Category Archives: The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Half of North American Bird species face disruption,decline

The National Audubon Society released a report this past Tuesday, September 9, indicating that 314 North American Bird species are on the brink, due to shifting and shrinking ranges that have a fundamental cause in climate change.  This includes loss of habitat caused by a number of factors including climate shifts and commodification of natural resources such as forests.  126 species are identified in the report that will lose more than 50% of their current ranges, some up to 100% by 2050.  Another 188 species face catastrophic loss of range by 2080. The Bald Eagle is expected to loose 73% of its range by 2080.  Familiar birds like the Baltimore Oriole, Common Loon, the Purple Finch, and the Wood Thrush may  will be significantly effected.  Some like the Trumpeter Swan will not survive.

 

Warblers such as this Yellow-throated Warbler are vanishing. Photo by Jay Burney 2014

An article published tuesday in the New York Times tells the story of the Audubon Report.

Climate change will Disrupt Half of North America’s Bird Species, Study Says.

Felicity Barringer   New York Times  September 8, 2014

The Baltimore oriole will probably no longer live in Maryland, the common loon might leave Minnesota, and the trumpeter swan could be entirely gone.

Those are some of the grim prospects outlined in a report released on Monday by the National Audubon Society, which found that climate change is likely to so alter the bird population of North America that about half of the approximately 650 species will be driven to smaller spaces or forced to find new places to live, feed and breed over the next 65 years. If they do not — and for several dozen it will be very difficult — they could become extinct.

The four Audubon Society scientists who wrote the report projected in it that 21.4 percent of existing bird species studied will lose “more than half of the current climactic range by 2050 without the potential to make up losses by moving to other areas.” An additional 32 percent will be in the same predicament by 2080, they said.

Read the New York Times Story

Read the Audubon Report

 

 

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Canada Now Leads Brazil in Deforestation

Scientists from the University of Maryland, Greenpeace, Global Forest Watch, and the World Resources Institute are tracking global forest decline and have announced that the rate of decline is accelerating.

Canada has now surpassed all other countries including Brazil as being responsible for loss of forest landscapes since 2000.  According to a story in the Ottawa Citizen published last week, the “main drivers are fire, logging, and energy and industrial development.”

Resource exploitation in the boreal forests of Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta are particularly devastating. Satellite imagery shows that the boreal forests in the area of the oil sands between Fort McMurray and Lake Athabasca has been almost totally devastated.

 

Lakes, like these in Northern Ontario dot Canada's boreal forests and contain 25 percent of the world's wetlands.  Photo- Jeff Wells

Lakes, like these in Northern Ontario dot Canada’s boreal forests and contain 25 percent of the world’s wetlands. Photo- Jeff Wells

According to Dr Nigel Sizer, director of the forest program at the World Resources Institute, “if this rate of degradation continues “business as usual will lead to destruction of most remaining intact forests in this century”

Canada leads world in forest decline, report says
By William Marsden, Ottawa Citizen. September 3, 2014.

WASHINGTON – The world’s virgin forests are being lost at an increasing rate and the largest portion of the degradation is in Canada, according to a new report.

No longer is Brazil the main villain in the struggle to stop forest destruction.

“Canada is the number one in the world for the total area of the loss of intact forest landscapes since 2000,” Peter Lee, of Forest Watch Canada, said in an interview.

He said the main drivers are fires, logging and energy and industrial development.

“There is no political will at federal or provincial levels for conserving primary forests,” he said. “Most logging done in Canada is still to this day done in virgin forests.”

Using satellite technology, scientists from the University of Maryland, Greenpeace, Global Forest Watch and the World Resources Institute have tracked changes in the earth’s forest coverage. The scientists discovered that the pace of decline is accelerating with more than 104 million hectares – about 8.1 per cent of global undisturbed forests — lost from 2000 to 2013.

Read the whole article here

 

 

 

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Labor Day Special: Chris Hedges calls out the Climate March

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.

Thanks Chris!

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

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 Last Gasp of Climate Change Liberals
By Chris Hedges, Truthdig. August 31, 2014.

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.

Read the Full Article Here

Click here to read Anne Peterman’s August 14, 2014 Climate Connections post, “The Need for Clear Connections at the People’s Climate March.”  

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Groups globally mobilize to stop commercial release of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in Brazil and US

Campaign to STOP GE Trees expands to four continents

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New York - Two unprecedented applications are pending that, if approved, would allow the commercial sale of millions of genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees for development into vast industrial GE tree plantations in the US and Brazil. The Campaign to STOP GE Trees [1] is expanding and mobilizing to stop these and all large-scale releases of GE trees into the environment.

