Tag Archives: monoculture

Forest protection groups call on UN to take serious steps to halt deforestation on International Day of Forests

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project is a signatory to this letter, calling on the UN to take real steps toward addressing deforestation, and opposing false solutions like REDD+, biofuels, and monocultures plantations, which can lead to increased deforestation and human rights abuses against forest peoples.

-The GJEP Team

March 21, 2013. Source: World Rainforest Movement

On the occasion of March 21st, proclaimed by the UN General Assembly as International Day of the Forests (1), the World Rainforest Movement (WRM) and more than 300 signatories call on the General Assembly and UN Institutions and Initiatives related to forest issues to use the new initiative to address the underlying drivers of deforestation.

The letter is motivated by the fact that in spite of several UN initiatives aimed at calling attention for forests at the international level, the process of deforestation -affecting especially tropical forests- continues and the proposed solutions have not slowed down tropical forest loss worldwide – on the contrary.

“The proposals discussed at UN-level, by the FAO, CBD, UNFCCC and UNFF, to solve the forest crisis, for example REDD+ (2), are false solutions because they do not address the underlying drivers of deforestation and strengthen a false idea of sustainability. This is why deforestation has increased in many countries, rather than decreased”, declares Winnie Overbeek, International Coordinator of the WRM.
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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Carbon Trading, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Green Economy, Illegal logging, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, REDD, UNFCCC

As drought hits corn, biotech firms see lush field in GMO crops

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project is in St. Louis, Missouri today- home of Monsanto’s international headquarters- to kick off the Occupy Monsanto Global Week of Action, and to draw attention to the close connections between Monsanto and ArborGen, the most prominent developer of GE Trees.  –The GJEP Team

By Ricardo Lopez, September 17, 2012. Source: Los Angeles Times

Renee Lafitte, a research fellow at Pioneer’s facility in Woodland, Calif., examines an ear in one of the plots where the biotech company conducts research to develop drought-tolerant corn. Photo: Ricardo Lopez, Los Angeles Times

WOODLAND, Calif. — The worst U.S. drought in half a century is withering the nation’s corn crop, but it’s a fertile opportunity for makers of genetically modified crops.

Agricultural biotechnology companies have been pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into developing plants that can withstand the effects of a prolonged dry spell. Monsanto Co., based in St. Louis, has received regulatory approval for DroughtGard, a corn variety that contains the first genetically modified trait for drought resistance.

Seed makers, such as Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. of Johnston, Iowa, and Swiss company Syngenta, are already selling drought-tolerant corn varieties, conceived through conventional breeding.

At stake: a $12-billion U.S. seed market, with corn comprising the bulk of sales. The grain is used in such things as animal feed, ethanol and food. The push is also on to develop soybean, cotton and wheat that can thrive in a world that’s getting hotter and drier.

“Drought is definitely going to be one of the biggest challenges for our growers,” said Jeff Schussler, senior research manager for Pioneer, the agribusiness arm of DuPont. “We are trying to create products for farmers to be prepared for that.”

Their efforts come amid concerns about genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, and the unforeseen consequences of this genetic tinkering. Californians in November will vote on Proposition 37, which would require foods to carry labels if they were genetically modified. The majority of corn seed sold is modified to resist pests and reap higher yields. Continue reading

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Filed under Climate Change, Commodification of Life, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Industrial agriculture

Video: Shut Down Monsanto Protest at the Gates Foundation

 As part of the Global Day of Action to Shut Down Monsanto on Saturday, this action was co-organized by AGRA Watch/Community Alliance for Global Justice, Washington Fair Trade Coalition, Washington Biotechnology Action Council, and GMO-Free Washington.  The protest was directed at the Gates Foundation for their efforts to spread Monsanto’s dangerous GMOs throughout Africa.

Video courtesy Washington Biotechnology Action Council.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing, Pollution, Videos

Report: More trees could be cut for biomass plants (no kiddin’…)

Note: Now here’s a shocker–using trees for industrial-scale electricity production will require vast numbers of trees to be cut and burned.  How about that.  Now add this one to the pile, ArborGen–the company developing genetically engineered  eucalyptus trees–has plans to annually sell half a billion of these non-native, invasive, flammable and water devouring franken-trees for bioenergy plantations from Texas to Georgia, as well as Florida and South Carolina.  This poses extreme danger to the forests and communities of the south and must be stopped.

The GOOD news is, they have not yet gotten permission to sell them commercially.  This is still one disaster we can stop.   Please join our campaign to STOP GE trees, go to: http://nogetrees.org.

