Speaking Of The Planet’s Health …

Between the pandemic and the post-election chaos, both of which are still going strong, maybe the single most important issue in our lifetime, and the lifetimes of all future generations, has been largely ignored.  Yes, I’m talking about climate change, human’s destruction of the environment to satisfy their craving for more toys and conveniences.  There are, however, a few good things that have happened this year in respect to the environment, and an email I received today from Greenpeace highlights the most significant of them.  I thought it worth sharing, to show that despite Donald Trump and his love affair with the fossil fuel industry, others have been working to protect and repair the planet we call home.

Jill —

From the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic to continuing the long fight for racial equality in the U.S. to the most important presidential race in memory, it’s been quite a year for the history books. In the face of all this hardship, our planet continues to suffer and the Trump administration’s anti-environmental policies and big polluters everywhere haven’t missed a beat. 

While there were many difficult setbacks, from the melting Arctic to the Amazon and West Coast engulfed in flames, the fact is we did make great strides in 2020 to help heal our planet and our future. Here’s a brief recap of how your support for Greenpeace made a difference this past year:

  • A court defeat for Trump is a win for the Arctic. Just weeks ago, a federal appeals court ruled that the Trump administration violated environmental requirements when it approved an oil drilling project in the Arctic Ocean. This ruling is a vindication of your hard-fought activism to protect the Arctic and roll back the expansion of the oil industry. Not only did we win this lawsuit, courts also blocked offshore drilling in the Arctic Ocean, cementing your people-power to Save the Arctic!
  • Greenpeace counters the plastic industry’s attempts to exploit the pandemic. As the COVID-19 pandemic was in full swing, the EPA decided it was the perfect time to roll back restrictions on pollution controls, and the plastics industry jumped in to exploit the pandemic by scaring people about the safety risk of reusable bags in transmitting disease. When trillions in taxpayer dollars became available, the fossil fuel industry scrambled to try to get a piece of the pie.

    We’ve been fighting back against the plastic industry for decades, and Greenpeacers like you were ready to take on this new challenge. We investigated the polluters and the politicians who enable them, exposed the corporate and political elites who hope their profiteering goes unnoticed, and we mobilized to stop them. And we had to do it online and on the phones — not in person. You responded, making thousands of phone calls and sending hundreds of thousands of messages to Congress.

  • One year of Fire Drill Fridays are in the books. Championed by our friend and fellow activist Jane Fonda, these weekly rallies included different speakers — celebrities, youth, Indigenous leaders, representatives from impacted and underrepresented communities, as well as movement and thought leaders — all demanding our leaders end fossil fuel expansion, pass a Green New Deal, and implement a plan for a responsible just transition to renewable energy as rapidly as possible. Hundreds of activists joined Jane in the courageous act of civil disobedience — even when our rallies had to go digital.
  • On the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, we committed to a plastic-free future. Plastic pollution is destroying our planet. As the fossil fuel industry doubles down on plastic as the new frontier for petrochemical production, we must do everything in our power to shape a new future that isn’t crafted by these powerful multi-billion dollar industries. That is why, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this past April, Greenpeace mobilized supporters to push for passage of the Break Free from Plastic Protection Act in Congress.
  • Joe Biden defeats Donald Trump to be elected the 46th President of the United States. With Joe Biden the winner of the 2020 presidential election, we can start the hard work of making up for lost time, addressing the climate crisis, and protecting the planet. Vital protections for the environment and democracy are now within reach. The Biden administration has the power to enact the changes needed in our political system to make bold climate action a reality. Greenpeace and our movement pushed Biden to adopt bolder climate positions in his campaign, are winning pro-environment cabinet nominees, and we will continue to demand the Biden administration fight back against the status quo and work with us to fight for a resilient, fossil-free future where all people have what they need to thrive.

As you can see, it’s been a busy year for Greenpeace, with much to look forward to in the New Year.


Annie Leonard
Executive Director, Greenpeace

Profiting From A Crisis

Thus far, eight states (California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon and Vermont) have banned single-use plastic bags in the U.S.  Fourteen others, including Florida, have moved in the opposite direction, adopting laws to tie the hands of local officials.  In January, New Jersey attempted to pass a law banning single-use plastics, but the bill failed.  Why?  Why aren’t all 50 states on-board with this legislation?  Take a look at what plastic bags and bottles are doing …bags-1bags-2


bags-4And the answer to the question why all 50 states aren’t doing their part is simple … the GOP motto is: profit over all else.  Profit is more important in this nation than people, than wildlife, than the environment … in fact, today’s profit is more important than life on earth tomorrow for far too many of our so-called ‘leaders’.  I could expound at some length about this concept, but for today I have a single focus:  those damn plastic bags that they shove down our throats at the grocery store.

