by state institutions and decision-makers being captured by specific corporate interests. This all too often leads to politicians failing to pass binding laws and failing to ensure corporations are held to account.
There is a different way. Effective state action could end corporate capture and close the governance gap. Global regulations with teeth are clearly possible – they exist! The World Trade Organisation, for example, can sanction countries that break its rules.
We need similarly strong roles for the environment and human rights. That’s why we're putting forward 10 Principles for Corporate Accountability:
You can find much more detail about these principles (and why they are needed) in the report itself.
And you can, like us, take heart in some steps in the right direction that are already underway: France, recently required corporations to identify potential risks to people and the environment as a result of their activities, and act to prevent harm to people and the environment.
Switzerland is gearing up for a people’s referendum that would legally oblige corporations to incorporate respect for human rights and the environment in all their business activities.
New specialised laws such as the UK’s Modern Slavery Act also require businesses to tackle slavery and human trafficking in their supply chains.
All these show how governments can make rules with teeth to govern corporate activities around the world. If they want to.
Statue of Justice Activity in Davos. 18 Jan, 2018
A more just and sustainable world is possible. If all who want a livable planet push for it - together. Are you in?
Daniel Mittler is the Political Director of Greenpeace International
This morning, people around the world are waking up to pictures of penguin sightings across the globe. The penguins have been spotted travelling on trains, arriving at international airports and at iconic landmarks. From Sydney to Buenos Aires and from London to Johannesburg, the question on everybody’s mind - what are they here for?
The penguins are part of a new Greenpeace campaign calling for the creation of the largest protected area on earth: a 1.8 million square kilometre ocean sanctuary in the Antarctic. An Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary that would form a safe haven for penguins, whales and seals. A Sanctuary that keeps away industrial fishing vessels sucking up the tiny shrimp-like krill, that Antarctic life relies on. An Antarctic Sanctuary that limits the impact of climate change. A Sanctuary that would help secure the health of our oceans.
This Sanctuary will only happen if we demand that our leaders protect our shared oceans. This year we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to make it happen - the Antarctic Ocean Commission meets to discuss the proposal in October.
We need to stand with the penguins and make world leaders listen to us, all of us! Join the movement to protect the Antarctic www.protecttheantarctic.org
And share the pictures below if you enjoy them as much as I did.
Seeing the sites in Barcelona before hitting the Spanish coast with snorkel and fins.
Arriving in Sydney, wasting no time in seeing the iconic Sydney Opera House after the flight.
Grabbing some cool shade in Argentina’s Buenos Aires while waiting for a bus.
Riding around in a London cab and getting a good look at the beautiful Tower Bridge.
Wandering around looking for Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Feeling upside down on the other side of the world stopping off in wintry cold Stockholm en-route to the Arctic.
Taking in the amazing Gwanghwamun Gate and Gwanghwamun Square in South Korea. Tourist mode on.
Ticking off one of the world’s greatest cities, Berlin, to grab another all important suitcase travel sticker.
Tagging along on a guided tour of Berlin by the The Brandenburg Gate.
Spotted in Hamburg causing a flap amongst the local seagulls.
Posing for travellers at Washington National Airport in the United States.
Arriving at sunset to Han river, which divides Seoul from east to west.
Getting directions to Hamburg’s famous Miniatur Wunderland from a passer by in the hauptbahnhof.
Literally hanging out at Caminito street museum in La Boca, Buenos Aires.
Akshey Kalra is a campaigner with Greenpeace UK.
As I write this, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise, is sailing South. For the next three months, the crew will be working alongside a team of campaigners, photographers, film-makers, scientists and journalists from across the globe to build the case for the world’s largest protected area: an Antarctic Ocean Sanctuary.
Weathered Iceberg in the Antarctic Ocean, 2008
The Antarctic is home to an abundance of wildlife. Whales, penguins and colossal squid are just a few of the many animals who call it home. And it’s not just important to animals - the health of our oceans sustains our planet, and provides billions of people with their livelihoods. But threats from overfishing, plastic pollution and climate change mean we urgently need a network of sanctuaries across the world to restore our oceans’ health.
And this year, we have the chance to create the world’s largest protected area. Which is why we’re taking to the seas.
From exploring previously unseen parts of the seabed, to documenting the impact of climate change and the fishing industry on penguin colonies, this promises to be a journey like no other. We’ll be bringing the charismatic wildlife of the Antarctic closer to you than ever before and introducing you to the passionate scientists who have devoted their lives to protect it. Because we need you to join them.
I think it’s fair to say most of us work well to a deadline. Something about having a due date helps focus the mind and gets the creative juices going. Well, we have a new deadline: October 2018.
In just over nine months’ time the Antarctic Ocean Commission meets to discuss whether or not to make history and create the world’s largest protected area. We have until then to convince the members of this Commission to put aside their differences and create a safe haven for emperor penguins, blue whales, colossal squid and all the other Antarctic animals.
Adeli Penguins in the Antarctic Ocean, 2008
We now have nine months to show leaders across the world how important it is to protect the ocean at a larger scale than ever before – for the wildlife that calls it home, for the sake of preventing the worst impacts of climate change and for the livelihoods of more than half the people who live on the planet, who depend on the ocean for their food.
The case for protecting our oceans has never been stronger, with new science emerging every day about how healthy oceans are vital for our future.
There are leaders representing 24 countries and the EU meeting to make this decision. So in the coming months we’ll be sending them a message: the journey to protect our blue planet begins in the Antarctic.
While there’s only a few of us in the team headed south, you can make it a team of millions. You can help persuade politicians across the globe to work together for the oceans.
