Tag Archives: biodiversity

Audio: This Week’s Earth Minute–Old Trees Crucial for Climate Mitigation

To listen to this week’s Earth Minute, click on the following link and go to minute 39:30:

Earth Minute 5/8/12

Text from this week’s Earth Minute:

On May second, scientists published a new study confirming that the biggest, oldest trees in the forest are crucial for mitigating climate change.

The study took place in Yosemite National Park where researchers found that while trees larger than 3-feet in diameter made up only 1% of the trees in the forest, they stored nearly half of the forest’s carbon.

This has significant implications for efforts to curb deforestation-related carbon emissions.

Industry would like us to believe that where climate change is concerned, a tree is a tree is a tree, and there is no difference between an industrial tree plantation and a native forest.  We can cut the forests, they argue, as long as we replant.

But as this study points out, you cannot merely “replace” trees that have 200 or more years of carbon stored in them.  You have to stop cutting them down.

The world’s remaining native forests need to be taken out of the hands of corporations and returned to the communities that depend on them–for this is one of the best ways to protect them.

For the Earth Minute and the Sojourner Truth show, this is Anne Petermann from Global Justice Ecology Project.

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Filed under Climate Change, Solutions

March Photo of the Month: GMO Protest, Sacramento, CA 2003

Protest in Sacramento, California during a meeting of the WTO’s Agricultural Ministers, hosted by the USDA in June 2003 in preparation for the WTO summit in Cancun that fall.  Global Justice Ecology Project co-founder Orin Langelle joined allies at this WTO miniterial to organize protests against the development of dangerous and uncontrollable genetically engineered trees.  Photo: Langelle/GJEP 
Global Justice Ecology Project coordinates the international STOP GE Trees Campaign.  We recently produced a briefing paper on the current status of genetically engineered trees, as well as a history of the campaign to stop GE trees, which we have led since 1999.On March 29th, Global Justice Ecology Project co-organized aconference on Synthetic Biology in Berkeley.
Industry plans to combine the use of GE trees and the use of manufactured and totally synthetic lifeforms to create so-called “advanced cellulosic biofuels.”  These synthetic organisms have never existed before and there is no way to know what would happen if they “escaped” into the environment.  This is a reckless technology that must be ended.Genetically engineered trees live for decades, can spread their pollen and seeds for up to hundreds of miles, making them much more dangerous than agricultural crops.  GE versions of native trees like poplar and pine will inevitably and irreversible contaminate native forests with their pollen and seeds, leading to total disruption of the forest ecosystem.  GE eucalyptus trees are non-native, invasive, highly flammable and deplete ground water.
Today the issue of GE trees is more urgent than ever with industry proposals to commercially release millions of GE eucalytpus trees in huge plantations pending with the USDA.  If approved, these plantations will exacerbate droughts and cause massive firestorms.  They must be banned.


Also check out the GJEP Photo Gallery, past Photos of the Month posted on GJEP’s website, or Langelle’s photo essaysposted on GJEP’s Climate Connections blog.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle

History and Photos of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees

Genetically engineered trees (GE trees) are also known as genetically modified trees (GM trees) or transgenic trees.  This refers to trees which have been genetically altered through the insertion of foreign DNA to give the trees unnatural characteristics such as the ability to kill insects, resist toxic herbicides, grow faster or have modified wood composition.

This Nov. 11, 2008 photo released by ArborGen shows a field trial of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in Sebring, Fla. South Carolina-based ArborGen received federal approval to plant 260,000 GE eucalyptus trees in locations around the South for use by International Paper, MeadWestvaco and Rubicon LTD. (AP Photo/ArborGen)

The release of GE trees into the environment is extremely dangerous and the impacts of the escape of these trees into native forest or other ecosystems is unknown, but likely to be extremely destructive.  If GE trees are released on a large scale, the escape of pollen or seeds from these trees is both inevitable and irreversible.  Contaminated trees would go on to contaminate more trees in an endless cycle.  For this reason, we began campaigning to stop GE trees as soon as we learned about them in 1999, when we were still Native Forest Network, launching the official first campaign against GE trees in June of 2000.  In April of 2003 we co-founded the STOP GE Trees Campaign.

Below is a brief history of the campaign to stop the release of genetically engineered trees.  Thanks to our generous supporters for making our work to protect forests and communities from the dangers of GE trees possible.

GE trees are still one disaster we can stop.  To join the campaign against GE trees email [email protected].  To sign the petition calling for a global ban on GE trees, please click here.  To read our report on the current status of GE trees, click here.

–Anne Petermann

Coordinator, STOP GE Trees Campaign

Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

History of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees

 June 2000: Campaign against GE trees launched at Biodevastation protest during Biotechnology Industry Organization national conference in Boston.  Washington Post runs front page article about the campaign.

May 2001: Chapter on the dangers of GE trees published by GJEP Co-Founder Orin Langelle in the book Redesigning Life.

July 2001: Native Forest Network (NFN) report released From Native Forests to Frankentrees: The Global Threat of Genetically Engineered Trees.

July 2001: NFN organizes protest at GE tree conference at Skamania Lodge in Washington state.

GE trees action at International Paper subsidiary in Sacramento, CA. Photo: Langelle

March 2003: Action for Social and Ecological Justice, Rainforest Action Network and Northwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering organize GE tree protests at the World Trade Organization agricultural negotiations in Sacramento, CA.

December 2003: UN Climate Convention’s Ninth Conference of the Parties (COP 9) in Milan, Italy decides that GE trees can be used in carbon offset forestry plantations.

