Government Spying and Climate Action

How Government Spying Undermines Climate Action

27 November 2014  Andrew Kerr Greenpeace International

Governments rely on electronic communication to exchange their most intimate secrets and that includes their negotiating positions in international talks, such as those on climate change. Photo credit: Douglas Pizac / Greenpeace

Governments rely on electronic communication to exchange their most intimate secrets and that includes their negotiating positions in international talks, such as those on climate change. Photo credit: Douglas Pizac / Greenpeace

Unless you’ve been living in a hole in the ground or in a galaxy far, far away you won’t have missed media revelations about government security services snooping on our every communication.

Personal phone calls and e-mails are among the data routinely scooped up and stored for possible later scrutiny. It makes a mockery of the notion of personal privacy.

As private citizens we express, or suppress, our outrage and get on with our day-to-day lives. We call, text and mail our nearest and dearest with our most intimate secrets. In the back of our minds we hope that “someone” is there to prevent the descent into an Orwellian dystopia. Or we ignore it and reckon it doesn’t affect us.

Read the whole article at EcoWatch

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Pentagon Declares War on Forests!

Thanks to Denny Haldeman and our friends at the Biomass Monitor for that headline and alerting us to this story at Syracuse.com, the online source of the Syracuse Post-Standard.

-and, Happy Thanksgiving to our readers in the United States and across the globe.

In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, a tractor-trailer loaded with wood chips is lifted and the chips dumped into a hopper at the ReEnergy biomass power plant at Fort Drum, N.Y. The biomass power plant is part of a military-wide initiative to put green energy systems on installations nationwide. (Mary Esch)

In this Nov. 12, 2014 photo, a tractor-trailer loaded with wood chips is lifted and the chips dumped into a hopper at the ReEnergy biomass power plant at Fort Drum, N.Y. The biomass power plant is part of a military-wide initiative to put green energy systems on installations nationwide. (Mary Esch)

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Climate Change, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Uncategorized

This Holiday Season say NO to GMO Chestnuts

by Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project

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A nut rests the spiny bur of a rare surviving American chestnut tree. A fungus wiped out almost all of the trees, which once numbered in the billions. (The American Chestnut Foundation/Via Associated Press)

In a society rising up against the corporate capture of our food supply in the form of GMOs, a new untested and not-yet-approved GMO food is being promoted: the GMO chestnut.

Not surprisingly, a recent op-ed in the Washington Post makes the absurd assertion that this emerging new GMO food as the answer to hunger and a step toward reconnecting with our food supply:

Repopulating our woods — and even our yards, our commons and our courthouse lawns — with [GE] American chestnuts would put a versatile, nutritious, easily harvested food source within reach of just about everyone. For those living on the margins, it could be a very real hedge against want. For everyone, it could be a hedge against distancing ourselves from our food, which can be the first step toward a diet low in the whole foods that virtually every public health authority tells us we should eat more of.

GMO chestnuts are whole foods?  A food source for the poor?  Not too many people know how to eat chestnuts anymore.  And what is the health impact of eating GMO chestnuts?

The scientists developing the GMO chestnuts argue that they have been modified only with the insertion of a single wheat gene, so what can possibly be the harm?  We eat wheat, right?  But as any ecologist, or thinking geneticist knows, genes outside of the genome in which they evolved can do highly unpredictable things.  And the genome into which they are inserted is damaged in the process resulting in mutations.  These mutations in turn lead to unanticipated consequences.  So no, just because it is a single gene from wheat, it is not inherently safe.

The author of the op-ed goes on to make the utterly uninformed assertion:

[The GMO Chestnut] wasn’t created for personal profit or for the benefit of corporations or farmers. It contributes to a wholesome, healthful diet. And it’s intended solely for the public good.

Yeah, not quite.  A look at the partners and funders of this program at SUNY ESF over the years reveals some very disturbing bedfellows.  Monsanto and ArborGen among them.  ArborGen is a GE tree research and development company based in South Carolina that has requested permission from the USDA to sell GE eucalyptus trees by the billions for planting across the Southern US from South Carolina to Texas.  Oh yes, and ArborGen is jointly owned by International Paper and MeadWestvaco–timber multinationals.

Eucalyptus trees will be an ecological disaster.  They are non-native, invasive, water-greedy, suppress the growth of other vegetation, provide no habitat for wildlife, and are explosively flammable.  Yet ArborGen wants to see them in huge plantations along the US Gulf Coast.

So if the GE chestnut tree is truly “intended solely for the public good,” why is ArborGen involved?  For one reason.  The GE American chestnut tree is being promoted to convince the public that GE trees can be beneficial.  The hope is that they will help change the extremely powerful public opposition to GE trees and open up markets for new GE tree “products” that could mean big big profits for timber and biomass companies.

GE Chestnut trees are part of a very specific (and expensive) public relations strategy–open the door for other GE forest trees: GE eucalyptus, poplar and pine.

And what will be the impact on the forests of releasing GE American chestnut trees into them?  The scientists envision these GE trees growing by the billions throughout the Eastern forests of the US.  To achieve this, they plan to release these GE trees in a fully fertile state to spread their pollen and seeds widely, contaminating any wild American chestnuts in their path.  So much for restoring the naturally blight resistant American chestnuts, they will be contaminated along with the rest.

