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Break Free: Stop Dirty Fossil Fuels, Expedite Transition to 100% Renewable Energy
A global platform “Break Free” was launched today featuring a series of peaceful, escalated actions aimed to disrupt the fossil-fuel industry’s power by targeting the world’s most dangerous and unnecessary fossil fuel projects.
This May, thousands of people from around the world will join actions taking place across six continents which aim to stop dirty fossil fuels and speed up the just transition to 100 percent renewable energy. Major actions are currently planned in countries such as Indonesia, Nigeria, Brazil, U.S., Germany, Philippines, Australia and more, led by the communities that have spent years already fighting dangerous fossil fuel projects.
On the back of the hottest year in recorded history, communities worldwide are demanding governments move past the commitments made as part of the Paris agreement resulting from the summit held last December. In order to address the current climate crisis and keep global warming below 1.5 C, fossil fuel projects need to be shelved and existing infrastructure needs to be replaced, now.
“The science is clear: we need to keep at least 80 percent, if not more, of fossil fuel reserves in the ground,” Payal Parekh, global managing director of 350.org, said. “Communities worldwide are experiencing first hand the consequences of climate change and the damage inflicted by the fossil fuel industry. It’s up to us to break free from fossil fuels and accelerate the shift towards a just transition to 100 percent renewable energy. It’s in our hands to close the gap between what current commitments will achieve and what science demands is necessary in order to protect our common home.”
The climate movement’s commitment to scaling up its resistance to the fossil fuel industry comes at a time when renewable energy is already more affordable and widespread than ever before. These new tools give communities at the front lines of climate change new ways to respond to the crisis and build their own power.
“Moving towards 100 percent renewable energy is possible with the political will to make the change,” Arif Fiyanto, coal campaigner at Greenpeace Indonesia, said. “There are no major economic or technical barriers to a future supported by renewable energy. Any new infrastructure built to support fossil fuels expansion, such as coal mines, power plants, oil rigs and export terminals will be a waste of money and further lock us into a path to irreversible climate change.”
Post-Paris, the fossil fuel industry is running scared with prices plunging and companies going bankrupt. Now, ramped up civil disobedience will show that the industry’s social licence to operate is fast evaporating. Such peaceful civil disobedience brings people from all walks of life and not just seasoned climate activists, to challenge both politicians and polluters to accelerate the unstoppable energy transition already underway.
One such example is last year’s Ende Gelände (Here And No Further), which saw 1,500 people take part in a daring act of civil disobedience to shut down Europe’s biggest source of CO2 emissions. On the urgency at hand, Hannah Eichberger from this grassroots anti-coal alliance said: “It’s time now for a grassroots energy transition that does not only exchange one source of energy for the other but that tackles the root causes of natural destruction and social injustice: profit-driven corporate power.”
The struggles against the fossil fuel industry and the environmental, social, economic and political destruction they’ve wielded has been underway across regions for many years.
"Fossil fuels have brought horrendous pollutions to the Niger Delta alongside unimaginable human rights abuses while severely harming communities, Nnimmo Bassey, Nigerian activist from the Health of Mother Earth Foundation, said. “Crude oil is already history and has no future. We cannot allow fossil fuel addicts to burn the planet. The time for the shift is now. No one will set us free. We must break free ourselves, now."
These peaceful worldwide mobilisations taking place in May serve as an important point in the climate movement’s trajectory to increase pressure on the fossil fuel industry. The global struggle to finally break free from fossil fuels will continue making this a struggle the world cannot ignore.
Here are highlights from some of the planned actions across six continents:
U.S.: Activists are targeting six key areas of fossil fuel development: new tar sands pipelines in the Midwest with an action near Chicago; fracking in the Mountain West with an event outside Denver; "bomb trains" carrying fracked oil and gas to a port in Albany, New York; Shell’s devastating refinery pollution north of Seattle; action around offshore drilling in the Arctic, Atlantic and Gulf coasts taking place in Washington, DC; and dangerous oil and gas drilling in Los Angeles. These diverse actions will all escalate critical local campaigns that target the unjust practices of the fossil fuel industry that burdened the poor and people of color with the bulk of the industry’s pollution.
