Tag Archives: la via campesina

KPFK Earth Minute: Water privatization promoted at WTO meeting in Bali

By Anne Petermann, December 3, 2013. Source: KPFK Sojourner Truth Radio

kpfk_logoGlobal Justice Ecology Project teams up with KPFK Sojourner Truth Radio each week to produce the Earth Minute and Earth Watch segments. Listen this week for updates on the WTO ministerial in Bali, Indonesia, where water privatization is on the table and peasant movements are rising up against the continued commodification of life and land.

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Filed under Corporate Globalization, Water, WTO

KPFK Sojourner Truth Earth Minute: La Via Campesina international gathering ends, rejecting capitalism and promoting agroecology, solidarity

kpfk_logoGlobal Justice Ecology Project teams up with the Sojourner Truth show on KPFK Pacifica Los Angeles for a weekly Earth Minute each Tuesday and a weekly Earth Watch interview each Thursday.

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Filed under Africa, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Food Sovereignty, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Solutions

Audio: Climate change resistance with Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project

Note: Anne Petermann is the Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, and directs the international STOP Genetically Engineered Trees Campaign

-The GJEP Team

December 17, 2012.  Source: Clearing the Fog Radio

Listen to the audio here.

Anne Petermann of the Global Justice Ecology Project discusses the recent climate conference in Doha, Qatar which is characterized more as a trade show for corporations looking to profit from climate change than a conference about solutions, and the increasing exclusion of non-corporate voices. She says solutions to the climate crisis are coming from the bottom up.

Ramsey Sprague of the Tar Sands Blockade (http://tarsandsblockade.org/) describes the growing resistance to the Keystone XL Pipeline and the upcoming direct action training camp and action Jan. 3 to 8. Co-hosts Margaret and Kevin will participate in that action and urge you to support it or participate as well. And ecology activist Diane Wilson who is on her 19th day of a hunger strike describes why she is risking her life to hold Valero Oil accountable to her community.

 

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Filed under Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Coal, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Green Economy, Independent Media, UNFCCC

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

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

All photos:  Langelle/GJEP       Captions:  Anne Petermann

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

“Ohm…no Fukushimi…Ohm…no Fukushima…”

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

What the World Bank said…

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

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

” Oooo…that panda makes me so hot…”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo Essay: Global Day of Action Against UN Conference of Polluters (COP) in Durban

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

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

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

Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

La Via Campesina Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Radical clowns. Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Nnimmo Bassey speaks to the crowd. Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Christina Figueres, Executive Secretary of the UNFCCC, speaks. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

South African activist Virginia Setshedi. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Interview. Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Photo: Langelle/GJEP

South African Waste Pickers. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Nudes Against Nukes. Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Never trust a COPoration. Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, Nuclear power, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, Pollution, Posts from Anne Petermann, UNFCCC

La Via Campesina Invites Allies to Share Perspectives in Durban

La Via Campesina, the largest federation of peasant farmers in the world, has brought a delegation of hundreds from across Africa to gatherings in and around the UNCOP 17 Climate Summit. As a federation of smallholder farmers and fisher groups, La Via Campesina opposes the kinds of top-down, market-driven policies promoted by the World Bank and the UN Climate Regime.

Yesterday we were invited, along with several of our friends and colleagues, to participate in a working session with La Via Campesina at their encampment near a highway overpass miles from the official summit.

Forthcoming, we hope to report on what La Via itself is doing here in Durban. For now, here are some snapshot portraits of GJEP’s allies and what they had to say yesterday. (Reporting: Jeff Conant. Photos Orin Langelle/GJEP)

“The talk now on the table at the COP is to base the Green Climate Fund on private investment. But if there is an investment, they need a return. What does that mean, a return on investment? It means the corporations, the private sector, and the financial industry want to set up the Green Climate Fund in a way that returns money to them. That’s why we call it the Greedy Corporate Fund.”

Lidy Nacpil, Jubilee South

 

“They say we are talking about the transition to a Green Economy – that capitalism has to turn green. This is like saying that a tiger is going to become a vegetarian.”

Lucia Ortiz, Rede, Brazil

 

“Before you trade anything, you have to determine, whose property is it? Before they can trade seeds, they have to determine, ‘who owns that seed?’. Some corporations own that seed. Well, who owns the carbon dioxide in the air? That’s what they are working out in the carbon markets and at these UN climate conventions. That’s why we call the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change the World Trade Organization of the Sky.”

