Tag Archives: Environment

Rallies Across Africa Demand Global Action, Climate Justice Ahead of UN Summit

“The urgency of the climate crisis cannot be understated, particularly here in Africa, which is the region most vulnerable to climate impacts,” said one campaigner.

By Brett Wilkins  Published 9-23-2022 by Common Dreams

Ugandan climate activists demonstrate in Kampala on September 23, 2022. (Photo: Hilda F. Nakabuye/Twitter)

Thousands of African activists and members of communities on the frontlines of the worsening climate emergency turned out Friday to call on world leaders—who will gather in Egypt in November for the United Nations Climate Summit—to urgently address a crisis that disproportionately impacts their lives.

Demonstrators took to the streets, public spaces, and even waterways in countries across a continent that’s responsible for just 4% of global greenhouse emissions to demand climate justice and an end to fossil fuel exploration and extraction ahead of the U.N.’s COP27 conference, scheduled to start November 6 in Sharm El-Sheikh. Continue reading

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US is becoming a ‘developing country’ on global rankings that measure democracy, inequality

People wait in line for a free morning meal in Los Angeles in April 2020. High and rising inequality is one reason the U.S. ranks badly on some international measures of development.
Frederic J. Brown/ AFP via Getty Images

 

Kathleen Frydl, Johns Hopkins University

The United States may regard itself as a “leader of the free world,” but an index of development released in July 2022 places the country much farther down the list.

In its global rankings, the United Nations Office of Sustainable Development dropped the U.S. to 41st worldwide, down from its previous ranking of 32nd. Under this methodology – an expansive model of 17 categories, or “goals,” many of them focused on the environment and equity – the U.S. ranks between Cuba and Bulgaria. Both are widely regarded as developing countries. Continue reading

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‘Earth Is Now Our Only Shareholder’: Founder Gives Away Patagonia to Save the Planet

“Hopefully this will influence a new form of capitalism that doesn’t end up with a few rich people and a bunch of poor people,” said Yvon Chouinard. “We are going to give away the maximum amount of money to people who are actively working on saving this planet.”

By Jessica Corbett  Published 9-14-2022 by Common Dreams

“We needed to find a way to put more money into fighting the crisis while keeping the company’s values intact,” Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard wrote in a letter explaining his family’s ownership decision. (Photo: Patagonia/Facebook)

Patagonia founder and “reluctant billionaire” Yvon Chouinard just raised the bar for corporate action on the fossil fuel-driven planetary emergency.

The 83-year-old, his wife Malinda, and their adult children, Fletcher and Claire, gave away the company, valued at about $3 billion. The rock climber-turned-businessman explained the decision in an interview published Wednesday by The New York Times, along with a letter on the outdoor clothing retailer’s website. Continue reading

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‘David Beat Goliath’ as Line 3 Water Defenders Win Protective Ruling

“Today’s ruling shows that Hubbard County cannot repress Native people for the benefit of Enbridge by circumventing the law,” said Indigenous water protector Winona LaDuke.

By Brett Wilkins  Published 9-13-2022 by Common Dreams

Police in Hubbard County, Minnesota blockade a driveway to an Indigenous camp of water protectors protesting the Line 3 pipeline. (Photo: Giniw Collective)

Indigenous water defenders and their allies on Tuesday celebrated a Minnesota court ruling protecting a Line 3 protest camp from illegal government repression.

Hubbard County District Judge Jana Austad issued a ruling shielding the Indigenous-led Giniw Collective’s Camp Namewag—where opponents organize resistance to Enbridge’s Line 3 tar sands pipeline—from local law enforcement’s unlawful blockades and harassment. Continue reading

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‘Hidden Killer’: Experts Urge Action After Study Shows How Air Pollution Causes Lung Cancer

“If you want to address human health, you have to address climate health first,” said Charles Swanton, who led the research team.

By Jessica Corbett  Published 9-11-2022 by Common Dreams

Steam rises from the cooling towers of the Jänschwalde lignite-fired power plant—which is to be taken off the grid and shut down by 2028 as Germany phases out coal. Photo: Julia Seeliger/flickr/CC

Experts emphasized the importance of more ambitiously addressing air pollution from fossil fuels after the presentation of a new breakthrough on lung cancer in Paris on Saturday.

