The Global Seafood Supply Is Being Contaminated by Microplastics, but Major News Outlets Are Silent

Our addiction to plastic is having negative effects all along the food chain.

By Andy Lee Roth and Mickey Huff

This excerpt is from Project Censored’s State of the Free Press 2022, edited by Andy Lee Roth and Mickey Huff (Seven Stories Press, 2022). This web adaptation was produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Editor’s note: Every year Project Censored publishes the “State of the Free Press,” which highlights important news stories that the corporate media insufficiently covered and takes the temperature of press freedom and integrity. The project’s student researchers work with faculty advisers at college campuses across the U.S. and Project Censored’s international panel of expert judges to identify the stories that are featured in each year’s publication. State of the Free Press 2022 cites the alarming rise of polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS) in the oceans as one of the most significant but underreported environmental stories of 2020-2021. Although independent media outlets covered this critical piece of news, the corporate press was largely silent about it. The student researchers for this piece are Eduardo Amador, Kolby Cordova, and Natalia Fuentes from Sonoma State University. The faculty evaluator is Peter Phillips from Sonoma State University, and the community evaluator is Polette Gonzalez.

According to a pair of recent scientific studies, microplastics and a class of toxic chemicals known as per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (or PFAS) are becoming increasingly prevalent in the world’s oceans and have begun to contaminate the global seafood supply.

According to a July 2020 study published in the scholarly journal Environmental Science and Technology, PFAS—a family of potentially harmful chemicals used in a range of products, including carpets, furniture, clothing, food packaging, and nonstick coatings—have now been found in the Arctic Ocean. This discovery worries scientists because it means that PFAS can reach any body of water in the world and that such chemicals are likely present in water supplies across the globe.

Meanwhile, researchers at the QUEX Institute, a partnership between the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom and the University of Queensland in Australia, have found microplastics in crabs, oysters, prawns, squid, and sardines sold as seafood in Australian markets, findings that were also first published in Environmental Science and Technology. As Robby Berman reported for Medical News Today in August 2020, the second study’s findings suggest that microplastics—small pieces of plastic “less than 5 millimeters in length, which is about the size of a sesame seed”—that are a consequence of plastic pollution have “invaded the food chain to a greater extent than previously documented.”

The presence of PFAS in the Arctic Ocean is concerning for many reasons. As Daniel Ross reported in an October 2020 article for Truthout, PFAS chemical exposure is known to have serious impacts on human health and is known to cause “certain cancers, liver damage, thyroid problems, and increased risk of asthma.” People with elevated levels of a certain kind of PFAS chemical are “twice as likely to have a severe form of COVID-19,” since these chemicals are endocrine disruptors.

Because the Arctic Ocean is so remote from human population centers, exactly how these chemicals may have reached these waters is also a deeply concerning question. As Ross pointed out in the Truthout article, “Emerging research suggests that one important pathway is through the air and in rainwater,” rather than through ocean circulation. Discovering the pathways through which these “forever chemicals” are contaminating isolated areas is important for regulators as they attempt to remove these chemicals from the environment. Atmospheric spread may make the removal of these chemicals considerably more difficult.

Like PFAS compounds being found in Arctic waters, the discovery of microplastics in popular forms of seafood is truly alarming.

Microplastics are less than 5 millimeters long, and nanoplastics are less than 100 nanometers long. According to the QUEX study, the small size of microplastics and nanoplastics allows them to spread through “airborne particles, machinery, equipment, and textiles, handling, and… from fish transport.” The research team at Exeter and Queensland found microplastics present in all of the seafood samples they studied, with polyvinyl chloride being found in every case. The study’s lead author, Francisca Ribeiro, told Medical News Today that “a seafood eater could be exposed to approximately 0.7 milligrams (mg) of plastic when ingesting an average serving of oysters or squid, and up to 30 mg of plastic when eating sardines.” For comparison, Medical News Today also pointed out that a grain of rice weighs approximately 30 mg.

As Medical News Today further reported in its coverage of the QUEX Institute study, “Roughly 17 percent of the protein humans consume worldwide is seafood. The findings, therefore, suggest people who regularly eat seafood are also regularly eating plastic.” According to Tamara Galloway, a researcher from Exeter University who is one of the study’s coauthors who was quoted in the article, “We do not fully understand the risks to human health of ingesting plastic, but this new method [used in the study for detecting selected plastics] will make it easier for us to find out.”

In October 2020 the Guardian reported that at least 14 million metric tons of microplastics are likely sitting on the ocean floor. The report by Graham Readfearn, based on a study that was published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, also said that there “could be more than 30 times as much plastic at the bottom of the world’s ocean[s] than there is floating at the surface.”

As the Guardian report noted, “Stemming the tide of plastic entering the world’s waterways and ocean[s] has emerged as a major international challenge.” In September 2020, “[l]eaders from more than 70 countries signed a voluntary pledge… to reverse biodiversity loss which included a goal to stop plastic entering the ocean by 2050,” according to the Guardian. The United States, Brazil, China, Russia, India, and Australia, however, did not sign that pledge.

