Stop Hydroelectric Dams from Destroying Cambodia’s Ecosystems

Target: Hun Sen, Cambodian Prime Minister

Goal: Prevent dams constructed for hydropower from negatively impacting fishing migration patterns and fishers’ and farmers’ livelihoods.

Eleven hydroelectric dam projects along the Mekong River in Cambodia threaten the area’s river ecology and fish populations. These dams could irreparably harm seasonal flood patterns and the livelihoods of the farmers and fishermen who rely on the river. Permanent environmental destruction will occur with the development of the hydroelectric dams.

During monsoon season, the Mekong River floods May through November and backs up into the Tonle Sap River and Tonle Sap Lake. After the rain ends and water recedes, the river flow reverses in the Tonle Sap River and it returns to being a tributary to the Mekong River. Farmers rely on the flood waters bringing nutrients and sediment to their farm fields and fishermen rely on the predictable fish migration patterns. Residents in the area have built their lives and culture around the flooding, constructing floating or stilted homes and using the natural patterns of the river for their income. The dams would significantly alter this hydrology, changing fish migration patterns, altering sediment deposition, and otherwise threatening the food security of the area. Fish and rice are food staples not only in Cambodia but in all of Southeast Asia.

The hydroelectric dams might be a step towards modernizing Cambodia but they will come at a cost. The livelihoods of the residents that the hydropower will purportedly help could be destroyed by this development. That is not to mention the significant environmental destruction. Sign the petition to prevent the destruction of the Mekong River and irreversible damage to the residents who rely on it.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Prime Minister Hun Sen,

The hydroelectric dam projects up and down the Mekong River threaten Cambodia’s ecosystems and residents. It is understood that the hydroelectric dams are meant to modernize Cambodia and provide electricity to the half of the population without, but this comes at a significant cost. The residents here have adapted to the predictable flood patterns during monsoon season, building their lives and culture around it. Farmers and fishermen rely on fish migration patterns and sediment deposition to feed themselves and the region. The majority of the region’s fish, rice, and vegetables come from small farms. Cambodia’s food security would be threatened, not to mention all of Southeast Asia. All of this would be permanently and negatively impacted by changing the hydrology of the Mekong River with more hydroelectric dams.

Please, do not let modernization destroy your ecosystems and residents’ lives. Consideration needs to be made for the damage to the Mekong River hydrology, fishing migration patterns, and the residents who rely on the river to feed their families. Stop the development of these hydroelectric dams and allow your citizens to carry on their way of life unimpeded.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Steven Pavlov

Protect Us from Polluters: Eliminate Corruption in the EPA

Target: Donald Trump, President of the United States

Goal: Remove political appointees with conflicts of interest from the EPA.

Close to 50% of EPA political appointees have ties to industry under the current administration, according to a study by the AP. With high-ranking officials in positions to ignore or bend the rules for former employees, questions regarding conflict of interest are raised. How can the EPA protect the public and enforce environmental regulations with so many employees having questionable loyalties?

The EPA recently named Steven Cook as the new chair of the Superfund Task Force, after the former chair resigned amid scandal. Cook has been at the EPA since February of 2018 as the deputy assistant administrator for the EPA’s Office of Land and Emergency Management, but prior to that spent over two decades as a lawyer for LyondellBasell Industries, one of the country’s largest chemicals, plastics, and refining companies, and a known past and allegedly present-day polluter. Of the approximately 1,300 toxic cleanup sites that the Superfund Task Force is in charge of monitoring, six are the responsibility of Lyondell Chemical Co., a subsidiary of Cook’s former employer. In 2010, Lyondell Chemical Co. settled with the U.S. government for $250 million for the cleanup of these six Superfund sites as well as nine other polluted sites. LyondellBasell is suspected by the EPA of polluting over thirty other sites.

