Peru’s environmental news in advance of UN climate conference raises red flags

In December, Peru will host the 20th UN climate conference (COP 20) in Lima. Recent news from Peru sparks concern about this as the site for a gathering of activists and civil society attempting to pressure the UN to act responsibly on climate change.

Most recently, Ari Phillips reported in Climate Progress that Peru has stripped its

Environment Ministry of jurisdiction over air, soil and water quality standards, as well as its ability to set limits for harmful substances [...]. The changes in the law also revoke the ministry’s ability to establish nature reserves that are exempt from mining and fossil fuel drilling.

The effects from mining and fossil fuel drilling are particularly alarming.

In May the Peruvian government declared an economic emergency in 17 indigenous communities along the River Marañon in the Amazon basin saying that the communities were at significant risk from oil contamination. Puinamudt, a collective of indigenous organizations, said that the government has failed to provide aid to their communities such as testing the water quality in rivers and introducing portable water purifiers to affected communities.

Even with regulations in place, illegal mining is a major environmental hazard in Peru.

“The illegal miners have pushed deep into the Amazon jungle to pan in rivers and creeks, most notably in the wildlife-rich Madre de Dios region,” said Juan José Córdova, leader of the energy sector at KPMG, Peru. “It is estimated that 30 to 40 metric tons of mercury are dumped into the environment annually and burned off after amalgamation — generally without even using rudimentary technology to protect workers’ health or capture waste or fumes.”

Despite concerns widely, the financial world responded enthusiastically to the news of Peru’s environmental deregulation:

Ratings agency Moody’s said the proposals are credit positive. “They will enhance potential output and private-sector investment, while they also address concerns in the business community about red tape that have negatively affected economic sentiment.”

All of this comes alongside news from a report by Front Line Defenders on Peru’s new ‘license to kill’ laws, which, as David Hill from the Guardian reports, “exempts soldiers and police from criminal responsibility if they cause injuries or deaths” during environmental protests.

As David Hill reports,

That law, no. 30151, was promulgated in January this year and is, according to the IDL’s Juan José Quispe, a modification of existing legislation passed by the previous government. The modification consists of replacing three words – “en forma reglamentaria” – with another five – “u otro medio de defensa” – which Quispe says means that any soldier or police officer can now kill or injure a civilian without needing to use his or her weapon “according to regulations”, or by using something other than his or her weapon.

What that report makes clear is that if you’re Peruvian and you publicly express concern about the environmental and social impacts of mining operations you can expect the following: death threats, rape threats, physical and electronic surveillance, smears and stigmatization by national mainstream media, police acting as “private security” for mining companies, confiscation or theft of equipment, “excessive use of force by police” during protests, arrest, or detention, and prosecution on charges of “rebellion, terrorism, violence, usurpation, trespassing, disobedience or resistance to an official order, obstructing public officers, abduction, outrage to national symbols, criminal damage, causing injury, coercion, disturbance or other public order offences.

Finally, it’s worth noting that Peru is one of the countries negotiating in the TPP. As Peru becomes host to COP20, its recent (and not so recent) events not only raise real worries for those gathering there but also bring into stark focus the forces at play in the fights for climate and ecological justice.

 

 

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Filed under Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Mining, UNFCCC

Busted! Research on food waste shows no need for GM crops

foodwaste-(1)An increasing population needs an increasing food supply, right? At least, that’s the excuse politicians and corporations have been force-feeding the public, justifying their pursuit of genetically modified foods. They tell us that organic processes and farming techniques in tune with nature just aren’t up to the task of feeding the nearly 7 billion people on the planet.

That myth is now busted, and the proof is in the nearly 222 million tons of food wasted by industrialized nations every year. “If we eliminated this unnecessary food waste, we could potentially provide 60-100 percent more food to feed the world’s growing population,” writes Andrew Gunter in his Huffington Post article, “Big Ag Profits From Food Waste.”

The Institution of Mechanical Engineers provides these staggering figures in a report that breaks down the numbers and explains their impact on the planet:

Almost half of all the food we produce in the world never makes it to a plate. Today, we allow a staggering two billion tons of food to go to waste each and every year. If we eliminated this unnecessary food waste, we could potentially provide 60-100 percent more food to feed the world’s growing population.