Germany: Last year 1,500 people entered the pit of a lignite coal mine in the Rhineland and in May hundreds more are coming to Lusatia, where local communities have struggled against mining and resettlement for years. There they will engage in civil disobedience to stop the digging in one of Europe’s biggest open-pit lignite mines, which the Swedish company Vattenfall has put up for sale. The action will show any future buyer that all coal development will face resistance and demonstrate the movement’s commitment to a different kind of energy system that prioritizes people and the planet over corporate power and profit.
Nigeria: In the Niger Delta actions will be held in three iconic locations that epitomize the decades old despoiling of the region. The actions will show clearly that Nigeria, nay Africa, is better off without the polluting activities of the fossil industry. They will also underscore the fact that people's action remains the viable way to save the planet from mankind's addiction to fossil fuels.
Turkey: Community leaders in the Izmir region will confront the illegal tactics behind the coal industry’s plan to build four more dirty coal plants near their homes, in addition to the one operating illegally. They will gather at the gates of a massive, growing spoils mountain used by nearby coal plants against a court order to dispose of dangerous waste from the burning of dirty coal. This action will unite several fights against individual coal plants into a unified stance against the current Turkish government’s plan to dramatically expand the use of coal in the country.
Australia: As an election approaches, climate activists will bring the country’s growing climate movement to the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle and demonstrate their resolve to both make the climate a key issue in the coming election and their determination to continue resisting coal no matter who is in the prime minister’s chair.
Brazil: Indigenous people and climate activists will join hands for four different peaceful actions addressing key parts of the country’s oil and gas infrastructure—from where the gas is fracked in Indigenous land, to its risky transportation, to where it is burned. The exact details are being kept confidential, but thousands of participants are expected across more than a week of action in all areas of the country.
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A central player in the fight against the novel coronavirus is our immune system. It protects us against the invader and can even be helpful for its therapy. But sometimes it can turn against us.
How does our immune system react to the coronavirus?<p>The coronavirus is — like any other virus — not much more than a shell around genetic material and a few proteins. To replicate, it needs a host in the form of a living cell. Once infected, this cell does what the virus commands it to do: copy information, assemble it, release it.</p><p>But this does not go unnoticed. Within a few minutes, the body's immune defense system intervenes with its innate response: Granulocytes, scavenger cells and killer cells from the blood and lymphatic system stream in to fight the virus. They are supported by numerous plasma proteins that either act as messengers or help to destroy the virus.</p><p>For many viruses and bacteria, this initial activity of the immune system is already sufficient to fight an intruder. It often happens very quickly and efficiently. We often notice only small signs that the system is working: We have a cold, a fever. </p>
Is there an immunity? How long does it last?<p>The good news is that it is very likely there is an immunity. This is suggested by the proximity to other viruses, epidemiological data and animal experiments. Researchers <a href="https://www.biorxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.03.13.990226v1" target="_blank">infected four rhesus monkeys,</a> a species close to humans, with SARS-CoV-2. The monkeys showed symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, developed neutralizing antibodies and recovered after a few days. When the recovered animals were reinfected with the virus, they no longer developed any symptoms: They were immune. </p><p>The bad news: It is not (yet) known how long the immunity will last. It depends on whether a patient has successfully developed neutralizing antibodies. Achim Hörauf estimates that the immunity should last at least one year. Within this year, every new contact with the virus acts as a kind of booster vaccination, which in turn might prolong the immunity.</p><p>"The virus is so new that nobody has a reasonable immune response," says the immunologist. He believes that lifelong immunity is unlikely. This "privilege" is reserved for viruses that remain in the body for a long time and give our immune system a virtually permanent opportunity to get to know it. Since the coronavirus is an RNA (and not a DNA) virus, it cannot permanently settle in the body, says Hörauf.</p><p>The Heidelberg immunologist <a href="https://www.klinikum.uni-heidelberg.de/immunologie/immunologie" target="_blank">Stefan Meuer</a> predicts that the novel coronavirus will also mutate like all viruses. He assumes that this could be the case in 10 to 15 years: "At some point, the acquired immunity will no longer be of any use to us because then another coronavirus will return, against which the protection that has now been formed will not help us because the virus has changed in such a way that the antibodies are no longer responsible. And then no vaccination will help either."</p>
