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Old, Big Trees Account for Disproportionately Large Amount of Forest Biomass

Note: Another reason why replacing native forests with monoculture tree plantations only worsens climate change.

–The GJEP Team

Cross-Posted from Science, Space, Robots blog

4 Foot Wide Sugar Pine in Yosemite National ParkScientists have come up with more proof why the biggest, oldest trees in the forest are extra important and need protecting. Researchers have found that very big trees, three or more feet in diameter, account for nearly half the biomass measured at a Yosemite National Park site, yet represent just 1% of the trees growing there.

James Lutz, a University of Washington research scientist in environmental and forest sciences, says this means just a few towering white fir, sugar pine and incense cedars per acre at the Yosemite site are disproportionately responsible for photosynthesis, converting carbon dioxide into plant tissue and sequestering that carbon in the forest. Lutz is the lead author of a paper, published on PLoS One, about the largest quantitative study yet of the importance of big trees in temperate forests.

Lutz says, “In a forest comprised of younger trees that are generally the same age, if you lose one percent of the trees, you lose one percent of the biomass. In a forest with large trees like the one we studied, if you lose one percent of the trees, you could lose half the biomass.”

The new 63-acre study site in the western part of Yosemite National Park is one of the largest, fully-mapped plots in the world and the largest old-growth plot in North America. The tally of what’s there, including the counting and tagging of 34,500 live trees, was done by citizen scientists, mainly undergraduate college students, led by Lutz, Larson, Mark Swanson of Washington State University and James Freund of the UW. A Facebook page for the Yosemite plot can be found here.

Included was all above-ground biomass such as live trees, snags, downed woody debris, litter and what’s called duff, the decaying plant matter on the ground under trees. Even when big trees die, they continue to dominate biomass in different ways. For example, 12 percent of standing snags were the remains of large-diameter trees, but still accounted for 60 percent of the total biomass of snags. Live and dead biomass totaled 280 tons per acre (652 metric tons per hectare), a figure unmatched by any other forest in the Smithsonian Center for Tropical Forest Science network, a global network of 42 tropical and temperate forest plots including the one in Yosemite.

Trees in the western U.S. with trunks more than three feet across are typically at least 200 years old. Many forests that were heavily harvested in the 19th and 20th centuries, or those that are used as commercial forest lands today, don’t generally have large-diameter trees, snags or large wood on the ground.

Lutz says, “These trees started growing in the Little Ice Age. Current models can’t fully capture the hundreds of years of dynamic processes that have shaped them during their lifetimes.”

Photo: Washington State University

Posted on May 6, 2012

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Biomass ‘insanity’ may threaten EU carbon targets

Cross-Posted from Euractive.com,  02 April 2012

The EU’s emissions reduction target for 2020 could be facing an unlikely but grave obstacle, according to a growing number of scientists, EU officials and NGOs: the contribution of biomass to the EU’s renewable energy objectives for 2020.

On 29 March, a call was launched at the European Parliament for Brussels to reconsider its carbon accounting rules for biomass emissions, and EurActiv has learned that the issue is provoking widespread alarm in policy-making circles.

“We’re paying people to cut their forests down in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and yet we are actually increasing them. No-one is apparently bothering to do any analysis about this,” one Brussels insider told EurActiv.

“They’re just sleepwalking into this insanity,” he added.

Around half of the EU’s target for providing 20% of energy from renewable sources by 2020 will be made up by biomass energy from sources such as wood, waste and agricultural crops and residues, according to EU member states’ national action plans.

Wood makes up the bulk of this target and is counted by the EU as ‘carbon neutral’, giving it access to subsidies, feed-in tariffs and electricity premiums at national level.

But because there is a time lag between the carbon debt that is created when a tree is cut down, transported and combusted – and the carbon credit that occurs when a new tree has grown to absorb as much carbon as the old one – biomass will increase atmospheric CO2 concentrations in the interim.

Carbon neutrality

“It is wrong to assume that bio-energy is ‘carbon neutral’ by definition, it depends what you replace it with” Professor Detlef Sprinz, the Chairman of the Scientific Committee of the European Environment Agency (EEA) told EurActiv.

“If you replace a growing forest by energy crops under the current accounting rules of the EU, you may very well increase greenhouse gas emissions.”

An opinion of the EEA’s Scientific Committee last September, argued that “legislation that encourages substitution of fossil fuels by bioenergy, irrespective of the biomass source, may even result in increased carbon emissions – thereby accelerating global warming.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) also says that biomass can only be considered carbon neutral if all land use impacts have been considered first.

The EU is aware of the issue and a proposal that could impose binding criteria for biomass for energy production, delayed many times, had been expected later this year but may be delayed again.

Forest-rich Scandinavian countries oppose binding biomass criteria – Finland and Sweden produce 20% and 16% of their energy from biomass – while industrial interests tend to support criteria that ignore combustion emissions and carbon stock losses from burning wood.

Sustainability criteria are one climate area in which the US leads Europe. The Environmental Protection Agency there has already conducted a public consultationon how to account for emissions from biomass burning, and submitted a legislative proposal.

EU despair

Several EU officials spoken to by EurActiv expressed despair at the lack of enthusiasm for tougher accounting rules by the EU’s energy directorate, which holds the biomass portfolio.

