Tag Archives: indigenous peoples

GJEP on KPFK Pacifica Los Angeles This Week: Climate Change, Forests, and the Keystone Pipeline

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

This week’s Earth Minute discusses the impacts of climate change on bark beetles, which are wiping out vast expanses of conifer forests in North America.  On this week’s Earth Segment, Kari Fulton, of Environmental Justice Climate Change discusses the recent announcement that the decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would be  “postponed.”

Text from this week’s Earth Minute:

At the upcoming UN climate conference in Durban South Africa later this month, protecting forests will once again being looked to as the solution to climate change.  Meanwhile a tiny beetle, assisted by warming temperatures, is devouring coniferous forests across North America.

Since the 1990s, bark beetles have killed 30 billion trees in North America. Climate change is expanding the range of the beetles and increasing their numbers, while human activities–such as wildfire prevention and logging the best and strongest trees–has further assisted the beetle epidemic.

But instead of stepping back to evaluate what’s causing this forest crisis, the timber industry is moving ahead with plans to turn these trees into wood chips to be shipped around the globe for so-called “renewable” electricity production.  While this will supposedly help replace fossil fuels and mitigate climate change, it will also result in bark beetles spreading into and destroying new conifer forests–which will, in turn, worsen climate change.

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

To listen to the Earth Minute, Click here: earth-minute-11_15_11

To Listen to the Earth Segment with Kari Fulton of Environmental Justice Climate Change being interviewed about the recent Keystone XL Pipeline decision, click here and scroll to minute 48:45.

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Filed under Climate Change, Earth Minute, Energy, Indigenous Peoples, Natural Disasters, Posts from Anne Petermann, Tar Sands, UNFCCC

Earth Minute: White House Protest Against the Tar Sands: Honor Treaties–Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline

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

This week’s Earth Minute discusses the Indigenous Peoples’ protest against the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline project that occurred in Washington DC on Sunday, November 6th.  To listen to this week’s Earth Minute, click here.

Text from this week’s Earth Minute:

This past Sunday, thousands of people traveled to the White House to protest the massive pipeline that would carry tar sands oil from the devastated boreal forests of Alberta to the Gulf of Mexico. President Obama will decide if the pipeline project can proceed in early 2012.

While the US is obligated to honor the Treaties it made with the Lakota and other indigenous nations, there has been virtually no consultation regarding the environmental impact of this massive pipeline that would endanger their lands.

At the DC rally, Cree/Métis Tantoo Cardinal, stated, “I was raised in the Fort McMurray area, the heart of the current tar sands projects. We are all protectors of the land and water. If you were to see with your own eyes the incredible destruction of our ecosystem, you’d understand that blind greed is destroying our land, water, and way of life.”

If approved, US based Native Nations in solidarity with First Nations from Canada have sworn to stop the pipeline.

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

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Earth Minute, Energy, Indigenous Peoples, Posts from Anne Petermann, Tar Sands, Water

GJEP October Photo of the Month: Global Day of Action–Occupy Burlington VT March

Sentiments of a protester during Burlington, VT March on Global Day of Action, October 15.  Over 500 people participated in the Global Day of Action in Burlington, VT in solidarity with the occupations occurring throughout North America and around the world. Other rallies and marches happened in the VT towns of Montpelier, Rutland and Brattleboro. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

On Friday, October 28, Occupy Burlington (VT) began their encampment in City Hall Park. At the first General Assembly of the Occupy Burlington encampment, GJEP ED Anne Petermann grounded the space in the history of the Indigenous Peoples of the region: the Abenaki.  She opened the circle by stating, via “people’s mic” that, “the land that this encampment is on is the traditional land of the Abenaki People.  This land was never ceded, never signed away in a treaty, but was stolen.  It is occupied by the state of Vermont.  In 1992 the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that any rights the Abenaki People had to their traditional lands was no longer valid due to “the increasing weight of history. For these reasons, I am asking the Occupy Burlington encampment to recognize that this land is Abenaki land.  This land is called Ndakinna.”

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Indigenous Peoples

The Unconquered, in search of the Amazon’s last uncontacted tribes-A Review

Review by Orin Langelle for GJEP

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project’s Anne Petermann and I went to Washington, DC last month to meet with friends and colleagues who were in town for the fall meetings of the infamous World Bank.  We arrived in Union Station and hopped on the Metro to Dupont Circle where we met Janet Redman, from the Institute for Policy Studies, at a local restaurant.