Banner photo (Plantations Are Not Forests) from last Friday's march:  Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Plantations Are Not Forests banner. Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

In the US, ArborGen has a request pending with the Department of Agriculture to commercially sell freeze-tolerant GE eucalyptus trees; in Brazil, Futuragene has requested permission from CTNBio, the Brazilian biosafety regulatory agency, to release GE eucalyptus trees there. CTNBio is planning a public hearing on the Futuragene GE tree application on 4 September. The USDA could release their draft ruling at any time.

“We have tried to ban GE trees globally through various bodies of the United Nations, and now groups are coordinating internationally to stop any and all applications to legalize GE trees,” stated Winfridus Overbeek, Brazil-based Coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement and Steering Committee member for the Campaign. “It’s crucial that these potentially disastrous trees not be commercially released because the health and viability of entire forest ecosystems and the communities who depend on them will be at risk.”

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Wally Menne explains importance of recent article on how forests are defined

 A recent article in the journal Biotropica has addressed the vital problem of what gets counted as a forest:

Natural forest values are jeopardized when land-use decisions are informed by remote sensing analyses that distinguish only forest and non-forest and when ‘forest’ is defined solely on the basis of tree cover. These practices engender somewhat false senses of accomplishment when the forests reported to cover substantial portion of tropical landscapes little resemble old growth.

As a further illustration of the importance of clarity about what is meant by ‘forest’ as well as ‘reforestation’ and ‘restoration,’ consider the consequences of a country passing the ‘forest transition’ [...] If the restored areas contribute to the well-being of local people, then so much the better. In contrast, consider industrial monocultures of invasive exotic and low water-use efficiency trees that replace secondary forests or naturally non-forested ecosystems such as savannas or grasslands; these too might confer some social and economic benefits, but with high costs in terms of lost biodiversity and ecosystem services (Putz & Redford 2009, Stickler et al2009).

Similarly, passing the forest transition has negative consequences for human welfare if that accomplishment involves reduced food production or loss of local control as when agribusinesses accumulate lands from smallholders to plant non-food commodities (Zoomers 2010).

Wally Menne, from Timberwatch, explained the significance of this scientific report very well in a response to the Center of International Forestry Research’s blog on the article. Menne, who is also a member of the New Voices Speakers Bureau, wrote:

This is a courageous attempt to help rectify a gross injustice that has been perpetrated against forests and forest peoples by the global timber industry, and which has been supported by the FAO and other elements within the United Nations system.

The existing ‘official’ definitions of forest currently in use have not come about by pure accident. They were designed to confuse monoculture tree plantations with real forests, deliberately in order to allow the systematic conversion of biodiversity rich and culturally diverse forests and forest dependent communities into elements of capitalist controlled production and consumption.

Timber plantations are simply a part of that industrial production process, which ruthlessly exploits natural ecosystems including real forests and grasslands. They should not be called forests.

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It’s simple. If we can’t change our economic system, our number’s up

 

By George Monbiot, May 27, 2014.  Source: The Guardian

'The mother narrative to all this is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots.' Photograph from Alamy

‘The mother narrative to all this is carbon-fuelled expansion. Our ideologies are mere subplots.’ Photograph from Alamy

Let us imagine that in 3030BC the total possessions of the people of Egypt filled one cubic metre. Let us propose that these possessions grew by 4.5% a year. How big would that stash have been by the Battle of Actium in 30BC? This is the calculation performed by the investment banker Jeremy Grantham(1).

Go on, take a guess. Ten times the size of the pyramids? All the sand in the Sahara? The Atlantic ocean? The volume of the planet? A little more? It’s 2.5 billion billion solar systems(2). It does not take you long, pondering this outcome, to reach the paradoxical position that salvation lies in collapse.

 

To succeed is to destroy ourselves. To fail is to destroy ourselves. That is the bind we have created. Ignore if you must climate change, biodiversity collapse, the depletion of water, soil, minerals, oil; even if all these issues were miraculously to vanish, the mathematics of compound growth make continuity impossible. Continue reading

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Sign on to STOP GE Trees in Brazil!

Please share as widely as possible!

Please sign your organization onto the letter below protesting the legalization of genetically engineered trees in Brazil. To sign on, please send your name, organization and country to the following address: info@globaljusticeecology.org  before June 15th.

