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  • Shame as a Tool of Maintaining the Status Quo

    For this piece we collaborated with Sofia Hadjiosif who is a UK-based, multidisciplinary artist and the founder of the Terra Movement. She is currently a student at Manchester Metropolitan University in the Department of Future Media Production, focusing on graphic design and motion graphic design. Sofia founded Terra Movement to create an ‘’Artivist Community’’ for all artists and creators who want to raise environmental awareness through their work. You can read more about Sofia and Terra Movement's work in our interview from last year here. Shame in itself can be traced not only as a deterrent to social action but also as a tool used in several activist movements. For instance, shaming corporate inactivity in the context of climate change. I am not here to talk about the weaponisation of shame in the context of climate action. Instead, I want to explore the social function that shame culture has played over the years in preventing meaningful, systemic change and its weaponisation by those profiting from flawed systems, as a means of preventing change. From the onset of this discussion, I want to distinguish between guilt culture and shame culture. According to Ruth Benedict, in a guilt culture, you are good or bad according to your conscience. In a shame culture, you are good or bad by what your community says about you, where exclusion makes people feel that they are bad. This is especially relevant in the proliferation of social media used as a platform for community development, as well as display and observation - perpetuating a moral system based on inclusion and exclusion founded on uncertain social standards and shifting judgement. Lucia Osborne-Crowley has written extensively on the correlation between shame and illnesses (physical and mental) in her latest book My Body Keeps Your Secrets in relation to sexual violence. Her book, however, has been a great resource for understanding even the most camouflaged ways that shame has been entrenched in our society, and I want to borrow part of her research to establish what shame means. Lucia cites in her book Joseph Burgo - a clinical psychologist whose research focuses on shame - who sets out that the emotion of shame arises in some key experiences: feeling exposed; unrequited attachment; failing to meet societal expectations; being excluded based on the idea that there is something wrong with us. Jennifer Jacquet - assistant professor of Environmental Studies at New York University - has noted that a subcategory of shaming is gossip, used to punish those violating social norms while connecting obedient individuals to a group. A nuanced version of this can be seen in actively trying to persuade people not to act, poised by powerlessness. Michael Apathy - a psychotherapist and ecotherapist at Lucid Psychotherapy and Counselling connects climate despair and the impulse to encourage others to despair to shame. My friend and I have spoken excessively about the ways that we have occasionally been shamed or bullied through our lifetimes. Growing up in a Mediterranean country it is not easy to speak up against a well consolidated status quo. This year, she went vegan and oh boy was this a challenge - not only because of the limited variety of vegan options, but also because her friends and inner circle were quick to judge her. Small comments alluding to her sustainable activism and lifestyle that sought to exclude her from conversations included: “ah YOU shouldn’t listen to this because I bought this shirt from Zara and you would be unhappy with me.” Other conversations about her veganism included typical phrases such as “this is just a phase” or something along the lines of “you can have your reactionary activist life-style for now but I am certain this will change sometime in the near future.” Other examples of shame that take place in the online space are hate messages as well as messages shaming the receiver for anything having to do with their work. For example, recently I read an abusive message sent to one of the artists that I follow telling them that “they ruined a perfectly good piece of paper” with their artwork. Western societies have historically relied on shame as a tool to maintain conformity to community stability. Traces of this have remained in our system. Colonial America saw value in imposing shame-based punishments, Benjamin Rush wrote in 1787 that shame is “universally acknowledged to be a worse punishment than death.” This is something that began to change in the late-18th century, while laws abolished public stocks in the early 19th century and families were advised to stop shaming their kids to avoid hurting their self-esteem. Inter-community shame has also been pointed out by several slow-living influencers: not doing enough, working with brands that might be connected to the fossil fuel industry in one way or another, shopping, or somehow functioning in a capitalist system. Isaias Hernandez who goes by queerbrownvegan on Instagram got to the crux of this right before Earth Day when he posted the following twitter thread. Shame has oftentimes been linked to mental disorders and has been identified as a key component of one’s treatment, while research has also shown that feelings of shame can demoralise people. Other examples that are attached to shame is bullying which can take place at any time in one’s life, but which can shape our feelings around doing work through social media platforms that can increase our exposure, as well as the ways we understand judgement. These feelings can become consuming. Nevertheless, as pointed out earlier they are borne from a place of defence and oftentimes are a way of reflecting the ways that the sham-er reflects shame back to the receiver. An interesting resource talking about the flip coin of this and the ways that shame is used to fight the status quo can be found here: http://www.isshamenecessary.com/map

  • The Importance of Seagrass in Combating the Climate Crisis

    Regarding the fossils found, it can be said that seagrasses evolved approximately 100 million years ago. Thanks to the evolutionary process, today, there are 72 different seagrass species in the world. Furthermore, as one of the world's most productive ecosystems, seagrasses are able to form dense ‘’underwater meadows (beds)’’, and some of these meadows are very large to be seen from space. According to the report published by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), ‘’seagrass meadows’’ have a vital role in the continuity of ecosystems as they stabilise the sea floor, provide food and habitats for living things, purify the oceanic waters and increase water quality. Although seagrasses cover less than one per cent of the sea and ocean floors combined, they retain about 10% of the carbon stored there. Therefore, their existence is critical for underwater ecosystems. Unfortunately, seagrass meadows are decreasing due to pollution and habitat destruction due to climate change. Restoration of the seagrass habitats can count as both national and international climate-change plans. Accordingly, each signatory to the Paris Agreement must submit its strategy, or nationally determined contribution concerning this preservation, to the United Nations, with consecutive goals and schedules becoming more ambitious. Is Zostera Marina the solution? Spanish Chef Ángel León (El Chef del Mar; the Chef of the Sea) and his collaborating research team believe that a seagrass variety called ‘’Zostera Marina (commonly called eelgrass)’’, with its multiple uses in the ‘’kitchen’’, can help solve the adverse effects of the climate crisis and improve food security. ‘’When I started Aponiente 12 years ago, my goal was to open a restaurant that served everything that had no value in the sea. The first years were awful because nobody understood why I was serving customers produce that nobody wanted. But, in the end, it’s like everything. If you respect the areas in the sea where this grain is being grown, it will ensure humans take care of it. It means humans would defend it. We have opened a window; I believe it’s a new way to feed ourselves.’’ Chef Ángel León The starting point of Chef León’s research on ‘’Zostera Marina’’ is that he came across this seagrass in the Gulf of Cádiz in Southern Spain in 2017. Today, a team affiliated with León’s restaurant Aponiente continues their research, focusing on the potential of this seagrass as a culinary ingredient. In line with the ongoing work, León and his team are planting the ‘’Zostera Marina’’ seed in a field near Aponiente in the Bay of Cádiz to take advantage of this seagrass. This plantation area (approximately 3,000 square metres) also serves as a ‘’seed bank’’ for restoration projects on planting and sustainable agriculture that are expected to be implemented in the future. Compared to the other grains, Zostera Marina seeds have a great potential for use in kitchens: Flour can be made from these seeds, or the seeds can be fermented and used to produce alcohol. The usage possibilities that Zostera Marina brings with it are almost endless. Currently working for Aponiente, Chef León and his team are undergoing a process to certify Zostera Marina as a new food (with numerous usage possibilities, as stated) through the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). It should be noted that León’s team was not the first to use ‘’Zostera Marina’’. We see this seagrass in the past used for a variety of purposes, including animal feed, fertiliser, and wall insulation. In addition, the Mesoamerican Indians ‘’Seri People’’ regularly consume the Zostera Marina seagrass. Their approach to harvesting this seagrass has been made for centuries in a holistic and inclusive way with mother nature (unlike industrial production). In this way, they offer an alternative to prevent the climate crisis. Closing thoughts Needless to say, artificially growing seagrass in ponds brings exceptional water quality, temperature controls and light adjustments in general (and with the damaging outcomes of climate change and heatwaves, it is difficult more than ever). Moreover, the production process, especially harvesting seeds, is complicated to replicate for large-scale industrial use. Therefore, just like in the agroecology approach, we need to blend the information obtained by sustainably applying the ancient knowledge of the indigenous peoples with modern science. Undoubtedly, the sustainable harvesting of this seagrass, which has the potential to provide benefits in many areas, is of great importance in combating the climate crisis and protecting the marine ecosystem. In this regard, it is essential to prevent plastic pollution with regulations with strict sanctions. Otherwise, humanity and other living things will have to face irreversible consequences.

