Anti-Pipeline Protests Shut Down Canadian Rail Networks
Anti-pipeline protests have shut down major rail networks across Canada as indigenous rights and environmental activists act in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en people of British Columbia, who are fighting to keep a natural gas pipeline off their land.
Canadian National Railway (CN) said Thursday it would shut down its freight network east of Toronto in response to rail blockades, CNN reported. The same day, VIA Rail, which predominantly uses CN tracks to run passenger trains, said it was suspending the majority of its service. Then, on Sunday, CN announced 1,000 temporary layoffs, The Globe and Mail reported.
"It's our future that's going to be destroyed – it's really important for youth," 17-year-old Malika Gasbaoui, an Ojibwa-Métis from the Laurentians in Quebec who visited one of the blockades, told The Globe and Mail.
Gasbaoui was visiting a blockade in the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory near Belleville, Ontario, which has cancelled train trips for more than 83,000 people since it began. The blockade was launched Feb. 6 in response to a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) raid on camps set up by the Wet'suwet'en to block the construction of the $6 billion Coastal GasLink pipeline, according to CBC News. The demonstrators say they will maintain the blockade until the RCMP leave Wet'suwet'en territory.
Another blockade in the Kahnawake Mohawk Territory outside Montreal has shuttered a commuter rail into the city, The Globe and Mail reported. Anti-pipeline activists also held weekend demonstrations in Vancouver, Vaughan, Ontario and Niagara Falls, Ontario.
The Vaughan protesters blocked trains en route to London, Hamilton, New York and Michigan Saturday before disbanding around 5 p.m., CTV News reported.
"We are here for as long as we can be disruptive," indigenous land defender Vanessa Gray told CTV News. "We are here in solidarity with the Wet'suwet'en land defenders, the hereditary chiefs that oppose the pipeline, with solidarity with everyone who has faced violence from the police arrests and people who are still faced with surveillance from the police. We are here also to shut down Canada."
At stake is not just the environmental impacts of the pipeline, but the sovereignty of the Wet'suwet'en Nation. The pipeline company got permission from Wet'suwet'en elected councils to build the pipeline, but not the hereditary chiefs who say they never surrendered their control of the land to the Canadian government, CTV News explained.
"These shouldn't be viewed as anti-pipeline protests. These are really demonstrations by Indigenous people all over the country to say we don't want the government using the RCMP to violently take down people who are living on their own territories," indigenous rights activist Pamela Palmater told CTV.
Both CN and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce have asked the government to remove the blockades, arguing that they were harming the country's economy, CNN reported.
"Until we have rail service resumed, I would say no level of government is fulfilling its duties to help uphold the rule of law and ensure that commerce can flow freely throughout our country," Ryan Greer, senior director of transportation policy for the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, told CTV Thursday.
CN did obtain an injunction to end the Belleville blockade, but the police have not enforced it, according to CNN.
The Canadian government said Sunday it hoped to resolve the tension through dialogue, The Globe and Mail reported. Indigenous Services Minister Marc Miller pointed to two raids on indigenous camps in the 1990s that had ended poorly.
"My question to Canadians, my questions to myself and to fellow politicians regardless of the party, is whether we do things the same old way and repeat the errors of the past, or do we take the time to do it right?" he told The Globe and Mail.
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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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