Tag Archives: chiapas

On the 20th Anniversary of the Zapatista Uprising

by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Twenty years ago today an army of Indigenous Peoples, some using only wooden cut outs as guns, emerged from the jungles of Chiapas, Mexico. They took over municipalities around the Mexican state, including the city of San Cristobal de Las Casas, in defiance of the enactment of NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement.


La Realidad, 1996.  PhotoLangelle.org

The Zapatistas had condemned NAFTA as “a death sentence for the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico” due to many of its unjust provisions, but especially that which eliminated Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution.

Article 27, which guaranteed the rights to communal lands in Mexico was an outcome of the revolution led by Emilano Zapata – after whom the Zapatistas took their name – in the early part of the 20th century.

But in order for NAFTA – the free trade agreement between Canada, the US and Mexico – to be passed, Article 27 had to be eliminated.  The eradication of this hard-won victory was accomplished by Edward Krobaker, the CEO of International Paper.  Why did a multinational paper corporation care about this?  Because most of Mexico’s forests were on ejido (communal) lands, which meant they could not easily be obtained or controlled by multinational corporations such as IP.

According to anthropologist Dr. Ron Nigh,

In June of 1995, the government received a letter from Edward Krobacker, International Paper CEO (now John Dillon), establishing a series of conditions, some requiring changes in Mexico’s forestry law, to “create a more secure legal framework” for IP’s investment.

According to La Jornada, all of Krobaker’s (original) demands were agreed to and new forestry legislation has been prepared. Upon returning from a Wall Street meeting with Henry Kissinger and other top financial celebrities, Zedillo announced the rejection of  proposed legislation that would have implemented the Zapatista accords.

Instead he presented a counterproposal, designed to be unacceptable, which the Zapatistas rejected.

Shortly thereafter, Environmental Minister Carabias announced a large World Bank loan for “forestry,” i.e. commercial plantations.

Earlier that year, in January 1995 – one year after the passage of NAFTA and while the Zapatista uprising was still fresh and garnering support from all corners of the globe – Chase Manhattan Bank sent a memo to the Mexican government about the Zapatistas which was leaked.  This memo, released in January 1995, urged the Mexican government to “eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and of security policy” or risk  a devaluation of the peso and a fleeing of investors.  The portion of the memo dealing with the Zapatistas is below:



The uprising in the southern state of Chiapas is now one-year old and, apparently, no nearer to resolution. The leader, or spokesman, of the movement, sub-commandante Marcos, remains adamant in his demand that the incumbent PRI governor resign and be replaced by the PRD candidate who, Marcos argues, was deprived of victory by government fraud in the recent election. Marcos continues to lobby for widespread social and economic reform in the state. Incidents continue between the local police and military authorities and those sympathetic to the Zapatista movement, as the insurgency is called, and local peasant groups who are sympathetic to Marcos and his cronies.

While Zedillo is committed to a diplomatic and political solution th the stand-off in Chiapas, it is difficult to imagine that the current environment will yield a peaceful solution. Moreover, to the degree that the monetary crisis limits the resources available to the government for social and economic reforms, it may prove difficult to win popular support for the Zedillo administration’s plans for Chiapas. More relevant, Marcos and his supporters may decide to embarrass the government with an increase in local violence and force the administration to cede to Zapatista demands and accept an embarrassing political defeat. The alternative is a military offensive to defeat the insurgency which would create an international outcry over the use of violence and the suppression of indigenous rights.

While Chiapas, in our opinion, does not pose a fundamental threat to Mexican political stability, it is perceived to be so by many in the investment community. The government will need to eliminate the Zapatistas to demonstrate their effective control of the national territory and of security policy.

Orin Langelle, Board Chair of GJEP, who was then the Co-Coordinator of Native Forest Network Eastern North America (NFN ENA) attended the Chase Manhattan Board meeting that year and read the memo out loud to the stock holders.

What many do not know about the Zapatista struggle, is that it is and was a struggle for the land.  For autonomous Indigenous control over their territories.  NFN ENA put out a video about this aspect of the Zapatista struggle after we were asked to help expose the ecological threats to Chiapas which the Zapatistas were trying to stop–including illegal logging, oil drilling and hydroelectric dams.  The video includes interviews from the first North American Encuentro in the Zapatista stronghold of La Realidad in the summer of 1996.  The video is called “Lacandona: The Zapatistas and Rainforest of Chiapas, Mexico.”