  • Should you turn off library computers?

    Be honest, have you ever turned off a public computer at school/university? Why is it something we do naturally at home but not in public spaces? We have been told for years, don’t leave electricals on standby. I am sure most of us have made changes in our homes by turning off the TV, lights, and chargers, but energy efficiency is now top priority, particularly as energy prices are so high. How much energy do computers actually use when on standby? One study conducted at Tufts University found that if all university students turned off their computers at night it would prevent around 572 tons of CO2, and over $87,000 in electrical costs [1]. Not only do you save energy, but when you turn off your computer, the risk of someone accessing your files is significantly decreased. Clearly, the most power-conscious state for desktop PCs, laptops, and smartphones is to be switched off. So why do spaces with public computers leave PCs on stand-by? One main misconception is that PCs don’t use a lot of power if they are on but unused. However, the average PC uses around 120 Watts whether you’re using it or not [1]. It is recommended that you turn off the computer if you’re not using it for more than an hour. However, if you can't turn off your computer for various reasons (e.g., unsaved work), it is best to put your computer to 'sleep'. This is the best option if you want to resume work immediately as files are stored in RAM and the rest of the components are put on low-power mode [2]. However, that is less likely to be needed in a public setting, and more useful for you to implement at home. It is a belief that turning off a computer regularly is bad for the computer. It may be that owners of these public spaces don’t desire to promote turning electricals off because they don’t believe it will damage their equipment. This may have been true at one point, but modern hard disks are not affected by being shut down frequently and can last longer due to less heat stress [2].Therefore, this won't cost libraries money in repair costs, and will save on electrical costs. There also may be a simple psychological reason why we don’t practice what we do at home in spaces which are not ours. When humans do not experience consequences from their actions first hand, it can be difficult to believe that our actions do have any impacts. This is something we are seeing with most climate behaviours. Those who make no sustainable changes to their lives struggle to understand the scale of effects from their unsustainable behaviours. Unfortunately, it has taken record high temperatures this summer for people to start realising the truth. How can we encourage behaviour change? There are some obvious ways of encouraging people to turn off computers as they log off. Like the government drive for turning off lights, posters, and visual reminders next to monitors could help remind individuals to fully shut down computers instead of just logging off. Research also shows that when you use descriptive norms (the perception of how others behave), individuals are more likely to change their behaviour to suit that of the norm [3]. For example, a note/small poser on each monitor saying “Remember to shut down, 80% of students in this library shut down the computer after use” highlights to the individual that others turn off their computers, promoting the desire to fit in with those norms. However, studies suggest that encouraging active behaviour change is not always successful as it requires people to consciously change their behaviour. Instead, non-conscious processes have been successful in changing health-related behaviours [4], it is therefore not unreasonable to apply this to other sustainable behaviours. One way we could get people to unconsciously turn off their computers would be if it was possible for organisations to implement a setting where when an individual logs out of an account and no new user logs in within a set amount of time (e.g., 15mins), the computer will shut down. This puts no additional tasks on the individual and achieves the same result. Obviously this requires the support of librarians and staff, so why not begin a discussion and see where it leads. Can you think of any ways we could encourage people to turn off public computers? Have you spoken to your school/University about what they are doing to reduce their energy consumption? Let us know, we would love to hear from you. References [1] [Internet]. Sustainability.tufts.edu. [cited 3 September 2022]. Available from: https://sustainability.tufts.edu/wp-content/uploads/Computer_brochures.pdf [2] Help H, Help P, Hope C. Is It Better to Leave the Computer on or Turn It Off? [Internet]. Computerhope.com. 2022 [cited 3 September 2022]. Available from: https://www.computerhope.com/issues/ch000390.htm [3] Demarque C, Charalambides L, Hilton D, Waroquier L. Nudging sustainable consumption: The use of descriptive norms to promote a minority behavior in a realistic online shopping environment. Journal of Environmental Psychology. 2015;43:166-174. [4] Hollands G, Marteau T, Fletcher P. Non-conscious processes in changing health-related behaviour: a conceptual analysis and framework. Health Psychology Review. 2016;10(4):381-394.

  • Climate Reparations and The Catastrophe in Pakistan

    Despite the little mainstream media coverage on the mass destruction in Pakistan as a result of extreme flooding, many of us are probably aware of the consequences that Pakistani people are now facing as a result of this catastrophe. One third of Pakistan is now underwater after a historic monsoon ravaged villages, crop fields and thousands of homes, displacing 33 million people. 1,150 people have died, and it will now cost at least $10 billion - nearly 4% of the country’s GDP - to repair whatever is salvageable according to Pakistan’s government. Last week, the country’s climate minister told Reuters her people were facing “a climate-induced humanitarian disaster of epic proportions.” Afia Salam, a Karachi-based environmental campaigner and journalist said “we are an agricultural country, and there will be no land to cultivate.” Despite this, Pakistan accounts for less than 1% of global emissions, yet is ranked at the top 10 vulnerable countries to feel the impacts of climate change. A person in Britain emits over 6 times as much as a person in Pakistan per year, and an American emits around 17 times as much. This has raised the question that was previously brought up in COP26 - who should be paying for this? Pakistan's planning minister, Ahsan Iqbal, said richer nations have a "responsibility" to help the country deal with flooding and prevent future disasters because they've caused climate change - though the government has itself been criticised for overlooking the urgency of climate change and failing to build enough preventative infrastructure. It has now been argued that the case for climate reparations is, now, irrefutable. Climate reparations refer to a call for money to be paid by the Global North to the Global South as a means of addressing the historical contributions that the Global North has made toward climate change. Indeed, countries in the Global North are responsible for 92% of excess global carbon emissions. Despite this, multiple studies have shown that the Global South are facing the sharpest end of the consequences when it comes to climate change - as seen in recent events. “Climate reparations are also about the need for acknowledgment and accountability for the loss of land and culture—and how that has affected us in the Global South—as a result of climate change,” Farzana Faruk Jhumu, a climate activist organising with Fridays for Future Bangladesh, adds.

