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Half A Billion Bees Drop Dead In Brazil Amid Jump In Pesticide Use

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Photo Credit: Cosmos Magazine
Photo Credit: Waking Times

More than 500 million bees dropped dead in Brazil in the last three months, mostly as a result of pesticide use. The pesticides used are said to have contained products which are banned in Europe, such as neonicotinoids and fipronil.

Last April, the EU imposed a near-total ban on neonicotinoids because of the serious harm it could cause to bees; however in the same year Brazil lifted restrictions on pesticides.

According to an investigation by Greenpeace’s Unearthed, the use of pesticides in the country has increased, with 193 products containing chemicals banned in the EU registered in Brazil in the last three years.

Data showed a significant spike in approvals of new environmentally hazardous pesticide products under the governments of Michel Temer and current president Jair Bolsonaro. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, as cited by Bloomberg, Brazil’s pesticide use increased 770% from 1990 to 2016.

Brazil has become the biggest buyer of pesticides in the world; the country uses them because its economy is reliant on agriculture.

However, almost half of all products approved since Bolsonaro took office reportedly contain active ingredients featured on Pesticide Action Network’s (PAN) list of highly hazardous pesticides, indicating they pose a risk to human health or the environment.

Brazil’s health watchdog Anvisa reportedly found 20% of samples contained pesticide residues above permitted levels, or contained unauthorised pesticides.

Greenpeace report there are concerns the widespread use of pesticides in the country could have major consequences for the country’s wildlife and environment.

The mass deaths were reported by beekeepers in four Brazilian states. According to Bloomberg, 400 million bees were found dead in Rio Grande do Sul alone, while seven million were found in São Paulo, 50 million in Santa Catarina and 45 million Mato Grosso do Sul.

Lab research points to pesticides as the main cause of death for most of the bees in Brazil.

Aldo Machado, vice president of Brazil’s Rio Grande do Sul beekeeping association, told Bloomberg his colony was decimated in less than 48 hours after some of the bees first showed signs of illness.

“As soon as the healthy bees began clearing the dying bees out of the hives, they became contaminated. They started dying en masse.” Aldo Machado.

Bees play a vital part in the food chain, with around one-third of the food we eat relying on pollination mainly by bees.

The bee population is suffering worldwide as a result of habitat loss and climate change as well as pesticides.

In the past year in the US beekeepers lost four in 10 of their honeybee colonies, mass deaths have been reported in 20 regions in Russia and at least one million bees died in South Africa in November 2018 as a result of fipronil, BBC News reports.

Canada, Mexico, Argentina and Turkey have all also reported mass die-offs of bees in the last 18 months.

The World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) says unused land should be managed to better safeguard bee populations and more urban green spaces should be developed to protect bees.

More locally, Heifer International offer a list of ways individuals can help the bee population, such as allowing dandelions and clovers to grow in gardens without being mowed down, planting an array of herbs and flowers and avoiding pesticides and herbicides.

WWF point out restoring bee populations is possible but it is a task which will require many changes, including reversing fragmentation of wild flower meadows, reducing the effects of chemical pollution, protecting bees from imported diseases and taking targeted action to bring endangered species back from the brink.

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Sustainability

Austria Poised To Become First EU Nation To Fully Ban Glyphosate

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Photo Credit: Getty

Jessica Corbett, Common Dreams

Austria is on track to become the first country in the European Union (EU) to fully ban the world’s most commonly used herbicide after the nation’s lower house of parliament passed a bill Tuesday that would outlaw all uses of glyphosate, which researchers and global health experts have tied to cancer.

The scientific evidence of the plant poison’s carcinogenic effect is increasing,” the leader of Austria’s Social Democrats, Pamela Rendi-Wagner, said in a statement. “It is our responsibility to ban this poison from our environment.”

Glyphosate is a key ingredient in Roundup — a product of Monsanto, a U.S. company that merged with German pharmaceutical giant Bayer last year. Reuters noted that “it is now off-patent and marketed worldwide by dozens of other chemical groups including Dow Agrosciences and Germany’s BASF.”

