By Cyrus Sutton
Island Earth is the story of a young indigenous scientist's journey through both sides of the GMO battle in Hawaii. Groomed to work for Monsanto, Cliff Kapono had a lot to consider over the past few years. His ancestral ways of farming fed a similar population than what inhabits the island today with some of the most advanced biodynamic farming ever documented. Yet one of his most lucrative job options would be for a company promising to "feed the world."
Island Earth follows Kapono's journey of discovery along with a handful of Hawaiians struggling to take back their communities in the face of the current GMO occupation.
I decided to dive into this project after I learned from a few activists that more GMO crops are tested per acre in Hawaii than any other state in the U.S. I was shocked to learn that this island paradise was home to such activities. Their testing involves multiple combinations of restricted-use pesticides that both our government and the scientific community agree are toxic to the environment and our health. The testing is occurring outdoors right next to low-income communities.
What's happening in Hawaii effects the rest of the country and visa versa. These tiny Islands are a microcosm for the problems we all face but also the solutions we could embody. The vast majority of the world's seeds are owned by the same powerful chemical companies who are testing their crops in Hawaii. They are using genetic modification to alter plants so they can withstand higher doses of the pesticides they manufacture. As such, the Hawaiian people are rising up and pushing back, drafting bills and engaging with their local legislature, as well as returning to their traditional methods of farming in an effort to become self-reliant again.
The question, "How are we going to feed the world?" gets raised a lot and has been the chief marketing slogan for the these GMO companies. According to the former editor of National Geographic and author of End of Plenty, Joel Bourne Jr. states that "we are going to need to grow as much food in the next 35 years as we've grown since the beginning of human civilization."
This number sounds daunting, however this figure was determined based on our current agricultural system which measures raw yields and fails to take into account the amount of food waste and lack of distribution to the people who need it most. If calories were grown again near the areas they were consumed it would be a much different picture.
Hawaii is an island chain that used to be completely self-reliant. Today they import 80-90 percent of the food they eat. Much of it being the products of the seeds tested on their lands. The problems they face are global, and increasingly we all owe our survival to corporations who provide us food, water, shelter and power. Yet every day we learn that often these companies do not have our best interests in mind.
The little mainstream media coverage we've seen about the anti-GMO protests in Hawaii paints this issue as one of eccentric hippies getting angry about food that isn't up to their ideals, when in reality this is a grassroots movement of people from all walks of life coming together to protect the land and water that they hold sacred.
In talks with scientists, doctors, mothers, elders and activists I've come to believe many of the problems we impose upon ourselves are solvable if we can balance our current globalized approach to survival by re-establishing local community-based systems that create and distribute resources. Only with consistent effort to push back politically and to create decentralizing solutions will we make measurable change and hopefully render many of the current problems obsolete. But it's going to take patience and creativity. It's much easier to take what is handed to us and complain about it than it is to create the solutions.
Three years and multiple trips later, I've finished editing with my team and we are touring the film across the world. I just got back from a tour across Hawaii and Australia and am now heading off on a West Coast tour of the U.S. from San Diego to Canada. For a complete list of upcoming screenings, click here. Individuals can host their own screening of Island Earth at their local theatre, school or environmental organization.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
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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