April 2004: STOP Genetically Engineered Trees Campaign founded.  Founding members include Global Justice Ecology Project, Sierra Club, Southern Forests Network, Dogwood Alliance, Forest Ethics, Forest Guild, GE Free Maine (now Food for Maine’s Future), Institute for Social Ecology, Klamath-Siskyou Wildlands Center, Northwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), Rainforest Action Network.

April 2004: GJEP presents dangers of GE trees to delegates at the UN Forum on Forests in Geneva, Switzerland.

Mapuche activist shows us eucalyptus seedling covered with toxic pesticides responsible for contaminating the watershed. Photo: Langelle, 2004

September 2004: GJEP launches collaborative partnership with Indigenous Mapuche group Konapewman against GE trees and plantations in Chile.

October 2004: GJEP presents social and ecological dangers of GE trees during founding meeting of the Durban Group for Climate Justice in Durban, South Africa.

December 2004: World Rainforest Movement (WRM) report released, Genetically Engineered Trees, the Ultimate Threat to Forests.

December 2004: GJEP and WRM organize side event and press conference on social and ecological dangers of GE trees at the UN Climate Convention COP 10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mapuche participant presents threats to Indigenous peoples.

September 2005: Award-winning GE trees documentary released: A Silent Forest: The Growing Threat, Genetically Engineered Trees, narrated by renowned geneticist Dr. David Suzuki.

MST camp in Espirito Santo, Brazil. Banner reads "eucalyptus plantations are not forests." Photo: Langelle

November 2005: Global Justice Ecology Project, World Rainforest Movement and FASE host joint international strategy meeting on GE trees in Vitoria, Brazil.  Participants attend from five continents.

March 2006: STOP GE Trees Campaign and EcoNexus campaign against GE trees at UN Biodiversity Convention COP 8 in Curitiba, Brazil.  UN decides to warn countries about GE trees, calls for application of the Precautionary Principle and launches a study into the ecological and social impacts of GE trees.

July 2006: UN Food and Agriculture Organization releases a report titled, Preliminary Review of Biotechnology in Forestry, Including Genetic Modification. In it, a survey of GE tree researchers reveals that their topmost concern about GE trees is the “unintentional contamination of non-target species.”  Their second greatest concern is public opinion of GE trees.

Boat action in Charleston harbor protests industry conference on GE trees and plantations. Photo: Petermann

October 2006: STOP GE Trees Campaign, Rising Tide and Katuah Earth First! organize protests and a boat action organized around the International Union of Forest Research Organizations “2006 Forest Plantations Meeting” in Charleston, South Carolina, US.

May 2007: STOP GE Trees Campaign launches “National Effort to Stop Genetically Engineered Eucalyptus Plantations in US Southeast.”

June 2007: STOP GE Trees Campaign issues press release asking US health and environmental agencies to investigate potential link between pathogenic fungus and genetically engineered eucalyptus trees.

November 2007: Global Justice Ecology Project and Global Forest Coalition publish the report, The True Cost of Agrofuels: Impacts on Food, Forests, People and the Climate.

February 2008: GJEP, EcoNexus, GFC and WRM organize GE trees protest inside a UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) meeting in Rome.

April 2008: Global Justice Ecology Project, Global Forest Coalition and the STOP GE Trees Campaign release the report, GE Trees, Cellulosic Biofuels and Destruction of Forest Biological Diversity.


Frankenforests threaten to take over UN Convention on Biological Diversity conference in Bonn, Germany. Photo: Langelle

May 2008: A major series of protests and side events are organized by a large international alliance of groups and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations at the UN CBD convention in Bonn, Germany calling for a global ban on GE trees.  Unanimous support for the ban received from entire African delegation, many Latin American and Asian country delegations, and all NGOs and IPOs present.

November 2008: World Rainforest Movement releases GE Tree Research: A Country by Country Overview.

May 2009: Belgium Permanent Mission in Manhattan protested by Indigenous Peoples during the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues due to Belgium’s development of test plots of GE poplar trees.

May-June 2009: Living On Earth, an NPR program, interviews GJEP on the impacts of GE trees.

June 2009: Tree Engineer Steve Strauss, of Oregon State University, writes article “Strangled at Birth? Forest Biotech and the Convention on Biological Diversity” in Nature Biotechnology magazine which criticizes international regulatory hurdles created by GJEP’s efforts to ban GE trees internationally.

June 2009: The STOP GE Trees Campaign and allies submit nearly 17,500 public comments to the USDA opposing the USDA’s recommendation for approval of an ArborGen proposal to plant over a quarter of a million GE eucalyptus trees in test plots across seven states.  Only 39 favorable comments were received by the USDA.

August 2009: Jim Hightower national commentary airs: “The Invasion of Genetically Engineered Eucalyptus.”

Mapuche woman protests outside of the Belgian Mission in Manhattan. Photo: Langelle

October 2009: La Via Campesina, the world’s largest peasant farmer organization, organizes protests outside of the XIII World Forestry Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  GJEP speaks about GE trees.

February 2010: Groups Force USDA to re-release Draft Environmental Assessment on genetically engineered eucalyptus trees after their original EA lacked key US Forest Service hydrological studies.

May 2010: USDA approves ArborGen request to plant 260,000 genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in test plots across the US South despite overwhelming public opposition.

June 2010: Global Justice Ecology Project, Global Forest Coalition and Biofuelwatch release new report, Wood-based Bioenergy: The Green Lie, at the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany during a European tour on the issues of GE trees and wood-based bioenergy.

