The World Meteorological Organization (WMO) released their annual State of the Climate report this past Sunday, to coincide with the World Meteorological Day. The report confirms that recent extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, heat waves and tropical cyclones around the world, are linked to human-caused climate change.

"There is no standstill in global warming," said WMO Secretary-General, Mr. Michel Jarraud in a statement. "Many of the extreme events of 2013 were consistent with what we would expect as a result of human-induced climate change. We saw heavier precipitation, more intense heat, and more damage from storm surges and coastal flooding as a result of sea level rise - as Typhoon Haiyan so tragically demonstrated in the Philippines."

The WMO report shows that 2001-2010 was the warmest decade on record, and that the last three decades had been warmer than the previous one. In 2013, Australia had its hottest year on record while Argentina had its second hottest. 2013 tied with 2007 as the sixth-warmest on record. The continuing long-term trend of warming and these heat records could not have been possible without "human-induced influence on climate", i.e. global warming, the report concludes:

"Comparing climate model simulations with and without human factors shows that the record hot Australian summer of 2012/13 was about five times as likely as a result of human-induced influence on climate and that the record hot calendar year of 2013 would have been virtually impossible without human contributions of heat-trapping gases, illustrating that some extreme events are becoming much more likely due to climate change."

The report also shows that during 2013 greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere reached record highs, global oceans reached new record high sea levels, and Antarctic sea ice extent reached a record daily minimum.

"2013 with its mixture of record warmth and extreme weather shows a now familiar mixture of natural variability and greenhouse gas induced climate change," said Prof Sir Brian Hoskins, director of the Grantham Institute for Climate Change at Imperial College London. "These annual statements document a striking long term trend, and one thing is clear: that our continuing greenhouse gas emissions are a crucial driving force in the changing climate."

Other key climate events of 2013, according to the WMO report:
Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda), one of the strongest storms to ever make landfall, devastated parts of the central Philippines.
Surface air temperatures over land in the Southern Hemisphere were very warm, with widespread heat waves; Australia saw record warmth for the year, and Argentina its second warmest year and New Zealand its third warmest.
Frigid polar air plummeted into parts of Europe and the southeast United States.
Angola, Botswana and Namibia were gripped by severe drought.
Heavy monsoon rains led to severe floods on the India-Nepal border.
Heavy rains and floods impacted northeast China and the eastern Russian Federation.
Heavy rains and floods affected Sudan and Somalia.
Major drought affected southern China.
Northeastern Brazil experienced its worst drought in the past 50 years.
The widest tornado ever observed struck El Reno, Oklahoma in the United States.
Extreme precipitation led to severe floods in Europe’s Alpine region and in Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Poland, and Switzerland.
Israel, Jordan, and Syria were struck by unprecedented snowfall.

Kiruna is a small town with less than 20 000 inhabitants located in the most northern parts of Sweden. It's a typical mining community, with iron ore extraction being the key industry of the area. In fact, Kiruna has been an important seat for iron ore extraction and mining industry in Sweden since the early 20th century. So it's not the typical city you would expect to introduce free public transportation for all its inhabitants. But the city of Kiruna did just that in 2011, and the results have been amazing.

"The result is incredible," said Niklas Sirén, Vice Chairman of the municipal executive board in Kiruna. "We did not dare set a figure as a goal. There is a very strong car culture, it is sparsely populated here and we figured Kiruna residents are deeply rooted in their driving. We were pleasantly surprised. More people are choosing to leave their cars more often."

Niklas Sirén and his local Left Party was behind the suggestion to introduce free public transportation in 2011 on a trial basis. Back then, in 2010, only 120 000 trips were made. But since free public transit was introduced, travel has tripled in Kiruna and the experiment has now become permanent. Last year more than 387 000 trips were made in Kiruna.

"This has broken a downward spiral for public transport," Sirén said to ETC. "Previously, there would mostly be only empty buses. Now comes the expectation of more rides and lines. The next step is to expand public transport."

But it's not completely free. To be able to use the service, Kiruna residents need to pay 100 SEK, around $14, for a buss card each year. The free public transport does not apply to tourists and other temporary visitors whom instead need to buy tickets to be able to travel. But the card is also available for asylum seekers, and students that lives outside the municipal. For Kiruna, the free public transportation costs around 3.3 million SEK per year.
A dozen of Greenpeace activists sneaked into France's oldest nuclear power plant earlier this morning in an effort to highlight security weaknesses at nuclear facilities in Europe. All in all, about 60 Greenpeace activists from 14 different countries participated in today's protest at the Fessenheim nuclear plant - the oldest in France.

