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Posts Tagged ‘pollution’

Wai Water?

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

Pere Wihongi and the Just Focus team

In Aotearoa New Zealand it feels like there is water everywhere. It fills our lakes, courses down our rivers and streams, falls from the sky, and the sparkling Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea surrounds our islands.

sharplin-fallsMaybe it is exactly because we live in a country that has so much water that it is hard for us to fathom how fortunate we are. We take it for granted that water will always flow when we turn on a tap, or flush the toilet. But it is not like this for everyone, and when we look at the global picture we start to understand how precious water really is.

Water for LIFE

Water is a key component in determining the quality of our lives. We drink it, bathe in it, cook and clean with it, nourish our plants and crops, and feed our pets and livestock. Water is life.

There is always the same amount of water moving through the planet within the water cycle, it just goes round and round and round. We drink the same water that our great-great-great-grandparents drank! Only now, we have a problem. We have the same amount of water, but there are more and more people who need it.

The UN states that the basic requirement per person each day is 20 to 50 liters of water. New Zealanders are big water consumers; on average we use 663 litres a day. Compare this to an average of 5 litres used by Cambodians.

But it’s not just about how much water we need, but what sort of water we need.  It needs to be free from pollution and other contaminants for us to be healthy. Globally, water quality is declining due to our growing population and pollution from urbanisation, industry and agriculture. Right now 1.1 billion people do not have access to enough safe water and a third of the world’s people live without adequate sanitation (sewage, waste disposal etc).

In Pakistan, for example, almost 40 percent of the population receives water that runs through dirty pipelines, which can pollute the water. Research conducted by the Pakistan Medical Research Council shows that a large number of people with diseases in Pakistan suffer specific health problems because of the consumption of polluted water.

According to the World Health Organisation, 80 percent of sickness and disease in developing countries is a result of unsafe water and lack of sanitation.  Children especially are affected. Two million people die every year as a result of diarrhoea, and most of them are children under the age of five.

What is being done? worldwaterdaylogo

On March 22 the international community will mark World Water Day. This important day focuses our attention on the water issues and problems facing communities around the world. Each year there is a different theme and this year the focus is water quality, because in order for people and the planet to flourish we need clean, safe water.

What about the environment?

When people don’t have access to enough clean, safe water then it can severely affect their health. The impact on ecosystems without clean water supplies, or any water at all, is also huge. But how is this possible on a planet where the same amount of water is always circulating and renewing itself? What’s going wrong?

Between the impact of agriculture on our water ways, industry consuming and polluting water in its mass production of the machinery, transport and consumer items, and the impact of growing cities on our water supplies, you can take your pick of the environmental issues affecting our water.

The dead zones

Large areas of oxygen-low, life-destroying water, called dead zones, are appearing around the world. One of the world’s largest dead zones, off the coast of the United States, exists because of farms.

Fertilizers used in farming drain into the country’s streams and waterways. With 40 percent of US water systems flowing into the Mississippi River, this means that during the spring and summer months the ‘Mighty Mississippi’ carries, then dumps, equally mighty amounts of fertiliser straight into the sea in the Gulf of Mexico.

And fertiliser does in water exactly what it does on land – it prompts growth. A huge abundance of algae is the result. The problem is, when the algae dies, sinking to the ocean floor, the bacteria that makes it rot also consumes oxygen. What is left is an oxygen-deprived, sea floor wasteland. Any life there either leaves or dies, affecting a huge ecosystem and the livelihoods of thousands of people in the fishing industry.

water-dropBringing it back to little old Aotearoa New Zealand…

So what does water mean to people here in Aotearoa NZ?
“Ko au te awa, ko te awa ko au”
“I am the river, and the river is me”

Māori people use whakatauki, or proverbs, inherited from our ancestors as inspiration and guidance to help us to understand the world as they saw it. This whakatauki tells us that we should treat nature as we would like to be treated ourselves. Given water has been around for millions of years, this means it definitely deserves our respect!

Tangata Whenua (tangata – people, whenua – land) is the term commonly used to describe the Māori people of Aotearoa. Our whakapapa connections to Papatuanuku (Earth Mother) and Ranginui (Sky Father) imply that we are not just people of the land, but that we were born of the land.  Our connection to the land allows us guardianship or Kaitiakitanga over it, as was agreed to in the second article of the Treaty of Waitangi. This means that the world view of Māori in regards to the whenua and wai (water) is that of respect, identity and preservation for future generations.

The water of our ancestors continues to nourish us, so how can we repay?

Global Action

Bringing the Dead Zone back to life
How do you bring a zone of 7700 square kilometres, (an area just bigger than the entire Northland Region), back from the dead? The environmental version of the FBI, the Environmental Protection Agency, has been running a project to restore and preserve the Gulf of Mexico for 22 years. And it might just be working: 2009’s dead zone was half the size of the decade’s average. That’s a great start.

Last year, a group of scientists and environmental groups also petitioned President Barack Obama. They want him to fully implement a gulf action plan that could reduce fertiliser runoff and restore the wetlands that filter the harmful fertilisers, before they contaminate the river and Gulf. So the dead zone might not be a lost case after all.

The Orangi Pilot Project
The Orangi Pilot Project (OPP) was started in the 1980s in the squatter area of Orangi, in Karachi, Pakistan. It was home to over 1 million people. Started by one man, Akhtar Hameed Khan, the OPP utilised the energy and innovative spirit of local residents to solve their own water and sanitation problems.