Scientists at the Francis Crick Institute and University College London (UCL) shared their findings—part of the TRACERx lung study funded by Cancer Research U.K.—at the annual conference of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO).

“Our study has fundamentally changed how we view lung cancer in people who have never smoked,” said Cancer Research U.K. chief clinician Charles Swanton, who led and presented the research.

The way air pollution causes cancer differs from cigarettes and sunlight. Tobacco smoke and ultraviolet light damage the structure of DNA, creating mutations that cause cancer. Air pollution causes inflammation in the lungs, affecting cells that carry mutations.

“Cells with cancer-causing mutations accumulate naturally as we age, but they are normally inactive,” Swanton explained. “We’ve demonstrated that air pollution wakes these cells up in the lungs, encouraging them to grow and potentially form tumors.”

The team analyzed 463,679 individuals from England, South Korea, and Taiwan, and examined lung tissue samples from humans and mice following exposure to particulate matter, or PM2.5—air particles that are no larger than 2.5 micrometers in diameter.

They found higher rates of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) mutant lung cancer—and other types of cancers—in people who lived in areas with higher levels of PM2.5 pollution. They also found that, at least in mice, blocking a molecule which causes inflammation and is released in response to PM2.5 exposure prevents cancers from forming.

“According to our analysis, increasing air pollution levels increases the risk of lung cancer, mesothelioma, and cancers of the mouth and throat,” noted Emilia Lim, co-first author and postdoctoral researcher at the Francis Crick Institute and UCL. “This finding suggests a broader role for cancers caused by inflammation triggered by a carcinogen like air pollution.”

“Even small changes in air pollution levels can affect human health,” she said, adding that 99% of the global population lives in areas that exceed annual World Health Organization (WHO) limits for PM2.5, “underlining the public health challenges posed by air pollution across the globe.”

The WHO—when updating guidelines on air quality last September for the first time in over 15 years—warned that “the burden of disease attributable to air pollution is now estimated to be on a par with other major global health risks such as unhealthy diet and tobacco smoking, and air pollution is now recognized as the single biggest environmental threat to human health.”

While most of the human population is exposed to unhealthy levels of air pollution—which is tied to other health issues including asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), dementia, and heart disease—research has repeatedly shown it’s often worse in the poorest communities.

One 2021 study found that air pollution reduces the average global citizen’s life by over two years. Citing an estimate that it is tied to more than eight million deaths worldwide per year, Swanton called air pollution a “hidden killer,” according to Agence France-Presse.

Swanton stressed in a statement that “the same particles in the air that derive from the combustion of fossil fuels, exacerbating climate change, are directly impacting human health via an important and previously overlooked cancer-causing mechanism in lung cells.”

“The risk of lung cancer from air pollution is lower than from smoking, but we have no control over what we all breathe,” the scientist said. “Globally, more people are exposed to unsafe levels of air pollution than to toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke, and these new data link the importance of addressing climate health to improving human health.”

“It’s a wake-up call on the impact of pollution on human health,” he told The Guardian. “You cannot ignore climate health. If you want to address human health, you have to address climate health first.”

Tony Mok of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, who was not involved in the study, similarly said in a statement that “as consumption of fossil fuels goes hand in hand with pollution and carbon emissions, we have a strong mandate for tackling these issues—for both environmental and health reasons.”

Like the scientists who conducted the study, Mok also pointed out how it could help with the prevention of lung cancer among nonsmokers.

“This research is intriguing and exciting as it means that we can ask whether, in the future, it will be possible to use lung scans to look for pre-cancerous lesions in the lungs and try to reverse them with medicines,” Mok said.

“We don’t yet know whether it will be possible to use highly sensitive EGFR profiling on blood or other samples to find nonsmokers who are predisposed to lung cancer and may benefit from lung scanning,” he added, “so discussions are still very speculative.”

Suzette Delaloge, head of the cancer prevention program at France’s Gustave Roussy institute, was also not involved in the research but discussed it with AFP in Paris this weekend.

“The study is quite an important step for science—and for society too, I hope,” she said, noting that it was “quite revolutionary, because we had practically no prior demonstration of this alternative way of cancer forming.”

