Category Archives: Commons

Fracking the commons: Why your public lands are under assault by oil and gas drilling

Note:  Take action to ban fracking on federal lands here.

- The GJEP Team

By Gloria Flora, August 5, 2013. Source: AlterNet

Photo: Ecoflight

Photo: Ecoflight

As a Forest Supervisor with the U.S. Forest Service in the 1990s, I put a 15-year moratorium on oil and gas leasing in Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front. I made this controversial decision because the ecosystems on the Front are irreplaceably rich and diverse, and because I’d witnessed first-hand the cultural connections (in spirit, mind, and body) that countless people both near and far had to this extraordinary place. The towering limestone cliffs, the wealth of wildlife, and the sheer wildnessresonate deeply with the human psyche, and have done so for countless generations for over ten thousand years.

I thought I’d seen the worst of the oil and gas industry during that battle: its death-grip on public agencies, its demand for ever more leases, and its running roughshod over drilling regulations with impunity. But some years later I learned about an insidious new threat from the fossil fuel industry—hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.” In fracking, fluid is injected into underground shale formations to break them apart and release trapped natural gas (and increasingly, oil). Unfortunately, fracking fluid contaminates our water, fracked gas escapes into the atmosphere, and the breakneck pace of drilling for these low-quality wells wreak havoc on wildlife habitat and human communities alike.

In the early 2000s, fracking was mostly confined to the Southwest and seemed little more than a crazy, expensive, last-ditch effort to squeeze the last bits of gas out of old fields. But as the easy-to-get fossil fuels have been depleted, and as government subsidies for fossil fuels have increased, such last-ditch efforts have become the industry standard. Today, the battle I fought over the Rocky Mountain Front seems small in comparison to what the fossil fuel industry aims to do across the entire country with fracking, including on public lands.
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Filed under Commons, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Hydrofracking, Land Grabs, Oil, Water

Norwich Declaration on Environmental Justice: Money can’t buy environmental justice

10 July 2013

THIS DECLARATION EMERGED FROM A WORKSHOP HELD AT THE UNIVERSITY OF EAST ANGLIA IN NORWICH, ENGLAND ON JUNE 20-22, 2013, ON GLOBAL ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE.

Rio-women's march-tanya

Women’s march at the Rio+20 Earth Summit, June 2012. Women were marching against the Green Economy and the commodification of life.

WE, AN INTERNATIONAL GROUP OF ACTIVISTS, ACADEMICS AND RESEARCHERS, OBSERVE THAT ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICES ARE PROLIFERATING ACROSS THE GLOBE.

CASES OF ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE ARE HOWEVER FREQUENTLY BEING ADDRESSED BY GOVERNMENTS, MULTINATIONAL CORPORATIONS AND MULTILATERAL INSTITUTIONS AS PROBLEMS THAT CAN BE RESOLVED THROUGH TECHNICAL OR MONETARY MEANS.

SUCH NARROW UNDERSTANDINGS OF ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE NORMALISE THE PERPETRATION OF INJUSTICE. INSTEAD WE BELIEVE IT IS ESSENTIAL TO ADVANCE AN APPROACH TO ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE FOUNDED ON FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES OF CITIZENSHIP, POLITICAL AND CULTURAL RIGHTS, DEMOCRATIC DECENTRALISATION, RULE OF LAW, ACCESS TO DUE JURIDICAL PROCESSES AND TRANSPARENT, DEMOCRATIC AND ACCOUNTABLE GOVERNANCE.

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Commons, Events, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Land Grabs, REDD, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Rural Mexican communities protest wind farms

By Emilio Godoy, June 18, 2013. Source: Inter Press Service

Zapotec indigenous people from Unión Hidalgo protesting in Mexico City against a wind farm project in their town. Photo: Emilio Godoy/IPS

Zapotec indigenous people from Unión Hidalgo protesting in Mexico City against a wind farm project in their town. Photo: Emilio Godoy/IPS

MEXICO CITY- “We can’t sow our fields, which they have rented for next to nothing. What good do we get out of it?” Guadalupe Ramírez complained about wind farms operating in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.

Ramírez said, “the governments play favourites with big business; our land produces more than what the companies are offering … They said they would come to help us, but that’s a lie,” this 62-year-old Zapotec Indian told IPS when she and other campesinos came to Mexico City from the municipality of Unión Hidalgo, 560 kilometres to the south, to protest the situation.

The Piedra Larga I wind farm, which has been operating in the town since October 2012, comprises 145 wind turbines producing 90 MW of power. It is the property of Desarrollos Eólicos Mexicanos (DEMEX), a subsidiary of the Spanish company Renovalia Energy and the private U.S. investment firm First Reserve.

