Category Archives: Land Grabs

GE Trees + Climate Change = Social and Ecological Disaster

In addition to being the day of the People’s Climate March, today is also the International Day of Action against Monoculture Tree Plantations.  The issues of industrial tree plantations, genetically engineered trees and climate change are inextricably linked in many, many ways, and the statement below, put out by our allies at World Rainforest Movement, La Via Campesina and others, explains this.

At Ban Ki-moon’s upcoming Climate Summit, the corporate-dominated UN will try to sell tree plantations (and future GE tree plantations) as “climate smart.”  This, even though studies have proven that tree plantations both store far less carbon than native forests and accelerate destruction of those forests to make room for new plantations.

Banner photo (Plantations Are Not Forests):  Petermann/GJEP-GFC

“Plantations are not forests” Protest at the World Forestry Congress, Buenos Aires, Argentina, 2009  Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

21 September 201410th Anniversary of the International Day of Struggle against Monoculture Tree Plantations
Dismantle the power of transnational plantation corporations!

There is no “smart monoculture”

Ten years ago, at a meeting of 250 members of communities affected by large-scale eucalyptus plantations in Brazil, September 21st was established as the National Day against Tree Monocultures. The aim was to increase the visibility of the many peoples and communities struggling against tree monocultures, as a way of breaking the circle of silence around the numerous violations faced by the communities whose territories were surrounded by these monocultures. The day was also created in order to disseminate as widely as possible the evidence emerging from the resistance struggles about the negative social and environmental impacts of these plantations. The impacts on the lives of women in the affected communities are particularly severe. Recognizing the importance of the decision taken by the Brazilian communities, the World Rainforest Movement (WRM) decided in 2006 to make this day an International Day of Action.

This year, September 21st is also a day of mass mobilizations for Climate Justice. Thousands of people will join the People’s Climate March, while political leaders – and increasingly also corporate representatives – are meeting at the United Nations in New York City for the Climate Summit 2014, convened by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. This summit represents yet another step towards the corporate takeover of the UN climate negotiations, and the privatization of land, water and air resources under the guise of a global climate pact.

The UN and other international agencies will launch the “Climate Smart Agriculture” initiated at the summit. This initiative is a new smokescreen being used to greenwash the worst practices of industrial agriculture: chemical fertilizers, industrial meat production, and genetically modified crops, such as tree plantations and other monocultures, which are being disguised as ‘climate smart’. Proponents of this dangerous false solution include the World Bank; they are seeking to turn the carbon in farmers’ fields into carbon credits, which would lead to land-grabbing and undermine real climate solutions.

The expansion of large-scale tree plantations of eucalyptus, pine, acacia, rubber and oil palm species, which may be defined as ‘climate smart’ if the proposal being discussed at the New York climate summit prospers, is furthering capital accumulation by large and often transnational corporations. Some of these corporations are Stora Enso, Arauco, APP/Sinar Mas, Bridgestone/Firestone, Wilmar, Olam and Sime Darby. Production from these large-scale monoculture plantations is for industrial and export purposes, and the rate of expansion has been devastating. The area of these plantations worldwide has increased four-fold since 1980. In the global South, eucalyptus and oil palm monocultures have experienced remarkable growth. Were it not for the widespread resistance of small farmers, indigenous peoples and rural communities in many countries, this expansion would probably have been even greater.

Transnational corporations are primarily responsible for the problems caused by plantations: land-grabbing and the seizure of common ‘resources’; destruction of biodiverse areas and their associated wildlife; the drying up and pesticide pollution of rivers, streams and springs; soil exhaustion and erosion; degrading working conditions; and the increasing financialization of nature, land and production. However, these corporations not only persist in denying and systematically concealing all these processes of social and environmental injustice; they even argue they are part of the ‘solution’ to the problems. Some of the market’s false solutions, which are really solutions beneficial primarily for financial capitalism itself, increase the injustices associated with monoculture. Among these false solutions are initiatives that legitimize corporations’ operations without requiring them to be accountable for the crimes and violations they commit.

Examples of this kind of ruse are ‘green’ certificates issued by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) the ‘forest dialogue’, initiatives where civil society and corporations forge voluntary corporate commitments, and other so-called ‘sustainable’ initiatives, like phony commitments to ‘zero deforestation’. Although such action may lead to short-term benefits for local communities in some places, they have mainly led to frustration and community division, by promising ‘compensation’ that does not fulfill people’s key demands for guaranteeing their way of life, the return and respect for their territories, and an end to the environmental injustice caused by monocultures.

