Carlsbad Caverns saved from fracking!

Today, Guardians applauded the Bureau of Land Management’s decision to spare 24,000 more acres of public lands from fracking, including parcels near Carlsbad Caverns National Park. In its environmental analysis, the BLM pointed to these places’ fragile geology, drinking water supplies, and proximity to iconic places as reasons for deferring selling them to frackers.

Yet the good news is fleeting: 50,000 acres of public lands are still up for sale in September, and the Bureau of Land Management continues to ignore additional environmental impacts that would stem from this sale—including how hundreds more fracking wells would likely decimate air quality.

We continue to hold the BLM accountable, submitting extensive comments criticizing its reliance on an old resource management plan and its disregard of potential air quality violations caused by fracking.

Read the press release.

The post Carlsbad Caverns saved from fracking! appeared first on WildEarth Guardians.

Proposed Revisions to Edangered Species Act Put Wildlife at Riskn

In response to proposed revisions to regulations listed on the Endangered Species Act announced today by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, World Wildlife Fund issued the following statement from Ginette Hemley, senior vice president, wildlife conservation:

“Any effort to weaken the Endangered Species Act is of grave concern. Its effectiveness is proven – 99 percent of species listed on it have avoided extinction. The steps proposed today by the Administration, including removing the Blanket Section 4(d) Rule, would weaken important protections for threatened and endangered species and put our planet’s imperiled wildlife further at risk. By keeping these precautionary measures under the ESA intact, we can ensure the survival of America’s remarkable wildlife while also doing our part to stem the sweeping loss of biodiversity we are seeing globally.”

Shortcomings in Caviar Labeling System Pose a Risk to Sturgeons

Geneva, Switzerland – Twenty years after trade in sturgeons was regulated, illegal trade in sturgeon caviar continues and threatens the survival of this endangered group of species across the world, according to a new TRAFFIC and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) study.

Published today to coincide with the meeting of the Animals Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), the rapid assessment – “Understanding the Global Caviar Market” – of market surveys and trade analysis found that the CITES caviar labeling system is lacking in key range and consumer countries, making it easier for illegally sourced wild caviar to be traded both domestically and internationally.

“Sturgeon populations have severely declined in the past decades: poaching and illegal trade in wild caviar is still a threat to sturgeons,” said Jutta Jahrl, caviar trade expert at WWF.

“Our study shows that inconsistency in labeling design, placement and quality is a serious issue, making it difficult for enforcement authorities, producers or consumers to detect invalid CITES labels,” said Hiromi Shiraishi, one of the study authors at TRAFFIC.

All 27 sturgeon species are listed in IUCN’s Red List, and 16 are critically endangered. One of the main reasons for the alarming pace at which sturgeon populations have been declining in the wild is unsustainable fishing driven by high prices of caviar and the demand for wild sourced caviar.  The rapid assessments of online and physical markets in six key range or consumer countries (China, France, Germany, Japan, the Russian Federation and the United States) were conducted between December 2017 and February 2018. The goal of the study was to shed some light on the global market of caviar after two decades of CITES regulation of the caviar trade.

The countries examined in the study are Parties to CITES and should implement a universal labeling system for any caviar sold internationally and domestically. However, the study found that only two (Germany and France) have implemented it in their domestic trade. The lack of implementation in key domestic markets, such as the US, China and Russia, undermines the original purpose of the labeling system to ensure legal and traceable trade. And even where labels were found on caviar containers, they did not always fulfill the CITES labeling requirements. In France, there were instances where the containers appeared to have no seals or packaging to show visual evidence of opening and the lot identification number was missing in one case.

Caviar claimed as of wild origin was offered for sale in all six countries, both online and – apart from China, where no caviar was found at all – in physical markets. Consumers still ask for wild caviar, as it is regarded as superior to farmed.

“The fact that in Russia, Germany and France caviar sold as wild was offered ‘under the counter’ or on the black market, not openly, suggests dubious business,” says Jahrl. “In the previous surveys, we already found both aquaculture caviar falsely sold as wild, deceiving the consumer, but also wild caviar ‘laundered’ as farmed to legalize it. This still poses a threat to wild sturgeon populations as poaching occurs across the globe.”

