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Hurricanes, floods, heatwaves: this is what climate change looks like

Fri, 22 Sep 2017 23:36:00 +0200

Weather in San Francisco tends to be pretty mild all year. Because of the fog that comes from the Pacific Ocean, the average high temperature in the city is only 17ºC. However, in the first weekend of September, a record-breaking heatwave—with temperatures reaching 41ºC—made its way into the Bay Area. In the meantime, Los Angeles was facing the largest wildfire in the city’s history, which forced hundreds to evacuate. Wildfires are common in the region during summer, but climate change can make them burn hotter, longer and impact larger areas.Across the Atlantic, it was not long before Europe was going through a massive heatwave as well. With temperatures exceeding 40ºC, that caused at least two people to die, the heatwave named Lucifer was the most intense since 2003, and had authorities from 11 different countries issue warnings to their tourists and residents.Extreme weather events are hitting hard everywhere in the world and it’s a fact that they are being worsened by climate change. The path of destruction Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria left is making news worldwide, and it is proof that climate change often hits people in vulnerable situations the hardest. Low-income families and people of color are less likely to be able to evacuate due to lack of resources, and are prone to live in areas more susceptible to flooding.In Asia, over 1,200 people were killed by landslides and floods across Bangladesh, India and Nepal. Even though floods are natural during this time of the year in the region, this year’s monsoon season was particularly strong, affecting and displacing tens of millions of people. In countries without resources such as Bangladesh and Nepal, it’s challenging to find safe structures to shelter and support communities.While hurricane Maria hits the Caribbean, leaving the entire island of Puerto Rico without power and thousands displaced, not only there but in other islands such as Dominica, we cannot turn our backs on the evidence. Millions of people around the world are being affected by extreme weather events, and we need to hold those responsible for worsening the effects of climate change accountable. It’s time for the fossil fuel companies to play a bigger role cleaning up after extreme weather events and to move away from dirty energy for good before it’s too late.Diego Gonzaga is a content editor for Greenpeace USA.[...]

CETA trade deal puts EU food and agriculture standards at risk

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 07:15:00 +0200

Do you remember TTIP, the proposed trade deal between the US and the EU? Its negotiations were stopped by the hundreds of thousands of people who took to the streets in the capitals of Europe. 3.3 million signatures were collected against it. Greenpeace played a key role in the resistance against TTIP, by publishing the leaked  texts in May 2016. It caused many European politicians to harden their stance, leading to a breakdown in the trade talks.Protest ahead of Vote on EU-Canada Trade Deal at EU Parliament in Strasbourg, Feb. 2017But guess what: while TTIP is now in cold storage CETA, the proposed EU-Canada trade and investment deal is not. It has been ratified by the European parliament, although it has many of the characteristics that made TTIP infamous: special tribunals for multinationals, special access to decision-makers for multinationals, and a lack of environmental safeguards.Canada has weaker food safety standards than the EU. They have an agricultural economy more heavily dependent on chemical inputs and GMOs. In three new briefing papers, Greenpeace Netherlands and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade policy (IATP) warn that the trade deal gives North American corporations tools to weaken European standards regarding growth hormones, chemical washes, GMOs, animal cloning, and Country of Origin labelling. What they have not achieved so far, via the WTO, they can now start undermining via CETA.Today is the first day of CETA’s ‘provisional application’, when over 90 percent of the deal enters into force. This is before national and regional parliaments of EU member states have even approved it. The provisional application includes lower tariffs, expanded trade and ‘regulatory cooperation’, which gives corporations privileged access to decision makers.Through CETA, the EU will become even more embroiled with the Canadian (North American) meat industry. The lack of mandatory US labelling laws on cloning, combined with the frequent trade of live cattle, pigs, genetic material and other animal products between the US and Canada, make the presence of cloned material and cloned offspring in the Canadian meat supply highly likely. This undermines the de facto ban on animal cloning in the EU.Since last year, GM Salmon is allowed in Canada. About 4.5 tonnes of GM salmon fillets have already been sold in Canada – without labelling. This means that Canadians are not able to distinguish between GM salmon and normal salmon. CETA will enable the salmon exports from Canada to the EU to grow, by lowering tariffs and expanding quota. How will the EU guarantee that no GM Salmon enters it market?The battle against CETA is far from over. About 30 regional and national parliaments in Europe will decide over the coming months whether to ratify CETA or not. Please get in touch with your MPs: EU member state parliaments should vote no to CETA! Kees Kodde is a trade campaigner with Greenpeace Netherlands[...]