“I don’t think they have any intention of considering the carbon emissions from wood combustion. They are not convinced that it’s an important enough issue,” one said.

Asked whether the current pattern of biomass production and use would prevent a 20% reduction of carbon emissions by 2020, he replied “the certainty is 100% because there is hardly any [wood-based] biomass that wouldn’t increase emissions. The question is for how long?”

There are no reliable accounting figures measuring the length of time that Europe will suffer a ‘carbon deficit’ caused by the use of biomass for energy, in particular harvesting timber for that.

But “the risk of having emissions for too long I think is very high,” the official said. “I see a very significant risk that we will increase emissions for several decades to come.”

Carbon deficit

There is consensus that when a carbon deficit extends beyond 30-50 years, it is no longer of use in the EU’s present strategy to decarbonise Europe by 2050.

One report last month by the US-based Southern Environmental Law Center using woody biomass for a modelled expansion of power generation, found that it would take 35-50 years to provide an ongoing carbon reduction benefit.

Biomass from composted waste or agricultural residues is a highly efficient way of reducing carbon emissions, but critics say that the EU has vague and ill-conceived definitions of what constitutes residue in many cases.

It does not, for instance, take into account the impact that removing crop residues such as straw can have in depleting the soil’s carbon stock, with resulting increases in fertiliser and irrigation use, and lower yields.

Equally, a felled tree instantly produces wood with a higher carbon footprint than coal because burning a 100-year-old tree will release all the carbon it has absorbed into the atmosphere, and it its replacement will take 100 years to reabsorb the same amount of carbon.

The EU’s current accounting rules do not distinguish between residues or woods used in this way, and more sustainable biomass, terming them both ‘carbon neutral’ without consideration of bio-recovery times .

“These calculations have just not been done,” an EU source told EurActiv. “No one has looked at this in sufficient seriousness.”

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Tilbury Biomass Plant Fire Proves Biomass is Highly Flammable

Note: Hmmm, how can a highly flammable “renewable fuel” even pretend to be carbon-neutral?  Of course, biomass electricity production is not actually carbon-neutral to start with, being an energy based on the systematic burning of trees–but if the wood pellets are going to randomly combust, this seems particularly climate-unfriendly…

–The GJEP Team

Cross-posted from Port Strategy

Tilbury biomass fire proves handling risks

04 Mar 2012
Biomass is highly flammable Credit: Essex County Fire & RescueA huge fire in two biomass storage hoppers at Tilbury Power Station has highlighted the challenges for ports involved in handling and storing wood pellets for power generation.

Essex deputy chief fire officer Adam Eckley described the blaze as one of the largest the service had ever encountered. At its peak, 120 firefighters were onsite. According to Mr Eckley, early indications suggested the fire may have started in a conveyor belt above the hoppers.

RWE has invested millions of pounds in converting the power station, situated alongside the River Thames, from coal-fired to a facility 100% fuelled by wood pellets and tall oil, a by-product of wood pulp manufacture, to deliver 750 MW of green power.

The power station had been heading for closure in 2015 under EU environmental regulations – the switch to 100% biomass, a world first, is designed to reduce CO2 emissions by 80%.

Generating with biomass began in December 2011. Power station manager Nigel Staves described the fire damage as ‘severe, but limited’ and said he hoped the plant would be back generating soon.

Photo Credit: Essex County Fire & Rescue

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Indigenous communities in Peru condemn the further adventures of an Australian carbon cowboy

By Chris Lang, 31st January 2012

Cross-Posted from REDD-Monitor

In April 2011, the Inter-Ethnic Association for the Development of the Peruvian Amazon (AIDESEP) published the Declaration of Iquitos which opposed the proposed forest carbon trading activities of a Hong Kong registered company called Sustainable Carbon Resources Limited.

In November 2011, reports came out of Peru that a company called CISSA (Conservación e Inclusion Social Sostenible en la Amazonía) had signed an agreement for timber operations and carbon credits with communities of the Ampiyacu River Basin in Peru. CISSA appears not to be registered on the public register in Peru. In fact, another company, also registered in Hong Kong and called Amazon Holdings Limited, is actually behind the deal. According to this report, between 5-12 December 2011, Amazon Holdings Limited spent about US$40,000 on health care for local communities living in the area of the proposed project.

The man behind all three companies is an Australian. His name is:

Click on the image above for more information about his activities in Peru and his past record. This article from the Sydney Morning Herald sums up the problems: “Carbon Cowboys”.

Practically no information is available on the internet about Amazon Holdings Limited, but it appears to have been registered in Hong Kong on 31 August 2011.

 wife’s name is Polly Lau. Her role seems to have been to sell the timber in China from the logging operation part of the deal. Polly Lau and  are advertised to give presentations about real estate investment at an event in China in 2010. In the google translate version of the event website,  is described as being an “experienced real estate investor with over 30 years experience in property development in Australia,” and as the “Australian Formula One racing team director in Asia”.