July 2010: Global Justice Ecology Project, Dogwood Alliance, Sierra Club, Center for Food Safety, International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Biological Diversity file suit against the USDA over their approval of ArborGen’s large-scale test plots of GE eucalyptus trees.

August 2010: Charlotte Observer editorial, “Could eucalyptus trees be the kudzu of the 2010s?” [Note: the Charlotte Observer is the largest newspaper near ArborGen’s headquarters.]

 September 2010: Global Justice Ecology Project, Dogwood Alliance and the STOP GE Trees Campaign release a 5 minute video on the dangers of large-scale tree plantations and genetically engineered trees.

October 2010: ArborGen announces plan for Initial Public Offering (IPO) to raise funds for research.

Protest against the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility at the UN Climate Conference in Bali, Indonesia in 2007. ArborGen is trying to get their GE trees into forest carbon offset projects. Photo: Langelle

2007-2010: GJEP organizes side events and press conferences with World Rainforest Movement, Global Forest Coalition, Climate Justice Now!, Indigenous Environmental Network and other groups at annual UN Climate Conferences linking GE trees to the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme and denouncing the UN’s definition of forests.

January 2011: ArborGen partner Range Fuels shutters taxpayer-subsidized cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia, due to their inability to manufacture affordable cellulosic ethanol.

January 2011: ArborGen submits request to USDA for full deregulation and commercial approval of their GE eucalyptus trees.

January 2011: Des Moines Register article, “Court challenges stall new biofuel crops.”

April 2011: Biomass Power & Thermal Magazine article, “Genetic Engineering Hang-Up: Lawsuit highlights a barrier to biotechnology advancements in the US”

 May 2011: ArborGen postpones IPO indefinitely.

 June 2011: STOP GE Trees Campaign Action Alert against ArborGen coincides with Tree Biotechnology 2011 conference in Brazil.

Protest outside of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative conference in Burlington, VT. Photo: Langelle

September 2011: Protest organized to counter the push for GE tree sustainability criteria at the 2011 conference of the Sustainable Forestry Initiative in Burlington, Vermont.

October 2011: USDA grants $136 million for research into GE trees and other wood for bioenergy.

October 2011: Judge in GE trees test plot lawsuit rules in favor of USDA.

October 2011: Commercial Appeal article, “Court loss won’t stop environmentalists’ battle against modified-eucalyptus trees” [note: the Commercial Appeal is the largest newspaper in Memphis–home to ArborGen co-owner International Paper].

November 2011: article, “GE Trees in Sweden Cause Concern.”

January 2012: New video A Darker Shade of Green Documents Critical Perspectives on REDD reveals global resistance to forest-carbon projects as well as GE trees.

February 2012: COST Alliance formed in EU to advance GE tree “sustainability criteria” by “…improving the scientific basis for safe tree development…with the intent to supply the world with fuel, fibre and energy.”

March 2012: Action Alert launched to stop the expansion of ArborGen’s GE eucalyptus test plots in the US South.

March 2012: ArborGen Board announces major changes to Senior Management.

The false solutions circus at VT Yankee Protest. Photo: Dylan Kelley

March 2012: Vermont Yankee Protest–Protesters link nuclear power and GE trees as dangerous “false solutions” to climate change.

For a complete listing of news around genetically engineered trees, go to: http://nogetrees.org

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Energy, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Indigenous Peoples, Posts from Anne Petermann, REDD, Water

Occupy: Behind the Movements for Change in Burlington and Around the World

Immediate Release                      November 17, 2011

 Because The System of Debt is the System of Death

Behind the Movements for Change in Burlington and Across the World

“Government officials … use their own refusal to provide basic public services to justify raids against Occupations.”

–Author Ted Rail

Global Justice Ecology Project Press Conference on the National Occupy Day of Action. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Burlington, VT–Two days after a late-night raid of the Occupy Wall Street encampment and one week after the Occupy Burlington camp was shut down, Global Justice Ecology Project held a press conference with members of Occupy Burlington at the site of the shut down Occupy Burlington encampment, to speak about protests being held in cities all over the world to stand up against the unprecedented consolidation of wealth by the 1% and its resulting devastation of people and the earth.

“Occupy Burlington was established to provide food and shelter and a space for people to self-organize, explained Cecile Reuge, a Senior at the University of Vermont and a member of Occupy Burlington.  “We never claimed City Hall Park as our own.  It sits on the traditional land of the Abenaki people, who never ceded it.  And more recently it has been the home for homeless people who were otherwise made to feel unwelcome in public and private spaces downtown. Occupy Burlington transcended class backgrounds, for the first time I could see on such a grand scale.”

“This is the heart of the Occupy movement: building a society that manages itself, democratically, towards real solutions instead of platitudes, campaign promises, and empty “outcomes” determined by the 1%,” added Ian Williams, a Burlington-based community organizer. “We’re trying, quite simply, to deal with real problems right here and right now. ”

Puja Gupta, a member of the Vermont Workers’ Center stated, “We, the 99%, are all striving for a livable and peaceful life. Rather than relying on politicians, we are relying on ourselves for real change; we are organizing; we have the answers.”

“We stand at a crossroads,” said Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project.  “The Earth is fast approaching a tipping point.  Forests are falling faster than ever, the oceans are being poisoned, species are going extinct at a rate not seen since the dinosaurs.  The web of life is literally falling apart.  But the power to transform this unjust and suicidal system lies with all of us.  It lies in the Arab Spring; and it lies with the Occupy movements.  You cannot arrest an idea, and this is an idea whose time has come.”

[Complete statements by the above speakers follow this release.]

