Chopping Down Trees Creates Legal Liability

Washington (GGM) Analysis | December 16, 2020 by Attorney Michael Wells, PodcastLegal Fact and Fiction

Trees provide everything from oxygen to habitats for animals, yet they are chopped down with impunity. The damage to the environment is incalculable. To put it into perspective, however, half the number of trees exist now than those in existence when humans first evolved; fifteen billion trees are cut down annually; and ten percent of climate change is attributable to chopping down trees. Environmental carnage aside, legal liability and criminal liability exist for cutting down trees that do not belong to the harvester.

The legal terms most closely associated with cutting down and removing trees that do not belong to the harvester are “timber trespass” (mistakenly harvesting trees from another’s property) and “timber theft” (stealing trees from someone’s property). Timber trespass deals more with the civil end whereas timber theft can involve civil and criminal penalties. It varies from state to state. Nevertheless, lawsuits are filed for large sums of money over taking timber that does not belong to the harvester. 

In South Carolina, as of 2016 one-hundred cases per year are investigated and pursued with a value of between $500,000 and $600,000. A man in North Carolina illegally cut timber near Asheville, the value of the trees owned by a conservancy assessed at $1,000, but the mill rights to the timber of $25,000-$30,000. 

Illegal tree harvesting tends to be less of a problem in North Carolina, which has a larger population, than it is in Maine, which has a smaller population and vast swaths of uninhabited forests. Maine has over one-thousand complaints of timber theft each year.

The damage to the environment cannot be separated from the legal issues that arise from stealing trees, which are property, but they are far more than that to every living thing. In the most basic sense, illegal harvest of trees contributes to the problem of deforestation:

Over half the world’s land-based plants and animals live in forests, and three quarters of the world’s birds live in and around forests. It does not take a science PhD or intricate knowledge of environmental science or ecology to understand that the more trees that are cut, the more environmental problems that will follow.  

And it is a problem all over the world from the rainforests in South America to the United States to even Ireland:

All of it is interconnected, and every time a tree is cut down (regardless if it is replaced), the owner of the tree is impacted as is the rest of the planet. While planting new trees can certainly mitigate the problem, it cannot recapture what is lost every time a tree is cut down. Sadly, the only way to stop harvesting of trees may be filing lawsuits because people and corporations tend to respond the most when their money is on the line. 

© Copyright 2018 – 2020. ALL Rights Reserved.

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Intense Workload at Election Offices | Human Error?

Washington (GGM) Analysis | October 21, 2020 by Noreen Wise

According to one recent report, there are roughly 6.5 million registered voters living outside the United States, which means there are many stakeholders who believe in our most basic democratic principle, the right to vote. And it seems that the majority of these living abroad — many whom happen to be employed by the US military and the US State Department — will indeed be following through and voting by mail.

Americans living abroad, have always relied upon the US Postal service to efficiently deliver their ballots. Their reliance on the dedication of US Postal Service employees, who heroically persevere through all types of intense weather situations and perilous global events, have always brought tremendous peace of mind. But this year, the most important presidential election ever, our confidence in the postal service is shaken to the core, as a result of the newly installed Postmaster General, Louis Dejoy.

Over the summer, Dejoy launchd what appears to have been an intentional post office dismantling campaign in an effort to undermine voters who planned on voting by mail, which had the potential of severely impacting the many millions across the continental United States who planned to vote-by-mail during the covid pandemic, but also the potential election-changing 6.5 million who vote from abroad.

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With this as the backdrop in the lead-up to November 3, 2020, it’s completely understandable why so many towns and counties across the country decided to offer early voting in their communities, as well as the mail-in-ballot option for all who submitted a vote-by-mail application, and had it approved.

Because this is a first time crisis — voting during a global pandemic which is being managed by a president who spends every waking moment trying to convince the public it’s no big deal — no town or county, especially those with a majority of registered Democrats, could have predicted, and thus planned for, the volume of citizens who would respond to the opportunity of both main-in-ballots and voting early.

The fact that so many election offices were overwhelmed on such a grand scale should inspire an instant response. However, in order to solve this problem, communities have to first acknowledge the problem exists. Election offices across the country ned more help. If I experienced a one-off malfunction, I can’t help but believe there are many others with similar stories. We have to be our own best advocate.

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I’m covering climate action up in Canada during the pandemic, and learned the hard way that human error can potentially impact election results, unless we are willing to step up and act quickly. Thankfully, there are angels off in the wings, with sharp critical thinking skills, who know how to act swiftly and find a way through, when everything falls apart.

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•I submitted my vote-by-mail application online a few days after Labor Day, following the recommended guidelines of 45 days before election.

•I had the option of selecting between having the ballot emailed to me, or mailed. I obviously selected “email.” What could go wrong with that?

•I expected to receive it the next day, but nothing arrived. The following day, when again there was no email in my inbox, I phoned my local election office. “You must be patient. We’ve received so MANY mail-in-ballot applications.”

•I patiently waited a week, nothing. So I called again. “Please be patient, we’re overwhelmed. Please don’t worry, you’ll definitely receive it.”

•I then waited an entire month. Still nothing. I began to panic, and last week called again. After waiting on hold for an hour, I was informed that my application for mail-in-ballot was denied. “DENIED? Why?” … “We don’t send ballots to PO boxes.” … “But you were supposed to email, not send.” … “Oh, right. I see that now. The employee who was checking the application must have missed that. She made a mistake.” … “What? Can you email it right now?” … “Early voting just started and we’re mobbed. We’ve been working 16 hours per day.” … “But I want to vote too, please email my ballot.”