A clip of the video can be viewed here:

Despite massive pressure from governments, multinationals and major banks, twenty years later, the Zapatistas are still organizing.  Maybe you thought they had disappeared, but they have not.  They are just busily doing the work of daily life.  They have their own autonomous form of government, their own schools, and they maintain their rejection of any type of support from the Mexican government.

Today, as social movements around the world continue to resist unjust “free” trade agreements such as the TPP (TransPacific Partnership), the Zapatistas continue to be an inspiration to me and I hope to many others as well.

To view Orin Langelle’s photo exhibit of 15 years of photographs from Chiapas, click here.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Hydroelectric dams, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Oil, Posts from Anne Petermann, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Victory!

“We reject REDD+ in all its versions” – Letter from Chiapas, Mexico opposing REDD in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32)

By Chris Lang, 30th April 2013.  Source: REDD-Monitor

Organisations based in Chiapas, Mexico have written to California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, to oppose the inclusion of REDD in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB 32).

Young girls in Amador Hernández   Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Young girls in Amador Hernández Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

In March 2011, Global Justice Ecology Project travelled to Chiapas and documented the problems that REDD and other conservation projects were causing for communities in the Lacandón jungle. Jeff Conant, who was then Communications Director for GJEP, wrote a series of articles based on the visit. The articles are collected on GJEP’s blog, Climate Connections. And Orin Langelle, GJEP’s Board Chair, produced a photo essay about the visit to Chiapas.

GJEP also produced a video about REDD: “A Darker Shade of Green”, which includes interviews with communities in Chiapas (the part about Chiapas starts at 10:45). One of the villagers describes REDD from his perspective:

“They see our Mother Earth as a business, and for us you should never see it like that, it’s our Mother, she can’t be sold. Now they’re developing this REDD Project that’s about carbon capture, it doesn’t serve us. We struggle simply to feed ourselves.”

In December 2012, an article was published in Truthout about the impact of REDD on communities in Chiapas. The title is very appropriate: “Colonialism and the Green Economy: The Hidden Side of Carbon Offsets”. The impacts of carbon offsets on the communities in Chiapas, it seems, remain largely hidden from view in California.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Green Economy, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Pollution, REDD, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

Should Chiapas farmers suffer for California’s carbon?

Note: Jeff Conant is the former Communications Director for Global Justice Ecology Project.  In March of 2011, he and Orin Langelle, then Co-Director of GJEP, went to Amador Hernandez in Chiapas, Mexico to investigate the threatened forced relocation of the community and its relation to REDD+ and the California-Chiapas-Acre, Brazil climate deal.

–The GJEP Team

By Jeff Conant, November 13 2012. Source: Yes! Magazine

Photo: Jeff Conant

“We are not responsible for climate change—it’s the big industries that are,” said Abelardo, a young man from the Tseltal Mayan village of Amador Hernández in the Lacandon jungle of Chiapas. “So why should we be held responsible, and even punished for it?”

Abelardo was one of dozens of villagers who had traveled to the city of San Cristóbal de las Casas to protest an international policy meeting on climate change and forest conservation. At a high-end conference center, representatives from the state of California and from states and provinces around the world were working out mechanisms intended to mitigate climate change by protecting tropical forests. The group was called the Governor’s Climate and Forests Task Force (GCF), and California’s interest was in using forest preservation in Chiapas as a carbon offset—a means for meeting climate change goals under the state’s 2006 Global Warming Solutions Act.

Such an agreement among subnational governments is unprecedented, and California officials view it as an important way for the world’s eighth largest economy to help the developing world. But judging from the reaction on the streets of San Cristóbal, Mexican peasants see it differently. The lush, mountainous state of Chiapas has a long history of human rights abuses, and the Mexican government has forcibly evicted indigenous families from their lands in the name of environmental protection. To indigenous peasants in the Lacandon jungle, the pending agreement has all the hallmarks of a land grab.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Green Economy, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, REDD

