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The Action Thread Part Two

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6 Unexpected Products You Should Avoid if You Love Animals

You might find it hard to stop buying some of them.

MAY 15, 2018


All around the world, countless products are harming countless animals.

Some products are cultivated in ways that cause deforestation, others use ingredients that pollute ecosystems, and others kill animals directly.

All told, these products embody the destructive practices that are all too common in international commerce.

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Many of these goods are hard to go without — but environmentally sustainable alternatives exist, and they’re easy to find.

Here are six common products hurting the animals you love, and some better, friendlier options you should try instead.

1. Sunscreen 

What it's hurting: Coral

Coral reefImage: Flickr: UCAR

A common chemical in sunscreens — Oxybenzone, also known as BP-13 — is "highly toxic to juvenile corals and other marine life," according to a 2015 study published in the journal "Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology." It causes damage and other deformities to baby coral DNA, and even accelerates the process known as coral bleaching, which is devastating reefs around the world, including the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.  

The substance is found in more than 3,500 skincare products — a reminder that many widely used chemicals have unintended environmental consequences.

Read More: 5 Household Products That Are Slowly Destroying the Environment

Hawaii recently banned suncreens with BP-13 because it has caused so much harm to its famous reefs.

Alternatives: Sustainable sunscreens that don’t harm coral are available and are just as effective in protecting your skin from ultraviolet rays.

2. Bread and Cookies Made With Palm Oil

What they're hurting: Orangutans

uriel-soberanes-401915-unsplash.jpgPhoto by Uriel Soberanes on Unsplash

Palm oil production is often unregulated and leads to the indiscriminate razing of vast swaths of the Sumatran and Borneo rainforests. The practice contributes to terrible forest fires that destroy habitats, burn animals alive, and cause others to breathe heavily polluted air.

Products with palm oil include:

  • Cookies
  • Ice cream
  • Pizza dough
  • Instant noodles
  • Soap    

Orangutans, in particular, have been severely harmed by palm oil production due to lost habitats, and a number of conservation groups have emerged to protect them.

Fortunately, these advocates have spurred more responsible palm oil production and interventions have been made to save orangutans.

Alternatives: Any product with a sustainable palm oil certification.

3. Red Meat

What it’s hurting: Birds (believe it or not)

Parrot birdImage: Photo by Mélody P on Unsplash

Raising livestock is the leading cause of deforestation around the world. In South America, for instance, raising livestock for beef was responsible for 71% of deforestation between 1990 and 2005 and one of the leading threats facing the Amazon rainforest is the production of beef.

Read More: Why You Should Probably Never Eat Red Meat Again

As all of this land is lost, animals are being stripped of their sources of food and ecosystems. In fact, habitat loss from deforestation is the leading threat facing animals today.  

Birds, in particular, are seeing their habitats rapidly shrink around the world, and now more than 1 in 8 bird species are at risk of extinction.

Alternatives: Seek out sustainably rasied beef, or eat a tasty imitation like the Beyond Burger, Impossible Burger, or veggie burgers.

4. Mass-Produced Jeans

What they're hurting: Fish

Great Barrier Reef2.jpgImage: Flickr/GreensMPs

An essential part of any wardrobe, jeans happen to have a huge environmental impact.

Jean factories often use large volumes of highly toxic chemicals to stain denim, and these toxins are often released in local waterways, making them uninhabitable for marine creatures like river fish.

The Ganges River in India, for example, is the site of continuous pollution and no longer supports the vast ecosystems that it once did.

Read More: 9 Items in Your Kitchen That Might Have Been Made by Slaves

When toxic dumping was halted in the River Thames, on the other hand, wildlife suddenly returned.

Alternatives: More than 200 major brands are a part of the Sustainable Apparel Coalition, which promotes environmentally sound practices, but only select brands like Patagonia enforce these standards across their portfolios.

5. Commercial Seafood

What it’s hurting: Dolphins and whales

darin-ashby-483695-unsplash.jpgPhoto by darin ashby on Unsplash

More than 90% of the world’s fish populations are fully fished or overfished because of a lack of coordinated marine regulations and lack of enforcement of existing regulations, according to the UN.

This lawless exploitation is also leading to the wholesale slaughter of dolphins and whales.

It’s estimated that up to 300,000 small whales, dolphins, and porpoises get entangled and killed by discarded fishing nets each year. The single biggest threat to sea turtles, according to the World Wildlife Fund, is fishing gear.

In the Gulf of Mexico, a small species of porpoise called the vaquita has been reduced to a population of less than 30 primarily because of the improper disposal of gillnets — enormous nets known as “walls of death.”

Read More: Why You Should Probably Never Eat Seafood Again

Alternatives: There are companies dedicated to the responsible extraction of fish that have been vetted by environmental groups and others that are developing sustainable fish farms.

Both are viable alternatives to unmarked commercial fish found in supermarkets.