We were there to meet Scott Wallace who recently sent me a pre-release copy of THE UNCONQUERED–In Search of the Amazon’s last Uncontacted Tribes.  It was the first time I had met Wallace and I had just started reading his book.  From the beginning I found the book hard to put down.  At the restaurant, I learned a good deal about Scott.  Prior to his book, he had written articles for National Geographic.  But before that, amongst other assignments, he was a journalist in Central America, who reported on the wars in Nicaragua and El Salvador. One thing that I didn’t find out until later, towards the end of the book, was that, thanks to Wallace, there were now only two degrees of separation between Osama bin-Laden and myself.  (More on that later…)

But before the review—below–is a trailer that sets the stage for the book. The grey bearded gentleman in the trailer is Sydney Possuelo and the writer, of course, is Wallace.  Possuello is the main character documented by Wallace in The Unconquered.  But in all fairness it could be said that the main characters of this book are the ones not seen.  The undocumented indigenous tribes of the Amazon jungle.

I’ve worked full-time for social justice for the past four decades, but the last thing I want to do, after my work day is done, is bring home more reality.

For this reason, over the past ten years I’ve read more fiction than non–just because fiction is an escape from dealing with the harsh political and ecological realities of our world today.

So when author Scott Wallace sent me THE UNCONQUERED –In Search of the Amazon’s last Uncontacted Tribes, I said “shit,” more reality to deal with.  After reading a few pages, though, I realized that Wallace had set the hook and was reeling me in to a world that most people will never experience or even think about–and that his way of story telling was something special.  This is not just a book of nonfiction, nor is it an adventure novel.  Wallace has made it both—and fascinating. Hopefully, THE UNCONQUERED will capture the imagination of anyone who reads it, and encourage him or her, while enjoying a lively narrative, to understand the injustices indigenous peoples’ experience, from the past until this day.

THE UNCONQUERED documents Sydney Possuelo’s effort to protect, from his point of view, uncontacted indigenous tribes in the Amazon from the onslaught of civilization.  It is also a story of Scott Wallace, who left his family, relationship and everyday life, to set off on a journey into one of the most isolated spots of Brazil’s Amazon rainforest.  Through the eyes of Wallace, the book also tells the story of the indigenous people of the region.  A people who have chosen to live in their territory, in their ancient culture, and to avoid the death trap of the White Man, that in the Americas can be traced back over 500 years.

Possuelo was the head of Brazil’s FUNAI’s (National Indian Foundation) Department of Isolated Indians.  He led thirty-four people in a grueling three month expedition into the depths of Javarí Valley Indigenous Land in a seemingly conflicted effort to consciously not contact or study the isolated inhabitants of The People of the Arrow (flecheiros), but to explore the proximity of their territory—in an effort to document their territory in order to keep intruders out of their territory, to protect their way of life from outside invasion.

The richness of the Amazon brings all types of fortune hunters, from gold diggers to rubber barons to illegal loggers.  They set upon the Amazon with a vengeance, pilfering what the Amazon offers. With their invasion come diseases that, along with outright murder, decimate the indigenous populations.

Prior to Possuelo’s involvement in FUNAI, the agency did not have a good reputation when it came to helping indigenous peoples.  FUNAI’s idea was to make contact with the natives, pacify and then assimilate them, in order to move them out of the way and open up their lands to development and exploitation.

When Possuelo became the head of the FUNAI’s Department of Isolated Indians, Wallace writes:

“Though not explicitly articulated at the time, Possuelo’s new policy had the immediate effect of sequestering millions of acres of the most species-rich, biodiverse lands on the planet, placing them, at least theoretically, beyond the reach of those looking to exploit their riches.  The survival of isolated tribes depended…on intact forests that could provide the Indians with all their necessities: food, water, shelter, security.”

Needless to say all those who sought to make profit from indigenous lands reviled Possuelo—and the missionaries didn’t like him either.

The main purpose of Possuelo’s no contact policy, was to protect the Indians from disease, due to their extreme vulnerability to foreign contagions.  One needs only to look at history for proof.  Wallace relates that Christopher Columbus’ contact with the Taino people resulted in their extinction within sixty years.  Modern demographic studies indicate their population could have been as high as eight million at the time.