“This opens a huge door, both for knowledge but also for new ways to prevent” cancer, added Delaloge. “This level of demonstration must force authorities to act on an international scale.”

This work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0).
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Intense heat and flooding are wreaking havoc on power and water systems as climate change batters America’s aging infrastructure

Volunteers distributed bottled water after Jackson, Mississippi’s water treatment plant failed during flooding in August 2022.
Brad Vest/Getty Images

 

Paul Chinowsky, University of Colorado Boulder

The 1960s and 1970s were a golden age of infrastructure development in the U.S., with the expansion of the interstate system and widespread construction of new water treatment, wastewater and flood control systems reflecting national priorities in public health and national defense. But infrastructure requires maintenance, and, eventually, it has to be replaced.

That hasn’t been happening in many parts of the country. Increasingly, extreme heat and storms are putting roads, bridges, water systems and other infrastructure under stress. Continue reading

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Locals Celebrate ‘Tremendous Victory’ Against South Louisiana Methanol Petrochemical Complex

The company “finally threw in the towel having learned that our community will not back down in the fight to protect our health and well-being from more industrial pollution,” said Sharon Lavigne of RISE St. James.

By Jessica Corbett  Published 9-9-2022 by Common Dreams

Sharon Lavigne, founder of community group RISE St. James in Louisiana, was the 2021 Goldman Environmental Prize winner for North America. (Photo: Goldman Environmental Prize)

Community organizers and their supporters are celebrating that after years of local resistance, South Louisiana Methanol won’t complete a stalled $2.2 billion petrochemical complex in a region known as “Cancer Alley.”

In a statement Friday, the environmental law organization Earthjustice and groups it has represented in challenges to the project—RISE St. James, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Healthy Gulf, and Sierra Club—highlighted a letter to the company from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality (LDEQ). Continue reading

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New Study Warns Swaths of Amazon Have Already Passed Key ‘Tipping Point’

“The tipping point is not a future scenario but rather a stage already present in some areas of the region,” note researchers.

By Jessica Corbett  Published 9-5-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: Amazônia Real/flickr/CC

Indigenous leaders and scientists on Monday revealed research showing that the destruction of the Amazon rainforest is so advanced that some swaths may have hit a key tipping point and never recover.

While experts have long warned of human activity causing portions of the massive, biodiverse rainforest to shift to savannah, the new findings were unveiled on the Global Day of Action for the Amazon and the launch of the 5th Amazon Summit of Indigenous Peoples: Solutions for a Living Amazon in Lima, Peru. Continue reading

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In ‘Historic’ Step, Biden EPA Moves to Designate Two Forever Chemicals as Hazardous

Arguing the Biden administration’s new rule isn’t enough, campaigners said, “I-t’s time for EPA to address the whole PFAS class.”

-By Jake Johnson  Published 8-26-2022 by Common Dreams

Photo: Steven Depolo/flickr

The Environmental Protection Agency moved Friday to designate two commonly used “forever chemicals” as hazardous under federal law, a long-awaited step that green groups welcomed as important while also warning it is inadequate to address the scale of toxic pollution caused by the increasingly ubiquitous substances.

The EPA said in a press release that it has proposed a rule to formally classify perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA) and perfluorooctane sulfonic acid (PFOS)—part of a long list of chemical compounds known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS)—”as hazardous substances under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA), also known as ‘Superfund.'” Continue reading

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Climate Crisis Pushing Up to 1 in 6 US Tree Species Toward Extinction: Study

“Understanding the current state of trees within the U.S. is imperative to protecting those species, their habitats, and the countless communities they support.”

By Julia Conley   Published 8-23-2022 by Common Dreams

Black ash trees are among the tree species identified in a new study showing that up to one in six tree species are being pushed toward extinction. Photo: Eli Sagor/flickr/CC

New research published Tuesday reveals both how chronically under-studied tree populations are in the U.S. and how the lack of resources devoted to trees has pushed as much as 16% of all tree species toward the threat of extinction.

After five years of study, a coalition of scientists from Botanic Gardens Conservation International, NatureServe, the U.S. Botanic Garden, and other groups revealed that as many as one in six U.S. tree species are in danger of becoming extinct due largely to disease and invasive insects—both of which have been quietly made more devastating to trees in recent years by the climate crisis. Continue reading

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