6. Plastic Straws

What they're hurting: Turtles

Green Sea Turtle.png

Americans use 500 million plastic straws every year and the vast majority of these straws end up in landfills or waterways, where they harm marine life.

Turtles often get straws jammed into their orifices, and mistake straws for food, only to starve to death when their guts fill with indigestible materials.

The story of one turtle, in particular, has helped to galvanize the movement against plastic straws after a video captured the creature with a straw painfully stuck in its nose.

Alternatives: Check out seven eco-friendly alternatives to plastic straws here.

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Este hongo podría ser la respuesta a la crisis de residuos plásticos

Puede comer plástico en cuestión de días.

Por Erica Sanchez  y  Sophie Maes





Por qué los Global Citizens deberían preocuparse

La contaminación causada por plásticos de un solo uso plantea una amenaza para los ecosistemas terrestres y marinos. Debemos encontrar maneras innovadoras de limpiar la basura y reducir la producción de estos plásticos dañinos en el futuro. Únete a nosotros para tomar medidas sobre este tema aquí.

Los hongos podrían desempeñar un papel importante al abordar el creciente problema mundial de los desechos plásticos, según un nuevo estudio publicado por investigadores de Kew Royal Botanic Gardens en Londres.


Los científicos encontraron un hongo que puede descomponer los plásticos en cuestión de semanas.


"Esto es increíblemente emocionante porque la basura plástica es un gran desafío ambiental. Si esta puede ser la solución, sería genial", dijo el martes Ilia Leitch, una científica del equipo, en una conferencia de prensa,informó CNN.


"Estamos en los primeros días de la investigación, pero espero ver los beneficios de estos hongos que pueden comer plástico en cinco o 10 años", agregó Leitch.


Dado que los plásticos tardan años en descomponerse -de 20 a 600 años, según el tipo de plástico-, esta investigación podría ser revolucionaria. El increíble hongo, Aspergillus tubingensis, que crece en Pakistán, podría acelerar el proceso de descomposición del plástico dramáticamente, consumiendo algunos plásticos "en semanas en lugar de años", dice el informe.


El informe, llamado "El estado de los hongos del mundo", incluyó investigaciones de 100 científicos con sede en 18 países, que están trabajando para identificar especies de hongos previamente desconocidas y sus beneficios, informó CNN.


Algunas otras variedades de hongos pueden alimentarse de otros contaminantes como el petróleo o, incluso, productos químicos tóxicos como el gas sarín, TNT y desechos radioactivos, dijo Sky News.


Más allá de estas especies que consumen contaminantes, los hongos también son vitales para los ecosistemas en todo el mundo y, recientemente, sus servicios esenciales para el medio ambiente han recibido más atención. Aproximadamente el 90% de las especies de plantas vivas dependen de los hongos para acceder a los nutrientes a través de sus raíces. Las orquídeas, por ejemplo, necesitan hongos para sobrevivir, según Kew. Los humanos comen 350 especies de hongos en forma de hongos comestibles.


Al mismo tiempo, algunas especies de hongos presentan importantes amenazas para los ecosistemas, con la capacidad de infectar plantas y animales.

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Con sus poderosas capacidades destructivas y dadoras de vida, los hongos son indiscutiblemente extraordinarios. Sin embargo, los científicos todavía tienen mucho más para aprender sobre ellos.


Más del 90% de los 3,8 millones de hongos estimados en el mundo siguen siendo desconocidos para los científicos, según informa la BBC. Actualmente, solo 56 especies de hongos han tenido su estado de conservación evaluado globalmente, mientras que ya han sido registrados los estados de 25,452 plantas y 68,054 animales.


"Ignoramos mucho sobre los hongos", dice el profesor Willis. "Este es un reino que debemos tomar en serio, especialmente con el cambio climático y todos los demás desafíos que enfrentamos", dijo a la BBC la profesora Kathy Willis, directora de ciencias de Kew.


"Son organismos realmente extraños con el ciclo de vida más extraño. Sin embargo, cuando comprendes su papel en el ecosistema de la Tierra, te das cuenta de que sustentan la vida en la Tierra", dijo.


Los hongos son un recordatorio de la necesidad de proteger la biodiversidad. El cambio climático causado por la actividad humana no solo está poniendo en peligro a las aves y los mamíferos, también podría poner en peligro especies menos visibles cuyas funciones ecológicas esenciales aún no se conocen.

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Even During Famines & Epidemics Women Outlive Men: Study

Hey humans. It’s time to woman up.

Women are tougher than men.


Don’t take it from us — this is not an op-ed. It’s official: science has spoken.

Women are more likely to survive famine and epidemics, according to a study from Duke University in North Carolina that describes women as “life expectancy champions.”

Take Action: Show the World That Girls Can Keep Going #LikeAGirl


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The study concludes that, “even when mortality was very high, women lived longer on average than men.”

It draws its conclusions from hospital records from the last 250 years, including during severe humanitarian crises. The investigation included seven specific groups of people experiencing hardship, famine, and disease, and who had a resulting life expectancy of less than 20 — but almost always there was one sex that seemed better suited to survive.