These initiatives are ‘voluntary,’ that is, they are not legally binding, and therefore lack a democratic institutional framework whose main goal is to protect the rights of the people affected. In this way, these initiatives, without aiming to change the destructive logic of capital, ultimately legitimize the expansion of a production model that we call neocolonial, because it destroys ways of life, is based on environmental racism and does not question any of its fundamental premises, such as the concentration of land and production in large-scale monocultures with poisonous pesticides and degrading working conditions. Moreover, “green” and “sustainable” initiatives and commitments do not hinder big companies from further expanding their plantations and encroaching on local people’s territories.

Increasingly serious is the rise of “flex tree” monocultures, producing multiple-use trees and forest commodities that are perceived to be interchangeable (energy, wood, food, carbonsequestration, etc.). Their “flexible” nature is of major interest to financial capital, which is increasingly promoting, together with the monoculture tree plantations corporations, the speculation over the control of production and land uses. These companies continue to insist on commercial uses of transgenic trees, as well as other uses of wood for energy purposes, and on selling ‘environmental services’ such as carbon. These are all false solutions to the environmental and climate crisis confronting human societies today, and they ultimately exacerbate injustice, hunger and poverty. Monocultures and transgenic crops are not smart; they are one more tool of ‘green’ capitalism to grab peoples’ lands, undermining those who are building real solutions to the social, environmental and climate crisis.

To confront the impact of the big corporations and the expansion of plantations, we must continue to push for the transformation of this model of production and to fight the neoliberal policies that favour big capital. An important step is for us to join forces in the framework of the “Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power”, in order to build and strengthen instruments to put a stop to the architecture of impunity and legitimation that corporations enjoy today.

The starting point of the Campaign is the struggle of communities resisting the invasion of their territories by transnational corporations, or their fight to expel transnational corporations from their territories. It affirms the right of peoples to freely determine their own way of life. Agrarian reform and the demarcation of indigenous peoples’ territories and those of other traditional and small farmer populations all over the world are urgently needed actions to make headway in the struggle for food sovereignty, social and environmental justice, and people’s power.

We cannot end this declaration without paying tribute to the women and men all over the world who carry out a daily struggle, in different ways, against monoculture tree plantations. They have already achieved important victories in the defense and recovery of their territories and the biodiversity they need for their physical and cultural survival. These women and men, in their arduous and long-suffering struggles for the cause of life and the future, stand in sharp contrast to the greed of the big corporations and investors that seek to appropriate ever more same lands to generate profits for their shareholders.

“Plantations are not forests!”

There are no smart monocultures!”

September 21st, 2014

Campaign to Dismantle Corporate Power and Stop Impunity
La Via Campesina
World March of Women
Friends of the Earth International
World Rainforest Movement (WRM)

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Campaign to STOP GE Trees, Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Greenwashing, Land Grabs, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Tree Plantations, Uncategorized, UNFCCC

Confronting Climate Catastrophe: Direct Action is the Antidote for Despair

Or, Why the UN is Worse than Useless and we need to Flood Wall Street!

Climate Convergence Plenary Address, Friday, 19 September 2014

Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project, Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees

UN Security arrests clown at Durban Climate COP shortly before assaulting the photographer.  Photo: Photolangelle.org

UN Security arrests clown at Durban Climate COP shortly before assaulting the photographer. Photo: Photolangelle.org

Good evening everyone and thank you to Jill, Margaret and the other convergence organizers for the opportunity to speak to you tonight.

In four days time, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will hold a UN Climate Summit–a closed door session where the world’s “leaders” will discuss “ambitions” for the upcoming climate conferences (or COPs as they are called) in Lima, Peru and Paris, France.

I was asked to put into context the reason for the march and actions this weekend–especially the problem of the corporate capture of the United Nations Climate Convention, which I have attended and organized around since 2004, when I attended my first UN Climate COP, in Buenos Aires, until 2011 when I was permanently banned from the UN Climate Conferences following a direct action occupation at the Climate COP in Durban, South Africa.

But I actually got involved with the UN Climate Conferences through the work I have dedicated myself to, which is stopping the dangerous genetic engineering of trees.

What happened was in 2003, the UN Climate Conference decided that GE trees could be used in carbon offset forestry plantations. Understanding that this was a potential social and ecological disaster, and being completely naïve about the UN process, we decided to go to the UN and explain to them why this was wrong, and to get them to reverse this bad decision.

