Category Archives: 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

How ‘the New DDT’ Wreaks Havoc on the Bottom of the Food Chain

Note: This new report documents another instance of industrial agriculture wreaking havoc on ecosystems and harkening a new Silent Spring.  It is also one more reason why the model of industrial GMO crops must not be applied to trees, or we risk the threat of Silent Forests.

–The GJEP Team

By Stephen Leahy, June 24, 2014.  Source: MotherBoard

The same insecticide nerve poison that is contributing to the shocking declines in bees and other pollinators is also behind the sharp declines in many other insect species, along with insect-eating birds and bats. Even important creatures like earthworms, which keep our soils healthy, are being damaged by systemic insecticides called neonicotinoids (neonics) and fipronil, a new four-year international meta-analysis has found.

“It’s the new DDT but different,” said Ole Hendrickson, a former scientist at Environment Canada and member of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides that complete the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA) analysis. It’s the first examination of all the science on the topicmore than 800 studies. The task force is compromised of 50 independent scientists from all over the world who spent the last four years trying to figure out why so many bees, butterflies, and other insects are disappearing.

“Instead of wiping out the top of the food chain, killing hawks and eagles as DDT did, neonics are wiping out the bottom of the food chain,” Hendrickson told me. “Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson once said if we wipe out the world’s insects, we will soon follow them to extinction.”

Read more of Leahy’s article on Motherboard at VICE

 

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Filed under Biodiversity, Industrial agriculture, Pollution

BLM’s failure pollutes Colorado River water supply with oil

May 30, 2014. Source: Waterkeeper Alliance.

Photo credit: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Photo credit: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

A Utah oil spill has entered the water supply of the Colorado River, raising grave questions about impacts to the water supply of Las Vegas. The oil spill began after 100,000 to 125,000 gallons of oil leaked from a 45 year old oil well onto lands near the Green River, the largest tributary to the Colorado River. The spill occurred about 50 miles north of Moab, UT.

A rainstorm two days later flooded the area, overrunning inadequate containment ponds housing the oil, thereby dumping thousands or perhaps tens of thousands of gallons of oil directly into the Green River. No known sampling of downstream water supplies has been performed, raising criticism from residents across the region.

“It’s offensive to hear the BLM say they’re ‘pleased’ after a large quantity of oil entered the water supply for millions of people,” said Zach Frankel, executive director of the Utah Rivers Council. “The BLM failed the public and it’s high time to acknowledge their mistakes instead of greenwashing this pollution. They should be warning the public about exposure to this oil, instead of pretending its not there.” Continue reading

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Filed under Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Oil, Pollution, Water

Report: Governments must stop supporting unsustainable livestock production

May 22, 2014. Source: Global Forest Coalition

 

An aerial view of soy fields near Mariscal Estagarribia, Boqueron, part of the dry Chaco region of Paraguay. Farmers are cutting into the second largest forest in Latin America outside the Amazon, which is threatening the lifestyle of some of the world's last uncontacted people and the local wildlife. Photo: Photograph: Glyn Thomas/Friends of the Earth

An aerial view of the Chaco region of Paraguay.  Photo: Glyn Thomas/Friends of the Earth

new report and briefing paper launched by Brighter Green and the Global Forest Coalition on the International Day of Biodiversity highlight the negative impact of unsustainable livestock production in South America, the continent with the highest deforestation rates on earth, and the need to redirect the more than US $50 billion in subsidies that is supporting this industry.

The report, Impacts of Unsustainable Livestock Production in Paraguay, which will be launched tonight at an event organized by Espacio Organico, Cultura y Participacion and the Global Forest Coalition in Asuncion, highlights how both cattle ranching and the production of soy as feedstock for the intensive livestock industry are causing devastating impacts on forests, biodiversity and Indigenous Peoples in Paraguay.

“In 2013 alone, more than 268,000 hectares of forest were destroyed to expand cattle ranches in the Western half of Paraguay, turning it into the area with the highest deforestation rates on the planet” highlights Dr. Miguel Lovera of the Centro de Estudios e Investigacion de Derecho Rural y Reforma Agraria de la Universidad Católica de Asunción (CEIDRA) the main author of the report. “Indigenous Peoples, including tribes that have lived in voluntary isolation until now, are the main victims of this trend.” Continue reading

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Filed under Biodiversity, Corporate Globalization, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Pollution

Decades of gas flaring is harming Nigerians

By Ben Ezeamalu, May 17, 2014. Source: Premium Times

It was a few minutes past 2 a.m. when the baby’s cries shattered the stillness of the night at Mgbede. Roused from her sleep, Philomena Chibuike reached for her usual quick-fix remedy – the bottles of cough syrup and Vitamin C at the foot of the bed.