The protest started early at dawn this Tuesday when several activists sneaked inside the premises of the nuclear power plant to hang anti-nuclear banners from a building next to one of the plant's reactors. A couple of activists even managed to climb on top of the reactor number 1's roof where they unfurled banners with the message "Stop Risking Europe". The rest of the activists stayed outside the plant, blocking its entrance with barrels and demanding the shutdown of the plant.

"The Fessenheim plant is a symbol," Greenpeace activist Cyrille Cormier said. "Its planned closure must be the beginning of a series of plant closures in Europe to limit the accidental and financial risks linked to ageing (plants) and to start the energy transition."

The Fessenheim nuclear plant, which is France's oldest and considered vulnerable to seismic activity and flooding, is located in north-eastern Europe, only 1,5 km from Germany in the third most densely populated region in Metropolitan France and in the centre of the so-called European Backbone. The nuclear plant is situated on the banks of the Rhine, one of Europe's largest rivers that runs through three different countries. So if an accident were to happen at the nuclear plant, it wouldn't just be France who would be affected.

France's President François Hollande has said that he wants to reduce France’s reliance on nuclear power from 75% to 50% by 2025. Hollande has earlier promised to shut Fessenheim down by 2016. But despite this, there are currently discussions in France about extending the lifetime of several nuclear plants beyond their 40 years.

"We’re demanding Mr Hollande keep his promise by limiting maximum reactor lifetimes to 40 years by law and ensuring more nuclear plants are shut down," Greenpeace said in a statement. "With climate change upon us it should really go without saying that Europe needs a real energy transition based on renewable energy. This needs to happen fast."

A spokesman from EDF, the plant's operator, said in a statement that further precautionary measures has been taken. "There has been no impact on the security of the plant, which continues to function normally," the EDF spokesman said. Following today's protest, Ecology Minister Philippe Martin said he would "ask operators to reinforce the physical protection of the most sensitive zones in their nuclear facilities."
Results from a study done by a research group at the Skövde University in Sweden might surprise cyclists. Their research project, named Urbanist 2, have looked at how well reflexes helps motorists’ spot cyclists in the dark. Their conclusion is that it is dangerous to rely on the bright, and among cyclists, popular reflective vests.

“What we have seen in our research is such that the reflective vest provides a false sense of security at night, when it in no way helps the motorist to interpret the rider's movement information,” said Paul Hemeren, PhD in Cognitive Science at the University of Skövde.

Instead, their findings show, it’s more important where on your body those reflexes are located. The best placements are on the head, arms, feet, and other body parts that are moving when you’re cycling.

“If you place a reflective stripe on the back of the helmet, which continues in a vertical line down the back, you create a line that breaks when the rider turns his or hers head,” Hemeren said. “This shows [for the motorist] that it’s a high probability that the cyclist will turn. And if reflexes are also placed on other body joints you will reach an even better result.”

If the reflexes are placed like this, it reinforces a riders unconscious patterns of movement and in turn makes it easier for the motorist to make an accurate assessment of the cyclist’s intentions – in up to 97 percent of the cases. Without it, the study finds that the motorists could only make a correct assessment in little over 70 percent of the cases.

Obviously one shouldn't draw too many conclusions from only one study, but apparently, those reflective safety vests used by many cyclists might not do much to protect the wearer – at least if the wearer is on a bike.
Since last year, California has been plagued by drought, with Los Angeles in particular having its driest year on record in 2013. Angelenos only saw reprieve in early March, when heavy rainfall finally arrived there. Now, scientists are warning that an even more dire situation is on the way for the Golden State: a megadrought that could last for decades, affecting everything from wildlife to agriculture.

And although the storm system that brought precipitation to LA is going to help combat the drought in the short-term, weather officials don't believe it will have a lasting effect. The drought, of course, is a product of climate change, and it stands to reason that the two will worsen simultaneously.

