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Protecting Biodiversity – and Making it Accessible – Has Paid Off for Costa Rica

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/04/2022 - 8:25pm in

Ample biodiversity fosters ecotourism, provided  it is paired with access to good infrastructure. Both factors are necessary to attract tourists.

La Trobe meets regional Net Zero targets

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/04/2022 - 3:49pm in

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Environment

La Trobe University Media Release La Trobe University’s Mildura and Shepparton campuses are officially Net Zero – the first Victorian university campuses to achieve this important milestone. The announcement comes as part of the University’s $75 million commitment to become carbon neutral across all its campuses, including Bundoora in Melbourne, by 2029 – with all…

The post La Trobe meets regional Net Zero targets appeared first on The AIM Network.

Cartoon: Highly selective health nuts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/04/2022 - 9:50pm in

It's easy to laugh at this stuff, but I actually find it more disturbing and sinister than anything. The "alpha male" bro culture of the alt-right ties directly into authoritarian "strongman" rhetoric and the strategically-contrived moral panic about gender that is reflected in the anti-LGBTQ laws sweeping the nation. Put simply, it's fascist, and many in news media don't seem to fully connect the dots or grasp the symbolic power at work here.

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Bottled Water Giant BlueTriton Admits Claims of Recycling and Sustainability Are "Puffery"

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/04/2022 - 8:00pm in

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Environment

In ongoing litigation over the greenwashing of plastic recycling, the bottled water company BlueTriton made a revealing argument: its claims of being environmentally friendly aren’t violations of the law, because they are “aspirational.”

BlueTriton — which owns Poland Spring, Pure Life, Splash, Ozarka, and Arrowhead, among many other brands — is estimated to contribute hundreds of millions of pounds of plastic to U.S. landfills each year. BlueTriton used to be known as Nestlé Waters North America, which was bought by the private equity firm One Rock Capital Partners in March 2021. The company, which has a history of draining aquifers to get the water that it encases in polluting plastic, owns about a third of bottled water brands in the U.S. Yet with sleek, green — and blue — PR materials, BlueTriton markets itself as a solution to the problems of plastic waste and water.

“Water is at the very core of our sustainable efforts to meet the needs of future generations,” BlueTriton declares on its website, spelling out its promise for sustainable stewardship over a picture of pine trees, pristine water, and clouds. The company’s Instagram account is similarly nature-oriented and wholesome, filled with green-tinged images of people hiking and enhancing the native trout population.

The claims were a bridge too far for the environmental group Earth Island Institute, which sued BlueTriton in August, arguing that its misleading sustainability claims violate a local Washington, D.C., law known as the Consumer Protection Procedures Act, which is designed to prevent “deceptive trade practices.” In response, the company defended its green self-promotion by explaining that everyone should realize that the claims are meaningless nonsense.

“Many of the statements at issue here constitute non-actionable puffery,” BlueTriton’s attorneys wrote in a motion to dismiss the case submitted to a D.C. court in March. “BlueTriton’s representation of itself as ‘a guardian of sustainable resources’ and ‘a company who, at its core, cares about water’ is vague and hyperbolic,” the attorneys continued. “Because these statements are ‘couched in aspirational terms,’ they cannot serve as the basis for Plaintiff’s CPPA claim.”

Dirty Business

When BlueTriton picked a new logo in April 2021, it explained its choice on Instagram as a nod to its commitment to nature and environmentalism. “Triton is a god of the sea in classical Greek mythology,” the company wrote. “Combined with the color blue, representing water, the new name and logo reflect our role as a guardian of sustainable resources and a provider of fresh water.”

Several of its brands go even further, suggesting that they are helping address the plastic problem because the bottles can in principle be recycled. BlueTriton brands Poland Spring, Ozarka, and Zephyrhills Water advertise that “We use #1PET plastic, which can be used over and over again!” Pure Life water boasts that all its bottles are “100% recyclable … and can be used for new bottles and all sorts of new, reusable things.” Deer Park claims that its recyclable bottles help “keep plastic out of landfills” and that the company “care[s] about you & our planet.”

In truth, there is overwhelming evidence that recycling cannot solve the plastic problem. Since the 1950s, only 9 percent of plastic produced has been recycled, while the vast majority of plastic waste is either landfilled or incinerated. Six times more plastic waste is burned than recycled in the United States. Packaging, including the PET bottles that BlueTriton brands describe as recyclable, account for more than half the plastic that winds up in landfills.