The person previously entrusted to defend a known polluter is now in charge of supposedly expediting cleanup at their pollution sites, and many others. Rather than recuse himself, Cook, along with many other EPA officials previously from these industries, hides behind the flimsy belief that the ethics briefings mandated by the EPA are enough. But these are not sufficient to guarantee impartiality or the public’s safety. Sign the petition to call for the investigation and removal from the EPA of political appointees with ties to companies being regulated.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear President Trump,

The EPA under your administration has become a corrupt, toothless organization. Rather than protecting the environment and enforcing regulation, the EPA under your guidance is being systematically dismantled from within by employees who formerly represented or worked for the companies they are supposed to be regulating. The AP identifies one-third of last year’s 60 hires to the EPA as former lawyers or lobbyists for EPA-regulated companies. Nearly half of political appointees under your administration have some connection with industries regulated by the EPA. Steven Cook, the chair of the Superfund Task Force, spent over twenty years as a lawyer for a company whose sites he is now in charge of remediating.

This kind of flagrant ethical violation will not be tolerated by the American people. Discontinue the appointment of regulators from companies that are regulated, and remove people like Steven Cook, Nancy Beck, and countless others from positions where they can benefit their former employers. We need and deserve a clean environment, free from unregulated and unmitigated pollution.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: WhisperToMe

Reduce Toxic Fumes in Rural India

Target: Dr. Harsh Vardhan, India’s Minister for Environment, Forest, & Climate Change

Goal: Reduce air pollution threatening rural populations in India.

Air pollution in India threatens rural citizens’ health, but monitoring and regulations focus on urban areas. With 70% of India’s population living in rural areas, the majority of India remains unprotected from inhaling hazardous air pollutants.

Researchers have modeled concentrations of ozone and particulate matter in the air across India and correlated these to premature mortality. Of the 7.6 million air pollution-related deaths per year worldwide, one million are estimated in India. The majority of these premature deaths are in rural populations from circulatory and respiratory conditions due to low air quality. Although the rural areas lack the industry and high transportation numbers generally associated with significant air pollution, rural areas experience other contributors such as indoor cooking over open flame and rural energy fueled primarily by wood, dung, or biomass. These, in addition to the pollution from factories and increasing use of cars in urban areas, contribute significantly to India’s air pollution, which disproportionately impacts often overlooked rural populations.

Monitoring and regulations associated with tracking and minimizing air pollution often focus on industrial and/or urban areas. However, as is the case in India, rural populations suffer as much if not more from the ill effects of poor air quality. Sign the petition to encourage Indian officials to focus pollution control efforts on their rural populations.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Minister Vardhan,

Industry, increased transportation, and the use of wood, dung, and biomass as fuel in rural areas is polluting India’s air. An estimated one million Indians die prematurely every year due to circulatory or respiratory conditions related to toxic air pollution. Many come from rural areas of India, where 70% of your population is living. Yet most of the resources and research on the effect of air pollution is focused on urban areas. This leaves the majority of your populations vulnerable to the adverse health effects of increased ozone and particulates in the air, taking an average of 3.4 years off the average lifespan of your citizens. Industry and transportation are often targeted in urban areas as the major polluters, but the burning of wood, dung, and biomass as primary fuel sources in rural areas are significant contributors to declining air quality.

Monitoring and research is required to understand and evaluate the health effects of inhaling these toxic pollutants. Education will also help in reducing the significant contributors to air pollution from rural life. Minister Vardhan, please, focus resources on curbing air pollution not just in urban areas but in rural areas, where the majority of India’s population suffers.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: McKay Savage

Stop Killing Cambodia’s Endangered Animals for Meat

Target: Hun Sen, Cambodian Prime Minister

Goal: Stop the illicit trapping of wild game in Cambodia that threatens many endangered species in the area.

Many endangered species in Cambodia are threatened by the population’s demand for bushmeat. This demand has burgeoned into a significant illicit market for commercial hunters and is decimating wildlife populations in the tropical forests of Cambodia.

Bushmeat is wild game (often trapped illegally) from non-domesticated animals in tropical forests. Some poor rural areas use bushmeat for sustenance but more often than not hunters are urban elite who view bushmeat and the hunt as a status symbol. Many consider bushmeat to be a delicacy or to have health benefits over domesticated meat, but often eating bushmeat is a pathway for the transfer of tropical diseases such as Ebola from animals to humans.