At the beginning the project focused on creating sewage and storm water systems, using local materials and labour. Almost 30 years later the project has grown to support the establishment of schools, health clinics, women’s work centres and a credit organisation to finance enterprise projects.

water-wellWhat can YOU do?!

•    Celebrate World Water Day at your school, church or at home.

•    Think about your own water use. There is more you can do than just turning off the tap while you brush your teeth! For heaps of ideas on ways to save water check out

•    Support an international campaign or organisation like Water Aid or The Oxfam Water for Survival Programme.

Learn more

Drug Money - the real cost

Thursday, May 15th, 2008

By Ian Blythe

opium-poppiesWhile taking drugs isn’t new, the incredible growth in the illegal drug trade is! Despite all the risks involved, it has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, and news seems to be spreading of the mula that can be made. It comes down to simple economics: the greater demand the higher the price. Drugs are in great demand and prices are high. But what is the real cost?

It begins with poverty
All drugs have been on a journey. That journey starts with a need and ends with a want. The crop growers or farmers at the start of the production chain are generally poor and desperate for income. They need money to feed their families and pay their bills, just like everybody else. Illegal drugs such as cocaine, heroin and cannabis are more profitable than legal crops such as wheat. A plot of land planted in wheat will earn a farmer $100 while the same plot planted in opium poppies could be worth $4000! Where poverty is found so are plantations for an array of drugs. For example:

  • Coca leaf, which is turned into cocaine, is cultivated in Peru and Bolivia, countries where, according to the World Bank over half the population live below the poverty line.
  • 92% of the world’s heroin derives from poppy plantations in Afghanistan, which was ranked 173rd of 178 countries in the UN’s 2004 Human Development Index.
  • 70% of the cannabis used in Europe comes from Morocco, where 14% of the population live on less than $2 a day.

Unfortunately the cultivation of drugs doesn’t stop the stop the cycle of poverty. While providing a source of income, it can be dangerous work and farmers find that because they are working in an illegal occupation they have no power and can’t fight for fair pay or better working conditions. They can easily be exploited by traffickers and gangs.

Bad for people, bad for the earth
clearedlandDrug cultivation can have a disastrous effect on individuals and communities, but it also has huge ecological implications. To grow poppies or coca leaves means that farmers need to have fertile soil, warm conditions and a private open field. So they end up cutting down or burning trees to make room. Not just a few trees though, millions of hectares of tropical forest have been cleared, just to keep up with the demand. The use of large quantities of pesticides, weed killers and fertilisers to maximise production leads to a loss in biodiversity, polluted soil and contaminated waterways. The topsoil is often left infertile by the end of the season and it can take up to three seasons to return to its original fertility. So the farmers continue to clear new areas of forest.

Who IS benefiting then?
The profit margins for the traffickers and drug dealers are HUGE. With the farmers only receiving 1% of the street value of many drugs, there is a lot of money to be made along the way. Cocaine bought in Columbia worth $1500 per kilogram could be sold on the streets of America for as much as $66,000 a kilogram. This part of the drugs journey is usually controlled by gangs or criminal cartels. Drug trafficking, estimated to account for 8% of the all global trade, has given organised crime immense power and wealth, but with this much money at stake, competition is fierce and often ends in violence.

Customer relations
The drug’s journey ends with want. With 180 million regular drug users around the world this want creates significant demand. Drug addiction is complex, but at it’s core it about a user’s physical and emotional dependence on their drug of choice. Addiction creates a secure market for suppliers and keeps the prices high. Lucrative returns and future prospects of an even higher income keep people involved in the industry

Big pond, little fish
buying-drugsEverybody involved in the chain of production and distribution is accountable for the vast effects of this industry. Society is very fast paced and everybody is looking for instant gratification - kiwis are no different. We are not a major drug producer, but Aotearoa New Zealand is home to an increasing number of users. In the last couple of years there has been a steep increase in usage of Methamphetamine, more commonly known as “P”. As “P” is problematically addictive the spread was inevitable. But P isn’t the only drug we’re using. Cannabis is the most readily accessible drug, as it is not only cheap as chips, but very easy to cultivate. Per capita Oceania (an area that includes us, Pacific Island Nations and Australia,) has the highest level of cannabis users in the world.

Five Facts about the Global Drug Trade

  1. 92% of the world’s heroin derives from poppy plantations in Afghanistan
  2. The income of those involved in growing drug crops is 1% of their drugs street value
  3. Millions of hectares of tropical forest in South America have been destroyed in the cultivation of coca (used to make cocaine)
  4. 180 million people worldwide use illegal drugs regularly
  5. Drug trafficking is estimated to account for 8% of all global trade

The circumstances may seem overwhelming, but there is a lot you can do to help!

  • First you need to get motivated, so get informed and dig a little bit deeper. Check out the Learn More section.
  • After you feel motivated you need to get empowered - get involved with some of the local organisations working in this area. The New Zealand Drug Foundation not only produces lots of resources, but they run events too. Community Action on Youth and Drugs project (CAYAD) run projects all around the country, call your local council to see what’s going on near you.
  • Next you have got to live it, talk about the REAL COST of drugs with your friends and stand firm for what you believe in.


Global Bits - The Trafficking trap
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime -The World Drug Report
New Zealand Drug Foundation

This article was originally published in Jet Magazine.

XMAS - Treasure or trash?

