Tag Archives: biodiversity


For Our Rights and the Rights of Nature, Against the Commodification of Life and the Greenwashing of Capitalism

Social Movements in the People’s Summit for social and environmental justice, against the commodification of life and nature and in defense of the commons

We, organizations, networks and social movements, involved in the building of the Peoples’ Summit for social and environmental justice, against the commodification of life and nature in defense of the commons to be held in Río de Janeiro, Brazil, June 18 to 23, 2012, simultaneous to and in the same city as the United Nations’ Conference on Sustainable Development (Río+20), call for the mobilization and coordination of struggles across the planet. To ensure fulfillment of the rights of all peoples, especially those most vulnerable, to have access to water, food, energy, land, seeds, territories, and decent livelihoods, and to demand the rights of Mother Earth. As part of this process of articulation, we are building together an activity to be held in Río, the Permanent Peoples’ Assembly .

This Assembly will have the challenge to give voice to the women and men, young and old, who are resisting daily the advance of a development model that is by definition unsustainable: a model whose predatory inhumanity is trying to subject every aspect of life to the dictates of the market, always putting the profits of a few ahead of everyone’s buen vivir or wellbeing, while simultaneously trying to hide behind a green-washed face.

It was during the Río Conference in 1992 – the so-called Earth Summit, or Río’92 – that an almost unprecedented social mobilization in the face of an official conference gave way, among other things, to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity and to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

It is the founding principles of that Convention on Climate Change- the historical responsibility of the industrialized countries for climate change, ecological and climate debt, and thus common but differentiated responsibilities for its treatment – which are now suffering as never before the onslaught of the most concentrated forms of capital in their attempt to turn all of life into a commodity at the service of their profits. Following on the setbacks marked in the climate negotiations in Copenhagen (2009) and Cancun (2010), there is no reason to expect less disappointing results from the COP17 in Durban (from November 28 to December 9, 2011). Also after the COP10 of the Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya (2010), the mercantilization of Nature also got a central role with the proposal of the so called innovative financial mechanisms that replicate the logic of the failed carbon markets.

But it was also in Río’92 when the corporate world began to raise the banner of “sustainable development,” seeing the possibility of turning it into a good business. That same concept, complemented during Rio+10 by that of “corporate social responsibility” and subverted to the core by the simultaneous neoliberal opening and deregulation and global financialization of the hegemonic capitalist economy, is now wreaking havoc in the lives of people and the planet and threatens even worse impacts. It is this agenda that is being deepened through the mechanisms and structural adjustment policies of the so-called “green economy.” Just like the neoliberal agenda of essential service privatizations in the ‘90s, the “green economy” is all about liberalizing market access to Nature, dividing it up into components such as carbon, biodiversity, and environmental services, while at the same time generating new instruments of financial speculation, corporate control, and the emptying of territories.

Given this reality, we need to turn Río+20 into a strong process of global mobilization that confronts the reality of a system of death that will stop at nothing to perpetuate itself, and strengthens our resistance and struggles for survival through the building of non-capitalist alternatives, such as food sovereignty. The continuity and depth of current crises, its’ systemic and increasingly militarized and violent nature, the lack of adequate response by most governments, and the taking hostage of multilateral negotiations by geopolitical and big corporate interests, all lend urgency to the need to build this process as our own pluralistic, democratic, and autonomous space, with a strong message and concrete achievements. It must be able to give echo to our denunciations and demands as well as to reproduce our creativity and strengths, our solidarity and hope.

Faced with the huge festival of false solutions that the large corporations, banks and international financial institutions, and accomplice governments are preparing for Río+20, in order to consolidate a green-washed capitalism as the only response to the multiple crises they themselves are responsible for unleashing – economic, ecological food, energy, democratic, climate, rights, gender, in short, a civilizational crisis – the Peoples’ Summit will have the challenge to articulate and draw attention to the real solutions that peoples everywhere are building, in the fields and forests, factories, communities, neighborhoods, schools, and other places of work and livelihood.

We, therefore make a call to engage in this process and to mobilize everywhere towards Río+20: promoting campaigns, initiatives of debates and capacity-building, broadening platforms for joint strategy and action, coordination and solidarity support among struggles and specific demands that bring us together.

We call on the peoples and movements struggling against all forms of exploitation, depredation and domination, to join with us in building the P ermanent Peoples’ Assembly , in order to affirm our rights and those of nature against the commodification of life and the greenwashing of capitalism, under the rhetoric of the “green economy”.

Through testimony and analysis, exchange and solidarity, mobilization and concrete actions, the Assembly will also be challenged to strengthen participating struggles and call for new actions and initiatives, generating new platforms of unity. In this regard, in the Permanent Peoples’ Assembly , those who are affected and who are the true creditors of the social and financial, ecological and climatic, democratic and gender debts that throughout the development of capitalism, patriarchy, imperialism, racism, and anthropocentrism have been accumulating, will be challenged to contribute significantly to the coordination of our diverse efforts to develop non-capitalist economies and societies that are fair and equitable, in harmony with nature and all beings, overcoming hunger, impoverishment, exploitation and oppression, building on the basis of the many ongoing struggles and helping to prepare to confront the strategic challenges of the near future.

Self-organized activities will also be held on critical aspects of the processes of systemic and civilizational transformation, and the Summit will include opportunities to get to know and support directly the struggles of the inhabitants of Río de Janeiro and elsewhere in their efforts to survive the onslaught of capitalism and its greenwashing, including mega-events, land grabbing, mega-projects, the so-called clean development mechanisms, and many other acronyms and misleading names such as REDD, REDD+, biofuels, etc. We will denounce the perpetrators, organize direct actions, and, as befits, celebrate the life and hope that are born and nurtured in our struggles and victories.