In 2007 DEMEX approached local people and began to sign rental contracts with members of the “ejido” or communal land, treating them as if they were independent smallholders and not communal rights holders, and setting an average monthly rental of 20 dollars a hectare. The campesinos of Unión Hidalgo farm between three and four hectares each. Continue reading

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“We reject REDD+ in all its versions” – Letter from Chiapas, Mexico opposing REDD in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32)

By Chris Lang, 30th April 2013.  Source: REDD-Monitor

Organisations based in Chiapas, Mexico have written to California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, to oppose the inclusion of REDD in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32).

Young girls in Amador Hernández   Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Young girls in Amador Hernández Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

In March 2011, Global Justice Ecology Project travelled to Chiapas and documented the problems that REDD and other conservation projects were causing for communities in the Lacandón jungle. Jeff Conant, who was then Communications Director for GJEP, wrote a series of articles based on the visit. The articles are collected on GJEP’s blog, Climate Connections. And Orin Langelle, GJEP’s Board Chair, produced a photo essay about the visit to Chiapas.

GJEP also produced a video about REDD: “A Darker Shade of Green”, which includes interviews with communities in Chiapas (the part about Chiapas starts at 10:45). One of the villagers describes REDD from his perspective:

“They see our Mother Earth as a business, and for us you should never see it like that, it’s our Mother, she can’t be sold. Now they’re developing this REDD Project that’s about carbon capture, it doesn’t serve us. We struggle simply to feed ourselves.”

In December 2012, an article was published in Truthout about the impact of REDD on communities in Chiapas. The title is very appropriate: “Colonialism and the Green Economy: The Hidden Side of Carbon Offsets”. The impacts of carbon offsets on the communities in Chiapas, it seems, remain largely hidden from view in California.
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New seed legislation spells disaster for small farmers in Africa

April 3 2013. Source: African Center for Biodiversity

Civil society organisations from the South African Development Community (SADC) region, and around the world have condemned the SADC draft 
Protocol for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (Plant Breeders’ Rights) as spelling disaster for
 small farmers and food security in the region. These groups, representing millions of farmers in Africa 
and around the world have submitted their concerns to the SADC Secretariat. They are calling for the 
rejection of the Protocol and urgent consultations with farmers, farmer movements and civil society 
before it’s too late.

According to the groups, the Protocol is inflexible, restrictive and imposes a “one-size-fits-all” plant
 variety protection (PVP) system on all SADC countries irrespective of the nature of agricultural systems, 
social and economic development. It is modelled after the 1991 International Convention for the
Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV 1991), an instrument which was developed by industrialized
 countries to address their own needs.  UPOV 1991 grants extremely strong intellectual property right 
protection to plant breeders, and disallows farmers from continuing their customary practices of freely 
using, exchanging and selling farm-saved seeds.

According to Moses Shaha, regional chairman for the East and Southern African small-scale Farmers’ Forum 
(ESAFF): “The proposed legislation gives big-business breeders significant rights, but in doing so, 
disregards and marginalizes small farmers and their plant varieties. It fails to recognize that
 small-scale farmers and their customary practices of freely exchanging and re-using seed for multiple 
purposes, constitute the backbone of SADC’s agricultural farming systems.”
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Filed under Africa, Biodiversity, Commodification of Life, Commons, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

Pablo Salon: How to overcome the climate crisis?

By Pablo Salon, March 15, 2013. Source: Climate Space 2013

logo_finall_ok_1There is no single answer, no single campaign nor single approach.

To reduce greenhouse gas emissions to a level that avoids catastrophe, we need to:

  • Leave more than two-thirds of the fossil fuel reserves under the soil;
  • Stop the exploitation of tar sands, shale gas and coal;
  • Support small, local, peasant and indigenous community farming while we dismantle big agribusiness that deforests and heats the planet;
  • Promote local production and consumption of products, reducing the free trade of goods that send millions of tons of CO2 while they travel around the world;
  • Stop extractive industries from further destroying nature and contaminating our atmosphere and our land;
  • Increase significantly public transport to reduce the unsustainable “car way of life”;
  • Reduce the emissions of warfare by promoting genuine peace and dismantling the military and war industry and infrastructure.

In other words we need to come out of the endless growth paradigm that is the basis of the capitalist system, and seek for a new kind of society that is grounded on care for each other and nature. A society that seeks happiness for all and not profit for a few. A society based on a different concept of prosperity and well-being. A bio-society for life that includes humans and nature.

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Hondurans protest business-friendly laws

Note: Demonstrators are calling for international support through calls to the Honduran Supreme Court today at 011-504-2202-5124.  They’re demanding the release of campesino leader and political prisoner Chavelo Morales, as well as the repeal of the new mining law and the neoliberal ‘model cities’ legislation.  More information here.

