Trust in the Balance

Trust in the Balance
A firm belief in the reliability, truth, or ability of someone or something.
‘relations have to be built on trust’

Over the past months in lockdown Arran resident islanders have grown in their trust of their relationships in our community. At least that is what it feels like: Everyone has helped, we have pulled together with a real sense of trust in the Arran community. The bigger question now is how much do we trust the “outer” world? Under today’s stressful, rapidly shifting headlines, trust is becoming more elusive than ever. As we look out into the wider world, we need confidence and trust in our leaders, local authority and government decisions, international and local company ethics and integrity, and most importantly in what is reported to us through the media. And if we do not have trust, how do we change our own world, demand change of leaders and companies in this time of Ecosystem Destruction, Climate Emergency, and Power of the Few? We have little time.

Here are three examples where trust has been betrayed.

Despite a ban, bee-killing pesticides (neonicotinoids) are still widely used in Europe

Two years ago, the EU agreed a landmark ban in order to protect bees and other insects from the “large scale adverse effects” of three neonicotinoid pesticides. Neonicotinoids have long been linked by scientists to the decline of honey bees and other pollinators, with evidence suggesting the pesticides harm baby bee brain development, weaken immune systems and can leave bees unable to navigate or even fly.

We all cheered. But – recent investigation finds EU countries have issued at least 67 different ’emergency authorisations’ for outdoor use of these three neonicotinoids. This was supposed to mean that the pesticides can be used in situations where there is a clear danger to farming or ecosystems and no other reasonable means to treat the problem. Only these emergencies seem to be happening rather a lot – about once every two weeks – and sometimes for questionable or unsubstantiated reasons, including in one instance to treat beetle outbreaks on Danish golf courses. Further, the EU auditors have found the measures have not made a real difference in preventing the decline in bees and butterflies. The Commission has recently announced new plans to cut pesticide use by 50% by 2030.

The investigation identified billions of dollars of income for agrochemical giants BASF, Bayer, Corteva, FMC and Syngenta from chemicals found by regulatory authorities to pose health hazards like cancer or reproductive failure. It also found more than a billion dollars of their sales came from chemicals – some now banned in European markets – that are highly toxic to bees. Over two thirds of these sales were made in low- and middle-income countries like Brazil and India.

More concerning at present is the Scottish salmon farming industry’s wish to use a neonicotinoid following an application for a patent concerning a neonicotinoid-based in-feed sea louse treatment. One option for treatment is set to be administered orally, via medicated feeds, to salmon ranging from 50 g to 5 kg. Trials have shown it to be effective against sea lice. A prominent feature of neonicotinoids is their specificity to invertebrates and this group of compounds is reported to induce toxic effects in crustaceans when distributed in extremely low concentrations. Their relatively long persistence in aquatic environments could, the scientists suggest, complicate their use as antiparasitic compounds. Nevertheless their trials showed that imidacloprid, one of the three neonics banned – which is the compound included in the current patent application – was highly effective against salmon sealice. Exposing lice to imidacloprid for 30 minutes at a concentration of 50 mg L(-1), or for 24 hours at 5 mg L(-1) generated a high level of immobilization. So kill the lice but potentially result in severe damage to shellfish stocks in inshore waters over the longer term. The creel fishery is an important economic driver in the west of Scotland. How can we trust the salmon aquaculture industry? Short term profit over concern for the environment, and ecosystems is being shown again and again in their use of chemicals, and lack of pollution control. Get involved to protect your inshore waters! It should be said that an alternative way of administering neonics to farmed salmon is well-boat treatment in an enclosed tank with the contaminated seawater then being treated to remove, it is claimed, all residual pesticide. This treatment process could be about to be employed in Scottish waters.

Global methane levels at record high and soya into the food chain (from animal feed, including for salmon aquaculture, to biscuits, cakes and biodiesel)

Atmospheric concentrations of methane are now at record levels, and emissions of the potent greenhouse gas have risen 10% globally in the last two decades. Recent research by the Global Carbon Project, revealed methane emissions reached a record 596m tonnes in 2017, the most recent year available. Livestock farming is a key driver of methane emissions, with climate sceptics keen to dismiss concerns over the greenhouse gas as worries over flatulence from cows. Oil and gas production are also major sources of methane emissions, in particular fracking. Methane is a much more powerful driver of the atmospheric greenhouse effect than carbon dioxide

Brazil beef and soya linked to deforestation. Around one-fifth of the beef and soya that ends up in the EU from Brazil comes from illegally deforested land in the Amazon rainforest and Cerrado tropical savannah. The study, published in the journal Science, is more comprehensive than previous efforts to link deforestation with the meat and soya trade, as a team of international researchers pored over maps and government documents to show links between illegal deforestation and food production firms.

