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5 Gyres Institute Sets Sail For Microbead Research From Bermuda to Iceland
The 5 Gyres Institute helped expose the presence of microbeads in some of the cosmetic products we use every day, influence change amongst corporations and legislators. Now, the group wants to see how much plastic is on our ocean floors.
A group from the Institute set sail this week for the North Atlantic Subtropical gyre and the Sub Polar “Viking Gyre,” from Bermuda to Iceland, to study plastic pollution. Dr. Marcus Eriksen, 5 Gyres co-founder and research director, is the expedition leader and principle investigator, joined by 13 professional sailors, scientists, advocates, artists, filmmakers, photographers and journalists.
“5 Gyres is on the frontier of oceanic plastic pollution, conducting first-hand research to discover garbage patches around the world," Eriksen said in a statement. "We’re working to both understand and communicate more about how plastics affect the ocean ecosystem, which brings us to monitor remote seas, like the area south of Iceland. These waters are where microplastics, including the microbeads we found in the Great Lakes, likely find their final resting place. We’re going there to find out.”
The tiny beads often escape wastewater treatment plants to enter the planet's waters.
“We’ll be studying the water column to look at plastics below the waves, as well looking at the toxins this plastic absorbs, what kind of fish are eating them, and how this might affect a major food source for humans worldwide,” Eriksen continued.
The Great Lakes expedition led to the "Ban the Bead" campaign and voluntary phase-outs from Johnson & Johnson, Procter & Gamble and other companies. This week, the State of Illinois announced a ban on the manufacturing and sale of products containing microbeads. There's no certainty that the group will inspire that sort of change elsewhere once they return in July, but the explorers know what they are searching for.
“Though voluntary phase-out is a good first step, we realized that we needed to take a legislative approach to ensure that these plastic beads are eliminated from commerce," 5 Gyres Associate Director Stiv Wilson said. "We’d love to see Bermuda merchants voluntarily phase out products that contain these beads, as a model for other island nations.”
The group is also exploring the subsurface distribution of microplastics, how plastics impact foraging fish and testing new collection equipment at sea. The researchers planned to gather information for other scientists.
“Research is costly at sea. When we have the opportunity to do our work, I seek collaborations with the global scientific network, collecting samples for my colleagues who concentrate on related fields of study to plastic pollution," Eriksen said. "With these partnerships, we can further our scientific understanding of plastic pollution while managing the costs associated with data collection in the most remote parts of the world.”
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As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.
Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.
AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.
"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."
Big Oil is now using its political power to try and criminalize protests of oil & gas infrastructure.— Friends of the Earth (@foe_us) August 19, 2019
"This legislation has potential to punish public participation and mischaracterize advocacy protected by the First Amendment."https://t.co/bmiHjONEhy
The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.
"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.
As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."
"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."
Many of the state bills restricting the right to protest have been "drafted by companies and passed through groups like ALEC, the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people." @greenpeaceusa https://t.co/ZxpTjWdrwT— Stand Up To ALEC (@StandUpToALEC) May 6, 2019
Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.