Crew on board the Arctic Sunrise before it leaves for the Antarctic, 2018
As we work with scientists to discover new habitats on the Antarctic seabed, as we bear witness to the fishing boats competing against penguins and whales to find the krill they feed on – it’s your support that’s going to make politicians listen.
As the Arctic Sunrise sets sail today, I’ll be the first to admit it is a little daunting – not just the prospect of three months sailing in one of the wildest parts of the planet, but also the challenge of getting so many governments to agree with each other!
We’re aiming high because we have to. From the smallest creatures on earth to the largest, we need healthy oceans for the future of life on earth. Right now we have the opportunity to protect an area of the Antarctic Ocean that is six times the size of Italy. We need to do everything we can to seize it.
Get started by adding your voice here.
Already signed the petition? Share it with your friends
Will McCallum is an Oceans Campaigner with Greenpeace UK
"The goal of life is living in agreement with nature."— Zeno ~ 450 BC (from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers)
Homo sapiens roamed the Earth. We can only speculate about how these early humans reacted, but migrating to new habitats appears to be a common response.
Jasper National Park in Canada, 2017
Ecological awareness first appears in the human record at least 5,000 years ago. Vedic sages praised the wild forests in their hymns, Taoists urged that human life should reflect nature's patterns and the Buddha taught compassion for all sentient beings.
In the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh, we see apprehension about forest destruction and drying marshes. When Gilgamesh cuts down sacred trees, the deities curse Sumer with drought, and Ishtar (mother of the Earth goddess) sends the Bull of Heaven to punish Gilgamesh.
In ancient Greek mythology, when the hunter Orion vows to kill all the animals, Gaia objects and creates a great scorpion to kill Orion. When the scorpion fails, Artemis, goddess of the forests and mistress of animals, shoots Orion with an arrow.
In North America, Pawnee Eagle Chief, Letakots-Lesa, told anthropologist Natalie Curtis that "Tirawa, the one Above, did not speak directly to humans... he showed himself through the beasts, and from them and from the stars, the sun, and the moon should humans learn."
Some of the earliest human stories contain lessons about the sacredness of wilderness, the importance of restraining our power, and our obligation to care for the natural world.
Five thousand years ago, the Indus civilisation of Mohenjo Darro (an ancient city in modern-day Pakistan), were already recognising the effects of pollution on human health and practiced waste management and sanitation. In Greece, as deforestation led to soil erosion, the philosopher Plato lamented, "All the richer and softer parts have fallen away, and the mere skeleton of the land remains." Communities in China, India, and Peru understood the impact of soil erosion and prevented it by creating terraces, crop rotation, and nutrient recycling.
The Greek physicians Hippocrates and Galen began to observe environmental health problems such as acid contamination in copper miners. Hippocrates' book, De aëre, aquis et locis (Air, Waters, and Places), is the earliest surviving European work on human ecology.
Advancing agriculture boosted human populations but also caused soil erosion and attracted insect infestations that led to severe famines between 200 and 1200 CE.
In 1306, the English king Edward I limited coal burning in London due to smog. In the 17th century, the naturalist and gardener John Evelyn wrote that London resembled "the suburbs of Hell." These events inspired the first ‘renewable’ energy boom in Europe, as governments started to subsidise water and wind power.
In the 16th century, the Dutch artist Pieter Bruegel the Elder painted scenes of raw sewage and other pollution emptying into rivers, and Dutch lawyer Hugo Grotius wrote The Free Sea, claiming that pollution and war violate natural law.
Netherlandish Proverbs (1559) - Pieter Bruegel the Elder. If you look closely at the mid-ground to the right, you can see a wealthy man dumping money into the sewage.
Perhaps the first real environmental activists were the Bishnoi Hindus of Khejarli, who were slaughtered by the Maharaja of Jodhpur in 1720 for attempting to protect the forest that he felled to build himself a palace.
The 18th century witnessed the dawn of modern environmental rights. After a yellow fever epidemic in Philadelphia, Benjamin Franklin petitioned to manage waste and to remove tanneries for clean air as a public "right" (albeit, on land stolen from Indigenous nations). Later, American artist George Catlin proposed that Indigenous land be protected as a "natural right".
At the same time in Britain, Jeremy Benthu, wrote An Introduction to Principles of Morals and Legislation which argued for animal rights. Thomas Malthus wrote his famous essay warning that human overpopulation would lead to ecological destruction. Knowledge of global warming began 200 years ago, when Jean Baptiste Fourier calculated that the Earth's atmosphere trapped heat like a greenhouse.
Then, in 1835, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote Nature, encouraging us to appreciate the natural world for its own sake and proposing a limit on human expansion into the wilderness. American Botanist William Bartram and ornithologist James Audubon dedicated themselves to the conservation of wildlife. Henry David Thoreau wrote his seminal ecological treatise, Walden, which has since inspired generations of environmentalists.
Man and nature in the Spessart Mountains, 2017
A few decades later, George Perkins Marsh wrote Man and Nature, denouncing humanity's indiscriminate "warfare" upon wilderness, warning of climate change, and insisting that "The world cannot afford to wait" - a plea we still hear today.
At the end of the 19th century, in Jena, Germany, zoologist Ernst Haeckel wrote Generelle Morphologie der Organismen in which he discussed the relationships among species and coined the word ‘ökologie’ (from the Greek oikos, meaning home), the science we now know as ecology.
In 1892, John Muir founded the Sierra Club in the US to protect the country’s wilderness. Seventy years later, a chapter of the Sierra Club in western Canada broke away to become more active. This was the beginning of Greenpeace.