Tom Goldtooth, Indigenous Environmental Network

 

“More than half of the gases that cause global warming come from the industrial food system. They say the industrial food system feeds the world. It’s bad food, it’s toxic food, it’s not very nutritious, but they say, ‘we are feeding the world,’ so we have to live with it. Well guess what? They’re lying. The industrial food system produces 30 percent of the food. The other 2/3 is produced by small farmers and fishers. Now they say they will stop using all the oil. Don’t believe them. They will use every drop of oil. But with that excuse, they say now, they will make green fuels. They will make fuels out of biomass. What is biomass? It is forests, it is fields, it is your harvest. They want to use all of this to make their fuels.”

Sylvia Ribeiro, ETC Group

 

“The FAO and others have reduced agriculture to counting carbon and putting a price on it. The value of the carbon is added to the value of the water and the crops that could be grown on the land, and this makes it appealing to investors, which leads to land grabs. But today, a ton of carbon is worth about 3 euros – less than a pizza. This may explain the somber mood of the talks in Durban.”

Rachel Smolker, BiofuelWatch

 

Renaldo Chingori Joao, Member of the International Coordinating Committee of la Via Campesina, Mozambique

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Geoengineering, Green Economy

Blog Post for Friday: Eucalyptus Time!

From the Tree Biotechnology 2011 Conference in Arraial d’Ajuda, Bahia, Brazil 

Eucalyptus plantation. Photo: Petermann/ GJEP-GFC

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

This morning was devoted to eucalyptus.  Hybrid eucalyptus followed by genetically engineered eucalyptus.  There was an interesting tension between researchers working with non-GMO clonal hybridization techniques of eucalyptus—such as we saw on our Veracel field trip on Wednesday—and those using transgenics; in other words, inserting genes from other species into the eucalyptus to try to get it to express very specific traits more quickly.

The second speaker of the day was from Brazil and explained in great detail the history of eucalyptus hybridization in Brazil, toward greater production.  This process had begun in the 60s, he explained, when they were getting 6 tons of pulp per hectare per year; to the projected production for 2015 when they expect to get 16 tons of pulp per hectare per year.

But in addition to increasing production, they are also altering wood quality and wood density, and even breeding for freeze tolerance.  The speaker, Teotonio de Assis seemed quite proud of the achievements made with these hybridization techniques over the past decades.  Indeed, a full-grown tree in seven years is something (something very destructive, but we’ll get into that later).

But then came Ziv Shani of Futuragene Ltd.  Futuragene is based in Brazil and Israel.

His presentation was called Eucalyptus Time! and emphasized why NOW is the time for genetically engineered eucalyptus.

First he started with the statistics.  There are currently 19.6 million hectares of eucalyptus plantations worldwide.  Brazil leads the pack with 4.7 million of those hectares, followed by India with 4.3, China with 2.6, South Africa with .58 and Thailand with .5 million hectares.

And because industry has perfected the standardization of the production methods for propogating clones of eucalyptus, now it is the time to genetically engineer them.  “The time is ripe!” he said enthusiastically.

And in this way, he expounded, eucalyptus can be developed for specific “off-takes.”  By this he meant different products such as ethanol, bioenergy, bioproducts, etc.

Then he showed two slides, one, a quaint pastoral painting depicting some people lying around in a field, which was supposed to represent organic farming practices.  The other was serious, mechanized, industrious and represented “modern” industrial agriculture.  In 2011, he argued, we have 7 billion people on the planet.  “We need industry.  We need large scale agriculture; AND we need to keep living on this planet.”

We need, he said, “to enhance the product while preserving today’s resource for tomorrow.”

He apparently has not seen the analysis of the long-term downward impacts on productivity of the so-called “green revolution” and the use of biotechnology in agriculture.  Or about the “new menace” of herbicide tolerant weeds, resulting from the repeated heavy applications of Monsanto’s RoundUp on their roundup ready GMO crops—now requiring farmers to use even larger amounts of more toxic herbicides (just as was predicted by silly anti-GMO naysayers like us fifteen or twenty years ago…).

La Via Campesina has done some excellent work pointing out that small-scale organic and natural farming methods can feed a lot more people than the worn out soils of the GMO and industrial monocultures which require heavy inputs of petroleum-based fertilizers (which also contribute to climate change, by the way) and other chemicals.