Andrew Gunter adds:

 But it’s not just simply the food that’s going to waste: think about all the wasted energy, water, chemicals and labor that went into producing, transporting, and storing what is ultimately just left to rot. (Read More)

 

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Filed under Food Sovereignty, Industrial agriculture, Solutions, Waste

Earth Minute: Anne Petermann on Neonics

A farmer spraying crops with insecticide in Bedfordshire. Photograph: David Wootton/Alamy published in The Guardian

A farmer spraying crops with insecticide in Bedfordshire. Photograph: David Wootton/Alamy published in The Guardian

Neonicotinoids, or Neonics, an insecticide nerve poison widely used in homes, gardens and farms, have been found to be 5,000 to 10,000 times more toxic than DDT, and are contributing to shocking declines in bees, pollinators, earthworms, birds and bats.

They also known to contaminate streams, ponds, rivers.

Not surprisingly, the pesticide lobby-influenced Environmental Protection Agency and US Department of Agriculture are misrepresenting or remaining silent about the dangers of neonics.

But a major study by the American Bird Conservancy last year clearly documented the “massive impacts on American songbirds”  from these pesticides and criticized the EPA for failing to act.

Ole Hendrickson, a member of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides explained the danger, “Instead of wiping out the top of the food chain, killing hawks and eagles as DDT did, neonics are wiping out the bottom of the food chain. [...] Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson once said if we wipe out the world’s insects, we will soon follow them to extinction.”

For the Earth Minute and the Sojourner Truth show, this is Anne Petermann from Global Justice Ecology Project.

 

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Filed under Earth Minute, Earth Radio, Industrial agriculture

GJEP board chair unveils social and environmental justice photography at #SeeMeTakeover in Times Square

Photography amplifies the truth with stillness. In that single frame, that isolated millisecond, a truth is revealed, a visual message that can be understood regardless of language, culture or economic status.

G8 Riot Clown

G8 Riot Clown

For Orin Langelle, photographer and board chair of Global Justice Ecology Project, that message is to document a truth we face at GJEP every day – the struggle to create a world that prioritizes social and environmental justice. Since 1972 Langelle has given a voice to these conflicts in his powerful images, documenting peoples’ resistance to war, corporate globalization, ecological destruction and human rights abuses. From protestors and policemen at Vietnam War protests to going behind rebel lines with the Zapatistas in Mexico, Langelle has seen the world change through the lens of his camera.

Amador Hernandez Elders

Amador Hernandez Elders

“In my travels on this planet, I have seen a lot,” Langelle wrote on his website. “I have witnessed the beauty of this Earth and the efforts of many peoples striving for justice, and I have seen the ugliness of the abuse of people and the land—dictated by the greed of the power elite and those who serve them.”

Three of Langelle’s poignant shots will be prominently projected over the bustle of Times Square in New York City as part of the #SeeMeTakeover project on July 24, 2014, from 8-9 p.m. The project will showcase the work of artists and photographers from around the world on two of the largest video billboards at 46th St. and Broadway.

Upside-down Kuna

Upside-down Kuna

Langelle’s photographs capture more than a moment; they document the struggle of activists, indigenous peoples and organizations that fight to protect this planet and its inhabitants from the crushing axe of corporate greed. Langelle’s photography transports audiences into those moments, compelling them to look into the faces of truth and daring them to take action. Langelle is also a member of the steering committee of the international Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees and part of the Critical Information Collective. View more of his work at http://photolangelle.org.

About the photos in the SeeMe Takeover Times Square event:

 G8 Riot Clown (2007): This clown in front of riot police was one of 80,000 demonstrators in Rostock, Germany protesting a meeting of the G8–the world’s eight richest nations–in Heiligendamm, Germany near Rostock in early June 2007. Shortly after this scene, police used water cannons to spray the crowd with water mixed with tear gas.

Amador Hernandez Elders (2011): Journalist Jeff Conant and I took an investigative trip to Chiapas, Mexico, where we met the people of Amador Hernandez, an indigenous village based in the Lacandon jungle (Selva Lacandona). They invited us to document and learn of the plans of the government to relocate them from their homes. What we uncovered was another battle in the ongoing war between a simpler or good way of life (buen vivir) vs. the neoliberal development model.  Following our exposé, the government retreated from its plans and the community was not relocated.

