Refusing to Give Up in the Face of Adversity for the Good of Humanity and the Earth
Nelson Mandela, who died last month at age 95, was sentenced to life in prison in 1962 because he fought for justice, equality and democracy. He was finally released 27 years later, in 1990. South Africa’s racist apartheid system fell and Mandela served as president from 1994 to 1999. The tributes after his death rightfully celebrated him as a forgiving, compassionate humanitarian and great leader.
Closer to home, on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks refused to obey a bus driver’s order to give up her seat to a white person. She was arrested for violating Alabama’s segregation law. It wasn’t the first challenge to U.S. racial policies and prejudice—it wasn’t even her first—and that act alone didn’t change laws and attitudes. But it catalyzed the civil rights movement that led to massive social change.
In Canada, in 1965, Everett George Klippert was sentenced to “indefinite” imprisonment for having sex with other men. Then-Justice Minister Pierre Trudeau later said, “There's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation,” and sexual activity between same-sex, consenting adults was decriminalized in 1969 (although Klippert was imprisoned until 1971). Now, same-sex couples can get married in Canada.
We pride ourselves on our democratic traditions, but in Canada, women couldn’t vote until 1918, Asians until 1948 and First Nations people living on reserves until 1960.
We’ve come a long way. It’s hard to fathom that such widespread, often state-sanctioned discrimination occurred so recently—much of it in my lifetime. My childhood memories include a time when the government confiscated my family’s possessions and exiled us to a camp in the B.C. Interior, just because my grandparents were from Japan.
We still have discrimination and many other problems, but these examples show change is possible—often quickly, after reaching a critical mass of public support. Studies show discrimination, murder and other violent crime rates and death from war have all declined over the years.
Throughout history, we’ve faced challenges and adapted to changing conditions. We’ve renounced practices that, in hindsight, seem foolish and often barbaric. We’ve overturned economic systems that no longer meet our needs or that our increasing wisdom tells us are destructive or immoral.
Often, resistance to calls for greater social justice or environmental protection is based on economics. When momentum to abolish slavery in the U.S. started building in the mid-1800s, many feared the economy would fail without free human labour. People fought a war over what they believed was a right to enslave, own and force other human beings to work under harsh conditions for free—in a democratic country!
U.S. President Ronald Reagan and U.K. Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher opposed sanctions against apartheid South Africa in part because of concerns about trade. Fortunately, Canada’s Prime Minister Brian Mulroney stood firm on sanctions, despite pressure from his allies.
Economic arguments are also often used to stall environmental progress—something we’re seeing with climate change, and pipeline, mining and fossil fuel projects, among other issues. They were employed in the 1970s, when scientists found that chlorofluorocarbons, or CFCs, were contributing to a weakening of the ozone layer, which protects us from the sun’s rays. Despite opposition, world leaders signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer in 1987, and today, it’s starting to recover.
We now face many other global challenges in addition to regional ones. Our impacts have multiplied as population, trade and communications have grown to encompass the planet.
World events viewed in isolation may make it appear as though humanity is moving backward. We still suffer wars, unimaginable violence, prejudice, environmental devastation, foolish politicians, greedy industrialists and selfish individuals. But we also have new ways to communicate widely at lightning speed, wisdom acquired from millennia of experience and people everywhere reaching out to encourage respect and kindness for each other and all life sharing our planet.
Change is never easy and it often creates discord, but when people come together for the good of humanity and the Earth, we can accomplish great things. Those are the lessons from Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and all those who refuse to give up in the face of adversity when the cause they pursue is just and necessary.
Visit EcoWatch’s CLIMATE CHANGE page for more related news on this topic.
Typhoon Molave is expected to make landfall in Vietnam on Wednesday with 90 mph winds and heavy rainfall that could lead to flooding and landslides, according to the U.S. Embassy and U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. To prepare for the powerful storm that already tore through the Philippines, Vietnam is making plans to evacuate nearly 1.3 million people along the central coast, as Reuters reported.
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A stretch of coastline in the Philippine capital, Manila has received backlash from environmentalists. The heavily polluted Manila Bay area, which had been slated for cleanup, has become the site of a controversial 500-meter (1,600-foot) stretch of white sand beach.