The beginning of the end for nuclear weapons

Wed, 20 Sep 2017 06:57:00 +0200

"I have been waiting for this day for seven decades and I am overjoyed that it has finally arrived,” said Hiroshima survivor Setsuko Thurlow in July, when a new treaty banning nuclear weapons was agreed at the United Nations in New York. “This is the beginning of the end of nuclear weapons.”However agreeing on a new treaty is only the first step towards a treaty becoming valid international law. As of Wednesday 20th September, governments can take the next step and officially sign the Treaty on the Prohibition on Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). Once a country signs, it needs to have it adopted as national law to ratify it. And 50 countries need to do this before this treaty becomes agreed international law.Governments that sign and ratify the treaty have real obligations. They commit to: “never under any circumstances … develop, test, produce, manufacture, otherwise acquire, possess or stockpile nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices … (or) use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.”The treaty also prohibits states from allowing any stationing, installation or deployment of any nuclear weapons in their territory. (You can read the full text here.)There is already overwhelming support for this treaty. 122 countries supported it back in July. Many of these countries are expected to sign and ratify it in the coming weeks and months.This is a good start. But it is not enough.Sadly, the world of nuclear weapons is an extremely unequal one. Just nine states in the world own nuclear weapons: the USA, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, India, North Korea, Pakistan and Israel.There are five more states that host U.S. nuclear weapons as part of NATO's nuclear sharing policy: Belgium, Germany, Italy, Netherlands and Turkey. These countries and all the other NATO countries, with the exception of the Netherlands, boycotted the negotiations of the new treaty. The Netherlands attended the negotiations but voted against it.They all remain adamant that they will not sign the treaty. The US has also been using its considerable influence to pressure other countries not to support it.This is significant; unless a country ratifies the treaty, it is not bound by it.Nuclear Security Summit Protest in Washington D.C, April 2016.Although this is a reality, it is certainly no reason to despair, quite the contrary. September 20th marks a new era and, indeed, the beginning of the end for nuclear weapons.Each state that does sign and ratify this treaty will contribute to strengthening its impact in global politics, and help delegitimize the role of weapons of mass destruction in security policies.It may even influence military practices in states that do not initially sign the treaty. It will make it  harder for their proponents to describe nuclear weapons as a legitimate and useful means to provide security. It creates a -- long overdue -- global norm against nuclear weapons."First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win,” Gandhi allegedly said.Even a year ago, the idea of a treaty banning nuclear weapons supported by a majority of countries in the world, negotiated in a record time of only four weeks, would have seemed like a dream -- laughable to many. But it was achieved. Countries that are often sidelined when global security is discussed have stuck together, and, supported by civil society, made this a reality.The many states that have supported this treaty so far, and those that will sign up to it in the coming weeks and months, make a clear point on behalf of their citizens and on behalf of millions around the world.We do not allow the few to define security for all. Nuclear weapons are not a path towards peace and security. In the year where nuclear war has once again became thinkable to some, there is no better time to denounce these evil weapons.September 21st marks the International Day of Peace. There can be no better commitment to peace than to join this treaty. W[...]