  • Agroecology Against Biodiversity Loss

    Unfortunately, we are on the verge of a sixth mass extinction. Human activities cause 83% of wildlife and half of all plants to disappear. As a result, biodiversity is declining faster than at any point in human history, and this rate is increasing day by day. Food production is also seen as one of the important factors affecting environmental problems (therefore, biodiversity loss). The conversion of natural areas into industrialised farmland with a focus on monocultures and reliance on chemical pesticides and fertilisers is devastatingly affecting biodiversity. Sadly, it’s estimated that more than a third of our planet’s ice-free land surface is currently devoted to food production. In the last 300 years, about 50% of natural grasslands and one-third of natural forests have been converted for food production. Moreover, these areas are also expected to increase as the food system seeks to increase production to meet the global population’s needs, estimated to reach 9.7 billion people by 2050. An article published in the Journal of Nature Sustainability and led by academics from the Universities of Leeds and Oxford University examines how changes in our diet and food production habits will affect our future and what dangers we will face as humanity if these changes are not implemented on a global scale. David Williams from the University of Leeds, the lead author of the article, underlines that millions of square kilometres of habitat could be lost by 2050 without fundamental changes. In the article, which deals with how developing food systems will affect biodiversity, it is stated that there may be severe losses, especially in sub-Saharan Africa and some parts of Central and South America. ''We estimated how agricultural expansion to feed an increasingly wealthy global population is likely to affect about 20,000 species of mammals, birds, and amphibians. Our research suggests that without big changes to food systems, millions of square kilometres of natural habitats could be lost by 2050. Nearly 1,300 species are likely to lose at least a quarter of their remaining habitat, and hundreds could lose at least half. This makes them far more likely to go extinct. Ultimately, we need to change what we eat and how it is produced if we are going to save wildlife on a global scale. We need to alter both our diets and food production methods.'' David Williams Needless to say, existing agricultural practices (our diet culture, as well) and intensive agricultural production’s expansion into biodiversity hotspots threaten the world’s remaining biodiversity. If we do not change our diet and food production habits, we will lose most of the habitats that are home to 90% of the world’s land animals by 2050. So, what can we do to slow biodiversity loss? The answer is ‘’agroecology’’. As the adverse effects of highly harmful chemicals used in industrial agriculture and food systems on health and the environment increase, chemical-intensive agricultural practices are being replaced by nature-friendly agricultural practices. But this is not enough, indeed. According to FAO, agroecology is a holistic and integrated approach/method that uses ecological and social concepts and principles to design and management of sustainable agriculture and food systems at the same time. It aims to optimise the interactions and interchanges between plants, animals, humans and the environment while also addressing the need for socially equitable food systems within which people can choose what they eat and how and where it is produced. Agroecological farming methods, which require a labour-intensive system, are applied mainly by small-scale farmers. Peasant farming, which supports biodiversity 9 to 100 times more than the industrial food chain, creates a healthy and sheltered habitat for all living things. Comparative studies by the Rodale Institute reveal that the yield in organic production catches up with conventional production and even higher efficiency of organic output during dry periods. Nature-friendly farming methods such as organic, biodynamic, protective and regenerative agriculture and agroecology make a positive contribution to the solution of the global climate crisis, as they also provide a significant amount of carbon embedding in the soil. Therefore, both consumers and producers need to be aware of their rights, participate in decision-making processes and review their food choices. Agroecology is not just about interpreting and restoring ecosystems. It is also about ways of producing food, building human relations, making fair dealings and fighting for the rights of communities. Agroecology thrives on the practices, people and communities that organise sustainable agro-food systems. As mentioned before, there is ‘’peasant farming’’ in agroecology’s productive, cultural and economic roots. It is not only a way of producing and distributing food but also of reclaiming traditional knowledge and understanding that if you know how to listen and learn, each information system (as with the villagers' information systems) has its own logic, its own information carriers, and its own systems for sharing this information. This kind of approach to knowledge and self-organisation of food communities emerged in the ‘’contact’’ between Latin American indigenous communities and scholars seeking to break the deadly mechanisms of industrial agriculture. Agroecology was subsequently recognised by the food sovereignty movement and became a way of ‘’rethinking and debating’’ food systems in many parts of the world. Although agroecology was born in the contact between social movements and social and academic movements that wanted to rethink their role in the world of knowledge and social change, there was a ‘’change’’ later on. So much so that, along with agroecology, sustainability and ecological transformation have become issues that governments and transnational organisations also address. Yet, many things still need to be addressed and appropriately done in this regard. Closing thoughts Climate change, consumer preferences, urbanisation, demography, agricultural pollution and over-harvesting have adversely affected natural biodiversity, leaving living species around the world in danger of extinction without a doubt. With the decrease in the diversity of living creatures, the world’s deprivation of biological values a little more every day also threatens humanity's economic and social development by holding on to the web of life in nature and having a healthy, happy and prosperous future. Industrial food production, one of the leading causes of threatening biodiversity, poses a great danger not only for human beings but also for the survival of all other creatures. In this regard, the responsibility we have as both producers and consumers is, of course, quite a lot. At this point, it is crucial to be conscious. We can prevent food scarcity and biodiversity loss with sustainable agricultural practices. Hence, we must approach nature-friendly solutions holistically.

  • The Status of Climate Refugees

    We consistently refer to the impacts of climate change in the future tense, but many are present today with real people facing the real consequences of the climate change which they often did not contribute to in the first place. One such group are climate refugees - a term that is yet to be defined in a harmonious manner. Despite this, estimates reveal that there could be as many as 1.2 billion climate refugees by 2050. According to the United Nations high Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), an annual average of 21.5 million people have been displaced by weather-related events since 2008 (events that include floods, storms, wildfires and extreme temperatures. The term climate refugees was first coined in 1985, when Essam El-Hinnawi defined the term as people who have been forced to leave their traditional habitat, temporarily or permanently, because of marked environmental disruption. In 2020 two category 4 hurricanes in Latin America led to several people crossing the border into Mexico and heading to the US as extreme weather events meant that they lost their livelihoods, access to clean water and their homes. Recent trends are now showing that more internal displacement is caused due to climate-related disasters than conflict, as in 2017 60% of the 30.6 million people displaced were as a direct result of disasters. These are clear examples of climate refugees; however, it has been argued that the definition should apply to a much wider group of people, including those impacted by disruption in their society that could somehow directly or indirectly be related to short- or long-term change in the environment according to the Global Head of Climate Change Resilience services in Zurich Insurance Group. This would extend the definition of climate refugees beyond a dependence on infrastructural and material damage, to the long-term damage that has the potential to destabilise economies, making communities vulnerable to other threats. For instance, as a result of the rising sea levels, the number of vulnerable people living in coastal areas has increased from 160 million to 260 million. Indeed, climate change is serving as a threat multiplier by exacerbating existing risks and creating new ones such as food insecurity, water scarcity and the quicker depletion of resources. The concept does not exist in international refugee law, as those leaving their countries due to climate change or related disasters do not qualify for protection under international law. This has led to several people calling climate refugees the forgotten victims as they cannot access legal protections to their human rights. “We need to invest now in preparedness to mitigate future protection needs and prevent further climate caused displacement. Waiting for disaster to strike is not an option.” Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees Several other questions arise alongside the unprotected nature of climate refugees. For instance, Ioane Teitiota from Kiribati - an island nation in danger as a result of the rising sea levels, applied for refugee status as a climate refugee with the New Zealand government but his application was rejected and he was repatriated to Kiribati in 2015. In 2016, he filed a complaint with the UN covenant on Civil Liberties, claiming that his right to life had been violated by the repatriation. This was rejected by the Committee, which argued that there was no imminent threat to his life, but that the rising sea levels and other climate-related effects pose a serious threat to the right to life of people living in vulnerable countries. The plethora of climate-reasons that can lead to an individual, a family, whole communities or even cities to migrate remain unrecognised today, making the climate refugees the forgotten victims. It becomes obvious that the more we feel the effects of climate change as a result of systemic inaction, the more we need to reconsider the ways we will sustainably adapt to such circumstances.