Let´s mobilize together to build the P eoples’ Summit for social and environmental justice against the commodification of life and nature in defense of the commons , and the Permanent Peoples’ Assembly , on the basis of the many ongoing struggles in defense of life, sovereignty -food, energy, financial, territorial, and political- self-determination, equality, and human and nature rights, analyzing the origins of the present crisis and new forms of capitalist accumulation, colonization, and slavery. As social movements, organizations, and networks, let us unite to ensure that Río+20 becomes a massive, global popular mobilization that strengthens our capacity to act locally, regionally, and globally in order to address capitalism`s green advance. Rio +20 must be a starting point for a more just society with more solidarity. December 4, 2011

Let us build together!

Life is not for sale, it must be defended!

We, the peoples, are the creditors!

Let’s globalize the struggle, let’s globalize hope!

We will continue until all are free!

Continental Cry of the Excluded, Convergence of Movements of the Peoples of the Americas, Coordinator of Andean Indigenous Organizations, Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean, Grassroots Global Justice, Jubilee South/Americas, Oilwatch, Southern People’s Ecological Debt Creditors Alliance, Vía Campesina, World March of Women, World Rainforest Movement

To add your support , contact us through: movilizacion.rio20@gmail.com


Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Rio+20

Indigenous Peoples Condemn Climate Talks Fiasco and Demand Moratoria on REDD+

December 13, 2011 – Indigenous leaders returning from Durban, South Africa condemn the fiasco of the United Nations climate change talks and demand a moratorium on a forest carbon offset scheme called REDD+ which they say threatens the future of humanity and Indigenous Peoples’ very survival. During the UN climate negotiations, a Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD+ and for Life was formed to bring attention to the lack of full recognition of Indigenous rights being problematic in the texts of the UN climate negotiations.

“It was very disappointing that our efforts to strengthen the vague Indigenous rights REDD safeguards from the Cancun Agreements evaporated as the Durban UN negotiations went on. It is clear that the focus was not on strong, binding commitments on Indigenous rights and safeguards, nor limiting emissions, but on creating a framework for financing and carbon markets, which they did. Now Indigenous Peoples’ forests may really be up for grabs,” says Alberto Saldamando, legal counsel participating in the Indigenous Environmental Network delegation.

Berenice Sanchez of the Mesoamerica Indigenous Women’s Biodiversity Network says, “Instead of cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% like we need, the UN is promoting false solutions to climate change like carbon trading and offsets, through the Clean Development Mechanism and the proposed REDD+ which provide polluters with permits to pollute. The UN climate negotiation is not about saving the climate, it is about privatization of forests, agriculture and the air.”

Tom Goldtooth, Director of Indigenous Environmental Network based in Minnesota, USA does not mince words. “By refusing to take immediate binding action to reduce the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions, industrialized countries like the United States and Canada are essentially incinerating Africa and drowning the small island states of the Pacific. The sea ice of the Inupiat, Yupik and Inuit of the Arctic is melting right before their eyes, creating a forced choice to adapt or perish. This constitutes climate racism, ecocide and genocide of an unprecedented scale.”

Of particular concern for indigenous peoples is a forest offset scheme known as REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation). Hyped as a way of saving the climate and paying communities to take care of forests as sponges for Northern pollution, REDD+ is rife with fundamental flaws that make it little more than a green mask for more pollution and the expansion of monoculture tree plantations. The Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD+ and for Life, formed at the Durban UN climate negotiations, call for an immediate moratorium on REDD+-type projects because they fear that REDD+ could result in “the biggest land grab of all time,” thus threatening the very survival of indigenous peoples and local communities.

“At Durban, CDM and REDD carbon and emission offset regimes were prioritized, not emission reductions. All I saw was the UN, World Bank, industrialized countries and private investors marketing solutions to market pollution. This is unacceptable. The solutions for climate change must not be placed in the hands of financiers and corporate polluters. I fear that local communities could increasingly become the victims of carbon cowboys, without adequate and binding mechanisms to ensure that the rights of indigenous peoples and local forested and agricultural communities are respected,” Goldtooth added.

“We call for an immediate moratorium on REDD+-type policies and projects because REDD is a monster that is already violating our rights and destroying our forests,” Monica González of the Kukapa People and Head of Indigenous Issues of the Mexican human rights organization Comision Ciudadana de Derechos Humanos del Noreste.

The President of the Ogiek Council of Elders of the Mau Forest of Kenya, Joseph K. Towett, said “We support the moratorium because anything that hurts our cousins, hurts us all.”

“We will not allow our sacred Amazon rainforest to be turned into a carbon dump. REDD is a hypocrisy that does not stop global warming,” said Marlon Santi, leader of the Kichwa community of Sarayaku, Ecuador and long time participant of UN and climate change meetings.


NO REDD Resources http://noredd.makenoise.org/

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Filed under Biodiversity, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Pollution, REDD, UNFCCC

Land conflicts, carbon piracy and violations of indigenous peoples’ rights: New report by Amazonian indigenous peoples exposes the reality of REDD+ in Peru and proposes solutions

