Our giant heaving and breathing oceans are suffocating under the weight of plastic waste. It snarls seabirds, suffocates turtles and chokes dolphins. There are also tiny pieces of toxic plastic swirling in our seas and last year we started telling people about it.
Traditionally our oceans campaign has focused on over-fishing, anti-whaling and the effects of climate change. But another huge threat is the one from plastic pollution. It's killing our oceans and it’s just as dangerous.
Thanks to your amazing support, here in East Asia the microplastics campaign has moved faster than we ever hoped. Come with me and check out what we’ve achieved together over the past year to protect our oceans from the curse of nasty plastics.
Learn more about a simpler life with the help of 7 different numbers
Our planet’s resources won’t last forever. Man’s insatiable appetite for consumption and producing endless pollution is exhausting and poisoning the supply. Can we make changes today so that we still have a tomorrow?
94 garmentsIs it really that cool to over consume? Last June we released a survey on Hong Kong people's shopping habits and found that the average person here has 94 articles of clothing and, on average, 15 of them had never been worn or worn just a handful of times. Their cupboards might be bursting, but they still bought an average of 10 new items a year.
70 companiesForcing fashion to Detox Five years ago, nobody was talking about clean production when it came to buying clothes. Back in 2011, we launched our groundbreaking Detox campaign and now more than 70 global clothing brands and suppliers have promised to phase out the use of hazardous chemicals.
150 actionsDetoxing the great outdoors At the beginning of last year, Greenpeace and lovers of the outdoors across the world took part in 150 actions in 21 countries to urge big outdoor gear companies to stop using hazardous PFCs. Several brands, including Paramo, Rotauf and Vaude signed up, while this February, the maker of GORE-TEX®, Gore Fabrics, also promised to eliminate PFCs from its production cycle.
7.1 billion phonesMaking smartphones smart for our planet How many smartphones are there in the world? We did the maths – 7.1 billion of them have been made since they first appeared on the market 10 years ago. This February, we released From Smart to Senseless: The Global Impact of Ten Years of Smartphones which detailed how the industry’s business model is burdening our planet.
4.3 million SamsungsSaving the Galaxy! Last November, Samsung recalled its newly-launched Galaxy Note 7 smartphone because the batteries were catching fire. Greenpeace launched a people power campaign to force the company to commit to properly recycling and reusing the 4.3 million phones. Thanks to you, this March the company finally came out with a plan to take care of all those handsets.
300 shipsHighlighting the plight of West Africa’s fishing grounds The rich fishing waters off West Africa attract large industrial vessels from around the world. China has the most -- more than 300 of its fishing vessels operate here. Our study found they were operating 24 hours a day – posing a direct threat to the food security of local people.
130,000 peopleCutting back on commercial cod fishing A ground-breaking Greenpeace investigation last March found that industrial fishing fleets were using destructive bottom trawling practices in the Norwegian Arctic waters. More than 130,000 people took part in actions and by May, big names in the fish-purchasing world such as McDonald's agreed to stop expanding cod fishing grounds in the area.
Many of us get pleasure from buying new stuff, and why we might not spend that much money, retail therapy carries a huge environmental cost. Here at Greenpeace we'd like to suggest pursuing a simpler more minimalist approach to life. We think it will make you a lot happier in the long run.
Spend less and feel moreWe're not saying don't go shopping, but just avoid over consuming: after all, it's a gentler way to treat our planet and ourselves. Last year, Greenpeace launched a ‘free-more’ campaign to encourage people to start shopping sustainably.
Full wardrobe, empty spiritIn January this year, we published the results of a survey we made on the shopping habits of Hongkongers. We found that one in six people were on the verge of being shopaholics -- they could only hold off nine days before they had to go shopping again. More than half of those surveyed said they had clothes in their wardrobe with the price tag still on! The happiness they got from having new possessions was transitory and was gone in a day.
