Category Archives: Forests

Human Rights are the front line of environmental defense

Photo: Alex Barber

Photo: Alex Barber

Paul Jay, of The Real News Network, produced “Protecting the Amazon Includes Defending Indigenous Rights,” a video interview with Hiparidi Top’Tiro Xavante, an Indigenous rights activist in Brazil.

The 13 minute piece elegantly describes the need to defend the way of life of Indigenous peoples in the Amazon in order to defend and protect the biodiversity and and ecological health of the Amazon, “the lungs of the world.”

Watch the video on Truthout





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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Political Repression, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Uncategorized

Mongabay reports on Mapuche battle with tree plantations in Chile, how forests defined


Photo: Caroline/Intercontinental Cry

Photo: Caroline/Intercontinental Cry

This great article came out earlier in the week, but got lost in the busyness. Julian Moll-Rocek here discusses the longterm fight of the Mapuche to protect their forests, going back in the contemporary period to Pinochet. 

Moll-Rocek also addresses the continuing debate over what qualifies as a forest, tied to the expansion of tree plantations. 

Global Justice Ecology Project has worked in partnership with the Mapuche group Konapewman in the Lumaco District of Chile, and has been following the unceasing industrial assault on Mapuche territories for several years.

When forests aren’t really forests: the high cost of Chile’s tree plantations
Julian Moll-Rocek, correspondent. August 18, 2014

At first glance, the statistics tell a hopeful story: Chile’s forests are expanding. According to Global Forest Watch, overall forest cover changes show approximately 300,000 hectares were gained between 2000 and 2013 in Chile’s central and southern regions. Specifically, 1.4 million hectares of forest cover were gained, while about 1.1 million hectares were lost.

On the ground, however, a different scene plays out: monocultures have replaced diverse natural forests while Mapuche native protesters burn pine plantations, blockade roads and destroy logging equipment. At the crux of these two starkly contrasting narratives is the definition of a single word: “forest.”

The Mapuche people have been fighting for their ancestral land rights since the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in Chile in the 1540s. In 1970 it seemed they had finally found a benefactor in socialist president Salvador Allende, who promised major land redistribution. Their hopes were cut short when, at the height of the Cold War, General Augusto Pinochet came to power in 1973 with the help of the C.I.A. Pinochet’s wave of neoliberal reforms included Forest Ordinance 701, passed in 1974, which subsidized the expansion of tree plantations under the pretext of reducing erosion and gave the National Forestry Corporation control of Mapuche lands.


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Filed under Forests, South America, Tree Plantations

Groups globally mobilize to stop commercial release of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in Brazil and US

Campaign to STOP GE Trees expands to four continents

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New York - Two unprecedented applications are pending that, if approved, would allow the commercial sale of millions of genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees for development into vast industrial GE tree plantations in the US and Brazil. The Campaign to STOP GE Trees [1] is expanding and mobilizing to stop these and all large-scale releases of GE trees into the environment.

Banner photo (Plantations Are Not Forests) from last Friday's march:  Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Plantations Are Not Forests banner. Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

In the US, ArborGen has a request pending with the Department of Agriculture to commercially sell freeze-tolerant GE eucalyptus trees; in Brazil, Futuragene has requested permission from CTNBio, the Brazilian biosafety regulatory agency, to release GE eucalyptus trees there. CTNBio is planning a public hearing on the Futuragene GE tree application on 4 September. The USDA could release their draft ruling at any time.

“We have tried to ban GE trees globally through various bodies of the United Nations, and now groups are coordinating internationally to stop any and all applications to legalize GE trees,” stated Winfridus Overbeek, Brazil-based Coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement and Steering Committee member for the Campaign. “It’s crucial that these potentially disastrous trees not be commercially released because the health and viability of entire forest ecosystems and the communities who depend on them will be at risk.”