Lisa Sloan, professor of Earth sciences at UC Santa Cruz, and author of a report on the issue, explained that the California drought is largely owed to the global warming-induced melting of Arctic ice. Jacob Sewall, a graduate student who co-published the report, remarked, "Where the sea ice is reduced, heat transfer from the ocean warms the atmosphere, resulting in a rising column of relatively warm air." Sloan added, "And this will only get worse, with Arctic sea ice diminishing quickly. In fact, I think the actual situation in the next few decades could be even more dire than our study suggested."

Climate change blogger and founding editor of Climate Progress Joseph Romm said that droughts in the western U.S. on the whole will increase in intensity and frequency as weather patterns change. He explained, "Precipitation patterns are expected to shift, expanding the dry subtropics. What precipitation there is will come in extreme deluges, resulting in runoff rather than drought alleviation. Warming causes greater evaporation and, once the ground is dry, the sun's energy goes into baking the soil, leading to a further increase in air temperature."

Lynn Ingram, a paleoclimatologist from the University of California Berkeley, said that megadroughts - those lasting for more than 100 years - have occurred in the past and could return. "If we go back several thousand years," she said, "we've seen that droughts can last over a decade - and in some cases, over a century. We can expect that this will happen again. California should be prepared for an eventual dry period" of that magnitude.

Should this happen, it would create an increasingly desperate set of circumstances for Californians, who live in one of the largest agricultural regions in the world. The effects such a drought would have on crops would be disastrous. As a result, the cost of fruits and vegetables alone would soar, thus making it an economic issue as well.

Celeste Cantu, general manager for the Santa Ana Watershed Project Authority, said California should start preparing for this now. "There will be cataclysmic impacts. We would need to import water" to some 4.5 million southern Californians, especially ranchers and farmers.

According to paleoclimatologist Edward Cook, "the current drought" in the southwestern U.S. overall "could be classified as a megadrought - 13 years running." He pointed out that two prior megadroughts have occurred in the Sierra Nevada of California, each last between 100 and 200 years. If the worst-case scenario comes to fruition, the state's current dry period could last just as long. "There's no indication it'll be getting any better in the near term," he concluded.

This article was first published in People's World by Blake Deppe.
In a dramatic sign of growing opposition to construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, 398 students were arrested March 2 after they chained themselves to the White House fence.
A network of students called XL Dissent organized the protest, part of a groundswell of calls upon President Obama to block approval of the pipeline, which will carry millions of gallons of crude oil from the tar sands region in Alberta, Canada, to refineries in the United States.

"Obama was the first president I voted for, and I want real climate action and a rejection of the Keystone XL pipeline," Nick Stracco, a senior at Tulane University and one of the organizers of the protest, told the Huffington Post. "The people that voted him into office have made it absolutely clear what we want, and that's to reject Keystone XL."

Over 1,000 students from some 80 campuses and 42 states gathered at Georgetown University and marched on the White House. The students, many dressed in mock hazmat suits, first stopped at the home of Secretary of State John Kerry, where they unfurled a giant black tarp to symbolize an oil spill.

The State Department has issued a finding claiming that building the Keystone XL pipeline won't have a significant environmental impact. The State Department study was necessary because the pipeline crosses international borders and is required for federal approval. Kerry must sign off on the study.

Once at the White House, students again unfurled a giant tarp and lay down on it to symbolize an oil spill. Students then tied themselves to the fence with plastic handcuffs and were arrested.

"The youth really understand the traditional methods of creating change are not sufficient, so we needed to escalate," Aly Johnson-Kurts told Politico. Johnson was one of those arrested.

"They say we are too young to make a difference, but we are proving them wrong, right here, right now," Earthguardians Youth Director Xiuhtezcatl Martinez told the cheering crowd.

This was said to be the largest student civil disobedience action at the White House in a generation. Over 1,200 people of all ages were arrested in a similar protest organized by the environmental group 350.org at the White House in August 2011.

"An entire movement has thrown itself into in this Keystone fight, from local frontline groups to big national green organizations," 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben wrote in an email to Huffington Post. "But this weekend shows the power and bravery of some of the most crucial elements: young people, and activists who understand the centrality of environmental justice."

The Keystone XL pipeline is a project of TransCanada. Once constructed it will transport 830,000 barrels of tar sands crude oil, described as the "dirtiest oil," to its refining destination in the Gulf Coast.

