Author Archives: Anne Petermann

GE American chestnuts: Conservation or Trojan Horse?

This week’s Earth Minute delves into the concerns with genetically engineered American chestnut trees.

GJEP partners with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Los Angeles for weekly Earth Minutes on Tuesday and Earth Watch interviews on Thursday.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Earth Minute, Earth Radio, Forests, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing

GE Trees + Climate Change = Social and Ecological Disaster

In addition to being the day of the People’s Climate March, today is also the International Day of Action against Monoculture Tree Plantations.  The issues of industrial tree plantations, genetically engineered trees and climate change are inextricably linked in many, many ways, and the statement below, put out by our allies at World Rainforest Movement, La Via Campesina and others, explains this.

At Ban Ki-moon’s upcoming Climate Summit, the corporate-dominated UN will try to sell tree plantations (and future GE tree plantations) as “climate smart.”  This, even though studies have proven that tree plantations both store far less carbon than native forests and accelerate destruction of those forests to make room for new plantations.

Banner photo (Plantations Are Not Forests):  Petermann/GJEP-GFC

“Plantations are not forests” Protest at the World Forestry Congress, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2009  Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

21 September 201410th Anniversary of the International Day of Struggle against Monoculture Tree Plantations
Dismantle the power of transnational plantation corporations!

There is no “smart monoculture”

Ten years ago, at a meeting of 250 members of communities affected by large-scale eucalyptus plantations in Brazil, September 21st was established as the National Day against Tree Monocultures. The aim was to increase the visibility of the many peoples and communities struggling against tree monocultures, as a way of breaking the circle of silence around the numerous violations faced by the communities whose territories were surrounded by these monocultures. The day was also created in order to disseminate as widely as possible the evidence emerging from the resistance struggles about the negative social and environmental impacts of these plantations. The impacts on the lives of women in the affected communities are particularly severe. Recognizing the importance of the decision taken by the Brazilian communities, the World Rainforest Movement (WRM) decided in 2006 to make this day an International Day of Action.

This year, September 21st is also a day of mass mobilizations for Climate Justice. Thousands of people will join the People’s Climate March, while political leaders – and increasingly also corporate representatives – are meeting at the United Nations in New York City for the Climate Summit 2014, convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. This summit represents yet another step towards the corporate takeover of the UN climate negotiations, and the privatization of land, water and air resources under the guise of a global climate pact.

The UN and other international agencies will launch the “Climate Smart Agriculture” initiated at the summit. This initiative is a new smokescreen being used to greenwash the worst practices of industrial agriculture: chemical fertilizers, industrial meat production, and genetically modified crops, such as tree plantations and other monocultures, which are being disguised as ‘climate smart’. Proponents of this dangerous false solution include the World Bank; they are seeking to turn the carbon in farmers’ fields into carbon credits, which would lead to land-grabbing and undermine real climate solutions.

The expansion of large-scale tree plantations of eucalyptus, pine, acacia, rubber and oil palm species, which may be defined as ‘climate smart’ if the proposal being discussed at the New York climate summit prospers, is furthering capital accumulation by large and often transnational corporations. Some of these corporations are Stora Enso, Arauco, APP/Sinar Mas, Bridgestone/Firestone, Wilmar, Olam and Sime Darby. Production from these large-scale monoculture plantations is for industrial and export purposes, and the rate of expansion has been devastating. The area of these plantations worldwide has increased four-fold since 1980. In the global South, eucalyptus and oil palm monocultures have experienced remarkable growth. Were it not for the widespread resistance of small farmers, indigenous peoples and rural communities in many countries, this expansion would probably have been even greater.

Transnational corporations are primarily responsible for the problems caused by plantations: land-grabbing and the seizure of common ‘resources’; destruction of biodiverse areas and their associated wildlife; the drying up and pesticide pollution of rivers, streams and springs; soil exhaustion and erosion; degrading working conditions; and the increasing financialization of nature, land and production. However, these corporations not only persist in denying and systematically concealing all these processes of social and environmental injustice; they even argue they are part of the ‘solution’ to the problems. Some of the market’s false solutions, which are really solutions beneficial primarily for financial capitalism itself, increase the injustices associated with monoculture. Among these false solutions are initiatives that legitimize corporations’ operations without requiring them to be accountable for the crimes and violations they commit.