Campaign to STOP GE Trees Sign On Statement to Support the call by Brazilian and Latin American groups to reject Genetically Engineered eucalyptus trees

(Sign on before 15 June!)
FuturaGene, a biotechnology firm owned by Brazilian pulp and paper company Suzano, has requested authorization from the Brazilian Biosafety Commission (CTNBio) for the commercial release of its genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in Brazil.A letter has been issued by Brazilian and Latin American organizations (including CEPEDES; Terra de Direitos and the Latin American Network against Plantations) to CTNBio to urge them to deny this approval. As the Brazilian Open Letter (attached below) explains, if approved, use of GE eucalyptus trees will aggravate the already well-known negative impacts that non-GE industrial eucalyptus tree plantations already pose to communities´ livelihoods.

We ask your organization to sign on to the statement below in support of this Brazilian letter, which will be sent to CTNBio, the Brazilian governmental institution in charge of authorizing the release of GMOs. Their letter expresses deep concern and urges the CTNBio not to authorize the commercial release of GE eucalyptus by Suzano/FuturaGene.

To sign on in support of this letter protesting the legalization of genetically engineered trees, please send us your name, organization and country to the following address: info@globaljusticeecology.org  before June 15th.

Thank you,

The Campaign to STOP GE Trees
 including Biofuelwatch, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, Global Justice Ecology Project, Indigenous Environmental Network, World Rainforest Movement

Statement in Support of the “Open Letter to CTNBio”:

The Campaign to Stop GE Trees, an international coalition of 248 groups from 49 countries, founded in 2004, supports a global ban on commercial deregulation of genetically engineered trees (also known as genetically modified trees) based on serious concerns about their impacts on biodiversity and human rights. The Campaign supports the position expressed herein, in solidarity with Brazilian and Latin American groups, calling upon CTNBio to pay heed to public resistance to GE trees and reject Futuragene’s request for commercial approval of GE trees.

The Campaign is joined by the undersigned organizations from around the world that endorse the call for a global ban on the release of genetically engineered trees into the environment, as well as those scientists and organizations that are calling for a moratorium on the release of GE trees until they are proven to have no damaging social or ecological impacts. As no such proof of safety currently exists, but there is significant evidence to the contrary, the release of GE trees must be stopped.

It is, for example, well-documented that increasing the growth rates of plantation trees (as Suzano has done with their GE eucalyptus
trees) results in the rapid expansion of plantations, not the opposite. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization between the years 1990 and 2010, the average yield of wood from plantations doubled, yet the amount of land occupied by those plantations increased over 60% from 97 million to 153 million hectares.

[http://www.fao.org/docrep/013/i1757e/i1757e.pdf, Table 5.5, page 94]

Additionally, in 2008, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, to which Brazil is a signatory, called for the application of the Precautionary Approach regarding GE trees, and a comprehensive and transparent assessment of their long-term social and ecological risks prior to any open release into the environment. If CTN Bio approves the commercialization of the GE eucalyptus in question, this decision would directly contravene decision IX/5(1) of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.

The decision IX/5 (1) of the UN CBD Conference of the Partiesfrom 2008 states <http://www.cbd.int/decision/cop/?id=11648>

The Conference of the Parties, Urges Parties to:

(r) Reaffirm the need to take a precautionary approach when addressing the issue of genetically modified trees;

(s) Authorize the release of genetically modified trees only after completion of studies in containment, including in greenhouse and confined field trials, in accordance with national legislation where existent, addressing long–term effects as well as thorough, comprehensive, science-based and transparent risk assessments to avoid possible negative environmental impacts on forest biological diversity; [1]/

(t) Also consider the potential socio-economic impacts of genetically modified trees as well as their potential impact on the livelihoods of indigenous and local communities;

(u) Acknowledge the entitlement of Parties, in accordance with their domestic legislation, to suspend the release of genetically modified trees, in particular where risk assessment so advises or where adequate capacities to undertake such assessment is not available;

(v) Further engage to develop risk-assessment criteria specifically for genetically modified trees;

(w) Note the results of the Norway – Canada Workshops on Risk Assessment for emerging applications for Living Modified Organisms (UNEP/CBD/BS/COP-MOP/4/INF/13);

(x) Welcome the decision of the fourth meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol to establish an Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Risk Assessment and Risk Management that is also mandated to address the issue of genetically modified trees;

(y) Collaborate with relevant organizations on guidance for risk assessment of genetically modified trees and guidance addressing potential negative and positive environmental and socio – economic impacts on the conservation and sustainable use of forest biodiversity associated with the use of genetically modified trees;

(z) Provide the available information and the scientific evidence regarding the overall effects of genetically modified trees on the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity to the Executive Secretary for dissemination through the clearing-house mechanism;

[1]/ Where applicable, risks such as cross-pollination and spreading of seeds should be specifically addressed.