Despite the introduction of CITES regulations and the rapid growth of aquaculture production, illegal fishing of sturgeon and illegal trade in wild caviar still pose a serious threat to remaining sturgeon and paddlefish. The Caspian Sea sturgeon population has continued to decrease dramatically despite the CITES listing, and anecdotal evidence of poaching was found in Russia. As European species have declined, the US has seen more poaching pressure on American species.

“If we don’t stamp out poaching and illegal trade, sturgeons will disappear,” says Beate Striebel, WWF’s sturgeon strategy coordinator. “Parties to CITES urgently need to implement the rules and crack down on selling wild caviar illegally.”

There is an obvious need for sampling, DNA and isotope analysis to determine the hot spots for poaching and trade. CITES enforcement must be improved to resolve the traceability and fraud issues. Existing regulations should be implemented at the  domestic level to increase traceability of all caviar on the market, and existing caviar labeling regulations should be strengthened to facilitate controls and avoid fraud.

Leopards, Pythons and Zebras Turned Into Potions, Boots and Lamps. This Warehouse Holds the Grisly Goods of an Illegal Trade

Tall shelves run the length of the 16,000-square-foot facility laden with animals reduced to potions, powders, boots, belts and trophies.

A snow leopard head peers from inside a plastic bag. A baby rhino foot has been turned into a pencil holder. A python is now a pair of thigh-high boots.

Most disturbing perhaps is a mounted tiger fetus, its tiny ears barely rising above its head. Long dead, it still has a look of despair.

“Even if you don’t find it attractive, somebody does,” said Sarah Metzer, education specialist here at the National Wildlife Property Repository, home to over 1.3 million items seized at ports throughout the nation. “There are many different value systems. But the use doesn’t matter, it’s the impact on the species.”

The repository resides inside the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge northeast of Denver. It’s run by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service which receives regular shipments from its agents and inspectors throughout the country. One day it could be a giraffe head, the next a zebra leg lamp. Live animals that are seized are handled elsewhere. The warehouse also holds endangered plant species, including varieties of rosewood.

A view of the exterior of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Property Repository.
A view of the exterior of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Property Repository. (Matthew Staver / For The Times)

The wildlife repository, which has been here since 1995, is the only one of its kind. It is used primarily for education, offering a tactile immersion into the dark world of poaching and illegal trafficking. A delegation of African conservation officers visited last year for training in tracking and cataloging products of the illicit trade. Some of the contraband is sent to zoos, science centers and universities.

“My goal is to have people see the sheer volume of what we have here,” Metzer said. “We are not talking about one shark or one turtle. We have 1.3 million items, and that’s just here, and it’s a small fraction of what is seized each year.”

Each port decides what to send to the repository and what to dispose of. Some keep the contraband for their own educational use.

Metzer sees her role as “speaking for animals that don’t have a voice” and hopes the experience of seeing wildlife turned into trinkets might cause people to rethink what they buy.

“We want these animals to have a new life,” she said. “One that connects them to people in a new way.”

But the shipments keep coming. Despite bans on ivory and high-profile public information campaigns, the illegal wildlife trade is booming.

Rachel Kramer, manager of wildlife conservation at the World Wildlife Fund and the wildlife monitoring group TRAFFIC, said such trade is now worth about $20 billion annually. That doesn’t include the up to $23.5 billion a year generated by illegal and unreported fishing and the estimated $100 billion from the illicit timber trade.

A variety of threatened and endangered species inside the National Wildlife Property Repository.
A variety of threatened and endangered species inside the National Wildlife Property Repository. (Matthew Staver / Los Angeles Times)

Globalization and growing economies, she said, are driving the increase, along with better transportation links between the wilderness and consumer markets.

“These are huge numbers,” Kramer said. “You don’t see these kinds of illicit flows unless there is organized crime and corruption involved.”

TRAFFIC has reported that “entrenched criminal syndicates of Chinese origin” are active in South Africa manufacturing bracelets, beads, powders and other illegal items from rhino horns and then smuggled out of the country.

Yet while China is a top consumer of rhino horns and other products made from endangered species, the U.S. is also a major market for illegal wildlife.

“The U.S. market is consumer-based, it’s a transit point and a source for certain species, like freshwater turtles,” Kramer said. “A U.S. national was convicted for trafficking in North American box and spotted turtles to Asia. Bear parts are also a problem.”