"That land is a community is the basic concept of ecology," wrote Aldo Leopold in A Sand County Almanac, "but that land is to be loved and respected is an extension of ethics ... a thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”
Customary landowner, Auwagi Sekapiya, of the Ubei Clan; Kosuo tribe in Papua New Guinea, 2003.
In the early 20th century, the chemist Alice Hamilton led a campaign against lead poisoning from leaded gasoline, accusing General Motors of willful murder. The corporation attacked Hamilton, and it took governments 50 years to ban leaded gasoline. Meanwhile, industrial smog choked major world cities. In 1952, 4,000 people died in London's infamous killer fog, and four years later the British Parliament passed the first Clean Air Act.
Ecology grew into a full-fledged, global movement with the development of nuclear weapons. Albert Einstein, who felt morally troubled by his contribution to the nuclear bomb, drafted an anti-nuclear manifesto in 1955 with British philosopher Bertrand Russell, signed by ten Nobel Prize winners. The letter inspired the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, in the UK - a model for modern, non-violent civil disobedience. In 1958, the Quaker Committee for Non-Violent Action launched two boats - the Golden Rule and Phoenix - into US nuclear test sites, a direct inspiration for Greenpeace a decade later.
Rachel Carson brought the environmental movement into focus with the 1962 publication of Silent Spring, describing the impact of chemical pesticides on biodiversity. “For the first time in the history of the world," she wrote, "every human being is now subjected to contact with dangerous chemicals.” Shortly before her death she expressed the emerging ecological ethic in a magazine essay: “It is a wholesome and necessary thing for us to turn again to the Earth and in the contemplation of her beauties to know the sense of wonder and humility.”
Norwegian philosopher Arne Næss cited Silent Spring as a key influence for his concept of ‘Deep Ecology’ - ecological awareness that goes beyond the logic of biological systems to a deep, personal experience of the self as an integrated part of nature.
In The Subversive Science, Paul Shepard described ecology as a "primordial axiom," revealed in ancient cultures, which should guide all human social constructions. Ecology was "subversive" to Shepard because it supplanted human exceptionalism with interdependence.
The ecology symbol designed by comic artist Ron Cobb
In India, villagers in Gopeshwar, Uttarakhand, inspired by Gandhi and the 18th century Bishnoi Hindus, defended the forest against commercial logging by encircling and embracing trees. Their movement spread across northern India, known as Chipko ("to embrace") - the original tree-huggers.
In 1968, the American writer Cliff Humphrey founded Ecology Action. One media stunt involved Humphrey gathering 60 people in Berkeley, California, to smash his 1958 Dodge Rambler into the street, declaring, “these things pollute the earth.” Prophetically, Humphrey told Greenpeace co-founder Bob Hunter, “This thing has just begun.”
A year later, inspired by the writings of Carson, Shepard, and Naess, and by the actions of Chipko and Ecology Action, a group of Canadian and American activists set out to merge peace with ecology, and Greenpeace was born.
Co-founder Ben Metcalfe commissioned 12 billboard signs around Vancouver that read:
Look it up.
It’s hard to imagine now, but in 1969, most people did have to look it up. Ecology was still not a household word, although it soon would be.
Crew of the Greenpeace, the original voyage to protest nuclear testing in Amchitka, 1971, with the ecology logo on our sail
In 1977, after two anti-nuclear bomb campaigns and confrontations with Soviet whalers and Norwegian sealers, Greenpeace purchased a retired trawler in London and renamed it the Rainbow Warrior, after a indigenous legend from Canada. The Cree story (recounted in Warriors of the Rainbow, by William Willoya and Vinson Brown) tells of a time when the land, rivers, and air are poisoned, and a group of people from all nations of the world band together to save the Earth.
Nearly a half-century after the foundation of Greenpeace, the global ecology movement has reached every corner of the world, with thousands of groups springing up to defend the environment. Meanwhile, the challenges facing us grow ever more daunting. The next half-century will test whether or not humanity can respond to the challenge.
Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.
Resources and Links:
Environmental History Timeline: Radford University
Ramachandra Guha: Environmentalism: A Global History, 2000
The European Society for Environmental History: ESEH.org
Environmental History, Oxford Journals
Donald Worster: Nature's Economy: A History of Ecological Ideas, 1977
J. D. Hughes: Ecology in Ancient Civilizations (U. New Mexico Press, 1975): Oxford Academic
Society for Environmental Journalists: sej.org
Letakots-Lesa (Eagle Chief) and Natalie Curtis on Pawnee songs: Entersection
William Willoya and Vinson Brown: Warriors of the Rainbow
Alice Hamilton, MD: Exploring The Dangerous Trades, 1943
Aldo Leopold: Sand County Almanac, 1949
Rachel Carson: Silent Spring, 1962
Barry Commoner: The Closing Circle, 1971
Paul Shepard: The Tender Carnivore and the Sacred Game, 1973
Gregory Bateson: Mind and Nature, 1978
Roderick Nash: The Rights of Nature, 1989
Deep Ecology for the 21st Century: A good survey of ecology writers, Arne Naess, Chellis Glendinning, Gary Snyder, Paul Shepard, and others
2017 has been a tough year. We’ve witnessed increased anti-immigration sentiment, a shift toward populism, the rise of far right movements and burgeoning inequality.
But we also saw people standing up in solidarity with others for justice and peace. There was extreme weather that we’ve never seen before: wildfires ravaged southern Europe, hurricanes battered the Americas, and droughts spread around the world.