Chevron's Amazon Chernobyl Case moves to Canada

Fri, 15 Sep 2017 11:13:00 +0200

After perpetrating what is probably the worst oil-related catastrophe on Earth - a 20,000 hectare death zone in Ecuador, known as the “Amazon Chernobyl” - the Chevron Corporation has spent two decades and over a billion dollars trying to avoid responsibility. In 2011, Indigenous and peasant villagers won an $9.5-billion compensation judgment in Ecuador. Chevron, despite accepting jurisdiction in Ecuador to avoid a US jury trial, refused to pay.Image courtesy of Amazon WatchThe company sold its assets in Ecuador to avoid seizure, left the country, and threatened the victims with a "lifetime of litigation" if they pursued compensation. The 30,000 plaintiffs, however, have not given up. The case now moves to Canada, where Chevron holds assets, and where the victims hope, at last, to gain justice.This tragic story reveals almost unthinkable corporate irresponsibility, intimidation, and arrogance, not just by Chevron executives, but by their 60 law firms, 2,000 lawyers and paralegals, six public relations firms, squads of private investigators, thugs and bribed witnesses, and at least one severely compromised US judge. Chevron has probably spent more money trying to weasel out of this case than any corporation in world history.If we sometimes wonder why significant ecological progress appears so monumentally difficult, this blood-curdling case will give us some clues.Crimes in the oil patchIn 1964, Texaco (now Chevron) discovered oil in the Ecuadorian Amazon rainforest where the Indigenous Cofán, Siona, Secoya, Quichua, and Huaorani people lived traditional lives, untouched by industrial civilization. Over the next 28 years, the oil producers perpetrated some of the most horrendous ecological crimes in history.   Texaco/Chevron dumped some 16 billion gallons of wastewater laced with carcinogens into rivers and streams. The company abandoned hundreds of toxic waste pits in the rainforest -- containing toxic oil sludge, in violation of basic industry standards. The Indigenous inhabitants were left with poisoned land, food supply, and drinking water. The region's river sediment remains contaminated with heavy metals and chemical toxins.Chevron's own environmental audits (by Fugro-McClelland) confirm these crimes and show that the company never conducted basic monitoring of its pipelines and never developed a plan to clean up its routine oil spills. Records reveal that 38 pipelines ruptured in a single month - September 1978 - in just one of the oil fields.In 1972, to hide the crimes, a Texaco/Chevron executive in Ecuador ordered that “only major [environmental] events . . . are to be reported," and defined a "major event" as one that might "attract the attention of the press and/or regulatory authorities." The policy stated that “no reports are to be kept ... and all previous reports are to be removed ... and destroyed.” Evidence showed that Chevron never approved a budget for environmental clean-up in Ecuador.Each of 54 judicial site inspections during the trial in Ecuador found that Chevron left oil contamination in violation of national legal standards that are ten times more lax than typical U.S. standards. Some Chevron pits showed contamination 900-times higher than the Ecuadorian standard, and the average pit contained 20-times the allowable Ecuadorean contamination (200-times the US standard).Rainforest inhabitants testified that Chevron's waste pits overflowed into streams, that local drinking water became noxious, that family members became ill, and that some died from exposure to the toxins. The contamination contained human carcinogens and other toxins including benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), and benz[a]anthracene. Samples revealed illegal levels of barium, cadmium, copper, mercury, lead, and other metals that can damage the immune, nervous and reproductive systems and cause cancer.Chevron's own documents reveal that the company adopted these practices to save money. [...]

5 reasons the car industry needs to change its ways now

Tue, 12 Sep 2017 10:15:00 +0200

Today the world’s biggest motor show gets underway in Germany. The Frankfurt Motorshow is the moment many of the world’s best known car manufacturers get together for a grand display of vehicles that have been polished so hard it’s a miracle there’s any paint left on them. But while the firms exhibiting at the event will be keen to tell you how fast their cars get from zero to 100 kilometers an hour, what you’re unlikely to hear is how the car industry is looking increasingly irrelevant as consumer choices, technology, and government policies are rapidly forcing the industry to change. Here are five reasons why.1. Climate changeWhile some car firms are keen to brag about how efficient their petrol and diesel models have become, the reality is the vehicles they produce now contribute more than 20% of the total CO2 emissions in many countries. In many countries around the world the electricity generation sector has started to reduce its carbon footprint, yet road transport has failed to get its total emissions down. With the need to tackle climate change becoming more and more urgent, car firms can only stay stuck in their old ways for so long.2. Air pollutionIn Europe, nearly half a million people die prematurely each year due to air pollution. But in other areas of the world, the situation is even worse.With public concern about air pollution on the rise, car firms that remain fixated on making petrol and diesel vehicles look out of step with what people want.3. Petrol and diesel bansThe Frankfurt motor show is taking place while some governments are unveiling plans to ban petrol and diesel vehicles. A number of car firms have switched on to this, like Volvo who recently declared that all its new cars will be electric or hybrid from 2019.Meanwhile, most of the big car firms at the Frankfurt motor show are still so focused on the internal combustion engine. It really begs the question - what planet are they on?4. DieselgateIt’s been almost two years since Volkswagen was caught cheating emissions tests and the truth was uncovered about how some diesel cars were emitting “up to 40 times more pollution" than allowed.While other car companies, like Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover, have committed to phasing out diesel and petrol vehicles, VW still has a long way to go to clean up their act. And now, on the back of the Dieselgate scandal, even more of Germany’s biggest car firms, like BMW and Daimler, are under pressure to change.5. Car sharingIn many European cities, younger generations are already shifting away from owning cars and choosing bicycles and public transport instead.With more and more of the world’s population moving to cities - a trend that is set continue in years to come - this could mean an increasing number of people begin to see the idea of owning their own car as an expensive and cumbersome option in comparison to car sharing.This blog is based on a new Greenpeace report: “Why the Automobile Has No Future. A Global Impact Analysis” – download it here.Richard Casson is a campaigner for Greenpeace UK[...]