The signing of the agreement in Peru seems to have been between Amazon Holdings Limited and Javier Fasanando Julca, the President of the Federation of Yaguas People of the Apayacu River (FEPYRA). In a 5 November 2011 statement, FECONA, the Federation of Native Communities of the Ampiyacu, strongly rejects the forest carbon deal for the forests of the Ampiyacu River Basin. The statement is translated to English below (the original Spanish version is here). REDD-Monitor looks forward to publishing  response to FECONA’s statement.


Against the sale of the natural resources and land of the native communities of the Amazon in Loreto, Peru and the rejection of the companies that are dividing and pressuring the people to sign agreements without an opportunity for free, prior and informed consent

Assembled in the communal headquarters of native communities of the Pucaurquillo Boras and the Pucaurquillo Huitotos, the leaders of FECONA, the communal authorities, the supporters and other aides; We discussed that 6 months have passed since the signing of the Declaration of Iquitos, and about the recent uncounseled actions of the President of the Federation of Yaguas People of the Apayacu River – FEPYRA, Mr. Javier Fasanando Julca and the statements of Dr. Edwin Floret of the Sub Management of Indigenous Nationalities of the Regional Government of Loreto, about the signing (of an agreement) by the Federation of the Ampiyacu – FECONA with a private company called CISSA, we declare the following:

    1. We clarify that the Federation of the Ampiyacu, called the Federation of Native Communities of the Ampiyacu – FECONA, we have not signed any contract with the private enterprise CISSA. We call on Dr. Edwin Floret to learn more about the associations which have signed the agreement, as his statements to the newspaper La Región of the 04 November 2011 implicate this prestigious Federation of the Ampiyacu.
    1. We reject the uncounseled actions of the President of the FEPYRA, Mr. Javier Fasanando for signing an agreement without the knowledge of his constituents, without knowing the content of the signed document, and without carrying out the consultation process which by law entitles native communities around the world and by the recent approval by the Peruvian Government of the new law for Free, Prior and Informed Consent for the indigenous peoples or natives.
    1. We declare that it is our understanding that the events that have divided and pressured the Matsés people into signing a business contract for carbon offsets where our brothers would have ceded the wealth of their land in favor of a private company, the terms of the agreement have been made known and some people have been condemned for this fact; we believe that the terms of the contract that they wanted the Matsés to sign demonstrates the bad faith of their company Sustainable Carbon Resources Limited and of their representatives to the natives of the Loreto region.
    1. We alert that the persons who have been involved and are members of the company Sustainable Carbon Resources Limited are the same as the company CISSA, and that they have entered the basin of the Apayacu River, area of the Federation of Indigenous Peoples of the Yaguas River – FEPYRA, with the same offers that they made to the Matsés, and that it is possible, that the President of the FEPYRA has signed a contract which is disadvantageous to his people, as similar attempts were made to have the leaders of Matsés sign, an inappropriate action which we reject.
    1. We ask the President of the Region Government of Loreto, Ivan Vásquez Valera, to publicly define or accept his links with Walter Cambero, , Jim King and Gerardo Arrieta Pastrana, likewise with the companies CISSA, Sustainable Carbon Resources Limited, Amazon Plantation Holdings, SAC and Amazon Holdings Limited. We also request the termination of the employment of Dr. Edwin Floret, the Sub Manager of Indigenous Nationalities of the Regional Government of Loreto for his statements in favor of those involved in the unsuccessful scam of the Matsés people and for supporting the signing of a contract that he says he knows and has read, that might be the same that was detrimental to the Matsés people and now it could adversely affect the people of the Apayacu, therefore demonstrating his friendly relationship with these individuals as he stated in his declarations of November 04, 2011 in the newspaper, La Region.
    1. We support the statements of the Secretary of Records and Archives of FEPYRA, Mr. Ángel Yaicate Murayari, who calls for the reading and discussion of the written agreement between the Federation and the company that was not signed in the manner as to reveal the facts, by trampling on the right to free, prior and informed consent as required by law that protects native communities. We call on national, regional and local authorities, the Office of the Defender of the People, the Bar of Attorneys, universities, indigenous organizations, and indigenous and human rights NGOs to heed complaints issued regarding these events.
    1. We support the request of our central organization AIDESEP through the Declaration of Iquitos dated April 27, 2011, ordering of expulsion from our country of Australian citizen , for the multitude of complaints of his defrauding indigenous peoples under the guise of providing benefits by using carbon credits, lands and natural resources. The information about this citizen in the media (press, radio, websites, etc.) are not positive, and therefore raises a reasonable doubt in order to demand his ouster from our country, we call upon the immigration authorities to complete an investigation of this person in other countries.
  1. We call upon our brothers of the Yaguas peoples of the Apayacu to become informed before signing any document that might compromise their wealth and territory. We call upon them for the sake of the future of their children and other generations, let us fight together for our development, lifestyle, ancestral culture and wealth that rightly belongs to us; do not let malicious people divide us and pressure and seduce us with false promises that ultimately end up bringing disgrace to our people and the seizing our forest and its benefits.

Finally, we invite all the trade union organizations and civil societies to join this pronouncement in support of indigenous peoples and against the bad intentions of foreign and domestic individuals, corrupt authorities and indigenous leaders who are blinded by the easy money, poorly led and seduced with promises of development that never come to his people. FECONA will not cease the struggle for the defense of their territories, riches, rights of its indigenous peoples until we make them respect us. An act signed in good faith of what has been understood to be the policy of the Federation, communal authorities and people attending the meeting.

