Category Archives: Forests and Climate Change

The Perils of Wood-Based Bioenergy: Paraguay Blog Post #2

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project, 20 November 2014

Global Justice Ecology Project is in Paraguay for two weeks of meetings to strategize means to address the impacts of wood-based bioenergy, genetically engineered trees and livestock on deforestation levels, and the solutions to the climate change and deforestation crisis provided by local communities maintaining and caring for their traditional lands.

Ada from the Solomon Islands.  If biomass energy is not stopped, her islands will continue to drown.  Photo credit: GJEP-GFC

Aydah from the Solomon Islands speaks at the meeting. If biomass energy is not stopped, her islands will continue to drown. Photo credit: GJEP-GFC

Today’s meetings included the participation of activists from throughout Africa, Asia, the South Pacific, North and South America and Eastern and Western Europe.  The topic at hand was the problem of wood-based bioenergy–specifically electricity derived from cutting down forests, destroying biodiversity, polluting the atmosphere and displacing forest-based Indigenous and local communities.

Biomass also comes with an enormous cost in waste. In the Drax UK biomass plant, Biofuelwatch has calculated that of every three trees burned, two are wasted as heat. Half of one UK power station takes more wood than the entire UK produces every year and supplies only 4.6% of the country’s electricity demand. These power stations require co-generation with coal, so increased use of biomass = increased use of coal. Without the biomass conversion, this Drax plant would have had to close by 2016. The conversion to co-generation with biomass is allowing it to stay open, enabling continued and increased use of coal.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Pollution, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Impressions from Paraguay: Day one in the tropics

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Ayoreo family in the Gran Chaco in Paraguay.  This family and their community were forcibly relocated from their homeland by groups who want to exploit the Chaco.  Photolangelle.org

Ayoreo family in the Gran Chaco in Paraguay. This family and their community were relocated from their homeland by groups who want to exploit the Chaco. Photolangelle.org

Global Justice Ecology Project just arrived in Paraguay for two weeks of meetings on the themes of wood-based bioenergy, genetically engineered trees, the impacts of livestock and GMO soy production on global deforestation levels, and the solutions to climate change and deforestation provided by local communities maintaining and caring for their traditional lands.

Looking out of the Asunción hotel room at the wide majestic Paraguay river, and the expanse of forest on the other side, feeling the tropical humidity and listening to the rumble of distant thunder, it is hard to imagine that yesterday my GJEP colleague and I woke up in the midst of a major snowstorm in Buffalo, NY.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Indigenous Peoples, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Tree Plantations, Uncategorized

United States Forest Service wants to cut the 700,000 acre Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest in North Carolina

The Southern Environmental Law Center issued a press release on 12 November revealing a new U.S. Forest Service proposal introducing industrial-scale logging in the Pisgah-Natahala National Forest in western North Carolina.  The 700,000 acres targeted is an area larger than the Great Smokey Mountains National Park.

Cat Gap Trail to John Rock, Pisgah National Forest photo internetbrothers.org

Cat Gap Trail to John Rock, Pisgah National Forest photo internetbrothers.org

Earth First Journal reports

Forest Service Proposes Massive Logging Project in North Carolina’s Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest
by Kathleen Sullivan / Southern Environmental Law Center

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—In what conservation groups flag as a dramatic shift, the U.S. Forest Service is proposing industrial-scale logging in the vast majority of the Pisgah-Nantahala National Forest in western North Carolina – about 700,000 acres, or an area bigger than the Great Smoky Mountain National Park – instead of protecting popular backcountry recreation destinations and conserving the Blue Ridge landscapes treasured by residents and tourists from across the United States.

“Under the law and for everyone who enjoys America’s forests, the Forest Service’s first priority should be fixing the mistakes of the past – restoring the parts of the forest already damaged by prior logging,” said DJ Gerken, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “But the misguided logging plan proposed by the agency will repeat those old mistakes, causing more damage and putting the healthiest forests we have left on the chopping block. The people who use and love these forests won’t stand for cutting them down.”

Read the whole article here

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Frontline Communities, Uncategorized

Carbon Capture and Storage–A Bioenergy Myth!

Biofuelwatch co-director and GJEP partner Rachel Smolker has posted an important article on Bioenergy and Carbon Capture and Storage (BECCS) at the Washington Geoengineering Constortium website.

Smolker’s piece continues to build on and share her extensive knowledge and critique of bionenergy strategies touted by industry as “climate solutions.” Smolker makes a clear case that these strategies are false solutions to climate change and that environmental thinkers should not naively buy into these strategies.

