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Protestors Shine Light on Trans-Pacific Partnership's Secret Corporate Coup

Climate
Protestors Shine Light on Trans-Pacific Partnership's Secret Corporate Coup

By James Trimarco 

When negotiators from the 12 countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership gathered last week in Salt Lake City, UT, they were met by the TPP Welcoming Committee, a coalition of environmental, social justice and labor groups who did their best to show that there is opposition to the deal in the U.S.

Activists project messages about the Trans-Pacific Partnership onto the exterior of the Grand American Hotel in Salt Lake City, UT. Photo credit: Jerrick Romero / Backbone Campaign

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) would affect laws and regulations involved in fields including agriculture, media and medicine, and would cover about 40 percent of global GDP. While the leadership of both mainstream political parties in the U.S. supports the deal, advocates of environmental and social justice, as well as some elected representatives, have criticized it.

The Sierra Club has said the TPP would result in an "explosion of fracking." Public Citizen called it a "corporate power tool of the one percent." And, in a letter signed by more than 130 Democratic members of Congress, Rep. DeLauro (D-CT) and Rep. Miller (D-CA) described the TPP as "weakening ... buy America provisions, providing extraordinary investor-state privileges, and restricting access to lifesaving medicines in developing nations."

One of the goals of this week's protests was to raise the profile of the deal. The text of the TPP remains secret to everyone except the national negotiating teams and more than 600 corporate "advisors."

That secrecy was dealt a blow last week, when Wikileaks published the TPP's chapter on intellectual property. The 95 pages of leaked documents revealed that the U.S.' negotiators are pushing for a number of policies opposed by most or all of the others—on issues such as the patenting of plants and animals, harsher fines for those accused of copyright violations, and the ability to prosecute individuals who use or share copyrighted content by accident.

As the Washington Post showed in a detailed infographic, the leaked text seems to demonstrate that the U.S. has become isolated in the TPP talks.

Interactions in Salt Lake City last week between protestors and negotiators from other countries gave the same impression.

Ariel actions at the TPP talks in Salt Lake City last week shed light on the secrecy of the trade deal. Photo credit: Jerrick Romero /Backbone Campaign

Bill Moyer, the executive director of the Backbone Campaign, one of the organizations that participated in the actions, says that when some of those foreign delegates stepped outside of the hotel to view or photograph anti-TPP slogans that activists had projected on the hotel wall, they thanked the protestors for their work.

Then, at another point in the evening, Moyer shouted, "Don't allow yourself to be bullied by the U.S." to a group of negotiators from Latin American and Asian countries, and they responded by saying, "We're doing our best!"

Organizers used a variety of inventive tactics to express their feelings about the deal throughout the week. On Wednesday and Thursday nights, they used light cannons to project messages onto the walls of the Grand America Hotel, where the negotiations were being held. On Wednesday, they suspended a 75-foot-tall banner outside the hotel using weather balloons, and about 30 people marched to the hotel’s entrance while banging pots and pans.

"We completely undermined their attempts to keep the TPP invisible in the U.S. and elsewhere," said Moyer. "We overcame the barriers of short notice and geography to show the country, the world and the international delegates that resistance to the TPP is growing in the U.S."

Jesse Fruhwirth, a volunteer with the Salt Lake City-based climate justice group Peaceful Uprising, said the TPP is relevant to climate politics, too. The agreement is likely to make the permitting process for oil and gas drilling easier—bad news for those working to stop or mitigate climate change.

The issue of extraction is especially sensitive in Utah, which possesses valuable gas deposits as well as tar sands.

On Tuesday, as the local Bureau of Land Management auctioned off 44,000 acres of public land for oil and gas leases, TPP opponents joined members of Peaceful Uprising and Utah Tar Sands Resistance in a rally at the auction site.

James Trimarco wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. James is web editor at YES! and you can follow him@JamesTrimarco.

Visit EcoWatch’s ENERGY and CLIMATE CHANGE  pages for more related news on this topic.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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