Swiss Judge Clears Climate Crisis Protestors, Says Actions Were ‘Necessary and Proportional’
A Swiss court on Monday cleared a dozen activists of wrongdoing and a hefty fine for a stunt they pulled in a Credit Suisse bank in November 2018.
The protestors had occupied the bank and played tennis to demand an end to fossil fuel funding and to ask tennis star, Roger Federer, to end his endorsement deal with the bank, as the AP reported.
The case went to court because the defendants refused to pay fines for protesting without a permit and resisting police. The protestors were charged with trespassing and ordered to pay 21,600 Swiss francs ($22,200). However, the judge in the appeal said the protestors had acted proportionately and waived the fine, as Reuters reported.
The judge, Philippe Colelough, said the protestors who wore completely white tennis outfits and wigs were justified because of the imminent threat posed by the climate crisis, according to Deutsche Welle.
"Because of the insufficient measures taken to date in Switzerland, whether they be economic or political, the average warming will not diminish nor even stabilize, it will increase," he said, noting Switzerland's melting glaciers, as Deutsche Welle reported.
"In view of this, the tribunal considers that the imminence of danger is established," the judge continued. "The act for which they were incriminated was a necessary and proportional means to achieve the goal they sought."
The packed courtroom, in a suburb of Lausanne, erupted in applause and gave a standing ovation to the judge's decision, as Reuters reported.
"I didn't think it was possible," said one of the accused individuals, Beate Thalmann, in tears of joy, according to Reuters. "If Switzerland did this, then maybe we have a chance."
An attorney, Laila Batou, representing one of the defendants, said the Judge Colelough accepted the argument that the activists had exhausted all other legitimate forms of protest like petition drives, sidewalk demonstrations and efforts with Swiss legislators, according to the AP.
"The lawyers, the clients, the audience cried," Batou said, as the AP reported. She said the "bombshell" from the judge was his acknowledgement that the climate emergency is "impossible" to block through other legal means.
Because of the heat-trapping effect of its many mountains, Switzerland is warming at twice the global average, according to Reuters. The country has pledged to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
The country, which is warming at twice the global average due to the heat-trapping effect of its mountains, has an target to cut net carbon emissions to zero by 2050 but activists with Lausanne Climate Action say that the country's biggest impact is via its financial industry, as Reuters reported.
The activists pointed out that Credit Suisse is one of the world's largest investors in fossil fuels, ponying up more than $7.8 billion to nearly four dozen companies that are "extreme" users of dirty fossil fuels. Lausanne Climate Action noted that the bank increased its financing for coal 16-fold from 2016 to 2017, as the AP reported.
However, last month, Credit Suisse announced that it will no longer invest in new coal-fired plants, according to the AP.
The protestors would like to see Swiss tennis star, Roger Federer, use his leverage to have Credit Suisse invest in sustainability or cut ties with the Zurich-based bank.
"If we get him to distance himself from the bank, we will empower our action," Batou said, as the AP reported.
Federer, for his part, sent a statement to Reuters in response to the criticism he has received from activists, especially a tweet from 350.org that was retweeted by Greta Thunberg."I appreciate reminders of my responsibility as a private individual, as an athlete and as an entrepreneur, and I'm committed to using this privileged position to dialogue on important issues with my sponsors," said in a statement, as Reuters reported. "I take the impacts and threat of climate change very seriously, particularly as my family and I arrive in Australia amidst devastation from the bushfires."
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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