  • The psychological processes behind climate denial

    Denial; a powerful psychological component at the centre of blindness to science. The climate crisis challenges the western world’s economic and political structures by highlighting their long-term unsustainable nature [1]. This elicits complex emotional responses like anxiety, grief, and guilt. These feelings are understandably uncomfortable and can begin to explain why some people experience climate change denial, particularly as there is minimal individual and collective climate action [2]. Despite the fact that energy-intensive industries attempt to undermine efforts to switch from greenhouse gases to “green” alternatives [3], psychological explanations are at the forefront of climate denial. Cognitive dissonance We live in an age where there is increasing access to information and awareness of environmental issues [4]. However, consumption levels and environmental action do not reflect this awareness [5]. This imbalance can be explained by an increase in cognitive dissonance (inconsistent beliefs or attitudes when relating to behavioural decisions), in that although individuals are more aware of environmental concerns, the capitalist system encourages individuals to consume more. This inconsistency causes unpleasant negative emotions which we naturally want to avoid, therefore presenting itself as climate denial. Ideological beliefs Ideological beliefs are a set of attitudes that shape individuals’ perceptions and interpretations of certain topics such as climate change [6]. Studies have shown that people with certain ideological beliefs use denial to protect the very thing the climate crisis threatens, the ‘status quo’. One of the drivers of resistance to climate change information is system justification [7]; the motivation to defend ‘normality’. Social dominance orientation [8] and right-wing authoritarianism [9] are two key ideological beliefs which are deemed to be strong predictors of climate denial. People high on social dominance orientation and high on right-wing authoritarianism tend to be resistant to change and are often motivated to maintain the ‘status quo’ [6]. How can we change these thought processes? Self-affirmations As humans, we have a natural response to be defensive when presented with stressful or threatening events, something that the climate crisis undoubtedly is. Studies have shown that when individuals are encouraged to express their beliefs and values before engaging with climate information, their disengagement decreases [2]. This is because affirmations strengthen a person’s positive view of themselves, express what is important to them and create an openness to threatening information [2]. Being open to receiving this threatening information is essential to avoid heightened anxiety which often leads to total inaction. Social Norms Shared standards of acceptable behaviours by a group are known as social norms. As social beings, we are often motivated to align our own values and behaviours with that of the group one belongs to. Research has demonstrated that social norms can be used to alter individual behaviour. For example, children who engaged with their parents in a discussion of climate change were successful at shifting adult opinions including in conservative parents [10}. This highlights the importance of clear communication of social norms and shared perceptions around climate change [2]. Reframing responses Linking discussions around climate change with central aspects of people’s lives like health and economic prosperity can help motivate support and engagement [2]. Although evidence points towards the fact that the current capitalist system is to blame for the state of our climate, not everybody is of this same mind frame, particularly climate change deniers. Instead, studies have shown that you should discuss solutions as a way of protecting the socioeconomic system, or the ‘status quo’. Sometimes reframing discussions ever so slightly can change the way people think about a larger picture. Conclusion Psychological theories can offer insights as to the underlying causes of climate denial. Ultimately, large-scale political activity is needed to change our sources of energy and food if we want a fighting chance to slow climate change. However, it would undoubtedly be beneficial if most of the population were of the mindset that we need to drastically change our global behaviour. The aspects discussed in this article are by no means exhaustive but provide you with some basic knowledge on how to interact with those who deny climate change. References [1] Santos J, Feygina I. Responding to Climate Change Skepticism and the Ideological Divide [Internet]. 2017 [cited 21 August 2022]. Available from: http://hdl.handle.net/2027/spo.12333712.0005.102 [2] Wong-Parodi G, Feygina I. Understanding and Countering the Motivated Roots of Climate Change Denial. [Internet]. 2019 [cited 21 August 2022];. Available from: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1877343519301009 [3] Supran G, Oreskes N. Assessing ExxonMobil’s climate change communications (1977–2014). Environmental Research Letters. 2017;12(8):084019. [4] Kaur A, Chahal H. Role of Social Media in increasing Environmental issue Awareness. Researchers World:Journal of Arts, Science and Commerce. 2018;9(1):19. [5] Alam O, Billah M, Yajie D. Characteristics of plastic bags and their potential environmental hazards. Resources, Conservation and Recycling. 2018;132:121-129. [6] Wullenkord M, Tröger J, Hamann K, Loy L, Reese G. Anxiety and climate change: a validation of the Climate Anxiety Scale in a German-speaking quota sample and an investigation of psychological correlates. Climatic Change. 2021;168(3-4). [7] Feygina I, Jost J, Goldsmith R. System Justification, the Denial of Global Warming, and the Possibility of “System-Sanctioned Change”. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. 2009;36(3):326-338. [8] Pratto F, Sidanius J, Stallworth L, Malle B. Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 1994;67(4):741-763. [9] Altemeyer B (1981) Right-wing authoritarianism. University of Manitoba Press [10] Lawson D, Stevenson K, Peterson M, Carrier S, L. Strnad R, Seekamp E. Children can foster climate change concern among their parents. Nature Climate Change. 2019;9(6):458-462.