Cambodia is a prime location for illegal game trade, which can include many endangered species such as sun bears, hog deer, and the Sunda pangolin which are caught for eating. Other animals such as baby Asian elephants can also become accidentally ensnared in bushmeat traps. Experts estimate that over half of the species illegally trapped are nearing extinction. Many Cambodians are unaware that many of these species are endangered; to those who are aware, the scarcity makes bushmeat even more desirable to obtain.

The demand for bushmeat has decimated populations of many endangered species in Cambodia and there is no end in sight. Crackdowns on individual hunters and the removal of traps has been largely inadequate to curb the trapping of these protected species. More education is needed to change the public’s view on bushmeat and reduce demand. Additional enforcement will also help to limit activities of larger-scale bushmeat trade organizations. Sign the petition for Cambodia to educate its citizens and crack down on illicit bushmeat trade and protect endangered species from extinction.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Prime Minister Hun Sen,

Illegal bushmeat trade in Cambodia has reached unprecedented levels, pushing many endangered species near extinction. Trapping of endangered species for sale as food, especially rare tropical animals, should not be tolerated by the government.

Although some may blame subsistence hunters for the decreasing wildlife populations, the trapping and consumption of bushmeat is seen as a status symbol for elite, who simply don’t care that these animals are critically endangered. They also don’t care when other animals, such as baby Asian elephants, not intended to be trapped become ensnared and die at their hands. This cruel practice needs to end.

Cambodia should educate the public on the ill effects of bushmeat trade, including loss of biodiversity, unintentional trapping of non-game animals, and the potential transfer of tropical diseases to humans. The current enforcement resources are not sufficient to end the illegal bushmeat trade and protect these endangered species. Please, educate your citizens to reduce demand for bushmeat and enforce restrictions on commercial hunting organizations participating in this illicit activity. It is critical to the conservation of your nation’s precious wildlife.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: A. J. T. Johnsingh, WWF-India and NCF

Do Not Bail Out Dirty Energy

Target: Rick Perry, Secretary of the United States Department of Energy

Goal: Stop intervention into the energy industry on behalf of aging coal-fired power plants.

A leaked memo from the Department of Energy revealed plans by the Trump Administration to force power grid operators to purchase electricity from declining coal-fired power plants in order to prevent their shutdown.

The proposal would use two federal laws, the Defense Production Act of 1950 and the Federal Power Act, to direct electricity grid operators to purchase power from “more reliable” sources that have fuel located on-site, i.e. coal-fired, power plants. These plants are noncompetitive with cleaner, cheaper power plants that use natural gas and renewables, and are facing decommissioning and switchovers to other fuel sources. The leaked memo cites national security issues in encouraging the support of struggling dirty energy plants, however, grid operators and other experts reject the administration’s premise that there are reliability concerns with the current mix of natural gas and renewables for power generation. Instead, the Trump Administration is feeding into public concerns for national security in order to support ailing industries that should be eliminated by attrition in the marketplace.

This is an unacceptable intervention by the government to instill fear and force an agenda of dirty energy. Sign the petition to discourage the Department of Energy from intervening on behalf of aging coal-fired power plants and instead bolster our energy independence using clean, renewable energy.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Secretary Perry,

The bailout of dirty energy companies under the guise of national defense is despicable. Coal-fired power plants are rightfully being eliminated by attrition because they cannot compete with cheaper, cleaner power such as natural gas and renewables. The energy industry is not experiencing any of the alleged reliability issues used to justify this unprecedented intervention.

This is not an issue of energy security or national defense, but one of politics. America wants cleaner energy, not a federal bailout of coal-fired power plants undergoing decommissioning. Do not collapse under pressure from President Trump to promote an agenda of dirty energy.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Rahm Emanuael

End Illegal Importation of Hazardous Waste

Target: Prayuth Chan-ocha, Prime Minister of Thailand

Goal: Crack down on illegal importation of electronic waste from other countries.

Since the Chinese ban on waste importation went into effect, the surrounding countries, especially Thailand, have been under siege by the illegal importation of hazardous electronic waste. Many companies are now taking advantage of China’s initiative to protect its environment by illegally accepting wastes that no longer have an outlet for disposal. This is putting an extreme strain on Thailand’s resources and threatens the health of the environment and Thailand’s citizens.