But he had not heard of any of this, or if he had, he was keeping it to himself, so he continued, this time dragging out some of the tired old arguments about GMO trees that we have been countering for a decade.

1)    Increasing the productivity of eucalyptus trees will grow more wood on less land (ArborGen’s motto) and therefore protect native forests.  No it won’t.  It will mean that eucalyptus is even more profitable, creating increased incentives for landowners to convert their forests to eucalyptus.  Plantations grow where native ecosystems once stood—whether forest or grassland.  As demand for wood increases (like for the ethanol, bioenergy and bioproducts he mentioned earlier), the forests will be cut down and replaced with “high productivity” plantations.

2)    GMO trees can reduce the need for chemicals.  Sure.  You don’t need to apply insecticides to insect-resistant GMO trees, because the entire tree is a pesticide.  Every bit of it, from the leaves to the roots to the pollen.  Oh yeah, and the insecticide then enters and wreaks havoc in the soils, gets into the water, and blows around in the wind in the pollen, so that wildlife and people can inhale it and have the pesticide directly enter their bloodstream by way of their lungs.  Good plan.

3)    GMO trees will help us with climate adaptation.  Nothing will help our forests with climate adaptation except halting climate disruption by curtailing the emission of greenhouse gases.  And ensuring that native forests are maintained in large interconnected tracts so that species can migrate and adapt as needed to the changing climate.  Plantations are not in the equation.  In fact, plantations store only about ¼ the carbon of native forests, so expanding plantations actually worsens climate change.

But as our intrepid tree engineer pointed out, “Industrial production cannot wait 100 years for evolution.”

And just so you don’t worry, Futuragene is working in partnership with the “Tree Biosafety and Genomics Research Cooperative” at Oregon State University.  Well, if its got “biosafety” in the title, it must be okay, right?

Wrong.

The word “biosafety” was added to assuage public criticism and after several GMO tree trials in the Pacific Northwest were vandalized.  It used to be just the plain old “Tree Genetic Engineering Research Cooperative”  Or ‘Tree Jerk,’ as it was affectionately called.

The leader of this enterprise will be presenting tonight and tomorrow, so I will wait to tell you more about the history of Tree Jerk.

Back to Mr. Futuragene.  One interesting factoid that he pulled out was that the entire research process just to identify and perfect one GMO tree trait is around $20-$40 million.  And for this reason, he explained, “partnering” with academia (i.e. using unpaid or poorly paid graduate students) to make the venture more economical is critical.

And his final bold assertion: “The future sustainable forest will be a biotech forest!”

Wanna bet…

This was when there were rumblings in the crowd from the non-GMO eucalyptus breeders who took offense to his casual dismissal of their craft.

Kinda like watching the right wing Republicans argue with the leaders of the Tea Party…

Whether GMO or not, eucalyptus plantations are destructive.  But rapidly increasing their productivity (and hence their need for fertilizers, ground water, herbicides, etc) will cause even more severe impacts.  And engineering them to be cold tolerant (such as they are attempting in the US) will enable their production in new regions meaning the loss of even more forests at exactly the time when we need our forests more than ever.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Posts from Anne Petermann

Lunacy at the Moon Palace: Aka: The Cancun Mess(e)

By Anne Petermann, Global Justice Ecology Project Executive Director

Mexican RoboCop Poses for Photos in Cancun. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Global Justice Ecology Project Co-Director/strategist Orin Langelle (on assignment for Z Magazine) and I arrived in Cancun for the UN Climate Conference the day after U.S. Thanksgiving to a hotel infested with Mexican federales.  “You’ve GOT to be kidding me,” was our immediate reaction.  We dodged their chaotically parked armored vehicles and jeeps to enter the hotel, where we found hoardes of uniformed officers armed with automatic weapons everywhere we went. The breakfast room, the poolside, the beach, the bar.  Walking out of our room (which was surrounded on both sides federales) I literally bumped into one.

Most of them were mere youths who, judging by the way they carelessly swung their weapons around, had not had sufficient gun safety courses…  Orin nearly collided with the barrel of one at breakfast one morning—its owner had it lying casually across his lap as he ate as though the deadly weapon was a sleeping cat.  When we were walking around that first day, we happened upon the bizarre scene above.  A photo shoot of fully armed robocops posing in front of a giant fake Christmas tree.