Media coverage of both the study on microplastics in seafood and the research on PFAS in the Arctic Ocean has predominantly come from independent news sources as well as journals and websites aimed at members of the scientific community. Of the articles covering the presence of PFAS in Arctic waters, many simply summarize the findings of the research. However, Truthout and Chemical and Engineering News each took their coverage on the presence of PFAS in Arctic waters further by including professional opinions on the significance of the study by the researchers from Exeter and Queensland and tried addressing remedies to the problem.

Lack of corporate news attention to this issue could stem from the idea that the research findings are nothing new or simply confirm what many have previously assumed: that PFAS are ubiquitous and unavoidable, however harmful they may be to human health. However, the significance of these PFAS pollutants potentially being airborne deserves greater recognition because this poses greater challenges for abatement efforts. The Exeter and Queensland researchers’ findings about the presence of microplastics and nanoplastics in seafood likewise require publicizing despite the findings confirming certain earlier assumptions because the evidence they present could prove crucial in mobilizing political will to address an issue that is barely visible in the international media and that few people recognize as a serious problem. Outside of coverage by the Guardian, no major news outlet has paid attention to the topic of microplastics in seafood.

Andy Lee Roth is the associate director of Project Censored. His articles have appeared in YES! Magazine, Index on Censorship, Truthout, and In These Times. He holds a PhD in sociology from the University of California, Los Angeles and a BA in sociology and anthropology from Haverford College.

Mickey Huff is director of Project Censored and president of the Media Freedom Foundation. He is coauthor with Nolan Higdon of United States of Distraction: Media Manipulation in Post-Truth America (City Lights Books, 2019) and Let’s Agree to Disagree: A Critical Thinking Guide to Communication, Conflict Management, and Critical Media Literacy (Routledge, 2022). He is a professor of social science, history, and journalism at Diablo Valley College in the San Francisco Bay Area, where he is chair of the journalism department. In 2019, Huff received the Beverly Kees Educator Award as part of the James Madison Freedom of Information Award from the Society of Professional Journalists, Northern California. He is also executive producer and host of “The Project Censored Show,” the weekly syndicated public affairs program that airs on over 50 stations around the U.S. and originates from KPFA Pacifica Radio in Berkeley, California.

Meet the Trio Who May Have Figured Out How to Save American Democracy

The following is an excerpt of an article that was originally published at The New Republic.

Click to read the full article online.

Three retired election auditors in Arizona foiled the Cyber Ninjas scam—and may have created a template for how to protect elections in 2022 and 2024.

By Steven Rosenfeld

Since the 2020 election, Donald Trump and his allies have produced no evidence that Joe Biden’s victory was illegitimate despite their dozens of failed lawsuits, shrill propaganda, and bad-faith postelection reviews. But Trump’s party has shown no reluctance to revise the rules of voting to advantage Republicans before 2022’s midterms and 2024’s presidential election.

Led by battleground state legislators, the Trumpers have rewritten voting laws, threatened election administrators, begun purges of county election boards, created new gerrymanders, and more. The worst of these power grabs limit access to a ballot, which is the starting line of voting, for anti-Trump blocs and would disqualify ballots and nullify votes before the finish line.

This playbook is not new. But modern voting systems, from voter registration to tallying paper ballots, contain numerous stages and respective data sets, many of which are public records and are quite detailed. If smartly used after Election Day, these records could provide an easily understood evidence trail that would make it much harder for the Trump faction to proclaim victory prematurely or falsely.

There are formidable obstacles, though—not just to accessing and parsing the data but to getting election professionals and opinion leaders on board. In recent years, their top priority has been countering cybersecurity threats from abroad, not countering domestic disinformation so that average voters, not election insiders, can see and trust what lies behind high-stakes results.

Using public election records to debunk stolen election lies and confront propagandists is not a “fool’s game,” as a New York Times editorial board member recently opined—arguing that “the professional vote-fraud crusaders are not in the fact business.” The template of debunking and confronting election-theft lies is the largely untold story of what happened in Arizona in 2021, where Trumpers ultimately were forced to admit that Biden won, a process I witnessed.

Read more at the The New Republic.

A People’s History of Monopoly Medicine from Aspirin to COVID-19 Vaccines—New Book from Economy for All Fellow Alexander Zaitchik

Owning the Sun: A People’s History of Monopoly Medicine from Aspirin to COVID-19 Vaccines will be released by Counterpoint Press this year by IMI Economy for All fellow Alexander Zaitchik.

One of the most problematic areas in the social response to the world health crisis of COVID-19 has been the profit-seeking and opportunism of Western private businesses. Monopolistic control and no-bid contracts have been handed to pharmaceutical companies that for the most part have developed medicines based on public research. Zaitchik’s book offers the key history, context, and framework from which a general sense of a people’s politics of medicine can be projected. IMI will be working this year to distribute and amplify the careful research and reporting from Zaitchik’s book.

If you ever wondered how we went from a culture that produced Jonas Salk, who understood vaccines as a social product and a public good, to pharmaceutical executives at companies like Pfizer and BioNTech coldbloodedly negotiating the sale of their medicines while prioritizing profits over public health, Owning the Sun is the book to get answers to how we got here and how we can do better.

