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Latest news from Greenpeace
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The Russian public are far less sure than Gazprom about the question of drilling in the Arctic. In a poll produced by Russian research agency FOM, 42% said drilling and mining in the Arctic was not appropriate. Just behind the 45% who felt it was.
And if they're unsure about the wisdom of drilling, they're even more unsure about the wisdom of making territorial claims. Asked if neutral Arctic territory should be split up between the nations which border it, 69% said no. Just 17% favoured partition.
That shows that, as in most Arctic nations, the question of what to do about the Arctic is far from settled in Russia. Elements of Russian media, some state owned and some directly owned by oil company Gazprom have gone out of their way to talk up the benefits of drilling in the Arctic. But they haven't mentioned the chronic spills, the high costs or the danger. That's a piece of the Arctic puzzle that has yet to be shared with most of the Russian public.
The poll also found that 69% of Russians think of the Arctic as a frozen wilderness of snow and ice. Asked what came to mind when they thought of the Arctic only 15% mentioned the native wildlife, like Polar Bears and Walrus. The story of the Arctic as an amazing, living environment, where extraordinary creatures live and thrive in the most extreme conditions is one still waiting to be told in Russia.
And nobody mentioned the Indigenous Peoples.
Gazprom's push into the Arctic has benefitted from a lack of scrutiny and interest. If you don't know about the wildlife and the pollution it looks like an unremarkable plan. If you don't know about the costs, the risk and the danger it might even seem reasonable.
That's the illusion the Arctic 30 set out to expose. Gazprom's drilling is anything but safe, and the Arctic is anything but desolate. The coastlines threatened by Gazprom's monster oil rig teem with fish and are home to unique Arctic wildlife. Gazprom's safety record is full of accidents, spills and deaths.
And we know what happens when Gazprom's involvement in the Arctic is exposed. In 2012, Greenpeace activists visited the same oil rig, the Prirazlomnaya, to bear witness and draw attention to its activities. Opinion polling commissioned by Greenpeace, but carried out by pollster Romir Research (part of the WIN/Gallup network) found that two-thirds of Russians had heard about the action, and that almost one in five had subsequently changed their mind to oppose industrial exploration in the Arctic. The more Russians know about what's being done in the Arctic, the less they like it.
By being willing to voyage to the frontiers of the world and bear witness to the activities of industries ranging from whaling and logging to waste dumping and nuclear testing, Greenpeace has exposed a succession of crimes against the environment. The bravery and the commitment of the Arctic 30 has made Arctic drilling another one. They've put this story of thoughtless destruction on the front pages, where it deserves to be. And now the world can make up its mind. Should the Arctic be left as an untouched frontier? Or should it be turned into an industrial wasteland?
The Arctic 30 have taken a stand to protect one of the earth's last unspoilt places. Now you can stand with them. Free the Arctic 30.
Martin Lloyd is the Marketing Communication Manager at Greenpeace International.
The US has “kindly offered” to help Japan with the decommissioning of the Fukushima reactors and the problems with the ongoing leakages of radioactively contaminated water.
Is the US being the good Samaritan? Unfortunately not. Before the US will provide assistance, Japan has to sign the Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage (CSC). This is an international treaty that supposedly provides an international regime on nuclear liability -- the who-should-pay-for-a-nuclear-accident issue.
But the real aim of the CSC, along with other international conventions on nuclear liability, is to protect the nuclear industry. It caps the total compensation available after a nuclear accident at a level much lower than the actual costs. The companies that supply nuclear reactors and other material are exempt, they don't have to pay anything if there is an accident. The operators of nuclear plants are the only ones accountable for paying damages but the CSC protects them too by not requiring them to have enough money or financial security to cover the costs of an accident.
From the beginning of the use of nuclear power 60 years ago, the nuclear industry has been protected from paying the full costs of its failures. Governments have created a system that protects the profits of companies while those who suffer from nuclear disasters end up paying the costs. The world's big reactor sellers, such as GE, Hitachi and Toshiba, pay nothing if there is a disaster at one of the reactors they sell.
Fukushima is a cruel example of this unfair practise. GE designed the Fukushima reactors and built them along with Hitachi and Toshiba. Yet these companies are not being held accountable to cover the costs of the mess their reactors created. It’s taxpayers who end up bailing out the nuclear industry.
Even worse: the now nationalised Fukushima operator TEPCO just booked its first profits since the Fukushima disaster: $1.44 billion. At the same time, TEPCO has said it won't pay the costs for decontamination work in areas around the Fukushima plant that will likely exceed $30 billion. Sounds fishy to me…
The Japanese government’s plan to break up TEPCO and take direct control of the Fukushima clean-up means that taxpayers once again would have to open their wallets. Even though TEPCO by law is required to cover all the costs of the decontamination, it simply refuses to pay and the Japanese government lets them get away with it.
And now the US is blackmailing Japan into signing the international treaty that protects American companies. “You need help to solve your radioactive water problems? We can help you! Please sign on the dotted line…”
The US is not offering help to Japan out of the kindness of its heart, but to give a lifeline to its dying nuclear business. The US has been pushing ratification of the CSC in other countries where they hope to expand their nuclear business, such as India, Canada, Korea.
Japan signing the CSC would have two important benefits for the US: 1. It would reduce the chances that GE can be sued for damages from the Fukushima accident, and 2. It could secure future business opportunities in Japan for American nuclear suppliers.
The nuclear sector is dying. To survive, it continues to evade responsibility for its failures. In my view, companies that are not willing to take responsibility for their actions should not get into (nuclear) business in the first place.
The liability system that protects the nuclear industry is flawed and must be fixed. It is well past time for that improvement. The change is simple: make the polluter pay. Companies that create the enormous risks of nuclear power must pay for their failures, not people who end up suffering from them.
Dr. Rianne Teule is a radiation expert with Greenpeace International.
Here’s the latest of our news bulletins from the ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
TEPCO, the operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, has announced its first half-year profits since the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami destroyed reactors at the site. The company made a before-tax profit of 141.7 billion yen ($1.44 billion) in the six months between April and September this year. This follows the 166.27 billion yen loss the company posted in the same period last year. The company has made the profit through increased sales, reducing labour costs and delaying repair work at power stations. The company has also received three trillion yen from the government in financial assistance, a figure that may go as high as five trillion.
However, the news comes along with further uncertainty for the company after a committee of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) proposed that TEPCO be broken up. According to the committee's draft proposal, the company should be stripped of its responsibility for decommissioning the damaged reactors at Fukushima. The job could be given to a separate entity within TEPCO, a separate company altogether, or an independent agency affiliated to the government. The proposal, which will be presented to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe next week, calls for "creating a clear and realistic organisation".
Despite the news that TEPCO is in profit for the first time since the March 2011 disaster, Japan's government is giving consideration to using government money to pay for decontaminating areas surround the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant. "I wonder if we can put all the blame on TEPCO, given that (nuclear policy) has been framed by the state government," said Finance Minister Taro Aso this week. He also said that final cost of decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture is as yet unknown. The National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology estimates it could be five trillion yen. This comes with the news that TEPCO is refusing to repay the Environment Ministry the more than 30 billion yen the Ministry has so far spent on decontamination efforts. So far it has repaid just 6.7 billion yen.
State of the Fukushima Reactors
Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) gave formal approval this week for work to commence to remove nuclear fuel rods from a storage pool at Fukushima's reactor #4 building. The pool stores approximately 1,300 spent fuel assemblies and 200 unused ones. TEPCO hopes to start work in mid-November and finish transferring the fuel to a storage facility by the end of 2014. “It’s a major step toward decommissioning. Moving the fuel rods out of Unit 4 can significantly reduce the risk at the plant,” said NRA commissioner Toyoshi Fuketa. The job involves the use of a remote controlled crane and will be difficult, however. "It's a totally different operation than removing normal fuel rods from a spent fuel pool. They need to be handled extremely carefully and closely monitored. You should never rush or force them out, or they may break. I'm much more worried about this than I am about contaminated water," said NRA chief Shunichi Tanaka. Reactor #4 was offline during the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami and so was not damaged in the same way as reactors #1, #2 and #3. Its building was subsequently damaged however by hydrogen explosions and fires.
Meanwhile, the contaminated water crisis continues as the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the NRA called the situation “extremely alarming” in a meeting with TEPCO President Naomi Hirose this week. In addition, the ruling LDP this week published a draft bill calling for as much public money to be used as necessary to tackle the ongoing problem and putting the task of dealing with it under direct government control. There are currently 1,000 storage tanks at the site and the levels of contaminated water continue to rise by around 400 tons every day. Most of the water is groundwater that runs into the destroyed reactor buildings where it becomes contaminated. A solution TEPCO is now examining is using the basements in the undamaged buildings of reactors #5 and 6# to store contaminated water.
Also this week, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz offered his country's assistance in the Fukushima cleanup operation. "Our decommissioning and decontamination industries stand ready to aid should Japan need their help. The U.S. is ready to assist our partners with this daunting task," said Mr Moniz during a lecture in Tokyo. He is also expected to visit the Fukushima site this week.
Video clips have been released this week that simplify and explain the long and complex report released in July 2012 from the independent Diet panel that investigated the Fukushima nuclear disaster. The six videos aim to be “[t]he Simplest Explanation of the National Diet of Japan Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission Report” and attempt to answer questions such as "was the nuclear accident preventable?", "what happened inside the nuclear plant?" and "what should have been done after the accident?"
Other Nuclear News in Japan
Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited Turkey this week where he and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, along with a consortium involving Japan’s Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd. and France’s Areva, signed an accord to build four new nuclear reactors in Turkey. The reactors will be built in Sinop on the Black Sea coast and the project is expected to cost more that $22 billion. “Japan is responsible for helping improve the safety of atomic power in the world by sharing its experience and lessons from the [Fukushima] accident,” said Mr Abe at a news conference. The two leaders also agreed to create a science and technology university in order to train new nuclear experts. Mr Abe's “top salesmanship” has met with criticism at home, however. Some victims of the Fukushima disaster are unhappy about his sales trips abroad while the crisis continues to unfold. “How dare he sell nuclear power plants abroad when he has not been able to bring an accident under control? “What does he think of victims of the nuclear disaster?” said Soichi Saito, chief of an association for temporary housing residents in Fukushima Prefecture.