Tuesday, December 18th, 2007

By Elisabeth Perham

baubleChristmas should be a time for celebration, a time for sharing, being with family, celebrating all that is good. While this may be the case, the unfortunate truth, like the Climate Change movie says the inconvenient truth, is that the annual Christmas craze is one which is seriously damaging the health of the Earth.

Funny how Christmas now starts in October. The mall decorations go up, ads encourage you to start your shopping and catalogues arrive in the mail. Nearly three months away and already we can’t escape it. Not that I’m a scrooge, far from it! In fact, I love the holiday season. Yet I find myself becoming more and more concerned about the festival of consumerism that modern-day Christmas is.

rubbishAnd not just consumerism at Christmas, but throughout the whole year. Landfills swell, temperatures rise, neighbourhoods flood and hurricanes devastate cities. You already know all this, we all do, but do you care enough to do anything about it? In the most recent statistics available (ie. 1997: so archaic that it’s shameful) New Zealanders disposed of 3.4 million tonnes of waste into landfills. That’s almost a tonne each! What’s worse is that this is so much more than we used to dispose of. In the Auckland region, this was an increase of 73% per person of rubbish from 1983. Imagine what the figure is now — and what it will be like in ten years’ time.

It may seem rather macabre to be bringing this up when this season should be festive, but it is in fact the perfect time. At Christmas our already ludicrous consumption goes up a further 25%, and as about 80% of goods made for consumption are thrown away within six months of production, this means a whole lot more waste.

Fact: in the UK alone, at least 1 billion Christmas cards will find their way to the bin by the endwheelie bin of this holiday season. Although similar figures are not available here in New Zealand, if we sent cards at the same voracious rate as our British counterparts (which is unfortunately quite likely), this would mean we send a whopping 66.5 million a year. With one tree required for the production of 3000 cards, we could unwittingly be sending 22000 trees through our postal system.

But the news isn’t all bad. If we all make just a little bit of effort, the bad we are doing CAN be reversed. Ladies and gentlemen, the Earth can be saved! For every tonne of paper we manage to recycle, 13 trees, 31780 litres of water and 2.5 barrels of oil are conserved. For every one tonne of aluminium recycled: 13,300 kWh of electricity is saved, 95% less air pollution is produced and 4 tonnes of chemical product are conserved.

So this Christmas, do give thanks: give thanks for the Earth being the one planet in the entire universe that can sustain your life. Give thanks for the generations that will follow you. Make it a Merry Pollution-Free Christmas for all your grandchildren and great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren.


Zero Waste
Waste Online


It’s easy to make Christmas less wasteful, and just a little effort from all of us will make a big difference. You’ll be helping save the Earth and, who knows, you could even save some money! It’s a simple matter thinking about the three R’s:

Top ways to Reduce Christmas waste…

  • Think carefully about the gifts you buy.
  • Buy Fair Trade if possible and look for environmentally-responsible producers.
  • If you’re not sure what to buy, give money or vouchers. That way the gift is less likely to be thrown out.Be imaginative with presents.
  • Buy a couple of chickens for a family living in poverty on your mate’s behalf (Oxfam:Unwrapped )
  • Make vouchers with promises to cook tea one night or do the vacuuming for a month. A spot of baking never goes amiss either, and it can be really fun!!!
    xmas treeChristmas Trees:

  • Use an artificial tree, much more environmentally friendly than a real one.
  • Better still, decorate a living tree in a pot and let it live! Both these options can be reused every year without the need to chop down yet another tree…

    Christmas Cards

  • Send e-greetings instead of cards. Try for a range of awesome cards (cheaper too).


  • Buy food in recyclable packaging… and recycle it!!! (Especially don’t buy things in Styrofoam packaging. It never decomposes… ever!!!)
  • Things you can Re-use…


  • Use string, not tape. That way it’s easier for others to recycle it too.
  • Remove your Christmas wrap carefully and tuck it away to wrap next year’s presents.Make tags/cards
  • If you’re into saving money and like to be creative, use the pictures off the front of received cards to handcraft your own highly personalised cards and gift tags.
  • Re-Gifting - If you are given a gift you don’t like, don’t throw it out!!! Donate anything in good condition to a charity shop or pass it on to someone else. Or jump on Trade Me: one man’s trash is another man’s treasure after all. Or give it as a gift next year — just be careful you don’t return it to the same person.
  • crushed cansAnd don’t forget to Recycle…

  • Put all those bottles, cans, cards and packets in the recycling bin. Most cities now have street collection, but if this isn’t available, it’s only one trip to the recycling depot. It’s really not that difficult. To find out what the deal is in your area check out this link.

A version of this article was originally published in JET magazine.

Tackling climate change

Wednesday, August 1st, 2007

How is NZ reducing its ecological footprint?

Storme Sen

Global warming
You hear about global warming everywhere nowadays; scientists and tree-huggers spout on about it and the millions of mind-boggling statistics to back up their claim at any opportunity. Yet, that phrase is never in the forefront of our minds in our everyday life, not when we take our hour long shower, not when we leave six appliances on at once, not until global warming affects our lives personally do those cold statistics mean a thing.

Since when has the weather gone so insane?
Mudslides, earthquakes and floods are occurring in places where they shouldn’t be at alarming rates; polar bears are actually drowning from lack of icebergs to rest on! Global warming is no longer something we can put off or disown as scare-propaganda. A recent example of out-of-control weather phenomenon are the tornadoes that hit Taranaki. New Zealand shouldn’t have global warming problems; we are renowned for our “clean and green” image, right? Wrong.

