2007: A Review

Feature Story - 2008-01-09
Like many of you around the world, we also like to take time at the beginning of the new year to look back at the one just passed, to toast its high points and to regret its lows, to take stock and to look forward to the possibilities and challenges that 2008 presents us…

Another year over, and a new one just begun...

So, what kind of a year was 2007?

It began with good news and bad news. The bad news was new evidence that polar bears are under threat due to the meltdown of their sea-ice habitat as a consequence of global warming. The good news was that the US Fish and Wildlife Service acknowledged their plight and officially listed them as a "threatened species." With last summer seeing the smallest amount of Arctic ice cover ever recorded, a whole host of countries sought to drill for oil and gas once protected by the ice - and the more oil and gas we burn the faster the Arctic melts, a vicious circle bringing our planet closer and closer to catastrophic climate change.

It wasn't a great year for our seas and oceans in general, as overfishing, pollution and climate change vied with each other as to what would cause the most harm to the marine environment and the life inhabiting our oceans. The world once again failed to stop the decimation of fisheries across the globe, with tuna in particular taking a battering.

Neither was it a good year for our forests. Illegal and destructive logging was still widespread - in the Democratic Republic of Congo, part of the second largest tropical forest in the world after the Amazon, and in the Paradise Forests on the other side of the planet, companies tore up pristine forest and drained and burned peatlands to make way for palm oil plantations.

It wasn't all doom and gloom, though, and 2007 saw some great victories, thanks to the work of Greenpeace activists - both online and on the ground - some great Greenpeace actions and as the result of long but strong campaigning.

Life on the ocean waves…

Unlike many governments we're not about to stand by while our oceans are plundered. Eight of Europe's largest and most influential seafood companies, including McDonald's and Bird's Eye, agreed with us. After four years of campaigning to bring an end to deep-sea bottom trawling, an international agreement was made, protecting just under 25 percent of the high seas from this incredibly destructive fishing method. In a major victory for whale conservation, a 34-7 vote for a resolution strengthening the commercial whaling ban at the 2007 International Whaling Commission Meeting was followed by Iceland's announcement that they would not issue any further commercial whale-hunting quotas. Finally, just weeks ago, Japan caved in under international pressure and confirmed that they have abandoned plans to kill humpback whales in the Southern Ocean - at least for this season, anyway.

Little green apples

We love our Apples, and our Green My Apple website won a webby last year for its new brand of online activism. Then, in May, we saw something we'd all been wishing for when the words 'A Greener Apple' appeared on the front page of the Apple website. With a message from Steve Jobs saying, "Today, we're changing our policy," Apple pledged to remove the most dangerous chemicals from its production line. Our 'Guide to Greener Electronics', published quarterly, continues to encourage manufacturers of electronics - TVs, computers, mobile phones, and now including televisions and games consoles - to strive towards cleaner and greener products, and we showed them that this possibility was within their grasp.

Unrest in the forest, trouble with the trees

Soya and other agricultural products are key drivers for deforestation, threatening huge loss of biodiversity and contributing to climate change. The suspension of soy multinational Cargill's port activities in Santarem, Brazil, was the culmination of years of demands by local communities and people fighting the expansion of soya cultivation in the Amazon. There was also a victory for forests in Argentina; dressed as jaguars, Greenpeace activists took to the trees, camping in the treetops in a bid to save them from the bulldozers - meanwhile, we joined forces with other environmental groups, got 1.5 million signatures of support and pushed through Argentina's first federal forest protection law, including a one-year moratorium to avoid a rush of deforestation while forest management regulations are put into place. In December, Olam - a major trading company - found its World Bank funding cut, after we revealed its involvement in illegal logging in the Congo Basin Forest.

Charge of the Light Brigade

A decade after the Kyoto Protocol was signed, climate scepticism finally got beaten back in 2007 when the International Panel on Climate Change issued its sternest warnings yet. We even heard France's new president, Nicolas Sarkozy, call for an environmental "revolution", declaring that every decision his government makes from now on will be made in light of its impact on the climate. Among other measures, he promised to outlaw energy-wasting lightbulbs by 2010. In December, the Irish government announced that they'd be going one step better, banning energy-wasting incandescent lightbulbs by 2009. This simple but historic step came as governments met in Bali to discuss next steps on tackling the global climate emergency.

Resolutions and [R]evolutions

Soft drinks giant Coca-Cola has already announced a commitment to use coolers and vending machines free of HFC gases in all official venues of the 2008 Olympic Games, demonstrating climate-friendly technology developed by Greenpeace.

That the Japanese government has resolved that no humpback whales will be hunted down and killed in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in 2008 is good news indeed - a victory for Greenpeace supporters the world over. Pat yourselves on the back all of you who joined with us in demanding actions from our governments, participated in promoting non-lethal alternatives to whale research through our Great Whale Trail, and questioned the Japanese Government directly about plans to expand the whale hunt through the building of a new whaling ship (not to mention all of you who told your friends to Vote for Mister Splashy Pants in our whale-naming competition!).

While many are predicting that the three R's - reduce, reuse and recycle - will be joined by a fourth R for regulation in 2008, Greenpeace believes that manufactures need to add a fifth one - the R for responsibility; responsibility in ensuring the proper recycling of their products at the end of their lives, and responsibility for phasing out the use of hazardous materials right at the design stage! More and more electronics companies are already committing to eliminating hazardous chemicals from their products, and in 2008 we've extended this challenge to Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft, makers of the world's most popular games consoles - check out the 'Clash of the Consoles' to see how they perform!

Greenpeace launched a landmark proposal for reducing, and ultimately stopping, tropical deforestation while preserving forest biodiversity and respecting indigenous peoples' rights at the Bali Climate Conference. The world has the resources to stop deforestation - what is needed now is the political will. Governors from Papua and Brazil's Amazonas State have shown that will, and now world governments must resolve to follow - no money, no forests, no future!

Tackling climate change remains the biggest challenge facing us all. Fortunately, there is an answer to this challenge - our report, 'Energy [R]evolution', details how to halve global CO2 emissions by 2050, using existing technology and still providing affordable energy and economic growth. In short, a revolution in energy policy and an evolution in how we use energy. Governments the world over need to resolve to quit the use of fossil-fuels and fake alternatives such as nuclear power and turn to renewable and sustainable energy sources to live up to the requirements of the Kyoto Protocol.

And Greenpeace resolves to continue acting to change attitudes and behaviours, to protect and conserve the environment and to promote peace; and we couldn't do that without your invaluable support. So, let's raise our glasses to the New Year - with your help, we can make it a good one!

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