Meanwhile, remarks made by former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi that Japan should go nuclear free continue to make headlines. His intervention is seen as significant as he has largely been out of the public eye since stepping down in 2006. "I wonder if nuclear waste can be disposed of permanently in Japan, a major earthquake-prone country. It's impossible to continue with nuclear power generation any longer," said Mr Koizumi at a meeting with the leadership of the opposition Social Democratic Party (SDP) this week. Although both agree on the need to phase-out Japan's nuclear power, Mr Koizumi has so far refused to ally himself with the SDP. Some observers have suggested that Mr Koizumi's speaking out may indicate plans to make a political comeback. He remains a popular political figure in Japan.
In other political news, Taro Yamamoto, Japanese law-maker and anti-nuclear activist, this week broke what is a regarded as a taboo in Japanese society when he handed a letter to Emperor Akihito at a garden party that expressed concerns about the Fukushima disaster. The emperor traditionally does not involve himself in political matters. "I wanted to directly tell the emperor of the current situation. I wanted him to know about the children who have been contaminated by radiation. If this goes on, there will be serious health impacts," said Yamamoto. His action drew criticism from some quarters.
Local municipal governments in Aomori Prefecture face losing the donations they receive from the Japan's nuclear industry for hosting nuclear facilities next spring. With those facilities idle the industry faces a "deteriorating business environment" and so is discontinuing the payments. The donations have totaled 13 billion yen over the last 20 years and the municipalities are now looking to the prefectural government to make up the shortfall. However, one of the prefecture's officials said: "We've been financially-strapped. I wonder if we can obtain understanding among prefectural residents."
Elsewhere, public protests continue in Japan against the use of nuclear power in the country. Protesters, including many office workers in business suits, marched through Tokyo's business district this week, shouting slogans “No to restarts,” “Stop contaminated water” and “Stop export”. “Having seen the devastation in FukushimaPrefecture a year ago, I no longer feel that nuclear power is necessary. I hope more people feel inclined to join demonstrations after seeing that many company employees attended this one,” said one protester.
Evacuation and Repopulation Efforts
The Japanese government looks set to abandon its plan to see all evacuated residents from Fukushima Prefecture returned to their homes. It is now planning to provide financial assistance to allow people from areas contaminated by more than 50 millisieverts of radiation to settle elsewhere. The zone where radiation exceeds that limit affects 25,000 people. This will allow the government to divert resources away from these areas and into parts of FukushimaPrefecture with lower contamination levels, in the hope of speeding up decontamination efforts. Consideration is also being given to increasing the level of compensation TEPCO gives to evacuated citizens. Sometimes it is not enough to allow evacuees to buy new homes.
If it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.
We are facing a planetary emergency: climate change threatens the world and our collective future. Business and political leaders know this yet they do nothing. Instead they continue to bet on our future and deepen our addiction to fossil fuels. They abdicate responsibility and allow the deadly fossil fuel giants of the last two centuries to continue to stoke the boilers of global warming.
Now more than ever people need to demand that all financial institutions that we have entrusted with our money and welfare remove their money – our money - from investments in the fossil fuel industry.
Make no mistake we are in a battle for the future with the past, the centuries old fossil fuel industries have roots deep within our governments and other institutions, they know their days are numbered, they know their power is waning, but they will not go silently into the night, they will not give up their power without a fight.
If governments will not bite the hand that feeds, if they will not free themselves from corporate sponsorship then we, the citizens, the concerned and morally driven individuals will have to take a stand, we will have to make sacrifices to challenge the deadly status quo, this is what history teaches us.
There are new ways to meet our needs, to lift people out of poverty and limit climate change, but the path to a brighter future is being blocked by the past, by the vested and invested coal and oil barons.
We know they want to continue to burn more and more carbon, which will lead to irreparable damage to our health, our lives and our environment. If we want to prevent runaway climate change from getting worse we need to leave the carbon reserves we know about - and the ones we do not yet know about - in the ground.
So how can we stop the fossil fuel industry destroy our future on this planet?
The divestment movement is part of the answer. Modeled on the successful campaign in the 1980s to divest from apartheid South Africa, this new fossil fuel divestment campaign revolves around one central moral reasoning: if it’s wrong to wreck the planet, then it’s wrong to profit from that wreckage.
A simple numerical understanding further confirms the urgency behind this moral standing.
As it stands, we can emit roughly 500 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and still stay below 2°C of global warming as highlighted in the UN IPCC’s latest report — anything more than that adds up to catastrophe for all life on earth. Burning the fossil fuel that corporations now have in their reserves would result in emitting 2795 gigatons of carbon dioxide – five times the so-called safe amount. But the fossil fuel companies are planning to burn it all and our governments are going to let them, they are even going to help them– that is, unless we rise up to stop them.
The world is quickly reaching a Point of No Return for preventing the worst impacts of climate change. With total disregard for this unfolding global disaster, the global fossil fuel industry is planning 14 massive coal, oil and gas projects that would produce as much new carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in 2020 as the entire US, and delay in taking action on climate change of at least a decade. One of these 14 projects is in the Arctic.
While the Arctic is melting, courageous people are putting their liberty on the line to confront the fossil fuel companies leading the charge -- as in the case of the Arctic 30. Thirty people are still behind bars in Russia following a peaceful protest against oil drilling in the Arctic in September. They took action because they know it is wrong to exploit melting ice to drill for more of the oil that is warming our world. They were first charged with piracy, an absurd accusation. Now the Russian authorities say that accusation is being replaced with a charge of hooliganism - a charge that is just as absurd and carries up to 7 years in jail.
Some are taking direct action, while others are forming massive movements telling Big Oil that enough is enough. We want people everywhere to help undermine the credibility and influence of those companies where it hurts the most for them – their reputational and financial capital.
The fossil fuel divestment movement is growing fast. Since its launch in the US, 100 cities, states, religious institutions and universities, have made a commitment to divest. Now it’s Europe’s turn.
Earlier this month, the University of Oxford released a study concluding that the current effort is the fastest growing divestment campaign in history and poses a far-reaching and serious threat to the fossil fuel industry’s bottom line. While the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank are calling for an end to fossil fuel subsidies, PricewaterhouseCoopers warns of stranded investments should we not limit climate change. The movement needs to reach climax soon.
We'll be looking to grow the campaign further this month with the Fossil Free Europe tour, a divestment road show with stops in Berlin, Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Birmingham, culminating in London on November 1st.
We aim to inspire even more activism across the continent, as well as connect European efforts with the movement in the United States, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. The fossil fuel industry is one of the most powerful industries on the planet. Now, a global movement is rising up to confront it. Join us tonight in London or tune in online to watch the lecture at 7 pm GMT.
Kumi Naidoo & Bill McKibben
Russia's overreaction to the Greenpeace Arctic protest — and their ludicrous waffling on the actual charges — will not work out well for Russia. Their extraordinary response will more likely help the global climate movement meet its goals.
Public dissent against abusive authority appears as old as any remembered human history. The Sumerian story of King Gilgamesh begins with public complaints that the king exploited young men for war and young women for his lust, failing in his role as the "people's shepherd." In Antiquities, Jewish historian Josephus recounts peasant protests against Roman abuse, governor Pilate sending assassins and how this overreaction incited men, women and children to offer their lives en masse by laying prostrate in the city square.
In our era, Gandhi liberated India from colonialism with peaceful resistance; Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks and American freedom marchers overturned a racist culture; Aung San Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela faced down thugs in Burma and South Africa.
In all these cases, exploitative authority overreacted to public protest with police violence, as we have witnessed more recently at Gezi Park in Istanbul, Ramses Square in Cairo and this October in New Brunswick, where Canadian police sent snipers, dogs and Taser-wielding officers to break up an Indigenous Mi'kmaq protest against fracking.
These cases form the historic context of Russia's arrest of 30 journalists, seafarers and Greenpeace International activists, originally charged with piracy, now also being charged with "hooliganism." These charges appear frivolous since the record shows that the Greenpeace protest was a peaceful demonstration of concern, staged for the benefit of every human and every other species on Earth. The Greenpeace team — now known around the world as the "Arctic 30" — devoted their time and talents to Greenpeace to help warn Russia's Gazprom and other world oil companies that their planned plunder of Arctic hydrocarbons threatens the planet's climate. This, of course, is neither piracy nor hooliganism nor any other crime.
Historically, overreaction by authorities — violence, arrests, jail — galvanises social movements, empowers individuals and strengthens organizations. When the French government detonated a bomb under the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in 1985, killing photographer Fernando Pereira, Greenpeace received a wave of global support, while France inherited a murder on its record and a stain on its historic reputation.
Since Greenpeace was founded in Canada in 1971, conscientious, skilled people have stepped forward to defend Earth's ecological health, standing up for the whales, the forests, the atmosphere and oceans. Greenpeace has attracted navy veterans, fishers, farmers, scientists, journalists, lawyers and now webmasters and videographers.
"Whenever we do something to protect our planet, it is never for personal gain or wealth or stardom," said Canadian seaman Paul Ruzycki from his jail in Russia. "On the contrary, we have nothing personal to gain, but everything personal to lose including our freedom, family and friends." Ruzycki comes from a seafaring family. He is a skilled blacksmith, welder, artist and fiddler. He has spoken out against overfishing, reckless logging, nuclear testing and the slaughter of whales. He is typical of the global citizens who comprise the Arctic 30.
Families of the Arctic 30 have become active in their home countries. In Italy, the mother of crewmember Cristian D'Alessandro has gathered over 100,000 signatures on a petition to free her son. The family of the British freelance journalist Kieron Bryan has set up a website to tell their son's story and gain his release. In Moscow, the wife of Russian freelance photographer Denis Sinyakov has picketed the government with her husband's journalist colleagues.
"I have been in prison for 22 days for a crime I did not commit," British digital media specialist Alexandra Harris told the court in Russia. "I have not seen any document showing my involvement in such a crime. The only thing that happened was peaceful protest and I believe the video evidence and Greenpeace’s long history will prove this." Alexandra's parents have asked the UK government to help secure their daughter's release.
Russia has received letters from Desmond Tutu, ten other Nobel Peace Prize laureates, the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in Argentina, Olympic medalist John Carlos, and Italian actor and playwright Dario Fo. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, and former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have expressed concern about Russia's inappropriate persecution of the Arctic 30. Greenpeace supporters have sent 1.5 million emails to Russian consulates and embassies, calling for the Arctic 30's freedom. Avaaz has collected a million signatures.
The Netherlands — flag state of the seized Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise — has filed an action against Russia, asking the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg to order the release of the Greenpeace ship and crew. The legal case states that the Greenpeace ship and crew were engaged in a "peaceful protest against Gazprom's Arctic oil platform, the Prirazlomnaya."
