Category Archives: Climate Change

Brushing teeth with sewer water next step as Texas faces drought

Note: Desperate times call for desperate measures…

-The GJEP Team

By Darrell Preston, April 21, 2014. Source: Bloomberg

Photo: Torin Halsey/Wichita Falls Times Record News/AP Photo

Photo: Torin Halsey/Wichita Falls Times Record News/AP Photo

Pastor Bob McCartney of First Baptist Church tries to love his neighbor as himself. He’s just not thrilled that Wichita Falls will soon have him drinking water that once swirled down his neighbor’s toilet.

The Texas city of more than 104,000, suffering the worst drought on record, is about to become the first place in the U.S. to treat sewage and pump it directly back to residents. People who live in Wichita Falls, northwest of Dallas on the Oklahoma border, say they’ll buy more bottled water and try not to think about what’s flowing through their pipes when they bathe, brush their teeth and make soup.

“The idea is a bit grotesque,” said McCartney, 48, who has led prayer vigils for rain. “I’m not crazy about it.”

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Horses, teepees arrive on Mall for KXL protest

By Darren Goode, April 22, 2014. Source: Politico

Horses, Daryl Hannah, sacred fires and Neil Young — these are some of the things you’re likely to see on the National Mall starting Tuesday as part of the latest protest against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Keystone Pipeline Protest

Things kick off Tuesday morning with a short 24-horse ride from the Capitol. Photo: AP Photo

The “Reject and Protect” protest is a weeklong event hosted by the Cowboy and Indian Alliance, a group of ranchers, farmers and leaders of seven Native American tribes. Protesters said activists also plan to project anti-pipeline messages onto the Environmental Protection Agency on Thursday night, hold an interfaith ceremony outside the Georgetown home of Secretary of State John Kerry and stage an unspecified “bold and creative” bit of civil disobedience.

They’re estimating that as many as 5,000 activists will take part in a march past the Capitol on Saturday. The rest of the week is expected to be more intimate.

Things kick off Tuesday morning with a short 24-horse ride from the Capitol to a reserved area near the Reflecting Pool. The Indigo Girls will perform two songs as a ceremonial teepee is erected “that will have a clear message to the president on it,” promised Jane Kleeb, director of Bold Nebraska, the state’s leading anti-pipeline group.
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New Photo Essay Documenting Environmental and Social Struggles and Direct Actions From the 80s and 90s Released

Note: Orin Langelle is the co-founder and Board Chair for Global Justice Ecology Project

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Buffalo, NY – Earth Day 2014–Orin Langelle today released a new photo essay Defending Earth/Stopping Injustice – Struggles for Justice: late 1980s to late 90s” on his Langelle Photography website.

38-forest-activist-on-tripodOver the last four decades, Orin Langelle, a photographer who formally trained at the International Center of Photography in Manhattan, has uniquely woven together photojournalism and activism, with astonishing results. His newly released body of work covering more than fifteen years beautifully illustrates this accomplishment. The photos in this essay document direct action campaigns for both social, ecological and economic justice issues, as well as Indigenous Peoples’ struggles to protect their traditional lands. The fact that he is not just a photographer but also an activist has enabled him to gain access to these struggles in ways few others have.

Langelle explained the reason for this. “Because I approach my role as not merely documenting the struggle for social and ecological justice, but being an active part of it, I have been able to garner the trust of many of the people I have documented, allowing me access that would not have been possible otherwise. In this way, I have been able to expose the truth that is so often hidden by the powers of injustice.”

But, he points out, his photos are not meant just to expose injustice, they are meant to change it. “The photos in this essay document history. They counter the societal amnesia from which we collectively suffer—especially with regard to the history of social and ecological struggles. But this photo essay is also a call out to inspire new generations to participate in the making of a new history.  For there has been no time when such a call has been so badly needed,” he said.

Aziz Choudry, Assistant Professor in the Department of Integrated Studies in Education at McGill University in Montreal explains why the combination of activism and photojournalism is so important,

“Langelle’s unique work documents hidden and forgotten histories of the resistance against the war on the planet and the majority of its population. His images provide glimpses of possibilities– when ordinary people act collectively to fight imperialism, war and colonialism, and confront ecological devastation, to build a different world.

“Combining the passionate eye of a seasoned photojournalist, an organizer’s sensibility, and an unwavering anti-capitalist perspective, Langelle’s inspiring photography simultaneously zooms in on the soul of the struggle, and zooms out to take us beyond the image in front of us, willing us to address the root causes at the heart of the matter, rather than offer band-aid solutions,” Choudry added.

