Friday, 20 August 2010


Deforestation makes up 1/5 of all global man made emissions - more than the entire global transport sector. Indonesia is the world's biggest greenhouse gas emitter - after the US and China - due to clearance of Indonesian rainforest and peatland to make way for palm oil plantations. The IPCC estimates that preventing carbon release from deforestation is the mitigation measure with the largest and most immediate impact. So what can we do, remote as we are from these issues?

1. Pressure palm oil suppliers to be sustainable

Starting off on a positive note, here is a success story. Nestle have recently committed to stop using products that have come from rainforest destruction, like palm oil and paper. This is because of a massive Greenpeace campaign that used social media, along with orang-utan costumed-protestors, to keep up a relentless stream of pressure and publicity. This is fantastic - getting a company to face responsibility for what happens 'way down' the chain is a great precedent. The next step in Nestle's very own statement is 'the systematic identification and exclusion of companies owning or managing high risk plantations or farms linked to deforestation'.

2. Brazilian Cattle

And another encouraging story! According to Greenpeace's 'Slaughtering the Amazon' report, cattle ranching in Brazil is the 'single biggest driver' of deforestation in the Amazon. 80% of deforested areas now have cattle on them. Greenpeace's report came out last June and since then, four of the largest cattle companies have committed to zero deforestation in their supply chains. Marfrig, Bertin, JBS-Friboi and Minerva supply leather to Nike, Adidas and Clarks amongst others. This is a massive victory for Greenpeace, and both this and the Nestle campaign show that small actions DO matter. It costs nothing to lend your support to campaigns like these by sending an email or leaving a Facebook comment, and it all helps.

3. Sell your old phone

Coltan is a mineral used in the production of mobile phones. The majority of the world's coltan reserves are in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and there are approximately 200 mines in eastern Congo. There is a high rate of deforestation in Rwanda and Burundi, due in part to mining. And then there are the shocking human rights abuses, with a UN report concluding that all of the main armed groups fighting in the DRC are financing themselves through the minerals trade. This point, by the way, goes somewhat out of the climate change remit, but I couldn't ignore it. See the Blood in the Mobile campaign to learn more about the conflict minerals in our electronic devices.

If you recycle your phone, you are making good use of what's been mined, and hopefully lessening the need for more mining. There are loads of websites dedicated to recycling mobiles, here's one example. Request a freepost bag online at the Coop and send your phone off to Oxfam, where it will either be refurbished for resale or completely recycled.

4. Buy FSC-certified wood
The Forest Stewardship Council certifies forests and wood that is cut legally and sustainably, with respect for local people. If you have a burning urge to buy new wood, this is the kind to get. Otherwise, recycled is good.

5. Agnes Denes

Denes is a leading environmental and conceptual artist, she not only takes the environmental issues as her subject but helps to prevent climate change too.
"it means re establishing disturbed and destroyed land, creating roots to hold eroding land and keeping global warming down, photo synthesis up, clean ground water and a million things trees do besides grow and become aesthetics."

Denes "Tree Mountain -- A Living Time Capsule" in Finland, 1996. This massive earthwork and reclamation project involved the construction of a "mountain" on the site of an old gravel quarry and the planting, by volunteers from different countries, of 11,000 Finnish Pine trees in an exquisite intricate pattern. The volunteers were then each given inheritable certificates (valid for 400 years) which granted them responsibility for the stewardship of one of the trees. This project was first announced by the Government of Finland at the World Summit in Rio de Janeiro as a contribution to global ecology.

Though this is not an action per se it is something artistically minded creative people can bear in mind- that art can be used to change the world we inhabit as well as comment on the state of it.

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