Friday, 18 November 2011

Greenpeace: Toilet paper, fish and oil. And money, please?

I got a phonecall from Greenpeace a couple of days ago. They've been on my mind a lot recently, partly because they've been quite active, and I wanted to share. They're probably my favourite charity/activist organisation (Amnesty International is a close second).

I get them ringing me once a year, because I donate to them, and they call up to remind people they exist - and to ask for a bit more money, of course. But they're actually the only call centre people I actually enjoy talking to, as they are invariably extremely enthusiastic and knowledgeable.

It's actually very amusing, as they are used to people who don't really know much about unsustainable fishing, or their current campaign, or - well, everything they're actually trying to do, and they always want to talk for half an hour once they realise I know what 'bycatch' means! (And get sidetracked, I think, and I have to keep explaining I know about this or that already, so they get to talk in more depth. Marine Biology degrees are good for something!).

But they're running out of money, what with the Rena oil spill (which they went and helped with) and a couple of other things. Oh, and the corporation behind Cottonsoft is trying to get them kicked out of Indonesia.

So I gave them some more money (over the internet) and it would be very good if other people did too. But what good things have they done lately?

Well, in the last few months:

1. Pressure on tuna companies and raising awareness of which brands are sustainable.
Hugely important and valid - people don't realise just how bad the state of the oceans is, and how unsustainable most current fishing practices are.

Worst practices: FADs and Purse seining. Fish Aggregation Devices provide somewhere for lots of fish to gather in one place, and purse seining scoops everything up at once. Including plenty of bycatch and underage tuna, most of which will not survive.

Result? Two brands have committed to more sustainable approaches, two are staying quiet and one - Sealord - has come out swinging with a ridiculous misinformation campaign (although it sounds fairly convincing if you haven't had to write assignments on this kind of thing).

Currently of the five NZ brands, Pams (the Pak'n'Save brand) is the best (committed to sustainable methods within a year), followed by Greenseas (three year phaseout period). Sealord, John West, and the Foddstuffs brand (can't remember name) - and any miscellaneous ones that may appear here and there - are all bad. Bad, bad bad. 

I used to buy Sealord out of habit. I no longer do - not insignificant, as it's my main source of protein! (and some for the cat's arthritis)

2. Toilet paper
Rainforest destruction in Indonesia is an ongoing tragedy and a huge, major problem, for habitat and tigers. Greenpeace brought our a new, recent campaign against toilet paper companies - new start up Paseo (which promoted itself as recycled!) & Cottonsoft are the worst. Sorbent is bad.All the 'eco' and 'Earthcare' ones are fine. I can't find the NZ guide online, but there is a US Recycled Tissue and Toilet Paper Guide.

There's a problem with the misleading certification some of them use, and of 'bait and switch' plantations, which involve destroying rainforest in order to plant a plantation and then claiming it is all sustainable. Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) is the supplier behind the worst offences, and is being dropped by a lot of major companies.

Greenpeace is raising awareness after quite a lot of research - including testing of the paper sources by a major US lab.  Currently, they are being forced to move their office in Indonesia by vested interests.

3. The Rena oil spill
Greenpeace did a lot of reporting on the oil spill, including some heartbreaking photography, and the story of the people on Motiti Island. They also made sure that the survey ship for the oil company Anadarko didn't get to sneak out to sea unnoticed, while the clean-up was going on. They also sent some volunteers down and brought in a scientist to look into the effects of the oil.

4. Rainbow Warrior III
They've just brought out a new ship for ocean based activism, after retiring the last one.

5. Palm kernel feed
A campaign against Fonterra dairy about the use of palm kernel feed to New Zealand cows. PKE is bad for the forests of South East Asia and orangutans, and is part of a move towards more industrial, less environmental, dairy farming.

So please stop by their site and sign a pledge or two, post an article to Facebook, watch a video, learn what companies to avoid. And maybe donate? 

Oh, and please, definitely sign the Marine Reserves pledge! Please! Please, please, please! We really need more reserves, and they're the only effective tool for good fisheries managment, as nothing else lets the entire ecosystem recover.

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