Civil society groups and non governmental organisations saw the biggest crackdown on human rights and civil liberties in a generation.
Despite the grim realities on the ground and in cyberspace, Greenpeace staff and supporters continued to find moments to speak truth to power.
We continued to fight for a future that is fair, sustainable and benefits everyone, not just a few.
We look to the new year with humility but confidence, resilience and hope.
These victories are made possible with the help of our supporters, volunteers, staff and communities around the globe. Our wins demonstrate the power of collaboration. They show that we are stronger together and together we can continue to grow the movement for a just, peaceful and sustainable future.
Here is what we all achieved in 2017:
On Trump’s fifth day in office, Greenpeace US deployed a 70ft banner on a construction crane near the White House that read "RESIST" calling for those who want to resist Trump’s attacks on environmental, social, economic and educational justice to contribute to a better America. This one act received great media coverage and created momentum in the RESIST movement.
The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo announced it would cancel two illegal logging licenses following an investigation by Greenpeace Africa. The forest team probe exposed two logging licences that were given illegally to influential persons. They did this despite a direct threat to their lives.
Greenpeace Southeast Asia revealed HSBC - one of the biggest banks in the world - was funding destructive palm oil companies. We put pressure on HSBC to stop funding deforestation and contributing to human rights violations in Indonesia for palm oil. In March HSBC published a new “no deforestation” policy in a first step toward sustainable palm oil finance and saving the world’s tropical rainforests. HSBC revised its Agricultural Commodities Policy to include “No Deforestation, No Peat and No Exploitation” (NDPE) commitments in its financing of palm oil firms.
In Poland, after a more than 2-year campaign run by GP Poland/Central and Eastern Europe and the local community, the regional environmental authority RDOS issued a formal decision to not grant the environmental permit for the Ościsłowo open cast lignite mine (central Poland) planned by the lignite utility PAK. GP Poland was a formal party to the procedure and provided legal coordination, commissioned and coordinated expert input and ran the grassroots, media and political campaign. Though they won the fight, they expect an appeal.
With more than 170 peaceful protests, marches and festivals in more than 60 countries around the world, the growing movement to Break Free from fossil fuels showed it was tireless, unified and unstoppable. The demonstrations took place over three weeks, with more than 200 civil society groups, communities and more than 61,000 people calling for an end to fossil fuels. They called to limit global warming to 1.5°C and they demanded an immediate and just transition to renewable energy.
Greenpeace East Asia launched a campaign to extend the microplastic ban to all cosmetics and personal care products. 759 stores announced an immediate ban on all products containing microplastic.
In the Philippines, the Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) took on the scaling up work of the climate resiliency project which was piloted by Greenpeace Philippines. In partnership with R1, the DA will pilot the implementation in 300 proposed municipalities. This work forms part of the DA's proposed 2018 national budget allocation estimated at Php 450 million (US $ 9 million).
Thanks to the efforts of Greenpeace Switzerland, the cultivation of genetically modified crops (other than for research at secure site) is forbidden in Switzerland until the end of 2021. Working in coalition with beekeepers and the farmers union, we helped make Swiss agriculture a little safer.
South Korean announced a major shift towards renewables by phasing out nuclear and coal. In an ambitious speech, Moon promised to scrap existing plans for new nuclear plants and will not extend the life of old reactors; and promised to shut down 10 old coal power plants and cancel new coal projects.
In response to public pressure from the Rethink IT campaign, Samsung committed in February to refurbish its Note 7 instead of dumping 4.3 million phones with battery faults, and after the Make IT Last push in June, announced that it will start selling 400,000 of them.
UNESCO adopted a decision on Białowieża Forest which showed the actions of the Polish Environment Minister threatened the forest’s World Heritage status. UNESCO urged Poland to stop logging in the Białowieża Forest. The decision is based on a report by independent UNESCO experts who visited Białowieża Forest last year. It happened despite pressure from the Polish Ministry of Environment and State Forest Holding, who tried to convince delegates to change their decision. This is a victory for Poland, the Białowieża Forest and the international community. The European Commission announced it will take Poland to the European Court of Justice over the illegal logging of the Bialowieza Forest.
Following a global Greenpeace Campaign, the Thai Union Group PCL (the largest canned tuna company in the world) committed to measures that will tackle illegal fishing and overfishing and improve the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of workers throughout the company’s supply chains. The move is progress for oceans and marine life and for the rights of people working in the seafood industry.
Greenpeace Africa successfully crowdfunded with 249 backers to install solar street lights in an off-grid urban community in Johannesburg.
Greenpeace UK working with our allies helped to successfully lobby the UK government to enact a ban on microbeads sold in rinse-off cosmetics in the UK.
In the Clyde River Case the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of the Inuit hamlet of Clyde River in a landmark ruling that will have far-reaching and lasting impacts across Canada in terms of Indigenous rights and resource extraction projects, including Arctic oil exploration, tar sands and pipelines.
Greenpeace Russia, Greenpeace Nordic and Greenpeace Central and Eastern Europe successfully stopped the loading and testing of two nuclear reactors on board the floating nuclear power plant (FNPP) Akademik Lomonosov in the center of St Petersburg in Russia. A petition and targeted lobbying in Russia, as well as alerting countries around the Baltic Sea delivered a decision by Rosatom to tow the barge unloaded from St Petersburg to Murmansk for loading and testing.
After nearly five years of tireless campaigning by Greenpeace Spain, the Santa Maria Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) was closed. The next steps will lead to dismantling the nuclear power plant which marks the beginning of the end for nuclear power in Spain.