Occupy Burlington events are planned throughout the evening, beginning with a march at the Burlington Post Office at 5:30pm.  There will also be a teach-in about labor issues at Edmunds Middle School at 6pm and a workshop at the Vermont Workers’ Center at 7:30.

Global Justice Ecology Project will be blogging daily and issuing press releases from the UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa.  They will be covering the official negotiations and the massive climate justice protests planned outside of the UN Climate Conference.

Contact: Orin Langelle, Global Justice Ecology Project, 802-578-6980


Complete statements by the above press conference speakers:

Statement by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Today, November 17th, the two-month anniversary of the launch of the Occupy Wall Street Movement, people around the world are rising up to say no more to the 1%.  Huge protests are planned or are underway in New York, Seattle, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, Portland, Miami, Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Milwaukee, Minneapolis and Washington, and there is a national call to occupy college campuses.

This is a lesson the 1% never seem to remember.  The more people are put down, the more they are repressed, the more they will stand up to power.

And it is not only in the United States that people are rebelling against injustice.  There are also protests in Greece, London and other cities across the world.

The 1% are the ones who’ve kicked millions of families out of their homes, they’re the ones who’ve left millions of Americans with no health care, they’re the ones who’ve cut social services to the point where children are going hungry and college students are graduating tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

But it is not just economic injustice; it is ecological injustice as well.  In a few days, Orin Langelle and I will travel to Durban, South Africa for the UN Climate Conference.  There is an Occupy movement building there too because the UN Climate Convention is another institution co-opted by the 1%.

This is because the 1% and their predecessors are also the people who’ve trashed the atmosphere–who’ve clogged it with pollution and greenhouse gas emissions so that here in Vermont we now get hit by hurricanes.

But in other parts of the world the impacts are much worse.  In Africa, there are large regions that have not seen rain in years.  The people there have lost their livelihoods.  All of their animals have died and many people are starving.  But the 1% have decided that food crops–like corn–grown here in the US, are better suited to make ethanol to feed cars than to feed starving people.

And now the 1% are in search of new riches–this time in the form of land.  They are using climate action as the excuse to grab the forested lands of Indigenous and forest peoples all around the world–but especially in Africa and Latin America.  Entire communities are being displaced, their cultures destroyed so that the carbon stored by their forests can be used to “offset” greenhouse gas emissions from industries run by the 1%.  This way they can claim to be reducing carbon emissions while their industries go right on polluting and poisoning poor neighborhoods nearby.  Meanwhile climate chaos is causing increasingly violent weather worldwide–and there are now more climate refugees than refugees from armed conflict.

We, the 99%, stand at a crossroads.  The Earth is fast approaching a tipping point.  Forests are falling faster than ever, the oceans are being poisoned, species are going extinct at a rate not seen since the dinosaurs.  The web of life is literally falling apart.  But the power to transform this unjust and suicidal system lies with all of us.  It lies in the Arab Spring; and it lies with the Occupy movements.

The authorities will try to discredit us, they will try to crush our movement.  They will use every excuse to try to shut us down.  But you cannot arrest an idea.  And this is an idea whose time has come.

Statement by Cecile Rouge, University of Vermont Senior & Occupy Burlington Participant

Cecile Reuge, member, Occupy Burlington. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

My involvement with Occupy Burlington began when I attended the first rally outside of Citizen’s Bank that happened to coincide with a free meal distribution by Food Not Bombs, which I was, at the time, coordinating with my friend Sydney. The Occupy Burlington movement was then made up of folks with different employment statuses, academic backgrounds, political stances, etc. but very few that I recognized from the many summer months I spent serving free food in the park. Although Food Not Bombs attracted a wide array of community members, never had I met so many people who were living without a home or had spent a period of time being homeless in the past. This contingent seemed to be missing from the 99% movement that I stood otherwise so firmly behind.

Just a couple weeks after the general assembly process was introduced into the group, the idea of a downtown occupation seemed imminent. On October 29th, 2011, this widespread sentiment culminated in the construction of a tent city on the south side of the park. Immediately, there was an outpouring of community support that took the form of donations of tents, sleeping bags, coats, sweaters, tarps, wood pallets, and many other materials we had requested on bulletin boards at the camp, through working groups and simply by word of mouth. As several general assembly and occupy participants noted, this land did not ever belong to Occupy Burlington group, but to the Abenaki people, who never ceded their territory, and more recently to the homeless who were otherwise made to feel unwelcome in public and private space downtown. The promise of food, shelter and space to talk and organize created an environment that transcended all class backgrounds, for the first time I could see on such a large scale. The 99% movement does not tolerate discrimination or stigmatization.

When Mayor Bob Kiss, less than one week ago, cited tents as a public safety concern, I could not help but question the legitimacy of this argument when I have met several individuals who cannot access temporary shelter or receive the health assistance they need in Burlington. How have these issues endured for so long and remained unaddressed?  In addition, a recent study released by the Department of Mental Health stated that the rate of suicides in the state of Vermont has increased by 13 percent in just the last two years. Why is this not a public safety concern?

I am here today as not only an individual troubled by homelessness and the lack of access to adequate health care, but as a student fighting for an affordable education and fair pay for the educators and maintenance workers at my University; and as a gardener perplexed by the inability of farmers to make a sufficient living in our current society. This is why the occupy movement appeals to me and to so many others. For the first time, I can express my urgent concern about these issues simultaneously with many others who are also expressing their concerns, because rather than being a competition over priorities, we acknowledge that all of these issues are interconnected.

The system is broken and must be transformed.

