This week’s Earth Minute, which we co-produce with KPFK’s Sojourner Truth
show also addresses the GE trees issue. It discusses the rubber stamp
approval by the USDA of ArborGen’s request to plant 260,000 GE
cold-tolerant eucalyptus trees throughout seven southern U.S. states along
the Gulf Coast–threatening the Gulf Coast with yet another catastrophe.
Click here to listen! Earth Minute – 5/25/10
European GE Trees and AgroEnergy Tour – First blog post
By Anne Petermann
Sitting in the Burlington, VT airport waiting for the inevitably delayed
late-afternoon flight to JFK. Thinking about today (the 24th)–the 20th
anniversary of the bombing of Judi Bari and Darryl Cherney.
I was not long out of college when it occurred and a new recruit to Earth
First!. Getting ready to hike the Appalachian Trail for a while then
catch a ride out to Yellowstone National Park–en route to the Earth First!
Round River Rendezvous in Montana. Rather than deter me, the tragic event
strengthened my determination to get out to Redwood Summer after the
RRR—which I did for about six weeks, working on jail support for the
dozens of people getting arrested on a weekly basis playing cat and mouse
in the logging areas with the intent of shutting them down, if only
I met my future partner, Orin, at the Montana RRR, though I didn’t know it
until the next summer, when I organized that year’s RRR after I moved to
Vermont (first time it was held back east). Orin arrived at the RRR site
early and we immediately hit it off. He moved to Vermont 3 months later.
One of the first major opponents we took on at that time was International
Paper. Their paper mill just across Lake Champlain from Vermont was
seeking to renew its permit to discharge dioxin into the lake and we
sought to stop it. The campaign was alternately humerous and ugly.
One of the media stunts we did to draw public attention to the campaign
was a funeral procession for Champ–Lake Champlain’s fabled lake monster.
The procession started at the bridge that connects New York to Vermont and
featured a hearse-like station wagon toting a long makeshift coffin with a
big green scaly tail hanging out. We did the guerrilla theater to
publicize an upcoming public hearing about the discharge permit in
Ticonderoga, NY–home of the paper mill.
IP was none-too-pleased with our little publicity-grabbing stunt and on
the drive over to Ticonderoga—which took us through some very unfriendly
“Wise Use Movement” territory (the rabidly anti-environmental astro turf
group whose adherents at that time used arson as one of their tactics).
On the way to the hearing, we passed a hand drawn sign on the side of the
road that read “EF! come hang out with us,” with a stick figure hanging
from a noose to illustrate it.
When we arrived at the hearing, the absurdity began. First were the IP
drones handing out “IP Complies” stickers, which we promptly appropriated,
using magic markers to re-message the stickers by simply crossing out the
“comp” part of the sticker so it more correctly read, “IP lies.” But the
most amusing part of the evening consisted of someone running around the
hearing in a Champ suit with a sign around his neck that read “Champ
We did our duty there and testified about the dangers of dioxin and why
the discharge permit should be revoked, knowing we would be ignored by the
department in charge, but needing, none-the-less to tell the truth and get
it on the record that people did oppose this ridiculous permit.
A few days later we were introduced to the famous dirty tactics of
International Paper. They had some kind of industrial accident at the
Ticonderoga mill that caused them to spill 250,000 gallons of untreated
waste water into the lake. Now, one would think this would call into
question the discharge permit of such an irresponsible company. But not
ones to miss a trick. IP used the spill to accuse Earth First! of having
sabotaged their mill and cause the spill. IP and their mean spirited
fairy tale actually made the front page of most of the regional newspapers
and I was quite incredulous when I actually had to explain to reporters
that we were trying to prevent the dioxin contamination of the lake and
would therefore not intensionally cause it. Duh!
A couple of days later, hidden away on some page in section B was a
paragraph long story confirming that the spill was an accident after all.
So it is quite ironic that here we are almost 20 years later battling the
same company–this time in the form of ArborGen—a joint initiative of
International Paper, MeadWestvaco and Rubicon. In the early days,
Monsanto was also involved, though they pulled out very early.
Twenty years ago Judi Bari was fighting Charles Hurwitz and Maxxam to stop
the chainsaws from destroying some of the last remaining ancient redwoods.
Today we are fighting International Paper and ArborGen to stop transgenic
trees from destroying some of the last remaining native forests left on
It is for this reason that I am sitting on a plane headed to The
Netherlands for a tour on the social and ecological dangers of genetically
engineered trees and wood-based agro-energy. The tour is organized by
Global Forest Coalition and co-sponsored by Global Justice Ecology Project, BiofuelWatch and Friends of the Earth International. I start in Amsterdam, then head to The Hague to present
to the Dutch Parliament. From there it is off to London for an NGO forum
on the topic of GE trees and agro-energy, followed by two days of strategy
meetings on the international campaign to stop GE trees. Then to Bonn for
pre-Cancun UN Climate meetings, as well as several protests, workshops and
meetings organized by Climate Justice Now! and Climate Justice Action.
Finally the last stop is Brussels for a presentation to the European
The goal is to raise awareness of the significant destructive impacts of
both GM trees and wood-based agro-energy to put the brakes on the made
forward rush to massively apply these unproven technologies without
thought to the significant and devastating impacts they will have on the
world’s forests and forest-dependent peoples.
More on this in future blog posts. I plan to post updates from this tour
every day until I depart on June 4th.
To learn more or get involved in the campaign to stop GE trees, please
visit our website at http://nogetrees.org.