Category Archives: Posts from Anne Petermann

On Bill McKibben’s ‘call to arms’ for the New York climate summit

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, from the Venezuela Social Pre-COP

Today’s blog post is not addressing directly what is happening here in Venezuela at the SocialPreCOP, but something on the minds of many people here–the next step in the series of climate meetings/actions this year.  That is the upcoming climate march planned for New York City on September 21st, two days before UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon’s UN Climate Summit–a closed door session where the world’s “leaders” will discuss “ambitions” for the upcoming climate conference (COP20) in Lima, Peru. Part of the objective of the Venezuelan government at this SocialPreCOP meeting is to come away with a set of demands from people gathered here that they can take to this exclusive summit.

The September climate march was called for by Big Green NGOs 350.org and Avaaz, who have thrown copious quantities of cash at it. But many environmental and climate justice organizations and alliances based in the New York/New Jersey region and across the US have demanded a seat at the organizing table to ensure that the voices of front line and impacted communities are heard, despite their small budgets.

The demands of the march: there will be none. That’s right. The march will simply bring together an estimated 200,000 people to march through the streets of New York and then…  There will be no rally, no speakers, no strong political demands.  Just people showing up with the overarching message that the world’s leaders should take action on climate change.

Please.

What kind of climate action should be taken is a question that has long been debated by climate justice activists, organizations, social movements and Indigenous Peoples all over the world for decades.   “Climate action” can include things like geoengineering schemes–manmade manipulations of nature on such a massive scale that the impacts can’t possibly be known, but could definitely be catastrophic.  They can also include actions already taking place, such as the building of vast hydroelectric dams that flood vast expanses of land and displace thousands of Indigenous Peoples or land-based communities. Climate action can also include ongoing grabbing of land for the development of vast plantations of oil palm, GMO soy or non-native trees for so-called bioenergy.

So no, not all “climate action” is created equal.  A lack of clear justice-based and ecologically sound demands in this “historic” march will leave a vacuum.  And no vacuum remains empty for long.  It’s simple physics.  The media will not cover a march with no demands. They will find a message.  And likely, as so often happens, those with the connections and the money will win the messaging game.

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Blogging from the Venezuela Climate Summit

Report from GJEP Executive Director Anne Petermann from the Venezuela Social Pre-Cop on Margarita Island.

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“Changing the System not the Climate”/“Cambiando el Sistema no el Clima” 

That is the theme here at the Climate Change meeting being held on Margarita Island in the Caribbean off of the coast of Venezuela.

The meeting, organized by the Venezuelan government, brings together social/ecological justice organizations such as ours, with NGOs and representatives from social movements, Southern governments and a few UN-lings to hash out a new set of justice-based demands to bring to the upcoming UN Climate Conference (COP 20) in Lima Peru in December.

The meeting here is a reaction to the increasingly heavy-handed approach of Northern governments–led by the United States–to dominate the annual UN climate COPs.  Of course the US government cannot really be blamed, it is only doing what its corporate puppet-masters demand–pushing their profit-motivated false solutions coupled with a fanatical obsession with suicidal business-as-usual schemes until the world ends.  Simple.  The fact that these obsessions are already leading to climate-chaos driven suffering in poor communities all over the world–especially in the South, but including the North, and yes, even the US–is of no relevance.

The hope, as espoused by the Venezuelan hosts here, is to come up with a new set of demands/solutions/ideas that might be able to advance a peoples’ effort to stabilize the climate and stave off the worst of the oncoming climate catastrophe.

Of course the fact that the host country is one of the world’s leading oil producers is a slight problem, and one that is already being hotly debated both within these walls and by those who have sought to condemn the meetings before they even happen.

Flying to this meeting was itself a surreal experience, as it always is pumping out carbon emissions as part of an effort to help organize a coordinated response to the system that is literally destroying our ability to live on the planet.  But a global problem of the scale of global warming demands a global movement coordinated in some fashion, and in my experience, this is best done face to face.

But soaring over Caracas last night, gazing down at the bejeweled coast, densely populated by the water and leading in multicolored strands up the hillside, so much like an ostentatious necklace adorning a starlet on the red carpet, was a sight that both inspired, awed and humbled me.  It reminded me that I was again outside of the United States and back in a country where life is so much more alive.

Buen Vivir (The Good Life)

Photos: Anne Petermann interviewed by a reporter in Venezuela. Below also shows Lindsey Gillies, part of the GJEP team there.

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Obama’s State of the Union: fantasy, fact, fiction or all of the above?

by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

During Obama’s State of the Union address last night the presence of the star of the reality TV show Duck Dynasty might have been the most real part of a very surreal evening.

Of particular note were Obama’s comments on energy and climate change.