Examples of this kind of ruse are ‘green’ certificates issued by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) the ‘forest dialogue’, initiatives where civil society and corporations forge voluntary corporate commitments, and other so-called ‘sustainable’ initiatives, like phony commitments to ‘zero deforestation’. Although such action may lead to short-term benefits for local communities in some places, they have mainly led to frustration and community division, by promising ‘compensation’ that does not fulfill people’s key demands for guaranteeing their way of life, the return and respect for their territories, and an end to the environmental injustice caused by monocultures.

These initiatives are ‘voluntary,’ that is, they are not legally binding, and therefore lack a democratic institutional framework whose main goal is to protect the rights of the people affected. In this way, these initiatives, without aiming to change the destructive logic of capital, ultimately legitimize the expansion of a production model that we call neocolonial, because it destroys ways of life, is based on environmental racism and does not question any of its fundamental premises, such as the concentration of land and production in large-scale monocultures with poisonous pesticides and degrading working conditions. Moreover, “green” and “sustainable” initiatives and commitments do not hinder big companies from further expanding their plantations and encroaching on local people’s territories.

Increasingly serious is the rise of “flex tree” monocultures, producing multiple-use trees and forest commodities that are perceived to be interchangeable (energy, wood, food, carbonsequestration, etc.). Their “flexible” nature is of major interest to financial capital, which is increasingly promoting, together with the monoculture tree plantations corporations, the speculation over the control of production and land uses. These companies continue to insist on commercial uses of transgenic trees, as well as other uses of wood for energy purposes, and on selling ‘environmental services’ such as carbon. These are all false solutions to the environmental and climate crisis confronting human societies today, and they ultimately exacerbate injustice, hunger and poverty. Monocultures and transgenic crops are not smart; they are one more tool of ‘green’ capitalism to grab peoples’ lands, undermining those who are building real solutions to the social, environmental and climate crisis.

To confront the impact of the big corporations and the expansion of plantations, we must continue to push for the transformation of this model of production and to fight the neoliberal policies that favour big capital. An important step is for us to join forces in the framework of the “Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power”, in order to build and strengthen instruments to put a stop to the architecture of impunity and legitimation that corporations enjoy today.

The starting point of the Campaign is the struggle of communities resisting the invasion of their territories by transnational corporations, or their fight to expel transnational corporations from their territories. It affirms the right of peoples to freely determine their own way of life. Agrarian reform and the demarcation of indigenous peoples’ territories and those of other traditional and small farmer populations all over the world are urgently needed actions to make headway in the struggle for food sovereignty, social and environmental justice, and people’s power.

We cannot end this declaration without paying tribute to the women and men all over the world who carry out a daily struggle, in different ways, against monoculture tree plantations. They have already achieved important victories in the defense and recovery of their territories and the biodiversity they need for their physical and cultural survival. These women and men, in their arduous and long-suffering struggles for the cause of life and the future, stand in sharp contrast to the greed of the big corporations and investors that seek to appropriate ever more same lands to generate profits for their shareholders.

“Plantations are not forests!”

There are no smart monocultures!”

September 21st, 2014

Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity
La Via Campesina
World March of Women
Friends of the Earth International
World Rainforest Movement (WRM)

 

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Biofuelwatch, Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, GE Trees, Greenwashing, Land Grabs, Tree Plantations, Uncategorized, UNFCCC

Confronting Climate Catastrophe: Direct Action is the Antidote for Despair

Or, Why the UN is Worse than Useless and we need to Flood Wall Street!

Climate Convergence Plenary Address, Friday, 19 September 2014

Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project, Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees

UN Security arrests clown at Durban Climate COP shortly before assaulting the photographer.  Photo: Photolangelle.org

UN Security arrests clown at Durban Climate COP shortly before assaulting the photographer. Photo: Photolangelle.org

Good evening everyone and thank you to Jill, Margaret and the other convergence organizers for the opportunity to speak to you tonight.