Statement by Ian G. Williams, Burlington Community Organizer and Participant of Occupy Burlington

Ian Williams, member, Occupy Burlington. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

I’ve been involved with the Occupy movement since the end of September, when I attended one of Occupy Boston’s first general assemblies while attending a conference of community organizations fighting for neighborhood self-management in cities throughout the US. I saw a natural alliance between the two, and after visiting Liberty Square in New York I was compelled to help develop the general assembly process in Burlington. I’ve recently been working in the nonprofit sector with immigrants and refugees.

The beauty of the Occupy movement is that it shifts public discourse from what’s “possible” to what actually matters. Crucial to this are assemblies, working groups, and the cultivation of democratic practices in everyday life. The occupation of City Hall Park was very much a part of this, creating a public space for ongoing dialogue. Occupying challenges us to push against the top-down repression by the wealthiest and most powerful, the 1%, be it through austerity measures cutting basic public services, while increasing war spending, increasing corporate bailouts as a reward for economic irresponsibility, or the recent surge in police violence against peaceful assemblies.

Here in Vermont, we have some wonderful things: Chittenden County contains the highest number of non-profits per capita in the United States, and is currently designated by the Office of Refugee Resettlement as one of the best regions for placement due to its relatively low unemployment, low crime rate, and general availability of essential services. Burlington has some of the most innovative community justice programs in the country. Vermont receives the most Federal funding for social programs. This paints a picture of a state with a vast array of social services, and many people who are committed to social change. It’s the Vermont many of us love, the progressive, open-minded state that’s paved the way for the nation to move forward with marriage equality and most recently, single-payer healthcare.

Amidst this rosy picture, however, are some grim facts. 81% of Vermonters cannot afford a median priced home. A recent analysis shows Burlington’s middle class shrinking faster than nearly anywhere else in the country. Over the last 15 years New England saw the fastest growth in income inequality of any region in America and the wealth gap grew faster in Vermont than in every other state but one. The wealthiest 1% of Vermonters saw their share of our income almost triple between 1970 and 2005. Put simply, the wealthy got more while most Vermonters saw their real incomes stay the same or go down.  In 2011 Vermont median household median income dropped 6.1%, more than any other state, a trend repeated in 2007 and 2008.

Meanwhile, as the gap between the rich and the poor widens, demand for services increases. State agencies faced a massive overhaul under former Governor Jim Douglas. Right now, nonprofits and social services face drastic funding cuts and must make difficult decisions about their futures. More Vermonters are in need of essential services while there is less funding available to provide them. Funding for essential services has further decreased under Governor Peter Shumlin, who in 2010 reported an estimated net worth of $10 million. Many of my friends working in nonprofits, frustrated with their situations, say they they feel inspired by Occupy Burlington to move their own issues from offices to the streets.

In the wake of Tropical Storm Irene, the state of Vermont is in an even worse crisis. Many state offices are closed or severely impaired, and the Vermont State Hospital was permanently shuttered. Relief programs are already underfunded, so disaster “recovery” has largely focused on private fundraising efforts. Public policy mouthpieces of the 1%, such as Bruce Lisbon, a retired JP Morgan Chase executive, and recent founder of the “Campaign for Vermont”, are using this crisis to argue for further cuts in public spending and a freeze on initiatives such as universal healthcare and alternative energy development,. This serves to remind us, the 99%, that politicians have failed us.  While the 1% who control politics in Vermont and DC battle over how best to further disempower everyday people and marginalize and dismantle the Occupy encampments, we are left with a question: do we wait for things to crumble around us, or do we try and solve our problems on our own terms, collectively, before it’s too late?

This is the heart of the Occupy movement: building a society that manages itself, democratically, towards real solutions instead of platitudes, campaign promises, and empty “outcomes” determined by what the 1% is willing to fund. Instead of offloading and outsourcing social problems, we’re trying, quite simply, to deal with them right here and right now. It’s messy, it’s imperfect, but it’s a process that’s run by those most affected by the decisions, and one that takes seriously their concerns and objections. The 1% will say that we’re too messy–that we can’t possibly handle these complex problems. This misses the point: we don’t need experts to solve our problems for us. We need ourselves, in unity.

I invite Vermont’s civil servants, community organizers, and nonprofit workers to join us in directly addressing the rise in poverty, and the growing wealth gap here in Vermont.

Come out to the streets and join us. The time to act is now; there has never been a more urgent time in the struggle for justice.

Statement by Puja Gupta, member of the Vermont Workers’ Center and Participant of Occupy Burlington

Puja Gupta, member, Occupy Burlngton. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Hi, my name is Puja Gupta and I am member of the Vermont Workers’ Center.  I am a participant in the Occupy Burlington movement.  The abuses of power that the Occupy Movement has brought to the forefront of the national discussion are the same oppressive forces that push down the labor movement.  In the US, we are seeing unprecedented wealth taken away from the working class and delivered to the top 1% over the past forty years.  Labor laws are stripping working people of the right to organize in Wisconsin, a reflection on the current political landscape for labor, nationally.  While the top 1% is reaping political and economic benefits over our country, the 99%, the workers, everyone else are subject to their whims.  The Wall Street created crisis is only making it harder for working class Vermonters, who are struggling, often working two jobs to make ends meet.  We are facing an economic crisis at a scale never before seen in Vermont. Surely this merits at least as much discussion as tent stakes from the media and politicians.

