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Greta Thunberg Awarded Normandy's First 'Freedom Prize'

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Sixteen-year-old Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg with Charles Norman Shay, a Native American D-Day Veteran and a sponsor of the Freedom Award, during the 2019 Freedom Award Ceremony, in Abbaye-aux-Dames, Caen, France, on Sunday, July 21, 2019. Artur Widak / NurPhoto / Getty Images)

By Andrea Germanos

Climate activist Greta Thunberg on Sunday urged people to recognize "the link between climate and ecological emergency and mass migration, famine, and war" as she was given the first "Freedom Prize" from France's Normandy region for her ongoing school strikes for climate and role in catalyzing the Fridays for future climate movement.


The 16-year-old received the award before a crowd of roughly 2,000 people in the city of Caen. She shared the stage with D-Day veterans and prize sponsors Léon Gautier of France et Charles Norman Shay of the U.S.

"I think the least we can do to honor them," said Thunberg, "is to stop destroying that same world that Charles, Leon, and their friends and colleagues fought so hard to save."

Thunberg spent the day before the award ceremony with Shay:

On Twitter, Thunberg also highlighted some of Shay's remarks during Sunday's ceremony, calling them "the most powerful words on the climate and ecological emergency I've ever heard."

"All these many damages on Mother Nature make me sad," said Shay. "As a soldier I fought for freedom to liberate Europe [and the] world [from] Nazism 75 yeas ago, but this is no sense if Mother Nature is deeply wounded, and if our civilization collapses due to inappropriate human behaviors."

Agence France-Presse reported on Thunberg's remarks at the ceremony:

"This is a silent war going on. We are currently on track for a world that could displace billions of people from their homes, taking away even the most basic living conditions from countless people, making areas of the world uninhabitable from some part of the year.
"The fact that this will create huge conflicts and unspoken suffering is far from secret."
"And yet the link between climate and ecological emergency and mass migration, famine, and war is still not clear to many people. This must change."

Thunberg beat out two other finalists, Saudi blogger and dissident Raif Badawi and Chinese photojournalist Lu Guang, to become the winner.

The Freedom Prize website offers this background of the new award:

Focused on the meaning and values of the Allied landings, the Freedom Prize gives young people all over the world the opportunity to choose an exemplary person or organization, committed to the fight for freedom. Just like those who risked their lives when they landed on the Normandy beaches on 6 June 1944.

On 6 June 1944, it was in the name of the ideal of freedom that 130,000 soldiers, including a significant number of young volunteers, risked their lives and that several thousand died on these unfamiliar beaches. 17 nations were involved in Operation Overlord to open up "Liberty Road" on which nearly 3 million soldiers traveled in their bid to save the world from the barbarity of the Nazis. The Allied landings remind us that freedom is a universal demand.

Today, many situations around the world testify to its fragility. The Freedom Prize pays homage to all those who fought and continue to fight for this ideal.

Thunberg, responding to a recent question from one of the readers of the UK's Observer, made clear that her commitment to the fight for urgent climate action is unwavering.

"We must never give up," she said. "I have made up my mind and decided to never, ever give up."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

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Aerial view of Ruropolis, Para state, northen Brazil, on Sept. 6, 2019. Tthe world's biggest rainforest is under threat from wildfires and rampant deforestation. JOHANNES MYBURGH / AFP via Getty Images

By Kate Martyr

Deforestation in Brazil's Amazon rainforest last month jumped to the highest level since records began in 2015, according to government data.

A total of 563 square kilometers (217.38 square miles) of the world's largest rainforest was destroyed in November, 103% more than in the same month last year, according to Brazil's space research agency.

From January to November this year an area almost the size of the Caribbean island of Puerto Rico was destroyed — an 83% overall increase in destruction when compared with the same period last year.

The figures were released on Friday by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and collected through the DETER database, which uses satellite images to monitor forest fires, forest destruction and other developments affecting the rainforest.

What's Behind the Rise?

Overall, deforestation in 2019 has jumped 30% compared to last year — 9,762 square kilometers (approximately 3769 square miles) have been destroyed, despite deforestation usually slowing during November and December.

Environmental groups, researchers and activists blamed the policies of Brazil's president Jair Bolsonaro for the increase.

They say that Bolosonaro's calls for the Amazon to be developed and his weakening support for Ibama, the government's environmental agency, have led to loggers and ranchers feeling safer and braver in destroying the expansive rainforest.

His government hit back at these claims, pointing out that previous governments also cut budgets to environment agencies such as Ibama.

The report comes as Brazil came to loggerheads with the Association of Small Island States (AOSIS) over climate goals during the UN climate conference in Madrid.

AOSIS blasted Brazil, among other nations, for "a lack of ambition that also undermines ours."

Last month, a group of Brazilian lawyers called for Bolsonaro to be investigated by the International Criminal Court over his environmental policies.

Reposted with permission from DW.

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