We therefore support the call to CTNBio and the Brazilian government made by Brazilian and Latin American groups to reject the application of Futuragene to commercially plant genetically engineered eucalyptus trees.

Signed:

The Campaign to STOP GE Trees (International)

Global Justice Ecology Project (US)

EcoNexus (Europe, UK)

Indigenous Environmental Network (North America)

Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (Canada)

Biofuelwatch (US, UK)

World Rainforest Movement

For your information

Brazilian OPEN LETTER TO BE SENT TO CTNBio

OPEN LETTER TO BE SENT TO CTNBio

To: Brazilian National Technical Biosafety Commission (CTNBio)

We, the undersigned, have been informed that FuturaGene, a biotechnology firm wholly owned by the pulp and paper company Suzano, has submitted a request for commercial planting of its yield enhanced genetically modified eucalyptus trees.

Suzano/FuturaGene, as well as other companies like Fibria (ex-Aracruz) and ArborGen, have been conducting research and field experiments on GM Trees for years.

Suzano/FuturaGene´s interest has been to increase the productivity of their tree plantations. They argue that their new GM tree will result in a 20% increase in productivity and by doing so will increase “competitiveness and environmental and socio-economic gains through higher productivity using less land and therefore overall lower chemical inputs and lowered carbon release, as well as making land available for food production or conservation and enhancing the income of outgrowers.” (1) These myths do not stand up to real facts and are addressed below.

GM TREES WILL ADD TO THE PROBLEMS CAUSED BY INDUSTRIAL TREE PLANTATIONS, NOT REDUCE THEM

The use of faster growing GM trees in industrial plantations will exacerbate the already well-known negative social and environmental impacts caused by industrial tree plantations while introducing yet further impacts and knock-on effects due to the additional risks inherent to genetic engineering.

Industrial tree plantation companies have long promised that gains in productivity would lead to less land use. This is a myth. In Brazil, for example, where the productivity of monoculture tree plantations per hectare increased from 27 m3/ha/year in the 1980s to 44 m3/ha/year currently, the area covered by plantations has increased from about 4 million hectares at the end of the 1980s to more than 7.2 million hectares today. Historically, there is thus no evidence that in Brazil, increases in productivity led to less land being occupied by industrial tree plantations. A newly formed association, Indústria Brasileira de Árvores (Ibá), representing the Brazilian industrial tree plantation industry states that they intend to double the area of industrial tree plantations to 14 million hectares by 2020.

SUZANO SEEKS TO EXPLOIT NEW MARKETS FOR PLANTATION TREES

Suzano recently opened a new pulp mill in the state of Maranhão with an 1.5 million tons/year capacity. Huge areas of land covered with tree monocultures will be needed to fulfill Suzano’s wood demand for pulp, as well as for an added demand, in particular its plans to explore new uses of its wood with a project in the same state to produce and export wood pellets for energy production, to cofire with coal in the UK. The use of biomass for industrial scale energy production remains highly controversial, and its negative social, environmental and climate impacts have been documented widely. Both the pulp and wood pellet projects aim solely at profiting from new market opportunities, which is the mission of Suzano.

BRAZILIAN PEOPLE AND ENVIRONMENT WOULD PAY THE COSTS

While profits from this expansion accrue to Suzano shareholders, the social, ecological and economic costs as well as increased risk to regional food sovereignty and health will be borne by the Brazilian public, and local communities surrounded by plantations in particular.
Many and serious conflicts over access to land already exist, and living conditions of communities surrounded by Suzano’s operations have deteriorated to the point that communities are now struggling to guarantee their food sovereignty and are increasingly at risk of losing their territories (2) .