We shall not be moved

Thu, 07 Sep 2017 16:40:00 +0200

This week, a courageous group of activists from across Europe are joining Greenpeace Poland to stop illegal logging in the ancient Białowieża Forest.Dozens of people have been chaining themselves to trees and logging machinery to stop foresters from cutting down trees in Europe’s last remaining ancient lowland forest. The forest is home to many rare birds, lynxes, wolves and the biggest wild-ranging herd of European bison.      © Grzegorz Broniatowski / Greenpeace            © Rafal Wojczal / Greenpeace                                   Activist occupies trees - 6 Sept, 2017           Activist participating in the blockade In case you haven’t been keeping up to date with the story, here’s what’s happened so far: the Court of Justice of the European Union has told the Polish government to immediately stop logging and removing trees from the most precious parts of the forest. But the Polish Minister of the Environment, Jan Szyszko, has been ignoring EU law and Poland’s commitments to UNESCO, and continues to allow logging in this unique fairytale forest.This is the first time in the history of the EU that a member country has flatly refused to comply with an order from the European Court.©Rafał Wojczal - activists march - 31 Aug 2017 The authorities in Poland argue that the removal of dead trees from the forest is a measure against a bark beetle infestation. But many scientists and the European Court confirm that bark beetles are not a threat to the forest, and if the natural ecosystem is left alone, it will thrive. Dead trees are extremely important for the biodiversity of the forest. The real threat to Bialowieza is deforestation.Greenpeace has been working to protect the forest in Poland for many years. And we won’t stop now.Some of the activists have already been removed by guards, but we aren’t moving until we know that this forest is protected.© Grzegorz Broniatowski - an activist being removed from the protest - 6 Sept 2017We will not let this ancient and fragile ecosystem be cut down for profit. We won’t stop resisting until the entire forest is recognised as a National Park.Help defend this unique and ancient forest. Sign the petition to protect the Białowieża Forest.Marianna Hoszowska is the head of communications for Greenpeace Poland[...]

Glimmer of hope for the orangutan as palm oil company bows to peat forest pressure