In the wake of the so-called Monsanto Papers and huge media attention, Belgium will ban the sale of herbicides containing glyphosate and some other possible harmful pesticides. Though for private use only, it's an important first step. Greenpeace Belgium has campaigned to remove Roundup and others from stores for two years.
In March Greenpeace Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Switzerland and the United Kingdom unveiled resistance art in the heart of the Belgian operation of Total, in the port of Antwerp. The peaceful protest called for a halt to Total’s plans to drill for oil in the mouth of the Amazon.
Greenpeace East Asia: Under strong pressure from its customers and civil society, Malaysian palm oil company FELDA Global Ventures (FGV) promised to restore over 1,000 hectares of the peat forest in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. This is the first time that a palm oil company has been forced to restore rainforest and peatland to remain a supplier to the global market.
The $300m RICO lawsuit by logging giant, Resolute, which called Greenpeace and Stand.earth a "criminal enterprise", was dismissed. Lawsuits like this are designed to stop civil society from campaigning by draining their time and resources into the case. This dismissal was a victory for those who dare to speak out against corporate abuse. Supporters including more than 200 authors spoke out for free speech, showing that our voices are vital.
Following a two-year campaign against the EU re-approval of glyphosate Greenpeace Austria achieved a massive win. On 3 October the Austrian Parliament passed a motion that firmly states that Austria will vote against any re-approval of glyphosate on EU-level. This is binding for any future government.
In October, Greenpeace UK and Greenpeace US launched a worldwide campaign demanding that Coca-Cola stop choking our oceans, rivers and communities with throw-away plastic bottles. More than 500,000 people have already signed a petition asking Coke CEO James Quincey to dramatically reduce Coke’s global plastic footprint and take responsibility for the end life of its products. The campaign is already reducing the social license of the worst single-use plastics and shifting mindsets from “disposable is normal” to “durable and reusable is normal”, and from “this is an individual's littering problem” to “corporates are responsible and need to take action”.
Ten Greenpeace volunteers who took part in a peaceful protest outside Cuadrilla's fracking site in Lancashire, England, in May and were arrested for Obstruction of the Highway. They were found not guilty. The judge concluded that because there was minimal disruption to the public, because the location of the protest was relevant, because our defendants were of excellent character, because they were polite and calm, and because they had a history of campaigning on this issue and clearly had deeply held beliefs, that they had established a "lawful excuse" for their actions. This is a great result for the anti-fracking community in the UK.
Greenpeace exists because of people power. The Give the Congo Basin Forest a Chance Ship Tour was a great example of people working together to keep the Congo Basin Forest intact.
The Congo Basin Forest is the second largest rainforest in the world. The Greenpeace ship, the Esperanza, began its four week journey in Douala, Cameroon and traveled to Boma and Matadi, Democratic Republic of Congo. The team worked with scientists who shared their findings on petlands which store 30 billion tonnes of carbon the equivalent to three years of global carbon emissions. During the journey, hundreds came to welcome the ship and join the call for forest protection. Thousands of people shared a wish for the Congo Basin Forest, petitioning global leaders to end forest destruction and keep it intact. Their wishes went to delegates at United Nations Climate Change Convention Conference of the Parties (COP23) in Bonn, Germany.
The Norwegian government is being sued over a decision to open up areas of the Arctic Ocean for oil exploration, a move that endangers the lives of existing and future generations. The People vs Arctic Oilis a court case where Nature & Youth and Greenpeace Nordic took the Norwegian government to court for opening up new areas in the Arctic to oil and gas drilling. They argue the drilling violates the Norwegian constitution and contravens the Paris Agreement. Winning the case could set a precedent for future climate cases around the world. A verdict is expected in January 2018.
An international agreement to protect the Central Arctic Ocean against all commercial fishing was reached. The US, Canada, Norway, Russia, Denmark, Iceland, Japan, South Korea, China and the European Union all signed a 16 year moratorium on commercial fishing in international waters covering an area of 2.8 million square kilometers or roughly the size of the Mediterranean Sea.
The University of Ghent decided to fully divest from fossil fuels. Though its investments of €230m does not come close to those of big universities, by excluding the entire fossil fuel industry (as well as the arms, gambling, fur, tobacco and porn industries) from its investments it sets a new standard for divestment. This victory is the result of a local students campaign including GP volunteers and supported by our divestment campaigner.
After a lot of work with the Indigenous "Kawésqar" community in the south of Chile, the President Michelle Bachelet announced the creation of new Marine Protected Area in Magallanes region. This is a huge step to stop the development of big threats like the intensive salmon farming (300 new concessions proposed here) but also mining and any other polluting project.
In Chile, the Hidroaysén dams project by ENEL and COLBUN in Patagonia Chile is finally over. Both companies have communicated that they (a) liquidate and terminate their joint venture and (b) renounce water rights, that is to say in practical terms, on the right they return the rivers to the public domain. This is the long-awaited formal cancellation of the project and return of the water rights to the people of Chile, the formal victory of one of the biggest and most-iconic environmental campaigns in the history of Chile.
To fight overconsumption and wasteful shopping during the holiday season, thousands of makers around the world joined Greenpeace and its partners Fashion Revolution and Shareable for the MAKE SMTHNG week of action. MAKE SMTHNG Week lasted from Dec 2-10 and saw more than 175 events in 32 countries on 6 continents, with an estimate of over 10,000 people attending workshops and talks on repairing, sharing, zero waste, veganism, upcycling and DIY techniques that breathe new life into already owned products.