A new report published today by Peruvian indigenous organisations, AIDESEP, FENAMAD and CARE, and international human rights organisation the Forest Peoples Programme (FPP), reveals the impact that REDD projects and programmes are already having on the lives of indigenous peoples. The reality of REDD+ in Peru: Between theory and practice – Indigenous Amazonian Peoples’ analyses and alternatives finds that REDD pilot projects run by some NGOs and companies are already undermining the rights of indigenous peoples, and are leading to carbon piracy and conflicts over land and resources. Persistent advocacy efforts by indigenous peoples’ organisations to secure respect for the fundamental rights of indigenous peoples have resulted in some government commitments to modify national REDD programmes financed by the World Bank. Nevertheless, solid guarantees for respect of these rights are yet to materialise.
Roberto Espinoza Llanos, coordinator of AIDESEP’s Climate Change Programme and one of the lead authors of the report, explains, “The commitments made by the previous government in 2011 were not made lightly, they were assumed by the State and approved in a global meeting of the World Bank’s FCPF [Forest Carbon Partnership Facility]. We hope that the present government and international entities like the World Bank will deliver on their promises to respect land and territorial rights. Continual monitoring will be necessary to make sure they keep their word.”
Carbon piracy
The AIDESEP-FPP report highlights how, without any form of regulation, carbon piracy is already rife in Peru. Project developers are roaming the jungle attempting to convince indigenous peoples and local communities to enter in to REDD deals with promises of millions of dollars in return for signing away their rights to control their land and forest carbon to third parties. Many deals are being conducted using strict confidentiality clauses and with no independent oversight or legal support for vulnerable communities. Some of these peoples are not yet fully literate in Spanish, but are being asked to sign complex commercial contracts in English that are subject to English law. Many communities have already come to regret some early deals made with carbon traders and NGOs, and are now attempting to extricate themselves. One leader from the community of Bélgica in South East Peru explained,
…We were presented with a trust fund in which the community is obliged to hand over the administration of communal territory and be subject to the decisions of the developer for 30 years….this will not allow us to make decisions about our territory or plan for the future of our children.
Land grabs
Many other communities have no secure land rights, as an estimated 20 million hectares of indigenous peoples’ customary territories in the Peruvian Amazon still possess no legal recognition (including those of isolated or ‘autonomous’ indigenous peoples). This is in violation of Peru’s international obligation to recognise and secure indigenous peoples’ traditional possession of their forest lands. At the same time, hundreds of formal requests for ‘conservation concessions’ (with the intention of establishing REDD projects) have been submitted to the government by private individuals and environmental NGOs. Many of these ‘would be concessions’ directly overlie indigenous peoples’ territories still awaiting legal recognition, thereby setting the stage for a state-backed land grab.
Conrad Feather, Project Officer for FPP and the report’s other lead author said, “REDD is not just a policy instrument being negotiated at the UN; unregulated REDD developments are already turning Peru into a centre of international carbon piracy and the site for a potential land grab of indigenous peoples’ territories on a massive scale. Urgent measures are needed to protect the lands and livelihoods of indigenous peoples.”
Indigenous alternatives to REDD+
Indigenous peoples’ organisations, however, are not only ringing alarm bells, they are also proposing alternatives. They are urging the new Peruvian government to re-think the forest and climate plans developed by their predecessors and use REDD funds to secure indigenous peoples’ forest territories and support community-based solutions to tackle climate change.
The report concludes that instead of squandering the money on unproven and unstable carbon markets, more modest and selective funding could be targeted to secure the land and territorial rights of indigenous peoples and support sustainable community forest management. These community and rights-based approaches are cost-effective and proven to protect forests. Community-based alternatives will not only reduce emissions from deforestation and keep forests standing but will also lead to poverty reduction, increased livelihood security and biodiversity conservation. In the words of Alberto Pizango Chota, President of AIDESEP, “Only in this way can REDD truly become an opportunity for indigenous peoples instead of a threat.”
The reality of REDD+ in Peru: Between Theory and Practice: Indigenous Amazonian Peoples’ analyses and alternatives is available for free download at: http://www.forestpeoples.org/the-reality-of-redd-plus-in-peru-indigenous-amazonian-peoples-analyses-and-alternatives

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, REDD, UNFCCC

Open Letter of Concern to the International Donor Community about the Diversion of Existing Forest Conservation and Development Funding to REDD+

Marlon Santi from Ecuador, former President of CONAIE (Confederation of Indigenous Nations of the Ecuadorian Amazon) speaks at the press conference that released the following document at the UN Climate Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

We the undersigned NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations (IPOs) want to express our profound concern about the way funds for forest conservation and restoration, and poverty eradication, are being misdirected toward REDD+ projects and policy processes (ostensibly to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation and to enhance forest carbon stocks).

Our organizations are working to halt the continued loss of the world’s forests, and to address the impacts this forest loss has on the rights and needs of forest-dependent peoples and on the climate. As such, it is our considered opinion that REDD+ as a mechanism suffers from a large number of inherent risks and problems which cannot be remedied

1)    REDD+-type projects are already having severe negative impacts on the environment and on economically and

Winnie Overbeek from World Rainforest Movement, based in Uruguay, speaks at the press conference. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

politically marginalized groups in society, particularly Indigenous Peoples, small farmers, other forest dependent communities, and women.[i] Most of the world’s remaining forests are found in areas that are relatively unattractive for industrial agriculture, cattle ranching or other land uses and are inhabited by Indigenous Peoples, small peasant communities and other groups. Many of these groups have insecure title over their land, yet due to their social, economic and cultural circumstances, the resources found in forests play a major role in sustaining their livelihoods. A sudden increase in the economic value of forest land due to the introduction of performance payments for forest conservation will definitely lead to an increased risk of conflict over land between these communities and more economically and politically influential groups that see an opportunity to profit from these payments. For this reason, increased conflicts over land, elite resource capture, forced displacements, involuntary resettlements and human rights violations are inherent outcomes to REDD+ as a forest conservation approach.

2)    Performance-based payments for forest carbon storage address only one presumed driver of forest loss: the lack of proper economic valuation of the role of forest carbon storage in overall carbon sequestration. This approach fails to address other direct and indirect drivers of forest loss. Such drivers include lack of recognition of the land rights of Indigenous Peoples and other customary caretakers of forest areas; overconsumption of and trade in forest products and products that directly or indirectly impact on forests; and perverse incentives such as subsidies for export crops and monoculture tree plantations. Other important drivers that are ignored by REDD+ include mineral, oil, gas or coal exploration and extraction activities, shrimp farming and large-scale infrastructure projects such as hydroelectric dams, as well as incoherent government policies in general.[ii]

3)    Performance-based payments for forest carbon will by definition lead to a situation where one value of forests dominates forest policy decision-making, thus undermining what the Executive Director of the UN Forum on Forests has called a “360 degree” approach to forests, an approach in which all functions and values of forests are taken into account in a balanced manner. This deficiency will not only lead to a marginalization of the social and cultural values of forests in forest policy-making, but also to a marginalization of biodiversity values. Already, there has been a strong tendency in forest carbon offset projects to support growing monoculture plantations of rapidly growing tree species, despite their negative impacts on biodiversity.[iii] This problem is exacerbated by the flawed forest definition that has been used by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process, which includes monoculture tree plantations as well as “temporarily unstocked areas”, and allows the use of Genetically Engineered (GE) trees.

