21-year old climate & social activist Disha Ravi was arrested this week in India due to alleged dissemination of a Google Doc. Called a “Toolkit”, this document contains talking points and contact info for India farmers to use in their recent fights against new laws that will make it harder for them to compete with corporate agriculture giants and ultimately fade away into the environmentally toxic, mono-cropping, super scale way of farming we are trying to unravel from here in the US.
While Disha claims to have only edited 2 lines of the doc, not disseminating it, it is clearly concerning that she would be arrested for either. She is being accused of sharing it with her friend and fellow climate activist Greta Thunberg, who after sharing it on Twitter, was accused by India authorities of being part of an international conspiracy against India. She deleted the Tweet.
So why are farmers protesting?
Protests have been going on for months on end from farmers pushing back on Modi’s changes to agriculture policy, boiling over in a full on day of violence in New Delhi featured thousands of tractors plowing down barricades and resulting in multiple deaths.
More than 60% of India’s 1.3 billion people primarily rely on agriculture for survival. Most of this grown and sold hyper locally, but is also subsidized by government mandates to buy certain crops at certain prices to keep folks out of poverty that has ravaged India for decades.
Modi’s plan has been to cancel those subsidies and protections to open up a free and open competition, which likely means big farm companies coming up and buying all the local ones and pushing towards scale, scale, scale to meet Modi’s economic growth plans.
Of course, we already know what this ends up looking like in the US – long term destruction of biodiversity, dependency on chemicals and pesticides, societal health issues, increase in negative emissions – albeit by making food cheaper and indeed growing the economy.
Droughts are also a continued issue while other farmers are getting killed by record rainfalls – both due to climate change. These local farmers would lose some of their protections via these guaranteed subsidies and easily go out of business, making it even cheaper for corporate agriculture to clean up.
Disha is part of the Fridays for Future activist group originally founded by Greta. She started and still leads the India wing. The organization encourages students to hold strikes every Friday to push the climate action agenda forward.
Disha’s grandparents were farmers and she saw first hand how climate change was hurting them, motivating her to get involved as a young activist. For context, climate change is far more buried in public discord in India than it is in the US, especially when you get outside of Mumbai. In a way, the farmers and rural Indians are more aware of it than anyone else.
Disha is also vegan, works for a vegan startup, plants trees, cleans parks and saves animals. When she was 18, she led a campaign to clean Bangalore’s lakes and parks. She started a reforestation drive.Seriously she is just an awesome human being and one we should all be inspired by and determined to help.
If you are not familiar with PM Modi, well, he’s determined to change that. Modi is no doubt the most progressive and aggressive Indian PM in recent memory.
He pushes forward on his agenda regardless of any backlash from others. While some are understandable in theory but poorly executed in a way that left many behind – such as moving India off cash and into digital currency incredibly abruptly and with minimal planning and lead time a few years ago – other Modi initiatives are extremely questionable to the core, such the passing of laws that seem highly targeted against Muslims.
Modi has also been taking a page out of China’s book and cracking down on free speech and seeking information control, hence the arrest of Disha. His new laws allow his authorities to arrest anyone who poses a threat to “the people” visa vi a threat to the government by simply leading a small assembly or posting on social media.
His agenda is economic growth, plain and simple. He’s looking at China’s playbook for getting there and following the script to a degree. As a result, things like free speech and environmental protection are mere externalities that get pushed aside to focus on growth.
If you want to help Disha go support her global organization, Fridays for Future
By guest contributor and conservationist Paul Thomson from Save Pangolins
At the start of 2020, pangolins skyrocketed into the global media as news broke that a pangolin may have served as an intermediary vector for the COVI-19 virus. It is still unclear if this is the case, however one thing is clear: the trafficking, trade and consumption of wildlife poses a continued threat to our global community health.
At first glance, this new worldwide attention for the little-known pangolin may seem like a benefit – people were finally learning about the world’s most illegally trafficked mammal. However, there was a concern that in many communities that overlap with pangolin habitat, there might be a resulting increase in pangolin killing due to their potential connection to Covid-19 and the idea that pangolins needed to be exterminated to protect community health. As a result, Save Pangolins – a nonprofit conservation organization dedicated to the endangered animal – scaled up efforts to educate these communities and grant funding to local pangolin conservation programs to spread awareness that pangolins do not pose a threat to human health when left alone.
In April of 2020, the Wildlife Justice Commission, a grantee of the Pangolin Crisis Fund, reported that wildlife traffickers were running into issues and having trouble offloading their products due to shelter in place restrictions. Though these traffickers were having a hard time offloading their product, they continued to build their stockpiles and work to find ways around the restrictions to continue illegal trade.