A shelf of turtles inside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Property Repository in Commerce City, Colo.
A shelf of turtles inside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Property Repository in Commerce City, Colo. (Matthew Staver / For The Times)

The country is a source nation for black bears, which are poached for their paws and gall bladders.

Metzer walked past a table covered with bear heads to a beautifully crafted Chinese box. Inside were small vials of crystallized bear bile, used in traditional medicine.

There were also packets of powdered seahorses and remedies containing toad venom and leopard bone to “promote blood circulation.” Another box held rhino horn pills that the makers claimed would combat night sweats and laryngitis. (There is little scientific evidence to support the healing properties of any of the products.)

“We are not here to tell people that traditional medicine is wrong; we are here to tell them that the populations of animals are different today,” Metzer said. “There simply aren’t as many as there once were.”

An imposing white rhino head and a footstool made of an elephant foot stood near the back of the warehouse. There were rows of cobra skin boots, swords made from swordfish, cockfighting spurs created from sea turtle shells and bags of pangolin scales.

Pangolins, which slightly resemble small anteaters, are the most trafficked mammals on earth. Despite international bans on their trade, they are widely poached in Asia and Africa for their scales and meat.

“The scales are believed to have medicinal properties,” Metzer said.

The shelves were organized by their contents. One held boxes of elephant parts — tanned elephant skins, elephant tails, elephant hair bracelets and elephant skin shoes.

An aisle full of various cats inside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Property Repository.
An aisle full of various cats inside the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service National Wildlife Property Repository. (Matthew Staver / For The Times)

The overall impact of seeing thousands upon thousands of threatened and endangered species transformed into bits and pieces of commerce is numbing. And the way the animals are portrayed in death — the shoddy taxidermy, for instance — makes it even more grotesque.

A row of tiger heads had their mouths twisted in faux snarls. Margays, a small wild cat native to Central and South America, grimaced through broken teeth. Some had crossed eyes.

Metzer offers tours of the facility to the public. She said people are often conflicted when they come in. Some may find a ball-python-trimmed purse fetching while being repulsed by a lion pelt, or vice versa.

“It’s odd what people are attracted to,” she said. “You have pieces of art that are exquisite but the medium is wrong.”

Some of that art is made from the endangered hawksbill sea turtle. They are tagged and bagged in plastic here to protect them from insects. Jewelry boxes made of their luminous shells sit alongside them.

Yet amid this grisly tableau, Metzer finds reason for optimism.

“This warehouse oddly represents hope,” she said. “As macabre as it it seems, without it we would not have the tactile opportunities to see the wildlife trade up close and maybe change attitudes.”

Kelly is a special correspondent.

WWF Urges Action on Unsustainable Fishing as UN Report Shows Dangerous Declines in Global Fisheries

Rome, 9 July 2018 – The release today of the latest global assessment of fishing by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is cause for great concern. The report shows that the percentage of fisheries classified as overfished continues to increase and is now a third of all assessed fisheries worldwide. Only a decade ago, this percentage was a quarter, and in 1974, the baseline for the report,10 percent of assessed stocks were overfished.

Michele Kuruc, Head of WWF’s delegation to the ongoing FAO Fisheries Committee meeting, said: “This steady creep upwards in overfishing must be seen as a clear warning that despite many efforts to curb this serious problem, clearly, we are not yet winning the battle.

As growing coastal populations lead to an increased demand for fish for food and livelihoods, particularly in less developed countries, the depletion of fish stocks will hit those most vulnerable, especially small-scale fishers whose daily nutrition and livelihoods are already on the line. With overfishing and its ecosystem impacts increasingly becoming a humanitarian issue, global leaders must act urgently to rein in unsustainable fishing to achieve the agreed sustainable development goals.

According to WWF, solutions to unsustainable and destructive fishing must include governments urgently setting aside short-term economic interests and responding instead to scientific advice on managing shared fish stocks and ecosystems with a long-term, responsible outlook; partnering with small-scale fishing communities to support sustainable fishing; ending harmful subsidies; and making further progress on tackling illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU). In addition, WWF is calling for robust action to protect important habitats like fish spawning areas, coral reefs, mangroves and seagrasses which are vital for global ocean and fisheries health.

