Tag Archives: 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

Comments Off

Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, GE Trees, Green Economy, Greenwashing

Making Contact Radio: Saving or Selling the Planet? REDD, Climate Change and Indigenous Lands | National Radio Project

Note: This episode of Making Contact is based upon the Global Justice Ecology Project DVD “A Darker Shade of Green: REDD Alert and the Future of Forests,” produced earlier this year.

To order a copy of the DVD, which includes two bonus features, email: [email protected]

To listen to the Making Contact episode, click the link below:

making contact

Saving or Selling the Planet? REDD, Climate Change and Indigenous Lands | National Radio Project.

Comments Off

Filed under Actions / Protest, Carbon Trading, Chiapas, Climate Change, Earth Radio, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, REDD, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration

No rights of nature, no reducing emissions: REDD, el buen vivir, and the standing of forests

By Jeff Conant and Anne Petermann

NOTE: This article is excerpted from the report “Rights of Nature: Planting the Seeds of Real Change” published by Global Exchange, June, 2012

 “For my people, the forest is sacred, it is life in all its essence. We can protect Pachamama only if this is respected. REDD and other market mechanisms have turned our relationship with forests into a business.” – Marlon Santi, leader of the Sarayaku Quichua community of Ecuador

Forests have always been valued by human societies for a multitude of uses and non-uses. Among them, the practical-use value of shade and shelter, thatch and timber, fuel wood, food and medicine; the ecological value of capturing, storing and filtering water, producing oxygen, and harboring biodiversity; as well as the spiritual value of their mere existence, for which Indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities have prayed and held ceremony since the dawn of time.

Today, with the emergence of Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) schemes, the use value and the ecological value of forests have collided to eclipse all other value they may have, and any other values that human societies may place on them. While the emerging PES schemes pretend to shift the paradigm away from extractive approaches to resource use, they have one important feature in common with other uses that industrial society has for forests: the further you are from the forest, the greater the economic value it has — and the greater the potential for forest destruction.
Continue reading

Comments Off

Filed under Carbon Trading, False Solutions to Climate Change, Green Economy, REDD

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

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

Earth Minute 5/8/12

Text from this week’s Earth Minute:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments Off

Filed under Climate Change, Solutions

Breaking News: GMO Tree Field Trial Destroyed in New Zealand

Note:  This breaking news from Aotearoa (New Zealand) was received by GJEP from sources around the world.  A colleague from Aotearoa writes, “…a bulletin on a break-in at the Scion site where people cut through the outer perimeter fence and dug under the inner security barrier to destroy the young [GM pine] saplings…GE Free NZ stopped short of condemning the action… I expect that the next few weeks will see raids on the homes and offices of known political activists over the Scion action. It will be sold to the public as an attempt to stop political insurrection. Wish us all luck. ”

Anne Petermann, GJEP’s Executive Director and Coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign  stated this morning, “With the extreme security measures taken at the site, it is clear that Scion is aware of the powerful public opposition to genetically engineered trees.  People understand the inherent ecological, social and health risks associated with genetically engineered trees, and if the government won’t stop them, this action shows that people are prepared take matters into their own hands.”

Scion has been working in partnership with GE tree company ArborGen since 2006.  The GE eucalyptus trees being field tested by ArborGen in the US were genetically engineered in New Zealand.

For more on the dangers of genetically engineered trees and to read our new report on GE trees, go to: Analysis of the State of GE Trees and Advanced Bioenergy

–The GJEP Team

Cross-posted NZ Newswire unless noted.  More reports, video and sources at end of article.

For video on the incident, please click here (go to upper left side under headline)

375 genetically modified radiata pine trees at a research site have been destroyed by vandals. Photo / APNZ

A research trial of genetically modified trees destroyed by vandals in Rotorua could have informed the public debate on GM technologies, the Royal society of New Zealand says.

Police are investigating the attack over Easter weekend when 375 radiata pines at Scion’s forestry research institute were either cut or pulled out.

The vandals cut through fencing and tunnelled under another to reach the plants, causing about $400,000 of damage.

Royal Society of New Zealand, which promotes science, president Dr Garth Carnaby says the destruction means evidence that would have informed the public debate about GM technologies has been lost.

“Such vandalism is an expensive squandering of New Zealand’s limited research funding.”

Scion chief executive Dr Warren Parker estimated the vandals had caused about $400,000 of damage and put back research by a year.

“The field trial was approved under one of the strictest regulatory regimes in the world, and our team has fully complied with the containment controls. Despite this, our research opponents were determined to stop us and used criminal means to do so.”

The trials were looking at resistance to herbicides and reproductive development.

Massey University Molecular Genetics Professor Barry Scott said vandalism of this kind was “senseless” and destroyed years of work done by researchers.

“What is particularly abhorrent about this act is the thinking by those involved that their rights and actions should take precedent over the rights of other individuals.”

An anti-GE group is denying involvement in the destruction of genetically engineered pine trees at a research site in Rotorua. (msn nz)

GE-Free New Zealand president Claire Bleakley says she doesn’t know who was behind the attack and doubts it was anyone linked to her organisation.

Police believe the trees were destroyed sometime between Monday and Tuesday morning and want to hear from anyone with information.

miffyrotorua

Comments Off

Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering

This Week’s Earth Minute: EU’s Renewable Energy Target is Destroying Forests & Worsening Climate Change

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

Go to the link below and scroll to minute 44:12 to listen to this week’s Earth Minute:

April 3, 2012 Earth Minute

Text from this week’s Earth Minute:

The European Union’s goal of providing 20% of their energy from renewable sources is coming under attack from environmentalists because of the heavy reliance on energy from burning trees.

On 29 March, a call challenging this goal was launched at the European Parliament.  It stated, “We’re paying people to cut their forests down in the name of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, yet we are actually increasing them.”

Because it is mistakenly considered ‘carbon neutral’, wood-based electricity is given numerous government subsidies in the EU, the US and elsewhere.

There is a significant gap in time, however, from when carbon is released from cutting, transporting and burning a tree–to when the carbon is re-stored by a new tree that has grown to the same size.  This carbon gap lasts for decades.

The “carbon neutral” label of wood-based energy is ironically creating intense pressure to cut and burn forests in the US and globally for energy production, threatening massive deforestation at the same time that scientists are emphasizing the crucial role forests play in stabilizing the climate.

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

Comments Off

Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Earth Minute, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Posts from Anne Petermann

History and Photos of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees

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

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

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

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

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

–Anne Petermann

Coordinator, STOP GE Trees Campaign

Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

History of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 May 2011: ArborGen postpones IPO indefinitely.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Comments Off

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

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.”

Comments Off

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