Category Archives: Illegal logging

Peru’s environmental news in advance of UN climate conference raises red flags

In December, Peru will host the 20th UN climate conference (COP 20) in Lima. Recent news from Peru sparks concern about this as the site for a gathering of activists and civil society attempting to pressure the UN to act responsibly on climate change.

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Video on illegal logging and its impacts

from FERN:

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Politics, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Videos

Central America: ‘Narco-deforestation?’

April 24, 2014. Source: WW4 Report

A deforested region in Honduras where drug traffickers are said to operate. Photo: David Wrathall

A deforested region in Honduras where drug traffickers are said to operate. Photo: David Wrathall

Central America’s rainforests are being destroyed by drug traffickers who cut roads and airstirps on officially protected lands, according to a paper in the journal Science. The phenomenon, called “narco-deforestation,” is occurring across large swaths of Guatemala and Honduras, and perhaps elsewhere. Erik Nielsen, an assistant professor in the School of Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability at Northern Arizona University, said: “Not only are societies being ripped apart, but forests are being ripped apart.” He added that cattle ranches are being established on cleared land as fronts to launder drug money.

The article highlights forest destruction in the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor, an international initiative established in 1998 to link ecosystems and conservation efforts across Central America and southern Mexico.

Much of this appears to be a response to US-led anti-narcotics efforts, especially in Mexico, said Kendra McSweeney, lead author of the article and an associate professor of geography at Ohio State University. “In response to the crackdown in Mexico, drug traffickers began moving south into Central America around 2007 to find new routes through remote areas to move their drugs from South America and get them to the United States,” McSweeney said. “When drug traffickers moved in, they brought ecological devastation with them.” Continue reading

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Indonesian palm oil developer’s efforts to conserve ‘forest carbon’ abuse community rights

Note: In an unsurprising bit of news, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil isn’t doing much to protect forest-dependent communities from displacement and exploitation.  And, once again, flawed models of carbon-centric conservation are violating the rights and livelihoods of those communities.  Maybe the solution is no more oil palm plantations…

-The GJEP Team

January 17, 2014. Source: Forest Peoples Programme

A new report, launched today, shows that efforts by one of Indonesia’s largest palm oil companies, PT SMART, to set aside forests as ‘carbon stores’ in the centre of Borneo are flawed. Indigenous peoples and local fisherfolk are objecting to the way these impositions curtail their land rights and restrict their livelihoods.

PT SMART trades under the Sinar Mas brand and is part of the Singapore-based Golden Agri Resources group (GAR) which also includes Asia Pulp and Paper (APP) and Sinar Mas Forestry.

After being strongly criticised by environmental campaigners for clearing forests and planting on peatlands, which led companies like Unilever and Nestlé to temporarily suspend purchases from the company, GAR agreed to stop such activities. It then adopted a new Forest Conservation Policy, by which it assesses the carbon in forests in its concessions and sets aside areas of ‘high carbon stocks’.

The new policy is now being piloted in one of PT SMART’s eight oil palm concessions in West and Central Kalimantan, PT Kartika Prima Cipta (PT KPC) in Kapuas Hulu district, an upland area famous for its large lakes, extensive peat swamps and productive inland fisheries. The PT KPC concession overlaps the lands of Dayak and Malay communities. Both PT SMART and GAR are members of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), whose standards require that companies respect community rights and only acquire their lands subject to their ‘free, prior and informed consent.’
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Filed under Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs

US ambassador to Honduras offers tacit support of brutal crackdown

By Lauren Carasik, January 7, 2014. Source: Al Jazeera America

Police officers detain a protester outside the Supreme Court in Tegucigalpa in 2012. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

Police officers detain a protester outside the Supreme Court in Tegucigalpa in 2012. Photo: AFP/Getty Images

In remarks last month, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras Lisa Kubiske decried pervasive impunity in Honduras as the single biggest threat to human rights during an International Human Rights Daycommemoration. In a country already plagued by grinding poverty and unrelenting violence, entrenched impunity does present a terrifying threat to justice. However, despite her own admission that the Honduran legal system is dysfunctional, Kubiske blamed those being oppressed by that impunity for taking the law into their own hands to defend their rights.

Kubiske specifically reproached peasant farmers in the fertile lands of the Lower Aguan Valley, who are engaged in a desperate struggle with local wealthy landowners and the government for control over their lands, which has left 113 members of their campesino community dead since the 2009 coup that overthrew democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. Over the last two decades, campesinos lost the lands granted to them in the 1970s under agrarian reform initiatives through a combination of corruption, intimidation, intentional division, force and fraud. Efforts to seek legal redress were largely unsuccessful. Zelaya was ousted shortly after he vowed to institute measures that would reverse illegitimate land grabs by oligarchs, including Miguel Facusse Barjum, a palm-oil magnate.