Sand Makeup Crucial for Ecosystems<p>While UNEP/GRID-Geneva generally supports finding <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/not-enough-sand-for-construction-industry-despite-abundance/a-49342942" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">alternative sources of sand</a> so as not to disrupt ecosystems in rivers and oceans when extracting them, Vander Velpen stressed it was vital to use sand which closely matches the makeup of the native sand to protect beach fauna.</p><p>"If you change the core characteristics of the native sand, the original sand, you need to do an environmental impact assessment (EIA) to find out how it's going to impact the ecosystem and nearby ecosystems," he told DW.</p><p>But according to Torres, such an assessment was not done in Manila.</p>
Beautification Stunt Instead of Proper Cleanup?<p>Manila Bay's waters are heavily polluted by oil and trash from nearby residential areas and ports. A huge "No swimming" sign warns visitors to stay away from the ocean.</p><p>Philippines' <a href="https://denr.gov.ph/index.php/priority-programs/manila-bay-clean-up/25-priority-programs/1825-frequently-ask-questions-faqs-on-the-dolomite-and-the-beach-nourishment-project" target="_blank">Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR)</a> has denied dolomite sand poses any risk to human health and the ecosystem.</p><p>However, scientists of the University of the Philippines have come forward disputing the DENR's claims. A <a href="https://biology.science.upd.edu.ph/index.php/ib-statement-regarding-dolomite-in-manila-bay/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">statement by the Institute of Biology</a> said that using crushed dolomite did not address any of the rehabilitation phases and instead was "even more detrimental to the existing biodiversity as well as the communities in the area," pointing to the case of water birds. "The dumping of dolomite in Manila Bay has effectively covered part of the intertidal area used by the birds thereby reducing their habitat."</p><p>At peak migration season, Manila Bay is home to 90 aquatic bird species, including species of international conservation concern that are facing a very high extinction risk in the wild. </p><p>Authorities should focus on protecting and conserving biodiversity, the Institute of Biology added. "Rehabilitating mangroves is an example of a nature-based solution that is cheaper and more cost-effective than the dolomite dumping project," the scientists said.</p><p>Moreover, <a href="http://www.msi.upd.edu.ph/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the Marine Science Institute</a> has warned that prolonged inhalation of finer dust particles of dolomite could "cause chronic health effects," leading to discomfort in the chest, shortness of breath and coughing.</p><p>They also warned dolomite sand grains would erode during storms and be carried out to sea, essentially being washed away.</p>
Rehabilitation vs. Reclamation<p>Environmentalists say covering up the beach doesn't address the real issues of the bay. Torres and others believe the best way to clean up Manila Bay is not to add anything, but rather remove trash and pollution.</p><p>"There have been studies saying much of the waste comes from already collected waste — so these are open dump sites along the coast that get washed up because of the rain," Torres said.</p><p>She criticized the authorities for continuing to push reclamation projects she says are at odds with each other. These projects will affect large areas of mangrove forests, she said, and experts warn that this, in turn, exacerbates coastal erosion.</p><p>"If you've removed the areas that helped trap the sand, like mangrove forests, then the likelihood increases that you will have to nourish a beach. Same as building right up to the waterfront," said Vander Velpen of UNEP/GRID-Geneva.</p>
Plenty of Sand in the Sea?<p>The question of Manila's contentious white beach echoes larger questions about sand mining worldwide. <a href="https://unepgrid.ch/storage/app/media/documents/Sand_and_sustainability_UNEP_2019.pdf" target="_blank">Global sand consumption has tripled</a> over the past two decades, UNEP/GRID-Geneva has found. A huge chunk of it is now taken up by construction.</p><p>"Many operate on the assumption that natural sand is endless in its supply," said Vander Velpen.</p><p>Sand scarcity is a concern shared by Stefan Schimmels of <a href="https://www.fzk.uni-hannover.de/fzk_start.html?&L=1" target="_blank">Forschungszentrum Küste</a> who's done extensive research on shore nourishment to stop coastal erosion. And as climate change and rising sea levels are threatening coasts, demand for sand will grow even more.</p><p>A large study, the <a href="http://www.stencil-project.de/wp-content/uploads/2019/10/STENCIL_SWOT_Analyse_191026.pdf" target="_blank">Strategies and Tools for Environment-Friendly Shore Nourishments as Climate Change Impact Low-Regret Measures (STENCIL project)</a>, focused on the German island of Sylt, a popular vacation spot.</p><p>About 1 million cubic meter of sand per year is used to maintain the coastal area of Sylt, STENCIL project head Schimmels said. That's about 100 million 10-liter buckets of sand.</p><p>When sand was extracted off the coast of Sylt, underwater craters were formed. "You can still detect these craters even decades later," Schimmels told DW.</p><p>"Also when you add a couple of meters sand onto the beach — you essentially bury all things that do creep and fly," he said. "How quickly will they recover?" Schimmels said more research was needed as there was still too little known about long-term effects on the environment. </p>
Criticism Piling Up<p>As for Manila's artificial white sand, it looks like some might have already been blown away by a recent storm. DENR claims it wasn't washed away, but said that grayish sand, stones and other material had simply piled up over the dolomite sand. People in Manila have tweeted photos showing how the storm has ravaged the beach. </p>
<div id="adc0b" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="98f9390db6bb81cb421aaf0bb9d9a6fb"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1318816633280851969" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Exactly one month after giving excited netizen a glimpse of Manila Bay white sands, look what happened now after ju… https://t.co/X0Z9i0bPB0</div> — M*A*S*H (@M*A*S*H)<a href="https://twitter.com/Magtira_Matibay/statuses/1318816633280851969">1603265362.0</a></blockquote></div><p>Authorities have been called tone-deaf for spending around 389 million pesos ($8 million) on a beach nourishment project in the middle of a raging pandemic.</p><p>An image of cake iced with the words "It really hurts - that's [worth] 389 million pesos?" has since gone viral.</p>
<div class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="4387aad52ea316e4db7330052318ca2f"><div class="fb-post" data-href="https://www.facebook.com/theweekendpatisserie/posts/144564207350008"></div></div><p>"It's just a waste of precious resources," Torres said. </p><p>The environmental activist now also worries that she might be labeled a terrorist for speaking out under the <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippine-anti-terrorism-law-triggers-fear-of-massive-rights-abuses/a-53732140" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Philippines' controversial new anti-terrorism law</a>. She says she could be arrested for inciting fear when talking about environmental dangers.</p>
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