Uncontrolled materialism is a worldwide issue. Between the year 2000 and 2014, global clothes manufacturing doubled. We took the problem to the streets of Causeway Bay last November and held some creative street actions to encourage people to resist over-shopping and pause, ask themselves: “Do I really need this?”
Flash mob against fast fashionWe took our simpler life campaign to the streets of Taipei in December when 60 Greenpeace volunteers danced in three different commercial districts to kick-start a dialogue and get people thinking about how much they shop. The message of the choreography was to untie ourselves from labels, and find happiness by breaking free of materialism.
One thing is clear. If we were going to change anything, we had to talk to the brands that trash the planet in search of profits.
One of the biggest global sources of pollution is the textile industry and pollution is produced at every stage of the chain from production to transport and washing to sales. It even contributes to climate change - 850 million tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, or about 3% of global emissions annually. The problem is exacerbated by the new trend for cheap fast fashion which means that clothes may only last a few months before they are thrown out.
Greenpeace has been tirelessly pushing fashion brands to Detox since 2011. We have persuaded more than 70 big global names -- or about 15% of worldwide production --including high street labels such as H&M and Zara and suppliers to phase out the use of hazardous chemicals. Last year we published our third edition of the Detox Catwalk, which ranks brands on how they are meeting their commitments. This is one of our most successful campaigns – and it’s all thanks to you!
The hardest part of any journey is getting started, taking that first step. It’s so much easier when you have your friends with you. The same is true of the Detox outdoor campaign.
Revolutionizing outdoor gear
The latest outdoor gear can keep you dry, cool, and comfortable in the great outdoors. However our research has shown that clothing, footwear, camping and hiking gear including backpacks, tents and sleeping bags contain PFCs that are hazardous to the environment and to human health. With you behind us, we’ve pushed many of these companies to use safer alternatives, including, this February, the maker of GORE-TEX®.
We at Greenpeace knew as soon as the lab reports came back positive that we need to stop companies using these hazardous chemicals. But would the brands listen to us? The answer is: PEOPLE POWER.
When we launched the Detox Outdoor campaign in late 2015 our goal was simple: Together with you, the outdoor community and Greenpeace supporters, we wanted to eliminate hazardous PFCs. Hundreds of thousands of you took action online, questioned which of the major brands are using PFCs and voted for which of your favorite products should be tested.
With you behind us, we’ve pushed many of these outdoor brands to use safer alternatives, including, Paramo, Rotauf and Vaude. And this February, Gore Fabrics, the maker of GORE-TEX® products, has also committed to eliminate hazardous PFCs from their product lines!
Imagine a world where your electronic gadgets would last, or a place where your devices could be easily repaired. Imagine all the money saved!
A new kind of smartphone
There’s no doubt that smartphones have changed our lives. But now it’s time to change the smartphones. In February we published From Smart to Senseless: The Global Impact of Ten Years of Smartphones, and found that 7.1 billion smartphones had been made in a decade. That means mountains of toxic e-waste, some 3 million tons in 2014 by our estimations.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Making devices that can be easily repaired and are designed to last is the most significant step that IT companies can take to reduce the environmental impacts of making our electronics.
In the meantime, by using the devices you already own for as long as possible and fixing them when they break, you are helping to save the planet’s finite resources. In China we set up a Repair Cafe with volunteers, where we helped members of the public carry out simple repairs to their smartphone, such as replacing a battery or a screen.
In November 2016, Samsung had to recall 4.3 million handsets after its new Galaxy Note 7 suffered battery problems and some exploded. We immediately launched a global campaign to force them to publish a good recycling plan for all those phones. Trashed, they would pose a very serious pollution problem.
So, cue massive Greenpeace global campaign; here in East Asia, we staged actions at Samsung's headquarters in Seoul. Finally, in response to this huge movement and your support, this March, Samsung finally released their recycling plan. It agreed to refurbish, reuse parts and safely extract metals. Without your voice, many of those phones would be in landfills, poisoning the soil.