Poster: REDD + Indigenous Peoples = Genocide

Note: The photos in the upper right and lower left of this poster were taken in the indigenous village Amador Hernandez on the border of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve by Global Justice Ecology Project Board Chair Orin Langelle during an investigative trip to Chiapas, Mexico with GJEP’s then-Communications Director Jeff Conant.  The trip was organized in March 2011 to identify and expose the impacts on the indigenous communities in the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas, Mexico that would be caused by the California-Chiapas-Acre (Brazil) REDD agreement, which was announced at the Cancun climate talks in December 2010.  The series of events this week in California against REDD (also see previous blog post)  feature Orin’s photography as well as GJEP’s film “A Darker Shade of Green: REDD Alert and the Future of Forests.”  For more, go to no-redd.com

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Events, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, REDD

KPFK Sojourner Truth Earth Segment and Earth Minute: Occupy Monsanto and resistance to REDD+ in Chiapas

KPFK Sojourner Truth Earth Segment: Kathleen Logan Smith of Missouri Coalition for the Environment

Interview begins at 7:06: http://archive.org/details/Sojournertruthradio092012

Kathleen Logan Smith, Executive Director of Missouri Coalition for the Environment, discusses Occupy Monsanto in St. Louis and the week of actions targeting Monsanto on the first anniversary of Occupy Wall St.

Global Justice Ecology Project teams up with KPFK’s Sojourner Truth show for weekly Earth Minutes every Tuesday and Earth Segment interviews every Thursday.

KPFK Sojourner Truth Earth Minute: Amidst opposition, governors meet in Chiapas to discuss REDD+

KPFK Sojourner Truth show: Updates from Tar Sands Blockade

KPFK Sojourner Truth show followed up Tuesday with Ron Seifert, who was featured on last week’s Earth Segment, about new developments around the ongoing Tar Sands Blockade in East Texas, which is using direct action to prevent the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Continue reading

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Earth Minute, Earth Radio, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Indigenous Peoples, REDD, Tar Sands

GJEP’s Short Video on REDD in Chiapas Chosen for Native Spirit Film Festival

We’re proud to announce that the short documentary video Global Justice Ecology Project produced this past Spring, Amador Hernandez, Chiapas: Starved of Medical Services for REDD+, (watch film below) is being shown this week in London as part of Native Spirit Film Festival. The festival is a season of films, performances and workshops celebrating the cultures of Indigenous Peoples across the Earth, founded and counselled by Indigenous people, as a platform to promote the voices of Indigenous cultures and the protection of their rights.

According to the festival’s program, which you can download here, the themes for this year are “defending culture in the face of modern development, responding to climate change, reconnecting with the land, the power of storytelling, cultural identity, guidance from the Elders and voices of youth, and finding a sense of belonging within the community.”

While our entry in the festival is a humble ten-minute documentary, the process of producing this short video, we think, was exemplary.

Komen Ilel's Fuyumi Labra (left) and Angél Galán (forefront) with GJEP's Communication Director,Jeff Conant (right) relax in Amador Hernandez before they begin a documentary overflight of the Lacandon jungle. photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

When Orin Langelle and I traveled to Chiapas this past March to investigate the emerging impacts of REDD+, we met with a small film collective, Komen Ilel. Two members of Komen Ilel, Angél Galán and Fuyumi Labra, excited about our project, volunteered to accompany us on a trek into the jungle. Because of the nature of our visit to the remote community of Amador Hernández, even as we began our two-day trek, there was no certainty that Angél and Fuyumi would be allowed to film. Indeed, due to a long history of outsiders taking disrespectful advantage of the villagers, there was no certainty that our colleagues, or their cameras, would be allowed to even set foot in the village.

After a ten-hour drive from San Cristóbal de las Casas to the military-occupied village of San Quintín, where the road ends at the border of the Montes Azules Biosphere Reserve, our small crew was met by representatives from Amador Hernández. They took us to a nearby village to spend the night before traveling further into the jungle.

There, we spoke, formally at first, and then with more ease. Our goal, we said, was to interview the villagers about any concerns they might have about REDD+ as it was manifesting there in the Lacandon jungle. The young man speaking for the village said that their concern, above all, was to let the world know of a particular injustice they were suffering: a year previous to our visit, the government had cancelled all medical service to the village. Several children and elders had died as a direct consequence.

After some length of discussion, it became clear that the two concerns were one: the negation of medical services appeared to be part of the government’s strategy to pressure Amador Hernández to negotiate for relocation, in large part due to the need to demarcate the borders of the Montes Azules Reserve for a forest-carbon inventory.