From around the world, we now hear the cry, "Free the Arctic 30" and "Save the Arctic." The world has not forgotten why these 30 people contributed their time and skills to Greenpeace and risked their freedom to speak out: Simply to save the Arctic from plunder and to save Earth from climate disaster. They are neither pirates nor hooligans. They are now global heroes and heroines. The longer they remain in jail, the more heroic they become in the eyes of the world.
The captain, crew, journalists and activists on board the Arctic Sunrise risked their freedom for all of us. They acted on their conscience and performed the time-honoured role of peaceful social opposition to what they perceive as injustice. They opened the public discourse about the fate of Earth's climate. For this, they will experience a freedom that no detention centre can lock away.
Rex Weyler is an author, journalist and co-founder of Greenpeace International.
Looking back over the past two years it is incredible to see what we have achieved together.
As fashion lovers, shoppers, activists, bloggers, designers and models we united behind a common cause: fashion without pollution. Armed with the toxic truth, we convinced some of the worlds most well-known fashion companies to commit to clean up their supply chains and step down the catwalk to a toxic-free future.
That’s great, one would think, but isn’t it time we found out if these brands are walking the talk and taking real action to clean up their toxic addictions?The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
Today, Greenpeace International released the Detox Catwalk, an online platform charting the progress made by 24 companies down the runway to Detox.
The Catwalk reveals that sportswear giants Nike, adidas and Li Ning – some of the first companies to champion a toxic-free future two years ago – have so far failed to clean up their act. While others in the sector are busy sparking a transparency revolution, these three continue to hide behind collective inaction and industry working groups – committed only to doing the bare minimum to meet their public promises. Isn’t it a bit ironic that the same companies who tell us “Impossible is nothing” and to go “all in” are the ones holding the industry back on the path to a toxic-free future? As someone who cares about the clothes I wear and the story they tell, I am deeply disappointed.
I would expect so much more from these sports giants, known for their quality products, famous slogans and ‘green’ promises. I am sure I am not the only one – after all, it was the power of their customers uniting with a single call for them to Detox their products and production processes that made these companies commit in the first place. They have a responsibility towards us – as customers and fans – and the people living next to the factories they use to follow through on their commitments.
Luckily however, these greenwashers are in the minority.
While their competitors stick their heads in the sand, some of my favourite fashion brands have more than proved their worth; matching their words with fashion-forward action. Companies like Mango, H&M and Fast Retailing – the name behind casual wear giant UNIQLO – are not only setting new trends on the high street, they are also showing the whole fashion industry that when they say they commit to clean up their act, they mean it.
These trendsetters have already started to eliminate the worst chemicals and are also making a pro-active effort to increase transparency in a notoriously murky industry by publicly disclosing the discharge data of their suppliers using the IPE platform.
While these brands are on course to deliver against their Detox commitments, there is still a long way to go before toxic-free fashion becomes the norm, and with less than six and a half years to go until the 2020 deadline, there is no time to waste.
Pressure from global citizens made companies like Nike and adidas stand up and listen, but now we want to see them take real action. It is they proved to their customers that they recognise the urgency of the global water crisis and take real action to eliminate the hazardous chemicals from their supply chain and products, working with their suppliers to create an open and collaborative path to change.
After all, what really counts is not what these companies say they will do, but what these companies actually do.
Greenwashed words and empty commitments are simply not enough.Take Action
Whether you are a fashionista obsessed with the latest catwalk trends, a sports fan concerned about the functionality of your sports clothes or a concerned citizen, we urge you to join a growing movement of people demanding that our clothes carry a story we can be proud of.
Find out on the Detox Catwalk if your favourite company is walking the talk or dragging its heels. Let them know directly that we – fashion fans and activists alike – are watching and we will not rest until they meet their words with concrete actions to bring about the toxic-free future we urgently want and need.
Ieva Vilimaviciute is a Detox Campaigner at Greenpeace International. You can follow her on twitter at @iewoole
Here’s the latest of our news bulletins from the ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
State of the Fukushima Reactors
Another record was broken this week after TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, announced that radiation levels in a drainage ditch on October 23 were the highest since monitoring of drainage ditches began in August. Radiation from strontium - which accumulates in human bones and has been linked to cancer - and other beta radiation sources, measuring 140,000 Becquerels per liter in water was recorded. The government limit for strontium releases is 30 Becquerels per liter. The reading was more than double that taken the previous day. "We believe it stems from the effects of rain that has fallen until now that has flushed out radioactive materials from the surrounding areas into the drainage ditch," a TEPCO official said. The drainage ditch in question is 600 metres from the sea.
In order to deal with the pools of contaminated rainwater that have accumulated since two typhoons brought heavy rainfall to the Fukushima plant, TEPCO has begun moving the water to underground storage tanks. TEPCO had previously stopped using these tanks after radioactive water escaped from one in April of this year. In addition, Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority has allowed TEPCO to implement a simpler protocol for dealing with the contaminated rainwater accumulating behind barrier walls at the plant. In the event of another rainfall emergency, TEPCO is permitted to measure radioactivity in contaminated water without first transferring it to a temporary storage tank. The move comes after heavy rainfall on October 20 that threatened to inundate storage barriers before workers could implement the usual safety protocol. “It is not in our intention to change the protocol, but we are talking (to the NRA) about what to do during heavy rains,” said Noriyuki Imaizumi, acting general director of TEPCO's Nuclear Power and Plant Siting Division. Atsunao Marui, a geochemist at the Geological Survey of Japan who has studied the water crisis at Fukushima, told the New York Times, “This has become a slowly unfolding environmental misery. If we don’t put a stop to the releases, we risk creating a new man-made disaster.”
TEPCO also said this week that it had restarted test operation of one of the Advanced Liquid Processing Systems (ALPS) at Fukushima. Two of the three of the ALPS units, which remove radioactive contamination from water, have been out of action since June when it was found that their storage tanks were being corroded. It is hoped that the third system will be operational again by mid-November.
In other news, a 7.1 magnitude earthquake struck 370 kilometres (230 miles) off the east coast of Japan on October 25. A tsunami advisory warning was issued but lifted two hours later. The resulting tsunami was up to 40 cm high in some areas. TEPCO said the quake did not cause further damage to the Fukushima reactors and no abnormal radiation readings were found. Staff working close to the sea were retreated as a safety precaution.
In a meeting with NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka this week, TEPCO president Naomi Hirose said the company is looking to transfer workers from power plants elsewhere in order to address to the growing staff crisis at Fukushima Daiichi. However, TEPCO vice president Zengo Aizawa voiced concerns about long-term staff levels. "We are not sure about our long-term staffing situation during the upcoming process of debris removal, which requires different skills," he said, adding he was open to the idea of recruiting workers from overseas. Recent reports have highlighted the plight of workers at the plant who are suffering low pay and morale, long hours and illegal hiring practices sometimes involving organized crime syndicates. At the same meeting, Mr Tanaka urged TEPCO to take "drastic measures" to stop the errors that have plagued the operation at Fukushima. He has previously talked about the "silly mistakes" made at the plant.
Japan's Board of Audit, the independent organisation that "audits the State accounts as well as those of public organizations and other bodies as provided by laws", expressed concern this week of the long term viability of the government's financial support for TEPCO. It has been estimated that it will take 31 years to recover the money lent to TEPCO to pay compensation for the Fukushima disaster. Due to its parlous financial state TEPCO has so far been unable to make any repayments to the government. The problem is compounded by the fact that the government is selling bonds to finance the assistance it is giving to TEPCO. Interest payments on these bonds may reach 79.4 billion yen which will have to be paid by the Japanese taxpayer.
Meanwhile, documents have emerged showing TEPCO's refusal to pay for the costs for the Fukushima cleanup, with the refusal apparently being accepted by the government. The move is to prevent TEPCO becoming bankrupt and means the Japanese taxpayer will have to pay the bill. The document, dated February 21, says: "The company reached a conclusion that it is too difficult to pay." TEPCO has so far only paid 6.7 billion yen out of the 40.4 billion it owes the Japanese environment ministry which is in charge of decontamination efforts. The ruling Liberal Democratic Party will propose that the government cover part of the costs for decontamination work and all expenses to build intermediate storage facilities for radioactive debris, which means that taxpayers would end up paying the bill. The decontamination costs alone are estimated at more than 5 trillion yen (about $50 billion).
Other Nuclear News in Japan
News that the Japanese government is planning a secrecy law has raised concerns that it will have a chilling effect on journalism including the ability to report on events at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. "This may very well be [Prime Minister Shinzo] Abe's true intention - cover-up of mistaken state actions regarding the Fukushima disaster and/or the necessity of nuclear power. As things stand, the state gets a more or less free hand in deciding what constitutes a state secret and it can potentially keep things secret forever," said Koichi Nakano, political science professor at SophiaUniversity. Under the law, which would broaden the definition of official secrets, journalist found guilty could face five years in prison.
This week Prime Minister Abe also responded to recent calls from former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi for the country to abolish nuclear power. “I think it is irresponsible to promise zero (nuclear power plants) at this stage,” said Mr Abe. "Koizumi is probably playing his hunch (in arguing for zero nuclear plants), but Japan is losing nearly 4 trillion yen ($41 billion) in national wealth a year." However, Mr Koizumi's views have found approval with Japan's opposition political parties, including Your Party, the People’s Life Party and the Democratic Party of Japan. Kazuo Shii, chairman of the Japanese Communist Party said: "(Koizumi says) Japan must do away with nuclear plants because it cannot dispose of nuclear waste. It makes perfect sense. We will cooperate with people with any stance as long as we agree on zero nuclear plants."
It was announced by industry minister Toshimitsu Motegi that drawing up Japan's medium to long-term energy strategy will take three years and a further ten to implement. The government is legally obliged to revisit its Basic Energy Plan every three years which outlines the mix of energy sources the country will rely on.
The merger of the NRA and the Japan Nuclear Energy Safety Organisation (JNES) was also announced this week. It is hoped the move will give the NRA more access to knowledge and experience. Staff from JNES will mentor those with the NRA.
At the meeting mentioned above, between NRA chairman Shunichi Tanaka and TEPCO president Naomi Hirose, Mr Tanaka linked the ongoing crisis at Fukushima Daiichi with TEPCO's plan to restart two reactors at its currently idle Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in NiigataPrefecture. “The NRA will decide whether to go ahead with the safety assessment [of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors] by seeing how the situation at Fukushima No. 1 improves.” Reactors #6 and 7 at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, the world's largest nuclear power plant, cannot be restarted before full safety screening by the NRA. TEPCO wants to restart them before the end of the 2014 fiscal year. The company hopes, by having the reactors operational again, it will be able to improve its financial fortunes.