As the complaint notes, plastic pollution is now so widespread that the average person is drinking more than 1,700 tiny bits of plastic in a week’s worth of drinking water — the equivalent of an entire credit card. Microplastics are found in 94.4 percent of tap water samples in the U.S. and may be an even bigger problem in bottled water, despite bottled water companies marketing their product as pollution-free. One BlueTriton brand, Pure Life, had twice the level of plastic fibers as tap water.

Meanwhile, as BlueTriton touts itself as a solution to America’s water problems, it has been caught extracting water from the national forest without authorization. The practice of tapping into natural water supplies has been shown to drain aquifers and rivers, taking water from plants and animals as well as public drinking water reserves.

corporate-promise-recycle-material-beyond-plastics1

Graphic: Beyond Plastic

Empty Promises

With rising public awareness of the role played by bottled water companies in the plastic pollution crisis, companies have publicly pledged to do better. In 2008, Nestlé Waters North America committed to recycling 60 percent of PET bottles by 2018. The company proudly announced its intentions in its first corporate citizenship report (which is no longer available online). But when the deadline came and its recycling rate was still less than half of its goal — just 28.9 percent, according to a 2020 report by the Changing Markets Foundation — the company just issued another pledge rather than dwelling on its failure to meet the earlier one.

The loud announcement of lofty goals for plastic recycling followed by the quiet failure to meet them is part of a larger pattern. Since at least 1990, Coca-Cola has made repeated promises on the plastics front, including commitments to use more recycled plastic, recover and refill more of its bottles, and incorporate more plant-based materials. The company, which has fought against efforts that would reduce plastic waste and recently hired Bill Nye to help clean up its image, regularly rolls out these goals with much fanfare and rarely, if ever, meets them. Coca-Cola did not respond to an inquiry for this story.

The distances between PR and reality are particularly pronounced around pledges to increasingly rely on recycled plastic, which is far more expensive to use than new plastic. According to Beyond Plastics, 10 major corporations — including L’Oréal, Unilever, Nestlé, and PepsiCo — had promised vast reductions in their dependence on virgin plastic while continuing to rely on new plastic. The environmental advocacy organization based its findings on 2019 data, the most recent available.

BlueTriton, which does not publicly list a media contact and provides no way for reporters to ask questions, did not respond to an inquiry from The Intercept for this article (which was conveyed through a message left with the sales department). But in its filing that asks the court to dismiss the greenwashing suit, the company argues that some of its brands have taken several steps that show they are genuinely sustainable. It says that Pure Life, for instance, has converted the cooling towers in its bottling plants to reuse water that was previously discharged. And that company is also “reduc[ing] the amount of plastic in our 0.5 liter bottles by over 40%” and “improving our production processes to reduce the amount of water needed to make one liter of Pure Life® purified water.” One Rock Capital Partners, the private equity firm that bought Nestlé Waters North America, also did not respond to an inquiry from The Intercept.

“They’re admitting that they use these sustainability commitments just as marketing tools.”

Sumona Majumdar, general counsel at the Earth Island Institute, dismissed those claims. “You can’t claim to be a sustainable company while using plastic as your primary packaging,” said Majumdar. “Maybe there was a time when, as a company, you might have thought our plastic is getting recycled and getting turned back into plastic. But at this point, everybody knows that’s not true.”

Majumdar counts the company’s executives among those who clearly understand that they are contributing to the plastic waste crisis — even as their spin suggests otherwise.

“When you look at their Instagram feeds and their statements about sustainability, it seems like a fait accompli. But in this brief they filed, they’re admitting that they use these sustainability commitments just as marketing tools,” said Majumdar. “It’s just to get consumers to buy their goods, and not because they actually intend to follow through with their promises.”

The post Bottled Water Giant BlueTriton Admits Claims of Recycling and Sustainability Are “Puffery” appeared first on The Intercept.

‘This Needs to Be Fixed’: Nuclear Expert Calls Radioactivity Levels Found Outside Ohio Oilfield Waste Facility ‘Excessive’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/04/2022 - 6:25pm in

An investigation reveals elevated levels of radioactivity not far from a high school football stadium, and accounts from inspectors point to the contamination’s possible source.