4)    Forest carbon cannot be equated to carbon stored in fossil fuel deposits. There will always be a high risk of non-permanence in forest carbon offset projects, yet it is broadly recognized that no satisfactory solutions for this problem have

Indigenous Environmental Network's Tom Goldtooth speaks at the conference. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

been developed. .[iv] In fact, this problem cannot be resolved as non-permanence is an inherent feature of forest or tree plantation carbon.

5)       Another inherent problem with REDD+ is that performance-based payments will require a significant investment in monitoring, verification and reporting (MRV) systems that can claim to ensure that the forest carbon benefits of a certain initiative are real and additional. Such MRV systems could take up more than half of the overall budget of REDD+ initiatives. As a group of international market specialists have noted:

“Assuming that forest carbon requires a quantification process similar to the one used today, there is no reason to expect that the market for REDD forest carbon will behave any differently.  The expertise, travel requirements and operational scale required to follow IPCC-like standards almost certainly requires a multinational organization, one that is well-capitalized and capable of managing many clients at once. Will these organizations be numerous? Unlikely. Will they be domiciled in developing countries? It seems improbable. These skills and scale will cost money to deploy, and that – far more than avarice or inefficiency – explains why REDD projects are likely to spend so much on MRV… Forest carbon is likely to behave as any commodities market would, which implies that producers will derive only marginal benefits from the market as a whole.  Moreover, the unique logistical challenges posed by counting carbon to IPCC-like standards imply a very limited population of providers willing to do this for projects.”[v]

This is an unacceptable waste of money in times when resources are scarce and funding for REDD+ is likely to come from the same sources that could also finance other sorely needed real climate change mitigation and adaptation initiatives. Moreover, these costs make it impossible for economically marginalized groups including Indigenous Peoples, forest dependent communities and women, as well as poor countries, to participate in an equitable manner in REDD+ projects.

6)    All these problems will be exacerbated if, as is virtually certain, REDD+ is financed through carbon offset markets. This is the funding option supported by many influential countries and other major stakeholders including the World Bank; even those REDD+ initiatives currently being supported through philanthropy and public monies are generally designed to help jump-start forest carbon markets.[vi] In addition to undermining forest conservation, such markets can only make climate change worse, due to irresolvable problems relating to permanence, additionality and leakage, while continuing pollution in the North and creating toxic hotspots in vulnerable community areas already disproportionately impacted by toxic exposures and environmental injustices.

7)    REDD+ is inherently about commodifying and privatizing air, forests, trees and land. This approach runs counter to

Simone Lovera, from Global Forest Coalition, presents GFC's point of view. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

the cultural and traditional value systems of many Indigenous Peoples and other forest-dependent communities.[vii] There is a severe risk the market-oriented approach inherent to REDD+ will undermine value systems that are an essential element of successful community-driven conservation of forest areas, and Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge and conservation practices.

In numerous places in the world, REDD+ projects and policies are being implemented in violation of the principle of Free, Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC). In Ecuador, the government continues to develop a REDD+ program despite the fact that the most representative organization of Indigenous Peoples, CONAIE, has explicitly rejected REDD+ policies in the country.[viii] As Kenya’s Mau Forest is made “ready” for a UNEP-funded REDD+ project, members of the Ogiek People continue to suffer evictions, and Ogiek activists are attacked for protesting land grabs.[ix] In Indonesia, the Mantir Adat (traditional authorities) of Kadamangan Mantangai, district of Kapuas in the province of Central Kalimantan, “reject REDD projects because it is a threat to the rights and the livelihoods of the Dayak community in the REDD project area”, and have called for the cancellation of a project that has “violated our rights and threatened the basis of survival for the Dayak community.”[x]

Many companies and organizations which have historically caused pollution and deforestation are promoting REDD+ as a profitable opportunity to “offset” their ongoing pillaging of the planet, including the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, Dow, Rio Tinto, Shell, Statoil, BP Amoco, American Electric Power- AEP, BHB Billiton and the International Tropical Timber Organization. In Brazil, Chevron-Texaco, infamous for causing significant forest loss in the Ecuadorian Amazon and threatening Indigenous Peoples in voluntary isolation, which might lead to genocide, backs a REDD+ project in the Atlantic Forest which uses uniformed armed guards called Força Verde who shoot at people and jail them if they go into the forest.[xi] In Bolivia, BP, whose oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was the biggest environmental disaster in the history of the United States, participates in the biggest REDD+-type project in the world, which helps it to greenwash its destruction of biodiversity and communities’ livelihoods.[xii] As noted in the New York Times, “REDD could be a cash cow for forest destroyers.”[xiii]

In Papua New Guinea, Colombia, Peru and elsewhere, ’carbon cowboys‘ are running amok, conning communities into signing away their land rights with fake contracts.[xiv] In the words of one Indigenous leader, REDD+ may be “the biggest land grab of all time” [xv] REDD+ is inherently about commodifying and privatizing air, forests, trees and land and corrupts everything that Indigenous Peoples hold sacred, including their traditional knowledge systems.  Where REDD+ projects target the territories of Indigenous Peoples living in voluntary isolation, as in the Peruvian Amazon or the Paraguayan Chaco, they might even threaten the very survival of these Peoples[xvi].

These risks and problems have been recognized by a large number of UN organizations and other international institutions, as well as by the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change themselves.[xvii] The so-called “safeguards” adopted by a majority of Parties to the UNFCCC show that they are already concerned about the potential negative environmental and social impacts of REDD+. However, these REDD+ “safeguards” will not save forests from being converted into plantations, or Indigenous Peoples’ rights from being violated in REDD+ projects. Nor can they prevent the damage that REDD+ carbon offsets would do to genuine efforts to address climate change. Voluntary, weak and relegated to an annex, they are unsupported by any consensus to make them legally binding, let alone establish a compliance and redress mechanism. In the past, such voluntary safeguards schemes have usually proven to be ineffective, many even serving as greenwash for corporate malpractice.