While the US Southeast was being hammered by a highly unusual winter storm which stranded thousands in the metro Atlanta area, (no, this does not disprove climate change you nitwits, climate scientists have warned for years that a warming globe means extreme and unpredictable weather) Obama was proclaiming a desire to address climate change so that “when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, [we can say] yes we did.”

This sounds wonderful until we consider the “all of the above” energy strategy Obama touted earlier in the speech, which gives a nod to some of the dirtiest, most polluting and destructive energy sources.  It includes shale oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota–the gas flares of which can be seen from space.  This shale oil is so extremely volatile that in the past year two trains carrying bakken oil have exploded.  It means more coal; it means more deep water offshore drilling of the type that caused the BP oil spill disaster.  It means more nukes, even in the shadow of the ongoing catastrophe at Fukushima.  And it means more fracking.  Obama made a big show of his support for natural gas “if extracted safely,” which it is not.

Obama spent exactly one paragraph on climate change.  He declared it a fact.  That anyone even needs to do that in this day and age, decades after global warming was identified as a problem, after the Northeast US was smashed by not one but two hurricanes in two consecutive years, after Super-Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, after the record droughts in Australia, Africa and the US Midwest–to name just a few climate-related catastrophes of the past 8 years–is astounding.  However, climate change is not only a fact. In my opinion it is the single greatest threat to future generations of humans and most other species.  Yet it merited only a passing mention.  One paragraph out of a 13 page speech.

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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.

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La Realidad, 1996.  PhotoLangelle.org

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:

CHASE MANHATTAN’S EMERGING MARKETS GROUP MEMO

CHIAPAS

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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Holiday Photo Essay: Buffalo Winter – Snow, Rain and Ice

Dear Friends,

Instead of the usual news and reporting we have on this blog, for today and tomorrow we offer this photo essay.  Western New York received an unusually large amount of snow earlier this month, which recently melted during a warm spell and heavy rain, which was followed by freezing temperatures and ice.  This provided some beautiful photo opportunities which we share with you here.  Best wishes for a peaceful Holiday and New Year.

–Anne Petermann, for the GJEP Team

Buffalo, NY Winter: From Snow to Rain to Ice

Scene:  Delaware Park, Hoyt Lake, near Albright-Knox Art Gallery, Buffalo, NY.  PhotoLangelle.org

After the rain: Delaware Park, Hoyt Lake, near Albright-Knox Art Gallery.  PhotoLangelle.org

Berries and wrought iron.  Photo: Petermann

After the Ice: Berries and wrought iron. Photo: Petermann

Icy tunnel of trees.  Photo: Petermann

Tunnel of trees. Photo: Petermann

Ice curtain. Photo: Petermann

Ice curtain. Photo: Petermann

Berries, Ice and Orange wall.  Photo: Petermann

Berries and Orange wall. Photo: Petermann

Icy park and wrought iron. Photo: Petermann

Icy park and wrought iron fence. Photo: Petermann

Icy leaves and wrought iron. Photo: Petermann

Leaves and iron. Photo: Petermann

Holiday tree. Photo: Petermann

Holiday tree. Photo: Petermann

Tree at Kleinhans Music Hall.  Photo: Petermann

Kleinhans Music Hall. Photo: Petermann

Black and white berries. Photo: Petermann

Black and white berries. Photo: Petermann

Ivy and berries. Photo: Petermann

Ivy and berries. Photo: Petermann

Light post and ice. Photo: Petermann

Light post and ice. Photo: Petermann

icy berries and ivy 2

Holiday colors. Photo: Petermann

1897 Church roof and ice. Photo: Petermann

1897 Church: slate, copper, and ice. Photo: Petermann

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Earth Minute: Chilean coup 40 years ago and the impact on the Mapuche People

Note: GJEP has worked with the Mapuche in Chile to stop genetically engineered trees.

GJEP teams up weekly with Margaret Prescod and the Sojourner Truth show for an Earth Minute and a 12-minute EarthWatch interview every Thursday covering front line environmental news from across the globe.

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Obama’s plan for the climate: Greenwash our way into oblivion

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

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Image captured from The Weather Channel

At 1:45 today, President Obama announced his new Climate Action Plan in a nationally televised speech.

He described the emerging climate crisis and its impacts–both past, present and future, while be suffered the heat of an abnormally warm June day in Washington, DC. His arguments for climate action were compelling and hard to argue with.  Unfortunately his actions do not match his words.

Unlike Bill McKibben, I do not believe that “the solutions agenda [Obama has] begun to advance moves the country in a sane direction.” (Did you read the actual Climate Action Plan, Bill?!?)  No, what I read in Obama’s Action Plan was a rehashing of the same old dangerous false solutions that many of us have been fighting for years and years.  But what’s really criminal is that even though Obama clearly understands both the science and implications of climate change, he still pushes an agenda that will drive us all over the climate cliff.