The Washington Geoengineering Consortium is an initiative of the Global Environmental Politics program in the School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC. They are concerned with the social, political, and legal implications of geoengineering technologies.

Activists drop a banner and lockdown at Forth Energy's offices in 2012. Photo: bioenergyaction.com

Photo: bioenergyaction.com

‘UNCERTAINTIES’ IS AN UNDERSTATEMENT, WHEN IT COMES TO BECCS

By Rachel Smolker, Biofuelwatch, 10 November 2014.

In 2012, Biofuelwatch published a report titled “Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage: Climate savior or dangerous hype?” We had long been working to reveal and oppose large scale industrial and commercial scale bioenergy in various forms ranging from ethanol refineries to soy and palm oil biodiesel to coal plants converting over to burn wood. We had argued that corn ethanol would drive biodiversity loss, cause food prices to rise and contribute to chronic hunger, while failing to reduce emissions, as it has in fact done. We argued that burning wood as a substitute for coal would create a new driver of deforestation, even as protecting forests and ecosystems was recognized as a “best line of defense” against climate change. We pointed out that large scale bioenergy was incompatible with the simultaneous push to quantify, commodify and protect land based carbon sinks and their “services” (often for the dubious purpose of providing offsets to polluters…). We highlighted the human rights impacts, as land grabs for bioenergy escalated in Africa and elsewhere. And we argued over and over that the carbon consequences of bioenergy were far from “climate friendly” or “carbon neutral,” a myth that has been perpetuated by industry proponents and even parroted by many naive environmentalists.

 

Washington Geoengineering Consortium definitions of geoengineering here.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Carbon Trading, Confronting Government Agencies, Corporate Globalization, Dr. Rachel Smolker, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Geoengineering, Land Grabs

Sign the petition to prevent GE trees from contaminating forests

With the Right to Know labeling movement in full swing, GMOs are making headlines in every major website and newspaper in the U.S. However, genetically engineering food isn’t the only way that industry is trying to sneak their modified plants into our lives.

Enter genetically engineered trees.

Companies like ArborGen, jointly owned by International Paper and MeadWestvaco among others, are pressuring congress and the USDA to give them permission to release billions of GE eucalyptus seedlings in vast plantations across the U.S. Teamed up with another false solution to climate change, bioenergy, these GE trees, also called GM trees or GMO trees, could invade our natural forests, altering them forever. Not to mention drying up ground water and causing massive firestorms.  It is time to say no to corporate greenwashing  and no to genetically engineered trees.

GE ecualyptus farms are a growing threat to biodiversity. This is a eucalyptus greenhouse in Brazil.  Photo: Anne Petermann/GJEP

To prevent GE trees from contaminating natural forests, the Campaign to STOP GE Trees is circulating a petition demanding the USDA ban ArborGen and other entities from selling/distributing GE trees and creating “frankentree” planations across the U.S. The USDA is set to make a draft decision any day now. The more signatures the Campaign gets, the greater the chance we have to stop GE trees.

Sign the Petition to Ban Genetically Engineered Trees

To Whom It May Concern, I demand that all petitions by GE tree company ArborGen to plant or sell their genetically engineered eucalyptus trees be rejected. In addition, I demand that all petitions to release dangerous GE trees into the environment be rejected as they are inherently destructive and the full extent of their social and ecological risks has not been assessed. Further, I demand the USDA ban planting GE trees and all such plantings of GE trees be banned outright.

Sign the petition!

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Filed under Biofuelwatch, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Synthetic Biology

Ecuador tribe winning in court, but still losing at home

An anecdotal article by freelance writer Alexander Zaitchik puts a sad reality to a very real truth — defeating Big Oil in court doesn’t get your land back, doesn’t clean your water and doesn’t revive lost lives.

Photo: Alexander Zaitchik

Photo: Alexander Zaitchik

The Indigenous Peoples of Guiyero, Ecuador, fought and beat Chevron in New York courts after the oil company left behind massive amounts of oil and toxic wastewater when it pulled out of the town in the mid-1990s. The Guiyero’s land and water became another casualty of corporate greed, a giant sludge of pollutants and slime.

Meet the Amazon Tribespeople Who Beat Chevron in Court—but Are Still Fighting for Clean Water

by Alexander Zaitchik, Take Part World, 30 October 2014

One day in early August, I took a long and lazy canoe trip down the Río Tiputini in northeastern Ecuador. My destination was the village of Guiyero, a remote dot of an Indian community more than a hundred miles downriver from the oil city of Lago Agrio. The riverside hamlet is at the eastern edge of territory deeded to the Waorani, one of the largest tribes in the region. Situated where some of Ecuador’s last unspoiled wilderness meets its oil frontier, it is a good place to see what a resource extraction boom entering its sixth decade can do to a rainforest.