For that reason, many institutions have emphasized that all land tenure conflicts have to be resolved and that rights of Indigenous Peoples, local communities and women have to be secured, before REDD+ projects and policies are implemented.[xviii] However, this is not a realistic proposition. We strongly support any policy efforts to address land tenure conflicts and human rights violations, especially as far as the rights of Indigenous Peoples are concerned. But land tenure problems and human rights violations in forest areas are far too complicated to be fully resolved in a foreseeable timeframe, and REDD+ will not help. On the contrary, as stated above, the promise of potential performance-based payments would make it more instead of less difficult to resolve these issues, and would tend to weaken instead of strengthen communities’ struggles for their rights.

GFC's Andrei Laletin. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Considering this long list of broadly acknowledged and inherent risks and negative impacts of REDD+, it is remarkable that an estimated 7,7 billion US dollars has already been committed to it by donor countries.[xix] Still more remarkable is the fact that foundations formerly renowned for supporting human rights and justice work are adding millions of dollars to projects and initiatives that promote REDD+.[xx] Meanwhile, there is a financial stranglehold on the often small and independent civil society and Indigenous Peoples organizations that denounce the growing list of human rights violations and environmental destruction caused by REDD+-type projects.[xxi]

Unintentionally or not, this extreme, unjust funding disparity constitutes a form of de facto financial censorship, and this means that the right to Free, Prior, Informed Consent of the custodians of the majority of the world’s forests, Indigenous Peoples, is being compromised. If there is almost no funding to support detection, documentation and rejection of the negative social and environmental impacts of REDD+ projects, to say nothing of reasoned criticism of its underlying premises, it will be impossible to expose and disseminate all of the crucial information that remote communities need in order to make decisions about REDD+, and any consent they grant will not be thoroughly and fully “informed”. It must be noted that REDD+ and its relationship to the world of carbon markets and offset regimes is a very complex area that many NGOs involved in climate policy do not fully understand. In this respect it should be taken into account that Indigenous Peoples’ fundamental right to Free, Prior and Informed Consent is a pillar of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This right is also recognized in the REDD+ safeguards adopted by the majority of Parties to the Climate Convention, and by UN-REDD and other donors. Funding the painting of a rosy REDD+ picture in which communities get paid to take care of forests and share in the costs-benefits of REDD+ programs without showing the darker realities in the background is at best negligent and at worst implicates funders in a severe violation of one of the most important rights of Indigenous Peoples. This letter is intended both as a wakeup call to funders and an invitation to bridge this funding gap.

In this respect it is also important to ensure that community capacity-building and awareness-raising projects provide fair and unbiased information about the quite desolate state of the climate negotiations, and the unwillingness of large Northern polluters to agree to legally binding targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions or financial support for needed climate measures. In the eyes of many social movements, REDD+ is a paltry fig leaf in this respect. The 100 billion USD that was mentioned as possible climate finance in Copenhagen has not been concretized yet, and it is increasingly clear that some of the most important donor countries expect the bulk of this funding to come from carbon markets.[xxii] Already, carbon markets have proven to be a highly volatile and inequitable source of funding, and the current lack of political momentum for a legally binding successor to the Kyoto Protocol will only create more market uncertainty. It is important this information is shared with communities and Indigenous Peoples when they are informed about the “opportunities” of REDD+.

Although protecting forests is a critical piece of the climate mitigation puzzle, a market-oriented and corporate-driven system of performance-based payments comes with inherent risks that are both overwhelming and unavoidable. The irony is that at the same time REDD+ is being so aggressively promoted, there are numerous examples of Indigenous Peoples’ territories and areas where forests have been conserved or restored successfully by communities without performance-based payments based on individual land titles and questionable carbon rights. Examples from countries like India, Gambia, Nepal, Brazil and Rwanda have demonstrated that recognizing community governance over forests and Indigenous Peoples’ rights over their territories provides more effective and ethically sound incentives for forest conservation and restoration, while the Ecuadorian proposal to keep fossil fuels in the ground shows the way toward a more realistic approach to mitigating climate change. In addition to such direct approaches to the fossil fuel problem, it is essential to assure the necessary space for the empowerment of communities that have successfully conserved their forests, and to address the direct and underlying drivers of deforestation such as over-consumption and over-production for and by industrialized societies.

In conclusion, we believe that REDD+ is a fundamentally flawed symptom of a deeper problem, not a step forward. It is a distraction that the planet – our Mother Earth – does not have time for. We should build on the many existing examples of successful forest conservation and restoration rather than investing billions of dollars in an untested, uncertain and questionable REDD+ scheme that is likely to undermine the environmental and social goals of the climate regime rather than support them.

Addressing climate change and forest loss require measures that contribute to thorough economic, ecological and social transformation. To present all sides of the REDD+ story as part of a larger effort to build the diverse and powerful global alliances that can support the transformation that our planet and peoples need, will require the full support of the charity, gift-giving and philanthropy community.

We’re up for the task.

Are you?

Some of the press conference presenters. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

[i] No REDD Platform, No REDD, A Reader (2010), http://noredd.makenoise.org
Lohmann, Larry (2008), Chronicle of a Disaster Foretold?, The Corner House, London, UK, www.thecornerhouse.org.uk/resource/chronicle-disaster-foretold

[ii] Moussa, J. and Verolme, H. (ed.) (1999), Addressing the Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation, Case Studies, Analysis and Policy Recommendations, Biodiversity Action Network, Washington, USA
Global Forest Coalition (2010), Getting to the Roots, Underlying Causes of Deforestation and Forest Degradation and Drivers of Forest Restoration, Global Forest Coalition, Amsterdam, Netherlands.
Mery, G. et. al. (2011) Forests and Society = Responding to Global Drivers of Change, International Union of Forest Research Institutions, January 2011

[iii] See for example: Acción Ecológica and World Rainforest Movement (2005) Carbon Sink Plantations in the Ecuadorian Andes, Impacts of the Dutch FACE-Profafor Monoculture tree plantations project on indigenous and peasant communities, World Rainforest Movement, Montevideo, Uruguay.