How would the damaged genomes of these GE trees, that can grow for centuries, react to the various environmental stresses they encounter?  How would drought, extreme cold, floods, etc impact them?  What if the gene were to stop working suddenly (known as “gene silencing”) and these trees again became susceptible to the blight?  And what if this newly blight-suscepible wheat gene was transferred back to wheat, threatening the wheat crop?

No, far from helping us achieve food sovereignty and food independence, this GE American chestnut tree is a Pandora’s box of potential disasters best left closed.  Fortunately, it has not yet been approved for large-scale release.  We are working to ensure this never happens.

If you agree, please sign on to ban GE Trees here

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, GMOs, Greenwashing, Uncategorized

U.S. House Bars Independent Science at EPA

On 18 November, the Republican controlled United States House of Representatives  passed  H.R 1422 “The EPA Science Advisory Board Reform Act of 2014” by a vote of 229-191; and H.R. 4012, “The Secret Science Reform Act” by a vote of 237-190.

photo credit: Gavin Schaefer via wikimedia commons. Under a bill that has passed the US House, the people best qualified to say whether a chemical is dangerous will not be allowed to do so

photo credit: Gavin Schaefer via wikimedia commons. Under a bill that has passed the US House, the people best qualified to say whether a chemical is dangerous will not be allowed to do so

Representative Eddie Bernice Johnson (D–TX), top Democrat on the House science committee said  “These bills are the culmination of one of the most anti-science and anti-health campaigns I’ve witnessed in my 22 years as a member of Congress.”

Referring to the “Secret Science Reform Act”, Johnson said ““Let me be clear. This bill is an attempt to constrain the EPA under the guise of promoting transparency.”

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Confronting Government Agencies, Corporate Globalization, EPA

Celebrate Thanksgiving on Monsanto’s doorstep in St. Louis, MO

Join OCA & Reverend Billy on the front lawn of Monsanto’s headquarters for an organic Thanksgiving celebration on Nov. 27, 2014 at 1 p.m.. Reverend Billy and the Stop Shopping Choir will meet at a local park on march one mile to the biotech’s world headquarters at 800 North Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, Missouri 63167, where they will perform songs from their new show, Monsanto Is the Devil. The choir will be dressed in stylish Pilgrim and honey bee costumes.

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Consumers Union says recount on Oregon GMO labeling law a victory for consumers

For Immediate Release:
November 25, 2014

Consumers Union Hails Recount on GMO Labeling Law in Oregon, Calls Close Vote a Major Victory for Consumers

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CU Urges Congress Not to Prohibit Consumer Right-to-Know Laws

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China’s rejection slows U.S. GMO seed releases

China’s decision to bar some U.S. GMO varieties from entering their boarders has halted the release of new genetically engineered seeds by Syngenta AG and Dow AgroSciences, according to an article on Reuters. When unapproved varieties tainted imports into China, the government took a stand against the Big Ag companies, who were none too pleased to have their latest developments shut out of this highly profitable market. The result, for now, has halted the release of new GMO seedlings, but the motivation behind the cut off is still rooted in profits, not in an acknowledgement of the need for change in the global ag market.

Agrochemicals maker Syngenta's logo is seen in front of the company's headquarters in Basel February 6, 2013. Photo: REUTERS/ARND WIEGMANN

Agrochemicals maker Syngenta’s logo is seen in front of the company’s headquarters in Basel February 6, 2013.
Photo: REUTERS/ARND WIEGMANN

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Ebola linked to deforestation and development in West Africa

A young man with Ebola symptoms walks to a van waiting to take away several patients for treatment after the village's chief ordered people to cooperate with medical staff and remove the sick from their homes, in Dandano, Guinea, Nov. 3, 2014. (Photo: Samuel Aranda / The New York Times) via Truthout

A young man with Ebola symptoms walks to a van waiting to take away several patients for treatment after the village’s chief ordered people to cooperate with medical staff and remove the sick from their homes, in Dandano, Guinea, Nov. 3, 2014. (Photo: Samuel Aranda / The New York Times) via Truthout

Jeff Conant interviewed Silas Siakor, director of Sustainable Development Institute/Friends of the Earth Liberia, on the link between the Ebola epidemic and the ruthless exploitation of forest resources in the region.

The devastation of Ebola in West Africa is tied to the region’s deforestation. To generate awareness of the links, Jeff Conant, director of FOE’s international forests campaign, interviewed Silas Siakor of Sustainable Development Institute/Friends of the Earth, Liberia. The interview addresses key topics for us at GJEP and Climate Connections regarding deforestation: logging (illegal and otherwise), industrial agriculture, oil palm, and biofuels.

Deforestation, “Development” Connected to Spread of Ebola in West Africa

By Jeff Conant, Truthout. 24 November 2014.

It is clear that the spread of Ebola in West Africa is directly linked to the region’s deep poverty: Out of 187 countries on the United Nations’ Human Development Index, Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone rank 175th, 179th and 183rd, respectively. But, while it is easy to recognize the links between poverty and the spread of the virus, there has been little focus on the root causes of the region’s impoverishment itself.

Read the whole interview here!

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Filed under Africa, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Forests, Illegal logging, Industrial agriculture