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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Ife Kilimanjaro’s perspective starting the Venezuela Pre-COP

Ife Kilimanjaro is co-director of the East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) and one of the three delegates from the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance at the Venezuela Social Pre-COP, along with Tom Goldtooth (Indigenous Environmental Network) and Diana Lopez (Southwest Workers Union). She shares her perspective on the pre-COP in a recent blog post, beginning with concerns and questions shared by others:

Though there are some questions circulating about the underlying intentions of the Venezuelan government and caution by people who know what it is like to be tokenized or have their work/ideas appropriated by larger bodies and institutions (be spoken for by them), one thing is clear; that this is a huge (though not unprecedented) undertaking deserving of note.

She further articulates goals similar to that expressed by Anne Petermann’s first post from the Pre-COP, but also adding specific events of particular interest:

While here, we aim to  deepen relationships with national and international groups that work to address the causes and impacts of climate change; deepen understanding among international allies of the ways that people of color, poor folks and Indigenous communities are negatively impacted by U.S.-led domestic and international policies and practices; and build unity and support toward the Our Power national gathering (Richmond) and the People ‘s Summit (New York). 

These goals and topics, hopefully, will be further developed in the days to come.

 

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Venezuela Blog post #2: Buen Vivir vs. Predator Capitalism

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, from the Social PreCOP in Venezuela

Traditional dancers and music at the Social PreCOP dinner reception in Venezuela. Photo: Petermann

Another theme of the Social PreCOP meeting I am attending in Venezuela is Buen Vivir, loosely translated as “the good life,” a worldview toward which increasing numbers, especially in Latin America, are striving. Buen Vivir speaks to a philosophy of living derived from an Indigenous worldview that life should be about living in harmony with one’s community and one’s environment—and not about exploitation or commerce or about making others rich with one’s labor.

Achieving Buen Vivir is directly linked to the official theme of the conference: Changing the System, Not the Climate. This theme’s roots come from the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen in 2009. There, the US led secret meetings with a small cabal of countries to hammer out the infamous “Copenhagen Accord,” which was introduced at the last minute to the negotiations, flying in the face of the long arduous consensus process in which the other delegates had been engaged for two weeks.

Climate Justice Action and Climate Justice Now! organized a “Reclaim Power” march in Copenhagen, where more than 300 Indigenous Peoples, social movements, NGOs, activists and even country delegates marched out of the conference, demanding “system change not climate change.” They attempted to meet up with activists marching to the conference from the outside for a Peoples’ Assembly, where real peoples’ solutions to the climate crisis would be identified. The assembly was brutally attacked by the Danish Police, and several activists were charged with terrorism.

Bsq6Pm5IQAA5NaKAccording to Venezuelan Climate delegate Claudia Salerno in her address to the crowd yesterday morning here, Hugo Chavez was so inspired by the march out and the outrage of the activists against the US manipulations that he brought the idea of “System Change not Climate Change” into his thinking about climate change. In Venezuela’s final Copenhagen press release he stated:

In Copenhagen, from the beginning, the cards were on the table for all to see. On the one hand, the cards of brutal meanness and stupidity of capitalism, which did not budge in defense of its logic: the logic of capital, which leaves only death and destruction in its wake at an increasingly rapid pace.  One the other hand, the cards of the peoples demanding human dignity, the salvation of the planet, and for a radical change, not of the climate, but of a world system that has brought us to the bring of unprecedented ecological and social catastrophe.

Salerno led the effort inside the negotiations to ensure Obama’s Copenhagen Accord was rejected. There was a moment at the end of the negotiations, in the middle of the night where she, using her metal name tag as a gavel, demanded attention from the COP President who was ignoring her.  She famously cut open her hand in her attempt, but was ultimately successful, and the Copenhagen Accord was merely “Acknowledged” and not adopted—a huge blow to President Obama.

The utter lack of real progress, and the growing domination of the climate talks by corporate interests is part of the story of how this Social PreCOP meeting came about. The goal of this meeting and the next PreCOP meeting in November is to bring the demands of the People to the governments of the world in advance of the next Climate Conference in Lima, Peru as a means to create a great mobilization to contribute to the salvation of life on earth—and the human species.  The Venezuelan government hopes to incorporate the social movement agendas into the official framework and negotiations, to speak, as they put it, “against the Capitalist predator model.”

