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Kim Cormack (IFAW, Canada-Communications Officer)
(613) 241-3982 ext. 225
As Canada's commercial seal hunt is set to re-open in the Gulf of St. Lawrence today with another 64,000 pups scheduled for slaughter, IFAW welcomes the news that many sealers may not participate in this year's hunt due to the lack of markets for seal fur.
"Of course we are pleased," said Sheryl Fink, Senior Researcher with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). "If market conditions ultimately lead to the demise of this inhumane slaughter, that's fine by us. If our own government won't stand up for the majority of Canadians who want to see an end to commercial sealing in this country, then maybe the international marketplace will be the deciding factor."
Recent reports indicate that those processors willing to buy pelts this year are offering a mere $15 a skin, down from over $100 in 2006. Sealers note that at this price, engaging in the seal hunt is not economically viable. Pelt prices of $30 being offered to sealers from the Magdalen Islands last month were accompanied by reports that this included a $9 per pelt subsidy from the province of Quebec, and there are rumors that many pelts from the 20,000 seals reportedly killed were not actually purchased by processors.
"The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) claim that the setting of Total Allowable Catches (TAC) is market-driven is a complete crock," said Fink. "Were this the case, the TAC would have been reduced, not increased to a level that makes a mockery of their own management plan."
Last month, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea decided to increase the 2009 TAC to 280,000 harp seals, despite clear warnings from her own scientists that any TAC over 270,000 would not respect the Department's seal hunt management objective.
"It seems obvious to everyone - except the Conservative government - that commercial sealing is not a viable industry. The only thing keeping this slaughter going now is the steady flow of Canadian taxpayer dollars and the pride of a few politicians desperately trying to hang on to their seats in parliament," said Fink.
The Conservative government has confirmed its determination to move ahead with the continued waste of taxpayer dollars in support of a dying sealing industry, instead of responding to Canadian public opinion and the global economic downturn. Last week, Minister of International Trade Stockwell Day reiterated the government's position that any European Union (EU) ban on trade in seal products would be challenged at the World Trade Organization (WTO).
"I can't possibly imagine anything more irresponsible," said Fink. "A WTO challenge would likely end up costing Canadians untold millions of dollars, all in an attempt to revive a dying market worth, according to Day's own department, $5.4 million at best."
"Minister Shea predicted that this year's hunt would be business as usual," recalled Fink. "While I have no doubts that the slaughter of seals pups continues to be inhumane, on the business front, she could not have been more wrong."
The International Fund for Animal Welfare works to improve animal welfare, prevent animal cruelty and abuse, protect wildlife and provide animal rescue around the world. From stopping the elephant ivory trade, to ending the Canadian seal hunt and saving the whales from extinction, IFAW works to create solutions that benefit both animals and people.
"This is the time to direct our energies and efforts toward preparedness and readiness, particularly to protect our most vulnerable citizens from the impact of extreme heat," said one expert.
With scientists pointing to a number of weather patterns this year that have already signified that the El Niño Southern Oscillation may amplify planetary heating in the coming months, one heat and public health expert said Monday that officials must take advantage of the time they have now to prepare their communities for potential extreme heat events in the United States and around the world.
"We will likely see a significant impact from El Niño in the 2023 heat season," said Ashley Ward, a senior policy associate at Duke University's Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability. "While El Niño is still forming this year, we need to prepare for the 2024 heat season to likely be worse."
Ward said the last time scientists observed the kind of significant heat caused by El Niño that they're expecting to see this year was in 2016, which is tied with 2020 for the hottest year on record.
As climate researcher Leon Simons said last week regarding current ocean warming trends, scientists are currently observing heat patterns that look "very much like the 1997 and 2015 early stages of a Super El Niño," which is marked by very high temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator.
\u201cThe ocean west of Peru and Ecuador is warming faster than any of the preceding strong El Ni\u00f1os:\n\nhttps://t.co/TB0p2Mq1Dr\u201d— Leon Simons (@Leon Simons) 1683652366
"Based on the year-to-date and the current El Niño forecast," wrote Zeke Hausfather at Carbon Brief late last month, "2023 is very likely to end up between the warmest year on record and the sixth warmest, with a best estimate of fourth warmest."
Ward called on officials at the state and local level to take the next several weeks to "develop response plans for periods of extreme heat that address how to reach both urban and rural populations."
"This is the time to direct our energies and efforts toward preparedness and readiness, particularly to protect our most vulnerable citizens from the impact of extreme heat," said Ward.
Extreme heat has devastated parts of the world, including the U.S., in recent years.