–The GJEP and STOP GE Trees Campaign Teams

By SAMMY FRETWELL, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012

Cross-Posted from The State

A new report says Southern forests are at risk from biomass plants that burn wood to make energy.

The report, released Tuesday by two environmental groups, says the expanding biomass industry will look at cutting trees to fuel the power plants, a departure from the current practice of using waste wood from sawmills and other sources.

The report raises questions about whether the South will have an adequate supply of waste wood, thereby increasing the need to cut trees specifically for biomass plants.

In addition to concerns about deforestation, the report says biomass plants could cause a spike in atmospheric carbon over the next 35-50 years. Carbon is a pollutant that contributes to climate change. Long-term carbon levels should drop, but researchers question whether that will be soon enough to help stop global warming.

The report was done for the Southern Environmental Law Center and the National Wildlife Federation by the Biomass Energy Resource Center and others.

The report looks at conditions at proposed and existing biomass plants in the Southeast, including six in South Carolina. Those plants are in Newberry, Darlington, Aiken, Charleston, Marlboro and Orangeburg counties, the report says. Region-wide, the study analyzed 17 existing and 22 planned biomass plants in seven states.

Biomass is an alternate energy source that boosters say could help reduce the nation’s reliance on coal and nuclear power plants, both of which have substantial impacts on the environment. Coal-fired power plants release toxic pollutants and greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming. Nuclear plants produce deadly waste.

Biomass would not be expected to replace coal or nuclear, but biomass plants could help diversify the nation’s sources of energy.

“While biomass offers some environmental benefits, any expanded use of logging residue and live trees will affect forest structure and nutrient cycling,” said Robert Perschel, eastern forests director with Forest Guild, which helped compile the report.

“This raises questions of long-term forest health and other environmental factors, such as water quality and wildlife habitat, that need to be addressed by further study and reasonable guidelines for the industry.”

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees

Anonymous Takes Down Monsanto.com–Their Message: We Fight for Farmers

Note: Monsanto was also one of the original founders of the GE tree company ArborGen.  The President and CEO of ArborGen, Barbara Wells, led Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready soy division in Brazil.  GMO soy in Brazil and other parts of Latin America has taken over vast swaths of Amazon and other forest land, and has displaced or poisoned many communities there.  Please sign our petition to the USDA demanding a ban on the commercial release of GE trees.  ArborGen plans to sell hundreds of millions of GE tree seedlings annually if given permission by the USDA.  Help us stop them.  Sign our petition and get involved.
–The GJEP & STOP GE Trees Campaign Team

Anonymous DDOS Attacked Monsanto

Above video shows how Anonymous hack attacked Monsanto.com

Anonymous Message To Monsanto: We fight for farmers!

Anonymous Message To Monsanto: We fight for farmers! – Video Transcript
To the free-thinking citizens of the world: Anonymous stands with the farmers and food organizations denouncing the practices of Monsanto We applaud the bravery of the organizations and citizens who are standing up to Monsanto, and we stand united with you against this oppressive corporate abuse. Monsanto is contaminating the world with chemicals and genetically modified food crops for profit while claiming to feed the hungry and protect the environment. Anonymous is everyone, Anyone who can not stand for injustice and decides to do something about it, We are all over the Earth and here to stay.

To Monsanto, we demand you STOP the following:

  • Contaminating the global food chain with GMO’s.
  • Intimidating small farmers with bullying and lawsuits.
  • Propagating the use of destructive pesticides and herbicides across the globe.
  • Using “Terminator Technology”, which renders plants sterile.
  • Attempting to hijack UN climate change negotiations for your own fiscal benefit.
  • Reducing farmland to desert through monoculture and the use of synthetic fertilizers.
  • Inspiring suicides of hundreds of thousands of Indian farmers.
  • Causing birth defects by continuing to produce the pesticide “Round-up”
  • Attempting to bribe foriegn officials
  • Infiltrating anti-GMO groups

Monsanto, these crimes will not go unpunished. Anonymous will not spare you nor anyone in support of your oppressive illegal business practices.

AGRA, a great example:
In 2006, AGRA, Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, was established with funding from Bill Gates and The Rockefeller Foundation.

Among the other founding members of, AGRA, we find: Monsanto, Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, Procter and Gamble, Merck, Mosaic, Pfizer, Sumitomo Chemical and Yara. The fact that these corporations are either chemical or pharmaceutical manufacturers is no coincidence.

The people of the world see you, Monsanto. Anonymous sees you.