The pipeline would double the amount of tar sands crude oil entering the U.S.

Environmentalists are warning that burning this dirty oil will increase greenhouse gas emissions exponentially at a time when they must be reduced to stem the climate crisis.

They also warn of vast ecological decimation due to extraction from the tar sands and massive oil spills over delicate aquifers and waterways.

In one of the largest spills in U.S. history, one million gallons of oil gushed into Talmadge Creek and Kalamazoo River in Michigan in 2010 and it still hasn't been fully cleaned up.

Activists from the Michigan Coalition Against Tar Sands also participated. Three activists were arrested last year trying to block construction of the pipeline by Enbridge Inc., which will also carry tar sands crude oil through the state. They face two to three years in jail if convicted.

Battles have also erupted in Detroit and Chicago over petcoke dumping. Petcoke is a byproduct of the refining process, which many believe is contributing to increases in cancer rates and other health issues.

Also participating in the demonstration were activists from the Indigenous community including Jasmine Thomas from Saik'uz First Nation in British Columbia.

Over 50 First Nation communities that will be impacted along the route of the pipeline are offering some of the fiercest resistance to construction.

"Even President Obama has admitted the jobs created are temporary and very few," American University student Deirdre Shelly said in an interview on Democracy Now!

"There's no reason why those jobs have to be in dirty and expensive oil. America is ready for a clean, green economy and we can begin by saying no to this dirty pipeline," said Shelly.

In another protest, nine students were arrested when they sat in at the State Department building in San Francisco on March 3. XL Dissent organizers vowed the protests and acts of civil disobedience would continue.

Website 350.org has signed up over 70,000 people to commit civil disobedience against the pipeline. Many more actions are expected over the next few months.



This article was first published in People's World by John Bachtell.
Cutting greenhouse gas emissions will throw millions of people out of work! That claim has made many working people reluctant to support action to slow climate change. But is it true?

Our Jobs, Our Planet, a report written in 2011 by Jonathan Neale for the European Transport Workers Federation, argues the opposite, that changing the ways that goods and people are moved can reduce emissions from the transport sector by 80% while creating over 12 million new jobs – 7 million in transportation and 5 million in renewable energy.

The author of Stop Global Warming, Change the World writes that such a program will be a big win for workers and for the planet: “there are more than 40 million people out of work in Europe now. The planet needs help. They need work. If we succeed, we can solve both problems at once.”

Neale’s argument focuses on four kinds of changes:
Reduce. We change our lives so we use less energy. For example, cities with dense populations, nearby jobs and local shops create less emissions than suburbs and hypermarkets.
Shift. We use a different kind of transport. For example, getting passengers out of cars and into buses cuts carbon dioxide emissions in half.
Improve. We make transport more efficient. For example, better designed trucks moving at slower speeds will cut carbon dioxide emissions in half.
Electrify. We stop making electricity by burning coal and gas. Instead we use renewables like wind and solar power. This can cut carbon dioxide emissions to almost nothing.

The majority of Neale’s 103-page study is a well-documented explanation of how those four principles can be implemented in Europe today, dramatically reducing fossil fuel use while creating millions of new permanent jobs.

He also addresses a problem that many such analyses ignore —that under capitalism, jobs created in one area often means jobs eliminated elsewhere. Much more employment in public transport can mean much less in auto manufacturing, for example. That’s why, Neale argues, the transition requires an integrated plan based on public ownership of the industries involved, with a “bedrock guarantee … that anyone who loses a high carbon job is guaranteed proper, lengthy retraining and a new job at the same wages or better.”

He urges the labour movement to adopt a two-pronged program for reducing emissions and expanding employment.

“If unions stick to policies that support growth in all sectors, we will not be able to deliver that growth. Climate change is coming. If we do not take radical action, we will face radical circumstances. When climate catastrophe arrives, governments will cut aviation, trucking and much else swiftly and savagely. Then there will be no protection for the workers affected.

“So unions will need to do two things at once. We need to campaign for serious cuts to emissions. But we need to insist at the same time that those cuts can only come if workers are properly protected. We need to be control of the process, not have it done to us. This is not just a matter for workers in aviation and road freight. It will only happen if workers in other sectors, and other unions, insist that all workers are protected.”