While I honestly cannot bring myself to believe that the UN Climate Conference will accomplish anything but more of the same, I am here for the work outside of the official agenda, the face time with allies, the discussions between social movements from different parts of the world to share their experiences in dealing with the climate crisis. I am here to learn what People are doing/inventing/exploring in their efforts to cope with/address/take action against the horrific reality of climate change, on top of the already horrific reality of the neoliberal stranglehold attempting to choke the independence, the creativity and the life out of the vibrant and rich countries of the Global South—the heart of Buen Vivir.

Photo 1: 7/15 event, taken by Anne Petermann
Photo 2: Claudia Salerno at opening event, Social PreCOP Twitter feed

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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.

Anne-Venezuela1

“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.

Anne-Venezuela7-15

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Climate Connections Transition

GJEP has now completed the first stage of our transition of Climate Connections to a new host (we hope!).

We apologize for any junk emails created in the transition.

This week, we’re building back up, with a post or two a day and more info on who we are!

Thanks for your patience. Please let us know of any problems: info@globaljusticeecology.org.

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Note to Subscribers

Hello!

Thank you for subscribing t0 GJEP’s news blog Climate Connections. We will be moving soon to a new host. Nothing should change with our name, URL, or your email subscription. If you subscribe as a WordPress.com user, you may need to resubscribe by email. Please check back to our website next Monday to resubscribe if that’s the case.

We look forward to the improved site!

- the GJEP team

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Syngenta withdraws emergency ‘neonic’ request in UK

By Damian Carrington, July 4, 2014. Source: The Guardian

Photograph by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Photograph by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

Pesticide maker Syngenta has withdrawn an “emergency” application to use a banned insecticide on up to a third of all oilseed rape in the UK. The U-turn follows a major outcry from green campaigners but the company blamed the government for failing to make a decision in time for crop sowing.

Syngenta’s neonicotinoid pesticide was given a two-year ban by the European Union in 2013 due to research linking it to serious harm in bees. Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticide and in June an international scientific review concluded that contamination was so pervasive it threatened global food production.

Read more of Damian Carrington’s article here.

 

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An entire island nation is preparing to evacuate to Fiji before they sink into the Pacific

By Gwynn Guilford, July 1, 2014. Source: Quartz

Photo from Reuters by David Gray

Photo from Reuters by David Gray

This has to be the weirdest business deal of the week: The Church of England just sold a chunk of forest-covered land on the Fijian island Vanau Levu for $8.8 million to the government of the Pacific island nation of Kiribati. For the moment, Kiribati plans to use its 20-square-kilometer (7.7-square-mile) plot for agriculture and fish farming. But the investment is really a fallback for its 103,000 residents—a place to live if they must leave their home island.

“We would hope not to put everyone on [this] one piece of land, but if it became absolutely necessary, yes, we could do it,” president Anote Tong told the Associated Press, via the Guardian. Tong is awaiting parliamentary approval of the land purchase before clearing that possibility formally with Fiji’s officials.
Why is Tong preparing for a mass defection to an island 2,000 kilometers away?

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Mega-Dams in Sarawak threaten indigenous tribes with ethnocide

By Amanda Stephenson, July 3, 2014. Source: Counterpunch

www.theecologist.org

www.theecologist.org

Sarawak, Malaysia, is located on the island of Borneo, the third largest island in the world. Sarawak is home to thousands of endemic species, forty indigenous groups, and one of the largest transboundary rainforests remaining in the world.

The state is also suffering from one of the world’s highest rates of deforestation; only 5% of its primary forests remain. Now, Sarawak’s forests and their inhabitants face another threat: the damming of its rivers for hydroelectric power.

The Malaysian government and its state-owned energy utility Sarawak Energy Berhad (SEB) plan to build 12 large dams, due to produce 7,000 MW (megawatts) of electricity. Six of them are scheduled for completion by 2020. Continue reading

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EarthWatch: Irene Majorie/ Portland Rising Tide

Our weekly “Earth Watch” our guest is Irene Majorie with Portland Rising Tide. Why did she lock herself to metal and a 55-gallon barrel filled with concrete? What are the dangers of transporting oil by rail?

Global Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Pacifica Los Angeles for a weekly Earth Minute each Tuesday and Earth Watch interview each Thursday.

 

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