Pucaurquillo, November 5, 2011

President of FECONA

Vice President of FECONA

Secretary of Health of FECONA

Treasurer of FECONA

Press Secretary of FECONA

Spokesperson for FECONA

Sra. Dalia Lorenza Flores Butuna
Justice of the Peace of the Native Community
Boras of Pucaurquillo – District of Pevas
Ramón Castillo – Loreto

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Occupy Talks: Indigenous Perspectives on the Occupy Movement – Videos

Please share far and wide!!!!

Note: What does it mean to ‘Occupy already occupied lands?’. How does Occupy relate to 500 years of resistance on Turtle Island?  This event featured Indigenous leaders Tom B.K. Goldtooth, Clayton Thomas-Muller and Leanne Simpson with MC Tannis Nielson to explore and discuss these dynamics of the Occupy movement.

Clayton Thomas-Muller, who gives the opening song and speaks later in the video, is on the Global Justice Ecology Project board.  Clayton and Tom B.K. Goldtooth are from the Indigenous Environmental Network.  GJEP is a strategic media ally with IEN and worked closely with them in Durban, South Africa last month during the UN Climate Conference.  GJEP is honored to work with IEN.

What follows are very important videos, and we hope  that everyone in the Occupy Movement takes time to watch them.  But not only the Occupy Movement.  We urge everyone to watch these thoughtful and powerful speakers talking about life on Earth, resistance to the 1% and the causalities suffered at the hands of power in this on-going war on the Earth and all inhabitants.  One of the many points made during the presentations is that the system is not broken – it is working just as it is supposed to.  System change is needed.

This important event took place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada at Beit Zatoun, January, 23rd, 2012.  It was sponsored by the Canadian Auto Workers, Canadian Labour Congress, CAW-Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy Ryerson University, Environmental Justice Toronto.  Media sponsor: Rabble

-The GJEP Team

-Thanks Giving:


Opening Song (Clayton Thomas-Muller):


John Trudel Opening Video- Look At Us:


Leanne Betasamosake Simpson:

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson is a writer, activist, and scholar of Michi Saagiik Nishnaabeg ancestry and is a band member of Alderville First Nation. She holds a Ph.D. from the University of Manitoba, is an Adjunct Professor in Indigenous Studies at Trent University and an instructor at the Centre for World Indigenous Knowledge, Athabasca University. She has also lectured at Ryerson University, the University of Victoria, the University of Manitoba, and the University of Winnipeg. Leanne has worked with Indigenous communities and organizations across Canada and internationally over the past 15 years on environmental, governance and political issues. She has published three edited volumes including Lighting the Eighth Fire: The Liberation, Resurgence and Protection of Indigenous Nations (2008, Arbeiter Ring), and This is An Honour Song: Twenty Years Since the Barricades (with Kiera Ladner, 2010, Arbeiter Ring). Leanne has published over thirty scholarly articles and raised over one million dollars for community-based research projects over her career. She has written fiction and non-fiction pieces for Now Magazine, Spirit Magazine, the Globe and Mail, Anishinabek News, the Link, and Canadian Art Magazine.

Clayton Thomas-Muller:

Clayton Thomas-Muller, of the Mathias Colomb Cree Nation also known as Pukatawagan in Northern Manitoba, Canada, is an activist for Indigenous rights and environmental justice. With his roots in the inner city of Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Clayton began his work as a community organizer, working with Aboriginal youth. Over the years Clayton’s work has taken him to five continents across our Mother Earth. Based out of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Clayton is involved in many initiatives to support the building of an inclusive movement for energy and climate justice. He serves on the board of the Global Justice Ecology Project and Canadian based Raven Trust. Recognized by Utne Magazine as one of the top 30 under 30 activists in the United States and as a “Climate Hero 2009” by Yes Magazine, Clayton is the Tar Sands Campaign Director for the Indigenous Environmental Network. He works across Canada, Alaska and the lower 48 states with grassroots indigenous communities to defend against the sprawling infrastructure that includes pipelines, refineries and extraction associated with the tar sands, the largest and most destructive industrial project in the history of mankind.

-Tom Goldtooth:

Tom B.K. Goldtooth is the Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network (IEN), headquartered at Bemidji, Minnesota. A social change activist within the Native American community for over 30 years, he has become an environmental and economic justice leader, locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Tom co-produced an award winning documentary film, Drumbeat For Mother Earth, which addresses the affects of bio-accumulative chemicals on indigenous peoples, and is active with many environmental and social justice organizations besides IEN. Tom is a policy advisor on environmental protection, climate mitigation, and adaptation. Tom co-authored the REDD Booklet on the risks of REDD within indigenous territories and a member of the International Indigenous Peoples Forum on Climate Change — the indigenous caucus within the UNFCCC.



Poster for Event was designed by Chelsea Taylor

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Mexico can’t see the wood for the trees

Note: This article arose out of the heated debates on REDD (the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation scheme) at the UN Climate Conference in Cancun, Mexico in 2010.  GJEP actively campaigned against REDD there and supported the important work of our Indigenous allies who were there to oppose REDD.  As a result, GJEP is quoted opposing REDD in the article below.