First the plan’s “Case for Action” reiterates Obama’s pledge to decrease carbon emissions by a paltry 17% below 2005 levels by 2020–but only if all other major economies agree to do so as well. Climate scientists are not calling for 17% reductions by 2020. In fact, countries like the US need to reduce our emissions by 80-90%.  And not in seven years, but immediately.  Last year preferably.

The main takeaway from Obama’s greenwashed nonsense? We can continue our unsustainable way of life indefinitely with just a few key tweaks.

“Deploy Clean Energy.” Ain’t nothin’ clean about this.  Obama’s “clean energy” plan includes more fracking, more oil, more nukes, more biofuels and “clean coal.”  Yes, Obama wants to stop climate change by screwing over rural communities through promotion of more hydrofracking and increased natural gas exports; expanding domestic oil production–including the hellish Bakken shale oil fields (but don’t worry, it will be clean Bakken oil­–no really, that’s in there); devoting more land to growing feedstocks for plant-based liquid fuels (i.e. less land for biodiversity, growing food or for peasant communities to survive on); protecting forests that store carbon while cutting down trees to burn for electricity production; building more nuclear power plants (apparently never heard of Three Mile Island, Chernobyl or Fukushima); and maintaining the fantasy of that wonderful oxymoron “clean coal.” Sane direction?

Spur Investment in Advanced Fossil Energy Projects. Like “clean” coal, we can burn our fossil fuels and stop climate change too!

Maintain Agricultural Sustainability. For this one, Obama wants us to trust the vehemently pro-GMO US Department of Agriculture to “deliver tailored, science-based knowledge to farmers, ranchers and forest landowners.”  ‘Climate ready’ GMO crops anyone?

Negotiate Global Free Trade in Environmental Goods and Services. Right, cuz global free trade has served biodiversity, ecosystems and the 99% so well!

But the most ludicrous item is the last on the menu: “Leading efforts to address climate change through international negotiations.”  (I know, I know, stop laughing)

This section excels in Orwellian newspeak. It highlights the disastrous 2009 UN Copenhagen Climate Conference as “historic progress,” and insists that the secretly negotiated Copenhagen Accord (that was booed even by reporters when Obama announced it late in the negotiations) was a breakthrough in developing “a new regime of international transparency.” Omitted is the fact that this Accord was never actually consensed upon, but merely “noted” by the official body.  Well history is “his story” after all…

The section goes on to trumpet the accomplishments of the equally disastrous UN Climate Conference in Durban in 2011–about which Nature Magazine wrote “It is clear that the science of climate change and the politics of climate change, now inhabit parallel worlds.”

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International similarly condemned Durban’s outcomes, “developed countries, led by the US, accelerated the demolition of the world’s international framework for fair and urgent climate action. And developing countries have been bullied and forced into accepting an agreement that could be a suicide pill for the world. An increase in global temperatures of four degrees Celsius, permitted under this plan, is a death sentence for Africa, small island states, and the poor and vulnerable worldwide. This summit has amplified climate apartheid whereby the richest 1% of the world have decided that it is acceptable to sacrifice the 99%.”

But Obama’s Climate Action Plan insists Durban was “a breakthrough”–because countries agreed to come up with some kind of new climate agreement that would not go into force until 2020.

Gee, guess who won’t be in office anymore in 2020…

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2012 Top ten articles on Climate Connections

Note: The following are the top ten articles from Climate Connections from 2012, based on the number of views each story received. Several articles were written by GJEP, or were sent to Climate Connections by the original authors. They are posted in reverse order, from number 10 through number 1.  Our blog received a record 270,000 visitors in 2012 from over 200 countries.

Please subscribe to Climate Connections, like us on Facebook, and follow us on Twitter.

Happy New Year,

-The GJEP Team

10. Three responses to Bill McKibben’s new article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” (July 24)

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director of GJEP, Rachel Smolker of BiofuelWatch, and Keith Brunner, GJEP Communications Associate

Bill McKibben, in his new Rolling Stone article, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math” does an effective job at summarizing the hard and theoretical numbers that warn us of the devastating impacts of continuing to burn the Earth’s remaining fossil fuel reserves–yet it somehow falls short of its stated goal to help mobilize a new movement for climate action.  Continue reading here

9. Breaking News: Secret US military testing of radiological materials on poor and minority communities (September 24)

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director of GJEP, and Orin Langelle, GJEP Board Chair

During an interview we conducted last week in St. Louis, MO, Dr. Lisa Martino-Taylor gave us a long description of research she had conducted into a major military cover up of the use of U.S. citizens as test subjects for military experiments related to the Cold War.
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