Climate Joy Week #31: New York Moves to Ban Foie Gras, UK Prohibits Fracking Over Earthquake Fears and more…

Climate Joy Week #31: New York Moves to Ban Foie Gras, UK Prohibits Fracking Over Earthquake Fears and more…

This week’s edition of Climate Joy is proudly brought to you by our sponsor Australian Ethical:

EWP x Australian Ethical Superannuation

Welcome back to another week of Climate Joy! The past few days have been a little unsettling; that is in light of the California fires and Chile backing out from hosting the COP25 given its civil unrest. At times like this however, we are reminded of the purpose of this series. We launched Climate Joy to bring positive climate news to you and to encourage one another to keep up the good fight. The days we feel most hopeless are the days we need to hear about the positive news so we can keep going.

So, here’s what we’re celebrating this week:

1. New York Bans Foie Gras

New York City has just passed a bill that will work to ban restaurants and grocery stores from selling foie gras amidst increasing concerns around animal welfare. Foie gras is made by force-feeding male ducks twice each day, pumping up to 2.2 pounds of grain and fat into their stomachs, or geese three times a day, up to 4 pounds daily, in a process known as “gavage.” The force-feeding causes the birds’ livers to swell to up to 10 times their normal size, a dangerous condition as you can imagine. And foie gras is the subsequent delicacy made from the swollen livers.

The bill passed through the city council last week and is set to be signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio. The bill also describes the luxury good as a “force-fed product” and according to councillor Carlina Rivera — the prime sponsor of the bill, force-feeding is an “inhumane practice.”

Those caught selling foie gras will incur a civic penalty of upwards of $2,000 for each violation.

This photo was taken part of an undercover investigation in three foie gras farms in Quebec: Elevages Perigord, Aux Champs d'Elisee, and Palmex. ?
This photo was taken part of an undercover investigation in three foie gras farms in Quebec: Elevages Perigord, Aux Champs d’Elisee, and Palmex. Credit: Liberation BC/Flickr.

2. Tesco to Cut Down Plastic Use

UK’s biggest supermarket chain Tesco, has announced that it will be cutting down on plastic use in its own-brand products. This is part of the company’s strategy to cut out non-recyclable packaging. According to the company, items that will be removed include plastic ready-meal trays, yoghurt pot lids, straws and loose fruit bags. Tesco says it will remove all plastic secondary lids on products such as cream, yoghurt and cereal. It will also be ditching plastic sporks from snack pots and 200m pieces of plastic used to pack clothing and greeting cards.

This strategy will ensure that the supermarket chain cuts out over one billion pieces of plastic by end of 2020. The drive has seen Tesco also pledge to ban brands with too much non-recyclable packaging from next year. The move comes after Tesco admitted that 13% of packaging on its own-brand products was hard to recycle.

This announcement has been well received by environmentalists, with Louise Edge, the head of Greenpeace UK’s ocean plastics campaign, who stated that Tesco was “absolutely doing the right thing” even though “they’ve still got plenty of work to do…”

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3. UK Bans Fracking Over Earthquake Fears

The UK government very recently prohibited fracking in the country. The government moratorium commences with immediate effect so all fracking is now suspended. This decision comes after the Oil and Gas Authority (OGA) released a report stating that it was impossible to rule out “unacceptable” consequences for those living near fracking sites. The report also warned it was not possible to predict the magnitude of earthquakes fracking might trigger.

Fracking, also known as hydraulic fracturing, involves pumping water, chemicals and sand underground at high pressure to fracture shale rock and release trapped oil and gas. 

This decision comes in the aftermath of a 2.9 magnitude earthquake, attributed to fracking which rocked Lancashire in August. The government has relayed that it would not agree to any future fracking “until compelling new evidence is provided” that proves fracking could be safe.

4. Pizza Hut’s New Compostable Packaging and Vegan Meat Topping

Pizza Hut is testing out new round pizza boxes on Wednesday at a restaurant in Phoenix, Arizona. The pizza boxes, made by food startup Zume, have been designed to keep pizza hotter, fresher, and crispier, and uses less material and thus more sustainable than traditional square boxes. These new boxes are designed to stack and interlock, and are of course compostable.

Pizza Hut will also test a new plant-based “meat” topping in efforts to keep up with the growing popularity of plant-based food.

Credit: Pizza Hut.

5. New York to Get 250 Miles of Bike Lanes

The New York City authorities have announced that the city would be getting 250 miles of interconnected bike lanes. The project is part of a $1.7 billion street safety plan which will also include adding 1m sq. ft. of pedestrian space in a landmark move designed to “break the car culture” of the city.

According to reports, cycling in the city is on the rise, with the number who ride several times a month growing by 26% between 2012 and 2017. However, cycling in New York is notoriously dangerous. This new plan comes after 25 cyclist deaths, the highest number in 20 years, and pedestrian and cyclist fatalities have risen by 24%.

The New York city council speaker, Corey Johnson, who introduced the “streets master plan” “The way we plan our streets now makes no sense and New Yorkers pay the price every day, stuck on slow buses or risking their own safety cycling without protected bike lanes… I want to completely revolutionize how we share our street space, and that’s what this bill does”.

6. Scotland Restores Its Peats to Keep Carbon in the Ground

Scotland has renewed efforts to restore its peats commonly known as bogs, in a bid to combat carbon emissions by keeping carbon trapped in the soil. Peatlands are created when the remains of plants are submerged in waterlogged lands, turning them over time into peat with the plants’ carbon still stored inside. Peatlands are often overlooked when it comes to storing carbon. However, it has been shown that they store at least twice as much carbon as forests. After years of degradation, Scotland has increased its ambition in restoring these important areas.

The Scottish government hopes to restore 50,000 hectares by the end of 2020, and 250,000 hectares by 2030. To accomplish this, landowners are being offered grants by the Scottish government to block the drainage ditches their predecessors were encouraged to dig. A total of €16.3 million (US$18 million) has been made available this year

We’d love to keep the good news coming but we figure by now you get the picture.

All around the globe, people –like you and I– are fighting to protect our planet in whatever little ways they can. And we are making progress, slowly but steadily. We hope this realization encourages you in all you do this week.

And we hope you swing by same time next week to celebrate more positive news!

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Featured image of foie gras geese ducks are panting because their enlarged liver is pressing against their air sacs. Credit: Liberation BC/Flickr.

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