“It is important to note that this report does not assess the broader ecosystem impacts of fishing on threatened and non-target species. We know that fishing’s impact on whales and dolphins, turtles, sharks, seabirds, and other species groups continues to be a major threat to ocean ecosystems, as does its footprint on fragile and productive habitats,” added Kuruc.

The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture is a bi-annual report published by the FAO. In 2007, 52 percent of assessed fish stocks were at maximum sustainably/fully-fished levels, while the findings published today show the figure to be close to 60 percent.

Sponsoring climate change

It is that time again. Four years roll by and once more the greatest winter athletes in the world will come together to wow us on death-defying luge runs, courageous ski jumps or surprisingly mesmerising curling slides matches.

Unfortunately, all is not well in this winter wonderland.

In preparations for these games, many Olympians have been faced by changing slopes – forced to search the world for places with the right conditions for them to train.

Meanwhile, a recent study by Dr. Daniel Scott from the University of Waterloo, Ontario, found that nine previous and future Winter Olympic cities may soon be too hot to host the games due to rising temperatures.

The impacts of climate change, that once seemed so far away, are here. And they are only going to get worse if we continue down the path we are on.

It does make you wonder then, why one of the biggest sponsors of the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, Samsung, is still stuck on dirty energy.

Greenpeace UK activists give Samsung’s flagship store in London a rebranding makeover 

Since the 2010 Games, Samsung’s emissions, released from their vast, global supply chain, have risen by a whopping 55%. 

Even more shockingly, right now Samsung uses a measly 1% renewable energy. Hardly a gold medal score, this is a laughably underwhelming achievement for a company that spouts out taglines such as “Do What You Can’t” and “Do Bigger Things” without a hint of hypocrisy.

This is in stark contrast to the rest of the world.

Even the Pyeongchang Olympic committee have been proactively communicating their own commitment to be powered by renewables. Six of the venues will run on renewable energy and they have set a target for zero emissions from the games.

While the snow melts and people around the world realise we have no time to lose, Samsung’s CEOs continue to turn a deaf ear. This is not about Greenpeace, it is not about saving face or greenwashing. On the eve of the 2018 Winter Olympics, the world is facing an existential crisis. Never before have we needed action on a truly global scale from all corners to reduce emissions and transition to renewable energy as fast as possible.

However, this is also an opportunity that will set aside the dinosaurs from the innovators. A moment that history will judge us for our actions (or lack of).

Samsung’s CEOs are faced with an opportunity to change course and courageously go beyond business as usual to drastically reduce our emissions and half catastrophic climate change. Do what you can’t?

Robin Perkins is Global Rethink IT Campaigner at Greenpeace East Asia

A tribute to Jon Castle

James (Jon) Castle – 7 December 1950 to 12 January 2018

Over four decades Captain Jon Castle navigated Greenpeace ships by the twin stars of ‘right and wrong’, defending the environment and promoting peace. Greenpeace chronicler, Rex Weyler, recounts a few of the stories that made up an extraordinary life.

Captain Jon Castle onboard the MV SIRIUSCaptain Jon Castle onboard the MV Sirius, 1 May 1996

James (Jon) Castle first opened his eyes virtually at sea. He was born 7 December 1950 in Cobo Bay on the Channel Island of Guernsey, UK. He grew up in a house known locally as Casa del Mare, the closest house on the island to the sea, the second son of Robert Breedlove Castle and Mary Constance Castle. 

Young Jon Castle loved the sea and boats. He worked on De Ile de Serk, a cargo boat that supplied nearby Sark island, and he studied at the University of Southampton to become an officer in the Merchant Navy. 

Jon became a beloved skipper of Greenpeace ships. He sailed on many campaigns and famously skippered two ships during Greenpeace’s action against Shell’s North Sea oil platform, Brent Spar. During his activist career, Jon spelt his name as “Castel” to avoid unwanted attention on his family.

Right and wrong

Jon had two personal obsessions: he loved books and world knowledge and was extremely well-read.  He also loved sacred sites and spent personal holidays walking to stone circles, standing stones, and holy wells.  

