Category Archives: The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

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!

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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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1991 Judi Bari unedited interview

Today is the 24th anniversary of the day a pipe bomb exploded under the seat of Earth First! organizer Judi Bari’s car as she drove through Oakland as part of a roadshow for Redwood Summer – the national campaign to save the ancient redwoods.

Note: In 1991 my good friend and fellow Big River Earth First!er, Steve Taylor, and I took a trip from St. Louis to California, Oregon and back. We visited many movement people and interviewed them.

I was going to wait until next year to re-publish this interview with Judi that took place at her home in Willits, CA – originally played on various midwest community radio stations. Next year would have been a quarter of a century after the bombing.  I decided to publish it this year because I see so much devastation and destruction of Earth’s life support systems and all of its inhabitants occurring right now, and I hope this helps urge people to organize and take action. To be defiant. To not ask, but to demand. To not march in circles. To take real direct action. To really do something for the Earth.

Please also see posts we ran on the 20th anniversary of the bombing below.

BTW, the beginning of this interview starts with Judi singing an a cappella rendition of “Lullaby and Good NIght.”  This version of the song is Judi Bari’s great sense of political humor.

Orin Langelle, Board Chair & Strategic Consultant for Global Justice Ecology Project

Orin Langelle interviews Judi Bari in 1991:

-Judi on Beach_2

Judi Bari, center, walks on a Pacific Ocean beach in California two years after a pipe bomb exploded under the seat of her car in May 1990.  Although the bomb was intended to kill her, and did severely maim her, the FBI immediately arrested her while in the hospital. They never looked for the real bomber.  Bari maintained she was targeted due to her success in bringing environmentalists and workers together to stop the logging of the ancient redwoods in northern California.  This intimidated the timber industry, especially when she was one of the lead organizers of Redwood Summer.  Judi died of breast cancer in 1996, but her estate sued the FBI over their handling of the bombing, resulting in a $4 million settlement.     Photo:  Langelle/GJEP

From the 20th commemoration of her bombing:
On 24 May 2010, Climate Connections was dedicated to Judi Bari on the 20th anniversary of her bombing on May 24, 1990.
The first posting “The Bombing of Judi Bari—Reflections Twenty Years After (this one’s for you, Judi)” is from Orin Langelle, then Co-Director/Strategist for Global Justice Ecology Project and the second post, “JUDI BARI LIVES”  is from Karen Pickett.  Karen’s was first run in Oread Daily from an article for the Earth First! Journal: ” Remembering Judi Bari – 20 Years Ago an Explosion Filled the Sky and Changed Earth First!”  Karen is also a board member of Global Justice Ecology Project.

¡Judi Bari Presente!

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When our land is free, we’re all free

By Silas Kpanan’Ayoung Siakor and Jacinta Fay, May 7, 2014. Source: Sustainable Development Institute/Friends of the Earth

On 6-8 May 2014 agribusiness corporations are courting African governments at the Grow Africa Investment Forum in Abuja, Nigeria to ‘further accelerate sustainable agricultural growth in Africa’.
Corporations’ interest in agriculture in Africa has certainly accelerated corporate control of land and seeds but done little to support agriculture that will feed the continent. Rather than support family farming and smallholder agriculture private sector investment in agriculture has resulted in grabbing land from communities; the land which they farm sustainably and rely on for their survival.

Communities are resisting this corporate takeover of their land and they are winning. All over Africa people are sending a clear message to their governments; stop selling Africa to corporations. The Jogbahn Clan in Liberia is one such community and here is their story.

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Video on illegal logging and its impacts

from FERN:

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Anti-biomass and coal campaigners call for UK’s most polluting power station to close

April 23, 2014. Source: Biofuelwatch

Photo: Biofuelwatch

Photo: Biofuelwatch

Campaigners have disrupted Drax Plc’s AGM in London today, calling for the power station to be closed down because of the environmental and social impacts of the biomass and coal that it is burning. Three campaigners were removed from the meeting after unfurling a banner reading “No to biomass and coal – shut down Drax” and accusing company directors of misleading the public over claims that their biomass conversion is low-carbon, renewable energy. The protest happened against a backdrop of falling company share prices as the UK Government announced that it would not be awarding a lucrative new subsidy scheme, a Contract for Difference, to Drax’s second converted unit, sparking investment uncertainty.

Biofuelwatch campaigner Duncan Law was one of the campaigners removed from the AGM today. He said:

“Drax is calling itself the world’s biggest renewable energy power station, but looking past the shiny green façade you see it’s actually still a giant incinerator, only now fed on ancient wetland forests as well as opencast coal. And what’s more, it will be pumping out more CO2 than ever despite company claims that it’s doing the opposite.

It is clear that Drax and the UK government aren’t listening to evidence that big biomass power stations in the UK are fuelling forest destruction in the southern US and increasing carbon emissions. We feel we have no choice but to take this further action to highlight how, in the name of renewable energy, energy companies and their allies in government are causing yet another environmental disaster.”

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Senegal farmers, pastoralists complain of “land-grabbing”

April 14, 2014. Source: African Press Agency

Photo: Farmlandgrab

Photo: Farmlandgrab

Over nine thousand farmers and pastoralist in St. Louis in the north of Senegal are facing possible evictions from their land as multi-national agro-industries scramble for agricultural land in the region. Speaking to the African Press Agency on Sunday, Fulani cattle herders of the local community in Ross Bethio accused Senhuile – Sénéthanol, an Italian multinational company of encroaching on their grazing and farm lands.

They claimed that more than 37 villages are currently deprived of their land thanks to activities by the company which is based in St. Louis.

The local population said they have lost over twenty six thousand hectares, leaving them without the means to continue herding cattle and farming their lands.

“We prefer to die than to allow our land to be taken away by a foreign company. We shall not succumb to this new form of colonization” said Gorgui Sow, a member of the youth platform in Ndiael local community to fight the “illegal occupation”. Continue reading

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April 17: International day of peasant struggles

April 8, 2014. Source: La Via Campesina

Image: La Via Campesina

Image: La Via Campesina

This year we dedicate the 17th of April, international day of peasant struggles, to the defense of seeds. Seeds are an essential basis for achieving food sovereignty because almost everything in agriculture depends on them: What we can plant and how it is grown; the quality and nutrition of our food, our ability to account for different tastes and cultural preferences; and also the wellbeing of our communities, our ecosystems and the planet. In this article we explain why this implies not so much the defense of seeds as such but especially the defense of peasant seeds—that is, seeds that remain in the hands of the peasant and family farmers of the world. We also give some examples of how we are carrying out this defense among the organizations in the 73 countries that make up La Vía Campesina.

The seeds used in agriculture are different from those that exist in non-cultivated nature. Until several thousand years ago the enormous diversity of peasant varieties of rice, potatoes, cabbages or barley did not exist as such. The richness of our nutrition today is based on the knowledge, practices, visions and needs of the peasant communities around the world that created them in the first place. Continue reading

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