The Lungs of the Earth are Burning

 The Amazon Rainforest is currently burning and has been for weeks, while little to no coverage has been given to the immediate and dire situation. 

Fire. Cullan Smith. Unsplash.

Fire. Cullan Smith. Unsplash.

The Amazon is on fire and has been for a little over a month. According to the World Wildlife Fund, “40,000 different types of plants” are estimated to have been affected by the fires raging in the Amazon. The Amazon fires have been burning for a while now, but coverage on the fires has been little to none. Now, though, through the outcry on social media, attention has been brought and countries across the globe are pitching in, trying to do their part in reversing and stopping the fires. 

According to a NY Times article, “Hours after leaders of some of the world’s wealthiest countries pledged more than $22 million to help combat fires in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil’s government angrily rejected the offer, in effect telling the other nations to mind their own business — only to later lay out potential terms for the aid’s acceptance and then, on Tuesday evening, accepting some aid from Britain.”

Denying the aid could prove detrimental to the people and animals living in the Amazon forest. According to a CNN video, Daniel Aristizabel, a member of the Amazon Conservation team, states that the fires are affecting tons of the wildlife in the Amazon, stating “if you lose one species, you cause a chain reaction”. This “chain reaction” can cause a major shift in our ecosystem and possibly put many animals on the endangered species list. 

Being far-removed from the fires makes it difficult to understand the scope and how big of areas the fires are covering. In an ABC video, Andres Ruzo from National Geographic Explorer and Conservationist and also the Director of the Boiling River Project states that “we could be losing, in certain areas, as much as 3 soccer fields of jungle every single minute”. The rate at which the Amazon is burning is huge and will have an impact on ourselves. To put the size in perspective, CNN reporter also adds that the amount of land burning is equivalent to “two thirds the size of the contenential United States”. The Amazon Rainforest has often been called the lungs of the Earth but now they are clogged with smoke. 

Senior VP of Forests, WWF, Kerry Cesareo, states “we have seen a dramatic increase in deforestation in the Amazon, recently, and it is driven by humans and this is happening in part due to demand for food and other resources from the forests and exacerbated by the decline and enforcement of laws”. The apparent need for land for farming is the reason behind the fires. A great need for profit and resources are killing the Earth’s lungs.

If you would like to contribute to the efforts of saving the Amazon rainforest, you can donate to Protect and Acre Fund at https://act.ran.org/page/11127/donate/1 which “has distributed more than one million dollars in grants to more than 150 frontline communities, indigenous-led organizations, and allies, helping their efforts to secure protection for millions of acres of traditional territory in forests around the world.” You can also reduce your wood, paper, and beef consumption as those are the top reasons deforestation is currently happening to the Amazon. 






OLIVIA HAMMOND is an undergraduate at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She studies Creative Writing, with minors in Sociology/Anthropology and Marketing. She has travelled to seven different countries, most recently studying abroad this past summer in the Netherlands. She has a passion for words, traveling, and learning in any form. 



Climate Apartheid: The Prediction for our Future

A road flooded. maxinux. CC by 2.0.

A road flooded. maxinux. CC by 2.0.

Mother Earth is dying and we are only furthering her demise. Not only that, but we are creating an environment and society that will soon be the rich versus the dead, according to Philip Alston, UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, in his report. “There is no shortage of alarm bells ringing over climate change, and an increase in biblical-level extreme weather events appear to be finally piercing through the noise, misinformation, and complacency, but these positive signs are no reason for contentment,” Alston said. “A reckoning with the scale of the change that is needed is just the first step.”

Alston is quick to call out government leaders, like President Donald Trump, about how complacent they are being concerning environmental issues. Alston states, “Somber speeches by government officials have not led to meaningful action and too many countries continue taking short-sighted steps in the wrong direction.” Alston’s report is not only a call to action—it is a warning.