Absurd?  Yes.  But not nearly as absurd as the events that unfolded at the Moon Palace—home to the UN Climate Conference (COP16)—over the next two weeks.

Once upon a time at these climate talks, organizations and Indigenous peoples’ groups roamed freely.  They could wander around at will—even into the plenary, where the high level ministers were negotiating the fate of the planet.  No more.  The open range is now fenced off.  What precipitated such a radical change?  The overreaction of those in power to that strange and wondrous thing known as protest.

Reclaim Power March in Copenhagen. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

The UN Climate Secretariat and their security enforcers view protest as a bull views a red cape.  They go blind with rage, lashing out at whomever is in their line of sight.  When hundreds of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), Indigenous peoples and Party delegates marched out of the UN Climate Conference at the Bella Center in Copenhagen in December 2009, the Secretariat responded by stripping every participant of their right to participate in the talks.  But before the protest even started, entire delegations of Friends of the Earth and other groups that had committed the sin of unpermitted symbolic protest earlier in the conference were barred outright from entering the Bella Center.

Since then, the UN Climate Secretariat has been scheming and conniving how to control these rogue factions and cut off any protest before it can begin.  At the interim UN climate meeting in Bonn that I attended last May, they had a special meeting to discuss “observer” participation in the climate COPs.  As a spectacular indication of the absurdity to come, when Friends of the Earth prepared an intervention (a short statement) for this meeting to emphasize the importance of observer participation to the UN Climate Conferences, they were prohibited from reading it…

So in Cancun, the UN Climate Secretariat contrived an elaborate set of demobilization tactics to curtail any potentially unruliness.  In addition to the highly visible force of federales, they devised a complex obstacle course for conference participants.

Anyone not rich enough to stay on the luxurious, exclusive grounds of the Moon Palace resort and (highly toxic) golf course—in other words, developing country parties, most NGOs, Indigenous Peoples and social movements—was treated to a daily bus ride from their hotel to the Cancun Messe (no, seriously, that’s what they called it) that lasted anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours, depending on how badly the federales had bottlenecked the highway. Once in the Messe, we had to go through a security check point and a metal detector, pass through a building and emerge from the other side to wait for a second bus (bus #9) to take us on another 20-25 minute ride to the Moon Palace.  Then in the evening, the process was reversed.

The Moon Palace itself was split into three sections—the Maya building, which housed the plenary session and the actual negotiations, the Azteca Building, where those not permitted into the negotiations (that is, most of the NGOs, IPOs and all of the media) were allowed to use computers and watch the proceedings on a big screen.

The media were given their very own building—the Nizuk building, which was yet another 10 minute ride from Maya and Azteca.  As you might imagine, it was virtually empty, as most of the media based themselves out of the Azteca to be closer to the action.

I had the pleasure of being a guest on Democracy Now! on the morning of December 9th, which meant finding my way to Nizuk, where the show was filmed live daily at 7am.  I left my hotel at 5:15am to catch a 400 peso cab to the Cancun Messe (no cabs allowed to go to the Moon Palace), then catch a bus to Nizuk.  I got there with 20 minutes to spare.

Democracy Now! and the other live broadcasts (their neighbor was Associated Press and around the corner was Al Jazeera) were filmed outside on the balcony.  While Amy Goodman interviewed me, her hair whipped in the gusty breeze.  A loud generator hummed nearby.  I wondered what they would do if they got a big rainstorm. (By the way, if you’d like to watch that interview, which was all about REDD [the Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation scheme], click here)

But all of this nonsense was a mere inkling of what was to come.  One of the first real tests of the Secretariat’s demobilization strategy came on Tuesday December 7th, when Global Justice Ecology Project hosted a press conference that turned into a spontaneous march.  Our press conference was scheduled on the day that La Via Campesina (LVC) had called for the “1,000 Cancuns” global actions on climate, one of which was to be a mass march in Cancun itself.  The press conference morphed into another “1,000 Cancuns” protest inside the very walls of the Moon Palace.

