Every day, sharks suffer from different threats. Up to 100 million sharks disappear every year, due to destructive fishing by humans and the impact of climate breakdown. One-third of the world's known shark species have been listed as "threatened" species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
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By Sarah Thomas and Nathan Heffernan
Fossil fuel companies have reaped millions of dollars in benefits from a stimulus package intended to help struggling Americans and the economy. Among these is Marathon Petroleum, the largest oil refiner in the country, which has a history of air pollution violations impacting low-income and Black and Brown communities.
Oil Companies Receiving Bailout Money<p>The CARES Act included several provisions to support businesses, one of which allowed companies to claim an immediate tax refund by deducting current operating losses from income taxes paid in the past five years. As a result of changes to allow the <a href="https://foe.org/news/big-oil-scores-1-4-billion-in-covid-tax-scam/" target="_blank">"carryback"</a> of net operating losses, Marathon received <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-15/-stealth-bailout-shovels-millions-of-dollars-to-oil-companies" target="_blank">$411 million in tax benefits</a>, a sum even greater than their recent $334 million penalty for environmental violations. The Federal Reserve also included Marathon Petroleum in its <a href="https://www.politico.com/newsletters/morning-energy/2020/06/29/fed-buys-millions-in-energy-bonds-788849" target="_blank">recent purchase of energy bonds</a>.</p><p>Oil and gas companies, like Marathon, are not violating any rules by claiming this tax benefit, but there are significant downsides to using public resources to prop up dirty companies with a history of air pollution violations in the midst of a pandemic that targets the respiratory system. As part of the paycheck protection program, a separate program under the CARES Act, at least <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/jul/07/fossil-fuel-industry-coronavirus-aid-us-analysis" target="_blank">$3 billion</a> in taxpayer dollars intended for small businesses have gone to over 5,600 U.S. fossil fuel companies and are being used to save an antiquated industry, rather than investing in a sustainable future that will benefit all Americans.</p><p>Democratic <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/business/2020/may/14/us-oil-gas-companies-coronavirus-relief-loan-ppp" target="_blank">lawmakers have warned</a> that this oil bailout is not only taking the funds meant for smaller businesses, but is also forcing taxpayers to pay for the industry's past mistakes. Senators Brian Schatz and Sheldon Whitehouse <a href="https://www.schatz.senate.gov/press-releases/schatz-whitehouse-senators-to-fed-loans-should-help-small-businesses-not-bail-out-oil-companies-that-risk-stability-of-financial-system" target="_blank">wrote</a> that the pandemic "was not the source of the oil and gas industry's dire financial condition," and that this bailout "poses both a credit risk and a more profound climate transition risk to taxpayers."</p><p>Marathon Petroleum is just one example of an oil company that was <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-marathon-petroleum-activist/marathon-petroleum-to-change-ceo-split-company-after-hedge-fund-campaign-idUSKBN1XA1DI" target="_blank">already struggling</a> prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, partly due to their expensive 2018 acquisition of rival refiner Andeavor. Oil companies have been pursuing such <a href="https://www.cnbc.com/2019/12/18/the-us-oil-industry-shook-up-the-world-and-now-its-shaking-out.html" target="_blank">mergers</a> in an attempt to generate investor excitement and make up for the structural weaknesses of the oil sector. More specifically, upstream companies have spent billions more on drilling than they receive from selling the produced oil and gas, which creates a condition known as <a href="https://ieefa.org/the-depreciation-dodge/" target="_blank">negative free cash flow</a>. Investing in oil stock has had a similarly negative trajectory, as the average U.S. oil producer over the past three years has produced <a href="https://www.fool.com/investing/2019/10/16/the-oil-stock-merger-wave-continues-despite-invest.aspx" target="_blank">a total return of negative 17%.</a></p>