Upside-down Kuna (2010): 2010 marked the 80th anniversary of the establishment of Kuna Yala, the autonomous territory of the Kuna people. The territory was officially recognized in response to political pressure and resistance by the Kuna, which began in 1925 in response to the violent suppression of Kuna cultural practices. In this photo, a Kuna youth walks upside down on Wichubwala island in Kuna Yala, off the east coast of Panama.

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Filed under Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, Uncategorized

GM agriculture does not deliver higher yields than organic processes

bananas-925216“Failure to Yield,” a study produced by the U.S. Union of Concerned Scientists, shows that the bio-fortification of bananas in Uganda and genetic engineering of bovines in the “1000 bull genome project” does not actually combat hunger, malnutrition or result in higher yields. A recent article in the Inter Press Services by Julio Godoy explains how these two projects fall short when compared to traditional, organic methods.

Through his foundation, Bill Gates has dropped $10 million on engineering vitamin A fortified bananas in Uganda. However, the increase isn’t enough to match the nutritional content in other indigenous foods. The “1000 bull genome project” set out to genetically engineer cows to produce thousands more gallons of milk. While the cows do produce more milk, they also calve only twice in their lives and die young.

Godoy writes, “Failure to Yield also analyses the potential role in increasing food production over the next few decades, and concludes that ‘it makes little sense to support genetic engineering at the expense of (traditional, organic) technologies that have proven to substantially increase yields, especially in many developing countries.’” 

If the threat to ecology and biodiversity won’t get the corporations to listen, how about this – genetically engineering plants and animals is a waste of money. That’s more in line with their priorities, right?

Do Not GM My Food!
Julio Godoy, July 18, 2014, Inter Press Service

Attempts to genetically modify food staples, such as crops and cattle, to increase their nutritional value and overall performance have prompted world-wide criticism by environmental, nutritionists and agriculture experts, who say that protecting and fomenting biodiversity is a far better solution to hunger and malnutrition.

Two cases have received world-wide attention: one is a project to genetically modify bananas, the other is an international bull genome project.

In June, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it has allocated some 10 million dollars to finance an Australian research team at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), working on vitamin A-enriched bananas in Uganda, by genetically modifying the fruit.

On the other hand,  according to its project team, the “1000 bull genomes project” aims “to provide, for the bovine research community, a large database for imputation of genetic variants for genomic prediction and genome wide association studies in all cattle breeds.”

Read More…

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Filed under Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

Utah Tar Sands Resistance

fe1768d42035b27d1d3c190903e37054_normalYesterday, about 80 activists formed a blockade to halt construction of a tar sands strip mine in the Book Cliffs of eastern Utah. The mine is being built by US Oil Sands, a Canadian company, and would be the first in the US. The action was led by the Climate Justice Summer Camp, which was holding a two-week direct action camp nearby.

The mine is located on traditional Ute hunting lands and in the Colorado River Basin, which provides drinking water to 40 million people. As Peaceful Uprising argues,

Tar sands and oil shale mining and refining, if allowed to begin in the U.S., would rob us of our water rights. The Colorado’s flow is diminishing, not increasing, and these mining and refining processes require massive amounts of water. This inescapable reality would cause widespread conflicts over water, as water rights were seized from farmers and communities. We will not allow tar sands and oil shale profiteers to seize the water that rightfully belongs to everyone.

During the protest, those locked to equipment were arrested along with other supporters, leading to 21 arrests total, and protesters were faced with police brutality. To follow the events of the blockade and give support, go to the twitter feed for Utah Tar Sands Resistance and donate on their website: http://www.tarsandsresist.org/ or here.

For background, check out our KPFK interview from March with Melanie Martin, from Peaceful Uprising. 

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Tar Sands

Indigenous Mountain Farmers Unite on Climate Change

Photo: Chris Stowers/Panos

Photo: Chris Stowers/Panos

With representatives from more than 10 countries, The International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples formed in May as a coalition to lobby against climate change by advocating for traditional farming strategies. The group called on governments to “support climate change adaptation measures based on traditional knowledge; promote indigenous languages; and bridge local knowledge and science to create effective solutions for conservation, food security and climate adaptation.” While collaboration and shared knowledge are honorable ideas, we at GJEP are curious about the organizations behind the movement and hope that there are no hidden motives lurking beneath the curtain.