•To make a log story short, I called back a few hours later. An angel election office employee gave me her personal work number and email, told me to call back if I didn’t receive the ballot by the end of the day. She worked the phones, but would make sure the woman who was emailing ballots, emailed mine. She then followed up through email, as well as called back later that night, after I left a message. She wouldn’t let this go until I confirmed that I’d received my emailed ballot.”

American heroes like this election worker, are ultimately the glue and the backbone of our democracy. Her determined, resourceful ingenuity, enabled one more vote to be cast during this election to save our democracy. M. L. renewed my hope that we’ll succeed with this vital mission. Thank you so much! ✅

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Top 5 Vegan Beauty Brands | Vegan Scene

Washington (GGM) Analysis | September 3, 2020 by Sarah J. Kings

Consumer ethics has never been such a hot topic!  Compassionate and eco-friendly shoppers are searching for resources and products everyday. With many making changes in their diet and fashion choices, there has never been a better time to switch out your old cosmetics and trade them in for vegan alternatives. Vegan beauty brands do not rely on animal cruelty and animal products or biproducts to create makeup. Here is a list of five major vegan and cruelty free beauty brands that are focused on both ethics and sustainability. 

KVD Beauty- Kat Von D’s makeup line has been cruelly-free since its launch in 2008. The brand came out with its first vegan product, tattoo liner, in 2010. The Tattoo Liner sold like hotcakes, and is still one the most popular items today. KVD announced the switch to a vegan line in 2015, and went completely vegan in 2016. Today they boast the slogan “made with love, not animals.” They are also committed to not using bee’s wax, which is a big help to the environment.

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Twitter- @guadalahari

NYX- NYX Professional Makeup is a PETA approved cruelty-free brand. They are well known for creating pigmented palettes and bold makeup trends. NYX is owned by L’Oreal, who recently released a statement about their commitment to meeting consumer demands for ethics and sustainable products. “To meet the changing expectations of our consumers, we are continuously innovating… [in] maintaining consistency in the quality of the product while also improving their environmental impact.”

MILK- The brand has always been cruelty- free, and in 2018 co-founder Dianna Ruth announced that MILK would convert to 100% vegan formulas as well. MILK’s commitment to sustainability comes in the form of water reduction. The brand has shed  light on excess water usage in cosmetics, and they are responding  by designing concentrated formulas that do not waste water. Their products are also formaldehyde free. This is significant, as formaldehyde is known to be detrimental to marine life.

Rare Beauty- Rare Beauty is something completely brand new! Singer, actress, and producer Selena Gomez is coming out with a beauty brand on September 3rd, and it is 100% vegan and cruelty-free. In an Instagram post Selena said this, “for the past few months, you’ve all been asking… and we’re proud to share that our products will be 100% vegan and cruelty-free. Like you, we love and care for our animals too.”

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Instagram@rarebeauty 

Bare Minerals- Bare Minerals brand is 100% cruelty free and the high majority of their makeup is vegan. They make the list because of their strong commitment to mother earth. Bare Minerals runs an eco-friendly blog that regularly offers tips and advice to consumers on how to live a more sustainable life. Their products are all palm oil free, which makes them a viable option in selecting sustainable vegan makeup.

Each of these companies is working hard to provide the world with ethical and sustainable vegan beauty products. If makeup is part of your routine, consider shopping with one of these brands the next time you are in need of a new lipstick or brow pencil! 

Come back every Thursday to learn more about the role veganism plays in combating climate change!

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So-called “Fake” Leather is Real Deal

Washington (GGM) Analysis | August 27, 2020 by Sarah J. Kings

The freezer section of your local grocery store isn’t the only thing going vegan. The vegan leather industry- often misbranded as ‘fake leather’- is booming right now, and the world of fashion is getting a much-needed makeover! Sustainability and ethics have moved to the forefront of consumer consciousness, and brands are racing to be first in line to meet the high demand.

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Twitter- @watsonandwolfe

Hill Report spoke with Helen Farr-Leander, CEO of the Peta approved brand Watson & Wolfe, about vegan leather and the future of eco-friendly fashion. Watson & Wolfe is a luxury vegan leather & accessories brand that offers ethical fashion alternatives. When asked about the future of ‘fake,’ Farr-Leander had this to say. “Leather alternatives are already attracting more attention, and with each new innovation, they are reducing impact and increasing sustainability. Within five years, we will see existing leather goods brands looking at these materials, not only to reduce their own impact but to attract new customers.” And she’s not wrong.

According to a recent study conducted by Infinium Global Research, the vegan leather industry will be worth  $89.6 billion by 2025. With the rise of veganism and consumer ethics, many are looking to vegan leather to resolve animal cruelty and carbon emissions problems. This is why it is no surprise that people are looking to change assumptions about what ‘fake’ leather is and isn’t. Jonathan Ohayon, Founder and CEO of the F.A.K.E. Movement, is rebranding the word to stand for Fashion for the Animal Kingdom and Environment. When interviewed he told Hill Report, “I created the F.A.K.E. movement, so we can proudly wear a  real vegan alternative.” 

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Instagram- @fakemovement 

Farr-Leander echoed this sentiment by saying, “I would encourage those people to look at these materials objectively. The newer leather alternatives are materials in their own right, just like cotton or animal leather, with their own unique qualities and textures.” Vegan leather is the future and is the boost and innovation that the textile industry needs to combat the climate crisis. To quote Farr-Leander, “there is nothing ‘fake’ about [vegan leathers], they are future materials.” ‘Fake’ leather is the real deal!

Tl:dr

  •  Sustainability and ethics have moved to the forefront of consumer consciousness
  • Vegan leather industry- often misbranded as ‘fake leather’- is booming
  • According to Infinium Global Research, the vegan leather industry will be worth  $89.6 billion by 2025
  • Vegan leather is the future of the textile industry 

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