A History of Environmental Racism<p>The acquisition of Andeavor and other refineries has made Marathon Petroleum the largest refiner in the U.S. with a long list of costly penalties. All told, Marathon and its acquired companies have been <a href="https://violationtracker.goodjobsfirst.org/prog.php?parent=marathon-petroleum&order=pen_year&sort=desc" target="_blank">fined more than $1.4 billion</a> in environmental, consumer protection and workplace violations since 2000. A significant recent example was its <a href="https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/marathon-petroleum-company-reduce-air-pollution-refineries-five-states" target="_blank">$334 million settlement with the EPA in 2016</a> to reduce air pollutants in five states: Michigan, Louisiana, Ohio, Kentucky, and Illinois. The EPA <a href="https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/marathon-petroleum-company-reduce-air-pollution-refineries-five-states" target="_blank">announced</a> that the required investments in air pollution controls would "help reduce emissions that can cause respiratory and cardiovascular health impacts, which can disproportionately affect low-income and vulnerable populations."</p><p>Many of Marathon's refineries have notably high indicators for <a href="https://www.epa.gov/ejscreen" target="_blank">Environmental Justice Indexes</a>, signifying high levels of air pollution among minority and at-risk groups. For the 1-mile radius surrounding the Detroit, Michigan refinery, the surrounding communities score above the state 90th percentile for diesel particulate matter, air toxics cancer risk, and respiratory hazard index. The Canton, Ohio refinery additionally scores around the 75th percentile in these indexes. The Garyville, Louisiana refinery — located in Louisiana's infamous "Cancer Alley" — scores in the 99th percentile country-wide for air toxics cancer risk. The Political Economy Research Institute lists Marathon as the <a href="https://grconnect.com/tox100/ry2017/index.php?search=yes&company2=4274" target="_blank">33rd worst air polluter in the nation,</a> with an Environmental Justice Minority Share of 59%, meaning that its refineries disproportionately impact communities of color.</p>
Lobbying Against Common-Sense Solutions<p>The CARES Act bailout to Marathon Petroleum, a significant air polluter, is further concerning given the lobbying ties the fossil fuel giant has with the Trump administration. In May 2020, the House Oversight Committee <a href="https://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/500015-house-oversight-seeks-docs-from-marathon-oil-after-trump-mileage" target="_blank">requested documents from Marathon Petroleum</a> related to its <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/climate/cafe-emissions-rollback-oil-industry.html" target="_blank">extensive lobbying efforts</a> related to Trump's rollback of fuel economy standards — a rule change that has already been mired in scandal. In 2018, Gary Heminger, Marathon's former CEO, told investors <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/13/climate/cafe-emissions-rollback-oil-industry.html" target="_blank">the new rule would help sell up to 400,000 more barrels of oil a day</a>. The investigation seeks documents detailing meetings with top officials at the EPA and the Department of Transportation.</p><p>While the CARES Act is necessary for stimulating the economy during this crisis, large hand-outs to notorious air polluters must be scrutinized. Air pollution exposure has been linked to<a href="https://epha.org/air-pollution-caused-conditions-the-risk-of-co-morbidities/" target="_blank"> increasing incidence and severity of several respiratory infections that are similar to COVID-19.</a> Residential areas surrounding oil refineries such as Marathon Petroleum are often predominantly Black communities, which are already affected disproportionately by the pandemic. The bailout money towards Marathon Petroleum maintains oil refineries that pollute surrounding communities, worsening the health and economic impacts of the Covid pandemic.</p><p>Our recovery from this crisis shouldn't worsen existing public health problems or lock us into higher greenhouse gas emissions. We need a green and just recovery that puts us on a path to the sustainable future we need.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Lamfu Fabrice Yengong and Sylvie Djacbou Deugoue
Biodiversity loss is a global crisis. In May last year, the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) warned that over 1,000,000 species are threatened with extinction worldwide. On May 22, the International Day of Biodiversity, it is important to recall the silent victims of our country's obsession for industrial growth at the expense of our forests.
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By Sylvie Djacbou Deugoue, Greenpeace Africa
When I think of the forest, I remember playing in it. We would build huts of sticks and moss, and vehicles from bamboo trees. Getting lost in the forest was a real adventure. We used to turn the forest into a navigation game. We could get a sense of orientation without a compass or a GPS.
