Tag Archives: forests

GE security beefed up after battle

Check out this story about a GE trees company in New Zealand feeling pressure. Roturua, NZ is home of forests known as NZ’s Redwoods. For background, you can check out this earlier article from the same paper on protesters destroying a field trial. Close readers of both will note a real change in tone: the first one largely sides with the company; the new one is much more skeptical of it. – GJEP

By Catherine Harris, February 3, 2014. Source: Timaru Herald

Scion, the Crown research institute which looks after forest research, has reinforced security around a trial of genetically modified pine trees following a recent court battle over genetically engineered science.

The institute told Parliament’s education and science select committee recently that it had invested $500,000 to extend GE field trials of up to several hundred pine trees at its Rotorua campus.

Walkway through tree fern understorey of native bush in Whirinaki Forest Park near Rotorua, New Zealand. Wikimedia Commons

Walkway through tree fern understorey of native bush in Whirinaki Forest Park near Rotorua, New Zealand.
Wikimedia Commons

Some of the plants had been modified for herbicide resistance, others for greater growth and “pulpability”, Scion’s chief executive Warren Parker said.

The trials will continue for the next 23 years, with trees being removed before they reach the reproduction stage.

Last month Scion took the Bay of Plenty Regional Council to the Environment Court over its decision to adopt the “precautionary principle” over genetic modification. Continue reading

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Where’s the Lorax When We Need Him?

Note: Rachel Smolker is a member of the Steering Committee of the Campaign to STOP GE Trees.

by Rachel Smolker, Co-director, Biofuelwatch, 12/19/2013.  Huffington Post

It’s a shame that the Lorax and his message “Who Will Speak For The Trees” has been relegated to the realm of children’s cartoons and fantasy. Especially as trees, forests and ecosystems appear to be right smack in the epicenter of swirling debates about climate change. What those debates seem to boil down to (as the world burns around us) is whether it makes more sense to 1) cut down remaining forests and burn them for “renewable energy”, 2) put a fence around them, measure their carbon content and sell them to polluters as “offsets”, or 3) install vast plantations of trees — (perhaps genetically engineered to grow faster), to suck up atmospheric carbon in hopes this will counter the ongoing gush of carbon into the atmosphere (geoengineering via “afforestation”) or this recent proposal which suggests that cutting down high latitude temperate and boreal forests — or replacing them with short rotation tree plantations, might help “fix” the climate.

Decisions, decisions! So many options. What shall we do with all the trees?

Here in the U.S, a debate is brewing out west in light of recent legislation proposals from Oregon representatives Wyden and Defazio (among others) that would provide supports for “thinning and restoration” (climatespeak for logging) on public lands. The underlying motive is to get access to timber currently off limits to supply expanding demand for biomass to burn as “renewable energy.

Meanwhile, one of the few proclaimed “successes” coming out of Warsaw climate negotiations was towards an agreement on REDD+ (reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation). Yet this is hardly a success given mounting evidence that, among other concerns, REDD fails to address the underlying drivers of deforestation. What it has achieved is to create bitter divisions among indigenous communities faced with proposals that would commodify their lands and utterly distracted forest policymakers who are now so caught up in endless debates over REDD that they seem barely to notice that their forests are meanwhile being liquidated.

As if we were not confused enough already, brilliant scientists at Dartmouth have now determined that the value of high latitude temperate and boreal forests (let’s call them “Truffula” trees) — should not be measured solely in terms of their carbon content, nor the value of their timber, but also with respect to the “ecosystem service” they provide (to us that is) of absorbing or reflecting sunlight: their impact on albedo. The basic idea is that at higher latitudes, dark colored tree cover absorbs light and has net warming impact, whereas removing trees or keeping them small and immature allows light to penetrate, increasing the reflectivity of the white ground surface, and contributing to a net cooling effect.