When land grabs continued under President Porfirio Lobo, a landowner, the campesinos, with no other options, resisted the encroachment by peacefully occupying their lands. State security and paramilitary forces responded with escalating repression and bloodshed. Last month, after a complaint lodged by Rights Action, an international human-rights organization, the World Bank’s independent auditor issued a report on its private lending arm’s funding for Dinant Corp., which is headed by Facusse Barjum. World Bank President Jim Kim has indicated that he is preparing an action plan in response to the findings. As the investigative process drags on, repression continues unabated in the Lower Aguan.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Food Sovereignty, Forests, Hydroelectric dams, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, World Bank

On the 20th Anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising

by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Twenty years ago today an army of Indigenous Peoples, some using only wooden cut outs as guns, emerged from the jungles of Chiapas, Mexico. They took over municipalities around the Mexican state, including the city of San Cristobal de Las Casas, in defiance of the enactment of NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement.


La Realidad, 1996.

The Zapatistas had condemned NAFTA as “a death sentence for the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico” due to many of its unjust provisions, but especially that which eliminated Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution.

Article 27, which guaranteed the rights to communal lands in Mexico was an outcome of the revolution led by Emilano Zapata – after whom the Zapatistas took their name – in the early part of the 20th century.

But in order for NAFTA – the free trade agreement between Canada, the US and Mexico – to be passed, Article 27 had to be eliminated.  The eradication of this hard-won victory was accomplished by Edward Krobaker, the CEO of International Paper.  Why did a multinational paper corporation care about this?  Because most of Mexico’s forests were on ejido (communal) lands, which meant they could not easily be obtained or controlled by multinational corporations such as IP.

According to anthropologist Dr. Ron Nigh,

In June of 1995, the government received a letter from Edward Krobacker, International Paper CEO (now John Dillon), establishing a series of conditions, some requiring changes in Mexico’s forestry law, to “create a more secure legal framework” for IP’s investment.

According to La Jornada, all of Krobaker’s (original) demands were agreed to and new forestry legislation has been prepared. Upon returning from a Wall Street meeting with Henry Kissinger and other top financial celebrities, Zedillo announced the rejection of  proposed legislation that would have implemented the Zapatista accords.

Instead he presented a counterproposal, designed to be unacceptable, which the Zapatistas rejected.

Shortly thereafter, Environmental Minister Carabias announced a large World Bank loan for “forestry,” i.e. commercial plantations.

Earlier that year, in January 1995 – one year after the passage of NAFTA and while the Zapatista uprising was still fresh and garnering support from all corners of the globe – Chase Manhattan Bank sent a memo to the Mexican government about the Zapatistas which was leaked.  This memo, released in January 1995, urged the Mexican government to “eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and of security policy” or risk  a devaluation of the peso and a fleeing of investors.  The portion of the memo dealing with the Zapatistas is below:



The uprising in the southern state of Chiapas is now one-year old and, apparently, no nearer to resolution. The leader, or spokesman, of the movement, sub-commandante Marcos, remains adamant in his demand that the incumbent PRI governor resign and be replaced by the PRD candidate who, Marcos argues, was deprived of victory by government fraud in the recent election. Marcos continues to lobby for widespread social and economic reform in the state. Incidents continue between the local police and military authorities and those sympathetic to the Zapatista movement, as the insurgency is called, and local peasant groups who are sympathetic to Marcos and his cronies.

While Zedillo is committed to a diplomatic and political solution th the stand-off in Chiapas, it is difficult to imagine that the current environment will yield a peaceful solution. Moreover, to the degree that the monetary crisis limits the resources available to the government for social and economic reforms, it may prove difficult to win popular support for the Zedillo administration’s plans for Chiapas. More relevant, Marcos and his supporters may decide to embarrass the government with an increase in local violence and force the administration to cede to Zapatista demands and accept an embarrassing political defeat. The alternative is a military offensive to defeat the insurgency which would create an international outcry over the use of violence and the suppression of indigenous rights.

While Chiapas, in our opinion, does not pose a fundamental threat to Mexican political stability, it is perceived to be so by many in the investment community. The government will need to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and of security policy.

Orin Langelle, Board Chair of GJEP, who was then the Co-Coordinator of Native Forest Network Eastern North America (NFN ENA) attended the Chase Manhattan Board meeting that year and read the memo out loud to the stock holders.

What many do not know about the Zapatista struggle, is that it is and was a struggle for the land.  For autonomous Indigenous control over their territories.  NFN ENA put out a video about this aspect of the Zapatista struggle after we were asked to help expose the ecological threats to Chiapas which the Zapatistas were trying to stop–including illegal logging, oil drilling and hydroelectric dams.  The video includes interviews from the first North American Encuentro in the Zapatista stronghold of La Realidad in the summer of 1996.  The video is called “Lacandona: The Zapatistas and Rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico.”