In 2015, glyphosate was classified as a “probable carcinogen” by the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Despite that designation, mounting public concerns, and a series of ongoing legal battles launched by cancer patients in the U.S., Bayer has maintained that Roundup is safe — and regulators in both the U.S. and EU have continued to permit the widespread use of the weed killer.

Katharina Rall, a researcher with the Environment and Human Rights Division at Human Rights Watch, welcomed Austrian lawmakers’ move as “good news.”

Following the lower chamber’s vote Tuesday, German broadcaster Deutsche Welle reported that “unless Austria’s upper house chooses to object the glyphosate ban, the bill will be signed into law by the country’s president, Alexander Van der Bellen.”

DW pointed out that the ban, if it takes effect, will put Austria at odds with the EU policy on glyphosate.

“This ban would apparently clash with E.U. rules, as, in 2017, the bloc cleared the herbicide for use for the next five years. The E.U. relies on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Chemicals Agency which did not classify glyphosate as carcinogenic. However, reports from earlier this year indicated that some European regulators were copying and pasting from studies conducted by Monsanto itself.”

A spokesperson for Bayer told the Wall Street Journal, “We expect the European Commission to review this decision critically, as it may be inconsistent with mandatory legal and procedural requirements and scientific reasoning.”

The bill was also criticized on legal grounds by Austria’s right-wing People’s Party (OVP), which opposed the ban as “a slap in the face to farmers,” as well as the country’s sustainability ministry, which is responsible for agriculture and the environment.

However, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) joined with the liberal Neos party and the Social Democrats Tuesday in passing the bill. Putting that vote into context, Reuters explained that the country “is currently led by a provisional government of civil servants ahead of a parliamentary election expected in September. Political parties are forming shifting alliances to pass laws that appeal to their voters before parliament goes into recess this week until the election.”

Erwin Preiner, a member of the Austrian parliament for the Social Democrats who worked on the ban, told the Journal, “We want to be a role model for other countries in the E.U. and the world.

As of 2017, Austria had the highest portion of organic farmland among all EU member states — 23.4 percent, compared with the bloc’s average of just 7 percent. Though Austria’s action targeting glyphosate may be the boldest yet in Europe, the country is not alone in considering strict regulations of the weed killer.

Among Austria’s EU partners, France said in 2017 it hoped to ban glyphosate within three years, but President Emmanuel Macron has since said such a move could not be ‘100 percent,’” reported Agence France-Presse. “In May 2018, the French government pledged to ban glyphosate ‘for its main uses’ by 2021, and ‘for all of its uses’ within five years. In January 2019, French authorities banned the sale of Roundup Pro 360.”

About the Author

Jessica Corbett is a staff writer for Common Dreams. Follow her on Twitter: @corbett_jessica.

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Sustainability

Coconut Husk Waste Can Replace Wood And Save Millions Of Trees

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Coconut Husk Waste Can Replace Wood And Save Millions Of Trees
Photo Credit: CocoPallet

The planet is home to 3 trillion trees. Although, according to a study published in Nature that number is falling. Every year 15.3 billion trees are chopped down, and around 46% of the world’s trees have been cleared out over the past 12,000 years. Unfortunately, humans have been slow to develop sustainable alternatives, partly because wood is necessary for manufacturing many goods. Thankfully, a Dutch start-up called CocoPallet is one of the companies that are taking action to change this!

What Is CocoPallet?
CocoPallet
Photo Credit: CocoPallet

CocoPallet produces 100% bio-based, durable transportation pallets out of recycled coconut husk waste. The process used by CocoPallet is cheaper than using wood and they don’t require the highly toxic methyl-bromide fumigation that some countries still use in wood pallet manufacturing. They also don’t require any glue because the coconut husk has its own natural glue called lignin. This natural glue is activated when they grind the coconut husk and press them together at high temperatures. It’s estimated that CocoPallet saves more than 200 million trees from being chopped down every year. Since shipping pallets are used all around the world, it’s no surprise.