As a young man, Jon became acquainted with the Quaker tradition, drawn by their dedication to peace, civil rights, and direct social action. In 1977, when Greenpeace purchased their first ship – the Aberdeen trawler renamed, the Rainbow Warrior – Jon signed on as first mate, working with skipper Peter Bouquet and activists Susi Newborn, Denise Bell and Pete Wilkinson.

In 1978, Wilkinson and Castle learned of the British government dumping radioactive waste at sea in the deep ocean trench off the coast of Spain in the Sea of Biscay. In July, the Rainbow Warrior followed the British ship, Gem, south from the English coast, carrying a load of toxic, radioactive waste barrels. The now-famous confrontation during which the Gem crew dropped barrels onto a Greenpeace inflatable boat, ultimately changed maritime law and initiated a ban on toxic dumping at sea.

After being arrested by Spanish authorities, Castle and Bouquet staged a dramatic escape from La Coruńa harbour at night, without running lights, and returned the Greenpeace ship to action. Crew member Simone Hollander recalls, as the ship entered Dublin harbour in 1978, Jon cheerfully insisting that the entire crew help clean the ship’s bilges before going ashore, an action that not only built camaraderie among the crew, but showed a mariner’s respect for the ship itself. In 1979, they brought the ship to Amsterdam and participated in the first Greenpeace International meeting.

In 1980 Castle and the Rainbow Warrior crew confronted Norwegian and Spanish whaling ships, were again arrested by Spanish authorities, and brought into custody in the El Ferrol naval base.

The Rainbow Warrior remained in custody for five months, as the Spanish government demanded 10 million pesetas to compensate the whaling company. On the night of November 8, 1980, the Rainbow Warrior, with Castle at the helm, quietly escaped the naval base, through the North Atlantic, and into port in Jersey.

In 1995, Castle skippered the MV Greenpeace during the campaign against French nuclear testing in the Pacific and led a flotilla into New Zealand to replace the original Rainbow Warrior that French agents bombed in Auckland in 1985.

Over the years, Castle became legendary for his maritime skills, courage, compassion, commitment, and for his incorruptible integrity. “Environmentalism: That does not mean a lot to me,” he once said, “I am here because of what is right and wrong. Those words are good enough for me.”

Brent Spar   

Action at Brent Spar Oil Rig in the North SeaAction at Brent Spar Oil Rig in the North Sea, 16 June 1995

One of the most successful Greenpeace campaigns of all time began in the summer of 1995 when Shell Oil announced a plan to dump a floating oil storage tank, containing toxic petroleum residue, into the North Atlantic. Castle signed on as skipper of the Greenpeace vessel Moby Dick, out of Lerwick, Scotland. A month later, on 30 April 1995, Castle and other activists occupied the Brent Spar and called for a boycott of Shell service stations.

When Shell security and British police sprayed the protesters with water cannons, images flooded across world media, demonstrations broke out across Europe, and on May 15, at the G7 summit, German chancellor Helmut Kohl publicly protested to British Prime Minister John Major. In June, 11 nations, at the Oslo and Paris Commission meetings, called for a moratorium on sea disposal of offshore installations.

After three weeks, British police managed to evict Castle and the other occupiers and held them briefly in an Aberdeen jail. When Shell and the British government defied public sentiment and began towing the Spar to the disposal site, consumers boycotted Shell stations across Europe. Once released, Castle took charge of the chartered Greenpeace vessel Altair and continued to pursue the Brent Spar towards the dumping ground. Castle called on the master of another Greenpeace ship, fitted with a helideck, to alter course and rendezvous with him. Using a helicopter, protesters re-occupied the Spar and cut the wires to the detonators of scuppering charges.

One of the occupiers, young recruit Eric Heijselaar, recalls: “One of the first people I met as I climbed on board was a red-haired giant of a man grinning broadly at us. My first thought was that he was a deckhand, or maybe the bosun. So I asked if he knew whether a cabin had been assigned to me yet. He gave me a lovely warm smile, and reassured me that, yes, a cabin had been arranged. At dinner I found out that he was Jon Castle, not a deckhand, not the bosun, but the captain. And what a captain!”

With activists occupying the Spar once again, Castle and the crew kept up their pursuit when suddenly the Spar altered course, heading towards Norway. Shell had given up. The company announced that Brent Spar would be cleaned out and used as a foundation for a new ferry terminal. Three years later, in 1998, the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) passed a ban on dumping oil installations into the North Sea.