Right to Repair: Will Corporate Concessions Suffice?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/04/2022 - 8:50pm in

Some companies have apparently embraced a limited right to repair. Federal and state legislation is still necessary.

The Tory climate sceptics might need to rethink

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 25/04/2022 - 5:40pm in

A think tank called Onward is generally seen as right-wing and Tory leaning. In that case, its finding on green issues are interesting. In polling it has released today it says:

And it added:

Before noting:

The Tory climate sceptics need to rethink.

 

Bird of Paradise

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 24/04/2022 - 9:44am in

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia reginae). Large Autumn flowering bush endemic to South Africa, but widely planted in the Inner West (on roughly the same latitude), mainly as a soil stabiliser. Distinctive flower just emerging from the spathe here. Hurlstone Park.

The Energy Transition Has A Major Metals Problem

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/04/2022 - 6:57pm in

Green energy requires significant amounts of metals like lithium, cobalt, nickel, copper and manganese. Current supplies aren't adequate.

Does This Water Have Legal Rights?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 22/04/2022 - 6:00pm in

Mary Jane is a looker. Her curves hug the Isle of Pine Preserve to the southeast of Orlando, Florida, nearby residents enjoy her coolness for kayaking, and her body of water is part of rather spectacular wetlands that connect her to her twin, Lake Hart. She is also the first lake in the U.S. to make waves by filing a lawsuit.

Beachline South Residential, a developer, wants to take advantage of the region’s growing popularity and convert nearly 2,000 acres of wetlands, pine flatwoods and cypress forest just north of the lake into apartments and offices. So Mary Jane, Lake Hart, two other local waters and a marsh in Orange County have done what most Americans who feel existentially threatened would do: They’ve lawyered up. 

“We must protect this environmental treasure,” says Chuck O’Neal, the human who filed the lawsuit against the developer and the state on behalf of Mary Jane and her fellow plaintiffs in April 2021 while he was chairman of the Florida Rights of Nature Network. “Right now, there is a building boom that is leveling forests at record rates and destroying large swaths of nature. It’s important that local governments have the right to protect their environment.”

O’Neal grew up in Orange County and watched developers cement over much of the county, not least with the arrival of Disney World in the 1970s. Passionate about the local waterways, he launched Speak Up Wekiva in 2013, a campaign to galvanize support for the state’s wildlife and flora. At the time, the Floridian businessman believed the rights of nature movement was “too radical,” but he changed his mind after several weather events in 2018 caused severe water contamination and massive fish die-offs. “At that point I understood that we needed to change the legal system fundamentally.”

The Split Oak Forest Wildlife Environmental Area abuts Lake Hart, one of the five bodies of water suing the State of Florida. Credit: Florida Fish and Wildlife

What O’Neal is attempting with the lawsuit on behalf of the water is not just another environmental lawsuit against an eager developer. Asked why he wasn’t filing a traditional lawsuit, he responds that what’s needed is a shift in perspective. “The current laws are stacked against nature because nature is viewed as property. When you buy a property, you can do whatever you want with it. Our planet needs to take into account that these natural bodies of water, forests and animals have a right to live.” 

Looking at the history of the constitution, O’Neal believes it’s time to expand the definition of rights. “When the Constitution was written, only a certain few people were rights-bearing, generally white property-owning males. The point is that we need to instill rights in our legal system for nature.” 

O’Neal is not alone in this belief. In November 2020, Orange County voters approved a charter amendment to protect the “rights of nature” by a margin of nearly 90 percent. “And that in Florida, where people don’t agree on anything,” he exclaims. “The amendment grants nature four rights: the right to exist, to flow, to be protected against pollution and to maintain a healthy ecosystem. That, paired with the human right for all citizens to have clean water, went on the ballot and passed in 2020 with 89 percent of the votes. I consider this monumental for a county of 1.4 million people.” 

By advocating for earth laws, O’Neal is taking a page from the playbook of Indigenous Peoples all over the planet. 

“I was taught that water is alive. It can hear. It holds memories,” Kelsey Leonard, the first Native American woman to earn a science degree from Oxford University, explained in her viral TED Talk, “Why lakes and rivers should have the same rights as humans.” 

The Indigenous leader and Harvard-educated expert in water science would have loved to name her talk “Why nature should get more rights than humans,” she says via Zoom from the University of Waterloo in Ontario, where she is a professor in the Faculty of Environment. “Humans have a fascination with trying to play God, to dominate nature. Well, nature has something to say about that. Through earth law, we’re trying to remedy the harms past legislation has created.” 