However, TEPCO faces stiff opposition to its plans to restart the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa reactors in the shape of Niigata Prefecture Governor Hirohiko Izumida. Restarting the reactors is subject to Mr Izumida's approval but he has accused TEPCO of "institutionalized lying" and said this week that: "If they don't do what needs to be done, if they keep skimping on costs and manipulating information, they can never be trusted." He also called for TEPCO to lose its responsibility for decommissioning the Fukushima Daiichi plant and the company be forced into bankruptcy.
Radiation Contamination, Including Human Exposure
U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) into the effects of radiation on the people of Fukushima has been criticized by human rights groups and U.N. special rapporteur on the right to health Anand Grover. In its studies in Fukushima, UNSCEAR said it had found “no discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected.” However, Mr Grover has produced his own report which says the UNSCEAR report does not go far enough in ascertaining the effects of radiation on health. Japan's Human Rights Now have also called for UNSCEAR's report to be revised and recommend that evacuation from contaminated areas where radiation exceeds 1 millisievert per year rather than the government’s recommendation of 20 millisievert.
The government panel overseeing compensation payments to the victims of the Fukushima disaster are likely to allow payments to be stopped a year after evacuation orders are lifted. TEPCO currently pay 84,000 people 100,000 yen ($1,030) a month for psychological suffering. The Committee for Dispute Resolution for Compensating Damages from the Nuclear Power Plant Incident is expected to agree that TEPCO can cease payments "subject to change based on circumstances at the time" after one committee member said that one year is too short a time period. The actual compensation amounts paid by TEPCO were also revealed - "90 million yen in compensation, on average, for a four-person household who lived in a zone where residency is prohibited for an extended period."
I’m usually concerned about speaking too soon, but it feels to me like the risk of Asia Pulp & Paper (APP) now reneging on its zero deforestation pledge is diminishing with every passing month. Breaking such a highly publicised promise to its customers would be commercial suicide.
Now is a good time for us to issue a progress report, both to highlight what APP has done well and where there is still room for improvement. A copy of the report was provided to APP last week.
It has been around nine months since APP, Indonesia's largest pulp and paper company, called a halt to deforestation to feed its pulp mills. In February, it released its Forest Conservation Policy (FCP) that promised to protect all the remaining rainforests and areas of peatlands in its suppliers' concessions.
As is well known, APP had made and broken similar pledges before. However, this time the context was different. Crucially, key people in its senior management team were genuinely committed to making this work. We therefore agreed to put our campaign on hold to give the company time to put its zero deforestation policy into action.
Since February, my team has been keeping a close eye on the company, including frequent dialogue with the APP staff and its conservation partners and assessors shaping the implementation of the policy. There have been, and will continue to be, many challenges.
Here are some key questions addressed by our progress report.
How well is APP enforcing its ban on forest clearance, and how is it dealing with any contraventions?
Let's start by putting this into perspective. Prior to February, APP's suppliers were clearing thousands of hectares of rainforest each month. Since February, it has almost entirely successfully stopped its suppliers from clearing any more forest or destroying any new areas of peatland. This is no mean feat.
However, APP, together with its partner TFT, has since confirmed two clear cases of forest clearance in breach of the FCP moratorium – one identified via an NGO investigation and the second via a subsequent internal APP review process. The total area of forest loss was approximately 140ha.
Conclusion: Overall, the implementation of the forest and peatland moratoria has been largely successful, though the cases identified revealed failings in internal oversight and signoff processes. Greenpeace welcomes APP's decision to voluntarily disclose the most recent breaches of its FCP commitments. APP must ensure that there will be no further breaches of the forest and peatland moratoria.
What progress has been made on assessments necessary to identify areas for protection for social, environmental and carbon values?
APP's assessors have been evaluating more than 2 million hectares of concessions to determine where the areas of natural forests and other important conservation values are located and how they should be protected and managed.
The HCS and HCV assessments will be completed at different stages for different regions across Indonesia, the first of which is due to be completed by the end of 2013. APP and its partners will then need to turn the recommendations from the assessments into management plans that ensure all forest and other conservation areas are being protected.
Conclusion: Given the area involved, APP has sensibly prioritised for assessment those concessions that have the most areas of natural forest within them. How the recommendations from those assessments are turned into management plans will be the critical test of APP's commitment to leaving deforestation behind.
How is it resolving its outstanding issues of social conflict?
APP has successfully identified a number of priority areas and signed an agreement with local communities in Senyerang to resolve a long-running dispute. There is also an going process to resolve other conflicts in the provinces of Riau, Jambi and South Sumatra.
Conclusion: I am encouraged by how much headway APP has made on starting to resolve its conflicts with local communities. However, APP now needs to share its on-going conflict mapping work with relevant stakeholders and identify the next set of priority areas.
What problems still needing resolving?
One of the key issues identified in our Progress Report relates to concerns about APP's ongoing expansion plans, including whether new and future suppliers are being assessed in the same level of detail as its current list of suppliers and concessions. APP is in the process of finalising a draft 'Association Procedure' and will then seek input from stakeholders.
Conclusion: it is critical that APP sets out plans to hold any new and future suppliers to its FCP. Greenpeace therefore welcomes APP's decision to develop a policy to address how the FCP is applied to 'future pulpwood suppliers'.
APP is about to build another pulp mill in Sumatra, which will require an additional 8+ million tonnes of pulpwood per year. Although APP suppliers have already established extensive acacia plantations within the vicinity of the new mill, it is not yet sufficiently clear whether all of its suppliers can produce enough plantation fibre to meet the combined pulpwood demand for all three of APP's pulp mills in Indonesia.
Conclusion: It is critical that any expansion in APP's pulp mill capacity in Indonesia or elsewhere in the world is matched with plantation fibre availability. Therefore, APP must publicly disclose how it intends to ensure that all of its pulp mill demand is met with 100% plantation fibre from suppliers that comply with its Forest Conservation Policy.
What about APP’s historical deforestation?
APP has been clearing rainforest for the last twenty years. Greenpeace and other NGOs believe that APP must take account of previous forest clearance. In this regard, APP has had discussions with a number of conservation organisations and is actively preparing for landscape-level conservation / restoration initiatives, subject to the result of HCV/HCS assessments. These prioritise landscapes where the company operates in Indonesia.
Conclusion: It is important that APP's pledge to forest and peatland protection acknowledges its deforestation legacy. If sufficiently ambitious, this initiative could start to address this legacy.
What about its former customers? Is it okay for them to start buying from APP again?
Greenpeace cautions that any company intending to resume any trade with APP must apply strict conditions to commercial contracts requiring continued progress be made against the FCP and those outstanding policy issues discussed in this review, such as forest conservation/restoration.
In particular, they should seek assurances that there will be no further breaches of the forest clearance and peatland development moratoria, as outlined in the FCP. More crucially, given that APP's FCP commitments are likely to stand or fall by the quality and robustness of the conservation and management recommendations to APP's senior management, they should judge whether substantial progress has been made based on how the company responds to these landscape management recommendations.
Who else needs to be brought on board to ensure the success of this initiative in protecting Indonesia’s forests?
It is clear that the largest single threat to responsible forest management in the pulp and paper sector in Indonesia comes from the activities of APRIL, part of the RGE group. Greenpeace will continue to actively discourage companies from doing business with APRIL and any of its sister companies.
Bustar Maitar is head of the Indonesia Forest Campaign at Greenpeace International
A message from a friend and former colleague in Australia:
Dima reminds me at times of my one year old son. Full of energy, always into something new. He reminds me also of my grandfather, committed and passionate; trying to make a better world for those that come after. A strange combination maybe, but that is how I think of him. Mostly though, when I think of Dima I think of him as being generally annoying. Constantly agitating, never satisfied. For friends and colleagues like myself it gets under our skin. You know, we’ve got other important things on our minds, like who’s going to win X-factor and what color should I paint my house? Not Dima though, ooooh no, not Dima. Dima always wants to talk about making this world a more just and peaceful place.
This annoying attitude in some way drove me to move from Sweden to Australia. Yes, Dima is very annoying. But Dima is far from being a criminal. He (and the rest of those amazing people with him locked up in Murmansk) reminds me that no matter how far I physically move away from him, injustice still prevails. It reminds me that we must continue to agitate, we must never be satisfied. I remember way back when I was a budding environmental activist, one of the principles that attracted me to Greenpeace and their work was the principle of bearing witness. Letting people know that there are bad things going on that the rest of the world must know about.
In this respect and in some strange way I feel also I need to thank the Russian authorities for waking me and others out of our slumber. Sure Dima and his friends may have continued the tireless work they do, but by incarcerating these peaceful protesters, the Russian authorities have helped remind us that injustice is true on many levels. I have noticed people around me all the way down here in Australia, from all walks of life, starting to talk about issues beyond X-factor and what color to paint their houses. I want Dima and his friends to know that (with a little help of Russian authorities) we are awakening from our slumber. We thank you, no matter how annoying you are Dima, no matter how far we move away from you, for reminding us that we must agitate, we must never be satisfied until there is justice and peace upon our planet.
Stay well old friend, stay strong, and if you or any of your friends need a place to relax in the sun after this is over, then know you have friends here in Australia with open doors and open arms.
With love and peace,
Stuart is a friend and former colleague of Dima’s and currently a senior manager at Oxfam
Alexandra Harris, activist aboard the Arctic Sunrise and member of the Arctic 30, has been in a cell in Murmansk for more than a month on charges first of piracy, and now of "hooliganism" in response to their non-violent protest against Arctic oil drilling. In an emotive letter to her parents quoted in The Guardian she wrote that "Being in prison is like slowly dying. You literally wish your life away and mark off the days." The following is a letter from her friend and colleague, Amrekha Sharma.
I'd emailed you about three weeks ago to see if you wanted to catch up at the Opera Bar when I got back to Sydney, and thought it was really unlike you not to reply right away. Two days later, the news came that you were aboard the Arctic Sunrise, and it was seized by the Russian Coast Guard. It knocked the breath out of me. Not knowing if you were alright for those days while the ship was towed to Murmansk was nerve wracking; I was checking Twitter like some kind of addict.
I cannot imagine how surreal, scary and difficult the past few weeks have been for you. Seeing your face on placards from Argentina to London and Delhi on the global day of action was when it hit me that you were there, in jail, and that this could drag on for some time. And at the same time, it gave me hope. I wanted to hug every one of those people.