On the question of photojournalism and objectivity, Langelle says, “I take my responsibility as a concerned photographer very seriously.  Great journalists like John Reed and photojournalists like Robert Capa told the truth, and did not worry about being ‘objective.’  The myth of objective journalism, where the truth must be counterbalanced by the untruth has no place in a just society, especially when corporate propaganda already dominates so much of the media.”

Many of the campaigns documented in this photo essay had successful outcomes, including the campaign that stopped the killing of dolphins by industrial tuna fishing, the succession of direct actions that helped rescind the death warrant for political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, a moratorium won against the aerial spraying of toxic herbicides on Vermont forests, the permanent cessation of all logging on Illinois state forests, and the campaign that stopped construction of hydroelectric dams on Cree territory near James Bay, Quebec.

The photos were taken all around the world, from the US, to Tasmania, Australia, to England, as well as on Indigenous Peoples’ territories in northern Quebec, Chiapas, Mexico and the remote reaches of Nicaragua.

Author and poet Diana Anholt explained what sets Langelle’s photos apart. “Few photographers possess the ability to convey the essence of a place with the authority and finesse of Orin Langelle. When I set out in search of an image for the cover of  ‘Lives of Straw,’ my collection of poetry which deals with the struggle for survival in Mexico—survival in every sense of that word— physical, spiritual and economic— it was all I could do to locate an image which didn’t include a piñata, a burro, mariachis…  By sheer accident I stumbled on the one that summed up the entire Mexican experience I was attempting to convey: A man bearing a burden. The graffiti on the wall behind him bore a political message: Libertad a Presuntos Zapatistas. (Liberty to Suspected Zapatistas)

“This was the Mexico I know and write about and Orin Langelle had captured more than an evocative image of the country.  He had captured its soul.”

Most recently Langelle became a part of the Critical Information Collective as a means to not only distribute his own historical photographs more widely, but to collect images from photographers covering struggles all over the world. Regarding his joining the collective, CIC Co-Director Ronnie Hall said, “Critical Information Collective is delighted to be joined by Orin Langelle, seasoned photojournalist and activist. He brings a wealth of communications and campaign skills and experience to the collective, and will help to launch and develop our new environmental and social justice image library.”

Orin Langelle may not be a combat photographer, but since 1972 he has risked his safety and well being to cover the war on communities and the land, sometimes in remote territories deep in the jungle or in communities imminently threatened by military or paramilitary invasion. There are few people who have been as dedicated to the movement for change or for as long as Orin Langelle. The photos in his new essay provide a powerful window into that lifetime of work.

Langelle’s photographs have appeared in numerous print and online publications including La Jornada, USA Today, Z Magazine, Race Poverty & the Environment, New Internationalist, Time Magazine, The Progressive, Christian Science Monitor, Earth Island Journal, Seedling, Radical Anthropology, Earth First! Journal, Climate Connections, World War 4 Report, Toward Freedom, UpsideDown World, plus several books. In 2010 his photographs illustrated the book covers of  Learning from the Ground Up, Indigenous Knowledge And Learning In Asia/Pacific And Africa, Towards Climate Justice and most recently, Lives of Straw.

Over the last decade Langelle’s photography has been exhibited in New York City, Boston, Washington, DC, Madison (WI), San Francisco, Santa Cruz (CA), Eugene (OR), Hinesburg, Burlington and Plainfield (VT), Buffalo, NY, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, Copenhagen, Denmark, Warsaw, Poland and Bali, Indonesia.

His work has also been displayed in the Ayoreo indigenous community, Campo Loro, in the Gran Chaco region of Paraguay, and the indigenous community of Amador Hernandez, in the Lacandon jungle of Chiapas, Mexico.

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Poland uses Ukraine crisis to push coal

By Claudia Ciobanu, April 20, 2014. Source: Inter Press Service

 Environmentalists protesting against coal outside the Polish Ministry of Economy. Photo: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS.

Environmentalists protesting against coal outside the Polish Ministry of Economy. Photo: Claudia Ciobanu/IPS.

A European ‘energy union’ plan proposed by Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk as an EU response to the crisis in Ukraine could be a Trojan horse for fossil fuels.

On account of Poland’s proximity and deep historical ties to Ukraine, the country’s centre-right government led by Donald Tusk has assumed a prominent position in attempts to ease the crisis in Ukraine. Notoriously, Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski helped negotiate a February deal between then Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych and opposition leaders of Euromaidan, the name given to the pro-EU protests in Kiev.

 The Polish government’s assertiveness came with quick electoral gains. According to a poll conducted in early April by polling agency TNS Polska, Tusk’s Civic Platform for the first time in years took a lead in voters’ preferences over the conservative Peace and Justice Party of Jaroslaw Kaczynski.