  • Private jets, classism and environmentalism

    By now we are all aware of Kylie’s 17-minute private jet trip and how Taylor Swift outpaced her counterparts by emitting 8,000 tonnes of carbon emissions so far in 2022 by taking 170 private flights. Private aviation usage is an unmistakable link between the responsibility that the ultra-rich bear and climate change. An article in Forbes pointed out that private jets account for just around 0.04% of emissions, while failing to account for the carbon footprint gap that is defining the current climate crisis - with 10% of people being responsible for half of global emissions. This has now triggered a wave of calls for banning private jet flights - a movement that initially began with Mario Huber who created banprivatejets.org hoping that people would begin questioning the habits of the rich and their climate impact. “The most privileged people should be the ones who start sacrificing first,” Huber told Motherboard. “It’s unfair to ask the poorest people to give up polluting activities first if the richest don’t have to give up anything.” Due to its energy intensity, air travel is a large factor that influences per capita emissions, and there is a strong link between income and transport emissions with higher income groups also being the most mobile. Access to the most affluent populations’ behaviour patterns, however, is limited for research, leading to a gap in the literature. Private jets emit seven times as much greenhouse gasses as a business class ticket on a commercial flight and 10 times more than an economy ticket. Private jets burn an average of 226 gallons of jet fuel an hour, which is often not taxed. Therefore, the harmful practices of the rich often stay invisible, or concealed depending on the narrative one chooses, while accountability remains limited to social shaming. It is by now a known fact that the richest 1% have carbon footprints 175 times the size of those in the bottom 10% which also happen to be the ones most affected by climate change. A lot of articles have labelled celebrities as climate criminals, yet we have come to define our shaming tactics by prejudice. Many who have been eager to criticise Kylie or Taylor are not so quick to call out the author of How to Avoid a Climate Disaster - Bill Gates - for his 4 private jets who emitted 1,629 tons of CO2 from 356 private flight hours in 2017. This criticism is not meant to trump the fact that those outside the 1% attempt to carry out everyday, sustainable changes in vain. While private aviation leads to 4% of emissions annually, it is usually those in the lower income brackets that suffer the consequences of climate change. As I write this, and many other pieces, the idea of out of sight, out of mind becomes more prevalent in the way that I understand harmful practices carried out by those who will not feel the impacts of climate change in their lifetimes.