The Occupy Movement and labor are organizing locally in Vermont and at the national level to demand systemic changes to our broken system.  The Occupy movement values a diversity of tactics, including organizing. Organizing is a strategy that works.  The Vermont Workers’ Center Healthcare is a Human Right campaign is an example of organizing success.  The campaign is a grassroots effort amongst Vermonters that resulted in universal single payer healthcare legislation being passed at the state level.  We hold the principles of universality, transparency, participation, equity, and accountability at high priority as we continue to pressure our legislators through the implementation process.  The resurgence of energy that the Occupy Movements have initiated around economic and political injustices will fuel more efforts like these throughout Vermont and the country. Community and labor organizing are the democratic and empowering answer to the suffocated and ineffective system.  We, at the Vermont Workers’ Center and the Occupy Movement, the 99%, are each working to educate and organize ourselves and the entire state of Vermont.

Today, November 17th, is a day of solidarity and the two-month anniversary of the Occupy Movement.  In cities across the U.S, labor unions, community groups and the Occupy Movement are holding marches, rallies and protests to highlight the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and to demand economic justice. The national call to action comes from Occupy Wall St., the AFL-CIO, Move On, and SEIU, and from several major unions based in NYC. Occupy Burlington and a number of community and labor organizations are hosting a march, teach-in, and speak-out.  We are coming together to Resist austerity, Reclaim the economy and to Recreate our democracy.  The event will start at 5:15 with a march from the Burlington Post Office in solidarity with the Postal Workers, to Edmunds Middle School at 6:00 for a teach-in with workers issues and labor struggles.  Then at 7:30 the Vermont Workers’ Center is hosting it’s Put People First Community Meeting in which Vermonters will learn how to organize for their human rights, including the right to a livable wage, healthy food, affordable housing, public transportation, childcare, education, and healthcare.  As Vermonters, we are coming together and standing up locally for our human rights.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Posts from Anne Petermann

Occupy Burlington Dialogue on Ecology and Justice-The System of Debt is the System of Death

 Bridging mass movements for economic and environmental justice

                          The System of Debt is the System of Death:

Examining the intertwined root causes of the crises we face

A workshop and dialogue hosted by Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle

of Hinesburg-based Global Justice Ecology Project

11am, City Hall Park

Saturday, Nov. 12th

  “We live in a toxic crisis-ridden world because choices are driven, not by ethics or morals, not by justice vs. injustice, not even by objective science.  Choices are driven by the bottom line.  The 1% who run corporations make their decisions based on profits–on advancing their own self-interests to the detriment of all other life on Earth.”

In this workshop, we will discuss the intertwined root causes of the crises we face, and develop ideas about what we can do to build alliances based on these commonalities to diversify and strengthen our movement.

Coordinated by the #OWS-VT Burlington Environmental Working Group


The System of Debt is the System of Death Workshop/Dialogue

The use of taxpayer money for the outrageous bailouts of banks engaged in high stakes gambling, and the subsequent slashing of the social safety net has mobilized people, around the world, with “occupy” movement rising up in 1,500 cities globally.  One of the biggest galvanizing issues has been rapidly expanding economic injustice, exemplified in the U.S. by the enormous debt burdens being carried by graduating college students.

Combined with the million plus people who’ve lost their homes to foreclosure because of predatory lending scams by huge financial firms, there is no doubt as to why many thousands of people across the U.S. are mobilizing for a more just economic system.

But the financial crisis and its outcomes are merely symptoms of a much greater crisis.  The crisis of death: exemplified by the climate crisis, the food crisis, the water crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and on and on…

The climate crisis is fast becoming climate catastrophe as region after region suffers the impacts of extreme weather–from floods to hurricanes to droughts to tornadoes to snowstorms–in a trend that shows no sign of slowing down.

Hundreds of species go extinct every day to extinction.  The oceans have lost 90% of their life due to industrial fishing and climate change. The world’s forests–known both as the cradles of biodiversity and the lungs of the earth–are rapidly being destroyed, and there are plans to accelerate this deforestation to produce wood-based electricity.

We live in a tangled and beautiful web of life. This means that these myriad crises are reflected in our own bodies. Cancer is an epidemic.  One in two men in the U.S. will develop cancer over the course of their lives; as will one in three women. Think about all of your family and friends.  Now realize that one in two or one in three of them will develop some form of cancer.  Imagine what that means.

We live in a toxic crisis-ridden world because choices are driven, not by ethics or morals, not by justice vs. injustice, not even by objective science.  Choices are driven by the bottom line.  The 1% who run corporations make their decisions based on profits–on advancing their own self-interests to the detriment of all other life on Earth.

The system must be transformed.  It cannot be sustained.

In this workshop, we will discuss the intertwined root causes of the crises we face, and develop ideas about what we can do to build alliances based on these commonalities to diversify and strengthen our movement.


Outrage! Many young people were rounded up after a protest and put on a bus to take them off the grounds of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (2010) in Cancun, Mexico. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC


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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Natural Disasters, Rio+20

Earth Minute: White House Protest Against the Tar Sands: Honor Treaties–Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

Global Justice Ecology Project partners with Margaret Prescod’s Sojourner Truth show on KPFK–Pacifica Los Angeles radio show for a weekly Earth Minute on Tuesdays and a weekly 12 minute Environment Segment every Thursday.

This week’s Earth Minute discusses the Indigenous Peoples’ protest against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project that occurred in Washington DC on Sunday, November 6th.  To listen to this week’s Earth Minute, click here.

Text from this week’s Earth Minute:

This past Sunday, thousands of people traveled to the White House to protest the massive pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from the devastated boreal forests of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. President Obama will decide if the pipeline project can proceed in early 2012.

While the US is obligated to honor the Treaties it made with the Lakota and other indigenous nations, there has been virtually no consultation regarding the environmental impact of this massive pipeline that would endanger their lands.