Hardboards Made Of Coconut Husk Waste

The technique was originally developed by researchers at Wageningen University but was later on commercialized by Michiel Vos, entrepreneur, and founder of CocoPallet.

Jan Van Dam is a plant scientist at Wageningen University, who specializes in creating materials out of plant fiber. Although it never occurred to him to craft objects out of coconuts until an Indonesian man entered his office at the college 20 years ago with a piece of wood board. “It looked like a normal piece of hardboard. But according to this man, it was not made out of logged trees, but completely made out of coconut bark, the outer shell of the fruit. Rock hard, wood-like board material from coconut husk? That was new to me” said Van Dam.

Van Dam explained that he saw a huge potential with the coconut husk, especially in Asia where coconut waste is abundant. He said:

In many tropical countries, the coconut waste is rotting away or is set on fire. If you make raw materials out of the husk, you will hit several birds with one stone: you prevent deforestation, because less wood will be produced, you give farmers an extra income, because their waste is worth money, and you prevent the material from slowly rotting away, reducing pollution and climate change.

85% of coconut husks go to waste
85% of coconut husks go to waste

In 2005 the researcher attempted to manufacture this technique in the Philippines where he opened a pilot factory. However, due to circumstances such as an insufficient local power supply, the project was short-lived.

How CocoPallet Was Born

Luckily, the clever technique was revived in 2010 when Michiel Vos found Van Dam. Vos was making a hardwood alternative from bamboo fibre and needed natural glue, so he asked Van Dam for advice about alternatives that he could use. Van Dam suggested that he use coconut husk instead because the glue was part of the coconut husk. He also mentioned that anywhere in Asia it could be found basically for free off the side of the roads. Amazed, Vos left his office with a final report. He concluded that pallets were the perfect use case for this technology.

Vos explained:

“Asia produces more than a billion pallets every year. They require softwood, which does not grow in the tropics, thus is imported from Canada, New Zealand or Eastern Europe on a large scale. Complete forests are being shipped to Asia to make pallets that are mainly used to ship products back to America or Europe. It is clearly a lot more efficient to make them in Asia with local materials.”

CocoPallets have important advantages: they are stronger and lighter than the old-fashioned pallets, they are fire retardant, and thanks to an adjusted design, also easier to stack, so they take up less space. Above all, they are cheaper, and a lower price is always the best sales argument for a sustainable product,” Vos added.

Van Dam says the coconut alternative is also moisture resistant and termite resistant, which is an important factor for tropical use. Vos and CocoPallet have won entrepreneurial and innovation awards and now have a factory in Indonesia. CocoPallets are a win-win solution that saves millions of trees while also recycling a waste product. It doesn’t get any better than that!

If you enjoyed reading this article and want to see more like this one, we’d be humbled if you would help us spread the word and share it with your friends and family. Join us in our quest to promote free, useful information to all!

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Nature

Report Shows Corporations And Bolsonaro Teaming Up To Destroy The Amazon

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Report Shows Corporations And Bolsonaro Teaming Up To Destroy The Amazon
Photo Credit: Mint Press News

Joe Catron, Mint Press News

As deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest reaches the highest level in a decade, the rainforest’s indigenous peoples and their supporters have called for action against the political and business interests they blame for a spike in illegal logging and other resource extraction.

report released by Amazon Watch as part of its ongoing “Complicity in Destruction” campaign aims not only to spotlight the role of North American and Western European financiers, importers, and traders in the ongoing destruction of the Amazon, but also to mobilize support for a boycott launched by the National Indigenous Mobilization (MNI) against the Brazilian agribusiness and mining interests encroaching on the threatened region. The report says:

“The MNI requests solidarity from the international community to support these efforts, which aim to leverage global markets in order to moderate the behavior of the agroindustrial sector, as a means to halt [Brazil President Jair] Bolsonaro’s assault, ultimately protecting and restoring environmental safeguards and human rights.”