More Information:

Owning the Sun tells the story of one of the most contentious fights in human history: the legal right to control the production of lifesaving medicines. Medical science began as a discipline geared toward the betterment of all human life, but the merging of research with intellectual property and the rise of the pharmaceutical industry warped and eventually undermined its ethical foundations. Since World War II, federally funded research has facilitated most major medical breakthroughs, yet these drugs are often wholly controlled by price-gouging corporations with growing international ambitions. Why does the U.S. government fund the development of medical science in the name of the public, only to relinquish exclusive rights to drug companies, and how does such a system impoverish us, weaken our responses to global crises, and, as in the case of AIDS and COVID-19, put the world at risk?

Outlining how generations of public health and science advocates have attempted to hold the line against Big Pharma and their allies in government, Alexander Zaitchik’s first of its kind history documents the rise of medical monopoly in the United States and its subsequent globalization. From the controversial arrival of patent-wielding German drug firms in the late 19th century, to present-day coordination between industry and philanthropic organizations—including the influential Gates Foundation—that stymie international efforts to vaccinate the world against COVID-19, Owning the Sun tells one of the most important and least understood histories of our time.

Praise for Owning the Sun:

“A brave and timely reminder… A trenchant study of the dangers of turning medical knowledge into private intellectual property.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Journalist Zaitchik (The Gilded Rage) takes readers through the labyrinthine history of medical patents in this expansive study… Zaitchik covers a remarkable amount of ground and never gets lost in the weeds. The result is comprehensive and illuminating.” —Publishers Weekly

“Riveting. Owning the Sun masterfully explains how Big Pharma methodically gained global control over the largely public-funded ‘intellectual property’ required to manufacture new therapies (like the COVID-19 vaccines). A must-read for those wanting to understand how this unfolded.” —John Abramson, MD, author of Sickening: How Big Pharma Broke American Health Care and How We Can Repair It

“Highly informative and deeply troubling reading.” —Library Journal

“With so many Americans unable to afford ever soaring drug prices, Zaitchik’s important [and] insightful history of the rise of Big Pharma demonstrates the urgency of restraining pharmaceutical monopoly power.” —U.S. Representative Lloyd Doggett, House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chair

There’s Only One Essential Role Humans Have on Earth—A Humbler Perspective Could Save the World

This excerpt is from Urgent! Save Our Ocean to Survive Climate Change, by Captain Paul Watson (GroundSwell Books, 2021). This web adaptation was produced by GroundSwell Books in partnership with Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Click here to read the full article.

While the world’s oceans, nonhuman animals, and plants play starring roles in sustaining our ecosystem, why are we so bent on sabotaging it?

By Captain Paul Watson

I would like to introduce you to an alternative way of looking at this planet that we live on. We call it planet Earth, but in reality, it should be called planet ocean. What makes life possible on this planet is one very important element: water. This is the water planet. We have been taught that the ocean comprises the sea. However, the ocean is much more than that.

This is a planet of water in continuous circulation moving through many phases, with each phase intimately linked at every stage. It is the water in the sea, the lakes, the rivers, and the streams. It is the water flowing underground and deep, deep down inside the planet, locked in rock. It is the water in the atmosphere or encased in ice.

And it is the water moving through each and every living cell of every plant and animal on the planet.

Water is life, powered by the sun pumping it from sea to atmosphere and into and through our every living cell. Water is the life that flows through our bodies, flushing out waste and supplying nutrients. The water in my body now was once locked in ice. It once moved underground. It once was in the clouds or in the sea. Even the gravitational pull of the moon acts on the water in our bodies in the same way it acts upon the water in the sea. Water is the common bond among all living things on this planet, and, collectively, all this water in its many forms and travels forms the Earth’s collective ocean. The ocean is the life-support system for the entire planet. From within the depths of the sea, phytoplankton manufactures oxygen while feeding on nitrogen and iron supplied from the feces of whales and other marine animals. The water in rivers and lakes removes toxins, salts, and waste. Estuaries and wetlands act like the kidneys to remove further toxins, and the mineral salts are flushed into the sea. The heat from the sun pumps water into the atmosphere, where it is purified and dropped back onto the surface of the planet, where living beings drink or absorb it before flushing it through their systems. It is this complex global circulatory system that provides everything we need for food, sanitation, and the regulation of climate—for life.

Water is life and life is water. Rivers and streams are the arteries, veins, and capillaries of the Earth, performing the very same functions that they do in our bodies: removing waste and delivering nutrients to cells. When a river is dammed, it is akin to cutting off the flow of blood in a blood vessel. For example, the great Aswan High Dam on the Nile River in Egypt starved the lands below of nutrients, building up toxic water above.

Read more at Newsclick.