But what we found out was that GE trees had been permitted in carbon offset forestry plantations because Norway had tried to get them banned. But Brazil and China were either already growing GE trees or planning to, so they blocked Norway’s proposal. As a result, GE trees were allowed simply because they could not be banned. The UN, we learned, does not reverse decisions, regardless of how ill-informed and destructive they are.

This is the dysfunction of the UN Climate Convention.

But let’s go back a minute to see how we got where we are now.

Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under Actions / Protest, Africa, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, COP21 Paris 2015, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Politics, Posts from Anne Petermann, REDD, UNFCCC, World Bank, WTO

Photos: Indigenous Warriors Take Action to Stop Illegal Logging

In the photo essay linked below, Reuters Photographer Lunae Parracho documents resistance by Amazon Indigenous warriors against illegal loggers destroying their homeland.Well worth a look!

13 Incredible Photos of Amazon Tribe Fighting Back Against Illegal Loggers

by WILL POTTER on SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 in ACTIVISM & ACTIVISTS’ RESPONSE

Photo by Lunae Parracha.  Courtesy Reuters

Photo by Lunae Parracha. Courtesy Reuters

Brazil is the most dangerous place in the world to be an environmentalist. It accounts for about half of all recorded killings of environmental advocates.

And those numbers are going up, globally. As I reported recently for Foreign Policy:

Between 2002 and 2013, at least 908 people were killed because of their environmental advocacy, according to “Deadly Environment,” a new report from the investigative nonprofit Global Witness. That’s an average of at least one environmentalist murdered every week, and in the last four years, the rate of the murders has doubled. In 2012, the deadliest year on record, 147 deaths were recorded, three times more than a decade earlier. “There were almost certainly more cases,” the report says, “but the nature of the problem makes information hard to find, and even harder to verify.”

That incredibly dangerous environment makes what photographer Lunae Parracho documented even more incredible.

Parracho (websiteTwitterFlickr) followed the Ka’apor tribe, an indigenous community in Brazil, as they fought back against illegal loggers.

Ka’apor warriors ventured into the Alto Turiacu territory in the Amazon basin to track down illegal loggers, tie them up, and sabotage their equipment.

They stole their chainsaws and cut the logs so the loggers couldn’t profit from them.

They released the loggers, but only after taking their shoes and clothes, and setting their trucks on fire.

To view the entire photo essay and article, click here.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Forests, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Uncategorized

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

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

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

Genetically engineering perennial grasses for biofuels: the USDA’s next dumb idea

Oh brother.  Where to start with this mess.  First off, genetically engineering perennial grasses is a disaster waiting to happen.  As with genetically engineering trees, there is no way to stop GE perennial grasses from genetically contaminating other grasses once they are released into the environment.  In fact, contamination has been caused simply by conducting outdoor field trials of GE grasses.  GE perennials are an even worse idea than GE annual crop plants because they cannot be contained.

Then there is the problem of trying to create fuel from plant material of any kind, which is leading to massive land grabs around the world, destroying biodiversity and displacing food crops, since there is simply not enough land on Planet Earth to come close to replacing the fossil fuels currently being devoured on a daily basis.

How about instead of these fake techno-fixes, we try reducing the amount of fuel we consume–especially in the U.S.–by, oh, around 90% or so.  Now there’s a real solution.

USDA Funds Genetic Engineering Research for Switchgrass Biofuels

Share/Save

-  July 24, 2014, Farmers’ Advance

Michigan State University (MSU) plant biologist C. Robin Buell has been awarded $1 million from a joint U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program to accelerate genetic breeding programs to improve plant feedstock for the production of biofuels, bio-power and bio-based products.

Specifically, the MSU College of Natural Science researcher will work to identify the genetic factors that regulate cold hardiness in switchgrass, a plant native to North America that holds high potential as a biofuel source.

“This project will explore the genetic basis for cold tolerance that will permit the breeding of improved switchgrass cultivars that can yield higher biomass in northern climates,” said Buell, also an MSU AgBioResearch scientist. “It’s part of an ongoing collaboration with scientists in the USDA Agricultural Research Service to explore diversity in native switchgrass as a way to improve its yield and quality as a biofuel feedstock.”

For the full article, click here

Leave a Comment

Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Uncategorized

Privatization of Communal Lands for Energy, Agriculture, and Strategic Geo-Political Control Driving Indigenous Peoples Resistance

A detailed article published this week in Truthout makes a clear case for the link between privatization and commodification of lands, U.S. military and geopolitical goals, and indigenous peoples resistance and struggles in Mexico, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Privatization of lands for giant energy farms such as wind, and large agricultural developments including biomass, and genetically modified organisms including food products and trees are deep concerns of the Global Justice Ecology Project.