GJEP had made the decision to turn the press conference over to LVC, the Indigenous Environmental Network and youth so they could explain the “1,000 Cancuns” actions in the context of the silencing of voices occurring in the Moon Palace. UN Delegates from Paraguay and Nicaragua also participated to express their solidarity with the day of action.  I moderated the press conference and introduced it by invoking the name of Lee Kung Hae, the South Korean farmer and La Via Campesina member who had martyred himself by plunging a knife into his heart atop the barricades in Cancun at Kilometer Zero during the protests against the World Trade Organization in 2003.  At that time, it was the global justice movement.  Now it is the climate justice movement.  But really it is the same—the people rising up against the neoliberal oligarchy: i.e. the elite corporados bent on ruling the world and running it into the ground.

Mass action against the WTO in Cancun in 2003. Photo: Langelle/GJEP

Back in 2003, Robert Zoellick was the U.S. Trade Representative who tried to force bad trade policies down the throats of so-called “developing countries” during the meetings of the World Trade Organization.  Today he is the President of the World Bank, and is trying to force bad climate policies down the throats of the developing world under the umbrella of the UNFCCC, aka the World Carbon Trade Organization.

Writing this blog post from San Cristobal de las Casas, in the Mexican state of Chiapas brings to mind one of the most hopeful attacks on this neoliberal paradigm—the uprising of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) on January 1, 1994—the day the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) went into effect.  The Zapatistas took up arms against NAFTA saying it would be a “death sentence” to the Indigenous peoples of Mexico.  Indeed, in order to be accepted into NAFTA, Mexico had to re-write Article 27 of the Mexican Constitution.  Article 27 was implemented to protect Mexican communal lands and came out of the Mexican Revolution led by Emiliano Zapata in the early 1900s.  But communal lands and free trade do not mix.  Edward Krobaker, Vice President of International Paper, re-wrote Article 27 to make it favorable to the timber barons.  Then it was NAFTA, today it is REDD—but the point is the same—it’s all about who controls the land.  The Zapatista struggle was and is for autonomy, which has been an objective of Indigenous communities for centuries.

But I digress.  Back to the press conference.  Pablo Solon, Bolivia’s charismatic Ambassador to the UN was supposed to be one of the speakers at the press conference but got tied up and could not get there.  Activists from Youth 4 Climate Justice requested to speak after yet again being denied an official permit to protest, and later turned the press conference into a spontaneous march. If they would not be given permission to protest then they would do so without.  Democracy is a messy thing.

Tom Goldtooth of IEN Speaks to the Media. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

The youth delegates marched out the press conference room chanting “No REDD, no REDD!”  The rest of us joined them but stopped on the front steps of the building when Pablo Solon suddenly joined the group. In the midst of a media feeding frenzy, he proclaimed Bolivia’s solidarity with the LVC march happening in the streets. Behind him people held banners from the press conference.  Following Solon’s speech, Tom Goldtooth, the high-profile Executive Director of the Indigenous Environmental Network, and one of the most vocal Indigenous opponents to the highly controversial REDD scheme, spoke passionately to the crowd.  When he was done, the youth delegates resumed their chanting and marched toward the Maya building where the negotiations were occurring.

Then UN security moved in.  They had to contain this anarchic outbreak before it spread through the halls and infected the delegates. The three youths, deemed to be the leaders of the unrest, had their badges confiscated and were loaded onto a security bus to be removed from the premises.  Other observers, not understanding the nature of this bus (it looking like all of the other buses), got on believing it would take them back to the Messe where they could then take yet another bus to join the LVC march.  This included three people accredited to participate by Global Justice Ecology Project.  They were removed from the UN grounds and dropped off.

The UN also stripped Tom Goldtooth of his accreditation badge for the terrible crime of giving a powerful interview to a hungry media.  Another of our delegates was de-badged for filming and live-streaming video of the spontaneous protest onto the web.  Another lost his badge merely for getting on the wrong bus.  Others for the outrageous act of holding up banners.

We did not learn that Tom and others had been banned from the conference until the next morning, when they attempted to enter and the security screen beeped and flashed red.  Alarmed and outraged, representatives from Friends of the Earth International, the Institute for Policy Studies, and I took the bus over to the Moon Palace to meet with NGO liaisons Warren and Magoumi.