“Not only is Civic Platform back in the lead, but also more Poles are ready to vote and vote for the government,” Lukasz Lipinski, an analyst at think tank Polityka Insight in Warsaw, told IPS. “All opposition parties now want to move the debate [ahead of the May 25 European elections] to domestic issues because on those it is much easier to criticise the Civic Platform after six years of government.”

Yet Tusk’s executive insists on Ukraine because of the benefits the topic can still bring. In the last weekend of March, the prime minister announced a Polish proposal for a European energy union that would make Europe resilient to crises like the Russian-Ukrainian conflict.

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Study: Fuels from corn not better than gas

By Dina Cappiello, AP, April 21, 2014. Source: Yahoo News

Photo: AP Photo/The University of Nebraska

Photo: AP Photo/The University of Nebraska

Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration’s conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

 A $500,000 study paid for by the federal government and released Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline.

While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says they won’t meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel.

The conclusions deal a blow to what are known as cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law. About half of the initial market in cellulosics is expected to be derived from corn residue.
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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Industrial agriculture

Obama administration delays decision on Keystone XL pipeline

By David Lauter and Lisa Mascaro, April 18, 2014. Source: LA Times

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) calls for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline at a news conference in March on Capitol Hill. (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images / March 25, 2014)

Rep. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) calls for approval of the Keystone XL pipeline at a news conference in March on Capitol Hill. (Jim Watson / AFP/Getty Images / March 25, 2014)

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration has delayed a decision on the controversial Keystone XL pipeline project, perhaps until after November’s midterm election.

A further delay in the evaluation of the pipeline, which already has lasted more than five years, is necessary because of a Nebraska state court decision in February that invalidated part of the project’s route, the State Department said in a statement.

Shortly after the court ruling, administration officials had said the Nebraska case would not have an impact on their deliberations. But in the new statement, the State Department said federal agencies could not evaluate the pipeline’s impact until the “uncertainty created by the ongoing litigation” is resolved.

That could take awhile. Nebraska officials have appealed the case to the state Supreme Court but have said they do not expect a ruling until late this year at the earliest. Continue reading

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Will Miller Lecture: Clayton Thomas-Muller 4/10

imgresWatch Global Justice Ecology Project Board member Clayton Thomas-Muller talking about Idle No More and the fight against the tar sands as the Will Miller Social Justice Lecture Series spring 2014 lecture.

GJEP Executive Director Anne Petermann is also on the board of the lecture series, and introduces Clayton. Ann Lipsitt, founder of the series is also a board member of GJEP and introduces the event with a great reading from Howard Zinn. Check it out!

“When we look at the tarsands, and when we look at all the other manifestations [of capitalism]  [...] we know what the problem is. We spend a lot of our time focusing on the symptoms of the big problem [...] which tend to overwhelm us, [but which] are all symptoms of our economic paradigm. Until we as a movement start organizing in a way that directly confronts this economic paradigm and that stops business as usual, we’re going to continue to be spinning our tires.” –Clayton Thomas Muller

Watch the video by clicking here

Check out Orin Langelle’s photos from the event here

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Nero’s Guest by P Sainath

Please watch Nero’s Guests, a compelling documentary about the continuing catastrophe of farmer suicides in India.

It does things few documentaries manage: educate about an issue, introduce complexity, focus on a person who becomes more interesting with time (Sainath), and both address particularities of the problem for India while making direct connections to the global economy. It’s a strong addition to the documentary work on the marginalization of the small farmer.

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In Memory: Gabriel García Márquez

In memory of Gabriel García Márquez, we are posting a surprisingly personal 2001 interview he did with Subcomandante Marcos, published in The New Left Review.


Interview by Gabriel García Márquez and Roberto Pombo



Seven years after the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) declared that one day it would enter Mexico City in triumph, you are in the capital and the Zócalo is completely full. What did you feel when you climbed the dais and saw that spectacle?

In keeping with the Zapatista tradition of anti-climax, the worst place to see a demonstration in the Zócalo is from the platform. [1] The sun was fierce, there was a lot of smog, we all had a headache, and got very worried as we counted the people passing out in front of us. I commented to my comrade, Commander Tacho, that we should get on with it, or by the time we began to speak no one would be left in the square. We couldn’t see all the way across it. The distance we had to keep from the crowd for security reasons was also an emotional one, and we didn’t find out what had happened in the Zócalo until we read the newspaper reports and saw the photos the next day. But yes, in our view and in the assessment of others, we do think that the meeting was the culmination of a phase, that our words on that day were appropriate and our message the right one, that we disconcerted those who expected us to seize the Palace or call for general insurrection. But also those who thought that we would be merely poetic or lyrical. I think an effective balance was struck and that, one way or another, on 11 March the EZLN could be heard speaking in the Zócalo, not so much about 2001, but about something that is yet to be completed: a conviction that the definitive defeat of racism will be turned into a State policy, an educational policy, into a feeling shared by the whole of Mexican society. As if this has already been settled, yet it still remains a short way off. As we soldiers say, the battle has been won, but a few skirmishes still remain to be fought. Finally I believe that the meeting in the Zócalo made it clear that it had been the right decision to put our weapons aside, that it was not our arms which brought us into dialogue with society, that the gamble on a peaceful mobilization was sensible and fruitful. The Mexican State has still to understand this, the government in particular.