In Oaxaca, a caravan of activists arrives to support those resisting the construction of the wind farm, in the face of more than 500 policemen attempting to take control of the territory. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

In Oaxaca, a caravan of activists arrives to support those resisting the construction of a giant wind farm, in the face of more than 500 policemen attempting to take control of the territory. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

 “Communal Lands: Theater of Operations for the Counterinsurgency”

By Renata Bessi, Santiago Navarro F. and Translated by Miriam Taylor, Truthout  

In 2006, a team of geographers from the University of Kansas carried out a series of mapping projects of communal lands in southern Mexico’s Northern Sierra Mountains. Coordinated by Peter Herlihy and Geoffrey B. Demarest, a US lieutenant colonel, the objective was to achieve strategic military and geopolitical goals of particular interest for the United States. The objective was to incorporate indigenous territories into the transnational corporate model of private property, either by force or through agreements. Demarest’s essential argument is that peace cannot exist without private property.

According to researcher and anthropologist Gilberto López y Rivas, “The agents on the expeditions consider the types of communal property in these lands, both collective and autonomous, to be an obstacle for the development plans currently being very aggressively executed, where there is capital from mining companies, pharmaceuticals, energy companies, among others,” he told Truthout. This is despite the fact that these communal lands in Mexico, for example, were recognized after the Mexican Revolution in 1910 and are lands that indigenous communities have possessed since time immemorial.

As the ideologue of these expeditions, Demarest considers collective land ownership to be the birthplace of delinquency and insurgency, and thus believes that collective property must be destroyed. He graduated from the School of the Americas, which is under the administration of the US Army and was founded in 1946 in Panama, with the objective of training Latin American soldiers in war and counterinsurgency tactics. In recent years, graduates from the School of the Americas have participated in assassinations in Colombia, formed part of the drug trafficking organization The Zetas, in Mexico, and were involved in the coup in Honduras in 2009, as was demonstrated by activists through a School of the Americas Watch lawsuit against the Department of Defense in February 2013. “Demarest is one of the coordinators of these expeditions. He was trained in the School of the Americas, later served as military attaché for the United States Embassy in Guatemala in 1988 and 1991, where a counterinsurgency project was implemented that caused terrible massacres of indigenous populations,” says López.

Read the full Truthout article here.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Actions / Protest, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Political Repression, Uncategorized

Obama/Bloomburg Africa Business Summit Promotes False Solutions

Source- Photo by James Oatway/Panos/ActionAid "Julio Ngoene, a farmer in Mozambique

Source- Photo by James Oatway/Panos/ActionAid “Julio Ngoene, a farmer in Mozambique”

U.S. President Barack Obama hosted the US/Africa (Business) Summit earlier this week which included “Signature Events” such as “Civil Society Forum,” and Resilience and Food Security in a Changing Climate.

The Summit was co-hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Touted as the first-ever U.S.-Africa Business Summit, focus areas included Finance and Capital, Infrastructure, Power and Energy, Agriculture, Consumer Goods, and Information Communication Technology.

Visit the Bloomberg webpage on the event here.

In an op-ed in Forbes Magazine on August 5 by Michael Bloomberg and Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, two of the keynote speakers at the Forum declared that “Africa is open for business.” The article said that the forum will catalyze $14 billion in business deals.

According to the article:

For decades, the U.S.-Africa economic relationship has too often taken a back seat to other pressing issues and priorities. Yet right now, our commercial partnership—between governments, among businesses, in markets on both sides of the Atlantic—is as important as ever. Strengthening and deepening that pillar of our alliance will prove a net gain for workers, entrepreneurs, and communities in the United States and across Africa. The continent’s economic potential is enormous. Africa is home to six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies. Its GDP is expected to rise six percent annually over the next decade. Real income has increased more than 30% over the last 10 years, and many African governments are making investments in infrastructure, education, and health care that are improving millions of lives. Yet investment by U.S. companies in Africa remains too low.

In a Bloomberg News article with the headline “GE Doubling Jobs in Africa as Ford Plans Eventual Surge,”  Jim Benintende, Ford’s head of operations in the Middle East and Africa who was interviewed during the forum, said:

Everything is pointing toward a surge in the African economy. We’re really focused on this region like never before.

It was also announced at the forum that there will be a doubling of private investment for the New Alliance for Good Security and Nutrition.