(Adapated from the Year end letter to the Greenpeace International Board of Directors.) Leola Abraham is communications manager for the Executive Directors at Greenpeace International
What do you do when you’re confronted with the darkness of powerful, but single-minded and ignorant institutions which continue to destroy our planet with impunity?
You shine a light so strong it cuts through the grey clamour of that greedy power and reveals a single word:
We've all been reading the headlines. The onslaught of news stories; lamely quitting globally accepted climate agreements, the banging of war drums for cash, the accusations of sexual misconduct, the corporate bullying, the wanton exploitation of our precious planet – it has all been disheartening and exhausting.
Yet, we did not back down. We did not succumb to disillusionment and apathy.
We have been equal to each and every challenge that has been set against us. Each and every wilful misrepresentation of what we stand for, each and every attempt to ignore the fierce fires and storm warnings of a planet under siege and the myriad of cynical incentives to consume, consume, consume. These false narratives and attempts to hijack our future have not deterred us. Instead, they have galvanised us and drawn us closer together in a common acknowledgement of what we all need to do:
Resist and rise.
Part of effective resistance is to look ahead. Look at the possibilities that have opened up in front of us because of the challenges we all face. Movements, like #metoo, have reminded us how a single act of courage can be contagious and can lead to much bigger changes in society.
Rising up means moving quickly to spot opportunities and embrace and encourage solutions. The rapid pace at which wind and solar energy is marginalising those who once tried to marginalise us for daring to dream of a healthier world is an opportunity we all must seize. Rising is about making sure we keep this momentum going as much as it means innovating new ways to make sure our demands are met.
Training young Syrians and Palestinians in solar energy technology
When politicians want to act against climate change, they can leap over the fossil fuel puppets standing in their way. We’ve learned how to encourage and empower real leaders. At home, we’re learning the backstory of the food that ends up on our plates and how that story is either saturated with the chemicals of agribusiness, or infused with the healthy nourishment of sustainable, healthy eco-agriculture. Yes, we can feed the planet in a more healthy and ecologically-friendly way.
We also have learned that in resistance, all acts of courage are equal. One man taking a knee during the anthem of an American football game is just as courageous as collecting the waste on a beach in the Philippines. People of all ages putting their bodies in front of logging machinery in an ancient Polish forest is as powerful as a 12 year-old girl in Canada who asked us, “How do I begin making the world right?”
Kids for forest protest
Courage begins by questioning a contrived and imposed reality. The struggle for that 12 year-old’s future is as much about challenging what we’ve been hard-wired to believe about ourselves – that we need to buy things to feel good, that we are powerless against massive institutions – as it is taking an unequivocal stand against the seemingly powerful entities that want to rip this one and only planet apart to fill their wallets and cling to power.
These, after all, are the very same few people whose falsities we’ve refused to accept as the norm. These are the people trying to convince us that we are powerless. It is their barometer we’re using to measure our self-worth. We know who they are now, so tomorrow we know how to resist them.
Activists conduct a beach clean up and brand audit in the Phillippines
Tomorrow we will continue to reclaim that barometer as we learn to regain trust and love in ourselves and every other living thing. This is how yesterday’s great accomplishments – from exposing shady trade deals, to documenting a vast and previously unknown peatland in the Congo Basin, from establishing vast marine sanctuaries, to holding governments and corporations legally accountable, from finally declaring the retirement of single-use plastic, to loudly ringing the death knell of oil and coal – become the springboard from which we leap into a healthy, sustainable and renewable future.
And, in the spirit of reclaiming that barometer, let’s not think about our future in terms of years. Let’s think about our future in terms of what we will do tomorrow.
Tomorrow we break the cycle of overconsumption.
Tomorrow we hold corporations accountable.
Tomorrow we try to decrease the terrible impact of the industrial livestock machine.
Tomorrow, we stand together so that people everywhere are treated a little more equally.
Tomorrow we shake power structures that only serve the few at the expense of the many.
Tomorrow we are positive about our future and will rebuild the planet the way it should be.
Because tomorrow, we resist and we rise.We'll see you there.Bunny Mcdiarmid and Jennifer Morgan are the Executive Directors of Greenpeace International
Click here to see what we accomplished in 2017
By now, we have all heard about and seen multiple shocking images of plastic pollution in oceans. Whether it’s the seahorse with its tail wrapped around an earbud, or the remote island paradise turned into a plastic nightmare, it’s clear that the world has reached beyond breaking point with this material.
The Rainbow Warrior in Taiwan
But could things be different in Taiwan when it comes to tackling the plastic problem? In December, I traveled to Taiwan to meet with Greenpeace East Asia (GPEA) supporters, volunteers, donors and the community to learn more about what is happening in the region.
The Greenpeace Ship, Rainbow Warrior was docked in Keelung near Taipei City and during the few days I was there, I had some great discussions with community members. I wanted to know what people thought about single-use plastic. Had they seen the heartbreaking images of the damage single-use plastic was causing in the oceans to marine life and seabirds; had they heard about the impact of tiny microplastic fragments that can end up in our seafood? I wondered if it would be practical for them to change their throwaway and convenience culture lifestyle and change how they consume.
Jennifer Morgan meets Greenpeace supporters in Taiwan
What surprised me most about our supporters and other local people I met was they were already innovating and finding solutions for a cleaner environment. One supporter told me she was living a plastic-free life and was part of an online community of 19,000 people who shared ideas and tips of how to do this. What seems impossible to many was being made possible by people across Taiwan.