You’ve used the expression ‘as we soldiers say’. To a Colombian, accustomed to the way our guerrillas talk, your language doesn’t sound very soldierly. How military is your movement, and how would you describe the war in which you have been fighting?

We were formed in an army, the EZLN. It has a military structure. Subcomandante Marcos is the military chief of an army. But our army is very different from others, because its proposal is to cease being an army. A soldier is an absurd person who has to resort to arms in order to convince others, and in that sense the movement has no future if its future is military. If the EZLN perpetuates itself as an armed military structure, it is headed for failure. Failure as an alternative set of ideas, an alternative attitude to the world. The worst that could happen to it, apart from that, would be to come to power and install itself there as a revolutionary army. For us it would be a failure. What would be a success for the politico-military organizations of the sixties or seventies which emerged with the national liberation movements would be a fiasco for us. We have seen that such victories proved in the end to be failures, or defeats, hidden behind the mask of success. That what always remained unresolved was the role of people, of civil society, in what became ultimately a dispute between two hegemonies. There is an oppressor power which decides on behalf of society from above, and a group of visionaries which decides to lead the country on the correct path and ousts the other group from power, seizes power and then also decides on behalf of society. For us that is a struggle between hegemonies, in which the winners are good and the losers bad, but for the rest of society things don’t basically change. The EZLN has reached a point where it has been overtaken by Zapatismo. The ‘E’ in the acronym has shrunk, its hands have been tied, so that for us it is no handicap to mobilize unarmed, but rather in a certain sense a relief. The gun-belt weighs less than before and the military paraphernalia an armed group necessarily wears when it enters dialogue with people also feels less heavy. You cannot reconstruct the world or society, nor rebuild national states now in ruins, on the basis of a quarrel over who will impose their hegemony on society. The world in general, and Mexican society in particular, is composed of different kinds of people, and the relations between them have to be founded on respect and tolerance, things which appear in none of the discourses of the politico-military organizations of the sixties and seventies. Reality, as always, presented a bill to the armed national liberation movements of those days, and the cost of settling it has been very high.

You also seem to differ from the traditional Left in the social sectors that you represent. Is that so?

Broadly speaking, there were two major gaps in the movement of the revolutionary Left in Latin America. One of them was the indigenous peoples, from whose ranks we come, and the other was the supposed minorities. Even if we all removed our balaclavas we would not be a minority in the same way that homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals are. These sectors were not simply excluded by the discourses of the Latin American Left of those decades—and still current today—but the theoretical framework of what was then Marxism–Leninism disregarded them, indeed took them to be part of the front to be eliminated. Homosexuals, for example, were suspect as potential traitors, elements harmful to the socialist movement and state. While the indigenous peoples were viewed as a backward sector preventing the forces of production . . . blah, blah, blah. So what was required was to clean out these elements, imprisoning or re-educating some, and assimilating others into the process of production, to transform them into skilled labour—proletarians, to put it in those terms.

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Drunken trees: Dramatic signs of climate change

By Brian Clark Howard, April 17, 2014. Source: National Geographic 

According to scientists, melting ground is to blame for tilting spruce trees. Photo: Galen Rowell, Corbis

According to scientists, melting ground is to blame for tilting spruce trees.
Photo: Galen Rowell, Corbis

Sarah James, an Alaska Native elder, says global warming is radically changing her homeland. Even the forests no longer grow straight. Melting ground has caused trees to tilt or fall.

“Because permafrost melts, it causes a lot of erosion,” says James, who lives in Arctic Village, a small Native American village in northeastern Alaska. “A lot of trees can’t stand up straight. If the erosion gets worse, everything goes with it.”

Permafrost is permanently frozen ground. But climate change has caused much of that ground to melt at an unprecedented rate. The ground buckles and sinks, causing trees to list at extreme angles.

Sometimes the trees survive the stress and continue growing, uprighting themselves to vertical. Other times they collapse or drown from rising water tables as subterranean ice melts. Because such trees seem to stagger across the landscape, people often call them “drunken trees.”

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