Leonard points out that Indigenous folks like herself were not citizens within the U.S. until 1924, meaning her Shinnecock ancestors were not citizens under the law. Indeed, the definition of a legal “person” has been evolving. Over the last decades, the American legal system expanded legal personhood to slaves, women, children and corporations. 

“As a Shinnecock woman and a legal scholar, I question the moral compass of the Western world where you can grant legal personhood to a corporation but not nature,” Leonard says. “If you can grant that to a corporation, why not the Great Lakes? Why not the Mississippi River? Why not the many waterways across our planet that we all depend on to survive?” 

According to Leonard, the visible destruction of climate change with its wildfires, droughts, and floods drives home the insight for many people that human “dominion” over the earth has devastating consequences if no one is authorized to speak up for nature and its creatures. “The status quo has allowed us to destroy nature,” she states. “If we are maintaining the status quo, we are not going to do what we need to address climate change. We are at a pivotal point.” 

In 2008, Indigenous Peoples led Ecuador to become the world’s first country to formally recognize the “Rights of Mother Earth,” a ruling that the Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature (GARN) and others subsequently used successfully against a construction company that dumped rubble into a river. As a result, the government was forced to clean up the river. Any citizen in Ecuador can now go to court on behalf of nature. 

“Rather than treating nature as property under the law, rights of nature acknowledges that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles,” asserts GARN. Recognizing the inherent right of nature to remain intact would be a wholesale shift of perspective after centuries of regarding it as a resource to be owned, used and exploited. 

New Zealand’s Whanganui River. Credit: Jason Pratt / Flickr

In 2017, four rivers in Colombia, India and New Zealand won legal rights, including the Whanganui River, ​the longest navigable river in New Zealand. The Māori fought for more than a century against the British Crown to save the Whanganui River and finally reached agreements over the last decade that recognize personhood of the waterway and a former national park known as Te Urewera. In a novel decision, the courts decided that neither the Māori nor the Crown owned the river but that the river is its own being. The Māori and the New Zealand government agreed to share guardianship of the environment. 

The U.S. is far behind in these efforts but some communities have started the process. For example, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, passed an anti-fracking law that includes the provision that, “Natural communities and ecosystems… possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist and flourish.” 

Some version of nature rights laws now exist in about 20 countries, including Canada, Bolivia and Uganda, as well as half a dozen Tribal Nations in the U.S. (including the Ponca Tribe of Oklahoma, the Yurok and the Menominee) and dozens of cities and counties. 

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“This process is one of democratization,” Leonard says. “The majority of the world’s religions and cultures have always acknowledged that water is living.” She also believes that earth laws will enable communities to address the threat of climate change much more swiftly and comprehensively.

Ultimately Leonard, and the rights of nature movement more broadly, is calling for nothing less than a fundamental shift in our relationship with our environment, using a responsibility-based legal framework instead of a property rights-based one.

“We can start to honor the original treaties between Indigenous Peoples and non-Indigenous Peoples for water protection,” she says. “We can appoint guardians for the water that ensure the water’s rights are always protected. We can also develop water quality standards that have a holistic approach, that ensure the well-being of the water before our human needs. And moreover, we can work to dismantle exclusive property ownership over water.”

If you look at it from this perspective, granting nature rights isn’t a new idea at all. For millennia, people considered themselves as part of the natural world.

Despite these convincing arguments, Mary Jane et al. have little chance of winning in court. As soon as Orange County voted for the bill of rights for its waters, state legislators snuck a last-minute amendment into a sewage bill that prohibits local governments from granting legal standing to a “part of the natural environment.” O’Neal is waiting for the upcoming hearing on April 26 to see if his case will be dismissed before it has even started. The governments of India as well as courts in Ohio have similarly struck down regional attempts to establish earth laws. 

“That’s why it’s important to build consensus, a broad network,” Leonard says. “It is not something that should only be on the shoulders of Indigenous Peoples. It’s about transforming hearts and minds.”

Despite its challenges, O’Neal, like Leonard, believes that the movement might be as hard to stop as a mighty river. “Nothing can stop an idea whose time has come.”

The post Does This Water Have Legal Rights? appeared first on Reasons to be Cheerful.

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