Indigenous Mountain Farmers Unite on Climate Change
July 15, 2014
by Sci Dev Net

Farmers from 25 indigenous mountain communities in ten countries have come together to share traditional knowledge that could help them to mitigate climate change and to lobby governments for greater recognition of their unique knowledge.

The International Network of Mountain Indigenous Peoples was formed at a workshop in Bhutan last month (26 May-1 June). It includes communities from Bhutan, China, India, Kyrgyzstan, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Taiwan, Tajikistan and Thailand.

Member communities from Bhutan, China and Peru had already agreed to exchange seeds at a meeting held in Peru earlier this year (26 April-2 May). The agreement was extended to the other members at the most recent meeting.

The farmers say the network will enable communities to access new seed varieties that are more resilient to pests and drought; will help increase their crop diversity; and will reduce their dependence on corporate-owned seeds.

Read More…

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Filed under Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Uncategorized

Obama’s policies of extreme energy extraction take another step

A number of news sources reported this weekend on the White House approving the use of underwater sonic blasts to pinpoint oil and gas deposits in the Atlantic Ocean. This is a step in the process to large-scale offshore oil drilling in federal waters.

The Washington Post reported:

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management acknowledged that thousands of sea creatures will be harmed but ultimately decided to approve this exploration in the outer continental shelf from Delaware to Florida.

The sonic blasts are, of course, just the very start.

Energy companies need the data as they prepare to apply for drilling leases in 2018, when current congressional limits expire.

Offshore Oil Rig. Reuters.

Offshore Oil Rig. Reuters.

Oil companies, with the government’s blessing, plan to drill offshore all along the East coast, with only the North East off limits.

A quote by an engineer for American Petroleum is particularly ominous:

 

“One thing we find is, the more you get out and drill and explore to confirm what you see in the seismic, you end up finding more oil and gas than what you think is out there when you started,” Radford said.

Florida communities have pushed back, in particular:

Florida has already felt the devastating effects of an uncontrolled oil release with the Deepwater Horizon event, of which cleanup efforts are still ongoing,” said John Morris, a county commissioner whose constituency includes the beach town.

However, the drilling would happen on federal waters, outside of reach from any local ban. While the article emphasizes the devastating effects of sonic booms on marine life and possible pollution from drilling, the dangers of such deepwater drilling extend even further. The thoughtlessness is mind-boggling, unless the whole thing is seen as desperate attempts in the era of extreme energy.

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Filed under Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Oil

Biomass unspoken driver of Oregon logging spike

 

 

The first Elliott blockade in 2009. Photo: Earth First! Newswire

The first Elliott blockade in 2009. Photo: Earth First! Newswire

The AP recently reported that timber ‘harvest’ last year was at its highest since 2006; 4 Billion board feet. This marks a steady increase over the past 4 years. The state Department of Forestry identifies two causes for the increase: increased house construction and “the export market.”

“This [the spike] is most likely due to small forestland owners taking advantage of higher prices as a result of a still strong export market in 2013,” Kaetzel [economist in the Department] said in a statement.

The AP does not discuss biomass, which is most certainly another driver of the increased felling.

Photo Credit: Marcus Kaufmann, via Northwest Public Radio

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Filed under Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Uncategorized

Study finds U.S. citizens want to see government action on climate change

For U.S. politicians, taking a solid stance on climate change is like the kiss of death. They avoid it like bad breath. However, a new study shows that more than half of the voters surveyed want to see their governmental representatives taking “unilateral action” to fight against climate change. A “unilateral” stance would be rather interesting for the U.S. government, seeing as how it consistently refuses to cooperate on this issue with the rest of the world.  Unfortunately, we cannot trust the US government to decide what kind of climate action to take, as President Obama has been quite clear that he considers fracked gas and nukes part of the climate solution.  The U.S. public needs to understand which methods really constitute as clean, sustainable energy and which ones are just politically safe shams, before they can demand real, just and ecologically appropriate action.  No fossil fuels, no false solutions,  just digging in to do the real work.

–The GJEP Team

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

Photo by David McNew/Getty Images

A massive new study shows that voters are ready for the government to forge ahead even without an international agreement

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Filed under Climate Change, Politics, Uncategorized