But it’s not just a problem with the Galaxy Note 7. We need the whole IT sector to embrace a circular production model. We need phones that last longer, solid and safe recycling plans as standard, and phones that don’t need to consume so much energy and resources in their manufacture.
With the global fishing industry trapped in an overfishing crisis, one of the few remaining areas of oceanic biodiversity is the waters off West Africa. But its blessing is its downfall – it is attracting crushing numbers of fishing vessels, and by far the most are from China – more than 300 Chinese long-distance fishing ships are operating there, catching an annual HKD3.3 billion of fish.
This March, Greenpeace ship, the Esperanza embarked on a "West Africa Tour of Hope" to raise awareness about the state of fisheries in this region. We worked with local communities and governments to solve overfishing and illegal fishing. One of the main problems is the lack of good fisheries management and we worked on getting nations in the region to work more closely together.
What can we do here in Hong Kong? We are small but we are one of the world’s top consumers of seafood per capita. First, don't eat endangered species; educate yourself on where and how your seafood was caught so that you don't unknowingly support unsustainable practices. Every little action does bring change!
Climate change has caused massive melting of Arctic sea ice, freeing up areas that were once iced-over to commercial fishing operations practicing destructive bottom trawling.
Last March Greenpeace released a truly groundbreaking report, This Far, No Further: Protect the Arctic from Destructive Trawling that used three year’s of meticulous research to prove that industrial fishing fleets were encroaching into pristine areas of the northern Barents Sea. They were supplying a hungry network of seafood processors, brands and food retailers.
The Barents Sea is home to a huge diversity of marine life, including some of the world’s largest colonies of seabirds, deep-water coral reefs, and marine mammals such as walruses, whales and polar bears. Powered by the voice of the people, last May we succeeded in getting global brands, such as McDonald's and Tesco, the Norwegian Fishing Vessel Owners Association, and other big names in the fishing industry to back plans to make the previously-frozen Northern Barents Sea — an area twice the size of France -- off limits.
Green is the colour of our rainbowWE DON’T NEED TO SACRIFICE NATURE OR SQUANDER HUMAN RIGHTS TO MAKE OUR LIVES INORDINATELY BETTER
Food is extremely important in Chinese culture. But the industrialization of agriculture has trapped farmers in a vicious cycle -- the more chemical pesticides and fertilizers they use, the more barren their land becomes and so they are forced to use even more pesticides and fertilizers.
Organic and ecological farming practices have been growing more popular in recent years. But according to a Greenpeace study, many small-scale farmers are blocked from eco-agriculture because of the high initial costs, the lengthy process needed to change, and the lack of social resources. So we came up with a solution!
Last year, we got together with farmers from Wuchang in China's Heilongjiang province to crowdfund an "adopt a rice-duck eco-farming" project. Online we invited the public to "adopt" a duck to help fund a traditional style of farming called rice-duck farming which doesn't use pesticides (the ducks eat the pests!), allowing farmers to grow safe clean rice and sponsors get a bag of eco-rice after the first harvest.
Crowdfunding a new way of farming
The success with the ducks encouraged us to expand in early 2017. With six farming co-ops we set up a “Foodie’s Box to Save the World” online platform. By bringing projects together to crowdfund and support each other we can help farmers overcome the hurdles to going organic. Their success will encourage more and more farmers to join.
We are creating a link between the urban middle class who want safe organic food and the farmers who want to grow safe organic food but don’t have the support to do so.
In 2016 we continued to closely monitor pesticide over-use and promote organic farming in China:
We released a report on pesticide residues on vegetables sold in six major supermarkets in Beijing where 87% of samples tested showed excessive levels of pesticides. After looking at our report, the China Food and Drug Administration said it would speed up pesticide reduction in the country.
Following the landmark release of our 2012 report on pesticides in tea, last year we took another look at the industry. Because of our campaign, the local government in Yunnan’s famous tea-growing region, Pu’er, will invest more in developing organic tea farms.
