This week we talk greenwashing, that Joaquin Phoenix speech, The Great British Blunders and a few other important headlines. Brace yourself, this week’s scoop’s a massive one.
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Before this week’s scoop, we’d like to emphasise the importance of standing with the Wetʼsuwetʼen Peoples, a First Nation People in British Columbia, Canada. This is a short summary of what’s going on, adapted from Instagram stories by social media activist @earthbyhelena.
Some of the Wet’suwet’en Peoples were arrested last week by the Canadian government for trying to protect their land. The Canadian government wants to build a pipeline on their land, which the Peoples have been on for generations. The situation is complicated because some of the clans within the Wet’suwet’en Peoples approved the plan, but not all. And the Chiefs have an agreement that no pipelines can be built through their traditional territory without their consent. Many cross-Canada protests have been happening in solidarity with the Wet’suwet’en Peoples. Now, this isn’t the full story, and there’s much more to it than this, so here are some Instagram accounts for you to keep up with what’s going on: @gidimten_checkpoint, @seedingsovereignty, and be sure to follow the news on The Guardian. Stay tuned for our coverage of the issue.
1. The North Face, H&M, Nike are making some moves towards sustainability. But is the fashion industry really changing?
The North Face announced last week that they were sending their designers to spend time at the Renewal Workshop, a company that helps brands collect old garments, repair them, and prepare them to be resold. The designers will be learning about designing again—but this time with the entire lifecycle of clothes in mind. H&M announced that they would start making clothes from Circulose, a sustainable fabric made from upcycled clothing and fashion waste. And Nike just announced its aim to eventually be a zero-carbon, zero-waste company with its Move To Zero initiative. Its new summer 2020 collection even features a windrunner jacket crafted from 100% recycled polyester. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows.
Seven people reportedly died in a garment factory in India over the weekend. The Nandan Denim factory in Ahmedabad caught fire, and apparently, the factory works with several major brands. Including Ann Taylor, Zara, Ralph Lauren and Polo, and Target.
We’d like to believe the fashion industry is doing better, but with reports like these coming out, we can’t help but think it’s just greenwashing.
2. About that Joaquin Phoenix speech, and his new film with Extinction Rebellion and Amazon Watch.
Joaquin Phoenix has become more and more vocal this year with his climate activism. Just last week, he unveiled his next film after Joker: a short film urging action on the climate and ecological emergency. Entitled Guardians of Life, this film is set in an ER and acts as a PSA for the plight of the Amazon and its indigenous communities. We’re not going to spoil it too much for you—watch the full thing here.
That’s not the only reason why Phoenix went viral this week. Aside from his film, he also went viral for his Oscars speech, which you’ll know is about animal activism because everyone’s been quoting him. He said, “we feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakable. Then we take her milk that’s intended for her calf, and we put it in our coffee and our cereal.” But as social media activist @treesnpeace expressed in her Instagram story, “he did not give a vegan speech, he gave a speech about egocentric views, entitlement and collective oppression, based on sexism, queer-phobia, racism, and… speciesism! He interlinked systems of oppression and how they interlink and intersect. Stop silencing this important message by focusing on the sentence that fits your vegan marketing strategy.”
This, of course, is in response to the fact that many people have just been taking his speech as a “vegan” or “anti-dairy” or “anti-meat” speech when it’s about so much more than that. Here’s the speech in full.
3. The UK climate wins and losses: HS2 goes ahead, Bristol airport expansion plans cancelled, and BP protests at the British Museum.
Let’s start with the more neutral piece of news: climate activists brought a Trojan horse to a British Museum protest. What were they protesting? Its sponsorship deal with the oil corporation BP. The installation coincided nicely with the museum’s latest exhibition, Troy: Myth and Reality, which is described as “supported by BP”. In a letter that activists handed to the museum, they said: “Hundreds of people have helped to crowdfund this horse because they feel so strongly that the museum should not be promoting and giving legitimacy to an oil company when we are in the midst of a climate emergency.”
Even the staff working at the British Museum have joined. The PCS union, representing 4,000 workers across the UK’s leading cultural sites said: “As a public institution, the British Museum owes it to its staff, its visitors and its future to play a responsible role in the greatest challenge facing society.”
— BP or not BP? (@drop_BP) February 7, 2020
Then comes great news, and really terrible news.
The terrible news is that Boris Johnson just announced that HS2 will be going ahead. Not only does the high-speed train line not have an environmental case, but it also doesn’t have a business case either. And yet Boris Johnson’s cabinet has given the green light, with work expected to start within weeks. John Sauven, the Greenpeace director, said this gives Johnson the “dubious honour of being this century’s largest destroyer of ancient woodlands in the UK”.
But at least there’s good news. The plan to expand the Bristol airport has been rejected, following protests that it would exacerbate the climate emergency, damage the health of local people, and harm flora and fauna. The North Somerset council rejected the expansion plans by 18 votes to seven.
Activism works—so we need to keep moving.
4. A sustainability tax on meat will help tackle climate emergency, says a report.
The new report comes from the TAPP Coalition, made up of health, environment and animal welfare organisations. It’s asking the European Parliament to consider a meat tax. Why? Europeans eat 50% more meat than what’s recommended in dietary health guidelines. And they contribute to 16% of the world’s total meat consumption, even though its citizens only account for 6.8% of the world population. Hence, the Coalition recommends a tax, which would fit nicely into the European Green Deal and Farm to Fork Strategy.
But as some have pointed out, taxing isn’t fair to farmers and poorer consumers, and that it would make much more sense to cut subsidies instead.
5. Antarctica just hit 65 degrees Fahrenheit, its warmest temperature ever recorded.
(That’s 18.3 degrees in Celsius, for you folks out there who don’t use Fahrenheit.) The previous record, two degrees lower than this new record, was set in 2015. If you’re wondering, doesn’t Antarctica get warm usually anyway? Well, yes. It is summer in the southern hemisphere, and Antarctica does get warm. But it doesn’t usually get higher than 50 degrees. As Umair Irfan writes for Vox: “That rising heat is particularly worrying because it’s fueling loss in the world’s largest reservoir of ice: the Antarctic ice sheets. If all the ice in Antarctica were to melt, it would raise global sea levels by 190 feet.”
Do we really need more signals that we need climate action now?