In four days time, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will hold a UN Climate Summit–a closed door session where the world’s “leaders” will discuss “ambitions” for the upcoming climate conferences (or COPs as they are called) in Lima, Peru and Paris, France.

I was asked to put into context the reason for the march and actions this weekend–especially the problem of the corporate capture of the United Nations Climate Convention, which I have attended and organized around since 2004, when I attended my first UN Climate COP, in Buenos Aires, until 2011 when I was permanently banned from the UN Climate Conferences following a direct action occupation at the Climate COP in Durban, South Africa.

But I actually got involved with the UN Climate Conferences through the work I have dedicated myself to, which is stopping the dangerous genetic engineering of trees.

What happened was in 2003, the UN Climate Conference decided that GE trees could be used in carbon offset forestry plantations. Understanding that this was a potential social and ecological disaster, and being completely naïve about the UN process, we decided to go to the UN and explain to them why this was wrong, and to get them to reverse this bad decision.

But what we found out was that GE trees had been permitted in carbon offset forestry plantations because Norway had tried to get them banned. But Brazil and China were either already growing GE trees or planning to, so they blocked Norway’s proposal. As a result, GE trees were allowed simply because they could not be banned. The UN, we learned, does not reverse decisions, regardless of how ill-informed and destructive they are.

This is the dysfunction of the UN Climate Convention.

But let’s go back a minute to see how we got where we are now.

Continue reading

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Africa, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, GE Trees, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Posts from Anne Petermann, REDD, UNFCCC, World Bank, WTO

Nature Journal Covers GE Trees Public Hearing in Brazil

10373502_10152872411982166_525909789707396872_nOn September 4th, the Brazilian biosafety commission will hold a public hearing on GE trees. Stay tuned for more news on that hearing later this week!

Nature recently ran this story by Heidi Ledford about the hearing and Suzano’s push to plant GE eucalyptus tree plantations in Brazil.

The article includes a lot of very good information about where we are at, including quotes from an interview with Anne Petermann. It’s great that media, particularly institutions like Nature, are finally paying attention!

That said, Ledford does not push back enough against industry’s claims about the potential benefits and safety of genetically engineered trees. We can, though! The fact remains that thorough and independent risk assessments have been done. In fact, trees are so complex, as Steven Strauss notes in the article, that scientists don’t even know what questions to ask.

For a more detailed description of the risks and concerns of these GE Eucalyptus trees, read the open letters to the Brazilian biosafety commission here:

Brazil Considers Transgenic Trees
By Heidi Ledford, August 27, 2014. Nature

 

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Filed under GE Trees, South America

Earth Minute on Russia’s Repression of Eco-Activists

Global Justice Ecology Project partners with KPFK Pacifica’s Sojourner Truth show on weekly Earth Minutes and Earth Watch interviews.  GJEP ED Anne Petermann writes and records the weekly Earth Minutes.

Transcript:

On July 21st, the Russian government accused EcoDefense, one of the oldest environmental groups in Russia, of being a “foreign agent,” effectively criminalizing their environmental and social justice work.  I have long been familiar with the important work of EcoDefense, since meeting them at a meeting they hosted in Kaliningrad in 1995.

The motivations for Russia’s repressive move is likely due to the effective campaigns of EcoDefense since even before the collapse of the Soviet Union, when EcoDefense was occupying smoke stacks to protest polluting industries.   The accusation against EcoDefense comes now likely due to their campaign against a Baltic nuclear plant under construction near Kaliningrad.

Friends of the Earth France has demanded Russia drop their persecution of EcoDefense, pointing out that protesting nuclear power is a democratic right.

They want Russia to remove Ecodefense from the “foreign agent” roster, repeal the related “foreign agent” law, and to respect the civil and democratic rights of Russian citizens advocating for social and environmental justice.

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

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Earth Minute, Earth Radio, Nuclear power, Political Repression, Uncategorized