Electronic waste, or e-waste, comprises nearly any item with an electric cord or battery and contains metallic components that can be separated out and recycled. The waste processing required to do this also exposes workers to the hazardous components of e-waste, which include lead, cadmium, and mercury. Many workers in waste processing plants reportedly have minimal protections from inhaling significant amounts of toxic fumes. Prolonged exposure to these materials can cause cancer and other serious health conditions.

Thai police recently seized many tons of illegally imported e-waste from facilities that were not permitted to import foreign e-waste. Since this e-waste was allegedly imported using a loophole for secondhand appliances, acceptance and processing is essentially unregulated and threatens Thailand’s environment and citizens. This is especially true for employees of waste processors which handle this illicit material.

Thailand has laws in place to limit movement of e-waste across borders, but these are insufficient and at times unenforced. Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha has pledged increased inspections throughout the country to discover this hazardous material, but this only helps after the material has entered the country. Additional regulations and enforcement need to be in place to prevent its importation. Sign the petition for the prime minister to implement and enforce broader regulations to protect Thai citizens from exposure to hazardous e-waste.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Prime Minister Chan-ocha,

China’s ban on the importation of waste, particularly electronic waste, has opened the doors for increased illegal importation by waste processors in neighboring countries such as Thailand. This puts a strain not only on law enforcement officials to seek out and prosecute offenders, but on human health and the environment as well. The processing of electronic waste in order to recover the recyclable components also exposes the toxic components of electronic waste such as lead, cadmium, and mercury. These are known to cause serious health conditions, including cancer. It is critical to the protection of Thailand’s citizens that these materials be regulated to prevent adverse health impacts to workers and potential contamination if these toxins are leaked into the environment.

Ratification of the Basel Convention to prevent importation of hazardous materials has been insufficient in limiting these materials from entering the country. It is not enough to increase inspections in order to discover the material after it has been imported. Regulated processing of hazardous e-waste is critical to the protection of human health and the environment. Please, expand and enforce regulation of this dangerous material.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Fairphone

Praise Chile for Nationwide Plastic Bag Ban

Target: Sebastián Piñera, President of Chile

Goal: Congratulate Chile on being the first nation in the Americas to institute a nationwide plastics ban, and ask that it encourage others to do the same.

Chile just became the first country in the Americas to institute a nationwide ban on plastic bags. Chile’s leadership is crucial in beginning a trend of similar legislation all over this part of the world.

Outspoken support of the plastic bag ban by the president resulted in a vote that was near unanimous in Chile’s Congress for passing the legislation, with wide public support as well. The ban was originally focused only on Patagonia, the southernmost tip of Chile, but was broadened to include the entire country. Within the next six months, all major retailers will no longer be allowed to use plastic bags. Smaller businesses will have two years to comply with the ban. Chile’s previous president had already banned the use of plastic bags in many coastal regions.

Plastics pollution, especially single-use plastics, plagues the ocean environment and marine life all over the world. Estimates by Sea Turtle Conservancy reveal that marine mammal deaths from plastics pollution total around 100 million per year. This nearly incomprehensible statistic is just one of the reasons for instituting plastic bag bans around the world, as has already been done by Bangladesh, Rwanda, Kenya, and other nations. Sign the petition to congratulate Chile on their nationwide plastic bag ban as an important step in protecting Chile’s coastline, as well as the ocean in general.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear President Piñera,

Your government’s ban on the use of plastic bags is monumental, both in its protection of the environmental and its importance in beginning this trend in the Americas. The ocean is of vital importance, as are its inhabitants. However, they are plagued by pollution all over the world.

Conservation organizations estimate marine mammal deaths in the millions per year due to plastic pollution, so eliminating Chile’s 3.4 billion plastic bags per year is commendable. I applaud your leadership in reducing the threat of plastics pollution to marine life and ecosystems. I hope you encourage your neighboring countries to do the same.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Andrew Latham

Reduce Air Pollution Choking Chinese Provinces

Target: Xi Jinping, President of China

Goal: Curb the deadly pollution enveloping industrial areas of China.