Another outcome of our work against REDD in Cancun is a new video documenting opposition to REDD by Indigenous peoples, forest dependent communities and Northern communities all of whom are negatively impacted by REDD.  This video, “A Darker Shade of Green: REDD Alert and the Future of Forests,” which we co-produced with Global Forest Coalition, will be officially released on the 16th of January.”

–The GJEP Team

Cross-Posted from Le Monde Diplomatique (English Edition)

January 2012 Edition

An indigenous community in Mexico wants to drop protected conservation status for its area because it feels it has lost real control of its land and way of life. Concern about carbon emissions is blinding policy makers to the failures of some of their conservation policies

by Anne Vigna

“That’s the one,” said Arcenio Osorio, pointing at the huge mountain that towers over the village of Santiago Lachiguiri, in Oaxaca state, part of southwestern Mexico’s Isthmus of Tehuantepec. “It provides water to all the towns in the area, and to us, the Zapotec people, it’s sacred. That’s the mountain we wanted official protection for.” Osorio is secretary of the community assembly, a traditional elected body that represents the people of the village. The 8,000 inhabitants of the county have always been involved in the conservation of their mountain, the Cerro de las Flores (“Mountain of the Flowers”). An official from the National Commission for Protected Natural Areas (Conanp) told me it is classed as an area of “exceptionally high biodiversity” due to the “excellent state of preservation of its ecosystem”.

In the valleys at the foot of the mountain, they grow organic coffee. The slopes are covered with little woods and patches of maize, but after several hours of walking and clambering you come to forests of pine trees, under which grow hundreds of species of wild flowers. Because of its altitude (2,200 metres) and the rock it is made of, the mountain acts as a kind of sponge, which stores the greater part of the area’s water supply.

Cerro de las Flores is a textbook case of conservation policy. In August 2003 it became Mexico’s first “voluntary community preserved area”. My source said Conanp defines this as an area protected by a “conservation mechanism put in place at the request of the local community, that protects the area’s natural riches and offers sustainable economic alternatives to its inhabitants”. According to Conanp, 207,887 hectares of land are managed in this way in Mexico. But at the meeting of the community assembly in January 2011, the people of Santiago Lachiguiri voted to drop the area’s “preserved area” status. “The government deceived us,” explained Osorio. “We are still the legitimate owners of the land, but we have lost control of it.”

Osorio was clearly irritated, and with some justification. The village’s land commissioner, Enan Eduardo, explained his choice of words: “We discovered that the certification of the 1,400 hectares of Cerro de las Flores entailed a conservation period of 30 years, rather than the five years we had agreed on when we voted.” Did that imply deception, and loss of control? “The conservation policy means we also have to change our production methods, even if it makes no sense in ecological terms.”

Certifying land involves the establishment of a development plan, preceded by a diagnostic survey; non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and government institutions (Mexico’s ecology ministry and Conanp) handle both tasks. The process is supposed to begin with “participatory workshops”, to inform the local inhabitants and allow them to make their opinions heard and take part in decision-making. But in Santiago Lachiguiri this procedure, seen as essential for the success of any conservation initiative, wasn’t followed correctly. Conanp insists the local inhabitants participated and were properly informed. Osorio said: “We went everywhere with them, and answered all their questions. But we had no idea what they were planning.”

Slash and burn

As a result, the conservation area ended up including the flanks of the mountain, where 140 smallholders had been growing maize. A further 517 hectares were included in the “payment for environmental services” programme, under which agricultural activities are forbidden, but the community receives an annual payment of 400 pesos (US$30) per hectare, that is $15,510 a year. It’s not much — and less than they were making from farming the land. The conservation plan also described a range of activities that would supposedly enhance the area’s resources without damaging the environment. The two flagship projects were an ecotourism initiative and a water-bottling plant. Both were abandoned after four years. Two cabins intended to accommodate tourists were never used — this remote area attracts few visitors — and the cost of transporting the bottled water proved prohibitive.

But it was farming that stirred up the most trouble. The local community practised slash-and-burn cultivation (land is cleared, burned and then planted every seven years). The ash serves as a natural fertiliser and the wood is used as cooking fuel. Typical crops are maize, beans, tomatoes and peppers.

Anthropologist Eckart Boege says that, when properly managed, according to strict rules, itinerant cultivation is the best way of farming without destroying the environment; the Mayas were masters of this technique, in both production and reforestation. But Mexican and international institutions have identified this farming method as the latest big threat and they all want a ban on burning, since carbon capture has become the central element of conservation policies. Slash-and-burn has in fact caused environmental damage in Mexico, leading to deforestation, soil impoverishment, water shortages and reduced biodiversity.