Sylvie Djacbou Deugoue, in the rainforest in the south region of Cameroon, 2017. Greenpeace Africa<p>I would go with my brothers, sisters and our friends into the nearby forest to collect seasonal fruits off the trees (bush mango, oranges, lemons). We would collect traditional medicinal herbs and scrape the tree barks with our grandma to treat our stomach aches, especially after eating too much of those fruits.</p><p>Playing and jumping in the bushes, looking for food and building materials, these were some of our favorite moments as children in Cameroon. The forest served me with free therapy sessions. When I was sad or needed to reflect, I used to go and rest under a tree. Alone, I could enjoy the shadow created by the branches. Listening to the squirrels' feet clambering in the trees or the birds singing, chirping, croaking and shrilling, it was a peaceful treatment for my mind.</p><p><span>Life seemed so simple then. We had a place where we found ourselves connected. The air was pure and fresh and we did not know many of the diseases we do now. The tranquil environment in the forest was reflected in the unity of our communities. There were hardly any conflicts over land and when they occurred they were solved peacefully around a fresh cup of palm wine.</span></p>
Sylvie Djacbou Deugoue, in the Baka house in the south region of Cameroon, 2019. Greenpeace Africa<p>Joining the fight through the forest campaign of Greenpeace Africa six years ago gave me an opportunity to defend my forest and stand for the rights of the people living here. Working with communities and learning to see the forest through their eyes, hearing their cry the forest is destroyed in the name of "development," makes me more eager to continue to stand with them and for their rights.</p><p>Here in Cameroon, many of the plantations that have replaced our natural forests are in fact tree monocultures. But not everyone understands the difference between a tree monoculture plantation and a natural forest. Even some governments. By replacing natural forests with monoculture tree plantations, not only are human communities and endangered species put at risk, but enormous stocks of carbon are released into the air.</p><p>Carbon is mostly stored in the thick stems and deep roots of trees that are hundreds of years old. Planting new trees to replace ancient forests is not a solution. It just serves to greenwash the conscience of executives in oil and gas companies, <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-world-economic-forum-davos-switzerland/" target="_blank">declaring one trillion trees</a> will be planted and "offsetting" CO2 emissions from extractive industries with artificial forests is part of the problem. Planting trees with one hand, while the other one is pumping oil out of the ground is like putting a band-aid on an arm that has been dismembered.</p><p>Only a natural forest can be home to rich biodiversity, including rapidly disappearing medicinal plants. Only a natural forest can be a home to Indigenous and local forest communities. The solution requires acknowledging their unique role in good management of forests and recognizing their rights over their land. Give them back the forest. Ensure their participation and inclusion in all policies.</p><p>Seeing the scale of forest destruction in my land and understanding the risks for the entire planet, celebrating my birthday has become more difficult in recent years. I hope that this time around, my cry as someone who always loves to visit the forest — along with the cries of Indigenous and local communities who must live in the forest — will be heard by many more of you. That would be the perfect gift for my birthday. It would help bring a smile to my face and to so many more.</p>
By Cole Taylor
Storytelling is the heart of activism and community building. Part of my story is standing on the Fred Hartman Bridge and blocking the Houston Ship Channel for 18 hours on Sept. 12. Why did I feel compelled to do something like this? It really comes down to the many stories that make up my life, community and passion.
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By Kaitlin Grable
I was born on the island of O'ahu, 98 years after the U.S. supported an illegal coup in my hometown of Honolulu to overthrow Queen Liliuokalani and steal Hawaiian land. I was born in a Hawai'i that is radically and tragically different from the Hawai'i of my ancestors.
But in Hawai’i the continued legacies of colonialism and imperialism are destroying our ‘aina.<p>Countless Hawaiian sacred sites have been bulldozed, dismantled, developed and even used for military target practice.</p><p>Many Kanaka (Indigenous Hawaiians) are passionately fighting to raise awareness about the injustices they face, such as racism and displacement, while seeking to gain back control of their land. And right now, the world is watching as Hawaiians, both Indigenous Kanaka and non-Indigenous Kama'aina, are taking a stand against scientific imperialism in the form of the Thirty Meter Telescope.</p><p>These protectors, the Ku Kia'i Mauna, have been steadfast in their presence, creating blockades with their own bodies to prevent road access for weeks now.</p>
But this is about so much more than the desecration of sacred lands. This is about dismantling the systems of colonialism and imperialism that have destroyed and exploited our precious natural resources, and continue to do so with no regard for people or planet.<p>Hulali Kau, a writer and advocate working in Native Hawaiian and environmental law, said it best: </p><blockquote>"To anyone that continues to try to frame TMT as a science versus culture argument, I would say that this struggle over the future of Mauna Kea is actually about how we manage resources and align our laws and values of Hawaii to connect a past where the state has subjected its Indigenous people to continued mismanagement of it lands with its uncertain future."</blockquote>
By Willie Mackenzie
When it comes to being otherworldly, alien and bizarre, the ocean has plenty to fuel the imagination and make your jaw drop: giant scuttling bugs, jelly-like blobfish, slimy mucus-drenched hagfish, hairy armed lobsters and almost anything else you could imagine.