Slave plantations in Trinidad and the US in the early 1800s? Women.

Famines in Sweden, Ireland, and the Ukraine in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries? Women, women, women.

Measles outbreaks in Iceland between 1846 and 1882? Men. No, wait, just kidding — it was definitely women.


When the going gets tough, women are tougher. Women survive hardship better than men. Even newborn girls survive childhood mortality better than boys.https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-018-00413-x http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2018/01/03/1701535115 @PNASNews

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Why? It’s complicated — and comes down to a variety of biological and social factors. But the data is significantly influenced by infant mortality rates: as the report suggests that “baby girls were able to survive harsh conditions better than baby boys.”

Take the outbreak of the 1993 famine in Ukraine, for example. Girls, on average, lived to the age of 10.85, while boys lived to just 7.3.

It’s already well known that women live longer than men. Indeed, when you contemplate the list updated by the Gerontology Research Group that tracks all living supercentenarians — the awesome superhero name given to humans over the age of 110 — only one out of every 40 are male.

Across the planet the average life expectancy for women is 72 years and eight months, and just 68 years and four months for men. In the UK the gap is marginally smaller: women live on average to 82.9, and men to 79.2. But for the first time in a decade, the gap is no longer closing.


“To find the female advantage so marked and consistent among all the populations was surprising,” said lead researcher Virginia Zarulli from the University of Southern Denmark’s Institute of Public Health. “Even more surprising was to find that the biggest part of the sex difference in life expectancy during these crises was determined by striking differences in survival among infants. This is the most interesting result.”

Zarulli says that biology plays an important role, with differing chromosomes and hormones providing different kinds of defences. Oestrogen protects from disease, while testosterone can increase the risk of fatal conditions, and increase the likelihood of reckless behaviour that can lead to a violent death, according to the Guardian. Chromosomally, women have a double X, while men have an X and a Y — a difference that adds a crucial buffer zone.

“In simple words, it is easy to see that if by chance a bad mutation takes place on the X chromosome, women have another X that can partly – or totally – compensate for it, while men don’t have this possibility,” Zarulli explains.

And in non-scientific terms? It seems you don’t need a latex suit and a film franchise to be superhuman anymore — you just need to be female.

Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, including Goal No.5 for gender equality. Take action with us here.

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FEB. 27, 2020



This Saudi Woman Is Racing Past Gender Inequality Through Motorsports

Saudi Arabia only just lifted its ban on women driving in 2018.

Why Global Citizens Should Care
Despite progress in recent years, women have few rights in Saudi Arabia and are subjected to widespread surveillance and abuse. The United Nations' Global Goal 5 is to achieve gender equality around the world. You can join us in taking action on this and related issues here.

Aseel Al-Hamad grew up in a country where women and girls were not allowed to drive. Now, she’s the first female ever appointed to the Saudi Arabian Motor Foundation.

Saudi Arabia lifted its ban on women driving in June 2018 as part of a series of reforms meant to ease gender inequality in the country. Al-Hamad celebrated the occasion by driving a Formula One sports car around the track at the French Grand Prix that month.

“Can you believe that I couldn't get my racing license from Saudi because it was not allowed for women?” Al-Hamad, an interior designer and entrepreneur, asked Forbes. “Starting from last year when they allowed women to drive, we started issuing these licenses. Now we have professional races. We have amazing women who are now competing; they are taking it as full time."

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Al-Hamad has had a lifelong passion for cars, stretching back to when she was a young girl, which made growing up in a country where she was not allowed to drive “one of the biggest challenges” she'd faced in her life, she told Vogue Arabia. But her family encouraged her love of cars and helped teach her how to drive, Forbes reported. 

Eventually, she told Vogue, she started taking classes and immersing herself in the racing world.

In December 2017, she joined the board of the Saudi Arabian Motor Foundation, the organization that supervises motorsports and motorcycles in the kingdom. Now, she uses her platform to champion women and girl drivers, including by visiting racetracks and venues to make sure they accept women, and working to to get a female Saudi driver in the Dakar Rally, Arab News reported.

She also had an opportunity to drive the Taycan, Porsche’s first all-electric road vehicle, from Dubai to Riyadh, ahead of a Formula E race in in Saudi Arabia, according to Arab News.



While Saudi Arabia began instituting reforms to reduce gender inequality in 2017, the reforms have not gone as far as initially hoped, The Week reported last month.

Women are still subjected to an extensive male guardianship system, and are not permitted to marry, leave prison, or leave a domestic violence shelter without the approval of their male guardians, usually a male relative such as a father or brother, the Guardian reported.

Women face widespread domestic abuse, are heavily censored, and have scarce employment opportunities, according to Human Rights Watch.

Related StoriesSept. 27, 2016CHIME FOR CHANGE14,000 Sign Petition to End Male Guardianship in Saudi Arabia

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