  • What is the colour of change? Interview with Agisilaos Koulouris

    What could be the missing link connecting a yellow boat with the indigenous rights in the Amazon? How can a balcony garden help towards tackling climate crisis? We spoke with Agisilaos Koulouris, activist and member of Extinction Rebellion and Agrypnoi Polites (Awake Citizens) about COP26, climate activism, planetary boundaries and how small changes on a personal and local level can bring big ones. What inspired you to take action on environmental issues? Tell us about you. I’m 26 years old and I am a PΕ Teacher, a profession diametrically different to my current course of action. I started being more actively engaged in climate and environmental issues when I returned to Athens after my graduation and started working for Greenpeace in 2019. This sparked my interest in activism, energy and climate crisis and inspired me to read more and delve deeper on those topics. The next pivotal experience for me, after leaving Greenpeace a few months later, was when I travelled to the UK by car, where I participated in initiatives organised by Extinction Rebellion in London as well as in Madrid for COP 25. After that, my participation in Agrypnoi Polites’ protest in summer 2020 against the Law 4685/2020 on environmental licensing, renewable energy authorisation processes, protected areas management etc was another strong stimulus which made me approach activism from a new perspective. I am currently participating in any activist actions possible, trying to maintain the balance between fighting for climate action and making ends meet. Can someone make their livelihood through fighting for climate justice? How is your experience so far? From my experience, climate activism cannot stand as a main source of income. To give you an example, last year I was working as an educator at a refugee camp for accompanied minors. Some of the expenses could potentially be covered by an organisation, either directly with their own crowdfunding or indirectly, for example by providing us with accommodation, food from communal kitchens or even travel expenses. However, if you do not have a more specialized role in the organization, such as lawyer or photographer, the income is small to non-existent, especially when it comes to grassroots movements. Out of all the projects and actions you have participated in, which one had the most impact on you and helped you crystalise your interest in climate crisis? I think the first bigger-scale civil disobedience actions I participated abroad were pretty vivid and influential for me. I vibrantly remember arriving at London and seeing people being arrested everywhere around me however those arrests came along with a unique feeling I’ve never experienced before in similar situations in Greece. There was a sense of bond and connectivity, a phenomenically nonsensical emotional state of happiness and fulfillment expressed through solidarity, which I haven’t felt before. The music, the colours, the sound of drums, the crowd’s expression of gratitude to the people arrested, everything felt so weird but also exciting. This is when I got to realise the actual differences-almost privileges- between participating in activist actions in Greece, or in even more authoritarian regimes, and countries with lower rates of police brutality, such as the UK. This experience really shifted my perspective on activism. To illustrate the point, our arrests in Syntagma Square during the protest of Awake Citizens had strong elements of passive resistance and non-violent civil disobedience, a concept alien to most Greeks. Despite many people warning us about our physical safety, we experienced concession as something quite liberating. We were tired of being ignored for so long-a month- as well as pretty dedicated and sure on what we were trying to achieve, so no stress and fear was involved. Our goal seemed greater than any potential apprehension/constraint on the reaction of the police, what will happen to our bodies etc, which felt so new and emancipating. Another act that had a big impact on me was the one with the Amazon Indigenous delegation at COP25 in Madrid. What specifically struck me was an action we did where we closed the road leading to COP25 with a yellow boat named after Paulo Paulino Guajajara, an indigenous activist murdered some weeks ago. Again, the sense of communion combined with the intensity of their own rituals gave me a feeling I will never forget. When we started marching to go there and meet the 500.000 people protesting at the main road, a member of the group shouted a war cry which for me captured the exact essence of climate crisis as these people face it. The closest I can describe it is as if they were screaming “We are getting murdered, we are dying”. I started crying and it took me some time to process that afterwards hah. Overall, I think my first big civil disobedience actions abroad in London and in Madrid really left their mark on me and my views on activism till today. How did you experience COP 26? What are the key takeaways for you as an activist as well as a citizen of the world? The way COP26 unfolded, I felt like there were many parallel worlds that did not communicate with each other, almost as if the people belonging to them weren’t attending the conference for the same purpose. On the one hand, there were the people protesting and shouting in the streets, who are often judged for their “formulaic, predictable” behaviour, however it turns out that these people are right. On the other hand, there were the participants of the conference, the bureaucrats and putative experts on climate change, who would speak, analyse and decide for our present and future without us, while pointing the finger at us for our theoritically irrational behaviour. When put into perspective though, the people who recognised the urgency of the situation and who were actually respecting, and acting towards the commands of science on climate change was us, the so-called extremists and hot-blooded. It seems like the so-called extremists are actually more accurately describing the status quo, whereas the phenomenically serious ones are the real extremists in this equation by turning a blind eye and refusing to see climate crisis on its full capacity and spectrum. The juxtaposition between those two parallel universes was really interesting and intriguing for me. Furthermore, on a more personal level, as a person coming from Greece, I found myself feeling unrepresented in COP26. I felt like Greece was a caricature fighting on the cusp between the Global North, consisting of the countries primarily responsible for the adverse consequences of climate crisis, and the Global South, with people losing their lives, territories and generally being called to shoulder those ramifications without having contributed at the least bit to the reasons causing them. And in the middle there is Greece, a country geographically pertaining to Global North, which however bares no historical responsibility for the situation, especially compared to other heavily industrialised North economies or to countries with colonial history. On the flip side, there are the people of Global South who daily face the effects of global warming, seeing their land degrade and losing livelihoods on such a radical level that renders it practically difficult to differentiate between their past, present and future regarding climate change. Given the extreme phenomena Greece has experienced the past few years with floods, wildfires etc I could partially relate myself with the latter people’s stories yet I didn’t feel like I belonged to any of those worlds, which left me thinking that no one represents, and talks about the way I experience climate change. Finally, one of my major takeaways from COP26 was the realisation that we have shifted from climate denialism, namely renouncing the existence of climate crisis, to climate delayism. What I mean by that is that nowadays everyone is recognising how major of a threat global warming and climate change can be, however there is a deliberate delay in finding effective solutions to these phenomena as well as an attempt to maintain the same power-status relations. There has definitely been some improvement yet it is only logical to say that we would be happy with the results of COP26 had we been living in the 2000s. In the current scale of the climate crisis conundrum, recognising the problem is not half the solution; we should keep shouting and standing up for radical changes in any way possible, even if we are called extremists. We should not forget that this mentality shift is largely due to those “formulaic” extremists who took action and communicated the ambit of this planet emergency. Do you think Greece is leaning more towards climate denialism or climate delayism? I would actually call it climate instrumentalisation (laughs). In Greece, the public dialogue regarding the climate crisis has not been carried out with consistency, composure and maturity. Even when it happens, it happens opportunistically adding to the already existing breach of people’s trust and it brings up the opposite result; it ends up hindering efficient societal scrutiny instead of raising awareness on climate change issues. The Greek authorities’ stance seems to often involve a certain hypocricy. Namely, it is impossible for people to be convinced of the importance of climate crisis and the need to take immediate actions, when the authorities adopt meager to no measures to prevent the adverse climate change-induced weather phenomena as well as to “cure” the respective problems when they actually come up. Take for example the wildfires of 2021. How is one anticipated to combat such a raging phenomenon while making more than 500 firefighters redundant and refraining from flying the waterbomber aircrafts due to lack of fuels inmidst of the wildfire emergency season? In general, Greece has a long way to go on developing healthy and resilient mechanisms on confronting climate crisis. The more existential the threat of climate change becomes, the more obvious the above realisation gets. Are governments doing enough to tackle climate crisis ? What is-and what should be-their role in climate change adaptation? The simple answer is no. The nature of policy-making as increasingly results driven means there should theoritically be no need for governments to make much more than raising awareness and mobilizing the public opinion to take action on a bigger scale, as well as co-ordinating such initiatives to ensure maximum efficiency and inclusion. As an illustration, there were discussions in the US about retooling and relaunching the programme of Civilian Climate Corps, where people from local communities are employed to help fighting climate change regionally. This would actually kill two birds in one stone; not only is this a measure to rev up local communities' interest in climate change issues and the impact they have on their daily life, but also bring them closer, build a trust- and solidarity-oriented culture among them as well as help them share expertise and good practices, since they are the ones knowing better the problems of their own neighbourhood. This way local communities could extend their actions towards achieving food autonomy e.g. via community gardens, producing their own energy on a district and municipality level etc.Therefore, I think that governments' role should be to provide people with the necessary tools, skills and information as accomplishing such a radical societal, energy and behavioural transition can only flourish if we re-build our modus vivendi-how we eat, how we commute, how we produce our energy etc- around a decentralised, people-powered model. Lastly, governments' legislative function is also of huge importance. One of the many topics worth further exploring on that terrain is establishing ecocide as an international crime. Recognising ecocide as a crime under international law would protect the climate, the environment and nature and hold big polluters accountable irrespective of jurisdiction. On the whole, thorough investigation should be carried out on environmental crimes and administrative, financial and criminal sanctions should be imposed, on deeds harmful to the environment. Which is the main routine/habit/mentality we have to unlearn to ensure just transition? I find it a bit tricky to strike the balance between blaming individuals for their habits and reminding myself that the problem is first and foremost deeply systemic. Even from an evolutionary point of view, people tend to prefer the solution that involves less strain and effort, therefore it seems irrational to blame them for tapping into the goods, services and conveniences provided to them by a system constantly promoting growth at all costs, excessive use of fossil fuels and feeding the vicious circle of ever-increasing production and consumption. The nature of the problem here is systemic; we have to abolish the social model that asseses nations' economy and prosperity solely on growth and GDP without taking into consideration the balance with the living world in a way that reduces inequalities (unemployment, racism etc) and improves human and non human well-being. Regarding mindset shifts I find crucial for a just transition, I think it is time to drop the model of domination and exploitation. For thousands of years, man has exploited the animals, the earth, the people around them in the name of development and it is high time we abolished that mentality. We have to realise that we are not the centre of the universe and trying to dominate and leave our stigma to everything around us won't change that. To succesfully build a new paradigm that integrates the continued development of human societies and the maintenance of the earth system in a resilient and accommodating state, we have to be aware, and respect the planetary boundaries (environmental thresholds within which humanity can survive, develop and thrive for generations to come). The earth is our common home and it has some limits. To illustrate the point, in July 30th 2021(Earth Overshoot Day 2021) - which makes for a bit more than 7 months in 2021- humanity exhausted nature's budget in ecological resources and services for the whole year to come. This is truly terrifying. People's apathy towards that fact is truly terrifying. Nevertheless, as with most social and environmental problems, it would be unfair to heedlesly blame all the individuals, as this would shift the responsibility off the richest 1% of the planet to the shoulders of all middle-, and lower-class people who are simply trying to survive, often below the poverty line. What steps do you personally take to ensure you behave within the planetary boundaries? I'm trying to become more self-sufficient and really take into account the impact of my actions and where do the things I consume come from, because I feel like spending my money on specific products or services makes for some kind of endorsement towards the practices used to generate those things. On the daily, I'm trying to become a more autonomous and intuitive consumer. For example, my parents and I have built a small balcony garden to grow some basic vegetables. When that model of prosumerism is not an option, I'm trying to orientate my actions around the "Think Global, Act Local" mentality eg shopping from the local market, supporting local producers over big super market chains selling imported produce on a cheaper price. Also, I'll prefer thrifting over buying new clothes from the fast-fashion industry although, as I mentioned before, it's difficult to strike the ballance between the substantive roots of the problem and blaming/shaming people for striving to live their lives as easy as possible. For me eco-shaming and eco-guilt will never generate an impactful change, neither on the environment nor on people's mindset. This subject is not something that is black and white and it’s something we struggle with on a daily basis so we should create an environment in which you don't have to lead a perfectly sustainable lifestyle to have a say on environmental and energy policies. But yeah, overall I'm trying to consume more on a local scale and actively support circular economy initiatives as much as I can. Do you think we are all equal against climate crisis? I've read somewhere that we are all in the same storm, but not in the same boat as if some people appear to be on a large, sturdy ocean liner whereas others are sailing on a small boat for which even a tiny wave could be potentially catastrophic. To answer your question, no, we're not equal against climate crisis. From a geographical perspective, there are some regions already experiencing the repercussions of climate change more severely and of course, as it's the case for every crisis, climate crisis disproportionately affects the economically disadvantaged as well as the minorities. Besides, studies on climate refugees have shown that climate change is a tougher burden on women and minors. Situations of despair and conflict tend to highlight the aforementioned social polarisation and to only intesnify calls for justice, equity, compassion and understanding-and of course climate crisis couldn't be an exception. That's why we're talking about climate justice which is inextricably linked with social justice which is closely connected to gender equality etc. I find this intersectional approach really thought provoking. Actually it's the first time in over 30 years of analysis that the IPCC report openly discussed the links between colonialism and climate change... Right?! The term degrowth was also mentioned 7 times (plus 21 times in the bibliography) which is definitely a sign of progress. Going back to the question, no, I don't think everyone is equal against climate crisis and that's why I particularly enjoy the cross-scientific and intersectional viewpoint of the climate movement paying close attention to the social, economic and environmental linkages between climate crisis and the world around us, since the shortcomings in this area are mostly systemic. In one sentence, what does climate justice mean to you? For me, climate justice is the fulfillment of every individual's right to live equally with their needs respected in a healthy and balanced environment, and in a system not built around dominance and enforcement.