More death from disease came to South America with Pizarro (small pox) and subsequent invasions by Europeans. The isolated tribes that still exist are just as vulnerable as ever.

In writing about the details of the expedition, Wallace doesn’t gloss over the tensions between those on the journey and Possuelo—tensions that could have easily led to rebellion–nor does he leave out his own sometimes-painful feelings and actions. It’s quite revealing of who Scott Wallace is.

Wallace’s candid, yet evocative style projects a vivid imagery for the reader and allows a deeper insight into the characters and the situations they encounter. On first view of the expedition participants, Wallace describes them as resembling “a war party returning from a raid:  Apocalypse Now meets The Last of the Mohicans.”

On Possuelo:

“He seemed oblivious of the preposterous figure he posed, clad only in his floppy hat and a skimpy Speedo, over which his ample gut spilled.”  He then quotes Possuelo arguing that one of the reasons the rainforest was still intact was because, “the Indians formidable reputation had served as a powerful deterrent for decades, perhaps even centuries. ‘Personally I like them like this—violent,’ Posseulo said.”

And on himself, as drops of psychedelic buchité were administered to his eyes:

“I let out a roar.  It felt like my eyes were scorched with sulfuric acid.  Everyone howled with laughter.  It took several minutes for the burning to subside.  I opened my eyes and looked around…I beheld a different forest than the one I’ve been marching through for the past four days.  It was no longer a two-dimensional, monochromatic screen of dull browns and greens.  Everything stood out in sharp, almost psychedelic relief…The colors seemed to vibrate…I wasn’t hallucinating exactly; it was more like looking at the jungle through a 3-D View-Master.”

But Wallace is not merely an adventure junky–far from it. Wallace discusses his fears, his missteps and falls in the jungle, and other personal details that reveal a man who has fortitude but is also frightened in an enormous rainforest, isolated, surrounded by unfriendly creatures from anacondas to jaguars to devouring ants to crocodiles—not to mention the potential contact with The Arrow People and a possible shower of poisonous arrows raining down on the expedition.  One small mistake could have been his last.

Critics ask Possuelo if he thought he was depriving indigenous peoples of civilization.  Possuelo asserts that if any of them really wanted to make contact, all they had to do was come downriver.

Other critics are sure to say that here is another white man thinking he can save the indigenous peoples because of his feelings of superiority—or guilt.  This thought did bother me a bit, but then I recalled a situation where indigenous friends and colleagues asked me to please talk to another white person who said some things they found disrespectful.  They impressed upon me that white people should take care of their own when they fuck up.  So it could be said that Possuelo was taking care of the whites that were trying to get into the jungle to exploit its riches.  But it’s really not my role to judge.

Possuelo had no fondness for the white invaders.  Even though law protected the Javarí Valley Indigenous Land he and others fought for, Possuelo knew that laws and land could be over-ruled by a change of government in Brasilia.  Maybe he had no right, but he told the contacted indigenous people of the Javarí Valley:

You must say NO to the white man!  Tell him:  We don’t want loggers, we don’t want fisherman, we don’t want hunters here! The fish are here for us to eat!  For us—the Matis, The Marubo, the Kanamari, the Korubu, and yes, the Arrow People, too!  The monkeys are for us. The boar, the tapir, the turkeys—they are for us!  Tell the white man to stay out!  Tell him:  We don’t want you here anymore!

In my opinion, if humans are to have a future on this planet and if the Amazon basin is to remain the lungs of the earth and if the indigenous peoples have crucial knowledge most people in the rest of the world don’t, then the capitalist exploiters looking for the last tree to cut down, the last gold to mine to dig, or the last fish to catch, would be well advised to stay out of the Amazon.  And just about everywhere else.

So back to the question about Osama bin-Laden’s relation to me.  In The Unconquered, Wallace mentions the idea of the six degrees of separation that connect us all in some special way.  But what of The Arrow People and other uncontacted—are they somehow connected to the rest of us conquered by civilization?  As for the two degrees of separation between bin-Laden and myself, Wallace had a close friend who interviewed bin-Laden in an Afghan cave in 1996, making Wallace one degree separated and now since I’ve met the author only two degrees of separation.  Strange things to contemplate in this day and age.