In June, China announced that pangolin were upgraded to the highest level of protection afforded by the government, and the same category as pandas. In the same month, thousands of miles away in South Africa, conservationists reintroduced several ground pangolins back into KwaZulu-National province, a region where they had previously been ecologically extinct.
In July, Vietnam issued a new directive calling for stricter enforcement of laws protecting wildlife. Although it is encouraging to see the governments of China and Vietnam announce increased efforts to protect pangolins, many wildlife organizations remain skeptical until they see tangible proof that these actions have an effect on the transnational crime syndicates responsible for grand-scale wildlife trafficking.
At the end of 2020, Save Pangolins announced a new Pangolin Champions program to support emerging leaders in the pangolin conservation landscape. These young men and women in Africa and Asia are our best hope for pangolins.
The threats against pangolins have not gone away, nor diminished despite their new global notoriety. Now more than ever, pangolins need the support of the global community and Champions leading the fight against extinction.
Join Save Pangolins in celebrating World Pangolin Day 2021 with Run for Pangolins, a virtual charity run, on Feb. 20th.
To help celebrate one of our favorite animals, Animalia will be donating $10 for anyone who runs Feb 20th for Pangolins and tags @iloveanimalia (up to $500)
By Sasha Ternent
As we step foot into this new year, hoping for grand scale change and a systemic push towards a more just and equitable global society, it’s important we focus on getting it right – putting facts before hype and learning truths before jumping on bandwagons.
In the apparel world, one such area to begin with is the hype about recycled garments. Recycled sounds cool because as a society, we value innovation and advancement. The notion of recycling has these tenets embedded in it. How else could a bathing suit be made from recycled ocean plastic or a t-shirt from recycled polyester unless there was new, cutting edge technology employed? Even the idea of recycled cotton can somehow feel avant garde and trendy. While we’re not saying recycled isn’t good, we are saying, don’t get caught in the thirst trap of thinking something is great just because it was made to sound so. Below is some deeper insight into the realities of recycled apparel. It’s a new and growing industry, so take this for what it is, the current state of affairs – let’s hope that as we progress, we can all help move this forward so that recycling really can be as great as it sounds or we can find and support even better initiatives.
Fashion’s Real Problems
The Problems the Fashion Industry Faces:
- Unfair and Inequitable worker conditions
- Fossil fuel energy consumption
- Water usage and pollution (including microplastics and toxic hazardous chemicals)
- Drainage of natural resources, non-renewable resources and biodiversity loss
- Product waste sitting in landfills
Why Recycled Doesn’t Solve These Problems
1. Unfair and inequitable worker conditions:
Unless the item is certified by an independent body attesting to it’s fair treatment of workers, there is no guarantee that your recycled product has been made in a fair way. Remember, there is still a full supply chain of manufacturers involved in creating this product – recycled can sometimes give the idea of reuse – but it’s not – it’s still making a new product from scratch with all the necessary supply chain partners who often go completely unchecked for their treatment of workers. Global exploitation of workers is a nasty business and we really need to amp up the pressure to put a stop to this.
2. Fossil fuel energy consumption:
Evidence suggests that recycled polyester uses 30% less energy to produce a t-shirt than virgin polyester… however that’s still not saying much given the crazy high amounts of energy needed to produce polyester in the first place!
‘125 MJ of energy per kilogram produced and the greenhouse gas emitted (14.2 kg of CO 2 per kilogram produced) In 2015, polyester produced for clothing emitted 282 billion kg of CO2 – nearly three times more than for cotton.’ (Source: https://www.commonobjective.
In this case, less certainly does not mean ideal, nor does it mean the supply chain partners have made any effort to move towards renewable energy or sustainable energy sources.
3. Water usage and pollution:
Creating recycled polyester or any recycled materials generally requires a lot of intense chemicals and water. Unless, the recycled material has been made in a ‘closed loop’ system which captures and/or neutralises any polluted water, it is likely that water will end up back in the ecosystem with chemical pollutants in it. It is also possible that the water was drained from local ecosystems thus putting water pressure on local communities, that is, unless it is specified the water is used in a recycled format, which some factories are starting to do.
Regardless of whether polyester is recycled or not, it still releases heinous amounts of microplastics into our ecosystem when putting it in the washing machine. In fact, sources say that clothing is responsible for 35% of ocean microplastics! Let’s get real here, stats like this make me want to cry. How did we let this happen? UHHHHHH! (Source) So, in short, while it might be ok to buy recycled polyester products like hats and bags and other items that you don’t need to wash all the time, please don’t buy it in your t-shirts – the fishies need your help!