Christian Poirier, Amazon Watch’s Program Director, told MintPress News that the inauguration of right-wing strongman Jair Bolsonaro as Brazil’s president on January 1 lent fresh urgency to the campaign.

Bolsonaro has overseen the most significant rollback of, and full-on assault on, human rights and environmental protection in Brazil since the fall of the country’s military dictatorship and the reinstallation of democracy in 1985,” Poirier said, adding:

“He’s hearkening back to an era of rampant environmental destruction and rights abuses that some would call genocide of indigenous peoples, by attacking socio-environmental policy that is responsible for indigenous land rights, that is responsible for the protection of forests in the country, and he’s doing so at a very rapid pace.”

Among his first moves as president, Bolsonaro stripped Brazil’s National Indian Foundation (FUNAI) of its authority to create new reserves for indigenous nations and transferred control of both it and the country’s forest service to its agriculture ministry.

“Human rights abuses and environmental rollbacks”

Satellite data released by INPE, Brazil’s space agency, earlier this month showed the clear-cutting of 285 square miles, or 739 square kilometers, of the Amazon in May, the highest level of deforestation in a decade and more than twice the rate two years ago.

Observers cite an escalation in illegal logging and land theft during the Bolsonaro administration, with the first raid on an indigenous reserve occurring December 30, two days before Bolsonaro took office.

Poirier added that the MNI campaign intended to target corporate interests culpable not only for their own abuses, but also for Bolsonaro’s presidency:

“The ‘Complicity in Destruction’ campaign works to pressure the most important sectors in Brazil’s economy — which are also responsible for human-rights abuses and environmental rollbacks, and also bringing Jair Bolsonao to power.

By targeting these sectors, we also intend to influence the behavior of the Bolsonaro regime, because we are targeting a strategic economic actor that is also a strategic political actor behind Bolsonaro’s rise to power, and that is responsible for his socio-environmental policy.”

In April, Bolsonaro — who once paid a fine of $2,500 for illegally fishing in a forested coastal reserve — announced the dissolution of Brazil’s National Council of the Environment (CONOMA), a government body with over 100 members, including independent representatives of environmental groups, tasked with protecting the Amazon.

He proposed replacing it with a new committee of six: Ricardo Salles, his nominee for environment minister and a close ally, along with five other presidential appointees. Poirier noted:

“These are a wish list of Brazil’s agribusiness sector and its mining sector, to penetrate into protected areas, and that’s precisely what Bolsonaro’s doing, to the detriment of the human rights of indigenous peoples and traditional peoples in the Amazon, and to the detriment of global climatic stability.”

As one of the world’s largest non-oceanic “carbon sinks,” the Amazon plays a significant role in tempering climate change, absorbing a large — though declining — amount of the atmosphere’s carbon dioxide, while also emitting 20% of its oxygen.

“By ‘worst actors,’ I’m talking about environmental criminals”

Despite their staunch backing of Bolsonaro and the ruralista caucus supporting him from within Brazil’s Congress, the companies profiled by Amazon Watch had achieved notoriety well before Bolsonaro’s rise to power. Poirier told MintPress:

“He specific corporate targets in the report are commodity importers, traders, and financial institutions that are doing business with the worst actors in Brazil’s agro-industrial sector.”

By ‘worst actors,’ I’m talking about environmental criminals, those who have been found guilty and fined by Brazil’s environmental agency, Ibama, for environmental crimes ranging from illegal deforestation, to improper paperwork for wood, to even slave labour in their supply chains, since 2017.”

While an earlier report also analysed Brazilian mining interests and their international ties, the most recent focuses on agribusiness, particularly its beef, soy, leather, timber and sugar sectors. Poirier stated:

“The corporate actors internationally — the 27 importing companies and commodity traders that we list, and the dozens of financial institutions — are essentially enabling the behavior of these actors, which we consider to be emblematic behavior of these industries.”