[iv] http://unfccc.int/methods_and_science/lulucf/items/4122.php

[v] The Munden Project (2011) REDD and Forest Carbon, Market Critique and Recommendations, The Munden Project, USA.

[vi] Swedish EU Presidency (2009) The REDD Initiative: EU Funds and Phases prepared for the Interparliamentary Conference, September 2009 the_redd_initiative -EU-Funds and Phases.pdfthe_redd_initiative -EU-Funds and Phases.pdf

Indigenous Environmental Network,            Funds and Phases: Prep Cooks, Midwives and Assembly Plants for Carbon Market REDD/REDD+, IEN.

[vii] Goldtooth, T. (2010), Cashing in on Creation: Gourmet REDD privatizes, packages, patents, sells and corrupts all that is Sacred, http://noredd.makenoise.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/REDDreaderEN.pdf

[viii] http://www.movimientos.org/enlacei/show_text.php3?key=19549

[ix] See: International Working Group on Indigenous Affairs (2011), Kenya’s ‘Forest People’ in Bitter Fight for their Ancestral Homes, April 15 2011 http://www.iwgia.org/news/search-news?news_id=277

Minority Rights Group International (2011), Minority Rights Group Condemns Targeted Attacks on Ogiek Activists, March 7, 2011, www.newsfromafrica.org/newsfromafrica/articles/art_12373.html

First Peoples International (2011), In new Kenya, old guard ‘land-grabbers’ attack key leaders -Ogiek land activists survive assaults, http://firstpeoplesblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/03/ogiek-land-activists-survive-assaults.pdf
Interim Coordinating Secretariat, Office of the Prime Minister on behalf of the Government of Kenya, Rehabilitation of the Mau Forest Ecosystem, www.kws.org/export/sites/kws/info/maurestoration/maupublications/Mau_Forest_Complex_Concept_paper.pdf
Los Angeles Times (2010), Kenyan tribe slowly driven off its ancestral lands, http://articles.latimes.com/2010/jan/04/world/la-fg-kenya-forest4-2010jan04

Survival International (2010), Kenyan tribe’s houses torched in Mau Forest eviction 8 April 2010, Video at: www.survivalinternational.org/news/5722 http://www.survivalinternational.org/tribes/ogiek

REDD Monitor (2009), Ogiek threatened with eviction from Mau Forest, www.redd-monitor.org/2009/11/19/ogiek-threatened-with-eviction-from-mau-forest-kenya/

[x] REDD-Monitor (2011), Stop the Indonesia- – Australia REDD+ Project In the Customary Area of the Dayak People in Central Kalimantan, www.redd-monitor.org/2011/06/15/stop-the-indonesia-australia-redd-project-indigenous-peoples-opposition-to-the-kalimantan-forests-and-climate-partnership/#more-8887

[xi] PBS/ Frontline World, Carbon Watch Centre for Investigative Journalism, www.pbs.org/frontlineworld/stories/carbonwatch/moneytree/

Mother Jones (2009), GM’s Money Trees, www.motherjones.com/environment/2009/11/gms-money-trees

REDD-Monitor (2009), Injustice on the carbon frontier in Guaraqueçaba, Brazil, www.redd-monitor.org/2009/11/06/injustice-on-the-carbon-frontier-in-guaraquecaba-brazil/

National Museum of the American Indian, Conversations with the Earth, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC http://www.americanindian.si.edu/

[xii] Cardona, T. et. al. (2010) Extractive Industries and REDD, No REDD A Reader, http://noredd.makenoise.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/REDDreaderEN.pdf

[xiii] Durban Group for climate Justice, www.durbanclimatejustice.org/press-releases/durban-statement-on-redd.html

[xiv] Gridneff, I. (2011), Carbon conmen selling the sky, The Sydney Morning Herald www.smh.com.au/world/carbon-conmen-selling-the-sky-20090612-c63i.html

See VIDEO A Breath of Fresh Air (2009) by Jeremy Dawes, www.redd-monitor.org/2009/09/11/more-questions-than-answers-on-carbon-trading-in-png/

[xv] Carbon Trade Watch, www.carbontradewatch.org/issues/redd.html
Stevenson, M (2010), Forest plan hangs in balance at climate conference, Associated Press, www.boston.com/news/science/articles/2010/12/09/forest_plan_hangs_in_balance_at_climate_conference/?page=2

[xvi] Cabello J. (2010), Enclosure of Forest and Peoples: REDD and the Inter-oceanic Highway in Peru, No REDD, a Reader, http://noredd.makenoise.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/REDDreaderEN.pdf

[xvii] See for example: Poverty and Environment Partnership -ODI, IUCN, UNDP, SIDA, IIED, ADB, DFID, the French Ministry of the environment and UNEP WCMC, (2008) Making REDD work for the Poor, www.povertyenvironment.net/?q=filestore2/download/1852/Making-REDD-work-for-the-poor-FINAL-DRAFT-0110.pdf

Karsenty, A (2008) The architecture of proposed REDD schemes after Bali: facing critical choices, in International Forestry Review Vol. 10(3), 2008 (pp. 443 – 457), ONF International, 2008. Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD), Analysis of 7 outstanding issues for the inclusion of tropical forests in the international climate governance. ONF International, Paris, France, and Peskett, L. And Harkin, Z., 2007. Risk and responsibility in Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. Overseas Development Institute, London, UK.

[xviii] Poverty and Environment Partnership, 2008, Global Witness, 2008. Independent Forest Monitoring and Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation. Global Witness: Cotula, L. and J. Mayers, 2009.Tenure in REDD: Start-point or Afterthought?, Natural Resource Issues No. 15, International Institute for Environment and Development: London, UK; Grieg-Gran, M., I. Porras, and S. Wunder, 2005. “How can Market Mechanisms for Forest Environmental Services help the Poor? Preliminary Lessons from Latin America”. World Development, 33(9): 1511-1527.

[xix] REDD+ Partnership (2011), REDD+ Partnership Voluntary REDD+ Database Updated Progress Report, 11 June 2011, page 6, table 1.