Temperature records were broken in Vietnam and Laos last week, with the northern district of Tuong Duong recording a high of 111.6°F. Record-shattering heat in the Pacific Northwest was linked to hundreds of deaths in 2021, and more than 1,000 people died in Western Europe last summer of heat-related causes.
Ward said public health and safety authorities should begin organizing educational campaigns to "help individuals understand how they can mitigate heat" and to examine how they can help people procure fans and other cooling devices.
"Additional measures could include... providing shelter for the unhoused during periods of extreme heat," said Ward, "and reinforcing heat safety guidelines for occupational exposure and student-athletes."
"It is us doing our jobs and holding our government to account," one participating scientist said.
More than 1,000 scientists and academics in over 21 countries
engaged in nonviolent protest last week under the banner of Scientist Rebellion to demand a just and equitable end to the fossil fuel era.
At least 19 of the participating scientists were arrested in actions linked to the group's "The Science Is Clear" campaign from May 7-13, organizers said at a Monday press conference. The group believes that researchers must move from informing to advocating in the wake of decades of fossil fuel industry disinformation about the climate crisis and the downplaying or ignoring of their warnings by governments and media organizations.
"It's urgent that scientists come out of their laboratories to counter the lies," Laurent Husson, a French geoscientist from ISTerre, said.
"Experts on tropical rainforests told me privately that they think the Amazon has already passed its tipping point. Let that sink in. The world needs to know."
Participating scientists in Africa, Australia, Europe, Latin America, and North America organized more than 30 discrete events during May's spate of actions. Scientific Rebellion is concerned that climate policy is not in line with official warnings like the final Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report of the decade, released earlier this year, which called for "rapid and deep and, in most cases, immediate" reductions in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030 in its "Summary for Policymakers."
However, some scientist-activists say that what researchers discuss internally is even more alarming.
"I was just at a NASA team meeting for three days in D.C.," Peter Kalmus tweeted Wednesday. "The scientific findings are so fucked up. Experts on tropical rainforests told me privately that they think the Amazon has already passed its tipping point. Let that sink in. The world needs to know."
\u201cA few personal notes:\nI was just at a NASA team meeting for 3 days in DC. The scientific findings are so fucked up. Experts on tropical rainforests told me privately that they think the Amazon has already passed its tipping point. Let that sink in. The world needs to know\u201d— Dr Peter Kalmus (@Dr Peter Kalmus) 1683778342
The Science Is Clear campaign had three clear demands: that governments rapidly decarbonize their infrastructure in coordination with citizens assemblies that would also address growing inequality, that the Global North both provide money to the Global South to help them pay for the inevitable loss and damage caused by the climate crisis and forgive their outstanding debt, and that ecosystems and the Indigenous people and local communities that depend on them be protected from extractive industries.
Local actions also had independent demands in line with these goals. For example, Rose Abramoff—a U.S.-based scientist and IPCC reviewer—helped disrupt a joint session of the Massachusetts Legislature Wednesday with the demands that Massachusetts ban all new fossil fuel infrastructure and fund a just transition to renewable energy. The activists, who also included members of Extinction Rebellion, occupied the House Gallery for six hours before they were arrested.
\u201cYesterday @XRBoston @SRTurtleIsland sent a strong message to MA reps: #TheScienceIsClear Ban new fossil fuel infrastructure to keep the planet habitable\n\nWe interrupted a joint session to deliver our demands & occupied the state house for 6 hours until arrest. 1/4\u201d— Rose Abramoff (@Rose Abramoff) 1683815371
Abramoff said at the press conference that she joined Scientific Rebellion when the data turned up by her field work grew too alarming.
"This can't be my job to just calmly document destruction without doing anything to prevent it," she said.
She has now been arrested six times including Wednesday. And while she was fired from one job, she remains employed, housed, and healthy with a clean record.
"I think more scientists and other people with privilege should be taking these measures," she said.
Janine O'Keefe, an engineer and economist, said she was treated with much more respect by police when she protested in a lab coat compared with when she didn't, and was often not arrested at all.
"I implore you to find the courage to go against the silence," she said.
IPCC author Julia Steinberger also said she felt activism was part of a scientist's duty.
"It is us doing our jobs and holding our government to account on the commitments they have made to protect us."
"It is us doing our jobs and holding our government to account on the commitments they have made to protect us," Steinberger said.
Several other scientists risked arrest alongside allied activists in direct actions throughout the week. Three scientists were arrested for protesting Equinor in Norway. In Italy, police stopped activists before they could begin a protest at Turin Airport and arrested all of the would-be participants. In Denmark, five scientists were arrested at protests alongside more than 100 other activists, and in Portugal, scientists and allies managed to block the Porto de Sines—the main entry point for fossil fuels into the country—without any arrests being made.