Captain Paul Watson is a Canadian-American marine conservation activist who founded the direct action group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1977 and was more recently featured in Animal Planet’s popular television series “Whale Wars” and the documentary about his life, “Watson.” Sea Shepherd’s mission is to protect all ocean-dwelling marine life. Watson has authored or co-authored more than a dozen books, including Death of a Whale (2021), Urgent! (2021), Orcapedia (2020), Dealing with Climate Change and Stress (2020), The Haunted Mariner (2019), and Captain Paul Watson: Interview with a Pirate (2013).

How a Group of Starbucks Workers Emerged Victorious in Their Union Fight

The following is an excerpt of an article that was originally published on Pressenza.

Click here to read the full article.

It is hugely significant that even one café out of thousands in the iconic Starbucks coffee chain has beaten back the company’s union-busting tactics to choose collective power in the workplace.

By Sonali Kolhatkar

The iconic American coffee chain, Starbucks, employs hundreds of thousands of people in nearly 9,000 cafés nationwide. And yet, the news that a handful of Starbucks employees at one café in Buffalo, New York, recently voted to join Workers United—an affiliate of SEIU—made headlines nationally. The New York Times called it a “big symbolic win for labor,” while the Washington Post hailed it as a “watershed union vote.” Social media feeds were replete with joyous posts celebrating the vote. The café, located on Elmwood Avenue, was the only one out of three union-voting Starbucks locations in Buffalo that successfully chose to unionize.

“It is significant,” says Cedric de Leon of the Starbucks union vote. De Leon is the director of the Labor Center at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, where he is an associate professor of sociology, and he is the author of several books about labor organizing in the U.S. “The employer knows it and the workers know that establishing a beachhead in one of the largest corporations, and really an iconic brand in the U.S. hospitality market, is a major accomplishment.”

Ahead of ballots being cast, Starbucks tried to delay the vote and even stacked the Buffalo cafés with new staff to try to dilute “yes” votes. It flew in external managers to closely watch workers in what was seen as brazen intimidation. The company, which has long resisted union activity, brought its former Chief Executive Howard Schultz to Buffalo to discourage workers from unionizing, even shutting down its cafés during his Saturday visit so they could attend what was essentially a captive-audience address.

Given that Starbucks would go to such lengths to stop just a handful of stores from joining a union, it’s no surprise that it took 50 years after its founding for a single café to unionize. And it’s no wonder that commentators are shocked by what is a potentially groundbreaking event.

During his address, Schultz, who remains Starbucks’ largest shareholder, reportedly spoke of the company’s health insurance benefits and tuition assistance as reasons why a union was unnecessary. Believing he knows what is best for workers, Schultz had written in his first memoir, “I was convinced that under my leadership, employees would come to realize that I would listen to their concerns. If they had faith in me and my motives, they wouldn’t need a union.”

Yet there is evidence that Starbucks workers could indeed use the collective bargaining power that a union confers. A study by Unite Here of thousands of Starbucks employees working at airport locations found a racial pay gap with Black workers earning $1.85 less per hour than their white counterparts. Nearly one in five of those workers reported not having enough money to purchase food.

Read more at Pressenza.

Sonali Kolhatkar is the founder, host and executive producer of “Rising Up With Sonali,” a television and radio show that airs on Free Speech TV and Pacifica stations. She is a writing fellow for the Economy for All project at the Independent Media Institute.

The Georgia Way: How to Win Elections

In late 2020, the Independent Media Institute’s Voting Booth project went to Georgia to cover the U.S. Senate runoffs. Across the state, extraordinary efforts were being made to reach voters of color, especially those outside metro Atlanta. A new e-book, co-authored by Voting Booth’s Steven Rosenfeld, is an oral history of that grassroots organizing. “The Georgia Way: How to Win Elections” features the voices of three dozen organizers and activists who made a concerted effort to coordinate, collaborate and campaign statewide. It recounts the mindsets, values, tactics, challenges and solutions that coalesced in 2020 in a 21st-century voting rights triumph.

Some of these organizers and organizations are well known, such as the NAACP. But others, such as the Prince Hall Masons, and the nine fraternities and sororities from historically Black colleges and universities, have not been recognized for their roles. “The Georgia Way” tells how they overcame numerous obstacles and innovated to reach overlooked voters in a pandemic. This strategy boosted turnouts in 2021’s elections and is a model for the 2022 midterms.

By Steven Rosenfeld

Corey Shackleford knew he could rely on Georgia’s Prince Hall Masons—named after the freed slave who created the civic-minded group’s first Black chapter in 1784. “We’re in those corners of the state, those rural areas, where others don’t normally go. But we are there.”

Shirley Sherrod, whose Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education has been active since the 1960s, trusted the young women on her staff to reach rural voters—even during a pandemic. “I really allowed them to take this program and just go, and it worked.”

And Keith Reddings, who leads Georgia’s Omega Psi Phi Fraternity and lives in Brunswick—where three white men killed Ahmaud Arbery, a Black jogger, in February 2020—knew neither he nor his members could be idle in the 2020 election. “I’ve been in movements for quite a while. You get these waves where you’re involved; you can be involved.”