  • Sustainable schools create positive learning environments

    Schools are continuously attempting to balance excellent education with small budgets; with administrators consistently under pressure to raise student achievement levels despite the fall in funding. Could sustainability in schools be a solution to some of these problems? Sustainable Design Unlike previously believed, sustainable designs can be incorporated into building structures with little to no increase in cost. In fact, the financial benefits of ‘green’ buildings can be over ten times the initial investment [1]. To begin with, there are some key areas to consider when designing and maintaining sustainable buildings to provide effective environmental and educational benefits. A whole-building mindset is needed from designing to maintaining a building through sustainable site planning, landscape design which provides outdoor learning environments, and building design which increases insulation and reduces draftiness [1]. However, most schools are already built, so what alterations can be made to already constructed schools to increase their sustainability? The installation of large energy-efficient windows practically eliminates heat exchange, meaning rooms require less heating and cooling. This not only saves on energy use but creates a pleasant learning environment by allowing in more natural light. This also draws upon biophilic design, where exposure to nature in buildings can improve physical and mental wellbeing (I will hopefully explore this concept in more depth in a future article). It is suggested that school energy costs could be reduced by 30% through the replacement of inefficient systems such as boilers and lighting [2]. This is particularly important as the cost of energy is continually rising. Evidence has shown that the increased use of daylight and reduced draft improves student performance and increases student comfort levels [3]. Not only do sustainable alterations improve physical and mental health, but money also saved through reduced energy costs can be invested in the students by hiring new teachers and purchasing other instructional materials, thereby positively impacting education. Sustainable Materials Using green materials and supplies minimises the exposure to toxins, allergens, and other pollutants, which will in turn aid in reducing the prevalence of certain ailments like asthma (alongside well-ventilated school environments) [4]. Here are some simple ways to make your classroom greener: Refillable whiteboard markers, pens, and highlighters Shredding waste paper and using it for craft activities such as paper maché Have a food waste bin in your classroom for scraps from lunches and use it in the school’s gardens Use fabric to back your displays instead of wasting paper and it can be kept and reused each year Sustainable Education The school environment intends to educate students and prepare them for the future, so it makes sense to include sustainability in the curriculum. In fact, it is reasonable to say that education is essential in achieving sustainable development and prosperity [5]. Most avenues nowadays are beginning to talk about sustainability in more depth but teaching sustainability in early-year classrooms is needed for maximum impact. However, educating children about sustainability requires more than taking them outdoors to interact with nature. Instead, lessons should engage them in a dialogue about sustainability and about the importance of critical and creative thinking, fairness, compassion and respect for differences. For example, creating a ‘lunchtime audit’ where students uncover the environmental impact of their lunches instead of nutritional value can open a discussion about sustainability with their parents. You never know, these discussions may lead to future interest and the discovery of creative solutions to our unsustainable behaviour. Conclusion Most of us are aware of the importance of sustainability. You have already taken the first steps by visiting our blog and educating yourself about the never-ending list of sustainability topics. However, we need to teach our youngest generations how to care for and respect the environment around them. Some of the ways we can incorporate sustainability into schools that we have discussed are: Sustainable building designs Greener classrooms Encouraging critical thinking and coming up with creative solutions to unsustainable habits. This list is nowhere near exhaustive, and you can be creative with how you include sustainability in your schools and classrooms. This article intends to begin the conversation around making sustainability a normal part of children’s education. References 1 Olsen S, Kellum S. The Impact of Sustainable Buildings on Educational Achievements in K-12 Schools [Internet]. 2003. Available from: https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.175.944&rep=rep1&type=pdf 2 Building Technologies Office [Internet]. Energy.gov. 2000 [cited 7 August 2022]. Available from: http://www.eere.energy.gov/buildings/schools/index.cfm 3 Dahlan A, Eissa M. The Impact of Day Lighting in Classrooms on Students' Performance [Internet]. Citeseerx.ist.psu.edu. 2015 [cited 7 August 2022]. Available from: https://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=10.1.1.685.7888&rep=rep1&type=pdf 4 Energy-Smart Building Choices: How School Administrators and Board Members Are Improving Learning and Saving Money [Internet]. Osti.gov. 2001 [cited 7 August 2022]. Available from: https://www.osti.gov/biblio/786361 5 Teaching Sustainability - The Most Important Lessons Of All [Internet]. Thinking Sustainably. 2022 [cited 7 August 2022]. Available from: https://www.thinkingsustainably.com/teaching-sustainability/

  • On Europe’s Wildfires

    If you had to evacuate your neighbourhood and abandon your house without knowing if you will find your room as it was again, what would you take with you? A photo album? Your valuable belongings? Knowing that you might have to do this because you live in a vulnerable area, would you have already packed a bag preemptively? These are decisions that hundreds of people across Greece have to make every summer as a result of the wildfires that are destroying the Greek ecosystems and displacing people. Feels quite surreal to think that as a result of climate change in the 2020s, Greeks are living in a utopian example of what the whole world will come to experience in the coming years if we do not mitigate climate change. On 23 July 2018, the second deadliest wildfire of the 21st century took place in Mati, Greece, where 103 people were confirmed dead, with shocking footage showing people running to the sea to seek refuge from the burning lands. Last year, wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres of forest and bushland across Greece during the country's worst heatwave in 30 years. A year on, even after the flames have died down and the impacts of the current wildfires are unravelling, the impact of the catastrophes on peoples’ livelihoods will be felt for a generation. As a result of last year’s fires, Evia’s pine honey producers will be able to get honey again in 30 years when pine trees prosper again. This is representative of the impact of the wildfires on tourism and agriculture in the areas affected by the fires, which are now being rapidly abandoned for urban regions as people no longer have anything to tie them to their lands, as they lost everything to the flames. Since the beginning of the fire season on May 1, official said that they have recorded nearly 2,500 wildfires in Greece. This is not isolated from the rest of Europe, as the current heat wave leading to temperatures above 40 degrees Celsius has spread across European countries. This is resulting in the spread of wildfires across Europe due to the combination of heatwaves and droughts making it hard to combat the flames. Last week, the European Forest Fire Information System said 19 countries were in extreme danger from the wildfires, while Spain, Portugal and France were at very extreme danger. Wildfires have ranged from Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Turkey and France. Most of the fires are ignited by human activities such as arson or negligence. As a result of climate change, hot and dry conditions help fires spread faster, while the moisture is sapped from vegetation. This in combination with the above human element creates the most ideal conditions for wildfires to spread. Despite the humility that such a situation may induce in people, many chose their prized possessions over their ‘forever friends’ - their pets, where during the wildfires hundreds of cats and dogs were left to perish in the fires. In addition to this, the fires have disrupted the journey of several migrant birds who travel through Europe to reach their destinations across Africa for the winter seasons. This led to hundreds of birds dropping dead in the streets of Athens, while several others were completely disoriented from the smoke and the fires. Greece and Turkey are home to unique species - ⅕ of the 36,000 species in Greece are exclusive to the country, meaning that the wildfires are threatening several of these species. In 2020, the bushfires in Australia killed what is estimated to be 480 million animals.