If we measure the average emissions produced per capita (individually), New Zealand comes in at a shocking 12th place in the world for the highest carbon producing countries in 2006. As a country that thrives on showcasing its natural resources for the tourism industry and production of biological products for export, New Zealand’s economy is particularly vulnerable to climate change

Cars FloodSo what is global warming?
The suns rays have always penetrated our atmosphere, warming the earths surface, enabling life to inhabit our planet, then been reflected back off the earths surface out through our ozone layer. But now, the pollution we emit traps the harmful rays in our atmosphere so that they cannot be reflected back out of our ozone layer, causing global warming. This changes our weather patterns, causes droughts, melts our ice caps, provides warmer temperatures for disease carrying vectors and pests, such as mosquitoes, to breed, and changes the conditions for crops to be grown in, to name a few examples.

We know a lot of these facts and that global warming is a problem of epic proportions, but now the time has come to do something about it. It was not caused by my generation but it is up to us to carry the burden and we can no longer just say our great great grandchildren will have to deal with it. New Zealand has ratified the Kyoto Protocol named after the Japanese city the environmental summit was held in. The Kyoto Protocol aims to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions of developed countries to 5% below the level they were in 1990 from the period 2008-2012. New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are currently 25% higher than they were in 1990 and New Zealand is in danger of not achieving its target.

Global Warming VisualThe Bill
At Youth Parliament 2007 a Legislative Bill was put forward for debate amongst the Youth Parliamentarians. This bill was mainly aimed at reducing household carbon gas emissions and lowering the energy usage of individuals. The bill enables a household to open a voluntary carbon account that will monitor their energy consumption via a Smart card system. There would be a fee to open an account and the amount of energy deemed reasonable for consumption would be individually analyzed in accordance with the needs of each different household. The account would also introduce carbon credits (in the form of tax credits), rewarding a household that makes energy savings of 10% (with $500) and penalizing those that overreach their amount of calculated energy use. In addition, the bill stated that the government will pay up to 50% of the costs of converting to more energy efficient means such as solar power.

This bill was greeted with a plethora of criticism. Youth MP Katherine Steel felt that the bill did not go anywhere near far enough and proclaimed “this bill is proof that the government is f!*king with our futures”. Many Youth MPs pointed out the several flaws in this bill. Namely, if it is voluntary with a sign-up fee no one will do it and making it compulsory is out of the question because it will be “perceived as a state intrusion”. It doesn’t offer enough of an incentive and why would you want to sign up for something that would actually add extra cost should you use too much energy. Additionally there is the cost of performing individual energy usage evaluations, which would be astronomical.

LiveEarthThe ironically heated debate over this environmental bill also produced talk about whether New Zealand should revoke its strong Anti-Nuclear policy. Youth MP James Barnett stated that “70% of the world already use nuclear power, I say we follow.” Some Youth MPs thought that this was worth the hypocritical label because nuclear power would more than meet our energy requirements and produces no greenhouse gas emissions, stating that we are “famous for Do as we say and not as we do’ anyway” (for example, it is illegal for us to cut down native trees and yet we import the native trees of other countries).

The more idealistic and positive of the Youth MPs were for the passing of this bill, arguing that while this bill was definitely not perfect, it was still a step in the right direction. Others weren’t so sure it was the government’s job. How many politicians does it take to change a light bulb?” asked Youth MP James Walkinshaw. The answer? None, the people need to do it themselves.

An Inconvenient Truth


Eco-prisoners: From the US to the Pacific

Friday, May 18th, 2007

By Cameron Walker
WaterworldMany of the world’s environmental problems have been caused by multinational corporations and states in their constant drive for profit and control of humanity. Across the globe there have been many brave acts of resistance against those exploiting both humanity and the environment. Unfortunately as global awareness of environmental issues increases so does repression of those brave enough to stand up.
Jeff free’ Luers, currently serving a 22 year 8 month sentence in Oregon, USA, is one of these eco-prisoners. On June 26th 2000 he decided to take part in “an act of resistance designated to raise awareness and draw attention to a problem that affects every human being, every animal, every plant, and every form of life on this planet. I am speaking of global warming air, soil and water pollution” 1

