Indonesia Calls in the Army to Fight Plastic Enemy
In March, a diver's video of masses of plastic floating off the Indonesian coast went viral. But that plastic often reaches the ocean through the country's rivers, clogging them to such an extent that Indonesia had to call in the army, the BBC reported Thursday.
The BBC spent time on the ground in Bandung, Indonesia's third largest city, and observed a concentration of bottles, plastic bags and styrofoam packaging so large it looked like an iceberg.
Reporters watched the army attempt to clear the river by riding a barge and removing debris with nets, but as they cleared, more trash would flow from upstream.
The soldiers filmed by the BBC had intended to load the plastic they collected onto trucks, but the trucks never arrived, so the soldiers used a digger to push it further downstream, where it would swamp the cleanup efforts of others.
"My current enemy is not a combat enemy, what I am fighting very hard now is rubbish, it is our biggest enemy," army Sergeant Sugito told the BBC.
West Java Environmental Protection Agency head Dr. Anang Sudarna, who petitioned the president to send in the army, said their efforts had made a difference, but there is still much more work to do.
"The result is a little bit improved ... but I am angry, I am sad, I am trying to think how best to solve this ... the most difficult thing is the people's attitude and the political will," Sudarna told t1he BBC.
Indonesia is one of five Asian countries that accounts for 60 percent of the plastic entering the world's oceans, a 2015 study found. Another 2017 study found that 86 percent of the plastic currently flushed through the world's rivers came from Asian countries, including Indonesia. The huge quantities of plastic pollution are the result of economic growth and increased quality of life in these countries, which have meant that waste collection has not kept pace with changing consumption patterns.
In Indonesia, plastic packaging has begun to replace traditional, biodegradable food storage devices like banana leaves, the BBC reported. Further, there is a local culture of disposing of waste in ditches and streams, which cannot support the quantities of plastic waste now being discarded.
Sugito said he wanted to encourage Indonesians to see plastic as a resource, and not just something to throw away.
"[P]lastic cartons and drinking bottles can be separated from the other rubbish and sold," he told the BBC.
To encourage this mindset, officials have set up "eco-villages" in Bandung where residents can trade in different kinds of plastic containers for cash.
While the problem is still overwhelming, the army's involvement illustrates an observation from Radboud University environmental science professor Ad Ragas that Indonesian authorities had begun to take plastic pollution much more seriously in the past two years.
He partly credited social media posts of clogged rivers for raising awareness and inspiring action.
"They immediately see that 'this is what my river look likes now and I'm doing that because I'm throwing all this plastic away' so they get feedback much quicker than they used to," he told the BBC.The BBC's report arrives just in time for Earth Day, which is taking on the problem of plastic pollution this year. If the push is successful, Indonesia's rivers would finally have the freedom to flow again.
Plastic Threatens to Swamp the Planet https://t.co/OcKU0zAeBS @PlasticPollutes @NRDC @YEARSofLIVING @ClimateReality… https://t.co/kRUjDOztBb— EcoWatch (@EcoWatch)1519316247.0
By Jessica Corbett
A leading environmental advocacy group marked Native American Heritage Month on Wednesday by urging President-elect Joe Biden, Vice President-elect Kamala Kamala Harris, and the entire incoming administration "to honor Indigenous sovereignty and immediately halt the Keystone XL, Dakota Access, and Line 3 pipelines."
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
Amid reports that oil industry-friendly former Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz remains under consideration to return to his old post in the incoming Biden administration, a diverse coalition of environmental groups is mobilizing for an "all-out push" to keep Moniz away from the White House and demand a cabinet willing to boldly confront the corporations responsible for the climate emergency.
Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
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An extremely rare North Atlantic right whale calf was found dead off the North Carolina coast on Friday.
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