But this is not the case with land occupied by indigenous peoples such as the inhabitants of Santiago Lachiguiri, who have established strict community rules (1). “If it’s properly used, the technique can actually increase the biological diversity and mass of the forest. We release CO2 by burning, but we capture more during the regeneration phase,” explained Alvaro Salgado, agronomist and author of a study on slash-and-burn. These facts have been recognised in scientific publications but are denied by Conanp, which is busy imposing another project on the village — agro-forestry, a system that integrates trees into a system of permanent cultivation, in this case apricot trees and maize. The results have failed to convince the locals. In three years, the soil has become impoverished and the trees are scrawny. “Since the maize yields were poor, Conanp advised us very early on to use chemicals to enrich the soil,” said Eduardo. Another result was that most of the 140 smallholders who had lost their land left the village. Some emigrated to the US, some moved to the city, some went to work on a motorway construction site, and the youngest joined the army after a recruitment campaign.

The villagers demanded the removal of the mountain’s protected area status and an end to the payments for environmental services. They also sent two representatives to the Alternative Global Forum that was held at Cancún in December 2010 in parallel with the 16th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 16). Their aim was to denounce the conservation policies that were being imposed. Their testimony was of the highest importance: it was COP 16 that approved the agreement on forest conservation proposed at COP 13, in Bali in 2007 — the REDD (Reducing Emissions From Deforestation and Degradation) programme.

Unable to agree on reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, the signatories hoped that REDD would kill two birds with one stone, cutting emissions by 15% while preventing deforestation. Diego Rodriguez from the World Bank had no doubts REDD would enable the world to prepare for climate change.

’We want to be able to say no’

Yet REDD shows little concern for the 300 million people across the world who depend on forests for their living. The programme is based on “compensation”: any business enterprise or country that pollutes can compensate for its greenhouse gas emissions (quantified in terms of tons of carbon) by “protecting” a forest. Advocates of REDD claim this approach is scientific but it does not appear to have convinced everyone. Research by Stanford University in California shows that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change overestimated the amount of carbon stocked in a forest in Peru by one-third (2).

Anne Petermann of the NGO Global Justice Ecology Project says the idea that carbon can be stocked implies a ban on the felling of trees. Indigenous groups are opposed to REDD, she says, because they believe it will inevitably displace communities or have a serious impact on their way of life, without doing anything to reduce pollution or climate change. Representatives of indigenous peoples, who came to Cancún in large numbers, hoped to impose a requirement that free, prior and informed consent be obtained before the implementation of any REDD project. “We want to be able to say no if a company wants to use our territory to compensate for carbon emissions,” said Onel Masardule, representative of the Kuna people of Panama.

But REDD’s final text merely refers to “social and environmental safeguards”, which have yet to be defined. It mentions the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (which says that “indigenous peoples have the right to determine and develop priorities and strategies for the development or use of their lands or territories and other resources”), but the declaration isn’t binding. Two recent reports (3) on respect for indigenous peoples in REDD programmes indicate that the land rights of local inhabitants and principles of consultation and information have been systematically flouted.

Over the past six years, a range of projects have been financed by enterprises (Shell and Gazprom in Indonesia, BP in Bolivia, and Rio Tinto in Australia), by countries (Norway in Brazil and Indonesia, France in Mexico) and special funds belonging to international institutions such as the World Bank and UN agencies. The Cancún Agreements did not decide how the REDD programme was to be financed but the idea, still championed by the World Bank, of offering REDD carbon credits on the global emissions market already seems less viable.

It is now accepted that the markets have done nothing to help reduce carbon emissions or to promote the financing of a less polluting economy. Kate Dooley, an expert on forests at the NGO Fern, says carbon trading does not encourage people to use less carbon but gives the illusion that it’s possible to compensate for pollution. She fears that if REDD were to become part of the carbon trading market, there could be a wave of land speculation based on assigning a “carbon value” to forests. But the so-called developed nations, which are historically responsible for climate change, have refused to finance REDD alone. A decision on the issue has therefore been put off until COP 17, to be held in Durban, South Africa, 28 November—9 December 2011.

All the World Bank reports stress that public money will not be enough to finance the establishment of REDD; private funding is also needed — estimates range from $15bn to $50bn per year, but the funds currently available amount to only $2bn. And a question remains: what is to be done about the smallholders who want to continue growing maize while conserving some of their land? At COP 16, Mexico’s president Felipe Calderón declared: “We will pay the smallholders to plant trees instead of maize on the mountain, and live on payments they will receive for environmental services.”

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, REDD, UNFCCC

2011 Top Ten Articles on Climate Connections

Note:  The following are the top ten articles from Climate Connections from 2011 according to those the number of views each received.  Several of these are original articles/photos from GJEP’s Jeff Conant, Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle, and were also published in magazines, over the wires and cross-posted in other websites/blogs over the past twelve months.  We have posted them in reverse order, from number 10 through number 1.

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–The GJEP Team

10. A Broken Bridge to the Jungle: The California-Chiapas Climate Agreement Opens Old Wounds (April 7) GJEP post

Photo: Jeff Conant

By Jeff Conant, Communications Director at Global Justice Ecology Project

When photographer Orin Langelle and I visited Chiapas over the last two weeks of March, signs of conflict and concern were everywhere, amidst a complex web of economic development projects being imposed on campesino and indigenous communities without any semblance of free, prior, and informed consent. Among these projects is a renewed government effort to delimit Natural Protected Areas within the Lacandon Jungle, in order to generate carbon credits to be sold to California companies. This effort, it turns out, coincides with a long history of conflicting interests over land, and counterinsurgency campaigns aimed at the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), as well as other allied or sympathetic indigenous and campesino groups.  Continue article

photo: Kim Kyung-hoon / Reuters. caption: Officials in protective gear check for signs of radiation on children...