The encounter was immensely frustrating.  We staunchly defended Tom Goldtooth and his right to speak publicly to the media.  We also defended the right of our delegate to film the protest.  I also spoke up in defense of the three de-badged youth leaders, explaining that this was their first Climate Conference and they should have been given a warning (as was the norm in Copenhagen) that if they continued the protest, they would lose their accreditation.  In one ear and out the other…  Magoumi responded that the youth’s delegation leader should have informed them of the rules, and besides, she pointed out, if someone was committed murder, would they get a warning that if they did it again they would get arrested? (Really… that was her response!)  Our retort that chanting and marching could hardly be equated with murder was waved off by Magoumi as though we were a swarm of gnats.

In the end, Tom got his badge back after pressure was put on the UNFCCC by country delegations.  But he lost one whole day of access to the talks.  Several of the other delegates never got their badges back.  Security had deemed them “part of the protest,” and there was no opportunity for appeal.

For GJEP, the repressive actions of the Climate COP had to be answered with action.  We were prepared to put our organizational accreditation on the line.  Someone had to stand up for the right of people to participate in decisions regarding their future.

Occupation of the Moon Palace. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Six of our delegation (including our Board member Hiroshi) were joined by four more youth delegates plus representatives from Focus on the Global South and BiofuelWatch to occupy the lobby of the Maya building.  We locked arms in a line, blocking access to the negotiating rooms.  All but three of us wore gags that read “UNFCCC”.  Those of us without gags shouted slogans such as, “The UN is silencing Indigenous Peoples!” and “The UN is silencing the voices of youth!”—in both English and Spanish.

Warren and Magoumi were on the scene in a flash and I heard them directly behind me trying to get me to turn my attention to them.  Magoumi was tapping my shoulder while robotically saying over and over, “Anna…Anna…Anna…Anna…is this you ignoring me Anna?  Anna…Anna…” (not sure why she insisted on pronouncing the silent “e” in my name.)  When I continued yelling slogans, she changed tactics and walked directly in front of me.  “Anna, come on, let’s take this outside.  We have a place where you can do this all day long if you want to.  Anna…Anna…Anna…”  I have to admit to being slightly rattled by having to do my shouting directly over Magoumi’s head, but fortunately, she is quite short.

GJEP Board Member Hiroshi Kanno is Manhandled by UN Security During GJEP's Occupation of the Moon Palace. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

The scene had become another feast for the media, but after about 10 minutes, I could sense them tiring of the same old shots, so it was time to move.  As soon as we made a motion toward the door (arms still locked), security was on us in a flash and used pain compliance tactics on the two people who bookended our interlocked line—including our 73 year old Board member Hiroshi.  Surprise surprise, once we got outside we were not escorted to their designated “protest pit” where permitted protests were allowed to occur, as Magoumi had promised, but rather forced onto a waiting bus and hustled off the premises.  Jazzed with adrenaline, we all felt pretty damned good about what we had just done and the coverage we got—even when the UN security guard on the bus pointed out that if we had done that protest in Germany we would have been arrested.  “You’re lucky this is Mexico,” he sneered.  Indeed I have been threatened with arrest by German police for holding up paper signs protesting genetically engineered trees outside of a UN Convention on Biological Diversity meeting in Bonn.  German police have even less sense of humor than UN security.  None-the-less, those of us on the bus felt elated for taking action—for standing up for the voices of the voiceless.

You can view Orin’s photo essay from the Moon Palace Occupation by clicking here

Democracy Now! covered the silencing of voices at the Climate Conference in a feature that included our action and a youth action that followed later in the day.  During the latter, the media nearly rioted when a Reuters photographer was grabbed and beaten by UN security on one of the buses.  DN! ran the feature on Monday, December 13th following the end of the talks.  You can watch that coverage here

I have not yet heard from Magoumi or Warren if Global Justice Ecology Project has lost its accreditation to participate in future UN Climate COPs.  Or if any of us will be allowed to enter its premises in the future.  But those conferences are such energy-sucking, mind-numbing, frustrating clusterf#*ks that if we are not allowed back in, I can’t say I will have any regrets.

Next year’s climate COP will take place in Durban, South Africa, where the UN will face off with the social movements who, against all odds, brought down Apartheid.

Now THAT will be something…

African Country Delegates Protest Unjust Climate Policies in Copenhagen in December 2009. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Signing off from San Cristobal de las Casas, near Zapatista rebel held territory in Chiapas, Mexico.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Posts from Anne Petermann, UNFCCC