Turkish Scientist Sentenced to Prison for Publishing Paper Linking Pollution to Cancer
A Turkish food engineer, columnist and human rights advocate was sentenced to 15 months in prison last week for publishing an environmental paper that linked pollution to a high incidence of cancer in Western Turkey, according to Science Magazine.
The court in Istanbul found that Bülent Şık, former deputy director of the Food Safety and Agricultural Research Center at Akdeniz University, had disclosed classified information when he published the results of his study in a Turkish newspaper in April 2018. Amnesty International described the sentenced as "a travesty of justice," as Agence-France Presse reported and Phys.org published.
"Bülent Şık fulfilled his duty as a citizen and a scientist and he used his right to freedom of expression," his lawyer, Can Atalay, said in his closing statement, as Science reported.
Şık carried out his study with several other scientists from 2011 to 2015 to test whether soil toxicity, water pollution and food had a link to the high rates of cancer in Western Turkey.
The study, which was commissioned by Turkey's Ministry of Health, found dangerous levels of pesticides and heavy metals in various food and water samples from several provinces in western Turkey. Water in a few residential areas also tested positive for unsafe levels of lead, aluminum, chrome and arsenic pollution, according to Science.
Şık published his findings in the newspaper Cumhuriyet after three years of lobbying the government to take action, but realizing his pleas were falling on deaf ears.
The study "clearly revealed the extent to which water resources were contaminated by toxic materials," said Şık to reporters after the verdict, as AFP reported. "The court ruling shows that the results of a study that directly concerns public health can be hidden. This is unacceptable."
Şık was unapologetic about his actions, even though offering an apology would have allowed him to avoid jail time.
"[H]iding data obtained from research prevents us from having sound discussions about the solutions," Şık said in a statement to the court provided to Science by his lawyer. "In my articles, I aimed to inform the public about this public health study, which was kept secret, and prompt the public authorities who should solve the problems to take action."
Environmental groups have pointed out that Turkey has put economic growth ahead of safety as it has ignored environmental regulations during a boom in industrial growth, as AFP reported.
Şık's report singled out the industrial zone around Dilovasi, about 50 miles away from Istanbul and home to several chemical factories, as having cancer rates well above the international average.
"The case against Bülent Şık has been, from the start, a travesty of justice," said Andrew Gardener, Amnesty International's Turkey researcher to the AFP. "Instead of pursuing a whistleblower through the court, the Turkish authorities should be investigating this important public health issue."
"What is quite striking in this case is that the Ministry of Health did not argue that what Bülent Şık published was not true," said Milena Buyum, a senior campaigner on Turkey at Amnesty International in London, as Science reported.
She added that the government's argument that the information was confidential suggests there is a real danger to health.
By Governor Jay Inslee
Climate Week this year coincides with clear skies in Washington state for the first time in almost two weeks.
In just a few days in early September, Washington state saw enough acres burned – more than 600,000 – to reach our second-worst fire season on record. Our worst fire season came only five years ago. Wildfires aren't new to the west, but their scope and danger today is unlike anything firefighters have seen. People up and down the West Coast – young and old, in rural areas and in cities – were choking on smoke for days on end, trapped in their homes.
Fires like these are becoming the norm, not the exception.
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By Bill McKibben
To understand the planetary importance of this autumn's presidential election, check the calendar. Voting ends on November 3—and by a fluke of timing, on the morning of November 4 the United States is scheduled to pull out of the Paris Agreement.
President Trump announced that we would abrogate our Paris commitments during a Rose Garden speech in 2017. But under the terms of the accords, it takes three years to formalize the withdrawal. So on Election Day it won't be just Americans watching: The people of the world will see whether the country that has poured more carbon into the atmosphere than any other over the course of history will become the only country that refuses to cooperate in the one international effort to do something about the climate crisis.
By Oliver Milman
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Do you support or oppose each of the following policies as part of the recovery from the coronavirus pandemic?<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDQzODcyMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxNjg4MzY4OX0.B-bt9mltOhK0MHFbzK8G3_8sBkDAeUsAWm-AhNZYoxQ/img.png?width=980" id="acd43" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8724178274b9f96e27055f74a1bafe20" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
America's largest national forest, Tongass National Forest in Alaska, will be opened up to logging and road construction after the Trump administration finalizes its plans to open up the forest on Friday, according to The New York Times.
Aerial view of the Tongass National Forest. Alan Wu / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
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Hamstrung by coronavirus lockdowns, frustrated school strikers have spent months staging digital protests against world leaders failing to act urgently on climate change.
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Opportunity for a New Normal<p>Last September's Global Climate Strike drew young and old protestors around the world, with organizers estimating a global turnout of 7.6 million, including an estimated 270,000 people in Berlin. Activists have adjusted this year's event to account for social distancing and different levels of coronavirus restrictions in cities taking part.</p><p>They say COVID-19 also presents opportunities.</p><p>"The pandemic shows that we can change our normal daily life, and we are very able to adjust to a situation of crisis," she says. The key question is how economies get back on their feet: "We have the possibility to build a new normal, to build a renewable world order, and an environmentally just, climate-just normal for everybody."</p><p>In July, Jeng was among 20 female Fridays for Future activists from the Global South to sign an open letter to G20 finance ministers warning that their decisions in "exclusive backrooms" over stimulus packages and corporate bailouts would "lock in development pathways for decades."</p><p>"The system is not broken, it was built to be unjust. We don't need recovery, we need a reboot," the letter reads, stressing that "black people, indigenous peoples and people of color," have been disproportionately hit by the economic, climate and coronavirus crises. </p>
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