The spiral tube worm, or Sabella Spallanzanii, lives in membranous tubes, often reinforced by the inclusion of mud particles and has a feathery, filter-feeding crown that can be quickly withdrawn into the tube when danger threatens.
Gavin Newman / Greenpeace
Discovery of Hydrothermal Vents<p>One of the hottest candidates for creating the right conditions are deep sea "<a href="https://www.whoi.edu/know-your-ocean/ocean-topics/seafloor-below/hydrothermal-vents/" target="_blank">hydrothermal</a>" vents, where super-heated water and chemicals meet. These vents exist far below the reach of sunlight, in an area devoid of any oxygen. They're created at the places where giant tectonic plates meet, by the heat from the inner Earth pushing through the crust of the planet.</p><p>Hydrothermal vents were only discovered in 1977 – and astonished scientists with their towering chimneys and bizarre animals discovered around them. <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QffkyLYB_PA" target="_blank">Giant tube worms</a>, bacteria-eating crabs and other surreal creatures somehow thriving at great depths, clustered around columns billowing out "<a href="https://oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/vents.html" target="_blank">smoking</a>" superheated, mineral-rich seawater. </p><p>This discovery challenged what people thought about life on Earth, and even more so when "alkaline" versions were discovered in 2000. <a href="https://www.usgs.gov/media/images/ph-scale-0" target="_blank">Caustic conditions</a>, similar to weak bleach, or bicarbonate of soda, seemed even more unlikely to support life. Yet they did. </p>
The Lost City: The Real Primordial Soup?<p>The Lost City is the best known of these hydrothermal vents — a collection of turrets, towers and chimneys that could be as much as 120,000 years old.</p><p>Research shows that these vents are <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/01/080131151856.htm" target="_blank">creating hydrocarbons</a> — molecules that are essential for all life on Earth. Could it be that churning chemicals and minerals in superheated seawater in places like the Lost City were actually <a href="https://www.chemistryworld.com/features/hydrothermal-vents-and-the-origins-of-life/3007088.article" target="_blank">where life started</a>? Is this the real primordial soup?</p><p>The honest answer is — we still don't know. In the last couple of decades, scientists have struggled to survey and understand the mysteries of the Lost City.</p><p>But as research continues to try and answer these questions, the seabed has attracted attention from industry keen to exploit the minerals and metals down there too.</p>
Hydrothermal vents at Dom João De Castro.
Greenpeace / Gavin Newman
Monster Machines at the Ready<p>We don't know very much about the deep sea, and we know even less about remote, inhospitable deep sea vents. Though they exist in extreme chemical and physical conditions, they seem to be very fragile and precarious.</p><p>Yet even before scientists have started to scratch the surface of understanding these remarkable environments, they are at risk of being damaged or destroyed forever by industries keen to mine minerals from the deep sea. </p><p>Licenses have already been granted to explore for mining the seafloor with monster machines — which risk wrecking these places before they are even understood.</p>
Underwater footage of seamounts in the Azores, Princess Alice Banks.
A Wake-Up Call<p>The rush to exploit the deep ocean, before we even understand it, has to be a wake-up call.</p><p>It's not as if the public is clamoring for the seafloor to be ripped up for us to get a new gadget (especially when companies can't even get their act together to reclaim and recycle the materials we already have!). Not only are we threatening unique marine life, but we might destroy these places forever.</p><p>That's why Greenpeace's Pole to Pole expedition is sailing to the Lost City this summer with the scientist who discovered this wonder of the deep ocean, to learn more about its mysteries and make the case for protection, rather than exploitation.</p><p>Did life on Earth begin in the cauldron of chemical soup around deep sea hydrothermal vents? I don't know. But I do know that we're already harming enough species and habitats, and we have no justifiable reason to trash the fragile deep sea and all the wonderfully weird marine life that makes its home there.</p>
The Esperanza arriving to the Azores for the Lost City Leg of the Pole to Pole Ship Tour.
Barbara Sanchez Palomero / Greenpeace
By Paula Tejón Carbajal
Working in climate and environment, you hear this question a lot. On one hand, environmental groups — including Greenpeace — will tell you that every action you take can make a difference. Every action counts! On the other, editorials and experts will tell you that it doesn't matter what you do in your everyday life, because the problem can't be solved by individual action. They may claim that its a cop out and lets corporations off the hook, because the problem lies with the broken but deeply entrenched system we're caught in. After all, 70 percent of emissions are created by 100 companies, right?