  • Can Pesticides be Banned for good? The Case of Conegliano, Italy

    According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), “pesticide” is defined as: Any substance or mixture intended to prevent, destroy, repel or mitigate any pest. Any substance or mixture of substances intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant. Any nitrogen stabiliser. Pesticides are unfortunately one of the inevitable components of modern agriculture and have been used extensively since the 1940s. As a result, pesticides are seen to have a prevalence of 95% among agricultural control methods. What are the types of pesticides? Bactericides: Substances used against bacteria Avicide: Bird killers Insecticides: Substances used against insects and pests Fungicides: Substances used against fungi Herbicides: Substances used against weeds Molluscicide (also known as snail baits): Substances used against molluscs, the group of animals that includes gastropods (snails, slugs, limpets etc.), bivalves (clams, oysters, mussels etc.), cephalopods (octopuses, nautiluses, squids etc.), scaphopods (tusk shells), caudofoveates, solenogastres, monoplacophorans and polyplacophorans (chitons). Rodenticides: Substances used against rodents Nematicide: Substances used against nematodes (also called roundworms) Acaricide (Miticide): Substances used against mites Defoliants: Chemical dust or spray used on plants to cause their leaves to drop off precipitately What are the effects and harms of pesticides? Pesticides, widely used in spray form today, adhere to the surfaces of vegetables and fruits because of adsorption. Therefore, adequate purification cannot be achieved in these foods, sometimes consumed raw. In such cases, exposure occurs through the digestive system. Pesticides enter our bloodstream and reach our vital organs and systems, sometimes by accidental inhalation or absorption through the skin due to contact. After such, some adverse effects can be seen in the short-term or long-term. When we talk about the short-term effects of pesticide exposure, the first things that come to mind are acute poisoning and allergic reactions. Especially those dealing with agricultural work are at great risk. Many pesticide poisoning cases occur as a result of careless spraying. Likewise, allergic reactions to pesticides can be life-threatening. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include sudden skin lesions and breathing difficulties. Genetic damage and related cancers occur due to long-term effects, especially for chronically exposed people. Moreover, deterioration occurs in the liver, kidneys and muscle systems. In addition to these effects, anomalies are observed in the fetus exposed to these substances in the womb. Sometimes pregnancy can end in miscarriage. Pesticides also affect the environment. The usage of pesticides causes pollution in the soil, air and water. Another problem that has gained a lot of importance in recent years is the loss of biodiversity caused by pesticides. Pesticide usage adversely affects biodiversity and threatens the lives of many species, especially insects and birds. So, what can be done? The Case of Conegliano, Italy In the municipalities of the member states of the European Union, efforts to protect citizens and their environments against the ‘’toxic’’, that is, the ‘’poisonous’’ characteristics of pesticides, are increasing. Furthermore, considering this effort, it can be said that the transition to food systems that are not exposed to agrochemicals is significantly slower due to the impact of agribusiness. That’s why people from many parts of Europe come together and ask politicians to take action to achieve the level of protection against pesticides that have not yet been achieved ultimately, both nationally and across Europe. In 2018, Pesticide Action Network (PAN) Italia held an advisory referendum in Conegliano demanding a ban on all synthetic pesticides. The petition, written in October of the same year, containing the demands of local people against pesticides, was submitted to the Conegliano City Council to discuss the possibility of stopping the usage of pesticides in the municipality. However, traditional Prosecco wine producers strongly opposed these efforts to ‘’purify’’ pesticide usage (The city of Conegliano is located in the Prosecco wine-producing region). In an application to the Italian Ministry of Interior, the referendum’s validity was challenged, and the issue was brought to court. Later, due to a second extraordinary appeal addressed to the President, the President referred the case to the Italian Supreme Court. In 2021, the Italian Supreme Court decided that the ‘’Conegliano Referendum’’ was legal and ended the case. This decision is a massive victory for the fight against harmful pesticides and citizens' access to democratic decision-making. Correspondingly, as a result of this decision, citizens have been given more opportunities to request protection against pesticides from local authorities. Local activist Gianluigi Salvador underlines that the pollution caused by industrial agriculture, especially in vineyards, is quite large and states that it threatens both the health of local people and ecosystems. Salvador also thinks that groups in power will use any means to block citizens’ demands against pesticides for protection from agrochemicals. Disappointingly, the applications against the decision concerning the engagement with the local people for not using pesticides were made by the three leading Italian Farmers' Unions, together with the two largest Prosecco wine producers of this region. The region has been registered on UNESCO's World Heritage List since 2019. PAN Europe had fought against this UNESCO classification as it was wrong to support an area with large amounts of agrochemical releases into the environment. Unfortunately, the local government has so far turned a blind eye to these ‘’chemical’’ production methods used in the region. However, it should be noted that there are many non-chemical alternatives to wine production. Henriette Christensen, the senior policy adviser to PAN Europe, states that PAN Europe has been monitoring those exposed to pesticides in the region where Prosecco wines are produced for years. Martin Dermine, PAN Europe policy officer, adds to Christensen's statements that citizens and brave politicians are trying to protect people's health and the environment against pesticides in many European cities. Still, they regularly face opposition from higher judicial authorities. Explaining that they are aware of the ongoing revision of PAN Europe's directive on the ‘’Sustainable Use of Pesticides’’ prepared by the European Commission, Dermine believes that the Directive must have more explicit rules and allow local authorities to create pesticide-free zones. Koen Hertoge, a member of the Board of Directors of PAN Europe, considers that this court decision, taken as a result of the referendum, inspired other initiatives in Italy. Stating that they are confident that the people of Conegliano will vote for a sustainable future, Hertoge adds that it is a great pleasure to see that the Italian legal system works fairly and that citizens are allowed to fight for their health, environment and cultural heritage. Closing thoughts Needless to say, it is a significant detail that it is recorded that local authorities in Italy are trying to ban pesticides on their soil after delivering substantial public support. Moreover, apart from the attempts of wine producers and influential authorities, Italian jurisprudence and high courts favour initiatives against pesticides. Undoubtedly, pesticides have devastating effects not only on human health but also on mother nature. For this reason, nature-friendly and sustainable alternatives should be preferred locally and by taking national and international measures.