\u201cBREAKING: The blockade has ended with no activists being arrested.\u201d— Scientist Rebellion (@Scientist Rebellion) 1684014423
In France, meanwhile, police arrested 18 activists including five scientists for blocking a bridge in the Port of Le Havre Friday, near where TotalEnergies is building a floating methane terminal for imported liquefied natural gas.
\u201c18 activists incl. at last 5 members of @SciRebFr are still in preventive jail for blocking the bridge next to the future platform of the liquefied gas project of @TotalEnergies. #TheScienceIsClear, this project is another acceleration pedal towards climate hell. Solidarity. \u270a\u201d— Scientist Rebellion (@Scientist Rebellion) 1683987502
"We've been trying to show people that gas is still a fossil fuel," Husson said at the press conference.
Husson said the activists spent time in jail before being released, though three of them are being charged.
Scientific Rebellion argues that participants in the Global North have more responsibility to carry out civil disobedience and risk arrest because their countries have contributed more to emissions historically and because they have greater privilege and protection under the law.
However, that doesn't mean that scientists from the Global South aren't making their voices heard. Around 200 scientists in Africa participated in protests throughout the week, including in Congo, where University of Kinshasa researcher Gérardine Deade Tanakula said she knew colleagues who had lost loved ones in extreme weather events.
\u201cIn Kinshasa, scientists from @RebellionDrc organised a mobilisation action occupying the campus of @Unikinrdc to discuss and confront scientists and students from different departments about the climate and ecological crises and the current global campaign #TheScienceIsClear \ud83d\udd25\u270a\u201d— Scientist Rebellion (@Scientist Rebellion) 1684002524
Tanakula, who helped organize marches and spoke to staff and students at her university, pointed out that Africa had only contributed less than 4% of global greenhouse gas emissions but was on the "frontline" of their impacts, such as extreme flooding May 5 that killed more than 400 people.
"We can't just be observers or do research. We need to engage people, and we need to act in the name of science," Tanakula said.
Scientific Rebellion doesn't just focus on the climate crisis. The Science Is Clear webpage notes that human activity has overshot six of nine planetary boundaries that sustain life on Earth, and that—beyond just the fossil fuel industry—the entire current economic system is to blame.
"The underlying cause of this existential crisis is our growth-based economic system," Matthias Schmelzer, a postdoctoral researcher at the Friedrich-Schiller University in Jena, Germany, said in the press conference.
"The underlying cause of this existential crisis is our growth-based economic system."
More than 1,100 scientists and academics have signed a letter urging both public and private institutions to pursue degrowth—a planned and democratic realignment of the goal of the global economy from increasing gross domestic product to ensuring well-being within planetary boundaries.
Members of Scientific Rebellion expressed optimism that direct action could help push through the changes it seeks. Abramoff pointed to Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport, which banned private jets months after activists blocked them from taking off. She also argued that two major pieces of U.S. climate legislation—the Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure law—would not have passed without grassroots pressure.
"I feel that we have so much power," Abramoff said, "and we just have to be brave enough to use it."
The Virginia Democrat said that two members of his team were hospitalized "with non-life-threatening injuries" after being attacked by a man looking for the congressman.
Two members of U.S. Congressman Gerry Connolly's staff were hospitalized Monday after a man armed with a baseball bat attacked them in the Virginia Democrat's district office in Fairfax.
"This morning, an individual entered my district office armed with a baseball bat and asked for me before committing an act of violence against two members of my staff. The individual is in police custody and both members of my team were transferred to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries," Connolly said in a statement.
"Right now, our focus is on ensuring they are receiving the care they need," the congressman continued. "We are incredibly thankful to the City of Fairfax Police Department and emergency medical professionals for their quick response."
\u201cWow. A man in Fairfax, VA entered the district office of Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly with a baseball bat looking for the congressman. \n\nThe man attacked two of the staffers with the bat.\u201d— Sawyer Hackett (@Sawyer Hackett) 1684173028
"I have the best team in Congress. My district office staff make themselves available to constituents and members of the public every day," Connolly added. "The thought that someone would take advantage of my staff's accessibility to commit an act of violence is unconscionable and devastating."
While the motive of Monday's assault is not yet clear, it came amid increasingly violent rhetoric and threats targeting Democratic members of Congress and people close to them. Last October, a far-right conspiracy theorist broke into the San Francisco home of then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and brutally attacked her octagenarian husband Paul Pelosi with a hammer.
That came after an armed man threatened to kill Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) at her Seattle home last July. In a Washington Post story about that incident, the congresswoman also shared the racist, misogynistic, and violent messages she receives on social media.