9. Nuclear Disaster in Japan; Human Health Consequences of Radiation Exposure and the True Price of Oil  (March 15) Cross-posted from Earthbeat Radio

Nuclear power plants across Japan are exploding as the country struggles to cool them down and recover from the massive earthquake and ensuing tsunami. Joining host Daphne Wysham to discuss the latest on the disaster is Damon Moglen. Damon is the director of the climate and energy program for the Friends of the Earth.  Continue article

8.  Today’s tsunami: This is what climate change looks like (March 11) Cross-posted from Grist

March 11 tsunami leads to an explosion at Chiba Works, an industrial (chemical, steel, etc.) facility in Chiba, Japan.Photo: @odyssey

So far, today’s tsunami has mainly affected Japan — there are reports of up to 300 dead in the coastal city of Sendai — but future tsunamis could strike the U.S. and virtually any other coastal area of the world with equal or greater force, say scientists. In a little-heeded warning issued at a 2009 conference on the subject, experts outlined a range of mechanisms by which climate change could already be causing more earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic activity.  Continue article

7.  2011 Year of Forests: Real Solutions to Deforestation Demanded (February 2) GJEP post

As UN Declares International Year of Forests, Groups Demand Solutions to Root Causes of Deforestation

Insist Indigenous & Forest Peoples’ Rights Must Be at the Heart of Forest Protection

New York, 2 February 2011-At the launch of the High Level segment of the UN Forum on Forests today, Mr. Sha Zhukan, UN Under-Secretary-General for Economic and Social Affairs will declare 2011 “the International Year of Forests.” Civil society groups advocating forest protection, Indigenous Rights, and climate justice are launching a program called “The Future of Forests,” to ensure that forest protection strategies address the real causes of global forest decline, and are not oriented toward markets or profit-making.

Critics from Global Justice Ecology Project, Global Forest Coalition, Dogwood Alliance, Timberwatch Coalition, BiofuelWatch, and Indigenous Environmental Network charge that the UN’s premier forest scheme: REDD… Continue article

6. Chiapas, Mexico: From Living in the jungle to ‘existing’ in “little houses made of ticky-tacky…” (April 13) GJEP post

Selva Lacandona (Lacandon jungle/rainforest)

Photo Essay by Orin Langelle

At the Cancún, Mexico United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) last year, journalist Jeff Conant and I learned that California’s then-Governor Arnold Swarzenegger had penned an agreement with Chiapas, Mexico’s Governor Juan Sabines as well as the head of the province of Acre, Brazil.  This deal would provide carbon offsets from Mexico and Brazil to power polluting industries in California—industries that wanted to comply with the new California climate law (AB32) while continuing business as usual.

The plan was to use forests in the two Latin American countries to supposedly offset the emissions of the California polluters.

Conant and I took an investigative trip to Chiapas in March.  When we arrived… Continue photo essay

Overview of the March. Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

5. Photo Essay: Global Day of Action Against UN Conference of Polluters (COP) in Durban (December 3) GJEP post

3 December 2011–Thousands of people from around the world hit the streets of Durban, South Africa to protest the UN Climate Conference of Polluters.

Photo Essay by Orin Langelle/Global Justice Ecology Project and Anne Petermann/Global Justice Ecology Project-Global Forest Coalition. Continue photo essay

4. Showdown at the Durban Disaster: Challenging the ‘Big Green’ Patriarchy (December 13) GJEP post

GJEP's Anne Petermann (right) and GEAR's Keith Brunner (both sitting) before being forcibly ejected from the UN climate conference. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Dedicated to Judi Bari, Emma Goldman, my mother and all of the other strong women who inspire me

An action loses all of its teeth when it is orchestrated with the approval of the authorities.  It becomes strictly theater for the benefit of the media.  With no intent or ability to truly challenge power.

I hate actions like that.

And so it happened that I wound up getting ejected from one such action after challenging its top-down, male domination.  I helped stage an unsanctioned ‘sit-in’ at the action with a dozen or so others who were tired of being told what to do by the authoritarian male leadership of the “big green’ action organizers–Greenpeace and 350.org.  Continue article

3. Photo Essay from Vermont: The Recovery from Hurricane Irene Begins (August 31) GJEP post

Route 100--this and other washed out bridges and culverts cut off the town of Granville, VT from the outside world

As of Tuesday, 30 August 2011, there were still thirteen towns in the U.S. state of Vermont that were completely cut off from the outside world due to the torrential rains of Hurricane Irene.  This was because roads like Route 100, which runs north and south through the state, sustained catastrophic damage to its culverts and bridges for many miles.    In all, over 200 roads across the state were closed due to wash outs from the heavy rains that pelted the state for nearly twenty-four hours on Sunday, August 28.