Orin Langelle is the Co-director/Strategist for Global Justice Ecology Project.  He is a contributor to many publications, including recent work for Z Magazine, Race, Poverty and the Environment, Earth Island Journal and others.  He is currently compiling four decades of his concerned photography for publication and is a member of the National Writers Union and the International Federation of Journalists.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean

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

Earth Minute: In Commemoration of Indigenous Peoples’ Day

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

This week’s Earth Minute discusses the legacy of Christopher Columbus: ongoing wars against Indigenous Peoples to control their resources.  To Listen to the Earth Minute, click here

Text from this week’s Earth Minute:

This week marks the 519th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’ invasion of the Americas and the brutal genocide he launched, starting with the Arawak People who he quickly wiped out.

With the founding of the United States, the Indian wars continued. Reservations, created to clear the path for the country’s conquest, were later discovered to be rich with coal, uranium, and oil, and a new war was launched to take those resources. Native Americans who resisted were jailed or killed.  Communities were left with contaminated air, water and soil.

Today, Indigenous peoples around the globe are still losing their ancestral lands to corporations and investors–modern day versions of Christopher Columbus that want their lands for profit-making schemes like bioenergy plantations, industrial tree farms or tar sands oil.

Yet there are still Indigenous peoples who, against all odds, have protected their lands and maintained their traditional ways of life.  We must stand in solidarity with their ongoing struggles for land, rights and dignity.

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


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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Earth Minute, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Posts from Anne Petermann

September Photo of the Month: World Bank-Sponsored “Forest Protection” in Indonesia

Benoit Bosque, of the World Bank2
Benoit Bosquet, Coordinator of the World Bank’s Forest Carbon Partnership Facility, defends the bank’s role in “forest conservation” in Indonesia, where forest-based communities have been forcibly evicted at gunpoint, and their homes burned to the ground. Behind him is a photo of one such eviction. Photo: Petermann/GJEP

To read the full article about REDD in Indonesia in our blog Climate Connections, click here

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GJEP’s photos of the month usually feature the work of Orin Langelle, GJEP’s Co-director/Strategist, who is also a professional photographer.  This month, with the World Bank annual meetings just passed and the UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa coming up soon, we decided to post this photo by GJEP Executive Director Anne Petermann.

Orin Langelle is currently working on a book of four decades of his concerned photography.  From mid-June to mid-July Langelle worked on the book as an artist in residence at the Blue Mountain Center in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

Also check out the GJEP Photo Gallery, past Photos of the Month posted on GJEP’s website, or Langelle’s photo essays posted on GJEP’s Climate Connections blog.

Global Justice Ecology Project explores and exposes the intertwined root causes of social injustice, ecological destruction and economic domination with the aim of building bridges between social justice, environmental justice and ecological justice groups to strengthen their collective efforts.  Within this framework, our programs focus on Indigenous Peoples’ rights, protection of native forests and climate justice.  We use the issue of climate change to demonstrate these interconnections. Global Justice Ecology Project is the North American Focal Point of the Global Forest Coalition.

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

Earth Minute for September 27: World Bank-Supported “Forest Protection” in Indonesia

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

This week’s Earth Minute discusses the workshop on REDD at the World Bank’s annual meetings in Washington, DC.  To listen to the show, click here.

Text from this week’s Earth Minute:

At the annual meetings of the World Bank in Washington, DC, last weekend, I attended a workshop organized by activists from Indonesia about the impacts of World Bank-supported forest conservation projects like REDD.  REDD is the scheme to Reduce Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation that is specifically designed to supposedly “offset” carbon emissions from Industrialized countries like the US by protecting forests in developing countries.

One of the presenters explained that unjust forest conservation projects in Indonesia are leading to violence that rivals the atrocities that occurred under the Suharto dictatorship.

Thousands of forest-based communities are being evicted from their lands by heavily armed forest rangers, paramilitaries and police, who force people to leave at gunpoint while their homes are burned to the ground.

But as one of the speakers pointed out, what is happening in Indonesia is not unique; these strong-arm tactics are happening around the world in the name of “protecting” forests for the purpose of offsetting pollution in Industrialized countries like the US

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

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Filed under Climate Change, Earth Minute, False Solutions to Climate Change, Indigenous Peoples, REDD