Through their campaign, Poirier added, Amazon Watch and the MNI hope to “call on these companies to become agents to moderate the behavior of the worst actors, which is to say that they should carry out their own due diligence with their supply chains, and cut ties with the worst actors.”

About the Author

Joe Catron is a MintPress News contributing journalist. He covers Palestine and Israel and other human rights issues. Catron has written frequently for Electronic Intifada and Middle East Eye, and co-edited The Prisoners’ Diaries: Palestinian Voices from the Israeli Gulag, an anthology of accounts by detainees freed in the 2011 prisoner exchange.

This article (Report Shows Corporations and Bolsonaro Teaming Up to Destroy the Amazon) was originally published at Mint Press News and is re-posted here with permission.

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Animal World

Jon Stewart Turned His 45-Acre Farm Into An Animal Sanctuary To Rescue Abused Factory Farm Animals

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Jon Stewart Turned His 45-Acre Farm Into An Animal Sanctuary To Rescue Abused Factory Farm Animals
Jon Steward Animal Farm

Primarily known for being one of the most recognized TV show hosts and comedians of our time, Jon Stewart has recently become… an animal hero. That’s right, he can now also be known for rescuing and sheltering abused animals. Jon and his wife, Tracey Stewart, already turned their 12-acre farm into the New Jersey branch of Farm Sanctuary. Then, in October 2016, they bought another farm – Hockhockson Farm in Colts Neck, New Jersey.

Jon Stewart Turned His 45-Acre Farm Into An Animal Sanctuary To Rescue Abused Factory Farm Animals

They actually decided to buy the sprawling 45-acre farm just to create this animal sanctuary. When the state finally gave them the green light to turn the farm area into an animal rescue and education center it brought tears to Tracey’s eyes. The application process took a lot longer than expected because many local residents complained about noise and traffic in the area. But in the end, their motive behind saving animals got the vote of approval from the community.

“It’s one of those things like where after you give birth you forget about the pain,” Tracey told NJ Advance Media upon testifying in front of the town’s planning board. “So right now I’m feeling really good and positive.”

Among the first animals to take up residence at their farm are two piglets, named Anna and Maybelle who were rescued from a swine factory when they fell off the cargo loader during transfer; two goats; a bull; loads of more pigs; and many other animals!

The duo loves animals so much that Tracey has even written a book titled: “Do Unto Animals: A Friendly Guide to How Animals Live, and How We Can Make Their Lives Better,” which focuses on living respectfully with many animals, like dogs, goats, and spiders.

Tracey has been vegan for a very long time. Jon, however, used to consume meat quite regularly. Tracey wrote in her book: “While I don’t eat animals, my husband does, and due to our mixed marriage, we have decided to present both diets to the kids and let them come to their own decision about how and what they want to eat.” But now even that has changed as Jon has turned vegetarian, something that surprised Tracey quite a bit. She said: “I know! It’s recent! It’s all happening! He’s nervous about saying it publicly because he doesn’t want to mess up. But he really is trying to figure out what vegetarian foods he likes, and I’m helping him with that. I’ll say to him, ‘Oh, you’re my new, sexy vegetarian boyfriend. Do you want to go to the vegan restaurant for lunch?’ He’s like, ‘Yeah!’”

Ever since Jon retired from The Daily Show, he has dedicated most of his time to caring for abused and neglected animals. As for now, the farm is still in its “nascent stage,” meaning it is not yet open to the public. Regardless, even though because it’s not open to the general public yet doesn’t mean the Stewarts haven’t been helping animals. If you’re interested in keeping up with farm life at Hockhockson Farm you can follow The Daily Squeal, which Tracey Stewart regularly updates with photos of rescued farm animals.

This article (Jon Stewart Turned His 45-Acre Farm Into An Animal Sanctuary To Rescue Abused Factory Farm Animals) was originally created for Intelligent Living and is published here under Creative Commons.

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