I'm thinking about you everyday. You know what comes to my mind lately? It seems like another era now, but a few months ago, on one of those typically clear and beautiful Sydney evenings, we were sitting on the patio at the Opera Bar, sharing a bowl of their decadent potato wedges, people-watching, chatting away.
And somehow we got onto the topic of how we each managed to get to Greenpeace of all places. I remember you telling me about your year of backpacking around the globe, seeing South America, the Middle East,South East Asia, and the way it changed you. The way, the more you travelled, the more you saw of the planet, in all its beauty and fragility, the more precious it became, and the more important it seemed to protect it against those who would harm it.
We both found our way to Greenpeace along similar paths; the more we travelled, the more the entire world became home. And it's crazy to destroy your home, whether it's your favorite beach, or the Arctic.
We were accidental activists before we felt comfortable owning the title; surprised, leaning into it, and humbled that we got to do this with whatever talents we could bring and with other passionate, intelligent and inspiring colleagues who felt the same way.
I'm still checking Twitter for news first thing every morning. Please know that over a million people all around the planet, people you've never met, in many of the places you have visited and loved, are calling for your and the rest of the crew's release. You won't believe how hard our colleagues in offices all over the world are pulling together, marshalling all their efforts so you can all come home as soon as possible. You'd be proud.
If I know anything about you, I know you're stronger than you think.
Stay warm, take care of yourself, and I will see you soon.
Parliaments in democracies the world over are places of vigorous discussion and sometimes fierce debate. Views on either side of the political spectrum are often radically divergent. With members from political parties in all of the European Union's 28 member states, the European Parliament is no different. It was with some surprise then that I witnessed a remarkably consensual debate late on Wednesday night.
One after the other, across the floor of the parliament's vast plenary building in Strasbourg, MEPs voiced their solidarity for the 28 Greenpeace activists and two freelance journalists detained in Russia following a peaceful protest against a Gazprom oil drilling platform in the Arctic.
Krzysztof Lisek, an MEP from Poland's centre-right Civic Platform, said: "I do not always support the methods of Greenpeace, but nevertheless I respect the organisation and I really appreciate what they do. Wherever the environment is endangered they are active."
Paul Murphy, a left-wing MEP from Ireland, read out a passage from a letter written in a cell in Murmansk by Arctic Sunrise crew member Alexandra Harris to her parents. Murphy said about the Arctic 30 that "a very strong message is needed from all across the world to demand their immediate release, to demand the dropping of all charges."
The extraordinary session carried on for well over an hour, with dozens more statements and support flooding in from MEPs for an Arctic 30 solidarity statement. Towards the end of the debate the news broke that Russian prosecutors were dropping preposterous piracy charges, but replacing them with similarly ridiculous 'hooliganism' charges, which carry a sentence of up to seven years in jail.
The Parliament was quick to remark in an official statement that the new charges continued to be "disproportionate." It called on EU governments and the European Commission "to take action to ensure the release of the detainees."
Speaking on behalf of the Commission, commissioner Janez Potočnik also warned the Parliament about the dangers of drilling for oil in the fragile Arctic environment. He said: "We can't even begin to imagine the impact that a major oil spill would have on the Arctic environment, nor the difficulty and costs of trying to clean it up." He continued: "The Greenpeace activists had a message for all of us."
I'd spent the morning talking to MEPs and explaining what was happening in the Arctic, but such across the board unequivocal support from the EU caught me by surprise. As the debate ended and people started filing out of the parliament, I left my seat in the public tribune in a slightly dazed state.
It was late and I saw two other stragglers heading for the exit. We found that the door was locked and went looking together for another way out. When we finally did, one of them said: "Free at last!" In the ensuing friendly chat it emerged that I was talking to two Russian diplomats from Brussels.
As we went our separate ways and I reflected on an extraordinary day 'at the office', I asked myself how long it would be until my friends and colleagues in the Arctic would be "free at last."
Joris den Blanken is the Climate Policy Director at Greenpeace EU.
Many of you, all around the world, have been kind enough to show your support for the Arctic30 who continue to be detained in Russia with dark prospects. From the little news we get out of the Murmansk detention centre, one thing is clear - your solidarity really does make all the difference. Here are some personal messages of thanks from the Arctic30 back to you:“Your support and the knowledge that we have done the right thing keeps me above water. Thank you very much for your kind words, love and care you give to me. You are incredibly important!”
Written by Marco Weber, October 8, in an open letter from a prison in Murmansk, Russia.
Note from Sini Saarela, October 21, in Court.“I heard the Arctic Sunrise mentioned on the radio the other day. It was in Russian so I couldn't understand it, but it's great to know the world is talking about us. On a good day I get to see my lawyer and hear news of protests all over the world. You wouldn't believe the difference the news makes. It really makes me feel better and I thank every single person who has joined a protest or sent an email.”
Written by Alex Harris in mail to her colleagues in Greenpeace Australia on Oct 10."I'm grateful for the support of everyone back in Poland; ordinary people, Greenpeace activists, the state, the media. Thanks to this strong interest there is still a chance of our release. Otherwise we'd be sure to spend the next ten years in prison.”
Said by Tomasz Dziemianczuk on October 21 in court for bail appeal.“I can't put it any more simply than thanks. Some of you I know, some I've heard of, some I'll never even meet. Your kind thoughts, support and humour mean a lot to me right now, it is the simple things in life.”
Written by David Haussmann, October 17, in open letter from prison in Murmansk, Russia.
It is now 36 days since the Arctic30 stood up against Arctic destruction for which they remain unjustly held. While they are behind bars facing trumped-up charges, your support is vital. Thank you for sharing the voices of the Arctic30 and showing the world they will not be forgotten.
Did you know there are 30 ways you can help the Arctic30? And there is plenty more to come - keep checking our website for updates on new ways you can be part of the movement of millions calling for the release of the Arctic30.
Over the past two years the fashion industry has been undergoing a quiet revolution.
I'm not talking about the accelerating pace at which the latest styles fly from the runways to the rails, nor the growth of e-commerce and social marketing, bridging the divide between seller and buyer, maker and wearer.
I'm talking Detox.
In just over 24 months, the combined power of activists, fashionistas, bloggers and shoppers from around the world - united in their belief that the clothes we wear should carry a story we can be proud of - has led to 18 companies committing to Detox. And while these commitments - from luxury brands like Valentino to high-street regulars, like Zara, Mango and H&M - represent the critical first steps down the runway to a toxic-free fashion, the Detox trend is only just beginning to take hold.
Last month high-end Italian fashion supplier Canepa marked another landmark for the campaign, becoming the first supplier in the world to make a Detox commitment.
Canepa supply some of Italy's most renowned fashion labels with high quality fabrics, and their trendsetting commitment has sent a clear message to their buyers that toxic-free fashion is not a passing trend; it is an enduring fashion staple.
And all of this thanks to people like you.
While there is still a long way to go before toxic-free fashion becomes the norm, your help getting us to this point has been crucial. Major brands are influenced by public perception and global action, and your role in putting this issue firmly on the agenda of global fashion brands and suppliers, and forcing them to respond with the urgency the situation demands has been critical in the Detox campaign's ongoing success.People Power
From the innovative Eco Fashion Week in Vancouver, to the glamour of Paris Fashion Week, we have been busy spreading the news of the successes we have achieved together while outlining the future challenges that we will overcome. It is now essential that the companies that made a commitment to Detox follow through on their fashion-conscious promises and meet all our expectations.
Ilze Smit is a Detox Campaigner at Greenpeace International. You can follow her on twitter: @ilze_gp
Earlier this evening Russian authorities offered the Arctic 30 — currently being held in a freezing jail in Murmansk — what looked like a legal olive branch by dropping piracy charges and replacing them with ones of "hooliganism."
On the face of it, and compared to piracy, hooliganism sounds innocuous enough, more like a crime of youthful over-exuberance, akin to graffiti or streaking at a football match.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Russia has simply dropped one serious charge and replaced it with another that still carries the very real prospect of the Arctic 30 languishing in jail for up to seven years.
In Russia, there are two kinds of hooliganism: administrative hooliganism, which carries a maximum of 15 days in prison and a fine, or criminal hooliganism, which carries a maximum sentence of seven years. We think it's the latter our friends are being charged with.
Not incidentally, President Putin's human rights advisor Mikhail Fedotov recently said the piracy charges were "laughable" and that they should, at most, include minor hooliganism.
Perhaps a hooliganism charge seems more palatable than a piracy charge, but in fact it's equally ridiculous to accuse these peaceful protesters of hooliganism as it is to accuse them of piracy.
In Russian law, hooliganism is defined as 'any deliberate behavior that violates public order and expresses explicit disrespect toward society.'
And it should be noted that hooliganism is also an illegal charge, as in order for the Russian criminal code to apply, the alleged crime — such as hooliganism — has to occur on Russian territory. The likely reason the 30 were charged with piracy in the first place is that that is one of the few offences that would justify an arrest in the EEZ, according to international law. Hooliganism doesn't. This is therefore another violation by the Investigative Committee against the Arctic 30.
Breaking down the definition of hooliganism: was the peaceful action of the Arctic 30 "deliberate"? Sure, if you mean they were deliberately trying to help avert catastrophic climate change and stand up for millions of people around the world who think drilling in the Arctic is climate insanity.
Did they "violate public order and expresses explicit disrespect toward society"?
On the contrary, they were acting for the greater good of society — and not just in Russia where we know an oil spill at the Prirazlomnaya could devastate 3,000 km of coastline and reach three protected nature reserves within days.
No, not just for Russia, but for other parts of the world, where extreme weather events are coming with greater strength and frequency thanks to the drastic retreat of Arctic sea ice; for Australia, where forest fires rage into "mega-fires" thanks to a quickly warming climate; for Bangladesh, where people are forced to move their homes and families inland, losing their livelihoods as sea levels rise; for Pakistan, struggling against floods caused by climate change and the ensuing disease that comes with no fresh water; for Mexico, where the most disadvantaged are experiencing larger and more frequent natural disasters than ever before in history, like landslides and floods; for the US, where super hurricanes devastate the east coast and fires ravage the west; for China, where vast desertification is turning lush farmlands into moonscapes.
The Arctic 30 were acting in defiance of the greed of massive, rich, relentless oil companies around the world who will stop at nothing, who will heed no warning, in the desperate quest for the last drops of oil on the planet.
We need more than 30 people brave enough to do this. We need the Arctic 30 million, people around the world with enough courage, enough conviction, to stand up for all of us and demand change in the face of apathy, and force governments to act where they have failed.
As the media scurries to keep up with each new development, let us not forget why the Arctic 30 really did what they did. Why they put everything on the line for what they believe in, for the future of their children — for the future of yours.