It can be easy to forget the surrounding presence of industry during the slow river ride to Guiyero. As we floated around the bends and buckles of the Tiputini, the jungle beyond the banks looked lush, vast, and untouched, the only sounds bird cries and insect hums. Wooden dugouts tied up along the way suggested the persistence of an undisturbed pre-Columbian culture. But while a fraction of the Indian population along the Tiputini has escaped history, retreating ever deeper into shrinking tracts of forest, the number of theseno contactados is minuscule and falling.

Get the rest of the story.

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Filed under Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Forests and Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, Oil

The American Chestnut Foundation puts forests at risk with Frankentrees!

The American Chestnut Foundation is leading efforts to introduce genetically engineered (GE) American Chestnut trees back into the eastern North American deciduous forest ecosystem.

The native tree (Castanea dentata) was nearly obliterated by an imported blight during the first part of the 20th century.  It was a crucial part of the forests ecosystem which stretched from Maine in the U.S.; south through the Appalachians and into Missouri; throughout much of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, the Virginias, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Alabama.  This forest also is found in Southeastern Canada including Quebec and Ontario.

The Campaign to STOP GE Trees, in collaboration with Global Justice Ecology Project is developing a major campaign to challenge the introduction of genetically engineered American Chestnuts into these ecosystems.

Read a fact sheet here.

The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont plateau in the Carolinas west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century. An estimated 4 billion American chestnuts, up to 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew within this range.

The American chestnut tree reigned over 200 million acres of eastern woodlands from Maine to Florida, and from the Piedmont plateau in the Carolinas west to the Ohio Valley, until succumbing to a lethal fungus infestation, known as the chestnut blight, during the first half of the 20th century. An estimated 4 billion American chestnuts, up to 1/4 of the hardwood tree population, grew within this range. Source: American Chestnut Foundation

While lauded in many quarters as a step toward “bringing back the native forests,” there are critical reasons to believe that the introduction of GE American chestnut trees is a dangerous practice and may lead to further demise of ecosystems, the wildlife that depends on them, and ultimately human well-being. In their October campaign appeal, the American Chestnut Foundation may have let the real cat out of the bag, or revealed the camels nose under the tent–funding for research and introduction of synthetic trees into forest ecosystems.

Excerpts from the appeal letter from American Chestnut Foundation, October 2014

As important as the American chestnut is to our ecosystem, its successful restoration will have an even greater significance. We believe our model can be applied to other endangered trees such s the ash, elm, and hemlock. Our continue success will help ensure that other trees under grave threat of annihilation will also be saved.

Our scientists, in partnership with many universities and non-profits, are using the best tools available to advance our American chestnut breeding program. We are using cutting edge technologies to develop genetic makers for blight resistance, hypo virulence strategies, and advance screening techniques for ink disease. Only through science can we successfully restore this iconic species.

Betsy Gamber, Interim President and CEO

Kim Steiner, Ph.D Chairman of the Board of Directors

Read more about GE Chestnut work here.

We know that the ultimate achievements of these programs will further institutionalize the commodification of forests and forest products, turning more of our unprotected natural resources into short term profits for industry that considers the environment an externality. We want you to know this as well. Read more about GE Trees and the STOP GE Trees Campaign.

We intend to stop this and we need your help. In the coming weeks and months we will be posting here at Climate Connections news and maybe an occasional fundraising appeal to support our work. We will work to keep ourselves, our partners, and our readers educated and informed on these critical forest and ecosystem issues.

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Filed under Biodiversity, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, GMOs, Great Lakes, Greenwashing, Pollution, Synthetic Biology, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Partnership for Policy Integrity Maps Biomass Polluters in Pennsylvania

BurningWoodJust in time for National Bioenergy Day (October 22), the biomass industry’s biggest BS marketing day, the Partnership for Policy Integrity (PFPI) has released a new report and online database identifying “The 100 Most Polluting Biomass Energy Facilities in Pennsylvania.”

Industry calls biomass energy “a way to keep forests healthy” and touts burning wood as a “green” solution to energy and climate change.

This false solution, characterized by destruction of forest ecosystems and release of airborne toxins, should be an embarrassment, not a marketing ploy.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biofuelwatch, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Greenwashing