SUVs SUVs SUVsLuers torched three SUVs at a Chevrolet dealership. The damage to the SUVs was so slight that they were later repaired and sold. Luers’ harsh sentence was entirely political. His support website has a large list comparing his sentence with those handed down to people convicted of shocking crimes, such as murder and rape. One man, who had previously served time for murder, was convicted, of raping several young girls and sentenced to 13 years prison by Karen Tracey, the same prosecutor in Luers’ case. On the 14th of February 2007 the Oregon Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that Jeff Luers will be remanded back to court for resentencing. Hopefully his sentence will be shortened. To keep informed about this see Jeff Luers’ website below.
Since the election of the Bush Administration there has been growing repression of radical ecological and animal rights activists. In 2002 the FBI declared the Earth Liberation Front’ (ELF) and the Animal Liberation Front’ (ALF) the nation’s biggest domestic terror threats, despite the fact that they’ve never hurt people. Many activists have been arrested and imprisoned for frivolous reasons, in what is being described as the green scare’.
Grasberg MineAcross the majority world large numbers of people have been imprisoned for daring to stand up to multinationals destroying the environment. In West Papua, which has been the scene of violent Indonesian Military operations since 1962, there has been large scale repression against students protesting the operations of US mining company Freeport McMoRan. Every day Freeport’s Grasberg copper and gold mine dumps 700,000 tonnes of mining waste into Papua’s rivers. According to the New York Times this has destroyed nearly 90 square miles of wetlands, which were once ‘one of richest freshwater habitats in the World’. This has angered many indigenous West Papuans, so Freeport pays the Indonesian Military to provide security. The Military has murdered many mining opponents.
West PapuaOn March 16th 2006 university students set up blockades in Papua’s capital, Jayapura, demanding the closure of the Freeport mine. The Military and Brimob (paramilitary police) violently attacked the demonstrators, leading to clashes in which three policemen and one soldier died. Brimob entered the university arresting scores of students, who were then beaten, tortured and forced to admit to taking part in the killings. Students’ families were also targeted. One student, who has since fled to Papua New Guinea, told an Australian human rights activist “After the March 16 clashes Intel [Brimob] arrested my mother, then took her from the house to the university. They wanted to kill her in front of the university but she was struggling and shouting hard, and so they took her to POLDA [Police Station] and tortured her, burned her with cigarettes and beat her up for three days at the gaol”.2 Some of the students have since been given lengthy prison terms, even though no evidence to suggest they took part in the killings was produced. Hundreds are still in hiding.
The New Zealand Government have been accused of not doing enough to expose the crisis in West Papua and could be seen as complicit in the destruction of West Papua. The NZ Super Fund invests taxpayer money in Freeport McMoRan. On May 14th 2007 an Indonesian Military officer started a 7 month NZ Defence Force Command Staff course at Trentham Army Camp, near Wellington. During the occupation of East Timor, Indonesian soldiers used to learn counter-insurgency’ skills from the NZ Defence Force. Human rights activists have called for NZ not to repeat the mistakes of the past by cutting all NZ military ties with Indonesia.
As young people we need to ask ourselves do we aspire to join the big corporations and governments destroying our world or will we stand in solidarity with Jeff Luers, the Papuan students and all those bravely resisting the destruction of our planet?
Take Action

Free Jeff Luers

Write a letter of support to Jeff in prison:
Jeffrey Luers, #13797671
Oregon State Penitentiary (OSP)
2605 State Street
Salem, OR 97310

Join his support campaign’s email list to receive updates about the case, writings from Jeff and ideas to support. Sometimes the campaign does a shout out for supporters to do little things, like buy Jeff a book. If you have spare money you can always donate to his legal fees fund.
Freeport and West Papua

Get in contact with one of the group’s protesting against the NZ Super Fund’s unethical investments.

The Indonesia Human Rights Committee in Auckland has been campaigning for the NZ Super Fund to dump all its Freeport shares. Check out the IHRC Press Release.

Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) at the University of Auckland held a demonstration in March against the Super Fund’s investments in arms companies and Freeport. See the report.

Get in contact with Students For Justice in Palestine

Write a letter to the NZ Super Fund calling for it to dump Freeport McMoRan:
NZ Super Fund
P O Box 106607
Auckland 1143
New Zealand

Join the campaign to cut all NZ military ties with Indonesia.

Contact Indonesia Human Rights Committee in Auckland. Peace Action Wellington have also called for NZ Military ties with Indonesia to be cut.
Learn More
Report - Protest and punishment: political prisoners in Papua, Human Rights Watch, February 2007
Protest Punishment

Image of Grasburg Mine from Canada’s West Papua Action Network

What’s up with coke? Part two

Friday, March 2nd, 2007

Environmental Destruction in India

Water BottleCoca Cola has bottling plants the world over, allowing the company to take advantage of very low labour and production costs in certain countries, as well as decreasing the bill for the shipping of its products to its customers. One might think this makes the company more environmentally friendly, through reducing emissions caused by the transportation of goods around the world. However there are some who would tell you differently, very differently. These are the people who live on the doorsteps of the Coca Cola bottling plants all over India.

It is an often bemoaned fact that it is in fact cheaper to buy a bottle of sugar filled Coca Cola in New Zealand than it is to buy a bottle of water. Luckily, however, we have the option of turning on the tap and filling our glasses with potable water for very little money. In many Asian and African countries the severe shortage of available, clean, safe drinking water is a huge problem for inhabitants. India is one such country. The Indian village of Plachimada obtain all their drinking water from wells which tap into groundwater around the village. The locals began to notice that they were not the only ones tapping into the groundwater in the area. Coca Cola were also using the ground water, in much vaster quantities than the inhabitants of the area, in the production of their soft drinks.

Fetching WaterVillagers all over India have found themselves in a similar situation, with Coca Cola bottling plants helping themselves to precious life-giving ground water and causing their wells to drop by, in some cases, up to fifty feet (about 15 metres). Lax environmental regulations in the country did nothing to prevent this from occurring. Villagers have been forced to travel large distances in search of adequate drinking water, while the water once readily available to them is now only available in the form of a caffeinated, sugary carbonated drink, bought in planet-polluting plastic bottles.

To add salt to the wound, it has been found that aside from removing drinkable water from these communities, Coca Cola has also been pumping waste water indiscriminately back into the communities, litres and litres of contaminated water flow into the fields and rivers of India, polluting not only the soils, but the small amount of groundwater that remains for the villagers. Areas where this water has been discharged have been signposted by the authorities as water unfit for human consumption, while farmers were sold the solid waste of the Coca Cola factories to use as fertiliser. Tests of the waste found two dangerous substances (cadmium and lead) in the “fertiliser” which mean that in effect it is toxic waste.