“There was no question among the crew who had made this possible, who had caused this to happen,” Heijselaar recalls. “It was Jon Castle. His quiet enthusiasm and the trust he put into people made this crew one of the best I ever saw. He always knew exactly what he wanted out of a campaign, how to gain momentum, and he always found the right words to explain his philosophies. He was that rare combination, both a mechanic and a mystic. And above all he was a very loving, kind human being.”


After the Brent Spar campaign, Castle returned to the South Pacific on the Rainbow Warrior II, to obstruct a proposed French nuclear test in the Moruroa atoll. Expecting the French to occupy their ship, Castle and engineer, Luis Manuel Pinto da Costa, rigged the steering mechanism to be controlled from the crow’s-nest. When French commandos boarded the ship, Castle stationed himself in the crow’s-nest, cut away the access ladder and greased the mast so that the raiders would have difficulty arresting him.

Eventually, the commandos cut a hole into the engine-room and severed cables controlling the engine, radio, and steering mechanism, making Castle’s remote control system worthless. They towed the Rainbow Warrior II to the island of Hao, as three other protest vessels arrived. 

Three thousand demonstrators gathered in the French port of Papeete, demanding that France abandon the tests. Oscar Temaru – leader of Tavini Huiraatira, an anti-nuclear, pro-independence party – who had been aboard the Rainbow Warrior II when it was raided, welcomed anti-testing supporters from Britain, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Sweden, Canada, Germany, Brazil, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the Philippines, and American Samoa. Eventually, France ended their tests, and atmospheric nuclear testing in the world’s oceans stopped once and for all.

“Moral courage”

Through these extraordinary missions, Jon Castle advocated “self-reflection” not only for individual activists, but for the organisation that he loved. Activists, Castle maintained, required “moral courage.” He cautioned, “Don’t seek approval. Someone has to be way out in front… illuminating territory in advance of the main body of thought.”

He opposed “corporatism” in activist organisations and urged Greenpeace to avoid becoming “over-centralised or compartmentalised.”  He felt that activist decisions should emerge from the actions themselves, not in an office. We can’t fight industrialism with “money, numbers, and high-tech alone,” he once wrote in a personal manifesto. Organisations have to avoid traps of “self-perpetuation” and focus on the job “upsetting powerful forces, taking on multinationals and the military-industrial complex.”

He recalled that Greenpeace had become popular “because a gut message came through to the thirsty hearts of poor suffering people … feeling the destruction around them.”  Activists, Castle felt, required “freedom of expression, spontaneity [and] an integrated lifestyle.”  An activist organisation should foster a “feeling of community” and exhibit “moral courage.” Castle felt that social change activists had to “question the materialistic, consumerist lifestyle that drives energy overuse, the increasingly inequitable world economic tyranny that creates poverty and drives environmental degradation,” and must maintain “honour, courage and the creative edge.”

Well loved hero

Susi Newborn, who was there to welcome Jon aboard the Rainbow Warrior way back in 1977, and who gave the ship its name, wrote about her friend with whom she felt “welded at the heart: He was a Buddhist and a vegetarian and had an earring in his ear. He liked poetry and classical music and could be very dark, but also very funny. Once, I cut his hair as he downed a bottle or two of rum reciting The Second Coming by Yeats.”

Newborn recalls Castle insisting that women steer the ships in and out of port because, “they got it right, were naturals.” She recalls a night at sea, Castle “lashed to the wheel facing one of the biggest storms of last century head on. I was flung about my cabin like a rag doll until I passed out. We never talked about the storm, as if too scared to summon up the behemoth we had encountered. A small handwritten note pinned somewhere in the mess, the sole acknowledgment of a skipper to his six-person crew: ‘Thank You.’” Others remember Castle as the Greenpeace captain that could regularly be found in the galley doing kitchen duty.

In 2008, with the small yacht Musichana, Castle and Pete Bouquet staged a two-man invasion of Diego Garcia island to protest the American bomber base there and the UK’s refusal to allow evicted Chagos Islanders to return to their homes. They anchored in the lagoon and radioed the British Indian Ocean Territories officials on the island to tell them they and the US Air Force were acting in breach of international law and United Nations resolutions. When arrested, Castle politely lectured his captors on their immoral and illegal conduct.

