Greenpeace ‘Speaker Shorts’ Events in June

(Taken from the Greenpeace website)

Join our ‘Speaker Shorts’ talks in June

Throughout June Greenpeace is running an exciting new programme called Speaker Shorts. These are free 15 minute talks followed by an interactive Q&A on areas that Greenpeace is campaigning on. From protecting our forests and oceans, to plastics and the climate crisis, Speaker Shorts will give an introduction to the topic and simple things you can do to help!

Speaker Shorts talks will be delivered by members of our Greenpeace Speakers network – passionate and knowledgeable volunteers who know a lot about our work.

The talks will run as a Zoom webinar, which is a secure and private way for you and your family to participate in these fun and interactive talks. You’ll need to download Zoom for free in order to join.

Find out more about each talk and register at the links below:

Family friendly:

Young people and students:

Adults and general audiences:

South Cambs District Council: latest on Zero Carbon plans

South Cambridgeshire’s Zero Carbon Strategy was adopted on 21 May 2020.  It outlines how Council will support the district to halve carbon emissions by 2030 and reduce them to zero by 2050, including delivering a reduction in their own carbon footprint of at least 45% by 2025, (on a 2019 baseline), and at least 75% by 2030.

More details here.

S Cambs publishes a  quarterly Zero Carbon Communities newsletter with the latest news about climate change action both at the Council and within the District.  The second issue (with a link to the first) is available here.

See an edited extract from the newsletter about home composting.

World Localization Day 21 June

Local Futures is an organisation seeking to promote local economies which put the well-being of people and planet first.  They produced the film The Economics of Happiness which 2G3S showed in 2016.
Now Local Futures is organising World Localization Day, an online global festival taking place on June 21, 2020.
Organised in response to COVID-19, World Localization Day will feature eye-opening talks, interviews, music, short films and even comedy to inspire and empower individuals as we work to create a happier and more sustainable world going into the future.  HH The Dalai Lama and Noam Chomsky have both prepared special messages, and other contributors include Vandana Shiva, Joanna Macy, Alice Waters, Johann Hari, Iain McGilchrist, Gail Bradbrook, Charles Eisenstein, and many more. 
Detailed event information can be found on the World Localization Day website: https://worldlocalizationday.org.

 

‘The Story of Plastic’ – notes

The Story of Plastic

2020

Notes by Linda Whitebread (personal take on the film)

 

This film from ‘The Story of Stuff’ stable reviews the situation today regarding the build-up of plastic waste throughout the world.  Crucial points for me were:

Plastic was first mass manufactured in the 1950s.  It has many wonderful qualities – cheap to manufacture; versatile; attractive to use; durable.  However its durability also represents its huge disadvantage.  Elsewhere I have read that all the plastic ever produced still exists today.

The oil giants need to keep producing oil to make a profit.  As well as being used as fuel, oil can be used in the manufacture of products such as fertilisers and plastic.  This is especially true now that the demand for oil for energy is reducing.

So the rise of plastic manufacture has been supply- (of oil) led rather than demand-led.

 

A major use of single-use plastic Is in packaging.  Paraphrased quotes from film:

1950’s: In response to the first laws limiting disposable packaging, US companies formed ’Keep America Beautiful Inc.’  Campaigning shifted the focus to litter, causing limits on disposable packaging to disappear for decades.

This later extended to recycling:

1990’s: The packaging industry continued to fight restrictions on disposables while promoting municipal-funded recycling.  In the US, plastic recycling rates increased four-fold, funded by the tax-payer.  The American Chemistry Council promoted recycling; under pressure municipalities in the US accepted hard plastics for the first time.

 

Recycling

Figures given by the film

91% of plastic has never been recycled

Currently (? not sure at what date, or whether this is one country or globally):

32% ends up as litter

40% goes to landfill

14% incinerated

14% recycled: but only 2% effectively recycled, ie becomes something as useful as what it was before.  Most is downcycled – becomes something worse – and most is only recycled once before being incinerated, going to landfill, or ending up as litter.

 

2000s: The fast-moving consumer goods industry experienced slowing growth for the first time and began marketing to the rapidly developing middle class in the Global South.  Packaged and processed foods replaced fresh.

 

Plastics have a real benefit, for example in hospitals, surgery.  The real problem is packaging, especially multi-layered single-use sachets.  Under the influence of aggressive marketing by the west, developing countries are moving from traditional sustainable, natural packaging to plastic packaging.

 

Double whammy: countries in Asia etc are encouraged to buy toxic single-use plastics, AND to receive plastic waste shipped from the west.  We have exported the problem to other parts of the world and now say they are the problem.

 

Climate Change

Fossil fuel used for plastics, much of which are incinerated.

2018: As other nations joined China in banning scrap imports, plastic incineration increased around the world.

Incineration releases many toxic materials (eg cadmium, lead, mercury) into the environment.  People living in the vicinity of incinerators have reported respiratory problems, dermatitis, infertility.

Yet the new incinerators need a supply of plastic to keep going.  There is a huge web of infrastructure from oil refineries to incinerators all working together to increase the amount of plastics in the world and reduce recycling.

 

Fracking

2005: US Energy Policy Act gave oil and gas companies exemptions to environmental and health regulations.  Resulted in a shale gas boom and a glut of raw materials for plastic production.

As well as shale gas, the oil and gas pockets release other chemicals, eg benzene, xylene, harmful to health.  Residents living near shale gas plants report headaches and respiratory problems.

2015: In the midst of the ongoing fracking boom, the US lifted a 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports, setting off a rush of oil, gas and ‘plastic feedstock’ sales worldwide.