The Dartmouth scientists say: “Our results suggest that valuing albedo can shorten optimal rotation periods significantly compared to scenarios where only timber and carbon are considered… we expect that in high latitude sites, where snowfall is common and forest productivity is low, valuing albedo may lead optimal rotation periods that approach zero.”

In other words those forests will be “more valuable” cut down or replaced with short rotation stunted tree plantations.

In their conclusions the Dartmouth authors state: “In particular, documenting relationships between forest biomass growth, the frequency of snowfall, latitude, and regional stumpage prices may help elucidate locations wherein different forest project strategies provide the maximum climatic benefits.”

Oh really? That sounds easy! Just plug those numbers into an equation and voila we can discover that “optimal climate benefits” indicate we should cut the forests down?

What would the Lorax say, I wonder? Probably that the “value” of forests should not be confined in so reductionist a manner where consideration is granted solely to carbon content, albedo, or timber harvest pricing. What about, just for example, the role of forests in regulating temperature and rainfall patterns over large areas of the earth? Or the role of compounds released into the atmosphere by trees in stimulating cloud formation (and hence influencing albedo)? What about the role of forest in creating fertile soils? Or the production of hydroxyl radicals by forests which are thought to play a key role in the breakdown of atmospheric pollutants? And what about the many many life forms that depend on healthy forest ecosystems?

The authors seem to have had some inkling that there might be other views of the “value” of forests, and offer lip service, recommending that “forest management should include biodiversity considerations when managing the flow of timber, carbon, and albedo services in mid and high latitude temperate and boreal forests.”

Managing the flow of services? If we cut them down then it seems most of the “flow” of “services” will likely come to a screeching halt!

The paper closes with a plug for funding: “Thus, as in all modeling work, we must take caution to consider that optimal forest management may vary quite drastically as the planet responds to climate change. Consequently, detailed and refined projections of these changes are critical for future work in this arena.”

Well, it is good that the authors realize that things will drastically change as climate change progresses. Like, for example, we might find that there is a lot less snow or it melts much faster. Which begs the question: After we have cut down the high latitude temperate and boreal forests to increase the reflective potential of snow cover, what happens when there is no more snow? Now we have no albedo and… no trees, no timber, no carbon, no biodiversity. This must be the Once-ler’s idea!

Perhaps they are taking their lead from another Once-ler, the Indonesian Ministry of Forestry. Recently when questioned about the horrendous doubling in Indonesia’s deforestation rate over the year following announcement of a moratorium on new concessions, responded that this was not “deforestation”, only “temporary deforestation”, (euphemism of the year).

The paleoclimate record suggests that in previous cases where earth’s climate has heated up or cooled down, stability was regained in large part by the sequestering of carbon in plants — forests and ecosystems. For example, Southeast Asian tropical peat forests (now being destroyed for oil palm and pulp and paper plantations and “temporary deforestation”) are thought to have played a key role in stabilizing climate between glacial and interglacial periods over the course of the last few million years of earth history.

The survival of many species faced with warming depends upon a steady northward and uphill climb towards cooler and more favorable conditions. So let’s see… now we are going to cut those forests down, further diminishing the remaining pool of ecosystem diversity in order to gain some supposed cooling due to albedo enhancement over the coming season, or two?

I am certain that the Lorax, and the children to whom that story so appeals, have far more common sense.

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Filed under Indigenous Peoples, Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Greenwashing, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Biodiversity, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Land Grabs, Green Economy, Commodification of Life, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Forests

Video: Our Forests Aren’t Fuel–Wetlands up in Smoke

Note: future plans for the forests of the Southeast are to replace them with fast growing freeze tolerant GE eucalyptus trees for biomass production, pulp and whatever else they can think of.

–The GJEP Team

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Green Economy, Greenwashing, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Videos

New Report Assesses Threats to Southeast US Wildlife from Biomass Energy

Note: The proposed development of vast plantations of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees across the US South for biomass energy production poses another major threat to Southern forests and biodiversity.  To sign our petition to the USDA demanding a ban on the release of GE eucalyptus trees, click here.