Thu, 31 Aug 2017 10:10:00 +0200

 For the first time ever, a palm oil company has been forced to restore rainforest and peatland in order to continue supplying the global market. Under pressure from customers and civil society, Malaysian palm oil company FGV has promised to restore over 1,000 hectares of the peat forest in West Kalimantan, Indonesia.FGV is a subsidiary of FELDA, the world’s largest palm oil grower. Bagus Kusuma, Forest campaigner with Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said it was a sign that corporate ‘no deforestation’ policies were finally starting to bite."It sends a serious warning that other destructive palm oil companies should heed: deforestation has consequences,” Kusuma said.The good news couldn't come at a better time for Indonesia's forests and its inhabitants.A report released last week by Indonesia’s Environment and Forestry Ministry confirmed that the number of orangutans has plummeted since 2004. Thirteen years ago there were an estimated 45 to 76 great apes per hundred square kilometres in Borneo. Today, that number has fallen to 13 to 47 individuals per hundred square kilometres, the survey said, adding that habitat destruction is one of the main causes.The news won’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s been following the fate of one of the planet’s cutest (and smartest) animals. Orangutans have long faced the threat of extinction in Borneo and Sumatra due to habitat clearing across Indonesia.But unfortunately, the latest survey proves in tangible terms the toll forest clearance and peatland drainage has been taking on the orangutan population.  A baby orangutan rescued from forest fires in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. The survey also found that of the 52 orangutan meta-populations surviving across Sumatra and Borneo, only around a third (38%) are expected to remain viable over a 100 to 500-year time frame.It wasn’t a good week last week for the much-loved orangutan.An Associated Press investigation also revealed that an Indonesian company and its Chinese partner are pushing ahead with an industrial wood plantation in a tropical forest and (you guessed it) orangutan habitat.Seemingly in total contravention of government regulations, photos and drone footage show heavy earth moving equipment and an extensive drainage canal full of water in Sungai Putri forest, AP reported.  The area is home to as many as 1,200 orangutans -- the third largest population in Indonesia.“The government is clearly failing to protect Indonesia’s most iconic animal species, as companies continue to develop plantations in forests and peatland that are some of the last homes for orangutans,” Greenpeace Forest Campaigner Ratri Kusumohartono said.Drainage canals are used to dry out the peatland, releasing carbon emissions and creating the right conditions for forest fires. "If the government is serious about stopping fires it must stop this company from developing on peatland and protect this critical peatland forest," said Kusumohartono.“Protecting this landscape is vital both for preventing the fires of the future and to save Indonesia’s crucial orangutan habitats. All deforestation must stop immediately.”Enough with the bad news. What can we do?!This latest win shows that you CAN make a difference. To keep peatlands from burning, we need total and permanent forest protection to #StoptheHaze once and for all in Southeast Asia. And for this, we need you. Stand up with Greenpeace Southeast Asia to ensure total forest protection.Sign up now to get the latest updates on the Greenpeace forest campaign and opportunities to take action.Juliet Perry is a Content Editor at Greenpeace East Asia[...]

Can the world come to its senses on nuclear weapons?

Tue, 29 Aug 2017 03:58:00 +0200

Looking back, one of the key moments that was to define both my professional and personal path was the moment I stepped onto the small atoll of Rongelap, in the Pacific Ocean.It was 17 May 1985 and I was 24 years old.At first glance, it appeared as if I had reached paradise; sandy beaches with coconut trees, water so crystal clear you could see the bottom, meters deep. And yet nothing was as it should be.Waiting for us on the beach, with flowers, was the local community. The women held a banner reading ‘we love the future of our children.’I was there with the crew of the Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, to help them relocate. Their beloved island was making them sick, and what you couldn't see here could kill you.Back in March 1954, the atoll received a massive dose of radiation when the US tested its most powerful nuclear weapon. The test was code named ‘Castle Bravo’ and the people of Rongelap were given no warning and offered no protection.Radioactive fallout rained down on the island, falling for days. It dissolved into the water supplies, into the sea, and onto the houses, gardens and people. It contaminated them all.In the tropics, where people spend a lot of time outside, the children played in the fine white ash, thinking it was snow.In the years that followed, it became clear to the people that their island was no longer safe. The impact of the radiation poisoning, impossible to clean, was revealing itself with time. The number of children that had their damaged thyroids removed, the number of women that had children born with severe deformities, known as ‘jellyfish babies,’ was impossible to ignore.They no longer trusted what the US military scientists were telling them about the safety of their island. They were left with no choice but to leave, with little hope of ever returning.Evacuation of Rongelap Islanders to Mejato by the crew of the Rainbow Warrior. The contrast between the beautiful setting and the criminal irresponsibility of the US military who used these people as guinea pigs is still heartbreaking this many years later.Today, 29 August, marks the International Day Against Nuclear Tests.And while every day during the past few months stands as a stark reminder as to why nuclear tests and nuclear weapons are so dangerous, today is a good day to reflect on the lessons we’ve learned in fighting nuclear tests, and, most importantly, how we carry on the fight to rid the world of this evil invention.This year, we do so with renewed impetus.As the last few months has revealed, the majority of the world’s nuclear warheads are in the hands of men for whom the idea of using them is becoming thinkable.It is perhaps hard to imagine that not so very long ago, nuclear tests were common and held regularly. Hailed as a benchmark of scientific progress and the ultimate guarantee of security, nuclear weapons have been tested more than 2000 times since 16 July 1945, when the ‘Trinity’ test was conducted by the US army in New Mexico.In the 60s and 70s, the number of tests peaked, before decreasing in number but continuing steadily until the late 90s.The countries conducting the most tests were the US with 1,054 tests, the USSR with 715, France with 210, and the UK and China with 45 tests each.Public outrage and the relentless efforts of determined individuals across the world eventually led major powers to stop testing in the physical environment. Greenpeace first set sail as an organisation in 1971 to stop nuclear weapons testing and the role that we played in this, alongside so many, fills me with pride.Protest at the UN building in Geneva, encouraging nations to sign the CTBT.In 1996, major states signed the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty pledging to discontinue all nuclear testing. Although the treaty has never entered into force, nuclear testing essentially screeched to a halt with its adoptio[...]