Taiwan made a good start by banning free plastic bags in 2002, which made it one of the first places to start banning free plastic bags. However, there is much more to do. The ban only applies to mainstream shops. Small businesses continue to use plastic bags.
This means people continue to use plastic bags in great numbers. Plastics are made from oil which is a carbon-rich raw material and many of these materials can remain in oceans for centuries.
If we don’t act now, the problem will worsen. That’s why GPEA is working with schools, communities and engaging the government to achieve a plastic free Taiwan by 2025. The Taiwanese government must urgently set a policy to phase out single-use plastic and become a role model for other countries.
Jennifer Morgan speaks to Greenpeace supporters in Taiwan
Single-use plastic is only one part of the wider problem of plastics and one part of the environmental challenge. In a recent carbon emission report by the Environmental Protection Administration under the Executive Yuan, Taiwan’s carbon emissions have reached their highest level in ten years.
Taiwan’s increasing carbon emissions is driven by high demand in electricity use and the increasing use of coal-fired power plants. But increasing its total fossil fuel usage is in direct conflict with its pledge to reduce its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2030.
Taiwan must keep its promise to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and exit the failing coal industry. Recent CoalSwarm and Greenpeace, research “shows that a total of 23 countries, states and cities will have either phased out coal-fired power plants or set a timeline to do so by 2030.”
To its credit, Taiwan’s government has set a goal of total phase out of nuclear while achieving 20% renewable energy, 30% coal and 50% gas in national energy mix for electricity generation by 2025. The percentage of electricity generated from coal power will decrease gradually from 45.4% in 2016, to 43% in 2020 and then 30% in 2025. The Renewable Energy will increase from 4% to 20%.
While we support the plan to phase out nuclear, decrease coal use and boost renewable energy, and understand there are many challenges to implement the plan, Taiwan must speed up its energy transition to 100% renewable energy and ensure a transition that is just -- for workers and affected communities.
It is possible to do all of this at once, combining long-term climate and energy goals and smart short-term implementation. With the falling cost of wind and solar, and the myriad of experiences around the world, Taiwan can leapfrog ahead and provide new opportunities for people.
Jennifer Morgan and the crew of the Rainbow Warrior
This is a critical moment for Taiwan. It is well on its way to an energy transition and eager to set a progressive policy on reducing single use plastic.
Climate change is arguably the biggest threat we face today. If we are to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, leaders must ramp up their ambition, set clear targets and implement policies.
Equally, it will take people, like the many Greenpeace supporters I met, to continue to use their voices to demand change and ensure that Taiwan remains part of a global network to tackle climate change.
Looking out from the bridge of the Rainbow Warrior, sailing on the Taiwan Strait, I could see that the momentum for change is here and I am hopeful that Taiwan will continue to push forward, to chart a future that will benefit its environment, its people and its economy.
Jennifer Morgan is the Executive Director of Greenpeace International
Environmental activists and organisations typically try and stay positive, to give people hope that we can change. Positive signs exist, going back to the historic whaling and toxic dumping bans of the 1980s. The 1987 Montreal Protocol, reducing CFC gas emissions, led to a partial recovery of the ozone hole. Birth rates have declined in some regions, and forests and freshwater have been restored in some regions. The world's nations have, at least, made promises to reduce carbon emissions, even if action has been slow.
A challenge we face as ecologists and environmentalists, however, is that when we step back from our victories and assess the big picture - the global pace of climate change, forest loss, biodiversity decline - we must admit: our achievements have not been enough.
Children playing near a coal plant in Central Java
25 years ago, in 1992, the Union of Concerned Scientists issued the “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity” signed by 1,700 scientists, including most living Nobel laureates. They presented disturbing data regarding freshwater, marine fisheries, climate, population, forests, soil, and biodiversity. They warned that “a great change" was necessary to avoid "vast human misery.”
This year, on the 25th anniversary of that warning, the Alliance of World Scientists published a second warning - an evaluation of our collective progress. With the exception of stabilising ozone depletion, they report that "humanity has failed to make sufficient progress in generally solving these foreseen environmental challenges, and alarmingly, most of them are getting far worse."
Environmental awareness is not new. Over 2,500 years ago, Chinese Taoists articulated the disconnect between human civilisation and ecological values. Later Taoist Bao Jingyan warned that "fashionable society goes against the true nature of things… harming creatures to supply frivolous adornments.”
Modern warnings began in the 18th century, at the dawn of the industrial age, particularly from Thomas Malthus, who warned that an exponentially growing population on a finite planet would reach ecological limits. Modern growth advocates have ridiculed Malthus for being wrong, but his logic and maths are impeccable. He did not foresee the discovery of petroleum, which allowed economists to ignore Malthus for two centuries, aggravating the crisis that Malthus correctly identified.
Rachel Carson ignited the modern environmental movement in 1962 with Silent Spring, warning of eminent biodiversity collapse. A decade later, in the early days of Greenpeace, the Club of Rome published The Limits To Growth, using data to describe what we could see with our eyes: declining forests and biodiversity, and resources, clashing head-on with growing human population and consumption demands. Conventional economists mocked the idea of limits, but The Limits to Growth projections have proven accurate.
In 2009, in Nature journal, a group of scientists lead by Johan Rockström published Planetary Boundaries, warning humanity that essential ecological systems – biodiversity, climate, nutrient cycles, and others – had moved beyond ecological limits to critical tipping points.
Melting iceberg in the Southern Ocean
Three years later, 22 international scientists published a paper called ‘Approaching a State Shift in Earth’s Biosphere’ which warned that human growth had “the potential to transform Earth... into a state unknown in human experience.” Canadian co-author, biologist Arne Mooers lamented, “humans have not done anything really important to stave off the worst. My colleagues… are terrified.”