Charlottesville, VA, 5 December –  A study released today by three major Southern universities, commissioned by the National Wildlife Federation and Southern Environmental Law Center, concludes that wildlife habitat and biodiversity in the Southeast are at risk due to rapidly expanding biomass energy development. The Southeast is now the world’s largest exporter of wood pellets for biomass energy, with exports from Southern ports increasing by 70% last year alone. The projected huge surge in European demand for Southeast trees for power generation is expected to have significant negative impacts on wildlife.

The report, Forestry Bioenergy in the Southeast United States: Implications for Wildlife Habitat and Biodiversity”, can be accessed here: http://bit.ly/1iCZ2p8

For the study, researchers from University of Georgia, University of Florida, and Virginia Tech analyzed land cover and determined areas of highest risk of harvesting around six facilities located in Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia, with sourcing areas stretching into Florida, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia. One of the case studies focused on a facility owned by Enviva LP, one of the major wood pellet exporters in the region that is sourcing pellets from whole trees logged from wildlife-rich wetland forests in North Carolina and Virginia.

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Forests could face threat from biomass power ‘gold rush’

Sustainability fear over new power stations’ demand for wood pellets after report says their use has implications globally

By Jamie Doward, 9 November 2013.   Source: The Observer

Eucalyptus trees being harvested

A new report says the demand for wood pellets has implications for global land use. Photograph: Alamy


Britain’s new generation of biomass power stations will have to source millions of tonnes of wood from thousands of miles away if they are to operate near to their full capacity, raising questions about the claims made for the sustainability of the new technology.

Ministers believe biomass technology could provide as much as 11% of the UK’s energy by 2020, something that would help it meet its carbon commitments. The Environment Agency estimates that biomass-fired electricity generation, most of which involves burning wood pellets, can cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90% compared with coal-fired power stations. Eight biomass power stations, including one in a unit in the giant Drax power station, are operating in the UK and a further seven are in the pipeline. None operates near capacity.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Greenwashing, Illegal logging, Land Grabs, Pollution, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Photo Essay: Three brutally arrested protesting GE trees at industry conference

30 May, 2013

All photographs by Orin Langelle/ photolangelle.org for GJEP

_10m30_DSCN1302 Police use pain compliance holds as they wrestle a protester to the ground.  Activists were attempting to wrap a bus departing from the industry conference in GMO caution tape.

_7m30_DSCN1319 A local organizer with Katuah Earth First! is thrown to the ground and arrested in front of the bus.


_1m30_DSCN1380 Will Bennington, an organizer with Global Justice Ecology Project and the Campaign to STOP GE Trees prior to being thrown into an Asheville Police paddy wagon.


_12m30_DSCN1246 “You Spoil Our Forests – We Spoil Your Dinner” banner refers to blocking conference participants from attending an exclusive dinner at the Biltmore Estate – birthplace to industrial forestry in the US.


_11m30_DSCN1251 Tree Engineer and industry mouthpiece Steve Strauss takes photos of the protesters as they chant at him.  A security guard laughs.


_13m30_DSCN1335 Local Katuah EF! zombie organizer.


_9m30_DSCN1311 Police brutally pull and yank on peaceful activists


_8m30_DSCN1318 Police wrestle and throw to the ground a local woman organizer.


_6m30_DSCN1358


_5m30_DSCN1359


_4m30_DSCN1363 Zombie “Franken-tree” demonstrators bang on pots and pans and chant anti-GE tree slogan as arrests continue.


_3m30_DSCN1371 Protesters vow that resistance will continue.


_2m30_DSCN1378

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Green Economy, Greenwashing, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests, Tree Biotech 2013

Protest Continued Tasmanian Old-Growth Logging in Proposed World Heritage Area

By Ecological Internet, February 17, 2013

with Observer Tree, Still Wild Still Threatened

TAKE ACTION to protect Australia’s priceless temperate rainforests

An important new report from Still Wild Still Threatened finds the Australian government has made pledges to protect Tasmania’s priceless temperate rainforests, yet industrial clearcut logging of old-growth continues in what is to be a World Heritage Area.