They stood for you. Now stand with them. Free the Arctic 30.
Jess Wilson is the communications manager for the international Arctic campaign.
Here’s the latest of our news bulletins from the ongoing crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
State of the Fukushima Reactors
With another typhoon expected to hit Japan this weekend, TEPCO are no closer to solving the contaminated water crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Protective barriers around 11 storage areas at the site failed to contain contaminated water after heavy rainfall brought by last week's Typhoon No 26. TEPCO's forecast of rainfall of between 30 and 40 millimeters were proved wrong when 120 millimeters fell on the damaged reactors on October 21. The barriers were already full of rainwater and pumping equipment was not up to the task of clearing it. TEPCO do not know whether any of the contaminated water has reached the sea and the total amount of water that escaped in unknown. The company has now promised to install extra pumping capacity before Typhoon No. 27 arrives.
Water from the overflowing storage areas has revealed more worrying spikes in radiation. Readings of Strontium 90 - which accumulates in human bones and has been linked to cancer - measuring 710 Becquerels per liter (far higher than the 10 Becquerels per liter limit) have been found. The above-limit water has been moved to storage facilities and below-limit water released. In addition, water taken from a drainage ditch near one storage tank at the site showed 59,000 Becquerels per liter of beta-emitting radioactive materials such as strontium. The reading is ten times the reading of 5,000 Becquerels found two days earlier.
In a further development, TEPCO stated that water found in a monitoring well last week that was last found to contain record levels of contamination (400,000 Becquerel per liter of beta ray sources, including strontium), may have taken two months to travel the ten meters to the well. "Radioactive water that escaped the tank probably seeped into the soil around pumping equipment adjacent to the well and migrated into the well itself," said Masayuki Ono, acting general director of TEPCO's Nuclear Power and Plant Siting Division. The company has now dug "bypass" wells allowing groundwater to flow directly to the sea without coming into contact contaminated areas of the site. The site is now storing 340 million liters of contaminated water which is enough to "fill Yankee Stadium to the brim". Four hundred tons run into the Pacific Ocean every day.
After criticism of TEPCO's methods last week by former chairman US Nuclear Regulatory Commission Gregory Jaczko, another former chairman, Dale Klein, added his voice. He accused TEPCO of failing to draw up adequate contingency plans to deal with the crisis. “Tepco didn’t play enough of these what-if games. They didn’t have enough of that questioning attitude,” he said. Others have joined the chorus of disapproval. Groundwater expert and TEPCO adviser Atsunao Marui says the company did not have a single groundwater expert out of 40,000 employees at the time of the disaster.
Japan's Prime Minister Abe visited the port of Soma in Fukushima Prefecture this week in an attempt to allay public concerns over contaminated fish and seafood. Mr Abe sampled octopus caught in Fukushima waters saying, "I want everyone in the country to know they (fishery products from Fukushima) are good and safe." The Prime Minister also stated this week that, "We are monitoring radiation levels, and they are far below the safety limits for radioactive materials. The effects of the contaminated water are being completely blocked." A change in his language, however, may suggest that he is backing away from his recent insistence that the water crisis at Fukushima Daiichi is "under control". Answering questions from a budget committee, Mr Abe said, "The situation is under control all in all". He also faces an uphill battle convincing the Japanese people of his certainty. Yuichiro Tamaki from the opposition Democratic Party of Japan quoted a newspaper survey that found "about 80 percent of respondents lacked faith (in Abe’s assessment)".
Mr Abe's recent claim that "the effects of radioactive substances in the sea are contained within 0.3 square kilometers of the plant’s port" seems to have also been undermined by the discovery of Cesium-137 measuring 1.6 becquerels per liter one kilometer from the Fukushima plant. The readings are currently below the World Health Organisation's safety standards for drinking water.
In separate news, TEPCO also announced this week that it plans to start removing spent fuel from a storage pool in the Reactor #4 building early November. The pool contains 1,000 fuel assemblies and the work is expected to take until the end of 2014.
Other Nuclear Politics in Japan
Liberal Democrat Party sources let it be known this week that, despite the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the government would maintain its medium and long-term policies for keeping nuclear power in Japan's energy mix. The government is expected to update its basic energy policy by the end of 2013. The policy has been in place since 2010 and changes will reportedly include lessons learned from the Fukushima disaster.
It also emerged this week that in the early days of the Fukushima crisis in March 2011, the Obama administration expressed concerns that "entrenched bureaucratic behavior would exacerbate an unfolding nuclear disaster in Japan and called on Tokyo to remove those barriers to avert a catastrophe". Foreign Office records, obtained by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper under freedom of information requests, show President Obama was disturbed by the Japanese government's apparent lack of urgency over the unfolding crisis and how red-tape would hinder offers of international assistance. In a recent interview, Naoto Kan, the Prime Minister at the time of the disaster, confirmed the US's fears. “I think the president was feeling what I was feeling. Accurate information did not reach me. Information conduits were clogged up,” he said.
Radiation Contamination, Including Human Exposure
Officials for Japan's environment ministry admitted this week that the decontamination of six towns and villages around the Fukushima Daiichi plant will take up to three years longer than expected meaning evacuated citizens will have to wait much longer to return to their homes if they choose to. The work was supposed to be completed by March 2014 but the process has been more complicated than expected and work on the most contaminated areas has not yet started. “We would have to extend the cleanup process, by one year, two years or three years, we haven’t exactly decided yet,” said ministry official Shigeyoshi Sato. Mr Sato also blamed a lack of storage facilities for radioactive waste. A new roadmap for decontamination efforts is expected by the end of this year.
This week, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)'s international expert mission presented its Preliminary Summary Report on decontamination efforts in areas affected by the Fukushima disaster. The report welcomed "the extensive provision of individual dosimeters so that residents can monitor their own radiation dose rates". It urged the government "explain to the public that an additional individual radiation dose of 1 millisievert per year (mSv/y), which it has announced as a long-term goal, cannot be achieved in a short time by decontamination work alone.” The IAEA feels that this is acceptable: “In remediation situations, with appropriate consideration of the prevailing circumstances, any level of individual radiation dose in the range of 1 to 20 mSv/y is acceptable and in line with international standards and the recommendations of the relevant international organisations such as the IAEA, International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP), United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effect of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and World Health Organisation (WHO)." But the IAEA does advise to that further optimization is needed “with the aim of obtaining the maximum benefit for the health and safety of the people affected.” “An annual dose of 1 millisievert is a targeted long-term goal,” said a Fukushima Prefecture official. However, many residents are not happy with this state of affairs, particularly in places such as Tamura in Fukushima Prefecture. The government announced the cleanup in Tamura finished in June but has postponed lifting the evacuation order there until next spring after residents expressed their concerns. This month, Greenpeace radiation experts found contamination levels in Tamura city "that are clearly too high."
Japan's Fisheries Ministry announced this week that it will soon publish radiation test results of fish and seafood in Korean in the hope this may encourage South Korea to lift its ban on importing fish and seafood from prefectures around and including Fukushima. The ban has been in place since September 9. Japanese experts have stated that contamination from Fukushima has had little impact on fish. “(Contamination levels) of fish now coming to the market are well below the government safety threshold. We consider them safe to eat,” said Jun Misonoo, from the government-linked the Marine Ecology Research Institute. However, Ken Buesseler, a senior scientist with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution offered a different view. After having monitored the waters around Fukushima, he said “I could swim in that water. But you might not want to eat those fish. It’s a serious concern for internal doses. (Radionuclides) are now on the seafloor and could stay in the food chain for years, if not decades.”
Evacuation and Repopulation Efforts
Naoto Matsumura, a resident and farmer in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture unveiled an exhibition of photographs this week showing the impact of the Fukushima crisis on livestock and pets. Tens of thousands of animals were left behind when people were forced to evacuate in the aftermath of the disaster. Mr Matsumara returned some after and began caring for some of the animals despite his house being just 12 kilometers from the damaged Fukushima reactors. “When I (returned and) approached the animals, they mooed and meowed. (They were so happy to see me). That’s why I stayed in my house,” he said. Despite having no gas, electricity or running water, he cares for cows, ostriches, a pony, dogs and cats.
For most of the last year our team has been investigating and documenting gross acts of environmental destruction in Indonesia’s last remaining forests. What these investigations reveal is a story of one massive, faceless company with links to illegal and irresponsible behavior and the rapid disappearance of critically endangered animals such as the Sumatran Tiger.
But we all feature in this story. Because this company is laundering a product – palm oil from forest destruction – onto the global market and into our homes.
Household brands that source palm oil through Singapore-based palm oil trader, Wilmar International, such as the makers of Oreo biscuits, Gillette shaving products and Clearasil, are effectively making consumers - that's you and me - unwitting accomplices in the destruction of Indonesia’s forests.
Our report “License to Kill” details these multiple cases of illegal and irresponsible behaviour. But of all the cases we’ve documented, the one that saddens me the most is the fate of a national park in Sumatra. A decade ago, a scientific survey found that Tesso Nilo was the most biodiversity rich spot on earth for plants. It is also considered a priority habitat for the protection of the few as 400 Sumatran tigers that remain in the wild.
But in the last decade, wholesale illegal destruction of Tesso Nilo - largely for palm oil - throws into doubt the future for any tigers that remain there. Since 2011, the forest complex has lost almost half of its remaining forest cover; in June 2013, only 39,000ha of natural forest remained – a mere quarter of the area of the forest complex.
Trading dirty palm oil to the world
Greenpeace also has evidence of trade by Wilmar from companies whose operations include illegal clearance with fires on deep peatland; wholesale rainforest destruction and illegal palm oil plantations within the Tesso Nilo National Park, harvests from which have previously been tracked to Wilmar’s own mills and which continue to feed into Indonesia’s palm oil supply chain; as well as extensive clearance of tiger habitat.
Although Wilmar has undertaken to preserve high conservation value (HCV) forests and peatland on its own concessions, these areas supply less than 4% of the palm oil it trades and refines, with the remainder being produced by third-party suppliers.
Greenpeace is throwing the challenge down to Wilmar and companies such as P&G, Reckitt Benckiser and Mondelez that buy their dirty palm oil to clean up their supply chains and break the cycle of forest destruction.
So, we have taken the message right up to Wilmar’s own plantation in Jambi.
Like the actions of the Arctic 30 our activity here is designed to highlight the wanton destruction of our environment by global corporations.
It’s part of our organisation’s tradition of 'bearing witness' to environmental crimes and to highlight the rapid pace of forest destruction.