–The GJEP Team

March 7, 2013. Source: Latin American Herald Tribune

Protest - Honduras - 1-1

Photo: EFE

TEGUCIGALPA – Hundreds of people staged a peaceful demonstration in this capital on Wednesday against the new mining and the so-called “model cities” laws after ending a march of some 200 kilometers (125 miles) to Tegucigalpa that they had begun on Feb. 25.

“The sectors represented here are defending their territories, the natural wealth of their communities and the public assets,” Hermes Reyes, a member of the Movement for Dignity and Justice, told Efe.

He added that during the march they were joined by villagers from several communities along the way.

Another of the demonstrators told Efe that they will remain until Friday on the ground floor of Congress in downtown Tegucigalpa. Continue reading

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University of California joins Monsanto in fight against farmer

Note: The precedent set by this case could have profound implications for GE trees, should they escape onto private lands or public parks.

-The GJEP Team

By Jeff Conant, February 28, 2013.  Source: Synbiowatch

Last week, the Supreme Court heard testimonies in the Bowman vs. Monsanto case, wherein the agribusiness giant is fighting an appeal by farmer Vernon Bowman, who the company claims infringed its patent rights by replanting seeds he purchased beyond the bounds of the company’s licensing agreement. The farmer’s claim is that seeds are seeds, designed by nature to reproduce, and that therefore farmers have the right to plant them as they always have; the company’s claim is that its patent on a particular technology embedded in the seed extends to future generations of that seed’s stock.

As the NY Times reports, “The question in the case, Bowman v. Monsanto Company, No. 11-796, was whether patent rights to seeds and other things that can replicate themselves extend beyond the first generation. The justices appeared alert to the consequences of their eventual ruling not only for Monsanto’s very lucrative soybean patents but also for modern agriculture generally and for areas as varied as vaccines, cell lines and software.”

Back in 2007, a federal judge in Indiana ordered Mr. Bowman to pay Monsanto more than $84,000. The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which specializes in patent cases, upheld that decision, saying that by planting the seeds Mr. Bowman had infringed Monsanto’s patents.

The rationale for infinite generational patent protection was given by Chief Justice Roberts in his opening question to Bowman’s lawyer: ”Why in the world would anybody spend any money to try to improve the seed if as soon as they sold the first one anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?”
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Filed under Commodification of Life, Commons, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture, Posts from Jeff Conant, Synthetic Biology

The REDD contradiction: Deforestation and oil palm plantations in the Congo Basin

By Chris Lang, February 28, 2013. Source: REDD-Monitor

Photo: Media Freedom International

The Congo River. Photo: Media Freedom International

Since 2009, companies have announced new oil palm plantation projects in the Congo Basin covering a total area of 1.6 million hectares. Projects currently underway cover 500,000 hectares. A new report by Rainforest Foundation UK warns that vast areas of the Congo Basin forests are potentially threatened by the expansion of oil palm plantations.

The report, “Seeds of Destruction” (pdf file, 4.7 MB), includes case studies of three of the companies involved. A company called Atama Plantations SARL has started clearing forest in the Republic of Congo for a 180,000 hectare plantation. Rainforest Foundation UK investigated the companies behind Atama Plantations and found a “web of ‘shell’ companies registered in secretive tax havens”.

In February 2012, a Malaysian company called Wah Seong announced it would buy a 51% stake in Atama Resources Inc, a Mauritius-registered company that owns Atama Plantations SARL: “The $25 million purchase of Atama by Wah Seong is almost as complicated as the web of companies behind Atama.” Continue reading

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Land ceilings: Reining in land grabbers or dumbing down the debate?

February 28, 2013. Source: GRAIN

Workers on a sugar plantation in Brazil, where US-based Bunge is building a large land portfolio for sugar and biofuels production. (Photo Lalo de Almeida for the New York Times)

Workers on a sugar plantation in Brazil, where US-based Bunge is building a large land portfolio for sugar and biofuels production. (Photo Lalo de Almeida for the New York Times)

Over the last few years, governments, legislators and political elites in a number of countries have been trying to calm anger and debate over land grabbing by setting legal limits on foreign direct investment (FDI) in land. These limits take various forms.

  • In some countries, governments are imposing ceilings on the amount of farmland foreigners may acquire. Argentina and Brazil have recently moved in this direction. Before leaving office in 2011, President Lula instructed his party and the country’s Attorney General to find a way to limit access to farmland by foreigners in Brazil. Cristina Kirchner initiated a similar process in Argentina, resulting in the signing of a new law within a year. In both cases, the intent was to set limits on the amount of agricultural land foreign investors can own as a way to contain growing resentment about “foreignisation” and loss of sovereignty. Continue reading

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