Their comments are from an oral history of the grassroots organizing across Georgia that led to the state’s historic voter turnout and election of Democratic candidates for president and the U.S. senate. The e-book, “The Georgia Way: How to Win Elections,” recounts the mindsets, values, tactics, challenges and solutions that coalesced in 2020 in a 21st-century voting rights triumph.

“What happened in 2020 in Georgia was the manifestation of coming together, setting ego to the side, and saying that we can be much more effective and efficient if we work together through coordination, collaboration and communication,” said Ray McClendon, the Atlanta NAACP political action chairman and a co-author of the e-book. “Once that happened, we became a much more effective group.”

The campaign’s organizers built on this model with some success in November 2021’s elections, and hope to deploy this model across the South in 2022’s federal midterm elections. Georgia’s GOP is trying to copy this template by opening community centers in Black neighborhoods.

The Georgia Way,” which was co-authored by Voting Booth’s Steven Rosenfeld, features the voices of three dozen organizers from an array of civic and civil rights organizations serving Georgia’s communities of color. Together, they made a determined effort to reach out to their communities in a coordinated and unprecedented manner. They did not start by focusing on voting, but first listened, validated, and sought to meet local needs. Those efforts prompted thousands of people not on any political party’s radar—or contact lists—to vote in 2020’s elections.

“Your work just didn’t revolve around voting, but around other issues that people cared about, that mattered to them, and impacted their lives,” said Dr. Gloria Bromell Tinubu in her interview with Sherrod in “The Georgia Way,” which Tinubu also co-authored. “That is really the crux of relational organizing—that you have a relationship with people outside of the formal voting process.”

Read more at the National Memo, or download the guide.

COP26: Will Humanity’s ‘Last and Best Chance’ to Save Earth’s Climate Succeed?

There is a chance we can prevent the worst impacts of the climate crisis, but world leaders must hold businesses accountable and listen to Indigenous communities.

By Reynard Loki

It would be an understatement to say that there is a lot riding on COP26, the international climate talks currently being held in Glasgow, Scotland. Officially, the gathering marks the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the third meeting of the parties to the 2015 Paris climate agreement, which aims to limit the global temperature rise to well below 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, preferably limiting the increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius in order to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.

Since 1995, the countries that have signed onto the UNFCCC have met every single year (except in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic), attempting to come up with an action plan to stem the climate crisis. But still, every year, the world’s greenhouse gas emissions keep going up. And for a fortnight that started on October 31, world leaders will try to come up with an action plan yet again. More than 100 heads of government and some 30,000 delegates are now gathered and deliberating in Glasgow in the most recent international attempt to implement the Paris agreement goals. CNBC called the summit “humanity’s last and best chance to secure a livable future amid dramatic climate change.”

“We face a stark choice: Either we stop it or it stops us,” said United Nations (UN) Secretary-General António Guterres in his opening remarks at the start of the World Leaders Summit of the COP26. “It’s time to say ‘enough.’ Enough of brutalizing biodiversity. Enough of killing ourselves with carbon. Enough of treating nature like a toilet. Enough of burning and drilling and mining our way deeper. We are digging our own graves… We need maximum ambition from all countries on all fronts to make Glasgow a success.”

The summit comes just a few months after the August release of a grim report published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which found that climate change was “unequivocally” caused by human activity, and that within two decades, rising temperatures will cause the planet to reach a significant turning point in global warming. The report’s authors—a group of the world’s top climate scientists convened by the United Nations—predict that by 2040, average global temperatures will be warmer than 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels, causing more frequent and intense heat waves, droughts and extreme weather events. Guterres called the bleak findings a “code red for humanity.”

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is hosting the summit, likened the race to stop climate change to a spy thriller, warning that “a red digital clock ticks down remorselessly to a detonation that will end human life as we know it.” He added, “The tragedy is this is not a movie, and the doomsday device is real.”

The dire assessment of the state of the planet’s climate was not lost on U.S. President Joe Biden, who called on world leaders to take aggressive action immediately to stave off the climate crisis in his remarks at the summit’s opening day. “There’s no more time to hang back or sit on the fence or argue amongst ourselves,” he said. “This is the challenge of our collective lifetimes, the existential threat to human existence as we know it. And every day we delay, the cost of inaction increases.”

But despite all the troubling data and dire warnings, the summit has had a fairly inauspicious start. On October 30, the day before COP26 opened, leaders of the G20 nations—19 countries and the European Union, which together are responsible for 80 percent of the world’s emissions—sought to bolster international leadership on climate change as they concluded their own meeting in Rome just before the summit in Glasgow. But their deliberations ended with a whimper: a mere reaffirmation of the Paris agreement goals. During the G20 summit, Johnson said that all the world leaders’ pledges without action were “starting to sound hollow,” and he criticized the commitments as “drops in a rapidly warming ocean.” Adding to the disappointment was the fact that the summit was not attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin or Chinese President Xi Jinping, even as both Russia and China “are among the world’s biggest polluters”: Russia and China are respectively responsible for 5 percent and 28 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions, respectively. Those two nations have pushed the goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 ahead to 2060.