GM CROPS LEAD TO INCREASED APPLICATIONS OF AGROTOXINS

Further, there is no plausible reason to expect that the use of “chemical inputs”, including agrotoxins, will decrease as a result of planting GM trees. On the contrary, it will increase with the increasing occupation of land which is planned to take place and the intensification of growing cycles and the ensuing nutrient depletion of soil and land. Brazil, sadly, is already the world’s leading consumer of agrotoxins, causing injury to hundreds if not thousands of victims per year, putting further strain on already insufficient public health provision. Industrial tree monocultures, lacking biodiversity, and promoted at very large scale, will augment the application of agrotoxins by huge amounts. The argument used by the GM technology lobby that the introduction of GM crops—such as soy and maize—results in less use of pesticides and fertilizers has already been proven to be false. In countries including Brazil, Argentina, and the United States – front-runners in GM soy & maize production—research has shown not a decrease, but rather an alarming increase in the use of agrotoxins (3).

DAMAGING SOIL AND WATER SUPPLIES

Genetically modifying trees to make them grow faster, while planting them on a continuously expanding portion of the land in ever larger industrial tree plantations, will only lead to further depletion of soil nutrients and fresh water. This is especially true for eucalyptus trees, already notorious for their voracious water consumption, which has been shown to result in the overall drying out of surrounding soils, springs and waterways. Communities living around non-GM tree plantations within and outside of Brazil have already widely reported water shortage and soil depletion. The introduction of faster growing GM Trees will only further aggravate this situation.

UNEXPECTED NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF GM CROPS COULD BE EVEN WORSE IN GM TREES

Serious uncertainties exist with respect to the potential environmental and socio-economic impacts of genetically engineered trees. Unexpected effects have already been reported for GM food crops, including for example the proliferation of herbicide resistant weeds, the emergence of secondary pests decimating crops, altered fertility such as higher rates of outcrossing, as well as increased allergenicity. Given the long and often complex life-cycle of trees and their interaction with biodiversity, predicting the outcomes and impacts of GM trees is practically impossible. While eucalyptus is non-native to Brazil, it is widely planted, and contamination of non-GM eucalyptus trees by GM eucalyptus is another serious risk, although FuturaGene, paradoxically, welcomes it (4). Will it alter invasiveness, attract new pests, weaken or deter predators? Such questions have neither been asked nor are there data to provide answers. The catalog of risks is high.

Based on the history of industrial tree plantations and the introduction of GM crops in general, we object to and deny industry’s claim that society as a whole would benefit from the commercial release and planting of GM trees. Existing evidence points squarely into the opposite direction. The only benefit we see from this new high-risk technology with unknown future impact (and possible associated incalculable cost) is that of increased profits to Suzano’s shareholders.

WE URGE NOT TO AUTHORIZE THE COMMERCIAL RELEASE OF GM TREES

For the aforementioned reasons, scientists, lawyers and organizations around the world are calling for a global moratorium on the commercial release of genetically modified trees, due to their unknown but potentially severe social and ecological impacts and incalculable economic risks, which would overwhelmingly accrue to the public.

Therefore, the undersigned organizations and people wish to express their deep concern and urge the CTNBio not to authorize the commercial release of yield enhanced GE eucalyptus by Suzano/FuturaGene or by any other company that also has, or will present in future, a request for such a release.

Signatures follow

Notes

1- See FuturaGene web site at http://www.futuragene.com

2 -
http://wrm.org.uy/pt/livros-e-relatorios/plantacoes-de-eucalipto-para-energia-o-caso-da-suzano-no-baixo-parnaiba-maranhao-brasil/

3 – See
http://www.gmwatch.org/files/GMsoy_Sust_Respons_SUMMARY_SPA_v1.pdf

4 – See
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2012/nov/15/gm-trees-bred-world-energy


http://www.wrm.org.uy

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Offsetting is a massive threat to wildlife, warn environment groups

June 2, 2014. Source: Friends of the Earth

Photo: Redd-Monitor

Photo: Redd-Monitor

Biodiversity offsetting is already being used by developers to justify schemes that will cause irreversible harm to nature, warn over 15 environment groups across the world today (Monday 2 June 2014), ahead of a major biodiversity offsetting conference in London this week.

The conference – “To No Net Loss of Biodiversity and Beyond” on 3 and 4 June (see http://bbop.forest-trends.org/events/no-net-loss/) will be addressed by Environment Secretary Owen Paterson who is soon to decide on controversial plans to allow developers to destroy precious wildlife habitat, provided there is an attempt to offset the damage elsewhere.

Such schemes are known as biodiversity offsetting, and FERN and Friends of the Earth are concerned that its introduction could allow developers to push through projects that would have devastating impacts on irreplaceable habitats and our wildlife. Continue reading

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