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Uncategorized

Extreme weather conditions doubled over last ten years

A Russian man tries to stop fire near vi

In 2010, heatwaves caused hundreds of wildfires across Russia. Above, a man tries to stop a fire near Dolginino village. Photograph: Artyom Korotayev/AFP/Getty Images

Do you find yourself thinking: Another drought? Another flood? If you’ve noticed extreme weather conditions seem more common, you aren’t the only one. According to an article in The Guardian, German climate scientists analyzed weather patterns from the past 35 years and have noticed a significant increase in “blocking patterns,” which have doubled the frequency of extreme weather conditions in the last 10-15 years. Damian Carrington of The Guardian writes:

The work shows so-called “blocking patterns”, where hot or wet weather remains stuck over a region for weeks causing heatwaves or floods, have more than doubled in summers over the last decade. The new study may also demonstrate a link between the UK’s recent flood-drenched winter and climate change.

Fires are more likely to spread and spread fast during a a heatwave. In 2010, 50,000 people in Russia died from fires due to heatwaves. The winter of 2013-2014 was the wettest the UK had seen in more than 250 years. Flooding from these rains destroyed property, businesses, land and lives. Both of these extreme weather conditions are the result of the increase in these “blocking patterns.”

The rise in blocking patterns correlates closely with the extra heating being delivered to the Arctic by climate change, according to the research which is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS). Coumou [Dr Dim Coumou, at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research] and his colleagues argue there are good physical reasons to think there is a causal link, because the jet streams are driven by the difference in temperature between the poles and the equator. As the Arctic is warming more quickly than lower latitudes, that temperature difference is declining, providing less energy for the jet stream and its meanders, which are called Rossby waves.

The link between climate change and increasing extreme weather conditions is, arguably, firmly established. The timeframe, however, is a different story. For extreme weather conditions to double in the last 10-15 years shows that climate change is moving faster, resulting in more frequent catastrophic weather patterns that damage both natural and urban environments. The rate will only increase and the disasters along with it. What will “blocking patterns” have to wipe out before governments and corporations will actually start to listen?

Want to learn more? Read the full article.


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Filed under Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Natural Disasters

Tasmanian government pushes harsh new protesting laws aimed at shutting down environmentalists


1992 Protest in Tasmania.

1992 Protest in Tasmania.

According to Rick Morton in The Australian:

The Tasmanian government’s controversial anti-protest laws targeting “dread­locked” forestry industry disrupters are so broad they could capture parents, pensioners and anyone else who “hinders” business, a labour law firm has warned unions.

Hindering can include any kind of delay or inconvenience caused.

“According to the legislation, a business does not even need to be harmed economically to meet the test,” [Tasmanian Law Society Anthony Mihal] said.

“If a protester briefly blocks a taxi, van and a truck, each one of those vehicles, being a business, counts as a separate offence against the act.

“A judge has to fine the protester a minimum of $5000 for the first offence and the second offence, which could happen in the same protest, would attract a penalty of three months’ imprisonment and up to two years.”

Organisations face fines of $100,000, with $10,000 for officials.

This push to limit environmental protest is linked, of course, to the push for increased logging of protected areas of the Tasmanian forest spearheaded most recently by Tony Abbott.

The struggle for Tasmania’s forests has been going on for decades, as noted by the above photo from GJEP Board Chair and Co-Founder Orin Langelle from a protest in Tasmania in 1992. The Forestry Commission was shut down for the day.


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Filed under Forests, Political Repression, Politics

Indigenous women unite to protect the environment in Indonesia

Indigenous women from the Indonesian island of Lombok make traditional handicrafts using supplies from the forest. Photo: Amantha Perera/IPS

Indigenous women from the Indonesian island of Lombok make traditional handicrafts using supplies from the forest. Photo: Amantha Perera/IPS

Indonesian women from the Mollo territory are known for weaving beautiful, intricate fabrics from dye they harvest in the surrounding forests. When mining corporations barged in and began ravaging the land for marble, the women refused to sit idly by as these companies ripped out forests, dumped tons of toxins into their rivers and mutilated the iconic Mutis Mountains. In the IPS article “Women Warriors Take Environmental Protection into Their Own Hands,” reporter Amantha Perera writes:

I felt they were raping my land, I could not just stand aside and watch that happen, said Indonesian environmental activist Mama Aleta in the article Women Warriors take Environmental Protection into their own Hands. We wanted to tell the companies that what they were doing was like taking our clothes off, they were making the forest naked by [cutting down] its trees.

