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Pipeline Protesters Could Face Up To 20 Years In Prison Under New Trump Proposal

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Photo Credit: Common Dreams

Jake Johnson, Common Dreams

Building on efforts by multiple states to crack down on those fighting the construction of climate-destroying fossil fuel infrastructure, the Trump administration unveiled a proposal on Monday that would criminalize pipeline protests at the federal level and hit demonstrators with up to 20 years in prison.

“Rather than focusing on shielding corporate polluters from public protest, the administration should be working to ensure that communities are protected from dirty, dangerous fossil fuel projects.” —Kelly Martin, Sierra Club

The new proposal, released by Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, was immediately denounced by environmentalists as a serious threat to the First Amendment.

This dangerous proposal threatens to undermine Americans’ right to peaceful assembly and free speech,” Kelly Martin, director of the Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fossil Fuels campaign, said in a statement. “It is a blatant attempt to intimidate those who would exercise their First Amendment rights to speak out against pipeline projects that put our clean water, communities, and climate at risk.”

Rather than focusing on shielding corporate polluters from public protest,” Martin said, “the administration should be working to ensure that communities are protected from dirty, dangerous fossil fuel projects.”

As Politico reported Monday, the Transportation Department’s proposal would “treat some pipeline protests as a federal crime, mirroring state legislative efforts that have spread in the wake of high-profile demonstrations around the country.”

The Trump administration, according to Politico, is “calling for Congress to expand a law that threatens fines and up to 20 years’ prison time for ‘damaging or destroying’ pipelines currently in operation. The expanded version would add ‘vandalism, tampering with, or impeding, disrupting, or inhibiting the operation of’ either existing pipelines or those ‘under construction.’

Elly Page, attorney for International Center for Not-For-Profit Law—an organization that has tracked anti-protest efforts by individual states—told Politico that the Trump administration’s “proposed penalty is far and away more extreme than what we’ve seen at the state level.”

When you combine provisions that vague to penalties that extreme,” Page said, “that creates uncertainty about what is and isn’t legal.”

House Democrats signalled that they would oppose the measure, which comes just two weeks after the Texas state Senate passed a bill that would hit pipeline protesters with up to 10 years in prison.

A spokesperson for House Energy and Commerce chairman Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) told Politico that the congressman “has no intention of allowing a pipeline safety bill to be used as a vehicle for stifling legitimate dissent and protest.”

On Twitter, the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) warned that as “we grapple with the mounting climate catastrophe, the fossil fuel industry is holding nothing back in its attempt to silence its critics and those who assemble to protest their destruction of our shared climate.”

“We’re not giving in to the dirty fossil fuel industry’s bullying ways,” said NRDC.

This article (Pipeline Protesters Could Face up to 20 Years in Prison Under New Trump Proposal) was originally published at Common Dreams and is re-posted here under creative commons.

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Environment

Heineken Replaces Plastic Rings And Shrink Wrap With Cardboard

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Heineken
West Wind Heineken

Plastic pack rings, also known as hi-cones or yokes, are a standard packaging device used around the globe for more than 50 years already. These rings are used to hold together multipacks of canned drinks, particularly beer. They have profoundly contributed to the growing amount of plastic pollution in the oceans and are a significant threat to marine life.

Thankfully, Heineken is closing its doors to single-use plastic rings and shrink wrap from billions of multipack cans. Now, the company is replacing all of the plastic with eco-friendly cardboard!

A spokeswoman from the Marine Conservation Society said:

“This is an interesting development (from Heineken) and will help cut down the amount of plastic on our beaches and in our seas. These kinds of can yokes are regularly found on our beach cleans.”

Eliminating Plastic Packaging
The packaging has a finger hole to make it easier to carry the multipack. Photo credit: Heineken
The packaging has a finger hole to make it easier to carry the multipack. Photo credit: Heineken

These new can holders are made of recycled cardboard and are strong enough to take on the weight of a multipack. Heineken’s adoption of this cardboard alternative will lead to over 517 tones of plastic eliminated from the packaging of its brands.

The Dutch company has already invested £22m in new technology and production facilities at their sites in the UK. By April 2020, these sites should be ready to start rolling out the changes across the company’s most popular brands, including Heineken, Foster’s, and Kronenbourg 1664. Following after, all its other brands in multipack cans will change to the new material as well, such as Strongbow, Bulmer’s, Red Stripe, and John Smith’s. The company aims to accomplish this all by the end of 2021.

Out of the brewer’s 190 world markets, the UK is the first to introduce this new packaging. This change is a big step towards a less polluted future. The UK produces 530 million cans per year across all its brands; among these, Foster’s accounts for 150 million and Heineken 39.5 million.

The Demand For An Eco Alternative
Photo credit: Heineken
Photo Credit: Heineken

After BBC One’s Blue Planet II series highlighted marine litter, the majority of the public has backlashed over plastic packaging. The public’s reaction has prompted manufacturers and supermarkets to take action and convert to eco-friendly products.

The head of marketing at Heineken, Cindy Tervoort, said:

“It’s what our customers want and expect, and we have been working on and testing this innovation for three years.”

Additionally, Heineken claims that with the introduction of their new eco-friendly materials, carbon emissions associated with producing multipack cans will be cut by one third.

Other Brewers Finding Alternatives

In 2018, Carlsberg announced plans about replacing their rings with recyclable glue. Diegeo started to phase out plastic packaging from multipacks of its Guinness, Harp, Rockshore, and Smithwick’s beers and replaced it with cardboard packs.

In September 2019, Budweiser said that by the end of 2020, it would remove all single-use plastic pack rings from its entire selection of UK produced beer. This selection includes Budweiser’s bestselling brands such as Stella Artois, Budweiser, and Bud Light.

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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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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