The communities of India have thus been hit threefold by the damage Coca Cola has inflicted to their environment through the bottling plants dotted throughout its provinces. The country relies heavily on its agriculture and the devastating mixture of water shortages and polluted soils is having huge repercussions for many of the nation’s poor. However the Indian people are not only being hurt indirectly by the company through the destruction of their farming land, tests of bottled Coca Cola in India have found that the drink contains inordinately high levels of harmful pesticides such as DDT. We all know that Coca Cola isn’t good for us, but the little bit of sugar and caffeine found in the Coca Cola which we drink in New Zealand pales in comparison to the toxic cocktail of chemicals drunk in India. The long-term effects of these chemicals on the human body is as yet unknown, but the cumulative effect of the poisoning of the land along with the poisoning of the body leaves a very undesirable outlook for many of the people of India. And in a country of over one billion souls, that is a lot of unhappy futures.

Coke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottlesCoke bottles

What can you do?
Still wanting to enjoy the Coke side of life? If not there are several groups of protestors who have set up websites which you can check out:

And of course there is the option of making the decision not to drink Coca Cola on moral grounds. If everyone does it the company will have to sit up and listen, or face a fate even worse than that they have inflicted on their workers in India and around the world.


Sweet as sin

Wednesday, February 28th, 2007

By Nicole Mathewson

PebblesMmmm. A sugar rush. You can’t beat it eh? But how much sugar do we consume? A lot more than just what we add to our tea or cereal. What about all those fizzy drinks, lollies and cakes? And it doesn’t end there - sugar is a staple ingredient in most processed foods including savoury ready-made meals. Globally, sugar consumption increases by about 2% per year, and is currently around 150 million tons!

A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down?
With so much sugar, you’d be forgiven for not being able to imagine a life without it. But did you know humans evolved without ever using it? The only kinds of sugar we need to remain healthy are lactose (found in milk) and fructose (fruits, vegetables and anything naturally nutritious). The kind of sugar we’ve come to know and love, though, is sucrose (aka sugar, refined from sugar cane or beet).

Sucrose was gradually introduced to our taste buds over time. It began innocently enough in the 1700s with a teaspoon or two in tea, but by the end of the century consumption had more than trebled. It has continued to increase worldwide ever since.

We have become so used to sugar that many people forget sucrose is just “empty calories” — it has no nutritional value. Medical problems associated with over-consumption of sucrose include obesity, increased chronic fatigue, anxiety, irritability and possibly serious mental conditions. [1] Scary huh? And this isn’t just happening in rich countries — it is also occurring in the developing world, and faster than ever.

“The consumption of sugar still goes up despite all the fanatical attacks from health cranks,” smugly says Sir Saxon Tate, boss of British sugar giant, Tate and Lyle.

A less than sweet industry
Sugar Cane HarvestingAs well as being terrible for our bodies, and almost addictive, sugar also widens the gap between the world’s rich and poor.

From the beginning, the sugar industry has not been nearly as sweet as the product. Sugar production was a big part of the slave trade, funded the expansion of European empires and put much of the original capital into capitalism.

Inequality is still rife today. For example, British Sugar’s majority shareholders, the Weston Family, receive NZ$76,700 a day from their shares, while Bekele, a typical sugar cane cutter in Ethiopia, earns less than NZ$3 a day. [2]

The power of the sugar giants
In the 1970s some companies in the sugar industry, and some which heavily used sugar in their products (e.g. soft drinks manufacturers) banded together and established various foundations’ and institutes’ which used their influence to undermine or silence any reports linking sugar with health problems. [3]

“The sugar industry has learned from the tricks of the tobacco industry,” says Professor Philip James, chairman of a national dietary guidelines committee in the UK. “Confuse the public. Produce experts who disagree. Try to dilute the message.” In the same way that oil companies deny climate change sugar companies try to persuade us that their product is not damaging.

And in New Zealand we can see the influence of these companies. Plans to remove full-sugar drinks from secondary schools have been criticised because the agreement between the Government and two of the biggest beverage companies won’t come into effect till 2009 and still allows diet drinks which can contain caffeine and artificial sweeteners which are hardly healthy. Green MP Sue Kedgley sees it as a public relations move. Children will still be exposed to “nutritionless, enamel-destroying soft drinks with addictive and controversial additives in them”, she said. [4]

Environmental concerns

Sugar plantations are harmful to the environment, being to blame for the loss of huge areas of fertile land (which could be used for growing food for local people, rather crops for export) and reducing water levels. After sixty years of sugar production in Pakistan there has been a 90 percent reduction of freshwater available. Pesticide spraying is also a problem, with twenty five million cases of serious chemical poisoning each year.[5]

It’s not all bad though. You’ve heard of Fair Trade chocolate and coffee, but you might not know you can get fairly-traded sugar too from Paraguay, available from Trade Aid stores. And it’s organic too, so no nasty pesticides were used. The most obvious way to escape from being caught in the sugar trap is to simply eat more fresh fruit and vegetables! You’ll gradually regain control over your appetite and eventually realise you don’t really need sugar at all — but if you must, try to make it fairly traded. Sweet!

Brown SugarBrown Sugar

Did you know?
A can (330ml) of regular soft drink contains up to 10 teaspoons of sugar.