At the DC rally, Cree/Métis Tantoo Cardinal, stated, “I was raised in the Fort McMurray area, the heart of the current tar sands projects. We are all protectors of the land and water. If you were to see with your own eyes the incredible destruction of our ecosystem, you’d understand that blind greed is destroying our land, water, and way of life.”

If approved, US based Native Nations in solidarity with First Nations from Canada have sworn to stop the pipeline.

For the Earth Minute and the Sojourner Truth show, this is Anne Petermann from Global Justice Ecology Project.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Earth Minute, Energy, Indigenous Peoples, Posts from Anne Petermann, Tar Sands, Water

We’re not Giving Up the Fight to STOP GE Trees!

Note: We sent out this press release in response to a court decision to allow the planting of 260,000 genetically engineered eucalyptus trees across seven U.S. states.  We are vowing to continue to fight to stop the commercial approval of these disastrous GE trees–and all GE trees.  Please support this crucial work to stop this disaster before it is too late.  Send a donation today.

For Immediate Release                                                             October 26, 2011

Legal Setback Will Not Deter Action to Stop Engineered Eucalyptus Trees

Court Rules Secret Genetically Engineered Tree Test Plots Do Not Need Environmental Oversight

Miami, Florida–On October 7, 2011, the 11th Circuit U.S. District Court for Southern Florida ruled that the planting of more than a quarter of a million genetically engineered (GE) non-native eucalyptus trees can proceed in secret test plots across seven southern states. [1] The ruling was the result of a lawsuit filed against the USDA, which approved the test plots. The suit to stop the dangerous GE tree test plots from moving forward was filed on July 1st, 2010 by six organizations: Center for Biological Diversity,  Center for Food SafetyDogwood AllianceGlobal Justice Ecology Project, the International Center for Technology Assessment  and Sierra Club.

While the October 7th court ruling approved the test plots, it left the door open for future challenges to the large-scale commercial planting of these trees.

“We are not at all discouraged,” stated Dr. Neil Carman of the Sierra Club. “Although it denied our claims, the court noted that the agency and industry will have to address the potential harmful impacts of GE eucalyptus trees in any proposed commercial approval. We will remain vigilant andfully involved in this process to ensure these issues are addressed and prevented.”

The ruling favors ArborGen, the corporation that designed the GE trees and hopes to sell half a billion per year for planting in the U.S. South. [2] The court’s decision was made despite serious concerns raised, not only by environmental groups, but by government agencies including the Florida Exotic Plant Pest Council, the Georgia Department of Wildlife, and the US Forest Service. These concerns include documented impacts of eucalyptus trees, such as water depletion, displacement of wildlife, invasiveness and firestorms. These concerns are magnified because these GE eucalyptus trees have been engineered to tolerate cold so they can grow and spread outside of their natural geographic boundaries.

Because of these serious concerns, during the USDA comment period on the test plots, nearly 20,000 people demanded the GE eucalyptus trees be rejected.

In their comments to the USDA recommending the GE eucalyptus test plots be rejected, the Georgia Wildlife Resources Division explained the wildfire concerns, “The leaves of eucalyptus trees produce large amounts of volatile oils [allowing] accumulation of highly combustible fuels. Consequently, dense eucalyptus plantations are subject to catastrophic firestorms. Once ignited, these fires would grow vigorously, potentially spreading to other properties.” [3] Georgia, one of the states targeted for these plantations, is currently experiencing exceptional drought.

“ArborGen’s GE eucalyptus trees are an ecological nightmare,” added Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, which has offices in Vermont and Oakland. “Eucalyptus are so invasive, they’ve been likened to Kudzu, the non-native vine that has devoured parts of the U.S. South. [4] But eucalyptus are worse-they are flammable kudzu. Growing them in plantations across millions of acres from Texas to South Carolina, which ArborGen’s parent companies International Paper and MeadWestvaco hope to do, could lead to horrific wildfires. The last thing drought-prone Texas needs is more fuel for wildfires.”

October 20th was the twenty-year anniversary of the Oakland, California firestorms, which burned 1,520 acres and destroyed more than 3,800 dwellings. The economic loss was estimated at $1.5 billion. The presence of highly combustible eucalyptus trees contributed greatly to this catastrophic firestorm. [5]

The U.S. Forest Service also submitted comments to the USDA noting that GE eucalyptus will require twice as much water as other forests in the South, “whether it is planted or invades native forests.” Stream flow, the Forest Service added, “would be about 20% lower in eucalyptus plantations than pine plantations.” [6] Eucalyptus plantations would worsen the droughts plaguing the U.S. South.

The Georgia Wildlife Resources Division added, “Eucalyptus plantations will be extremely inhospitable environments for native flora and fauna.” “…we have serious concerns about potential impacts on hydrology, soil chemistry, native biodiversity, and ecosystem functions,” the state agency said.

The Florida Exotic Plant Pest Council also recommended rejecting ArborGen’s request for GE eucalyptus test plots based on their potential for invasiveness. “Invasive plants negatively affect our native species…” E. grandis, one of the parent species of this GE hybrid, is a known invasive in Florida, South Africa, New Zealand and Ecuador. The Florida agency further warned that the cold tolerance trait of the GE eucalyptus increases the threat of invasiveness. “If sterility of the [GE eucalyptus] is not permanent and 100% … the [GE eucalyptus] itself may acquire the ability to become invasive across the southeastern U.S.” [7]

“It’s a sad state of affairs that the courts ignored the communities, organizations and landowners of the South who have serious concerns about the impacts of these trees and want to see them stopped,” said Scot Quaranda, Campaign Director at Dogwood Alliance, a plaintiff in the case. “The decision opens the door for ArborGen’s Frankentrees to release seeds into the wild. Neighboring landowners are not even aware of the threat, since there’s no requirement that the company disclose the locations of the GE eucalyptus trees. This is an outrageous failure of oversight.”