“I gave those to him and he’s still crying. I gave him food, he’s still crying. So later in the morning, by 4 (a.m.), he slept,” said Mrs. Chibuike, 28.

“His breathing is fast and noisy and he is coughing. The cough is too much, I now bring him to the doctor.”

Her six month old son, Excel, was experiencing an onset of bronchitis, she was told later as she visited the community clinic.

Such conditions are not uncommon in Egbema area, in Rivers State, where gas flaring has continued, unabated, for over five decades.

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Filed under Africa, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Oil, Pollution

Division, not consensus, may be the key to fighting climate change

By Razmig Keucheyan, May 5, 2014. Source: The Guardian

A toxic waste dump in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. 'With climate change, a long-standing form of inequality is becoming more and more visible: environmental inequality.' Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP

A toxic waste dump in Abidjan, Ivory Coast. ‘With climate change, a long-standing form of inequality is becoming more and more visible: environmental inequality.’ Photo: Issouf Sanogo/AFP

With the release of the fifth report by the UN’s intergovernmental panel on climate change, calls for the international community to once and for all transcend its divisions and get serious at last about climate change have multiplied. The content of the report is nothing less than frightful: global warming has been occurring since the middle of the 20th century at an unprecedented rate, already engendering all sorts of disasters. No doubt is permitted as to the principal cause of the phenomenon: mankind. This changes everything, to quote the title of Naomi Klein’s forthcoming book. Because climate change will affect all of humanity, it renders past conflicts and traditional political categories – left and right among them – obsolete.

Well, this widespread ecological consensus isn’t getting us anywhere, and it will certainly not help us fight climate change effectively. The environmental crisis is not brought about by an endless proclivity of mankind to destroy its environment and deplete natural resources, as Jared Diamond, among others, would make us believe in his neo-Malthusian bestsellers. It finds its origin in the logic of a quite recent system, one that was born in the 19th century: industrial capitalism.

Capitalism is productivist, ie it seeks to increase productivity indefinitely (it has no embedded self-limiting mechanism). Moreover, it is predatory, programmed to exploit and exhaust natural resources and biodiversity. Finally, it is irreparably tied to a carbon – coal, oil and gas – energy system. To use the words of German Marxist Elmar Altvater, industrial capitalism is necessarily fossil capitalism. All three features combine to give way to the dreadful situation described by the IPCC report.

This is exactly why the environmental crisis doesn’t render past conflicts and divisions obsolete, but on the contrary reinforces them. Climate change doesn’t change anything, it rather worsens existing problems. To paraphrase a famous dictum by Lenin, it is the highest stage of capitalism.

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Pollution, Solutions

Colorado faces oil boom “death sentence” for soil, eyes microbe fix

By Bruce Finley, May 4, 2014. Source: The Denver Post

A pair of nesting bald eagles watch night fall last month within sight of an oil pump in Weld County, the heart of Colorado's oil and gas boom. (Karl Gehring, The Denver Post)

A pair of nesting bald eagles watch night fall last month within sight of an oil pump in Weld County, the heart of Colorado’s oil and gas boom. (Karl Gehring, The Denver Post)

Colorado’s intensifying oil and gas boom is taking a toll on soil — 200 gallons spilled per day seeping into once-fertile ground — that experts say could be ruinous.

 

The state’s approach has been to try to compel companies to excavate and haul the worst muck to landfills.

But with support from state regulators, oil companies increasingly are proposing to clean contaminated soil on site using mixing machinery and microbes. This may be cheaper for the industry — and could save and restore soil.

But it is not proven.

“I’m comfortable with it. It is another example of innovation and opportunity by the oil and gas and service industries,” Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission director Matt Lepore said. “The whole point is that it is safe, that the harm to the environment has been minimized.” Continue reading

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Filed under Biodiversity, Energy, Fracking, Pollution

Brushing teeth with sewer water next step as Texas faces drought

Note: Desperate times call for desperate measures…

-The GJEP Team

By Darrell Preston, April 21, 2014. Source: Bloomberg

Photo: Torin Halsey/Wichita Falls Times Record News/AP Photo

Photo: Torin Halsey/Wichita Falls Times Record News/AP Photo

Pastor Bob McCartney of First Baptist Church tries to love his neighbor as himself. He’s just not thrilled that Wichita Falls will soon have him drinking water that once swirled down his neighbor’s toilet.

The Texas city of more than 104,000, suffering the worst drought on record, is about to become the first place in the U.S. to treat sewage and pump it directly back to residents. People who live in Wichita Falls, northwest of Dallas on the Oklahoma border, say they’ll buy more bottled water and try not to think about what’s flowing through their pipes when they bathe, brush their teeth and make soup.

“The idea is a bit grotesque,” said McCartney, 48, who has led prayer vigils for rain. “I’m not crazy about it.”

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Filed under Climate Change, Pollution, Water