Text: Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Photos: Orin Langelle, Co-Director/Strategist, Global Justice Ecology Project  Continue photo essay

2. Environmental Destruction, Effects of Climate Change to Worsen in Philippines (January 6) Cross-posted from  Bulatlat.com


MANILA – The year 2010 should have been an opportunity for the new administration to implement fundamental reforms to protect the environment and national patrimony, especially since during the former administration of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the state of the environment of the country has gone from bad to worse. Continue article

1. Permafrost Melt Soon Irreversible Without Major Fossil Fuel Cuts (February 22) Cross-posted from IPS News

By Stephen Leahy

UXBRIDGE, Canada, Feb 17, 2011 (IPS) – Thawing permafrost is threatening to overwhelm attempts to keep the planet from getting too hot for human survival.

Without major reductions in the use of fossil fuels, as much as two-thirds of the world’s gigantic storehouse of frozen carbon could be released, a new study reported. That would push global temperatures several degrees higher, making large parts of the planet uninhabitable.

Once the Arctic gets warm enough, the carbon and methane emissions from thawing permafrost will kick-start a feedback that will amplify the current warming rate, says Kevin Schaefer, a scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC) in Boulder, Colorado. That will likely be irreversible.  Continue article

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Filed under Biodiversity, Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, Natural Disasters, Nuclear power, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, Pollution, Posts from Anne Petermann, REDD, UNFCCC

Photo Essay: UN Climate COP: Corporate Exhibitionism (parting shots)

Note:  Anne Petermann and I went to our first UNFCCC COP (Conference of the Polluters) in 2004 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  One  of my first observations was that this was a bizarre trade show–from ‘clean coal’ to ‘clean nuclear’ to a clean way to get fucked.  Smile.  I was not impressed.  Well,  going into the exhibition center was more exciting than the plenaries packed with, for the most part,  suited charlatans. Fast forward to Montreal, Nairobi, Bali, Poznan, Copenhagen, Cancún and now all the way  to Durban, South Africa; and guess what?–the 1% have been and still are in control (for now). But one of the good things that has happened over these years is that the resistance has risen from a couple of handfuls of us to thousands.  It is evident to GJEP that the COP process is nothing more than the rich figuring out how to make more money off Mother Earth and her inhabitants under the guise of addressing climate change.  So this photo essay, with text by Anne Petermann, is my parting shot to this entire unjust, racist, classist, land-grabbing COP crap.  No to the next meeting in Dubai and yes to mobilization for the Peoples Summit during Rio +20.  GJEP will continue to support the social movements, Indigenous Peoples and those who struggle for justice. Please enjoy the trade show photos and note that the last two photos in this series show the discrepancy between the 1% and the 99%.  Orin Langelle for the GJEP Team.

All photos:  Langelle/GJEP       Captions:  Anne Petermann

The Road to Rio.  “Wait, I think we spelled that wrong–isn’t it supposed to be “Greed Economy”?

“Ohm…no Fukushimi…Ohm…no Fukushima…”

” Look into the blank screen… You are feeling sleepy…Join us…join us…join us…repeat after me…I believe in the green economy…Robert Zoellick is a nice guy…REDD will save the forests…The World Bank’s mission is poverty alleviation…”

What the World Bank said…

“Carbon bubble, what carbon bubble?  A ton of carbon is supposed to be cheaper than a pizza.  Isn’t a pizza made of carbon?  It all makes sense to me!”
“With the Green Economy we can even make fabrics out of tree pulp!  Fabulous Fashions From Foliage!  Yummy Eucalyptus unitards! Perky Plantation Pant Suits!  Thank God for the Green Economy!”
“We help cool down climate change by logging tropical forests…What, you gotta problem with that?”

“We magically transform ancient tropical forests into biodiesel plantations!.  Birds love ‘em!  (F*#k the orangutans).”

” Oooo…that panda makes me so hot…”

People need nature to thrive–which is why we have to protect nature from them!

“These charts clearly show that it’s the NGOs that are responsible for carbon emissions.  That’s why we have to ban NGOs from the climate talks; if there were no NGOs there would be no climate change.  Listen to me.  I’m a white guy and I know.”

“Screw you anti-capitalist NGO bastards. Market-based schemes like the CDM are the best solution to climate change!  So what if they don’t reduce carbon emissions.  Piss off.”

How the 1% live.  The pretentious Southern Sun Elangeni Hotel in Durban was host to the World Climate Summit, 3-4 December, which was a high-level and high-security event where business, finance and government leaders met to celebrate the glory of their green-ness with events like “The Gigatonne Award” for whatever company’s PR campaign was the biggest pile of “green” manure.

 The following week the corporate conference sponsors offered side events for UN government delegates on the theme of “Advancing Public-Private Partnerships for REDD+ and Green Growth” i.e. how to ensure profit-making as usual in the face of ecological collapse and rising public outrage.

How the 99% live.  This tent was where the delegation met that came to Durban with La Via Campesina, the world’s largest peasant organization.  Their slogan, Small Farmers Cool the Planet, confronts the myth that governments and the UN will take care of climate change for us and promotes the idea that bottom up, small scale, community-controlled and bioregionally appropriate solutions are what is needed. The building behind the tent was where La Via slept and ate meals–not as pretentious as the Southern Sun Elangeni Hotel, but the people were real.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Geoengineering, Land Grabs, Nuclear power, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, REDD, UNFCCC