A failure in Glasgow could have grave, cascading consequences. On October 26, the UN Environment Program released a worrying report warning that with “climate change intensifying… humanity is running out of time” due to the climate promises that have been made but have not yet been delivered. Failure to stem the climate crisis “would mean less food, so probably a crisis in food security. It would leave a lot more people vulnerable to terrible situations, terrorist groups and violent groups,” said UNFCCC executive secretary Patricia Espinosa. “It would mean a lot of sources of instability… [t]he catastrophic scenario would indicate that we would have massive flows of displaced people.”

“We’re really talking about preserving the stability of countries, preserving the institutions that we have built over so many years, preserving the best goals that our countries have put together,” said Espinosa, who took on the UN climate role in 2016. A former minister of foreign affairs of Mexico, Espinosa shares responsibility for the talks with UK cabinet minister Alok Sharma, who serves as the COP26 president. “What we need to get at Glasgow are messages from leaders that they are determined to drive this transformation, to make these changes, to look at ways of increasing their ambition,” Espinosa said.

In a new study published in the journal Global Change Biology, a group of international scientists found that if the world continues “business-as-usual” emissions, the impacts of the climate crisis could triple across 45 different “life zones”—distinct regions representing broad ecosystem types—across the planet. “The likely future changes in the world’s life zones is likely to have a substantial impact on [people’s] livelihoods and biodiversity,” said Dr. Paul Elsen, a climate adaptation scientist at Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and lead author of the study. “Large areas of the world are getting hotter and drier and this is already impacting the earth’s life zones,” added Elsen. The researchers predict that more than 42 percent of the planet’s land area will ultimately be affected if emissions are not significantly reduced. Dr. Hedley Grantham, director of conservation planning at WCS and a co-author of the study, said, “COP26 is our best chance of countries committing to reducing emissions and putting us on a better future pathway for climate change and its impacts.”

There have, however, been a few bright spots in the early days of the summit. On November 2, world leaders announced new plans to reduce the emissions of methane, a powerful global warming gas that “has more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide over the first 20 years after it reaches the atmosphere.” President Biden welcomed the methane agreement, calling it a “game-changing commitment,” while also announcing that for the first time, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was going to enforce limits on the methane “released by existing oil and gas rigs across the United States.”

The Biden administration said that the government’s vast spending bill would mark the “largest effort to combat climate change in American history.” But with this critical climate legislation stalled on Capitol Hill, Biden’s aggressive target of reducing the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions by about half of its 2005 levels by the end of this decade will likely have to be pursued through executive actions such as regulations.

And on November 2, more than 100 nations, which together are responsible for about 85 percent of the world’s forests, agreed to a landmark $19 billion plan to end and reverse deforestation by 2030. Prime Minister Johnson said that it is critical for the success of COP26 “that we act now and we end the role of humanity as nature’s conqueror, and instead become nature’s custodian,” adding that “[w]e have to stop the devastating loss of our forests, these great teeming ecosystems—three-trillion-pillared cathedrals of nature—that are the lungs of our planet.”

​​In other welcome news, 14 nations including the United States, working on the sidelines of COP26, backed a Denmark-led initiative to reduce global maritime emissions to zero by 2050. “With around 90 percent of world trade transported by sea, global shipping accounts for nearly 3 percent of global CO2 emissions,” according to Reuters.

Indeed, non-state actors, i.e., businesses, are key participants in the world’s climate goals. UN chief Guterres said that the private sector has a critical role to play in this fight—and the UN will judge the performance of businesses’ pledges to achieve net-zero emissions. “I will establish a group of experts to propose clear standards to measure and analyze net-zero commitments from non-state actors,” which will go beyond mechanisms that have been established by the Paris climate accord, he said.

In the U.S., businesses are trying to influence Biden’s massive spending plan. “Across industries, business groups successfully pushed lawmakers to make significant changes to key sections of the original $3.5 trillion bill. Their lobbying efforts revolved around Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), who ultimately sided with the business community on several issues… The White House plan does not raise tax rates on corporations—keeping a central part of the GOP’s 2017 tax cuts intact—in a stunning win for business interests,” stated an article in the Hill.

“This growing call for action can’t be underestimated,” writes EFL contributor Patti Lynn, executive director of Corporate Accountability, a consumer advocacy group, in Truthout, referring to the surge in climate activism across the world in recent years. But she also offered a caveat: “We need great social and economic change to fully and justly solve the climate crisis, and no change on this scale happens without public engagement fueling the political will to create such changes. But we also must be clear-eyed about what stands in the way of achieving such transformative change.” She added that for the world to move “from visions to actual policies that are just and effective, we must address the largest obstacle that lies between today’s status quo and a livable future for all: the influence of the fossil fuel industry on climate policy.”

Rainforest Action Network, a nonprofit environmental group, also trained their sights on the private sector, tweeting, “World leaders… must meet the climate crisis by holding brands and banks accountable to end fossil fuel expansion and deforestation.” But the COP26 homepage suggests a different story: Unilever, Scottish Power, Sainsbury’s, National Grid, Microsoft, Hitachi and GSK are some of the many corporations that COP26 thanks as “principal partners.”