Alston deems that with climate change will come “climate apartheid”, meaning “the wealthy pay to escape overheating, hunger and conflict while the rest of the world is left to suffer.” Alston states that, “while people in poverty are responsible for just a fraction of global emissions, they will bear the brunt of climate change, and have the least capacity to protect themselves.”

So not only is climate change affecting our environment, but it will affect our lives, threatening to undo the last 50 years of progress in development, global health, and poverty reduction,” Alston said. “It could push more than 120 million more people into poverty by 2030 and will have the most severe impact in poor countries, regions, and the places [where] poor people live and work.”

The risk of a climate apatheid also increases the possibility of “climate refugees”, or people who will have to seek lives elsewhere because the dying environment has made their current home unlivable. In a town in Gwynedd, Wales,  Phil Black reports that the inhabitants of said town might become “climate refugees” given the rising sea levels and how close the town is to those levels. While there are people, such as Lisa Goodier, a project manager attempting to make preparations for those in the town to leave, many of the townspeople refuse to give up their properties or believe the scientific facts presented to them. They would rather stay until they truly have to leave.

It is perspectives like this that make our environmental crisis what it is today. The facts are there, the evidence has been proven, but if we continually ignore what is right in front of our faces, it will be too late. Well, it will be too late for anyone who is not rich because the rich will always have the ability to pay and get rid of anything that inconveniences them.

It is not just about our environment anymore, it is about us, as a human species. If we let things continue how they are, millions will die and it will only be time until we are all wiped out. Alston states, “The risk of community discontent, of growing inequality, and of even greater levels of deprivation among some groups, will likely stimulate nationalist, xenophobic, racist and other responses. Maintaining a balanced approach to civil and political rights will be extremely complex.”

We are responsible for our future. If we don’t take responsibility, or rather, if those who have the money and are making the problems do not take responsibility, it is not just our environment at risk. It is our humanity. 

Nothing will change if those who have the money do not fix the issues. And by the looks of Alston’s report, we need change, now.





OLIVIA HAMMOND is an undergraduate at Emerson College in Boston, Massachusetts. She studies Creative Writing, with minors in Sociology/Anthropology and Marketing. She has travelled to seven different countries, most recently studying abroad this past summer in the Netherlands. She has a passion for words, traveling, and learning in any form. 

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The Teenager Schooling World Leaders on Climate Change

For hundreds of thousands of young people, Greta Thunberg is an icon. At only 16, she’s proving you don’t have to be an adult to make a world of a difference. Today, the Nobel Peace Prize nominee is among the most influential voices speaking out about Earth’s dire climate crisis. 

The teen first learned about the devastating, lasting impact of climate change when she was just 11 years old. Dismayed by adults’ unwillingness to respond, she decided to take action herself. She began by making small changes in her own life—cutting meat and dairy from her diet and convincing her parents to also live more sustainably

Frustrated by the lack of attention from policymakers, Greta held a strike in August 2018, missing class to sit in protest in front of the Swedish Parliament with a sign that read “Skolstrejk för Klimatet” (“School Strike for the Climate”). She vowed to hold strikes every Friday until Sweden was in alignment with the Paris Agreement

People in Sweden (and now, the world over) began to take notice of Greta’s stance. After a viral TED Talk where she explained her call to action, others began to join in her protests. Today, #FridaysforFuture has grown to be a global phenomenon, with hundreds of thousands of young people from over 125 countries standing alongside Greta. 

In addition to her Nobel Peace Prize nomination, Greta’s actions have earned her speaking engagements at the World Economic Forum and COP24—but most importantly, they’ve ignited a new generation to create change and stand up for the future. 

Greta says she owes her dogged determination in part to being on the spectrum: “I think if I wouldn’t have had Asperger’s I don’t think I would have started the school strike, I don’t think I would’ve cared about the climate at all… That allowed me to focus on one thing for a very long time.” 

Her #FridaysforFuture protest on March 15, 2019 drew 1.6 million strikers, from 2,000 locations, across all seven continents. She wants world leaders to know that change is coming, whether they like it or not.