Contacts: Scot Quaranda, Dogwood Alliance: +1.828.242.3596
Neil Carman, Sierra Club: +1.512.663.9594
Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project, STOP GE Trees Campaign +1.802.578.0477
[1] http://globaljusticeecology.org/files/10-06-11%20GE%20Euc%20Decision.pdf The seven southern states include Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.

[2] Rubicon’s 2009 annual report to shareholders.  Email [email protected] to receive the PDF of Rubicon’s shareholders report.  The reference to ArborGen producing half a billion GE eucalyptus annually for biofuel production in the US South can be found on page 8.


[4] A Charlotte Observer Editorial called GE eucalyptus trees, “The kudzu of the 2010s.”

[5] http://www.sfmuseum.org/oakfire/overview.html

[6] Comments submitted by the U.S. Forest Service expressing concerns about the impacts on water from the GE eucalyptus planting can be found in the Environmental Assessment, Appendix III


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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Greenwashing

Court loss won’t stop environmentalists’ battle against modified-eucalyptus trees

Environmentalists are vowing to continue their fight against genetically engineered “frankentrees” after losing a test case in Florida earlier this month.

“We’re not terribly discouraged,” said Anne Petermann, executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project and the coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign.

“We’ll wait until the next stage of the regulatory process and intervene there,” said Mike Stark, communications director for the Center for Biological Diversity, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that aimed to block field tests of genetically modified eucalyptus trees across the South.

The trees in question were developed by Arborgen, a joint venture of Memphis-based International Paper, MeadWestvaco Corp. and New Zealand-based Rubicon Ltd.

Industry expects the fight to continue.

Eucalyptus trees are not native to North America. They grow much quicker than native trees, but typically do not survive freezing temperatures. Arborgen has aimed to engineer hybrids that survive freezing weather and are sterile.

International Paper is interested in developing plantations of the fast-growing Australian hardwood throughout the southeastern U.S. to provide pulp for making paper and raw materials for biofuel refiners.

In May 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture decided to allow the planting and flowering of 260,000 genetically engineered hybrids of eucalyptus trees at 28 test sites in seven southeastern states.

The Sierra Club blasted the decision as tantamount to commercial approval. Joining with the Center for Biological Diversity and four other environmental organizations, they challenged the approvals in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, alleging that they violated federal environmental regulations and decision-making rules.

On Oct. 6, U.S. Dist. Judge K. Michael Moore ruled against the environmentalists on every count. He rejected the argument that the large number of plantings allowed amounted to commercialization, then dismissed several of the environmentalists’ objections as irrelevant to a process for allowing limited scientific tests.

Reports from the Government Accountability Office and the USDA’s Office of Inspector General that criticized the department for poor management of field tests of genetically engineered organisms “have no bearing on this matter,” he ruled, because they did not address the specific field tests proposed for eucalyptus trees, but “only the agency’s handling of genetically engineered organisms generally.”

Stark said the next step would be to wait until the USDA takes up Arborgen’s petition to deregulate the genetically engineered eucalyptus hybrid. Deregulation would allow anyone to plant the hybrids anywhere without regulatory review.

“We would expect them to call for public comment and do an environmental impact statement,” which would give environmentalists more opportunities to intervene, he said.

“This has prepared us for that process,” Petermann added.

Biotech companies expect environmentalists to object when they seek to deregulate a product in order to commercialize it.

This lawsuit, however, troubled the whole biotech industry, said Nancy Hood, director of public affairs and sustainability for Arborgen, “because they were challenging scientific trials, not commercialization or commercial plantings.”

“It was really extreme,” she said. “It was like saying, ‘We aren’t interested in science.'”

While the battle in court was fought over differing interpretations of arcane federal regulations, the real battle is between two very different, but equally speculative, views of the future.

For the timber and forest industries, genetically engineered eucalyptus offers a way for timber-related companies and communities to survive and compete with Brazil and supply the pulp needed to meet demands for paper and the feedstock to produce biofuels to power America’s transportation system.

“Proceeding with the field trial research is critical to determine if these highly productive hardwood trees can become a new sustainable source of wood for pulp and paper, and for renewable energy — including biopower and biofuels — in the southeastern United States, where many communities depend on the timber and emerging renewable energy industries for their livelihoods,” said Tom Ryan, senior manager public relations, International Paper.

That assumes that biofuels will compete effectively with oil sands, natural gas and electricity to power the cars of the future.

For environmentalists, genetically engineered eucalyptus is a 21st century kudzu vine, an environmental disaster waiting to happen.

Petermann said that International Paper has said it wants to plant 42 million acres of eucalyptus forest in the southeastern U.S. Since eucalyptus trees take up twice as much water as do pine trees, that would reduce the water levels of nearby streams by 20 percent while layering the ground with highly flammable leaf litter and depriving native wildlife of food, she said.

If the engineered sterility isn’t 100 percent effective and eucalyptus trees spread into the wild and displace native species, it would be worse. Larger areas would become forested with trees that don’t support native wildlife, and that burn more readily than native species and siphon water out of streams, she said.

Either way, she said, it would be disastrous for the environment and for all the companies and communities that rely on hunting, fishing, bird-watching and other forms of nature tourism for their livelihoods.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, GE Trees