How can we take advantage of the antibody response of the immune system?<p>Researchers are already collecting plasma from people who have successfully survived an infection with SARS-CoV-2 and are using it to treat a limited number of patients suffering from COVID-19. The underlying principle: <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-drugs-can-antibodies-from-survivors-help/a-52806428" target="_blank">passive immunization.</a> The studies carried out to date have shown positive results, but they have usually been carried out on only a few people.</p><p>At best, passive immunization is used only when the patient's own immune system has already started to work against the virus, says Achim Hörauf: "The longer you can leave the patients alone with the infection before you protect them with passive immunization, the better." Only through active immunization can one be protected in the long term. At the same time, it is difficult to recognize the right point in time.</p><p>PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests are currently used to find out whether a person is infected with the coronavirus. With the help of PCR, it is not possible to tell whether or not there is reproducible viral RNA; it is just a proof of whether the virus is still present, dead or alive. A PCR test cannot tell us whether our immune system has already intervened, i.e. whether we have had contact with the virus in the past, have formed antibodies and are now protected. Researchers are therefore working on tests that check our blood for the presence of antibodies. They are already in use in Singapore, for example, and are nearing completion in the USA. With the help of these tests, it would finally be possible to gain an overview <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/corona-confusion-how-to-make-sense-of-the-numbers-and-terminology/a-52825433" target="_blank">of the unclear case numbers.</a> In addition, people who have developed antibodies against the virus could be used at the forefront of health care, for example. An "immunity passport" is even under discussion.</p>
Is it possible to become infected and/or ill several times with the coronavirus?<p>"According to all we know, it is not possible with the same pathogen," says Achim Hörauf. It is possible to become infected with other coronaviruses or viruses from the SARS or MERS group if their spike proteins look different. "As far as the current epidemic is concerned, it can be assumed that people who have been through COVID-19 will not become ill from it for the time being and will not transmit the virus any further," he says.</p>
How long before you're no longer contagious?<p>A study <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s41586-020-2196-x" target="_blank">carried out on the first coronavirus patients in Germany</a> showed that no viruses that are capable of replication can be found from day eight after the onset of symptoms, even though PCR can still detect up to 100,000 gene copies per sample. This could change the current quarantine recommendations in the future.</p><p>According to the Robert Koch Institute, patients can currently be discharged from hospital if they show two negative PCR samples from the throat within 24 hours. If they have had a severe case of the disease, they should remain in domestic isolation for another two weeks. For each discharge, whether from hospital or home isolation, they should have been symptom-free for at least 48 hours.</p>
Why do people react differently to the virus?<p>While some people get off with a mild cold, others are put on ventilators or even die of SARS-Cov-2. Especially people with <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/coronavirus-who-is-particularly-at-risk-and-why/a-52710881" target="_blank">pre-existing conditions</a> and older people seem to be worst-affected by the virus. Why? This is the hottest question at the moment.</p><p>It will still take a very, very long time to understand the mechanistic, biological basis for why some people are so much more severely affected than others, virologist Angela Rasmussen told <em>The Scientist</em>. "The virus is important, but the host response is at least as important, if not more important," her colleague Stanley Perlman told the magazine.</p><p>Stefan Meuer sees a fundamental survival principle of nature in the different equipment and activity of our immune systems: "If we were all the same, one and the same virus could wipe out the entire human species at once. Due to the genetic range, it is quite normal that some people die from a viral disease while others do not even notice it. "</p><p>Achim Hörauf also suspects immunological variants that could be genetically determined. Since interstitial pneumonia is observed with the coronavirus, the focus is probably on an overreaction of the immune system. However, it is also possible that each person affected may have been loaded with a different dose of the virus, which in turn leads to different outcomes. And finally, it makes a difference how robust the body and lungs are: Competitive athletes simply have more lung volume than long-time smokers. </p>
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