Ada from the Solomon Islands. If biomass energy is not stopped, her islands will continue to drown. Photo credit: GJEP-GFC
In this week’s Earth Minute, Anne Petermann reports from Asunción, Paraguay, where she participated in a series of meetings put together by Global Forest Coalition to discuss deforestation and its underlying drivers, including biofuels and wood-based bioenergy (which will some day include genetically engineered trees, if Brazil has its way), and all over the continent, but especially here in Paraguay, cattle ranching and the livestock industry.
GJEP partners with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Los Angeles for weekly Earth Minutes on Tuesday and Earth Watch interviews on Thursday.
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
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.
Chris Hedges posted a new piece at Truthdig yesterday, “The last Gasp of the Climate Change Liberals.”Besides getting directly to the point of the critiques associated with the September 21 Climate March, he gives a little love to Climate Connections founder and Global Justice Ecology Project’s Executive Director, Anne Petermann. This is a most important piece. Please read it.
June 25, 2013, President Barack Obama wipes perspiration from his face as he speaks about climate change at Georgetown University in Washington. Courtesy TruthDig-AP Photo/Charles Dharpak
The upcoming climate change march in New York is the last gasp of conventional liberalism. The time for reform and accommodation has ended. We will build a radical movement or be extinguished in a climate inferno.
The climate change march in New York on Sept. 21, expected to draw as many as 200,000 people, is one of the last gasps of conventional liberalism’s response to the climate crisis. It will take place two days before the actual gathering of world leaders in New York called by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to discuss the November 2015 U.N. Climate Conference in Paris. The marchers will dutifully follow the route laid down by the New York City police. They will leave Columbus Circle, on West 59th Street and Eighth Avenue, at 11:30 a.m. on a Sunday and conclude on 11th Avenue between West 34th and 38th streets. No one will reach the United Nations, which is located on the other side of Manhattan, on the East River beyond First Avenue—at least legally. There will be no speeches. There is no list of demands. It will be a climate-themed street fair.
In this update from her previous piece about the march, Petermann points out that many climate action contexts promote strategies and actions on climate change that “include many ‘solutions’ debunked as false by the global climate justice movement, including carbon capture and storage, and other technologies that allow business as usual to bounce happily along while the planet slowly burns.”
In New York City on September 21st, a major climate march is planned. It will take place two days before UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s UN Climate Summit–a one-day closed door session where the world’s “leaders” will discuss “ambitions” for the upcoming climate conference (COP20) in Lima Peru.
350.org and Avaaz originally called for the march, but environmental and climate justice organizations and alliances based in the New York/New Jersey region and across the US demanded (and won) a seat at the organizing table to attempt to ensure that the voices of front line and impacted communities are heard.
So, what are the demands of the march? There are 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, and no strong political demands. Just people showing up with the overarching message that the world’s leaders should take action on climate change. Why no solid demands? I’ve been informed by organizers that the reason this march is being held with no actual demands is because we need a big tent.
But this tent is so big that it even includes organizations that support fracking and the tar sands gigaproject. Yup, they’re in the tent, too. Call me crazy, but I think that tent is too damn big.
According to some of the organizers, as long as everyone agrees that climate action is needed, then it’s all good. But are all climate actions created equal? No.
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.
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 good. 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.
Report from GJEP Executive Director Anne Petermann from the Venezuela Social Pre-Cop on Margarita Island.
“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.
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.
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. 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:
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.