5. Drainage of natural resources and biodiversity loss:
Ok, finally! An area where using recycled materials actually does help. Well, sort of. While it’s great that we are using up existing materials and diverting them from becoming landfill waste vs extracting new virgin resources, let’s not forget that what this is actually doing is creating a false positive in the market. In it’s imperfect form, is recycled polyester or other materials what you really want to be supporting and showing demand for? What this does is tell manufacturers to go and make more of it instead of insisting they use their resources to investigate and push forward on better, more sustainable fibres. There are so many new options coming to the market that are so much better for the planet – while they are still in their infancy, and from my experience, there is a bit of a pricing and deployment issue, we need to start rallying around them so that we can get through these hurdles.
6. Product waste and landfills:
Another false positive in the market – while buying something recycled makes you think that you are reducing waste, it’s not actually doing that. Garment and textile collection programs to turn old clothes into new materials are still very much in their infancy. There aren’t that many around, or at the least, it’s safe to say there is no universally great working system which can easily allow us to recycle all our old clothes into new. In fact, we’ve actually searched high and low to start setting up our own recycling program but it’s really just not that easy (we’ll get there one day!!). What does this mean? Despite diverting resources from the landfill before being turned into your new item of clothing, once you are done with that item, it’s still going to end up in the landfill since there aren’t really programs in place to collect it, so in reality, you’ve just delayed the process and used up more resources along the way – thus again, creating a false positive in the market where we have the idea that we are reducing waste but in fact are creating demand for more non-biodegradeable, resource intense products.
* Once full scale garment collection programs become more of a ‘thing’ then yes, this could help a ton but until then, let’s not be fooled. Also to note – that recycled poly t-shirt you are wearing would probably have a higher chance of getting recycled again if that plastic scrap had actually been used to create a recycled plastic bottle (demand for plastic scrap is actually a competitive thing now!), which already has large scale industrial recycling collection programs in place – yes, the blue trash cans, we need ones for clothes too!
Also – disclaimer – there are some great new recycling companies out there trying to solve these problems so let’s not overly generalise on all of them (although I personally don’t stand behind any of the recycled polyester or fossil fuel synthetic based ones), so just read the label, read between the lines and most importantly, ask questions! This is a discussion and a work in progress, let’s get there together!
You can learn more about Sasha and her business, Sustainabilitees here. Our latest Animalia shirt below was actually made with Sasha’s new tees. And we know, that makes this look like a shameless plug but honestly the only reason we made this tee and are selling it is to promote stronger sustainability standards in Fashion and why it’s so cool to be sharing this planet with other awesome species and we thought it best to let Sasha tell us why she’s doing what she is!
Kibber’s Livestock Insurance to Save Snow Leopards
Kibber is a small mountain town in India deep in the Himalayas sitting 14,200 feet above sea level.
It’s location is a prime habitat area for perhaps the most elusive mammal in the world – the Snow Leopard. The snow leopard lives solo amongst some of the most dangerous cliffs and mountain sides in the world. Stealth & Absurd Gymnastics are the keys to the snow leopard’s day to day life.
Nearly 20 years ago, Kibber introduced a very novel concept of livestock insurance in hopes to protect the snow leopards that the locals loved and cherished, and we think that is a feat worth sharing!
The ingenuity & Values of Indigenous People
So why insurance? Well, the only folks in Kibber who did not love the snow leopard are ranchers, such as sheep herders, who have their livestock often killed by the leopards.
So in 2002, the town of Kibber came together to map out a livestock insurance program that would protect both the rancher and the snow leopard. It was quite simple – ranchers would pay a small premium for livestock insurance, and if they lost an animal to a snow leopard they would get paid accordingly.
Furthermore, those insurance premiums if not used would mostly go back to funding infrastructure and other needs in the village – rather than the deep pockets of a businessman. Cases were reviewed one by one and oftentimes the honor system was required in tying a death to a snow leopard.
20 years later, this program is still in place and everybody seems to have won – ranchers have financial protection and snow leopards are doing well in the region. They even have their own wildlife sanctuary now in Kibber and the fastest growing economic gains are coming from snow leopard observation climbs as a means of tourism for urban Indians.
Pretty cool? This points to the value of working with indegenous people to protect the very species and ecosystems they thrive in.
Snow Leopard Funerals and The Ultimate Viral Video
They also hold funerals and mourning support when local snow leopards die, either from old age or falling during a kill. Here is a story about that which will warm your heart and remind you of the good in people.
And as for some adrenaline, this viral video from years ago captured a snow leopard and a sheep falling over 400 feet and tumbling into a gorge at the bottom of the mountain side. The snow leopard survives totally ok, the sheep does not. But man, are these cats something else.