By Jeremiah Lowery
The climate crisis is comprised of many issues, which require many solutions. Now is the time for presidential candidates to discuss all these issues facing U.S. citizens and our international community.
A woman stands at the window of her home looking out at Shell refinery just a couple of yards away, in an area dubbed "Cancer Alley" in Louisiana.
People ride in the back of military trucks as they are evacuated through the flooded streets of Houston after Hurricane Harvey caused record flooding in southeast Texas.
A woman holds a jar of water from her well, which was contaminated after hydraulic fracturing drilling began near her Washington County farm.
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By Rachelle Adelante
Amid the growing plastic pollution crisis, we see people rising up and taking a stand in a lot of different ways. Plastic pollution protests can range from marching in the streets to more unorthodox methods, such as protest art. Protest art is an important way to create public awareness for issues such as the single-use plastics problem.
Trash Art, Katie Williams.
San Francisco Trash Art<p>She met photographer Jen Fedrizzi while living together at the Convent Arts Collective in San Francisco. Williams gushed over, "Jen had seen some of my performance art and she asked if I'd be interested to collaborate on the topic of plastic pollution. She absolutely reignited my passion for the environment."<br></p><p>The duo first staged a performance art piece on the day after Thanksgiving in 2017 called, <em>Our Sophisticated Denial</em>, which took place in the street front window of the Artists' Television Access Gallery on busy Valencia Street in San Francisco's Mission district. For this performance, Williams and Fedrizzi "drowned" in waste over the course of 5 hours.</p><p>"We actually collected waste from our arts collective, and in that process of collecting waste, rather than throwing it in the bin, we saw firsthand just how much waste was being created. It was shocking to see how much trash you've accumulated. Once you see it, you cannot unsee it." Williams said.</p>
Our Sophisticated Denial, November 2017.
Global Beach Cleanup<p>Beyond creating art pieces out of trash, Williams and Fedrizzi also organized a global beach cleanup and brand audit in collaboration with The Surfrider Foundation, All One Ocean and Zero Waste Youth USA in March of 2019.</p><p>"A brand audit is a little different from a regular beach cleanup," Williams explained, "For a brand audit, you sort the trash and pile it up by the company that created it. At the end, you take photos and post them online tagging the companies. This lets them know that we are holding them accountable and makes their branding synonymous with trash. We want to force corporations to change to alternatives to single-use plastics."</p><p>The <a href="https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/brandaudittoolkit/" target="_blank">brand audit toolkit</a> is available from Break Free From Plastic and can be used for any type of cleanup.</p>
Stop Plastic! Act Now Facebook Group<p>Williams also manages a group on Facebook that posts daily actions for group members to take, such as emailing companies or signing petitions.</p><p>She created the group as a response to the many Zero Waste groups on Facebook, which place an emphasis on individual actions. "I wanted to focus on corporate accountability. I believe that if enough consumers write in and voice their demands, we can make companies listen."</p><p>You can join the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/352655552225678/" target="_blank">Stop Plastic! Act Now</a> group on Facebook.</p>
Love Transcends All Borders<p>From her years of experience traveling and working around the world, Williams came to realize that people, at their very core, are all the same.</p><p>"We share the same desires, wishes, and sorrows," she recognized, "And of course we also have rich diversity and complexity, but at the heart of it, I feel we all share the same human goodness." That is a good thing as it gives us more chance to unite and collaborate towards the same goals.</p><p>"We see people all over the world right now standing up for plastic pollution and climate change," Williams said, "It represents the goodness of people. We do care."</p><p>So many possibilities are out in the horizon and Williams is simply enjoying her free time working as a communications consultant, plotting her next protest art projects. For now, <a href="https://katculture.com/lovesigns/" target="_blank">her latest project</a> emphasizes love and how it transcends beyond borders, languages and anything that divides us.</p>
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By Maggie Ellinger-Locke
We only have about a decade to reverse course on the climate crisis. Activism opposing fossil fuel pipelines is needed more than ever. But activists are facing threats to their right to protest in state legislatures across the country. Lawmakers are introducing legislation to restrict the right to protest. These bills are often modeled on resolutions drafted by companies and passed through groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), the secretive group of corporate lobbyists trying to rewrite state laws to benefit corporations over people, and are usually supported by law enforcement groups. Advocates are fighting back, urging elected officials to vote against these bills. But even the mere introduction of these bills has the power to chill speech and curtail activism.