Despite attempts to limit emissions from factories, especially the steel industry, air pollution has continued to increase in industrial areas of China. Concentrations of particulate matter are on average more than double the recommended limits for exposure and at times exceed greater than ten times these amounts, leading to serious public health implications.

Reports on emissions from January to April of this year have indicated that even with limitations on manufacturing during winter months, emissions have continued to increase. The World Health Organization’s recommended limit on particulate matter less than 2.5 microns (PM 2.5) is 25 micrograms per cubic meter for 24 hours of exposure; industrial provinces in China are experiencing average levels of 55 to 64 micrograms per cubic meter. Any successful reductions in particulate matter are often counteracted by weather events, such as sandstorms and conditions which promote smog formation. Particulate matter emissions can increase the likelihood of developing lung and heart conditions and exacerbate pre-existing conditions such as asthma, especially in vulnerable populations such as children and the elderly.

Limitations on industries are put in place yet emissions levels continue to rise. Steel production reached its highest level in the past four years and will likely continue, with no end in sight for smog, particulate matter emissions, and the associated adverse health impacts. Only certain pollution levels will trigger reductions in activities, despite these levels already being above those recommended for exposure. Sign the petition to encourage Chinese officials to enact stricter emissions regulations and implement better control technologies, especially for industrial areas suffering the severe health impacts.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear President Xi,

Concentrations of particulate matter were on average more than double the limits for prolonged exposure in the first four months of this year. PM 2.5 concentrations in the air ranged from 55 to 64 micrograms per cubic meter in your industrial provinces compared to 25 micrograms per cubic meter recommended by the WHO based on the health impacts related to this pollution. Weather events such as sandstorms, or conditions which promote smog formation, can increase these levels even higher, even as stricter emissions standards are enacted for industries.

As steel demand and production increases, so too will particulate matter emissions. This will result in adverse health impacts to China’s populations, especially in provinces with significant industry. It is not enough to pledge to reduce pollutant emissions in a graduated manner, especially with the extreme weather events seen in these areas which only exacerbate particulate matter concentrations in the air.

As your industries thrive, your citizens experience increased pollution and its health effects. Even as levels continue to stay above concentrations recommended for exposure, only cases of extreme pollution trigger limitations on industrial production or allow citizens to stay indoors and away from work. Please, don’t allow your population to continue to suffer from increased asthma, respiratory conditions, and heart and lung diseases. Reduce particulate air emissions to the allowable recommended levels for health by requiring stricter pollution controls on factories.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Kentaro IEMOTO

Block Destruction of Protected Wildlife Reserve

Target: Akinwumi Adesina, President of African Development Bank

Goal: Stop construction of enormous hydrodam in Selous Wildlife Reserve that could irreparably harm the habitats of many protected species.

A proposed hydrodam project in Tanzania is threatening the habitat of many endangered species. The dam is proposed to be constructed in the Selous Wildlife Reserve, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the largest protected wild areas in Africa. A large number of protected animals could be lost, including elephants, endangered African wild dogs, and the critically endangered black rhinoceros.

The dam is proposed to be constructed in the Rufiji River starting in July. The 430-foot tall, 2,300-foot wide dam would provide 2,100 megawatts of electricity to Tanzania and create a 463-square-mile lake, covering much of the area where the protected animals congregate during the dry season, according to scientists. Over 2.6 million trees would need to be felled to make way for the project. It is estimated that the damming of the river would impact approximately 200,000 farmers and fishermen downstream, by shutting off water and nutrients to farms and fisheries. Many endangered species who live in the area will also be impacted, facing extreme loss of habitat.