With this revelation, we asked the village representative: could we bring our film crew and capture some interviews on film. Our documentary work, we said, might help the village to demand restoration of its right to health, and to its territory. He agreed that this was a good idea, but whether we would be permitted to film was a question for the village assembly.

The next morning we hiked fifteen kilometers, through the Lacandon’s black, boot-sucking mud, and arrived at the village by afternoon. After darkness fell, an assembly was called, and we – Orin, Angel, Fuyumi, and myself – were invited to attend, and to speak. To the forty or fifty Tseltal Mayan campesinos gathered in the dusty half-light of a bare solar-powered bulb we presented ourselves and declared our intentions. Our words, translated into Tseltal, were batted around the assembly, fed into the age-old process of lajan laja, or consensus-building.

Finally, the assembly decided that, yes, we could conduct our interviews, and yes, we could film anything we wanted. The only condition on their part was that, aside from whatever other material we would produce, we make sure that their primary concern – the withdrawal of medical services – be addressed, so the world would know.

It is to Angel and Fuyumi’s credit that the short video they produced for GJEP does precisely what the Amador Hernández community assembly requested – it tells the story of the withdrawal of health services, while making it clear that this concern is directly linked to government efforts to remove the village due to the demands of impending carbon deals.

We are extremely pleased and proud to have had this short video chosen as a selection in this year’s Native Spirit Film Festival.

— Jeff Conant, for GJEP

Amador Hernandez, Chiapas: Starved of Medical Services for REDD+

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Filed under Biodiversity, Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean

Environmental, Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights Groups Reject International Offsets in California’s Global Warming Solutions Act

Oakland, CA – The California Air Resources Board meets tomorrow in Sacramento, CA to announce the findings of its evaluation of alternatives to Cap and Trade in AB32, the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act.  Environmental, indigenous peoples’ and human rights groups warn that outsourcing the state’s emissions reductions through carbon offsets will shift the responsibility for the climate crisis from industry to under-resourced communities, both in California and abroad.

“Any Cap and Trade Provision in AB32 will not only leave California communities continuing to bear the brunt of industrial pollution, they are no solution to climate change,” said Jeff Conant from the Oakland, CA office of Global Justice Ecology Project. “If the offsets are enacted in-state it will undermine forest conservation in California.  If California’s offsets are enacted at the international level, they will exacerbate land and resource conflicts in places like Chiapas, Mexico and Acre, Brazil – especially because these offsets are based on the controversial policy of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD).”

The Cap and Trade provision in AB32 has clear links to REDD-type forest carbon offsets, as demonstrated by the Memoranda of Understanding signed by former Governor Schwarzenegger last year with the state governments of Chiapas and Acre.  While the mechanism for such an offsets program is not expected to be enacted until 2015, the effects of the policy are already showing impacts in these states. Commentators see this MoU as the world’s most advanced sub-national carbon offsets agreement, which could serve as a model for similar agreements worldwide.

Traditional healers prepare medicines in Amador Hernandez after the Mexican government cut off all medical services. The local residents believe this was done in an attempt to force them out of the Lacandon Jungle. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

In comments submitted to the California Air Resources Board, Francisco Hernández Maldonado, an indigenous Tzeltal from the village of Amador Hernández in the Lacandon Jungle of Chiapas, Mexico wrote: “The promotion of REDD+ in Chiapas, which the government is doing without consulting us, is causing conflict between our peoples, because it benefits some and tries to criminalize those who truly dedicate ourselves to coexist with the earth and are not in favor of REDD + as a solution to climate change. By failing to consult us, our human rights are violated as well as international agreements such as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”

The Air Resources Board says that REDD as part of a Cap and Trade program will be developed under a separate process with public participation and environmental review. But critics of REDD recognize that the mere suggestion that California will engage in international offsets sends “price signals” to developing world governments – signals that have already led to forced evictions in the name of forest protection.