Even though only eight states thus far have banned plastic bags, it’s a start, it’s progress.  Environmental groups like the Sierra Club have raised public awareness and many of us now bring our own reusable canvas bags to the grocery and use reusable mesh bags for produce.  Even with that, the stores have been very slow in finding packaging alternatives, so we still end up with unwanted plastic in our rubbish.  Single use plastics account for around 20% of solid rubbish in the U.S., and only about 10% of that is recycled, so 90% ends up in landfills, rivers and ultimately the ocean.

Never let it be said that big industries, focused solely on profit, miss an opportunity to increase their profit, even at the cost of earth’s future.  Enter the coronavirus.  By March 18th, the plastic industry in the U.S. had kicked into high gear.  The trade group Plastics Industry Association requested that the US Department of Health endorse the idea that “single-use plastic products are the most sanitary choice when it comes to many applications.”  A conservative nonprofit called the Independent Women’s Forum started running ads pressuring Washington state, New York, and California to reverse their bag bans. IWF’s ad’s claim: “Researchers say COVID-19 can survive on reusable tote bags for nine days. However, some state legislators are enforcing draconian bans on plastic bags, which might contribute to the spread of the virus and other harmful microorganisms.” 

Many of the groups that have picked up these claims, including the Manhattan Institute and Competitive Enterprise Institute, receive support from the Kochs, the infamous family of moguls who made their fortune in the petrochemical industry.  Now are you starting to smell a rat?  The plastic industry’s tactics seem to be working: Maine’s plastic bag ban was supposed to go into effect on April 22, but it’s been postponed till January 2021. New Hampshire’s governor Christopher Sununu, who has misrepresented climate science, has gone further to use the state of emergency to temporarily ban reusable bags. Republicans in Washington state, New York, and New Jersey have been waging campaigns to reverse or delay the blue states’ bans because of coronavirus.

On Sunday, when I had access to daughter Chris’ car and could go to a grocery store a bit farther afield than the Kroger that is only a half-mile from my home (my van is not reliable and I go no further in it than I could walk home), I went to the Meijer store, a midwestern chain, hoping to find some of those rare items such as toilet paper and Clorox wipes that had been impossible to find at Kroger.  A sign on the door warned that re-usable bags were prohibited, but I entered anyway, figuring to argue the point when I got to the check out.  But a young manager stopped me almost before my posterior had cleared the automatic doors and informed me that I could not bring “those bags” into the store.  I rarely give away pieces of my mind, as I have so few left, but he got a rather large piece.  Enraged, I accused him of personally killing every fish in the ocean and also told him that the lives of his own grandchildren (he was only about 25) were on his shoulders, as he was ensuring they would die from lack of water to drink and air to breathe.  I then indignantly stormed out and returned to my own Kroger, hoping against all hope that they had not implemented a similar rule.  They hadn’t, but I was informed I would have to bag my own groceries, for they wouldn’t touch my bags.

Now, there are two things to argue here.  First of all, my bags are a few million times less likely to have any form of germ, let alone a corona-bug, on them than that can of peas you see in aisle #12, or even the tomatoes you picked up in produce.  My bags were wiped down with disinfecting wipes after their last use, and have resided in my locked van ever since.  They are sterile!  Every item in the store is germier than my bags!

The other thing, and the whole point of this post, is that the coronavirus pandemic is a short-term problem.  Yes, a very serious problem at this time, but nonetheless one with a limited lifespan.  Destruction of the environment is an ongoing problem that is shortening the hope for the continuation of life … any life … on earth every single day.  Just because we have a serious problem with this pandemic does not mean we can ignore all the other problems in the world!  The coronavirus has resulted in thousands of deaths and may even rise into the millions.  I’m not making light of that, but there are 7.8 billion human inhabitants on this planet, and exponentially more other life forms that rely on us turning around the damage that has been done over the past 150-200 years.  Plastics in all forms are part of that destruction, and single use plastic bottles and bags are one of the biggest culprits.

The re-usable bags aren’t the problem, but rather the excuse that is being used as the plastic industry seeks to profit from this human crisis.  Once again, We the People are being lied to and tricked, and I for one am damned sick and tired of it.  And for the record, I will never shop at Meijer again, nor any other store that attempts to force me to use their plastic bags!  Excuse me … I need to breathe now.