Fighting Human Extinction in London and Beyond

Over the past week, governmental officials and police say, protesters have wreaked havoc in London—but it’s all part of an effort to address the sociopolitical factors wreaking havoc on our planet.

Parliament Square on April 19. DAVID HOLT. CC BY 2.0

Parliament Square on April 19. DAVID HOLT. CC BY 2.0

In the early afternoon of Monday, April 22, about 100 people entered London’s Natural History Museum and made their way to Hintze Hall. As sunlight streamed in from the skylights and illuminated the Romanesque arches that punctuate the stone walls, the protestors positioned themselves underneath Hope—the enormous blue whale skeleton suspended from the ceiling—and lay down on the ground. After about half an hour, most concluded their “die-in,” but a few remained; wearing face paint and crimson robes, they gave a classical music performance on the steps beneath the skeleton.

This unusual demonstration was part of a massive mobilization by Extinction Rebellion (abbreviated as XR), a non-partisan movement aiming to revise environmental policy with the goals of slowing climate change and minimizing the possibility of imminent human extinction. The group launched in the United Kingdom in October of 2018—in response to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report announcing that we have just 12 years to halt catastrophic change—and quickly proliferated worldwide.


Today, the movement boasts about 130 groups across the UK, and is active in countries from the U.S. to South Africa to Australia. Its core demands are threefold: Honesty and transparency from governments regarding the ecological crisis; reduction of carbon emissions to zero by 2025; and the implementation of a participatory democracy to monitor progress towards these goals.

The current actions in London, advertised on XR’s website as “UK Rebellion—Shut Down London!,” are the focal point of a constellation of protests planned in 80 cities across 33 countries. Beginning on April 15, thousands of protestors poured into the heart of London, blocking five major landmarks: Waterloo Bridge, Marble Arch, Parliament Square, Oxford Circus, and Piccadilly Circus. From the beginning, group members made it clear that they weren’t going anywhere, filling the bridge with trees and flowers and even setting up a skate park and stage. Live music emanated from Oxford Circus, and a life-sized model of a boat with “Tell the Truth” painted on the side blocked the center of the bustling junction.

Nearby at Piccadilly Circus, younger protestors chalked messages on the pavement, while inside an open-sided truck at Marble Arch, bands entertained hundreds of onlookers. In Parliament Square on April 15, Jamie Kelsey Fry—contributing editor for the Oxford-based New Internationalist magazine—encouraged demonstrators from an octagonal stage.

Chalk message on April 17. Felton Davis. CC BY 2.0

Chalk message on April 17. Felton Davis. CC BY 2.0

The audience waved flags and banners emblazoned with the symbol of the movement, dubbed by Steve Rose of The Guardian as the ubiquitous logo of 2019. According to Rose, the “X” signifies extinction, and the horizontal lines suggest an hourglass—reminding us once again that time is running out.

A high point for protestors was a visit from 16-year-old climate activist Greta Thunberg on Sunday, April 21. The Swedish teenager, who staged a “School Strike for Climate” at Sweden’s Parliament last year and initiated the weekly #FridaysforFuture school walkouts, received chants of “We love you” as she took the stage at Marble Arch.

Demonstrating on London’s Blackfriars Bridge last November. Julia Hawkins. CC BY 2.0

Demonstrating on London’s Blackfriars Bridge last November. Julia Hawkins. CC BY 2.0

While the protests have in some ways resembled a modern-day Woodstock, full of music and goodwill, London authorities—who have deployed some 9,000 police officers in response—see a different side of the story. As of April 22, more than 1,000 people had been arrested since the demonstrations began; the youngest to be charged was 19, and the oldest 74.

London mayor Sadiq Khan said that the protest was taking a toll on London’s police forces and businesses, commenting, “I'm extremely concerned about the impact the protests are having on our ability to tackle issues like violent crime.” Protestors, for their part, view the stress on police as unavoidable: “We wish we didn’t have to distract police resources,” their website states. “80 year old grandfathers would rather not be putting themselves in the physically uncomfortable position of being in a police cell and children don’t want to be skipping school  – but 30 years of government inaction have left us with no choice.”