“These REDD forest offset initiatives in Mexico and the global South have no guarantees for safeguarding against land grabs and violating the rights of indigenous communities,” said Tom Goldtooth, Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network.  “Putting trust in carbon market regimes based upon the privatization and commodification of air, trees and biodiversity could be devastating to indigenous peoples and their cultures. Not only abroad, but right here at home. Many of the dirtiest industries in the U.S. and Canada are located on Indigenous and First Nations lands that would benefit from domestic and international offsets, buying carbon credits to greenwash the pollution and toxic hotspots they create in local communities. Our people lose out on all sides of the border. There is no justice in carbon offsets – only more suffering.”

A coalition of California environmental justice groups is expected to turn out in Sacramento to demand that the Air Resources Board give real attention to concerns of ongoing pollution in the state’s heavily impacted industrial zones.

“Cap and Trade is no solution to climate change,” said Nile Malloy of Communities for a Better Environment in Oakland, CA. “It allows industry to continue polluting our communities, while the emissions continue to worsen climate change. It is a lose-lose scenario, benefiting only corporations like Chevron.”

For more information, contact:

Jeff Conant, Global Justice Ecology Project, Oakland, CA, +1.575.770.2829

Orin Langelle, Global Justice Ecology Project, Hinesburg, VT, +1.802.578.6980

Diana Pei Wu, Professor, Antioch University, Los Angeles, CA, +1.323.448.0566

Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network Bemidji, MN, +1.218.760.0442

 Low resolution photographs from the Chiapas jungle: http://www.flickr.com/photos/langelle/sets/72157627501175098/

Higher resolutions of those photographs from the Chiapas jungle are available to media by contacting Orin Langelle +1.802.578.6980 mobile or by email <orinl@globaljusticeecology.org>.


Background Information:

Key Arguments Against REDD fact sheet

 Why REDD is Wrong

 Turning the Lacandon Jungle Over to the Carbon Market

 Interview with Santiago Martinez of Amador Hernandez, Chiapas

Photo Essay from Amador Hernandez, Chiapas, Mexico: Chiapas, Mexico: From Living in the jungle to ‘existing’ in “little houses made of ticky-tacky…”

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, Pollution, REDD

Turning the Lacandon Jungle Over to the Carbon Market

Cross-Posted from Z Magazine

By Jeff Conant

All Photos by Orin Langelle/ GJEP-GFC

In A Land to Plant Dreams, historian Yan de Vos describes the history of the Lacandon jungle of Chiapasas a series of dreams that have obsessed and overtaken those who come upon this remote mountain rainforest in the southeastern corner of Mexico. A jungle so dense and mysterious only a century ago that it was named “the Desert of Solitude,” de Vos declares that “the Lacandon is not a single reality, but a mosaic of multiple Lacandonas conceived and made concrete by many and varied interests.”

The Lacandon’s dreamers include the commercial interests that, for centuries, have extracted mahogany, rubber, minerals, petroleum, and genetic material, leaving about 30 percent of the original forest, of which only 12 percent is said to retain its ecological integrity. Then there are the diverse communities who live there—Mestizo settlers along with Tzeltal, Tzotzil, Tojolabal, Ch’ol, and Mam indigenous farmers, some who originated there and many others who arrived over the course of centuries, escaping forced labor on the fincas or war in neighboring Guatemala, seeking a plot of land to cultivate.

Then there is the group that has been given title to the largest swath of jungle—a small tribe called the Caribes whose ancestors migrated from nearby Campeche two centuries ago and who, through a complex history involving European anthropologists, American missionaries, and Mexican government officials, became known as the Lacandones. In direct conflict with the Lacandones, and with transnational capital, are the jungle’s best-known dreamers, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, who, beginning in the 1990s, occupied vast portions of the jungle and declared it autonomous territory.

Now, after centuries defined by its potential for producing goods, the Lacandon has entered the 21st century where it is being dreamed anew as “the lungs of the earth.” This jungle’s new dreamers include the state of California, market-oriented “environmental” groups like Conservation International, and the United Nations. Their dream is to harness the power of the burgeoning carbon market to preserve the Lacandon—the container for one-fifth of the biodiversity of all of Mexico—by turning it into a virtual carbon sink.

Enter the Governor of California

In 2006, the state of California passed the Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32), which mandates that the state reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The law was hailed as landmark environmental legislation for its aggressive action to reduce global warming emissions while “generating jobs, and promoting a growing, clean-energy economy and a healthy environment for California at the same time.”