The Arctic Sunrise has been seized. Here’s why:

Fri, 18 Aug 2017 00:29:00 +0200

The message is clear: Norway, it’s time to choose people over oil. 35 activists from 25 countries around the world are in the Barents Sea to demand an end to Arctic drilling.


Today, activists from the Arctic Sunrise on inflatable boats and kayaks entered the exclusion zone of Statoil’s Korpfjell well, Norway’s most northern oil drilling site to date, and attached a giant globe to the rig Songa Enabler.

The globe carried written statements from people from all over the world, with a message to the Norwegian government to stop the oil drilling.


The activists halted the operation of the rig, and after several hours of demanding an end to the drilling in the Arctic, the Norwegian Coast Guard interfered with the peaceful protest, arresting the Arctic Sunrise ship, the activists and crew members.


Just 10 days before ratifying the Paris Agreement, in June 2016, the “environmentally friendly” Norwegian government granted new oil licenses. Now, a year later, Statoil has just started to drill for oil in the northernmost area ever licensed by Norway.


But this won’t stop us. It’s time to get ready for our new battleground: the courtroom—where Greenpeace Nordic, together with Nature and Youth, will face Actic Oil this November.

With your witness statements we will achieve it. Add your name to the more than 350.000 others and become part of the evidence that the people know a better world is possible.

Diego Gonzaga is a content editor for Greenpeace US.


The world is on fire

Mon, 14 Aug 2017 15:26:00 +0200

A huge wildfire is raging in Greenland. 150 km from the Arctic Circle and just 50 km away from Greenland's ice sheet, large swathes of tundra have been burning for over a week.Nobody has seen anything like this in recent times.Satellite imagery of Greenland, 50 km from the ice sheet, 3rd August 2017In the last few years, catastrophic fires have been increasing around the world. From Indonesia to Canada, across South America and Africa, from Southern Europe into Siberia, and now Greenland too. Many are fatal. As you read this, over 1.6 million hectares of Russia are on fire. Forest fires of this scale are unmanageable and blazes like these have become the new normal in Russia.Forest fires blazing in Siberia, 2016Why do they keep getting worse? Lack of forest management, insufficient funds for prevention and firefighting are partly to blame. But climate change is the real problem. The fire season in the boreal forests is getting longer every year. Hotter, drier weather spells make fire spread faster.Fires like these aren’t just devastating because of the loss of forests, they also directly contribute to furthering climate change. As well as being massive emitters of carbon dioxide, satellite images show how the smoke from forest fires in Siberia travels north and reaches the Arctic. Black carbon pollutes the ice and makes it melt even faster.  Smoke from forest fires in Siberia on 7th August 2017, NASA satellite imageIt’s a feedback loop of destruction. Increased wildfires lead to more rapid climate change which in turn, leads to more wildfires.Forest fires are one of the most significant sources of CO2 emissions after fossil fuels. We can’t afford to ignore this problem if we want to effectively stop climate change. Volunteer firefighters in Russia, 2016 The impact of wildland fires on climate change hasn’t been properly acknowledged yet. The global threat posed by wildfires is underestimated. If we want to win this fight, we need to change government policies and raise the public's perception of the problem. That starts with awareness. Share this blog to make the world listen.[...]