[xx] See the Climate and Land Use Alliance, a joint funding initiative of the Ford Foundation, the Betty and Gordon Moore Foundation, the  David and Lucile Packard Foundation and ClimateWorks: “The projected 2011 budget for the initiatives described in this strategy overview is approximately $32.5 million”,  www.climateandlandusealliance.org

[xxi] As little as US 500,000 dollars may be going to these organizations for work critical of REDD+. THIS NEEDS A REFERENCE

[xxii] See for example http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/articles/financial_operations/pdf/sec_2011_487_final_en.pdf

Comments Off on Open Letter of Concern to the International Donor Community about the Diversion of Existing Forest Conservation and Development Funding to REDD+

Filed under Biodiversity, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, REDD, UNFCCC


Call for “System Change not Climate Change” Unites Global Movement

Note:  The first post is the  Poznan statement from the Climate Justice Now! alliance from 12 December 2008 after the UN climate talks that year.  The second was published by CJN immediately following the Copenhagen UN climate talks in 2009.  More than ever, we believe it’s time for the 1% who control the UN climate talks to do something for the climate–like get out of the way so that people and social movements can counter their false solutions to climate change with real grassroots solutions in order to avert climate catastrophe.  The Earth can’t wait.

Follow our blogs from the Durban UN climate circus from 28 Nov – 10 Dec on Climate Connections.

-The GJEP Team


Poznan statement from the Climate Justice Now! alliance

12 December 2008

Members of Climate Justice Now! – a worldwide alliance of more than 160 organisations — have been in Poznan for the past two weeks closely following developments in the UN climate negotiations.

This statement is our assessment of the Conference of Parties (COP) 14, and articulates our principles for achieving climate justice.


On the streets of Poznan, Poland 2008. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

We will not be able to stop climate change if we don’t change the neo-liberal and corporate-based economy which stops us from achieving sustainable societies. Corporate globalisation must be stopped.

The historical responsibility for the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions lies with the industrialised countries of the North. Even though the primary responsibility of the North to reduce emissions has been recognised in the Convention, their production and consumption habits continue to threaten the survival of humanity and biodiversity. It is imperative that the North urgently shifts to a low carbon economy. At the same time in order to avoid the damaging carbon intensive model of industrialisation, the South is entitled to resources and technology to make this transition.

We believe that any ´shared vision´ on addressing the climate crisis must start with climate justice and with a radical re-thinking of the dominant development model.

Indigenous Peoples, peasant communities, fisherfolk, and especially women in these communities, have been living harmoniously and sustainably with the Earth for millennia. They are not only the most affected by climate change, but also its false solutions, such as agrofuels, mega-dams, genetic modification, tree plantations and carbon offset schemes. Instead of market led schemes, their sustainable practices should be seen as offering the real solutions to climate change.


Governments and international institutions have to recognise that the Kyoto mechanisms have failed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The principles of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) – common but differentiated responsibilities, inter-generational equity, and polluter pays — have been undermined in favour of market mechanisms. The three main pillars of the Kyoto agreement –the clean development mechanism, joint implementation and emissions trading schemes — have been completely ineffective in reducing emissions, yet they continue to be at the center of the negotiations.

Kyoto is based on carbon-trading mechanisms which allow Northern countries to continue business as usual by paying for “clean development” projects in developing and transition countries. This is a scheme designed deliberately to allow polluters to avoid reducing emissions domestically. Clean development mechanism projects, which are supposed to support “sustainable development”, include infrastructure projects such as big dams and coal-fired power plants, and monoculture tree plantations. Not only do these projects fail to reduce carbon emissions, they accelerate the privatisation and corporate take-over of the natural world, at the expense of local communities and Indigenous Peoples.

Proposals on the table in Poznan are heading in the same direction.

In the current negotiations, industrialised countries continue to act on the basis of self-interest, using all their negotiating tactics to avoid their obligations to reduce carbon emissions, to finance adaptation and mitigation and transfer technology to the South.

In their pursuit of growth at any cost, many Southern governments at the talks are trading away the rights of their peoples and resources. We remind them that a climate agreement is not a trade agreement.

The main protagonists for climate stability – Indigenous Peoples, women, peasant and family farmers, fisherfolk, forest dependent communities, youth, and marginalised and affected communities in the global South and North, are systematically excluded. Despite repeated demands, Indigenous Peoples are not recognised as an official party to the negotiations. Neither are women’s voices and gender considerations recognised and included in the process.

At the same time, private investors are circling the talks like vultures, swooping in on every opportunity for creating new profits. Business and corporate lobbyists expanded their influence and monopolized conference space at Poznan. At least 1500 industry lobbyists were present either as NGOs or as members of government delegations.

The Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD) scheme could create the climate regime’s largest ever loophole, giving Northern polluters yet another opportunity to buy their way out of emissions reductions. With no mention of biodiversity or Indigenous Peoples’ rights, this scheme might give a huge incentive for countries to sell off their forests, expel Indigenous and peasant communities, and transform forests into tree plantations under corporate-control. Plantations are not forests. Privatisation and dispossession through REDD or any other mechanisms must be stopped.

The World Bank is attempting to carve a niche in the international climate change regime. This is unacceptable as the Bank continues to fund polluting industries and drive deforestation by promoting industrial logging and agrofuels. The Bank’s recently launched Climate Investment Funds goes against government initiatives at the UN and promotes dirty industries such as coal, while forcing developing countries into the fundamentally unequal aid framework of donor and recipient. The World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility aiming to finance REDD through a forest carbon mechanism serves the interest of private companies and opens the path for commodification of forests.

These developments are to be expected. Market ideology has totally infiltrated the climate talks, and the UNFCCC negotiations are now like trade fairs hawking investment opportunities.