Under the implementation plan for AB32, which was approved by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) in December 2010, but held up in court three months later, up to 20 percent of the state’s total mandated emissions reductions would be achieved through carbon trading, rather than through actual cuts in industrial pollution at the source. This means that industries would be permitted to delay efforts to reduce carbon dioxide emissions—along with the associated toxic co-pollutants—by purchasing carbon allowances from outside California. As one of his last acts in office, just a week before the UN Framework Convention on Climate in Cancún, Mexico last November, former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a carbon-trading agreement with the state of Chiapas as part of AB32. The agreement is predicated on an emerging global policy mechanism known as “Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation” or REDD.

Mary Nichols, the chairperson of CARB, announced California’s initiative at a high-level event in Cancún where pilot REDD projects were hailed by a gamut of global figures, including primatologist Jane Goodall, World Bank President Robert Zoellick, and Sam Walton, the CEO of Walmart. Nichols called the plan “a way for California to help the developing world by investing in forests. Saving our forests is good not only for the atmosphere,” she said, “It’s also good for indigenous peoples.” But many in Chiapas disagree. Gustavo Castro, Coordinator of Otros Mundos, a small NGO based in Chiapas, sees this as the leading edge of a new onslaught of forest carbon offsets and part of a broader trend of privatization of territories and natural resources. “Enter the governor of California, saying, ‘We’re going to approve a law in which California, the fifth largest economy in the world, is obliged to reduce its CO2, so we need to buy the fresh air from the forests of the South.’ When a natural function like forest respiration becomes a product with a price, it’s easy to see who’s going to end up with control of the forests.”

The law has also stirred up controversy in California where environmental justice advocates charge that such carbon trading schemes—reducing emissions on paper only—leaves lower-income communities of color to continue bearing the brunt of industrial pollution. Alegria de la Cruz, one of the lead attorneys for San Francisco’s Center on Race, Poverty and the Environment (CRPE), whose lawsuit has successfully challenged the cap and trade component of the bill, says that, “The overarching goal of a pollution trading system has serious implications for fence-line communities.” Her co-counsel, Brent Newell, is more explicit: “Poor people are getting screwed on both sides of the transaction,” he said. “Only the polluters are benefiting.”

In late May, a ruling by the San Francisco superior court forced the California Air Resources Board to bring its cap and trade plan back to the drawing board in order to review alternatives. But as the spearhead of efforts to forge a pathway for carbon markets, the dream of converting the Lacandon into international carbon currency will not be disrupted so easily. “Our goal,” says Chiapas Governor Juan Sabines “is that the entirety of the surface of Chiapas will enter into the market for carbon credits and methane credits, beginning through agreements with polluting sub-national states, like California.”

 Selling the Forest for the Trees

REDD projects are being piloted in many countries under the auspices of the United Nations REDD Program, the World Bank Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and other global bodies. The California project is one of a small handful of REDD agreements between sub-national entities. The armature of REDD is still very much in development, but in broad strokes it works like this: because trees capture and store CO2, maintaining intact forests is essential to mitigating the impacts of climate change. Under REDD, those who protect forests can earn carbon credits—financial rewards based on an assessment of the amount of CO2 a forest can store and a market-derived price per ton of carbon. They can then trade these credits to industrial polluters in order to generate revenue that, in theory, gives developing world countries and the forest-dwelling communities in those countries an incentive not to cut down trees.

Policymakers at the global level see REDD as offering a viable chance—“perhaps the last chance,” says World Bank President Robert Zoellick—to save the world’s forests, while simultaneously addressing the climate crisis, without jeopardizing economic growth. The major multilateral institutions support REDD and its growing list of spin-offs with dizzying acronyms, such as REDD+ and REDD++, which allow the policy to include aspects such as reforestation with exotic species, and offset credits for biodiversity. But many forest-dependent communities, environmental justice advocates, indigenous peoples’ organizations, and global South social movements oppose it. “It comes to seem very amiable for the governments and corporations of the North to say, ‘We’re going to pay you not to deforest,’ Gustavo Castro argues. “But in reality they’re saying. ‘We’re going to pay you so we can continue polluting’.” Tom Goldtooth, director of the Indigenous Environmental Network has called REDD “a violation of the sacred, and potentially the biggest landgrab of all time.”

 To read the rest of the article, please go to Z Magazine

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Justice, False Solutions to Climate Change, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, Pollution, REDD