In the old days, this used to a vast green prairie, but today it looks like the surface of the moon. Trucks rumble from the mouth of a coal mine, the land cracked and cratered as if all life has been sucked out of it.
The great water grab
This is Inner Mongolia. Underground lie rich seams of coal and coal mining companies have flocked to exploit them, siphoning off most of the groundwater to do so. Where there was grass, there is now only desert. Decades of exploitation have left just hunger and death.
We have oceans of water, right? Actually no. Only 1% of the earth's water is usable and the coal industry wants a big chunk of that. In a report we put out last March, The Great Water Grab, we pointed out that nearly a quarter of the existing and planned coal power stations in the world are in areas that are experiencing very high water stress. Coal is a very thirsty industry – it uses vast quantities of water in mining, washing, and generating power. Every year all the world's 8,359 coal-fired power plant units consume enough water to meet the most basic needs of more than 1 billion people.
Coal is a major threat to water quality, human health, human livelihoods, sanitation and the environment. The Inner Mongolia example above is just one case. Other countries where coal is creating a conflict over scarce water resources are India, South Africa and Turkey.
Energy for life
Our report was widely covered in the world's media, including The New York Times and the UK's The Guardian. Burning coal for energy does not just exacerbate climate change, it also threatens global food and water security. With your support and the millions of people who love our planet, we are campaigning hard to stop governments and companies from continuing to mine for coal, to push for the closure of coal-fired plants in water stressed areas and instead exploit renewable energy sources that consume little or no water. This is our energy for life.
We save Shangri-La by spotting 24 mines
Like detectives in the sky we used satellite imaging to reveal that there were 24 mines in pristine forest areas in China's Yunnan province. Our report – showing how the mines had caused landslides and poisoned forest rivers – spurred the provincial government to shut down several mines, order companies to clean up, and make it tougher to open new pits in the region.
These four Japanese women, all mothers, are suing the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) for fair compensation after the Fukushima nuclear disaster. “The reason couldn't be simpler, it's that we want to protect our children.”
Fukushima: a lesson the government wants to forget
“Until today, we’re still living with the pain of this disaster. To avoid this happening again, I must stand in court, I’ve the right to keep my children far from harm," Ms Sonoda (second left in photo). Six years ago, an earthquake in the northeast of Japan triggered a tsunami, which devoured coastal towns and caused a deadly accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Six years later, around 120,000 people are still living away from their homes. Every year Greenpeace goes back to check the radiation levels in the Fukushima disaster zone. Specialists estimate that it will take at least 30 to 40 years to clean up the region – but Japan will not give up using nuclear energy.
Nuclear fallout makes Seoul go solar
Last year Greenpeace marked the 30th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and five years since the Fukushima accident with a report, Nuclear Scars. Our investigations showed radioactive pollution from both were still impacting the health and well-being of millions of people. This serves as a warning to us here in Hong Kong – under the shadow of the Daya Bay nuclear power plant – that we must use safe renewable alternatives.
One single nuclear accident can destroy families in an instant. Europe has been shuttering their old or out-of-date nuclear plants; it's time for East Asia to do the same. And that’s where you and Greenpeace come in.
Suing for safety
One city in our region is taking the nuclear risk more seriously. Seoul's “One Less Nuclear Plant" project focuses on boosting renewables, such as solar, to offset the central government's plan to expand nuclear. Seoul wants 20% of its energy to come from renewables by 2020. It is doing this by building solar-powered bus stations and helping to set up home solar stations. Our Seoul office is suing Korea’s Nuclear Security and Safety Commission over its recent decision to build two more nuclear reactors at the Kori Nuclear Power Plant in Busan. We are campaigning to make this a class action.
Chemicals can kill too
Every 10 hours there is a fatality or injury from a chemical accident in China. Since a fatal explosion at a chemical storage facility in Tianjin in 2015, we’ve been mapping China's hazardous chemical facilities and recording reported accidents. That 10-hour figure comes from our data for the first eight months of 2016. We’re campaigning for safer and tougher chemicals management in China.