Solutions to the climate crisis will not come from industrialised countries and big business. Effective and enduring solutions will come from those who have protected the environment – Indigenous Peoples, women, peasant and family farmers, fisherfolk, forest dependent communities, youth and marginalised and affected communities in the global South and North. These include:

  • Achieving low carbon economies, without resorting to offsetting and false solutions such as nuclear energy and “clean coal”, while protecting the rights of those affected by the transition, especially workers.
  • Keeping fossil fuels in the ground.
  • Implementing people’s food and energy sovereignty.
  • Guaranteeing community control of natural resources.
  • Re-localisation of production and consumption, prioritising local markets
  • Full recognition of Indigenous Peoples, peasant and local community rights,
  • Democratically controlled clean renewable energy.
  • Rights based resource conservation that enforces indigenous land rights and promotes peoples sovereignty and public ownership over energy, forests, seeds, land and water
  • Ending deforestation and its underlying causes.
  • Ending excessive consumption by elites in the North and in the South.
  • Massive investment in public transport
  • Ensuring gender justice by recognising existing gender injustices and involving women in decision making.
  • Cancelling illegitimate debts claimed by northern governments and IFIs. The illegitimacy of these debts is underscored by the much greater historical, social and ecological debts owed to people of the South.

We stand at the crossroads. We call for a radical change in direction to put climate justice and people’s rights at the centre of these negotiations.

In the lead-up to the 2009 COP 15 at Copenhagen and beyond, the Climate Justice Now! alliance will continue to monitor governments and to mobilise social forces from the south and the north to achieve climate justice.



Call for “System Change not Climate Change” Unites Global Movement


Corrupt Copenhagen ‘accord’ exposes gulf between peoples demands and elite political interests

The highly anticipated UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen ended with a fraudulent agreement, engineered by the United States and dropped into the conference at the last moment.  The “agreement” was not adopted.  Instead, it was “noted” in an absurd parliamentary invention designed to accommodate the United States and permit Ban Ki-moon to utter the ridiculous pronouncement “We have a deal.”

The UN conference was unable to deliver solutions to the climate crisis, or even minimal progress toward them.  Instead, the talks were a complete betrayal of impoverished nations and island states, producing nothing but embarrassment for the United Nations and the Danish government.  In a conference designed to limit greenhouse gas emissions there was very little talk of emission reductions.  Rich, developed countries continued to delay any talk of drastic reductions, instead shifting the burden to less developed countries and showing no willingness to make reparations for the damage they have caused.

The Climate Justice Now! coalition, alongside other networks, was united here at COP15 in the call for System Change, Not Climate Change.  In contrast, the Copenhagen climate conference itself demonstrated that real solutions, as opposed to false, market-based solutions, will not be adopted until we overcome the existing unjust political and economic system.

Government and corporate elites here in Copenhagen made no attempt to satisfy the expectations of the world.  False solutions and corporations completely co-opted the United Nations process.  The global elite would like to privatize the atmosphere through carbon markets; carve up the remaining forests, bushes and grasslands of the world through the abandonment of indigenous rights and land-grabbing; convert real forests into monoculture tree plantations and agricultural soils into carbon sinks; and complete the capitalist enclosure of commons.  Virtually every proposal discussed in Copenhagen was based on a desire to create opportunities for profit rather than to reduce emissions.

The only discussions of real solutions in Copenhagen took place in social movements. Climate Justice Now!, Climate Justice Action and Klimaforum09 articulated many creative ideas and attempted to deliver those ideas to the UN Climate Change Conference through the Klimaforum09 People’s Declaration and the Reclaim Power People’s Assembly.  Among nations, the ALBA countries, many African nations and AOSIS often echoed the messages of the climate justice movement, speaking of the need to repay climate debt, create mitigation and adaptation funds outside of neoliberal institutions like the World Bank and IMF, and keep global temperature increase below 1.5 degrees.

The UN and the Danish government served the interests of the rich, industrialized countries, excluding our voices and the voices of the least powerful throughout the world, and attempting to silence our demands to talk about real solutions.  Nevertheles, our voices grew stronger and more united day by day during the two-week conference.  As we grew stronger, the mechanisms implemented by the UN and the Danish for the inclusion of civil society grew more dysfunctional, repressive and undemocratic, very much like the WTO and Davos.  Social movement participation was limited throughout the conference, drastically curtailed in week two, and several civil society organizations even had their admission credentials revoked midway through the second week.  At the same time, corporations continued lobbying inside the Bella Center.

Outside the conference, the Danish police extended the repressive framework, launching a massive clampdown on the right to free expression and arresting and beating thousands, including civil society delegates to the climate conference.  Our movement overcame this repression to raise our voices in protest over and over again.  Our demonstrations mobilized more than 100,000 people in Denmark to press for climate justice, while social movements around the world mobilized hundreds of thousands more in local climate justice demonstrations.  In spite of repression by the Danish government and exclusion by the United Nations, the movement for system change not climate change is now stronger than when we arrived in Denmark.

While Copenhagen has been a disaster for climate solutions, it has been an inspiring watershed moment in the battle for climate justice.  The governments of the elite have no solutions to offer, but the climate justice movement has provided strong vision and clear alternatives.  Copenhagen will be remembered as an historic event for global social movements.  It will be remembered, along with Seattle and Cancun, as a critical moment when the diverse agendas of many social movements coalesced and became stronger, asking in one voice for system change, not climate change.

The Climate Justice Now! coalition calls for social movements around the world to mobilize in support of climate justice.

We will take our struggle forward not just in climate talks, but on the ground and in the streets, to promote genuine solutions that include:

– leaving fossil fuels in the ground and investing instead in appropriate energy-efficiency and safe, clean and community-led renewable energy

– radically reducing wasteful consumption, first and foremost in the North, but also by Southern elites.

– huge financial transfers from North to South, based on the repayment of climate debts and subject to democratic control. The costs of adaptation and mitigation should be paid for by redirecting military budgets, progressive and innovative taxes and debt cancellation.

– rights-based resource conservation that enforces Indigenous land rights and promotes peoples’ sovereignty over energy, forests, land and water.

sustainable family farming and fishing, and peoples’ food sovereignty.

We are committed to building a diverse movement – locally and globally – for a better world.


Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Copenhagen/COP-15, Corporate Globalization, REDD, UNFCCC

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