Important forest wildernesses covering some 170,000 hectares and including Butlers Gorge; and the Florentine, Weld and Styx valleys, have been nominated to be added to the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area and could finally be given protection after decades of protests.

Alarmingly, however, industrial scale clear felling is still continuing within those forests, with timbers being sold as “eco ply” by the Malaysian timber mafia. From the top of the “Observer Tree” in the middle of this ancient forest, conservationist Miranda Gibson is calling for your help to protect these globally significant forests. Miranda’s action is part of long running grassroots campaigns to protect Tasmania’s forests for more than 20 years.

Demand the Australian government honor their international obligations and protect these World Heritage nominated old-growth temperate rainforests from industrial destruction.

TAKE ACTION!

READ THE REPORT

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Center for Biological Diversity files appeal over Tahoe/Truckee biomass project

By Margaret Moran, 2 January, 2012. Source: Sierra Sun

Processed wood chips like these are one example of biomass.
Processed wood chips like these are one example of biomass.

Processed wood chips like these are one example of biomass.


TRUCKEE, Calif. — A national environmental nonprofit organization dedicated to protecting nearly extinct species is appealing the latest approval in the proposed two-megawatt Cabin Creek Biomass Energy Facility process, officials confirmed Wednesday.

The Center for Biological Diversity submitted the appeal after the Placer County Planning Commission adopted a conditional use permit and certified the project’s final Environmental Impact Report on Dec. 20, said Brett Storey, Placer County project manager for the biomass facility, on Wednesday.The appeal, sent out Dec. 27, questions the analysis of the EIR regarding potential greenhouse gas emission amounts and the facility’s potential ripple effect on area forests and forest management, said Kevin Bundy, senior attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, on Wednesday.

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Doha, Forests and the Production Tax Credit: On Track to Burn, Baby, Burn

, Co-director, Biofuelwatch, 12/13/2012.  Source: Huffington Post

Last Saturday, the annual UN Climate Talks, held in Doha, concluded, once more without any meaningful achievements. The U.S. government was amongst those that ensured that there would be no new climate treaty until at least 2020 and that they would thus not be bound by any restrictions on carbon emissions. A major focus of the negotiations was on forests, specifically on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation in developing countries (REDD+). Those talks also stalled as rich countries scaled back financial commitments which they had already made while trying to force Southern countries to divert vast sums of funds towards creating a new carbon market in forests. This would in future allow for example the U.S. or EU to class lower deforestation rates or even new monoculture tree plantations in the global South as Northern emissions reductions.

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REDD at COP18, Doha: At a crossroads or stuck in neoliberalism’s dead end?

By Chris Lang, 14th December 2012.  Source: REDD-Monitor

REDD at COP18, Doha: At a crossroads or stuck in neoliberalism's dead end?

REDD negotiations came to a grinding halt at the end of the first week of COP18 in Doha when Brazil and Norway disagreed over the verification of emission reductions from forests.

There were two tracks of negotiations on REDD in Doha: the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action (AWG-LCA) and the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA).

The following items were on the agenda in Doha – explained in more detail here:

  • SBSTA: Reference levels; MRV and forest monitoring systems; Safeguards information systems; and Drivers of deforestation and forest degradation.
  • LCA: Finance and REDD.

The dispute over verification took place in the SBSTA negotiations. The Final SBSTA Text (FCCC/SBSTA/2012/L.31) consists of “Draft conclusions proposed by the Chair” – no decisions were made in Doha. The discussions will continue at the next SBSTA meeting, that will take place in June 2013 in Bonn. However, no decision on the SBSTA agenda items will be taken until COP19 at the end of 2013.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Doha/COP-18, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, REDD