And while many private firms, including several of the COP26 partners, have made significant climate commitments, they are often met with criticisms of “greenwashing”—appearing that they are climate-friendly when in fact, the promises are often not regulated by governments and actually not making a dent. “Businesses are the big polluters,” said Kristian Ronn, CEO and co-founder of Normative, a Swedish startup that has launched a carbon emissions tracker that he says can help end corporate greenwashing. The private sector is “responsible for two-thirds of the total emissions,” he said. “So they need to account for the footprint and mitigate that footprint, because essentially what gets measured gets managed.” He added, “There are no mechanisms in place to ensure the completeness of the information.”

COP26 partner Microsoft, for example, has formed Transform to Net Zero, a new initiative with several other companies, including Nike and Starbucks, to help the private sector achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. But as Emily Pontecorvo reports in Grist, “There’s one gaping hole that persists in Microsoft’s climate action, one that the company has been repeatedly criticized for: How can it expect to pull more carbon out of the air than it puts in if it’s actively helping fossil fuel companies find and pull more oil and gas out of the ground?”

As world leaders attempt to hammer out a path to achieve the Paris climate accord goals, they would do well to listen to the world’s Indigenous people, who have been successful caretakers of their ecosystems for many generations—including 80 percent of the world’s biodiversity, though they represent just 5 percent of the global population—but who are suffering on the front lines of the climate fights, from deforestation to rising seas.

Nemonte Nenquimo, leader of the Waorani tribe in the Ecuadorian Amazon, co-founder of the Indigenous-led nonprofit organization Ceibo Alliance, and an EFL contributor, wrote an open letter to world leaders in 2020 that is even more important today. “When you say that the oil companies have marvelous new technologies that can sip the oil from beneath our lands like hummingbirds sip nectar from a flower, we know that you are lying because we live downriver from the spills,” writes Nenquimo, who was named one of Time’s 100 most influential people in the world. “When you say that the Amazon is not burning, we do not need satellite images to prove you wrong; we are choking on the smoke of the fruit orchards that our ancestors planted centuries ago. When you say that you are urgently looking for climate solutions, yet continue to build a world economy based on extraction and pollution, we know you are lying because we are the closest to the land.”

Reynard Loki is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute, where he serves as the editor and chief correspondent for Earth | Food | Life. He previously served as the environment, food and animal rights editor at AlterNet and as a reporter for Justmeans/3BL Media covering sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He was named one of FilterBuy’s Top 50 Health & Environmental Journalists to Follow in 2016. His work has been published by Yes! Magazine, Salon, Truthout, BillMoyers.com, Counterpunch, EcoWatch and Truthdig, among others.

Arizona Republic Cites Voting Booth’s Steven Rosenfeld and His Extensive Reporting on the Cyber Ninja 2020 ‘Audit’

Steven Rosenfeld’s critical work in the Arizona elections cited by Arizona’s newspaper of record—shedding light on the reality of the GOP Senate in Arizona’s election “audit.”

Cyber Ninjas was never required to deliver definitive report on election results, contract shows

By Robert Anglen / Arizona Republic

Cyber Ninjas never had to deliver a definitive report about its review of Maricopa County’s 2020 election results — it only had to try.

The deal between the Arizona Senate and its contractor used soft language and didn’t list clear-cut expectations, a review of contract documents shows.

There is also little in the paperwork that would hold Cyber Ninjas accountable for producing inaccurate or incomplete results.

The key language requires the Florida-based cybersecurity firm to attempt to do little more than outline facts, according to a March statement of work signed by Senate President Karen Fann and Cyber Ninjas CEO Doug Logan.

“This audit will attempt to validate every area of the voting process,” the contract states. “The final report will attempt to outline all the facts found throughout the investigation and attempt to represent those facts in an unbiased and non-partisan way.”

Read the rest at AZ Central.

The IMI Journal—Pushing for Sane U.S. Diplomacy and Bringing Art Into Environmental Media

Anyone who has lived through the collapse of the Soviet Union—despite the decades of hype that it was on the verge of global dominance, the lies and failures of the 9/11-era wars, the warmongering, and the Cold War hyperbole about Russia and China during the past few years—may perk up and celebrate the arrival of new Globetrotter Writing Fellow James W. Carden. Carden is a former adviser to the U.S. State Department. Previously, he was a contributing writer on foreign affairs at the Nation, and his work has also appeared in the Quincy Institute’s Responsible Statecraft, the American Conservative, Asia Times, and more.

Carden’s coverage of world events and analysis are a dose of sanity in a U.S. media environment that is marked by an absence of critical thought, historical context, or grounding in diplomacy—and a superabundance of self-interested business and government narratives and apologies for short-sighted behavior. Read his latest interview with scholar Anatol Lieven on the failure of 20 years of U.S. occupation in Afghanistan, and the political future the country faces.

Additionally, I am also excited to announce the arrival of Rachel Gugelberger as a media fellow to the Independent Media Institute’s Earth | Food | Life project. She has been a mainstay in the contemporary art world for more than two decades, and her interest in the potential of art to shift attitudes around key environmental themes including food justice and nonhuman animal rights will fill a big area of social need—and help IMI continue in its mission to be media pioneers. Look for her first works appearing this fall!