Tent set up in Parliament Square. DAVID HOLT. CC BY 2.0

Tent set up in Parliament Square. DAVID HOLT. CC BY 2.0

As protesters continue to be removed from the scene one by one by the police, with more rushing in to take their place, the question is whether or not the government will be responsive to XR’s message. On the first day of the mobilization, XR wrote to Prime Minister Theresa May outlining its demands, requesting talks, and issuing a stern warning: Failing government action, the group’s disruptive demonstrations would only escalate over the coming weeks. On April 22—the day of the Natural History Museum die-in, and also Earth Day—the group said that they would soon hold a “people’s assembly” to determine next steps. The next day, protesters marched on Parliament in a renewed push to open dialogue with government officials.


London’s Energy & Climate Intelligence Unit has said that XR’s demand for carbon neutrality by 2025 “technically, economically and politically has absolutely no chance of being fulfilled,” but nevertheless supports the message behind the movement and the actions it has engendered. For XR, surmounting the impossible is the only way forward to ensure that human beings can continue to inhabit the earth: Their website reads, “Only a peaceful planet-wide mobilisation of the scale of World War II will give us a chance to avoid the worst case scenarios and restore a safe climate.” Only time will tell whether those in power agree.





TALYA PHELPS hails from the wilds of upstate New York, but dreams of exploring the globe. As former editor-in-chief at the student newspaper of her alma mater, Vassar College, and the daughter of a journalist, she hopes to follow her passion for writing and editing for many years to come. Contact her if you're looking for a spirited debate on the merits of the em dash vs. the hyphen.








Scientists Find Elusive Orcas off the Coast of Chile

Orcas, or "Killer Whales" as they are commonly known, are actually members of the dolphin family. Steve Halama. Public Use.

Orcas, or "Killer Whales" as they are commonly known, are actually members of the dolphin family. Steve Halama. Public Use.

The Earth is about 71 percent water, 95 percent of that water unexplored. Every few years, animals emerge from the depths that force the scientific community to rewrite its rhetoric on oceanic life. With climate change upsetting the environmental landscape these occurrences may become more common. In January scientists found what could be a new species of orca off the coast of Cape Horn in Chile. The animals are said to share a common ancestor with the Orcinus orca that we often see in movies and documentaries, and the two have coexisted for thousands of years, a testament to how little we know about the deep.

Orcas, commonly called killer whales, are not whales at all, but the largest species of dolphin. They are found in virtually all of the world's oceans and seas and are widely considered to be apex predators, surpassing even the great white shark. For years, captive orcas have performed at water parks for the amusement of spectators, a practice that has become increasingly unpopular with the release of the documentary Blackfish. Now their wild counterparts facing their own challenges the form of climate change, which alters the weather patterns in an area and redistributes the animals that live there.

Scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) were drawn to Cape Horn by reports from the local fishermen who were allegedly losing their catches to the orcas. Upon arrival, they found a group of 30 individuals who spent three hours investigating the scientists while they themselves were being filmed. These “Type D” orcas were first documented in 1955 when a pod washed up on a beach in New Zealand. The animals live in the subantarctic region, home to some of the stormiest waters on the planet, which makes them near impossible to study. Thanks to climate change, however, these waters are warming at an alarming rate, and it could have an effect on the orcas themselves or the food they eat.  In addition to physical analysis, NOAA scientists were able to collect skin and blood samples. Type D orcas have rounder heads and narrower fins than their more commonly known cousins. At around 25 feet, they are also a bit smaller, and their white eyepatches, a defining characteristic of orcas, are almost non-existent. The animals’ blood is still being analyzed, but experts believe that when the test results come back the Type D Orca will be the largest undescribed animal left in the world—at least, for now.





JONATHAN ROBINSON is an intern at CATALYST. He is a travel enthusiast always adding new people, places, experiences to his story. He hopes to use writing as a means to connect with others like himself. 

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