Responding to the forum’s announcement to double private sector funding for food security, ActionAid International Africa issued the following comments:

Response to Private-Sector Funding Announcement for African Agriculture

President Obama has missed the mark when it comes to agriculture in Africa. The ‘New Alliance’ is fundamentally flawed. Handing over the future of farming in Africa to big agribusinesses will only hurt people living with poverty and hunger. Poor farmers need investment from US and African governments to help their farms flourish. Companies should be part of Africa’s agricultural future but profit must not be prioritised over people’s rights.”

Western companies are already taking land that’s being used to produce food from African farmers, pushing them further into poverty. Under the New Alliance, this will only get worse. The US and African governments must invest in the farmers producing food for the continent, not big businesses growing crops for export. The New Alliance will put more money into the pockets of a few wealthy businessmen who are clearly not concerned with the food security of Africa’s most vulnerable people.

 

Obama’s Agricultural Vision for Africa Will Push Poor Farmers off Their Land and Further into Poverty

The administration’s current agricultural vision for Africa is misguided. It will only benefit the American agricultural industry with no real benefit to the poorest in Africa, who will be left without land to grow food.

Land is already being grabbed at an alarming rate in many African countries to meet the world’s demand for food and biofuels. Policies like the US biofuels targets are already increasing demand for land. Obama’s vision for Africa will only put more money into the pockets of a few wealthy businessmen. Programs like the ‘New Alliance’ are driving a system that robs the poor to pay the rich and will only result in more land being grabbed.

List of US Companies attending Summit

List of African Companies attending Summit

Climate Connections thinks that the commodification of African markets, land, and people is a false solution for climate change and human rights. We want to know what you think. Please comment!

Leave a Comment

Filed under Africa, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Forests and Climate Change, Land Grabs, Pollution

Brazil Tops List in Assassinations of Land Reform Activists

Xavante indigenous activist Hiparidi Toptiro has been fighting to keep his tribe's protected forests, in Mato Grosso state, safe from farmers looking to expand their soy fields. Toptiro has bullet scars testifying to the dangers of sticking up for the environment in Brazil.  Credit Gerry Hadden/PRI

Xavante indigenous activist Hiparidi Toptiro has been fighting to keep his tribe’s protected forests, in Mato Grosso state, safe from farmers looking to expand their soy fields. Toptiro has bullet scars testifying to the dangers of sticking up for the environment in Brazil. Credit Gerry Hadden/PRI

A story by PRI reporter Gerry Hadden, distributed this week, details how 908 land-reform activists have been assassinated throughout the world between 2003 and 2012. Nearly half of those murders have taken place in Brazil.

What is it that makes Brazil the most dangerous place in the world to be an activist? You’ll find clues in the story of Guarabana Bay. The bay, just minutes from downtown Rio’s world famous beaches, is a study in pollution and filth. Dark sludge cakes the shoreline. Garbage floats everywhere. It’s so bad that some sailors set to compete here in the 2016 Summer Olympics are warning colleagues not to let this water touch their skin.

The sailors’ worries do not surprise local fisherman Sandy Anderson de Souza. He said he was out in his boat in 2001 when Brazil’s state-run oil giant Petrobas accidentally dumped 1.3 million tons of oil into the waterway. “There was so much oil it looked like there was no water at all,” he said during a recent tour of the coastline. “A year later we noticed that many species of fish were disappearing and we started to catalogue this. There are 46 species of fish and shrimp that are no longer here.”

The shoreline along Guarabana Bay, near Rio de Janeiro, is littered with debris and trash. The water in the bay itself is murky brown due to oils spills and other pollutants, activists say. That incident and several others, Anderson said, led him to tie up his boat to begin campaigning to save the bay. “Think about it,” he said. “If you put one drop of oil in a glass of water you can’t drink it. Imagine what those millions of liters did to the bay.”

Anderson says 13 fishermen became activists. Soon they began receiving threats. “Before we knew it, four of our leaders had been killed,” he said. Anderson lifts his shirt to show two scars he said were caused by bullets meant to silence him as well. He blames armed security groups working for Petrobas — a claim the company denies. What’s clear is that someone powerful wanted Anderson dead. They may still. This is why the Brazilian government has put him in a special “activist protection progam.” In other words, they’ve hidden him away.

The PRI report covers a study released by Global Witness entitled Deadly Environment which reports case studies in both Brazil and the Philippines, another hotbed of violence against environmental and land reform activists.

The Global Witness report characterizes the main drivers of the violence as land grabbing and unfair land distribution; mining and extractive industries; and illegal logging and deforestation.

Global Witness, an NGO, “campaigns for a world in which all can thrive without destroying the biosphere or each other.”

 

 

 

 

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Pollution