The extent of European consumers’ role in the destruction of two globally important biodiversity hotspots is revealed as Brazil faces a bleak year for deforestation because of an anticipated drought and the activities of emboldened loggers. European politicians have also warned a major trade deal is at risk if climate change-fuelling deforestation in Brazil is not tackled.

Past investigations have uncovered the links between individual Brazilian cattle ranches and European food firms. Agribusiness claimed it was not to blame for illegal logging. Now an international team has connected the dots using Brazilian government records, including maps of land use, deforestation and permits issued when cattle is moved between the properties and abattoirs ahead of international trade. Ruling out legal forest clearance, the team found 20 per cent of soya and at least 17 per cent of beef exports to the EU were associated with illegal deforestation. “This work highlights how international markets, such as the EU, have a long way to go to ensure their sourcing is compliant with their climate commitments.” So says Louis Verchot at agriculture research group CGIAR (Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research is a global partnership that unites international organisations engaged in research about food security). He goes on to say the study “moves us one step closer” to cleaning up supply chains and living up to a 2014 pledge to halt deforestation, which countries and businesses have failed to do yet. And it is now 2020!

Journal reference: Science, DOI: 10.1126/science.aba6646

Betting against the Paris Agreement

The central aim is to strengthen the global response to the threat of climate change by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels and to pursue efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius.

At a time of historically low gas prices, the governments of the US, UK, Netherlands, Italy, Japan, South Africa and Vietnam have put up nearly $15billion of public money into support of a massive gas project in Mozambique that could clash with the goals of the Paris Agreement. The news follows an Unearthed investigation that found a little-known UK government agency UKEF (UK Export Finance) is helping to finance projects overseas that will emit 69m tonnes of greenhouse gases per year.

Recently, as the UK prepared to host a major climate summit in Glasgow, now delayed until October 2021, Boris Johnson promised that the government will no longer support coal mines or coal plants overseas. But the reality is it has not financed one since 2002 so that is political spin! The Unearthed investigation in conjunction with BBC Newsnight has revealed that the overseas fossil fuel projects that it is supporting will emit greenhouse gases equivalent to 17 coal fired power plants. All the fossil fuel projects to which it is currently exposed are oil and gas-related, although documents suggest the government is also considering supporting a project linked to a huge coal-powered mine in Mongolia. The projects are backed by UK Export Finance (UKEF), which offers loans and financial guarantees to UK companies involved in major projects around the world. It has long declined to rule out investments in fossil fuels.

As well as the 69m tonnes of greenhouse gases that will be emitted by projects for which UKEF could be on the hook, the agency has said it is formally considering more fossil fuel projects which would emit at least another 20.6m tonnes, equivalent to five coal plants. Other projects still in the early stages – such as that in Mongolia – could drive up the tally further. According to figures collated by Greenpeace’s Unearthed, the government could be on the hook for up to £6bn invested in fossil fuel projects around the world. UKEF has helped to fund schemes from oil wells off the coast of Brazil to oil refineries in Bahrain and Oman. The Power of the Few to say one thing and do another is also about the power of some media to persuade us that untruths are truths!

These 3 areas are examples of double dealing…telling us one thing and doing another. Over time, many of us have noticed that our local, national and UK governments as well as international bodies are putting our democracy at risk. For many schemes, be it salmon farms to housing developments, it appears that lobby power and monetary donations speak louder than our democracy. On Arran we are promised consultations over changes, we stick post-it notes on boards and are promised feedback and all that appears is a black hole! No one appears accountable…that is frustrating too. Remember the consultations over the new Brodick terminal, Brodick Hall and Library future, planning for the McClaren Hotel, Ardrossan development, the new ferry? No wonder people despair and give up trying to create change democratically. It is the same at National level. Can I get a better deal, undemocratically if I contribute millions to a political party, a select grouping or club, support certain press, rather like in rogue states around the world? What happened to ethics and integrity? Where is leadership? How come we have such poverty and poor housing in 2020? We want change after 10 years of severe austerity for some of our community/country/world. My first question is when will the government make multinationals pay tax on profits in our country, so supporting our infrastructure, schools and NHS? When so many workers are on zero-hours, without security, without sick or holiday pay, when will the government stop allowing businesses to treat their staff this way?

But we also have responsibility to change our present behaviour. We also buy cheap clothes, colluding in sweat shop garment makers; we seldom if ever question our integrity over that choice; we use the Amazon on-line marketplace and not question how such commercial, international and IT companies are allowed to pay virtually no taxes; offshoring is constantly used by companies and their ethics and integrity to users, tax payers, the poor is lamentable.

The Pandemic has made us reflect more on our attitudes to societal values, how we care for each other, our environment, climate change, sustainability. Do we need to be such consumers? We need to all be active to build a new trust, hold individuals and power to account, and as a start, take back local democracy! There are so many new potential opportunities out there to address these issues and rebuild our employment structure.

Sally Campbell
July 2020