The forest, like the Arctic, belongs to all of us and is an integral part of our heritage. We believe no one has the right to destroy this heritage, and certainly not for short term commercial gain instead of long term sustainable development that benefits all Indonesians.
We do this work because, like the President of Indonesia, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, we do not want to have to explain to our grandchildren that we failed to take action to save our forests and oceans. We do not want to have to say that we stood by and did nothing while our tigers and orangutans became extinct like the dinosaurs. We do not need to destroy forests to grow palm oil, and as we’ve documented here and here better solutions exist.
As the president said at his meeting with Greenpeace International’s Executive Director, Kumi Naidoo, earlier this year:
“[Please do] criticise Indonesia over the things the country has to improve, and advise us how to maintain the environment.”
Greenpeace believes that Wilmar and the household brands that buy its palm oil must recognise the true costs of irresponsible palm oil production. They need to ensure that their palm oil supply makes a genuine contribution to Indonesia’s development, rather than destroying the future for its people, its wildlife and the global climate on which we all depend.
Bustar Maitar is head of the Indonesia Forests Campaign at Greenpeace International
The Netherlands lodged a lawsuit against Russia today at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) in Hamburg, seeking the release of the Greenpeace International ship Arctic Sunrise and its passengers.
This is an important and welcome move by the Dutch government and boosts hopes that the 28 Greenpeace International activists, plus a freelance photographer and videographer, might soon be released from detention in Murmansk.
The Arctic 30 are currently being held in cold, dirty cells in the Arctic port city of Murmansk, many of them in solitary confinement, after their ship was illegally seized by Russian authorities in international waters on September 19.
Their crime? Acting with good conscience to peacefully protest against Gazprom's Arctic oil drilling. They now face the absurd allegations of piracy, an offence that carries a maximum 15 year jail term – a charge the Greenpeace International and international legal experts agree holds no merit in international and Russian law.
But one by one, each of the detainees have been brought to the Regional Court of Murmansk in handcuffs, placed in a cage and had their appeals for bail dismissed. Their fate uncertain, the Arctic 30 have remained strong. Their courage, their plight, their calls for the Arctic to be protected continue to be heard from the courtroom.
"I want to show people all over the world that drilling in the Arctic is dangerous and could promote climate change … my goal is to let people know about what has happened and could happen in the Arctic. I haven't committed any crime, I am not guilty of piracy," Finnish activist Sini Saarela said today.
The request for provisional measures lodged by the Dutch government at the tribunal in Hamburg is based on international law, however, and should be seen as separate to the legal proceedings in Murmansk.
The Netherlands lodged its request at the tribunal because the Arctic Sunrise is a Dutch flagged ship, making it akin to Dutch territory and affording the 'flag state' rights and duties under the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
The Hamburg sea court has so far been infrequently used. Since it was established in 1996, it has heard just 21 cases. Only four of them have involved the issue of ‘provisional measures’.
The legal argument presented by the Netherlands will remain unknown until case documents become public, probably at the start of hearings. A likely argument is that the Russian Federation violated the right to freedom of navigation by boarding the vessel in Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (and clearly outside of Russia's territorial waters), in contravention of the UNCLOS.
The Russian action, by boarding the Arctic Sunrise at gunpoint and towing it away was disproportionate and the Russian authorities should instead have notified the Dutch of any complaint, since the ship was not in their territorial waters.
Any decision by the tribunal requires the parties to comply promptly with any provisional measures. The tribunal does allow, however, requests for the interpretation or revision of an order.
Based on prior experience, a hearing on the Dutch request should now take place within two to three weeks and a judgment should be handed down two weeks later.
As regards the fate of the Arctic 30, Greenpeace International therefore expects the tribunal to hand down its decision in about four weeks time. Greenpeace International hopes that this will lead to the release of the Arctic Sunrise and its passengers.
Today the UK government announced the go ahead for two new nuclear reactors to be built at the Hinkley Point power plant in Somerset, in the country’s south west. It’s very big news - the UK has not built a nuclear reactor in 20 years.
But before the nuclear industry and its supporters start popping their champagne, and the rest of us begin drowning our sorrows, let’s have a reality check.
The French company EDF plan to build two European Pressurised Reactors (EPR). The EPR is billed by its designer AREVA as a state-of-art third generation reactor that puts all others in the shade. It is the biggest reactor ever designed (if not yet built).
You see, that’s the problem. No-one has yet to successfully built an EPR. Just two are under construction in Europe right now.
The one being built by AREVA at Olkiluoto in Finland is currently seven years late and at least 5.2 billion euros over budget. The other EPR being built at Flamanville in France by EDF is five years late and its cost has rocketed 5.4 billion euros to 8.6 billion. Both reactors have the same long list of safety and construction problems.
The industry would say, euphemistically, that the EPR has had a difficult birth. In reality, it’s been something of a nightmare. EDF say the Hinkley Point reactors will be ready by 2023. Personally, I’ll believe it when I see it – and remember EDF are not actually going to take an investment decision until summer of 2014. For all the hype, the decision to go ahead hasn’t happened.
The cost of the Hinkley C project is a nightmare already. The British government, despite promising that no new nuclear reactors would be built with public subsidy, has guaranteed a price for the electricity EDF’s reactors will produce. For 35 years.
That price is twice what the price of electricity is in the UK right now. EDF stands to make big profits from a deal rigged in its favour.
“Ah,” I hear you say, “but what it the price of electricity increases in the future, higher than the price guaranteed to EDF? EDF will make a loss.”
To which I would say, almost certainly not. The agreement has done a great deal to ensure that the consortium’s costs are covered including loan guarantees to ensure lenders get their money back. They don’t depend at all on the power price being right to ensure their returns.
The UK government are insistent that all this is not a massive subsidy to the nuclear industry. That’s not for them to decide. The EDF deal has now to be approved by the European Commission because it involves state aid (that’s a subsidy to me and you). This could be difficult: two weeks ago the Commission signalled that new nuclear projects should not qualify for state aid.
As with all nuclear projects, you have to dig through the hype to find the reality. Take the promises on jobs, for example. EDF says the HinkleyPointC project will create 25,000 jobs in Britain.
I’ve been watching the nuclear industry for a long time now and I’ve seen these job promises come and go. In 2009, the then UK government said building a new reactor would employ 9,000-10,000 workers. Where have the other 15,000 jobs come from?
Don’t expect those 25,000 jobs (if they ever exist) to go to British workers. Of the 90 contracts EDF is tendering to build Hinkley Point C, the vast majority will go to overseas companies.
And where is the waste produced by these reactors, which will remain dangerous for millennia, going to go? Nobody knows. In 2007, the UK’s now Prime Minister, David Cameron, said no new nuclear reactors should be built until the issue of disposing of nuclear waste is solved. It hasn’t been solved. So why is the UK producing more of this problem?
In the end, it needn’t and shouldn’t be this way. Right now we’re losing the battle against climate change and nuclear power is on the wrong side because aside from the waste and proliferation risks, the costs of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar are falling by the day. In the UK it is expected that both offshore wind and solar power will be cheaper than nuclear by the time Hinkley C comes on line. Energy saving measures have been described as “the cleanest and cheapest energy is the energy that we don’t use”. None of these need price fixing, disingenuous hype or a decade to put in place. They’re ready to go. Right now.
By 2023, if these new reactors are supplying electricity to British consumers, they will be relics - over-priced, uncompetitive dinosaurs that stubbornly resist their own extinction. They’ll find the world has moved on and they’ve been left behind by more evolved species.
State of the Fukushima Reactors
The contaminated water crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant continues to worsen as record levels of radioactivity were found in a well near a storage tank at the site. According to the plant's owner, TEPCO, 400,000 Becquerel per liter of beta ray sources, including strontium - which accumulates in human bones and has been linked to cancer - were discovered. This was a massive 6,500 times higher than the reading of 61 Becquerel taken the day before. The storage tank leaked 300 tons of contaminated water in August. Some is believed to have reached the sea. "We don't know the reason (for the increased concentration)," a TEPCO spokesperson said. "The effect of highly contaminated water leaked (from the nearby tank) is one possibility."
To make matters worse, workers at the plant had to deal with heavy rainfall from Typhoon No. 26, which lashed Western Japan this week and was described as the strongest in ten years. They were forced to drain nine storage areas to prevent rainwater overflowing from storage tanks. TEPCO had stated it would first move the water to temporary storage tanks to measure its radiation levels before releasing it, but this protocol had to be abandoned after rainfall became too great. Despite these efforts, one tank close to reactor #2 did overflow - TEPCO insists no water has leaked into the sea or soil - and it is also thought strontium and other contaminants measuring 1,400 Becquerel per liter were washed into a ditch 150 meters from the sea by the Typhoon.
Not only that, radioactive contamination from cesium-134 and cesium-137 is rising in seawater in the harbour of the Fukushima plant. The levels measured on October 11- a combined 10 Becquerel - are the highest since monitoring began in June. The samples were taken at the mouth of the harbour, closest to the ocean.
TEPCO's handling of the water crisis at Fukushima drew criticism from both home and abroad. Judging the measures taken at the stricken reactors, Toyoshi Fuketa, commissioner of Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority said: "Our conclusion is that little effect has been seen." Another NRA official added that "it is reasonable to assume that the total amount of radioactive materials flowing into the sea has risen." Gregory Jaczko, former chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission added his voice. He said the lack of any "any type of instrumentation, monitoring, for those tanks […] demonstrate a weakness in the safety system, in the oversight and the management of the project." However, he said, it would not be "an easy task to replace TEPCO because there are a number of workers who are involved in this effort. You cannot simply replace all those workers".
As the crisis continues, TEPCO promised this week to "increase the workforce at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant and make sure we have an accurate grasp of the situation, follow procedures, and introduce proper communications and instructions needed to carry out competent management of the site".
However, this may prove difficult for the company as the morale of the workers at Fukushima continues to fall. Some workers have been exposed to nearly double the annual exposure limit for the general population - 2 millisierverts - in a single day. Workers with an accumulated exposure of 50 millisieverts are banned from returning to work for the rest of the year. "If we exceed our radiation exposure limits, we will simply be disposed of as workers," said one worker. "Right now, I do not feel that our efforts are being recognized by society. My motivation to work is gradually disappearing." The lack of proper training and experience has been noted, with some worker not even able to remove protective clothing properly. The complicated bureaucracy involved in recruiting workers has led to fears that some are being hired illegally. NRA chief Shunichi Tanaka has said that this situation has caused the problems seen at Fukushima. "Mistakes are often linked to morale. People usually don't make silly, careless mistakes when they're motivated and working in a positive environment. The lack of it, I think, may be related to the recent problems," he said. Professor Takeshi Tanigawa from the department of public health at EhimeUniversity in western Japan said, "I'm particularly worried about depression and alcoholism. I've seen high levels of physical distress and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder." This was confirmed by one unnamed worker: "Lots of men I know drink heavily in the evening and come to work with the shakes the next day. I know of several who worked with hangovers during the summer and collapsed with heatstroke."