In 2014 Michael Gerst, Paul Raskin, and Johan Rockström published ‘Contours of a Resilient Global Future’ in Sustainability 6, searching for viable future scenarios that considered both the natural limits to growth and realistic targets for human development. They warned that the challenge is "daunting" and that "marginal changes" are insufficient.
Last year, the UN International Resource Panel (IRP), published ‘Global Material Flows and Resource Productivity’ warning nations that global resources are limited, human consumption trends are unsustainable, and that resource depletion will have unpleasant impacts on human health, quality of life, and future development.
This year, the second “World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity,” alerted us again that marginal changes appear insignificant and that we are surpassing "the limits of what the biosphere can tolerate without substantial and irreversible harm."
The Alliance of World Scientists researchers tracked data over the last 25 years, since the 1992 warning. They cite some hopeful signs, such as the decline in ozone-depleting CFC gases, but report that, from a global perspective, our "changes in environmental policy, human behavior, and global inequities... are far from sufficient."
Here’s what the data shows:
Ozone: CFC (chlorofluorocarbons) emissions are down by 68% since 1992, due to the 1987 UN Montreal Protocol. The ozone layer is expected to reach 1980 levels by mid-century. This is the good news.
Freshwater: Water resources per capita have declined by 26% since 1992. Today, about one billion people suffer from a lack of fresh, clean water, "nearly all due to the accelerated pace of human population growth" exacerbated by rising temperatures.
Fisheries: The global marine catch is down by 6.4% since 1992, despite advances in industrial fishing technology. Larger ships with bigger nets and better sonar cannot catch fish that are not there.
Ocean dead zones: Oxygen-depleted zones have increased by 75 %, caused by fertilizer runoff and fossil-fuel use. Acidification due to carbon emissions kills coral reefs that act as marine breeding grounds.
Forests: By area, forests have declined by 2.8% since 1992, but with a simultaneous decline in forest health, timber volume, and quality. Forest loss has been greatest where forests are converted to agricultural land. Forest decline feeds back through the ecosystem as reduced carbon sequestration, biodiversity, and freshwater.
Biodiversity: Vertebrate abundance has declined 28.9 %. Collectively, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals have declined by 58% between 1970 and 2012. This is harrowing.
CO2 emissions: Regardless of international promises, CO2 emissions have increased by 62% since 1960.
Temperature change: The global average surface temperature is increasing in parallel to CO2 emissions. The 10 warmest years in the 136-year record have occurred since 1998. Scientists warn that heating will likely cause a decline in the world’s major food crops, an increase in storm intensity, and a substantial sea level rise, inundating coastal cities.
Population: We’ve put 2 billion more humans on this planet since 1992 - that’s a 35 % increase. To feed ourselves, we’ve increased livestock by 20.5 %. Humans and livestock now comprise 98.5% of mammal biomass on Earth. The scientists stress that we need to find ways to stabilise or reverse human population growth. "Our large numbers," they warn, "exert stresses on Earth that can overwhelm other efforts to realise a sustainable future"
Soil: The scientists report a lack of global data, but from national data we can see that soil productivity has declined around the world (by up to 50% in some regions), due to nutrient depletion, erosion, and desertification. The EU reports losing 970 million tonnes of topsoil annually to erosion. The US Department of Agriculture estimates 75 billion tons of soil lost annually worldwide, costing nations $400 billion (€340 billion) in lost crop yields.
"We are jeopardising our future by not reining in our intense but geographically and demographically uneven material consumption," the scientists warn, "and by not perceiving ... population growth as a primary driver behind many ecological and societal threats.”
The Alliance of World Scientists report offers some hope, in the form of steps that we can take to begin a more serious transition to sustainability:
These proposed solutions are not new, but the emphasis on population is important, and often overlooked. Some environmentalists avoid discussing human population, since it raises concerns about human rights. We know that massive consumption by the wealthiest 15% of us is a fundamental cause of the ecological crisis. Meanwhile, the poorest individuals consume far less than their fair share of available resources.
Aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines
As an ecologist, I feel compelled to ask myself: if the last 50 years of environmental action, research, warnings, meetings, legislation, regulation, and public awareness has proven insufficient, despite our victories, then what else do we need to do?
That question, and an integrated, rigorous, serious answer, needs to be a central theme of the next decade of environmentalism.
World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity: A Second Notice; eight authors and 15,364 scientist signatories from 184 countries; BioScience, W.J. Ripple, et. al., 13 November 2017
List of 15,364 signatories from 184 Countries: Oregon State University
Alliance of World Scientists: Oregon State University
Recovery of Ozone depletion after Montreal Protocol: B. Ewenfeldt, "Ozonlagret mår bättre", Arbetarbladet 12 September, 2014.
Fertility rate reduction in some regions: UN
Accuracy of Limits to Growth Study: "Is Global Collapse Imminent? An Update to Limits to Growth with Historical Data," Graham Turner, 2014): Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute
“Contours of a Resilient Global Future,” Michael Gerst, Paul Raskin, and Johan Rockström, Sustainability 6, 2014.
Arithmetic, Population, and Energy: Albert Bartlett video lecture on exponential growth
William Rees, The Way Forward: Survival 2100, Solutions Journal, human overshoot and genuine solutions.
Johan Rockström, et. al., “Planetary Boundaries,” Nature, September 23, 2009.
Anthony D. Barnosky, et. al., “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere,” Nature, June 7, 2012.