In one of his final actions, as he battled with his failing health, Castle helped friends in Scotland operate a soup kitchen, quietly prepping food and washing up behind the scenes.  

Upon hearing of his passing, Greenpeace ships around the world – the Arctic Sunrise, the Esperanza, and the Rainbow Warrior – flew their flags at half mast.

Jon is fondly remembered by his brother David, ex-wife Caroline, their son, Morgan Castle, born in 1982, and their daughter, Eowyn Castle, born in 1984. Morgan has a daughter of eight months Flora, and and Eowyn has a daughter, Rose, who is 2.   

We don’t just need electric cars, we need fewer cars

Ever since the first production car rolled off the assembly line more than 100 years ago, our love affair with automobiles has grown and grown. In countries like the UK, France, Italy and Germany there are now around 5 vehicles for every 10 people. In the USA, Australia and New Zealand, the number is higher still.

But, after a century of the automobile playing a central part in our lives, we’re starting to see a shift toward alternative forms of transport. If this trend continues, the car’s domination of global transport could soon come to a spluttering end.

Cars in Beijing © Greenpeace / Natalie Behring

A gardener tends to shrubs along Beijing’s third-ring road during a weekday rush hour. Beijing is notorious for its smog and is rapidly earning the distinction of having the highest vehicular pollution in the world. © Greenpeace / Natalie Behring

Hidden cost of cars

With the cost of electric vehicles set to plummet over the next decade, many car firms now admit that the future is an electric one. But will this be enough? Shouldn’t we also be asking ourselves if we need so many cars in the first place?

If we could flick a switch and turn every fossil fuelled car into an electric one, lungs across the planet would breathe a sigh of relief as toxic emissions dropped (as long as the electricity used was from clean energy sources).

But this wouldn’t address the problem of just how wasteful a car dominated transport system is.

In 2016, more than 72 million new cars hit the road. Manufacturing such a giant quantity of vehicles year on year uses vast quantities of steel, aluminium, copper, glass, rubber, and other raw materials.

It’s a great environmental cost, considering the majority of these vehicles sit idle 95% of the time.

Parked cars take up a vast amount of space, too. In urban areas in Los Angeles county, an estimated 14% of land – 200 square miles – is dedicated to parking.

Changing attitudes

Though progress is often slow, city planners and politicians are gradually waking up to the fact that when cities offer safe and affordable alternatives to cars, we start to travel differently.

Cyclists on Street in Copenhagen © Chris Grodotzki / Greenpeace

Cyclists cycling on street in Copenhagen. © Chris Grodotzki / Greenpeace

More and more young people are choosing bicycles, buses and trains over owning a car out of the sheer cost. In Berlin, it’s public transport, not cars, which is the coolest way of getting around.

In Copenhagen, a city that has a long held reputation for being bike-friendly, a whopping 62% of people choose to cycle their commute.

In the French city of Lyon, the number of cars entering the city has fallen by 20% compared to just a decade ago. As the city’s network of bike hire stations continues to grow, town planners are hoping for a further 20% decline.

In London, where cycle super-highways are becoming popular, the share of journeys made by car has fallen by a quarter since 1990.

Car free days are rising in popularity in many of the world’s largest cities, giving people a taste of what it’s like to live with less noise, traffic and pollution. Bogota was one of the first cities to introduce a car free day, and it’s now become so popular that it’s been extended to a full week.

Our vision

Though the rise of electric cars should be celebrated, a truly sustainable transport system isn’t just about ditching fossil fuel vehicles.

It’s about building more cycle lanes, and supporting schemes to get people on bikes in the first place. It’s about constructing roads which encourage a more diverse range of travel – cycling, electric scooters and cargo bikes – instead of so heavily favouring cars. It’s about mass transport that runs on clean energy and is affordable and easy for everyone to use. And it’s about all of us – citizens, politicians, and businesses – playing a part in making it happen.

To coincide with the World Economic Forum taking place in Davos this week, Greenpeace has published Freedom to Breathe: Rethinking Urban Transport, a report that lays out our vision for the future of transport.

Richard Casson is a campaigner for Greenpeace UK