In the face of all these problems, Japan's Prime Minister Shinzo Abe continues to maintain that the issue of accumulating contaminated water at Fukushima remains "under control". "The effects of radioactive substances in the sea are contained within 0.3 square kilometers of the plant’s port," he said. This prompted a skeptical response from the Banri Kaieda, leader of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) - the country's main opposition political party, who described Mr Abe's remarks as "extremely flippant."
Meanwhile, Japan's International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning will soon begin collecting proposals both nationally and internationally for the best way to decommission the reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. TEPCO estimates that the task will take 40 years. “We will set up a website in both Japanese and English to notify interested parties at home and abroad of our calls for decommissioning ideas so that we can offer more useful and practical proposals to the government,” said an official for the Institute.
A first step towards the decommissioning of the plant was taken this week as work began to remove nuclear fuel from the undamaged reactor #6. Reactors #5 and #6 were out of operation when the 2011 earthquake and tsunami struck the plant and so were not damaged like reactors #1, #2, #3 and #4.
Japan's Board of Audit, the independent organisation that "audits the State accounts as well as those of public organizations and other bodies as provided by laws", announced this week that the total cost to the Japanese taxpayer of compensation the victims of the Fukushima disaster, along with the clean-up and decontamination efforts, could total 79.4 billion yen ($810 million). The figure incorporates a 5 billion yen loan to TEPCO from the government which the company will repay over an estimated 31 years from, amongst other things, electricity rates. The government has already loaned 3 billion for compensation and 1.3 billion for decontamination costs.
In addition, Prime Minister Abe has said that his government has no intention of forcing the financially precarious TEPCO into bankruptcy after two opposition leaders said this should be done. Instead, said Mr Abe, the company should "should steadily implement compensations, scrap (troubled) reactors, deal with the accumulation of toxic water (at the plant) and ensure a stable electricity supply as it continues to operate as a private company."
The opposition party DPJ also put forward a proposal stating that TEPCO be broken up and the company divested of its responsibility for tackling the contaminated water crisis and decommissioning the Fukushima reactors. Under the proposal, these responsibilities would be handed to a new organization jointly funded by the government and TEPCO.
Meanwhile, Ruiko Muto filed a protest this week against the decision not to indict TEPCO executives for their roles in the Fukushima disaster. Ms Muto, one of nearly 15,000 people who began legal proceedings against the company in June 2012, said, "If we don’t want to let it happen again, we must clarify who was responsible and what was wrong." Indictment was refused on the grounds that the executives could not have expected a tsunami higher than 10 meters to hit the Fukushima plant as happened in 2011. This despite executives being informed back in 2008 that a tsunami of such magnitude could damage the plant, and this warning being ignored.
Radiation Contamination, Including Human Exposure
Japan's Board of Audit also announced this week that 77% (247.2 billion yen) of the budget set aside to decontaminate areas around Fukushima remains unspent. Work has slowed due to local residents' objections to temporary storage facilities for contaminated debris. In September, the Environment Ministry scrapped its plan to have decontamination work completed by the end of the 2013 fiscal year. To make matters worse, TEPCO is refusing to cover the costs of decontamination despite it being required by law. The company has only repaid 6.7 billion yen from the 40.3 billion the government has spent on decontamination efforts so far. TEPCO President Naomi Hirose has said, "One company cannot bear it all." This was disputed by a senior official from Japan's Finance Ministry who said, "A framework to collect the cost of decontamination work in the long term has been established, and it is impossible to consider the idea of TEPCO collapsing because of decontamination efforts."
While the decontamination work continues in areas around Fukushima, the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has said that Japan's government may have underestimated the radioactive exposure experienced by workers during the first days of the disaster. Using data provided by the government, UNSCEAR says radiation dose estimates may be off by 20%. Long term monitoring of radiation exposure and its effects on workers may be under threat as companies involved in decontamination work have not conducted medical examinations despite a legal obligation. In addition, the government database that will hold workers' health records is not yet ready.
Fishermen from the Fukushima prefecture are beginning fishing again on a trial basis. Only eight types of seafood will be caught and only from depths greater than 150 meters. "This is the first step to resume our fishing in earnest. I hope we will become able to catch a wider variety of fish soon," said fisherman Hisashi Yoshida. The catches will only be sold if they pass radiation checks. Fishing co-operatives have set a standard of 50 Becquerel per kilogram and will dump any catches that exceed this limit. The government's Fisheries Agency says, however, that some bottom-dwelling species of fish still have contamination levels of 100 Becquerel per kilogram.
While fishing gets underway again, the World Trade Organisation has urged the government of South Korea to lift its ban on imports of Japanese fish from prefectures around, and including, Fukushima. The ban was announced on September 9th.
Evacuation and Repopulation Efforts
After requests from residents of Miyakoji district of Tamura, a city close to the Fukushima Daiichi plant, the government has agreed to delay the lifting of the district's evacuation order. When the order is lifted, this would give the go ahead for residents to return to the former no-go area. The order will not now be lifted on November 1st. In a meeting with the government, residents asked that the order be lifted next spring. This month, Greenpeace radiation experts found contamination levels in Tamura city "that are clearly too high."
Other Nuclear News in Japan
Anti-nuclear power protests continued in Tokyo this week as 40,000 people gathered in the city centre to protest against government plans to restart Japan's 50 idle nuclear reactors. Nobel Prize-winning writer Kenzaburo Oe told the protest, "If an opportunity to restart the nuclear reactors is given at some point in six months or a year, it will be impossible to push back the momentum to the restarting of the nuclear plants."
The first nuclear disaster drill since the Fukushima crisis began was held at the Sendai nuclear plant in Kagoshima Prefecture on October 11. The two-day drill involved acting out a scenario where an earthquake caused an accident at the Sendai reactors. In a change from disaster-preparedness training in the past, those taking part were not told in advance what would happen or how to act. “In past exercises, participants knew all the scenarios and their statements were prepared — which was more like performing a role in a drama. But we found that this method will not nurture people’s ability to cope with the situation,” said an NRA official.
I've been to Mount Everest four times: first to climb, then twice to investigate glacial evidence of climate change. This year I thought I came back to ride. My friend Nancy and I rode 1,500 kilometres on bicycles over the course of one month from Yunnan's Shangri-la arriving here at Everest on October 6th. But what I didn't expect was that almost one week later we would return to the base of Mt Everest, in order to support 30 friends arrested in the Arctic, and to voice the demand to free them from here at the world's "third pole."
It was a tough ride. We were battered by snowstorms, and when we arrived on October 13th Mount Everest itself was not visible, shrouded in a thick blanket of clouds. The weather forecast was for three days of rain and snow. We had no choice but await the sun at the base camp.
The next day we awoke early. The snow outside had reached 70cm (28 inches). Four tents had blown over, causing panic among tourists who invited us to an emergency meeting to discuss how to get down the mountain. Nancy and I were determined to push through the bad weather. Nonetheless, many of the tourists had little experience with such conditions and had become extremely worried. With even solar power failing from the prolonged darkness, the phone signal was almost gone. Panic grew as the snow accumulated and altitude sickness started to take its toll.
It was at 10am on October 14th that we learned through the internet that a tropical cyclone in Bangladesh called "Phailin" had brought with it a blizzard. The blizzard had resulted in 14 deaths in India, with millions of people forced to move out of affected areas. And we were located in the most affected area. In the entirety of the camp only we Greenpeace volunteers had a 3G WIFI signal to connect us to the outside world, thus turning our tiny tent into a kind of UN News and Information Center. Americans, Australians, Russians: they all began to contact family members and embassies while calls came in from Interpol and media, and our phone batteries steadily drained.
Nancy was doing much of the translation for all the foreign visitors to assist in contacting their families. Our windproof jacket featuring the Greenpeace logo suddenly became a symbol of hope. Susan from Australia was suffering hypertension and altitude sickness, and yet didn't fail to express deep gratitude. She mentioned that her son and environmental lawyer Cale is a Greenpeace supporter. Two other Dutch tourists were aware of the 30 detainees in Russia, and asked if we were at the base camp to do an action, pledging their support for Greenpeace. Also present were two tourists from Russia. In addition to helping them understand the situation they were now trapped in, we also asked them to support us in our Arctic campaign.
The blizzard seemed to bring everyone closer together as we witnessed for ourselves the immense power of extreme weather: a grim prediction of what our future will look like if we don't end our dependence on fossil fuels and, as our colleagues in Russia are demanding, stop Arctic oil. It was a stark reminder of how important, and how heroic, the actions of our activists really are. The climate is changing, we are witnessing it now every day. And as scientists have long predicted, extreme weather events are happening more often, with greater strength, and with greater impact. If we have any hope at all of righting this ship and avoiding catastrophic climate change, we need more brave people like the Arctic 30 to stand up and create change.
At four in the afternoon the first team from a rescue squad arrived on foot, which gave us some hope. By 7pm a snowplow had arrived with a large rescue team to free trapped workers. The plan was to take us three kilometers down under the Rongbuk. At 10 the next morning, the road opened up and visitors were anxious to leave as soon as possible. Only our Greenpeace team stayed on in the camp, because with Mount Everest having yet to come out of hiding, our task was not yet complete. But the local rescue team made it mandatory: everyone was to descend.
"Phailin" brought with her such extreme weather. And at an altitude of 5,200 meters at the base camp of Everest conditions were inarguably tough. And yet I couldn't stop thinking about the Arctic 30, lying in their prison cells, and suddenly the task became not difficult but important. It helped motivate me to push through the conditions and the sheer physical exhaustion that any actions conducted at such high altitudes can induce.
By five pm it was time for us to descend, even though Everest had still failed to emerge. It was frustrating to think we had failed to include the mountain in the collection of images from the people-powered global movement to free the Arctic 30.
For what seemed a long time I climbed down the pass, when suddenly, looking back, I saw Everest poke out of the clouds. As if a goddess had touched the mountain, we had just a few minutes to get our shot and let Everest bear witness to the worldwide day of solidarity for the Arctic 30. And then back the mountain went, disappearing into the darkness of the day, like a prisoner back into her cell after a few precious moments in the fresh air.