Our Jobs, Our Planet: Transport Workers and Climate Change is an important report in its own right, showing what could be done in Europe today with proper planning. It’s also an important example for labour and environmental activists everywhere: this is the kind of analysis and program we need to build an effective labor-green alliance to save the world.

I’ve posted the full report here. (pdf)
It’s wrong to think that we can campaign to stop climate change in the same way we might campaign to end a war. All the evidence says we are well past that stage now. That is, even if by some impossible, magical course of events all carbon pollution on Earth was stopped tomorrow, we’d still be in really, really deep trouble.

So many greenhouse gases have been pumped into the Earth’s atmosphere that we have rushed far past the safe upper limit — the famous 350 parts per million of CO2, the number that climate action group 350.org took for its name.

Today’s level of 400ppm has been enough to trigger the“death spiral” in Arctic sea ice. More than three-quarters of the ice cap’s volume has melted away in the past 30 years.

Along with wrecking the Arctic region’s fragile ecosystem, scientists predict the loss of the ice cap will trigger other events that throw global warming into overdrive. The two biggest of these are the melting of the huge Greenland ice sheet and the release of immense stores of methane gas frozen inside ice-like crystals on the seafloor.

There is alarming evidence that both disastrous events may already be underway.

Dangerous warming already here

Last year, Greenland’s ice cap was found to be melting at a rate that smashed previous records. Studies cited in the UN’s IPCC report on climate science said Greenland’s ice melt was six times bigger in the decade to 2011 compared to the decade before.

The scientist-authored blog Arctic News also reported that recorded methane emissions from the Arctic are “going through the roof”. Two weeks ago, researchers announced that 17 million tonnes of methane were venting into the atmosphere from the ocean floor off the coast of East Siberia each year — double the amount previously estimated. Methane gas causes up to 100 times more warming than carbon dioxide over a 20-year period.

Even without the methane pulse, the Earth will keep warming. Researchers from Princeton University released a study on November 24 that said “the carbon dioxide already in Earth’s atmosphere could continue to warm our planet for hundreds of years” even if emissions suddenly stopped.

On top of this, world-leading marine scientists warned in October that a climate change-induced ocean mass extinction event may be underway. This is largely due to the warming of the oceans, combined with the acidification caused by carbon dioxide dissolving into the water. The ocean has not been this acidic at any time in the past 300 million years.

All these impacts are underway now, when the Earth has warmed by just 0.8C since industrialisation. Unless emissions fall rapidly, the warming pathway is for a 4C rise — maybe as soon as 2060. That is, business-as-usual puts us on track for global warming five times worse that it is already.

Fossil fuel binge

Despite all these findings, the world’s big polluting firms (and the banks that finance them) are engaging in a fossil fuel binge. Last year alone, companies spent $674 billion to find and develop new oil, gas and coal deposits.

The International Energy Agency predicts global investment in extracting and processing new fossil fuel reserves will add up to a staggering $22.87 trillion between 2012 and 2035. And because conventional fossil fuel sources are running out, an increasing part of this investment will be in even more polluting unconventional sources: gas and oil fracking, tar sands oil, shale oil, extra heavy crude oil, deepwater offshore oil and energy deposits from the newly accessible Arctic seabed.

US energy analyst Michael Klare put it bluntly in a recent Tomdispatch.com article:

“Most of us believe (or want to believe) that the second carbon era, the Age of Oil, will soon be superseded by the Age of Renewables … There is only one fly in the ointment: it is not, in fact, the path we are presently headed down.

“The energy industry is not investing in any significant way in renewables. Instead, it is pouring its historic profits into new fossil-fuel projects … The result is indisputable: humanity is not entering a period that will be dominated by renewables. Instead, it is pioneering the third great carbon era, the Age of Unconventional Oil and Gas.”

In a recent paper, US climate scientist James Hansen summed up the fearful outcome if the big corporate polluters get their way: “It is not an exaggeration to suggest, based on best available scientific evidence, that burning all fossil fuels could result in the planet being not only ice-free but human-free.”

Three types of denial

We are already living in a world of dangerous, irreversible climate change. We need to cut emissions sharply to stop things getting even worse, but we also need to prepare to adapt to the changes that are coming. Radical social change — economic and political systems based on equal access, human solidarity and sustainable production — will be the most important adaptation measure of all.
If we are going to survive in a warmer world, then we must also do so without illusions. The threat of climate change would be a lot less daunting if the mainstream discourse about it were not so dominated by reckless denial, shamefaced excuses and sinister silences.