  • We are the 11th biggest soft-drink consumers in the world.
  • Worldwide, about a billion people are chronically overweight and, on the flip side, a billion are chronically hungry.
  • Ethanol is a sugar-based fuel produced by fermenting cane juice. It is clean burning and can be used to fuel vehicles on its own, or mixed with petrol or diesel. Brazil has saved hundreds of millions of dollars by using ethanol rather than importing fuel, and other countries could do the same.
  • Mauritius in the Indian Ocean generates nearly half its electricity from bagasse (the crushed stalks of the sugar cane plant, after cane juice has been extracted for sugar production), and other countries, including Pacific islands such as Fiji could potentially do the same.

Learn more:
Read the New Internationalist magazine on The Sugar Trap

Take Action:

  • Join Oxfam’s Make Trade Fair campaign
  • Be aware of what you’re eating and where it came from.
  • Encourage others to take notice too.
  • Write to your local supermarket to ask them to stock Fair Trade sugar.




A version of this article was originally published in JET magazine.

Vegetarianism…make the move!

Monday, September 25th, 2006

Kayt Bronnimann

supermarket shelf of meatWhen you think of issues of global justice, vegetarianism is not one that immediately comes to mind. Many would think that choosing to become a vegetarian is less important than other issues that we should be campaigning for.

It may seem that vegetarianism is an individual choice has little effect in the wider scheme of things. However, the benefits of a vegetarian diet are widespread and effect more than just animals.

Vegetarianism’s links to global issues/why be a vegetarian:

  • compassion to animals/ animal rights
  • refusing to buy into another system of exploitation
  • a diet based on meat is no longer required
  • health benefits
  • compassion to our fellow human beings are great
  • environmental
  • hunger problems

Meat and the Environment/Pollution…
burger close upSince the industrial age the world has seen a rapid destruction of the environment around us, including increased pollution and global warming Much of the Amazon rainforest has been destroyed in order to make way for cattle ranches where cows are fattened up and slaughtered to become tomorrow night’s dinner. McDonalds in particular, along with all its other injustices, is guilty of this crime. (See the McSpotlight website for more info)

Unlike the indigenous Indians of the Amazon who use traditional deforestation techniques, including slash and burn, that allow the forest to renew itself after a time, the techniques that McDonalds some cattle ranchers employ ensures that nothing will be growing in that spot once they’re done. Eventually they exhaust the land and have to move on destroying more and more rainforest in their wake. The Amazon is responsible for a large part of the world’s oxygen yet we carnivores seem hell-bent on getting our products no matter what the cost may be.

It’s not only the big multi-nationals that are guilty of contributing to environmental pollution. Farmers are part of the problem too. For years, in New Zealand farming practices were unregulated, allowing the effluent from their activities to be dumped anywhere, most often in our waterways. Although there are much stricter laws concerning this now, with farmers being expected to build settling ponds, the damage has already been done. New Zealand used to be a place where people could swim and drink from most rivers or lakes around the country without fear of contamination, but this is fast becoming a thing of the past.

Many of the world’s plant and animal species are now extinct; hunted to death in a senseless display of man’s bloodlust. And it’s still happening at an ever-increasing rate.

World Hunger
World hunger is something that can be helped in part by adopting a vegetarian diet. A large number of the world crops are grown to be fed to animals that end up on the dinner plate of many a rich Westerner. A huge percentage of agricultural land is used to grow feed for animals. And the developing world also provides much of our animal feed. It doesn’t take a genius to realise that this is an illogical system. With the crisis of world hunger growing worse every year, it is not justifiable to continue taking away valuable land and food from developing countries so that we can enjoy a nice Sunday roast.

sausage bbqIn terms of energy and protein it is much more efficient to grow food directly for human consumption. And with obesity becoming a problem in Western countries it is obvious we are consuming far more than our energy needs require. Our meat consumption is directly affecting the lives of billions of people.

Meat and Oppression
In her book The Sexual Politics of Meat’ Carol J. Adams links meat consumption to an oppressive, patriarchal, war mongering society. If we can so easily kill animals for our own gratification and not link the slab of meat (or more aptly put, corpse) in front of us to a dead animal, how can we be expected to spare a thought for the millions who have been killed in senseless wars over the years?

Pacifism and vegetarianism have often gone hand in hand - with the belief that it is hypocritical to condemn war, and killing around the world, while buying in to the culture of meat eating. If one can justify killing animals, it is only a small step to justify taking human life. Killing, whether of a human or a cow, should never be justified. What right do we have to take another creature’s (human or otherwise) life so that we can continue with our existence?
cow in a field
Challenge the status quo

This constant need for expansion, growth, consumption of more, More, MORE!! that capitalism advocates is destroying our environment, extinguishing species, and keeping the poor in poverty so we can enjoy our comfortable lifestyle.

Obviously vegetarianism isn’t going to solve all the world’s problems, but it’s a step in the right direction. We need to combat the apathy that we all seem to have, realise our privileged position, and think how our actions may be affecting the rest of the world. And extending this consideration to animals can’t hurt. Ignorance is not bliss, it’s time we opened our eyes and start giving a damn about the world we inhabit.


The Vegetarian Society
The Vegan Society
The New Zealand Vegetarian Society


  • Become a vegetarian!
  • Join an animal rights group

Save happy valley

Monday, March 27th, 2006

Hannah Newport

view of happy valley
Ok, so we all like a nice toasty fire in the winter - “put your feet up dear, there’s a good lass”. But that’s no reason to go around killing native animals, now… is it?