Tanzania has called on the African Development Bank for funding of this hydropower project, but there is still time to stop this environmentally destructive project. Development of any kind is strictly prohibited by UNESCO on World Heritage Sites, yet the Tanzanian government is moving forward with the project in direct violation of these restrictions and without regard for the environmental consequences. Bids for logging the area to be flooded, an activity that is prohibited in the reserve, have already been accepted, and Tanzania has not conducted the proper environmental assessment of the project. Sign the petition to discourage the African Development Bank from funding this destructive project and end the threat to protected species in the Selous Wildlife Reserve.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Mr. Adesina,

The hydropower project proposed by Tanzania in the Selous Wildlife Reserve will irreversibly damage one of the largest protected wild areas in Africa, impacting numerous species of endangered animals. The Tanzanian government is ignoring the environmental consequences of this development and will directly violate UNESCO regulations of this World Heritage Site if this project continues. There is still time to stop it, before millions of trees are felled and hundreds of square miles of habitats are lost.

Conservation groups have united in condemning this project, calling it “fatally flawed” (IUCN) and causing “serious and irreversible damage” (UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee). The Tanzanian government has not performed the proper environmental assessment on the project. It is estimated that 200,000 farmers and fishermen will be negatively impacted downstream from the stopping of the Rufiji River. The manmade lake formed by the hydrodam will also impact numerous endangered species, including the elephants, giraffes, African wild dogs, black rhinoceros and many more who call the Selous Wildlife Reserve home.

The hydropower plant is not identified in Tanzania’s energy plan as urgently needed and is not the most cost-effective method to provide electricity to the area. This single, centralized power plant in a remote area will require significant investment and infrastructure development to distribute power. Do not fund this illegal, environmentally destructive project that will harm both protected wildlife and Tanzanian citizens. More sustainable, economically viable options for power generation need to be explored. Invest instead in de-centralized renewable energy sources such as wind and solar, which are more cost-effective, more efficient in distributing power, and will not permanently impact this protected wildlife refuge.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Laika ac

Protect the Dolphins: End Overfishing in Cyprus

Target: Marina Argyrou, Director of the Department of Fisheries and Marine Research, Cyprus

Goal: Enact restrictions on fishing to discontinue the threat to dolphins’ food supply.

Overfishing around Cyprus has led to significantly reduced fish populations in the area, leading dolphins to take drastic measures for food. Food is so scarce that dolphins have been breaking open fishing nets to steal fish. The dolphins can become trapped in the nets or ingest harmful plastics while trying to access food, both of which are very dangerous but have become necessary risks to take for their survival.

Fish populations in the area have been declining for some time now, since there are no quantity restrictions for licensed fishermen. Fishermen cast more nets in order to bring in sufficient catches, which further exacerbates already dwindling fish stocks. These fishermen also face higher costs from the additional nets and repairs to nets that have been broken into by dolphins seeking the same scarce fish.

There are currently no limits in place on where fishermen can fish or how many fish they can catch. It is critical that quotas and restricted zones are put in place in order to replenish fish populations, which will aid not only the dolphins but the fishermen causing the issue in the first place. Little is known about the dolphin populations around Cyprus, so any tiny change in their food source or population could have potentially significant impacts on the dolphins. Sign the petition to encourage the Cyprus Department of Fisheries and Marine Research to implement sustainable fishing practices and help end food scarcity for the dolphins.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Ms. Argyrou,

Overfishing in Cyprus has led to decreased fish stocks, which threaten the dolphin populations who rely on the fish for food. Desperate dolphins have taken to destroying fishing nets to steal caught fish. This leads to high prices for fishermen, which leads to more fishing and further exacerbates the problem.

Very little is known about the dolphin populations surrounding Cyprus. Any small change to the predator-prey relationship could have significant impacts on the dolphin populations. The dolphins also face significant harm from ingesting the plastic from the fishing nets and potentially becoming entangled and trapped. These dolphins are protected, so accidental dolphin catches likely go unreported and impacts to their populations are underestimated. Even though the dolphins are protected, their food source is not.

These protected dolphins face significant risks from the impacts of overfishing on the dolphins’ food sources. Restrictions on fishing should be implemented, including quotas and no-fishing areas. This will limit overfishing and help fish populations stabilize or even increase. Please, institute efforts to replenish fish stocks and protect the dolphins from the disastrous implications of overfishing.

Sincerely,

[Your Name Here]

Photo Credit: Jose Antonio