From the standpoint of humanity having a safe future on this planet, this race to wreck and poison the Earth for profit is insane, even suicidal. Yet for the powerful companies that stand to profit, and from the standpoint of the capitalist system as a whole, it’s an entirely predictable response. The methodical destruction of the life-giving properties of our planet is the visible product of “the invisible hand.”

The World People’s Conference on Climate Change, held in Bolivia in 2010, drew together more than 20,000 climate campaigners — mostly from the global South. The conference adopted a “People’s Agreement” that concluded capitalism’s “model of limitless and destructive development,” its “regime of production and consumption [that] seeks profit without limits,” is ultimately to blame for the climate crisis.

The People’s Agreement also noted that “the corporations and governments of the so-called developed countries, in complicity with a segment of the scientific community, have led us to discuss climate change as a problem limited to the rise in temperature without questioning the cause, which is the capitalist system.”

As we strive to build mass movements to respond to the climate emergency, we will have to confront the corporate polluter-backed denial of the climate science. But we will also have to confront those who accept the science but deny the economic and social roots of the crisis.

US Marxist John Bellamy Foster says there are at least three kinds of ecological denial. The first kind is the outright, absolute denial of any problem, the “automatic response of corporations generally” when their profits are under threat. It’s the denial made infamous by tobacco companies. It’s the denial of those who blindly insist climate change is not happening, or that humans have no role in it.

The second kind of denial is “a retreat from the first.” It admits the problem, but refuses to admit that the present social system is a fundamental issue. This kind of denial gives rise to environmental solutions that confuse the symptoms with the cause. Typically, those who isolate population size, consumption habits or technological change as the most important climate issues are stuck at this second stage of ecological denial.

Foster says the third kind of denial is “a last ditch-defense” and “the most dangerous [denial] of all.” It’s the denial that admits our environmental problems are a failure of capitalism as it exists, but insists we must try to make capitalism green and sustainable.

“The argument here varies,” says Foster, “but usually begins with the old trope that capitalism is the most efficient economic system possible … and that the answer to ecological problems is to make it more efficient still by internalising costs on the environment previously externalized by the system.”

It’s the denial that says we can deal with climate change while keeping the social relations of domination, inequality and exploitation that got us into it. It’s the denial that says the best way to protect nature is to turn more of it into marketable commodities. It’s the denial that says capitalism is the potential saviour, when it is the present destroyer.

Ecological revolution

Rejecting these three types of denial leads to embracing a strategy of far-reaching ecological revolution. In the words of the People’s Agreement:

“It is imperative that we forge a new system that restores harmony with nature and among human beings. And in order for there to be balance with nature, there must first be equity among human beings.”

This is not the same as just waiting for the revolution to come. The campaigns to keep fossil fuels in the ground and build new, sustainable infrastructure are crucial. The point is that if the climate action movement allows its goals to be shaped by what is permissible in a capitalist economy then it has already failed.

If it refuses to compromise on the things that need to be done then it will ultimately have to confront, and remake, the whole system.

This is an immensely difficult and arduous course. We cannot deny the peril we face. But neither should we deny the revolutionary changes needed for humankind to survive and thrive in the future. To respond to the climate emergency, our politics must be as radical as our reality.
At least 250 dolphins have been tortured, many of them brutally killed, in Japan's Taiji Cove in the past seven days. Some of these mammals will be collected and shipped off to aquariums, but a large number will be harvested for their meat. Dolphin hunting is also known as drive hunting, and involves driving the animals together with boats and trapping them. It is increasingly seen as a cruel, inhumane, and entirely unnecessary practice. Now, animal rights groups and other activists worldwide are fighting back.

Several hundred bottlenose dolphins, porpoises, and pilot whales are hunted and slaughtered in Taiji Cove annually. Among those slain so far this year were infant dolphins (whom the fishermen view as too small to be worth much in meat), and a rare albino dolphin.

On Jan. 24, activists held a rally in downtown Tokyo, decrying this abuse and calling on officials to stop the sale of marine animals to aquariums and as meat. They declared that the practice is tarnishing Japan's reputation, especially as Tokyo prepares to host the 2020 summer Olympic Games.