The people who protest to save their piece of the Amazon
“We are a group of 22 women, eight children and about 60 warriors. In front of the Palace of Justice, we placed large red letters on the lawn to send out our message — ‘Demarcation right now’. The government needs to recognize our right to our traditional land.” Maria Leusa, a Munduruku mother with five children.
When the forest weeps
The Munduruku call a stretch of the Amazon alongside the Tapajós River their home. They have been passionately defending their homeland against the Brazilian government's plans to build dams along a river – a river that gives them food, is a form of transportation and ensures the survival of their cultural and spiritual practices. "The river is our blood," is how they explain it.
Brazil is a country whose solar resources have enormous potential, yet the government has plans to construct 43 giant dams in the Tapajós river basin. These would destroy vast tracts of the forest, crush the region's rich biodiversity and trample on the human rights and way of life of the Munduruku people.
We’ve seen other rivers die…
“I brought my four-month old baby to Brasilia and left my other four children in the village. We have to defend our Amazon, because it is not only our Tapajós River, it is all the rivers in the Amazon that are being affected. We've seen other rivers die, so we do not want that to happen to our Tapajós,” said Maria Leusa.
The Brazilian Constitution forbids the permanent removal of Indigenous Peoples from their lands. If the Munduruku can get official recognition of their land, then dams that would flood their home would be illegal. This is the best way they can fight to save their home.
You are saving the heart of the Amazon
Last year, Greenpeace joined hands to help the Munduruku with our "Save the Heart of the Amazon" campaign. More than 1.2 million supporters across the globe joined us in campaigning to stop these mega dams. Our actions included a protest outside the Siemens headquarters in Germany to persuade them not to supply components for the dam. And we did it! In August the Brazilian government said it would cancel the biggest of the dams.
Greenpeace has also been helping the Munduruku demarcate their territory by putting up signs while also pushing for the government to make it official. In November, the Munduruku trekked to the Ministry of Justice to stage a protest, but as yet they have been given no response. But as Maria Leusa said: "These are days of struggle for the Munduruku people." We are proud to stand by their side. And I know you are too.
What secrets lie inside the fishing ship as it sails towards the setting sun? Greenpeace oceans campaign has spent many years documenting illegal fishing and calling for stronger regulations on fishing. But in the last couple of years, our investigations have exposed a horrifying secret…
Taiwan ships ‘out of control’
Taiwan is one of the world's top three catchers of tuna and tuna-like species. But because the sector is poorly regulated, illegal and shocking practices are widespread. In October 2015, the European Union slapped Taiwan with a "yellow card" because of the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) practices of its long-distance fishing fleets. A Greenpeace campaign that drew 50,000 supporters pushed the government to change. With the pressure on, last July, the government in Taipei adopted new fisheries regulations that came into force this January. But it’s still not enough to prevent the abusive practices meted out to the crew of some fishing vessels.
Where the environment and human rights meet
Last April we exposed shocking stories of abuse on board Taiwanese ships through meticulous data collection, field research and interviews in a report, Made in Taiwan - Government Failure and Illegal, Abusive and Criminal Fisheries. Greenpeace East Asia researchers interviewed about 100 overseas fishing crew at a number of ports in Taiwan. What they told us was heart-breaking. The practice of beating, over-working and underpaying (and sometimes not paying at all) is endemic.
There is a close link between these human rights abuses and illegal fishing practices - they are part of the same problem. IUU fishing causes fish stocks to dwindle, meaning profits are squeezed, and companies balance this by trampling on the rights of the crew.
With rapid globalization, many environmental issues now overlap and impact each other. Diplomacy, economics, transportation and human rights come into play when dealing with long-distance fisheries. Greenpeace at its heart is an environmental organization but we will do all that we can to expose the truth about any crime we expose, when we have you by our side.
You are not aloneTogether our voice is more than the sum of its parts.