Mama Aleta and several other women walked from village to village, explaining the situation to others in the Mollo territory, inspiring them and encouraging them to take a stand. Nearly 150 of them united, sitting and weaving in front of the mines in silent protest. The companies lasted another year before they were forced to abandon their four mines in the area.

Nearly 3000 miles away, in the eastern Indian state of Jharkhand, another group of women rallied to protect their forests from commercial timber plantations. In the same article, Perera writes:

The women then went to the local police station – accompanied by children, men and elders from the village – and began to pluck and eat the fruit from guava trees in the compound, announcing to the officers on duty that they wanted only trees that could provide for the villagers.

On another occasion, when police showed up to arrest women leaders in the community, including Bhagat, they announced they would go voluntarily – provided the police also arrested their children and livestock, who needed the women to care for them. Once again, the police retreated.

Now the women patrol the forest, ensuring that no one cuts more wood than is deemed necessary.

Bhagat believes that her gender works to her advantage in this rural community in Jharkhand’s Ranchi district.

“If I were a man, I would have been arrested and thrown in jail by now,” she told IPS. “Because we women stand together, police are reluctant to act like that.”

So why are these “Women Warriors” so profound, so necessary in the fight against climate change? The answer could fill a thousand pages, but, in short, women are an “extremely vulnerable” population in the fallout of climate change. The burden of climate change falls heavily on these women, who play vital roles in the survival of their communities, families, farms, livestock and culture. In addition, women’s roles have historically been undervalued, so by protecting their environments, they are harnessing their collective voices to make an impact on a global scale.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Forests, Indigenous Peoples, Mining, Women

Study shows damage done by climate change to forests

Forest fire in Sweden this week. Reuters.

Forest fire in Sweden this week. Reuters.

Graph of disturbances from study.

Graph of disturbances from study.

Researchers in Europe have linked climate change to a whole range of attacks: not just fires, but also windthrow, when winds damage or uproot trees, and pest infestations. They show that these “disturbances” have increased, and that climate change is the driver of the increase.

 “Disturbances like windthrow and forest fires are part of the natural dynamics of forest ecosystems, and are not, therefore, a catastrophe for the ecosystem as such. However, these disturbances have intensified considerably in recent decades, which increasingly challenges the sustainable management of forest ecosystems,” says Rupert Seidl, BOKU Vienna, principal researcher on the study

According to the study, the trend of increased destruction will continue.

Here’s the final kicker included in the study: as climate change destroys forests, climate change intensifies.

The study was published in Nature Climate Change.


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Filed under Climate Change, Forests

New World Resources Institute Report Links Conservation of Forests, Indigenous Communities, and Climate Action

Photo by Charlie Watson/Rainforest Alliance Frog Blog

Photo by Charlie Watson/Rainforest Alliance Frog Blog

A World Resources Institute Report Securing Rights, Combating Climate Change details how strengthening community forest rights is a significant factor in combating climate change.

Authors Caleb Stevens, Robert Winterbottom, Kate Reytar, and Jerry Springer analyze the growing body of evidence linking community forest rights with healthier forests and lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from deforestation and forest degradation.

An article on the Rainforest Alliance’s Frog Blog describing the report says

Millions of communities around the world depend on forests for their livelihoods and basic needs but lack the legal rights to manage them.  While governments currently claim ownership of most of the world’s forests, local communities who live in them have the most incentive to protect them. Indeed, the report shows that deforestation rates in areas where communities have strong land rights are considerably lower than in areas where they do not.

The Key Findings of the WRI report are:

  • When Indigenous Peoples and local communities have no or weak legal rights, their forests tend to be vulnerable to deforestation and thus become the source of carbon dioxide emissions
  • Legal forest rights for communities and government protection of their rights tend to lower carbon dioxide emissions and deforestation
  • Indigenous Peoples and local communities with legal forest rights maintain or improve their forests’ carbon storage
  • Even when communities have legal rights to their forest, government actions that weaken those rights can lead to high carbon dioxide emissions and deforestation
  • Communities can partially overcome government actions that weaken their forest rights


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Filed under Climate Justice, Forests, Indigenous Peoples