"The government had argued that the practice of dolphin hunting is part of Japanese tradition and food culture," said Noriko Ikeda, a member of Action for Marine Mammals who organized the demonstration. "But the reality is that most Japanese people do not know about dolphin hunting, and it is extremely rare to find Japanese people who wish to eat dolphins. The real problem is that this hunt is driven by a demand for live dolphins from aquariums wishing to put on dolphin shows."

Satoshi Komiyama, who is the leader of Action for Marine Mammals, noted that their group is relatively new, having arisen from a grassroots movement, and is indicative of a new uprising against these cruel practices. He remarked, "There have always been discussions about the pros and cons of dolphin issues in Japan. But arguments and discussions do not save dolphins. Now, we think action is important. Many foreign groups come to Japan and are active in protecting dolphins. However, since they are not permanent residents of Japan, there are various limitations and difficulties in regard to their activities here." If enough people protest, he remarked, "we have the potential to start a larger movement [based] right here in Japan."

Animal rights and rescue organization In Defense of Animals added that not only is dolphin hunting a cruel sport, it is also unhealthy for people. "How the Japanese government can knowingly allow the human consumption of dolphin meat is beyond reason," stated the group. "It contains dangerous levels of mercury and other industrial pollutants."

According to Carl Safina, Stony Brook University professor and founder of conservation group Blue Ocean Institute, it's notable that Japan's own slaughter guidelines for livestock are superior to that of the U.S.'s torturous factory farming, in that Japan requires animals to be killed in the quickest, most painless way possible, or else lose consciousness before being killed. Efforts must also be made to minimize anxiety and depression in the livestock.

None of these guidelines, however, apply to whale and dolphin killing, and since 2010, a new, more vicious killing method has been employed, one which involves piercing the animals' spinal cords with metal rods. Essentially, this results in a more prolonged, painful death for these highly intelligent mammals. The reason for doing so is because it apparently shortens the "harvest time" and makes the job easier for the fishermen.

The uproar over the slaughter has extended beyond that of mere animal rights and environmental groups: It drew a firm rebuke from U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy, who on Jan. 17 tweeted, "I am deeply concerned by the inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. The U.S. government opposes drive hunt fisheries."

And according to a report by Whales.org, "The treatment of dolphins in [these] hunts sharply contradicts current animal welfare standards employed in most modern and technologically advanced societies. The systematic mistreatment of dolphins, allowed and sanctioned by a highly developed country such as Japan, is in striking contrast to the European Union, the United States, and even existing Japanese livestock legislation."

This article was first published in People's World by Blake Deppe.
Ska Keller, from Germany, and José Bové, from France, have been selected to lead the European Green Party in their upcoming European campaign. After closing the polls yesterday, the election result was presented at a press conference earlier this morning.

"I’m looking forward to an enthusiastic election campaign, for the whole of the European Union," Ska Keller said during today's press conference. "It will be our task as top candidates to bring a European dimension to the national Green campaigns."

"In our campaign, we Greens will be clear about what our Green alternatives are for Europe: a fair and Green way out of the crisis, putting youth unemployment on the top of the agenda, protecting the rights of refugees and migrants, fair trade not free trade, more ambitious climate targets, and more democracy," Keller said.

The European Green Party, which is a transnational political party consisting of 40 green parties from throughout the European Union, asked people whom shared their "values" to choose their party's two green leading candidates for the upcoming European Elections, which are held between 22 and 25 May later this year.

This was the first ever Europe-wide online election for a parliamentary group in the European parliament. But the election had quite a low voter turnout with only 22,676 people participating. It's therefore doubtful that the result is representative for the members of the green parties in Europe.

Follow Green Blog

Subscribe to our RSS feed and stay updated with out latest posts and articles. You can also subscribe to our newsletter and get weekly updates. Follow us on Twitter, Google+ or Facebook.

About Green Blog

Green Blog has been online since 2007. We have green news from authors around the world, environment forums and member blogs.

We believe that human and civil rights, global peace, equality and democracy all plays central roles in safeguarding our environment and improving - in a sustainable and non-destructive way - the lives of all people on this fragile planet. Green Blog encourage people to take direct non-violent action against CO2 emitting sources and protest against the current climate change inaction.