A clip of the video can be viewed here:

Despite massive pressure from governments, multinationals and major banks, twenty years later, the Zapatistas are still organizing.  Maybe you thought they had disappeared, but they have not.  They are just busily doing the work of daily life.  They have their own autonomous form of government, their own schools, and they maintain their rejection of any type of support from the Mexican government.

Today, as social movements around the world continue to resist unjust “free” trade agreements such as the TPP (TransPacific Partnership), the Zapatistas continue to be an inspiration to me and I hope to many others as well.

To view Orin Langelle’s photo exhibit of 15 years of photographs from Chiapas, click here.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Hydroelectric dams, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Oil, Posts from Anne Petermann, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Victory!

Neglected and ignored: Ten major stories that should’ve made more headlines in 2013

By  • Dec 29, 2013 Source: Intercontinental Cry

IC Magazine urgently needs your help: We now have just SIX DAYS to raise enough money to continue and expand our work in 2014. Please help:

In our daily travels to all our favorite news websites, it’s routine to almost never come across stories about Indigenous Peoples. Some stories, of course, get tonnes of local and national coverage. For instance, here in Canada, Idle No More and the widespread struggle against the tarsands is prominently featured on every major news website.

However, if we open up the lens just a quarter inch, one can find dozens of major stories that aren’t being covered for every one that is. Unless we know exactly where to look, we would never see just how much is going on around us.

Over the course of 2013, however, we here at IC Magazine observed a handful of stories that seemed to suffer from an extraordinary amount of media isolation in the Western hemisphere. As we head in to 2014, we would like to draw your attention to some of those stories:

Human Safaris

India Courts allow the profitable Human Safaris to continue on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands


For a few short months, the Jarawa Peoples had the chance to remember what life was like before the Andaman Nicobar Trunk Road was constructed. The controversial highway, which connects Port Blair and Diglipur in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, has been used by tourists for more than a decade to go on “human safaris” in which Jarawa men, women and children are literally treated like apes in a zoo.

After years of public outcry over the inhuman practice, India’s Supreme Court banned all tourists from traveling along the Andaman Nicobar Trunk Road. Sadly, the much-need victory was not long to last. In March 2013, the Supreme Court reversed the ban, allowing the safaris to continue unabated once more. Tour operators who had been unable to use the road were reportedly readying their vehicles within days of the decision, gearing up to resume the profitable sideshow. The total u-turn was accompanied by equally distressing news that the Supreme Court had asked the island’s authorities if they wanted to keep the Jarawa isolated or assimilate them into the mainstream.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Hydroelectric dams, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression

Video: Indonesia’s rate of deforestation has doubled under the moratorium

By Chris Lang, 11th December 2013  Source: REDD-Monitor

A recent study revealed that the Indonesian government has been telling lies about its rate of forest loss. The study found that between 2000 and 2003 the rate of deforestation in Indonesia was about one million hectares per year. In the years 2011 and 2012, the rate doubled to about two million hectares per year.

The researchers, who were led by the University of Maryland and received help from Google and NASA, published their findings in Science magazine in November 2013. Part of their work included synthesising 12 years of satellite data to produce an Global Forest Change map.

A video of a presentation organised by Google’s Earth Outreach is available here. During the presentation, the lead researcher, Matthew Hansen of the University of Maryland, talks about deforestation in Indonesia:

Going over to Indonesia, another hot spot. Indonesia’s the bookend to Brazil, and it has the highest annual increase in forest cover loss over the study period, of around 1,000 square kilometres per year. And this is coincident with you know, in 2011 they instituted a deforestation moratorium meant to mimic in some sense the Brazilian effort, and the news in this study is that the first full year of our results, inside the moratorium was the highest forest loss in Indonesia. So Indonesia has this ramping up of forest loss.

A lot of our preliminary discussions were speculating there’s this perverse incentive when you try to send the alarm out that there’s going to be a halt to deforestation it can actually accelerate deforestation. That’s not a confirmed conclusion, but we do see here in some of these, this peninsula, area here in Riau province, in Indonesia, deep peatland soils, this is a wetland and a ring of clearing in 2012, new concessions that are being cleared. You see this in a lot of the wetlands in Indonesia. As they’ve exhausted the upland resources, they are going down into the wetlands.

And the patch size in the clearings of the wetlands are industrial scale, big change.

Strictly speaking, Indonesia’s moratorium never was a “deforestation moratorium” – it was a moratorium on new concessions. But Hansen’s point remains valid. Indonesia’s rate of deforestation has increased since the moratorium was announced.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Politics, REDD