Almost a decade ago now, somebody thought so. Travel, if you will, your mind to the West Coast of the South Island. Picture a remote red tussock wetland, pristine and ecologically unique. Imagine this place: an almost predator-free home to thirteen threatened species. This lovely image of nature you hold is a reality; it is Happy Valley.

However, mining company, “Solid Energy”, are not tempted by the view. Nor by the excitement of kiwi-spotting opportunities. Beneath the surface is what draws their gaze. Since 1998 Solid Energy has had their eye upon the coal that lies underneath Happy Valley, and have been taking steps to plunder this resource. As those of you who know about mining ambitions will know, the resource consent process is a long and tiresome one. Yet Solid Energy, to their credit, dear souls, has persevered.

Fear not, people said to each other; most felt confident that the sheer stupidity of the corporation’s plans would result in rejection. It soon became clear, however, that the five million tons of coal — over $950 million in value — lying beneath Happy Valley was pretty persuasive.

Happy Valley is a state owned area, but Solid Energy’s promise of funding for future conservation projects has put a stop to any objection that the Department of Conservation may or may not have made. A long and lengthy court case did not result in a good outlook for the delicate ecosystem that is Happy Valley.

Solid Energy has cleared all the legal barriers and is going full steam ahead with its plans.

But how can this be? I hear you ask. The Valley is home to thirteen endangered species. Thirteen!

Included in the long list of native species living in the Valley is the endangered carnivorous land snail Powilliphanta patrickensis, a beautiful and ancient creature. It is said to date back to Gondwanaland, making it older than the very coal it now lives above.

The Great Spotted Kiwi, one of the rarest varieties of our shy friend, faces a similar risk. Forest & Bird warn that kiwi may be extinct on the mainland in 15 years, while Solid Energy continues to threaten its sanctuary in Happy Valley. The sad fact is that the delicate wildlife balance held in Happy Valley cannot be “restored” after mining, as Solid Energy intends.

To many across Aotearoa, it is absurd that such an important wildlife area could be forsaken. And, most infuriatingly, all for yet more climate-destroying fuel! Fuel which is not, in fact, intended for keeping us toasty in the winter. Rather, the coal under Happy Valley is destined for steel production in China and will ultimately pump into the atmosphere 12 million tons of carbon dioxide.
campaign banner
Something must be done, you may well cry! It is this very anger and outrage at Solid Energy’s plans that has led to an uprising of environmentally-minded folk across our country. The ingeniously named Save Happy Valley Coalition was established in April 2004; a combination of members of every major environmental organisation in New Zealand, including Forest & Bird, Greenpeace and even the Department of Conservation, as well as other individuals who care.

And care they do! The campaign effort has been present in almost every part of Aotearoa, including posters, postcards and demos. More recently, direct action has been taking place in Happy Valley itself, with an occupation planned to last indefinitely.
The theory behind this is that if Solid Energy really wants the coal, they’re going to have to face some very strong-minded people before they can get to it.

So despair not! And if you think it’s important to speak out against Solid Energy, join the voice that is doing just that.

More information can be found at

Nature’s Pain

Friday, April 9th, 2004

By Callum Gay, Kate Thompson, Bella Shewan, Blaise Ramage, Courtney Richards and Paul Zoubkov

Reading the environmental facts is like being subjected to one of those infomercials that just won’t shut up. Every time you think it’s over, it starts up again with more bad news.

Did you know?

  • An area of rainforest roughly the size of a rugby field is hacked down every second.
  • Your average domesticated cat eats more protein per day than a person in Africa.
  • Ninety percent of all large fish have disappeared from the oceans in the last fifty years.
  • And — YES! — the ozone hole is larger than Russia and China combined.
  • According to international pollution standards, one fifth of the world’s population breathes air that is unsafe
  • An estimated 500,000 plant and animal species will become extinct in the coming decades
  • Every year an area of land the size of New Zealand turns into a desert due to deforestation and poor agricultural practices
  • The world’s population grows by 90 million people per year — or 240,000 each day
    Six and a half million tonnes of litter are dumped into the sea every year
  • Nearly half the world’s rivers are going dry or are badly polluted. Eighty percent of major rivers in China are so degraded that they no longer support life
  • Some 60-70 million people die of hunger each year.
  • Around 80 percent of what we produce in NZ is thrown away after one use

Don’t Give Up

The state of the environment can be pretty hard to get your head around. BUT the world isn’t completely stuffed yet. It sustains us: it gives us life. We have an obligation to future generations to do the best we can. And theres heaps we can do.

You CAN make a difference!

USE WISELY: Conserve energy, avoid using disposables, recycle materials, and try to walk and cycle instead of using the car.

SHOP WISELY: Support companies that are enviro-friendly, buy goods with the least amount of packaging and always ask yourself, Do I really need it? What makes me want to buy it?’ Make your own stuff!

RAISE AWARENESS: Talk to your mates or whanau about environmental issues. Organise an awareness-raising event or campaign — maybe a concert, public talk or demonstration.

GET POLITICAL: Pressure city council, government and your local members of parliament to make positive change. If you’re 18 you can stand in elections!

JOIN OTHERS: Volunteer with organisations like Greenpeace, or join a global network of concerned and active young people

GO FOR IT! Learn more about the issues, and realise that you can do plenty. Every little bit helps!

This article was written as part of the Global Focus a collaborative project of Tearaway Magazine and the Global Education Centre. It was first published in Tearaway magazine and is reprinted here with their permission

Illustrator: Gavin Mouldey