 

Huge increase in number of petro-chemical plants producing plastic.  Eg in2017 Exxon and Saudi-Arabia’s SABIC jointly opened the world’s largest plastic manufacturing facility of its kind, receiving billions in US tax breaks and other subsidies.

These plants must continue to maximise production in order to pay off the debts incurred by building them.

 

Latest developments

2018: public awareness of plastic pollution increased because of media coverage of plastic in oceans.

Response: plastic companies say that the fault lies with consumers and countries with inadequate waste recycling infrastructure.  The clean-up message, not the use of plastic packaging in the first place, has dominated the narrative.

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste was founded in 2019 by companies that make, use, sell, process, collect and recycle plastics.  It pledged $1.5 billion to a clean-up programme.

Meanwhile $204 billion was spent on 334 new petrochemical facilities (when/where?)

 

Nanoplastics ‘recently’ found in 83% of global tapwater sampled and 93% of bottled water.

 

Can we find new alternatives to plastic?

Research ongoing.

Bioplastics: (ie plant based) also have sustainability challenges, including effective biodegradability.

Cost of new fossil-fuel based plastic is artificially low because of oil and gas subsidies of $5.2 trillion pa.  This disincentivises the use of recycled content and other alternatives.

 

Way forward

Reduce and re-use.

Ban single-use plastics: recent increase in banning of different products throughout the world, eg EU, China, Rwanda, Morocco.

Fight to end fossil fuel subsidies.

Require plastic packaging manufacturers to use a minimum amount of recycled plastic.

Companies have profited by externalising the environmental costs of the plastic (eg to taxpayers who fund recycling schemes; to developing countries).  They must be made to absorb these costs.

Multinational companies are locked into their need for growth; and massive supply chains forcing them to rely on plastic packaging.  Try to move to small-scale firms, more local, alternative delivery systems, building communities.

 

Support/join Break Free From Plastic  https://www.breakfreefromplastic.org/about/

 

Linda Whitebread 21/05/2020

Built-in Obsolescence

See this article from The Guardian which talks about built-in obsolescence, especially of digital equipment.  It doesn’t mention this, but I understand that when the first filament light bulbs were invented, it would  have been possible to manufacture them to last indefinitely – but it was decided that that wouldn’t be good for business, and so a limited lifespan for each bulb became the norm.  So ‘built-in obsolescence’ is not a new concept, but shocking nonetheless given the mountains of waste we are creating at a time of shrinking resources.

Good to see the reference to Repair Cafes!

Earth Day April 22 2020

The celebration of ‘Earth Day’ began in the US in 1970 when Gaylord Nelson, a Democrat Senator and governor of Wisconsin,  proposed April 22 as a day for Americans to speak out about the environmental crisis.  See him speaking here.

Since then Earth Day has been observed not only in the US but around the world.  In 2016, the United Nations chose Earth Day as the day when the historic Paris Agreement on climate change was signed into force.

2020 represents the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day and the theme for this year is climate change.  It is ironic that on the one hand events to mark the day will this year have to be digital because of the coronavirus pandemic (arguably itself a result of our cavalier and exploitative approach to the natural world) while on the other hand environmentalists may be welcoming the fact that the price of American oil has just gone negative for the first time ever.

For more information, and how to get involved, visit the Earth Day website.

Ask the County Council to reduce mowing of verges

The charity Plantlife are urging councils to reduce verge cutting.  They say:

“Roads have fallen quiet as lockdown is observed, as has the drone of many councils’ mowers. Councils are under considerable pressure due to the Coronavirus crisis and many have understandably reduced grass cutting down to essential management to maintain visibility and ensure road safety. There’s hope that reduced cutting frequencies might be a silver lining for verge wild flowers, giving once-familiar flowers, such as white campion, betony, greater knapweed and harebell, the chance to grow, flower and set seed. 

As well allowing precious wild flowers the opportunity to thrive, reducing cutting and adopting a more wildlife-friendly management regime will also help tackle the climate crisis. Over 300 local authorities have now declared a climate emergency, so sustaining reduced cutting regimes will also help councils bring down carbon emissions.”

You can sign a petition to the county council here

Coronavirus epidemic

Please note that, as you would expect, we are not able to meet in person during the current lockdown conditions.

Planning is still going ahead online.  Contact us if you would like to participate.

Public Transport

After discussion and several iterations, 2G3S sent in a response to the Greater Cambridge Partnership Cambridge SE Transport Better Public Transport Project Consultation. The project proposes a new off-road public transport system using CAM (Cambridgeshire Autonomous Metro) electric tram-like vehicles.  The route would run from the Biomedical Campus (Addenbrooke’s site),  through greenfield sites skirting Great Shelford, Stapleford and Sawston, to a new ‘travel hub’ near the A11/A1307/A505 (three options given).

For more details about the project, go to www.greatercambridge.org.uk/CambridgeSE

The closing date for comments was 4 November 2019.    You can view the 2G3S response here

Climate crisis

Some of us went to The Time is Now climate crisis lobby of Parliament on 26 June 2019.  Heidi Allen, our MP, asked for ideas for first steps in tackling the crisis.  After consultation among our members 2G3S produced a report which you can read here: Climate crisis measures for Heidi Allen.

We sent this to her on 1 August.

On 28 August Linda Whitebread and Peter Fane met Heidi at her drop-in surgery at Shelford Deli to discuss how she was getting on.  She thanked us for the report and told us that a cross-party group of MPs are putting together a list of urgent climate action proposals that they will urge the government to include in the Queen’s Speech.

Linda and Peter with Heidi Allen at Shelford Deli 28 August 2019