Category Archives: Land Grabs

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

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

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-  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

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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.

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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!

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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.”

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Pollution

Orin Langelle responds to Rolling Stone article, “Green Going Gone: The Tragic Deforestation of the Chaco”

Orin Langelle, Board Chair, Global Justice Ecology Project

I am impressed to see attention being given to the Chaco region by Christine MacDonald’s Rolling Stone article.  I also witnessed some of the tragedy of the Chaco and Paraguay itself.

In 2009 I traveled to the Chaco with Dr. Miguel Lovera, my friend and the chairperson of Global Forest Coalition and part of the Ayoreo support group, Iniciativa Amotocodie.

Dr. Lovera became National Secretary for Plant Safety for Paraguay during Fernado Lugo’s presidency. In her article, MacDonald writes that “Lugo was swept from office in 2012 [by] an impeachment carried out by the Paraguayan Congress.” My colleagues in Paraguay would disagree with the term “impeachment.” To them it was a coup that forced Lugo out of office in 2012.

Because of the coup, Dr. Lovera lost his job as National Secretary for Plant Safety for Paraguay.  While National Secretary, Lovera was in constant battle with the soy mafia and tried to stop the introduction of GMO cotton. Lovera had armed guards in his home due to his ongoing campaign to stop GMOs. No doubt Paraguay’s agribusiness leaders and their friends at Monsanto celebrated the fact that Lovera was removed from office.

 When I was in the Chaco in 2009 it was evident that things were bad and were going to get worse.  One of the tragic realities is the ongoing hostilities against the indigenous Ayoreo People of the Chaco. I was invited by the Ayoreo community to photograph Campo Lorro, where some of the first Ayoreo People captured were sent when Mennonite farmers established settlements on their land.

Below is one of photos I shot in Campo Lorro for the photo essay “Sharing the Eye.”

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There are still uncontacted Ayoreo living in the Gran Chaco. They do not want contact with “civilization” and wish to remain in their forest home. Today, however, cattle ranches, expansion of genetically modified soybean plantations for biofuels, hydroelectric dams and mineral exploitation threaten the forests of the Chaco.

The Rolling Stone article by Christine MacDonald definitely documents the ongoing tragedy of the Chaco. A subtitle in her article, “Animal Cruelty is the Price We Pay for Cheap Meat,” highlights the policies of US-based agribusiness giants Cargill Inc., Bunge Ltd., and Archer Daniels Midland Co.

Besides reading the Rolling Stone article, you can also see more from Global Forest Coalition on the negative impact of unsustainable livestock production in South America, the continent with the highest deforestation rates on earth: Redirecting Government Support for Unsustainable Livestock Production key to Biodiversity Conservation, Claim New Report and Briefing Paper.

Read the Rolling Stone Article:  Green Going Gone: the Tragic Deforestation of the Chaco, by Christine MacDonald

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Land Grabs, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, South America, Uncategorized

Land taken over by foreign investors could feed 550m people, study finds

By Damian Carrington, June 27, 2014. Source: The Guardian 

A worker at Saudi Star Rice Farm in Gambella, Ethiopia. Rights groups accuse the government of forcing people off their land to make way for foreign investors. Photograph by  Jenny Vaughan/AFP/Getty Images

A worker at Saudi Star Rice Farm in Gambella, Ethiopia. Rights groups accuse the government of forcing people off their land to make way for foreign investors. Photograph by Jenny Vaughan/AFP/Getty Images

 

The land grabbed in some of the world’s hungriest countries by foreign goverments and corporations could feed up to 550m people, according to new research. The crops grown on grabbed land are frequently exported, or used to produce biofuel, but the new work shows it could end malnourishment in those countries if used to feed local people.

Since 2000, at least 31m hectares (77m acres) of land has been acquired by overseas investors seeking to secure food supplies or increase production, a process dubbed land grabbing. Almost half has been in Africa, particularly Sudan. But Indonesia and Papua New Guinea have been targets too. Proponents argue the foreign investment can increase yields and provide development and employment, but critics say the grabs often occur without the consent of those on the land and lead to food being exported. Continue reading

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Land Grabs

Monkton landowners: no improvements in Vt. Gas negotiations

By Zach Despart, June 23, 2014. Source: Addison County Independent

Photo from www.risingtidevermont.org

Photo from www.risingtidevermont.org

In a June 19 meeting with legislators and the head of the Department of Public Service, dozens of Monkton residents said they’re still nowhere close to signing easements with Vermont Gas Systems that will allow the company to lay a new pipeline across the town.

In the three months since Monkton residents held a similar meeting with state regulators to address Vermont Gas’ negotiating tactics with regard to its Addison-Rutland Natural Gas Project, not a single landowner at this past Thursday evening’s meeting at the Monkton firehouse said that talks with company representatives had improved.

Instead, landowners said Vermont Gas fails to respond to their questions in a timely manner, does not address concerns they harbor, is not offering fair compensation for their land and is secretive about its business practices.

“Nothing has changed,” landowner Selina Peyser said.

The meeting was chaired by Sen. Chris Bray, D-New Haven, and Department of Public Service Commissioner Chris Recchia. In addition two dozen landowners, Rep. David Sharpe, D-Bristol, and Sen. Claire Ayer, D-Addison, also attended. Continue reading

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Justice, Fracking, Greenwashing, Land Grabs