As always, we depend on readers like you to keep us in motion, and make an impact in a world in need of so much change. Please support us now.

And if you aren’t up to date, please catch up with our recent work:

What Next After 20 Years of War in Afghanistan? Anatol Lieven on the U.S. Legacy and the Taliban’s Rise

James W. Carden – Globetrotter

A Climate Disaster Is Unfolding Before Our Eyes—And Politicians Still Refuse to Take Action

Sonali Kolhatkar – Economy for All

Extreme Weather Devastating U.S. Raises Calls to Pass Biden’s Infrastructure Bill

Reynard Loki – Earth | Food | Life

Afghanistan and the Purdue Pharma Case Are Reminders That the U.S. Is a Failed Narco-State, Too

Richard J. Eskow – Economy for All

You’ll Know an Economic and Social Justice Plan Is Serious If It Includes Money for the Arts

April M. Short – Local Peace Economy

Is America Doomed? Or Is This Just a Huge Opportunity for the Progressive Agenda?

Thom Hartmann – Economy for All

Why the Discovery of Natural Gas in Mozambique Has Produced Tragedies, Not Economic Promise

Vijay Prashad – Globetrotter

Taxpayers Are Funding Cruel and Outdated DOJ Training Programs That Kill Animals

Stephen R. Kaufman – Earth | Food | Life

Most Virginia Counties Won’t Offer Sunday Voting This Fall

Steven Rosenfeld – Voting Booth

In Minnesota’s ‘Most Diverse City,’ Schools Are Addressing the Community’s Deep Trauma

Sarah Lahm – Our Schools

Could California End Up With a Trump-Like Governor?

Sonali Kolhatkar – Economy for All

Growing Chorus of Republicans Criticize Arizona Senate’s 2020 Election ‘Audit’

Steven Rosenfeld – Voting Booth

Medicare for All Will Stop Political Bosses from Playing Games with Deadly Diseases

Thom Hartmann – Economy for All

Thanks, from Jan Ritch-Frel and the rest of the IMI team.

Climate Crisis Putting a Billion Children at ‘Extremely High Risk,’ Warns New UN Report

Almost half of the world’s children are seriously threatened by the rapidly deteriorating global climate.

By Reynard Loki

“Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people to give them hope. But I don’t want your hope,” said Swedish climate activist Greta Thunberg in 2019. “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day.” Now the famed young eco-warrior and Nobel Peace Prize nominee might get her wish as she, along with other youth activists, has collaborated with UNICEF—a United Nations agency working in more than 190 countries and territories to provide humanitarian and developmental aid to the world’s most disadvantaged children and adolescents—to launch an alarming new report that has found that a billion children across the world are at “extremely high risk” from the impacts of climate change.

Released ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference to be held in November in Glasgow, Scotland, and on the third anniversary of Fridays for Future (FFF), the youth-led global climate strike movement founded by Thunberg, “The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis”​​ is the first climate report to combine high-resolution geographic maps detailing global environmental and climate impacts with maps that show regions where children are vulnerable due to an array of stressors, including poverty and lack of access to education, health care or clean water. The report introduces the new Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI), a composite index that ranks nations based on children’s exposure to climate shocks, providing the first comprehensive look at how exactly children are affected by the climate crisis, offering a road map for policymakers seeking to prioritize action based on those who are most at risk. Nick Rees, a policy specialist at UNICEF focusing on climate change and economic analysis and one of the report’s authors, told the Guardian that “[i]t essentially [shows] the likelihood of a child’s ability to survive climate change.”

“For the first time, we have a complete picture of where and how children are vulnerable to climate change, and that picture is almost unimaginably dire. Climate and environmental shocks are undermining the complete spectrum of children’s rights, from access to clean air, food and safe water; to education, housing, freedom from exploitation, and even their right to survive. Virtually no child’s life will be unaffected,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s executive director. “For three years, children have raised their voices around the world to demand action. UNICEF supports their calls for change with an unarguable message—the climate crisis is a child’s rights crisis.”

In addition to finding that approximately 1 billion children—nearly half the world’s child population—live in countries that are at an “extremely high risk” from climate impacts, the report found that almost every single child on the planet has been exposed to at least one climate or environmental stressor, such as air pollution, flooding, heat waves, tropical storms, flooding or drought. Moreover, the report found that 850 million children—approximately one-third of the world’s child population—are exposed to four or more stressors.

Read the rest at Pressenza.

Reynard Loki is a writing fellow at the Independent Media Institute, where he serves as the editor and chief correspondent for Earth | Food | Life. He previously served as the environment, food and animal rights editor at AlterNet and as a reporter for Justmeans/3BL Media covering sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He was named one of FilterBuy’s Top 50 Health & Environmental Journalists to Follow in 2016. His work has been published by Yes! Magazine, Salon, Truthout, BillMoyers.com, CounterPunch, EcoWatch and Truthdig, among others.

Photo Credit: The Left/Flickr