Seeds of Opportunism, Climate change offers these businesses a perfect excuse to prey on the poorest countries by swooping in to “rescue” the farmers and people with their GMO crops and chemical pesticides. These corporations eradicate the traditional ways of the country’s agriculture for the sake of enormous profits.
The introduction of GMOs drastically affects a local farmers income, as the price of chemicals required for GMOs and seeds from Monsanto cripples the farmer’s meager profit margins.

There are even many cases of Monsanto suing small farmers after pollen from their GMO crops accidentally cross with the farmer’s crops. Because Monsanto has a patent on theri brand of seed, they claim the farmer is in violation of patent laws.

These disgusting and inhumane practices will not be tolerated.

Anonymous urges all concerned citizens to stand up for these farmers, stand up for the future of your own food. Protest, organize, spread info to your friends!

Operation Green RightsSAY NO TO GMO!

We are Anonymous
We are legion
We do not forgive
We do not forget
Expect us

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Land Grabs, Pollution

Take Action to Stop the Killing of Orangutan’s in Oil Palm Plantations

The palmoil industry says: Orangutans are pests!

This orangutan’s mother was killed in one of palm oil plantations

Dear friends of the rainforest,

the BBC reports that orangutans are treated as “pest” and exterminated on Indonesian and Malaysian palm oil plantations. In the last year alone, up to 1,800 orangutans were killed in Kalimantan (Indonesian Borneo).

They wander hungry through the plantations as though in a daze, looking for food and thus eat the palm seedlings. Palm oil plantation workers are paid to kill orangutans either before a forest is cleared or, if they see any in a plantation. Either way, it is totally illegal to harass, harm or kill any orangutans.

Please write to the Malaysian Palm Oil Council and protest with your signature against the slaughter of orangutans:

Take Action

Many thanks and best regards,

David Vollrath

Rainforest Rescue (Rettet den Regenwald e.V.)


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Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change

Alternatives to carbon markets to finance REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation & Forest Degradation)

By Chris Lang, 23rd December 2011

Cross-Posted from REDD-Monitor

Alternatives to carbon markets to finance REDD

At the beginning of the UN climate negotiations in Durban (COP17), FERN published a short report looking at carbon markets as a means of financing REDD. The briefing, which was signed on to by 28 organisations explains why carbon markets will not deliver for southern governments, forests and people.

The briefing can be downloaded here. It starts with the question, “How much money is needed?” and explains that although this has been a primary focus of discussions on REDD, it is the wrong question. More important than the amount of money needed, is “a clear action plan to address the underlying drivers of forest loss coupled with sufficient political will to implement the plan”.

In the period 2010-2012, more than US$8 billion has been promised or is expected from government funds for REDD, compared to US$600 million from voluntary markets and nothing whatsoever from compliance markets. This is unlikely to change much before 2020, the briefing argues, because the largest carbon market, the EU Emissions Trading Scheme does not currently accept forest offset and will not do so until at least 2020.

Most of the growth in carbon trading volume up to 2010 was in the secondary markets. In other words, most carbon trading is carried out by banks and speculators. Even this growth is currently stagnating. Since 2008 Bank of America, ABN Amro, UBS
Warburg and Credit Suisse have closed or reduced the size of their carbon trading desks. Meanwhile, “Forest offsets in the voluntary carbon market have been fraught with difficulties,” the briefing notes. There are several examples of dubious or damaging forest carbon projects in the largely unregulated voluntary carbon market.

Even with a forest carbon market, little money would actually reach the forests. Most of the money would end up in the hands of intermediaries: speculators, banks, consulting firms, certifying firms and so on. It is also unlikely that a carbon market would finance forest conservation in countries where the risks of corruption are high. More than 75% of CDM projects are in three countries: China, India and Brazil. A similar pattern is likely with REDD finance via carbon markets.

The briefing also lists some alternatives to financing REDD through carbon trading (see the briefing for footnotes and sources). REDD-Monitor welcomes discussion on the merits (or otherwise) of these suggestions:

    • Financial Transaction Tax (FTT)
      A tiny tax on financial transactions – as little as one hundredth of a percent – could raise US$650 billion per year.[17] Although many adaptation and mitigation measures would need to be financed through such a fund if it ever materialised, a small proportion would provide enough to help reduce deforestation. The European Commission and many European governments, including Germany and France, already support the FTT, and research from economic institutions including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has shown it to be technically feasible.[18]
    • Tax on international shipping and aviation
      There are many different proposals on the table to tax international aviation and ‘bunker’ (shipping) fuel. The emissions from these industries are significant, and they are currently not only under-taxed, but also benefit from fossil fuel subsidies.[19] Redirecting these subsidies to climate mitigation and adaptation is another potential large source of finance.[20]
    • Public funds
      Even in times of austerity measures, if government spending priorities were brought in line with their climate change policies, money would also become available for forest projects and for activities to deal with the drivers of deforestation. Government funding is still the major funding source for REDD as chart 1 shows.Public funds could also be used to address illegal logging. The World Bank (WB) estimates that illegal timber may comprise over a tenth of a total global timber trade worth more than US$150 billion a year.[21] More funding and political support to address illegal logging would therefore go a long way to keep forests standing and provide funds to Southern governments.
    • Private investments
      Projects where companies buy forests to speculate on financial markets (as is the case with trading in forest carbon credits) have led to many problems. However the Forest Trust’s Climate Tree project is an example of an initiative which channels private investment into improving forest use without letting Northern companies off the hook with regards to reducing their own emissions as carbon offset projects do.[22]

        17. Bonn Brief no. 8, Innovative sources of climate finance, June 2011.


        18. See: World Bank Group, IMF, OECD. Mobilizing Climate Finance: A Paper prepared at the request of G20 Finance Ministers, September 19, 2011; and: IMF (2010). A Fair and Substantial Contribution by the Financial Sector, Final Report for the G-20.




        20. For more information about these alternatives and others see, Assessing the Alternatives – Financing Climate Change Mitigation and Adaptation in Developing Countries



OECD, OECD Environmental Outlook (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, 2001), p122.



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Filed under Carbon Trading, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, Green Economy, Land Grabs, REDD

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, Forests and Climate Change, Geoengineering, Land Grabs, Nuclear power, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, REDD, UNFCCC

Forest-Dependent Communities Lobby for End of REDD+

Cross-Posted from Inter-Press Service

By Kristin Palitza

DURBAN, South Africa , Nov 29, 2011 (IPS) – Organisations working with indigenous peoples living in forests say the United Nations programme on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries (REDD+) is just another way for big corporates to reap huge profits.

REDD+ has been touted as a global scheme to conserve forests, enhance carbon stocks and support sustainable forest management.

“It is a system where you pour a lot of money into forests that will attract powerful international investors who will make big profits,” warned Simone Lovera, managing director of the Global Forest Coalition, a worldwide network of more than 50 non-governmental organisations and Indigenous Peoples’ Organisations based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. She spoke during the U.N. 17th Conference of the Parties (COP 17), which is taking place in Durban, South Africa, from Nov. 28 to Dec. 9.

Lovera does not contest that deforestation and forest degradation are key climate change culprits. Caused by agricultural expansion, conversion to pastureland, infrastructure development or destructive logging, they account for nearly 20 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the U.N., more than the entire global transportation sector and second only to the energy sector.

REDD+ is supposed to turn this around. Since it was started in 2005, the programme enables industrialised countries in the North to reward reductions of carbon emissions to nations in the South. It is basically a system of performance-based payments that are financed through global carbon markets. The U.N. predicts that finance for greenhouse gas emission reductions from REDD+ could reach up to 30 billion dollars per year. The money is supposed to go towards pro-poor development, help conserve biodiversity and secure vital ecosystem services.

But indigenous communities say this is not so. It was big, international forestry businesses that ultimately benefited from the carbon deals, not the locals who have lived in and off the forests for many generations. Instead, locals are kicked off their land to make space for large monoculture plantations aimed at offsetting carbon emissions in the north.

Lovera said there are many risks inherent to REDD+ that indigenous communities are unable to address because they lack access to information and education, such as forced, non-transparent contracts and land grabbing. What forest-dependent communities need instead, she argued, are national public policies that support sustainable forest management.

Lovera said the U.N. promise of the scheme generating billions of dollars annually was “a big fairytale”, a way of green washing. “There won’t be big carbon financing for REDD+. Carbon markets are collapsing. It’s a very risky scheme that is creating havoc all over the world,” she cautioned.

Her prediction is likely to be correct. A World Bank draft report, written for a G20 meeting in November and leaked to the Britsh Guardian newspaper in September, confirmed the trouble global carbon markets are in. “The value of transactions in the primary CDM market declined sharply in 2009 and further in 2010 … amid chronic uncertainties about future mitigation targets and market mechanisms after 2012,” the World Bank stated.

In the meantime, the U.N. continues to pump large amounts of finance into REDD+. Last month, for example, Nigeria’s national REDD+ programme received four million dollars in funding, which the U.N. says brought total funding in 14 countries worldwide to nearly 60 million dollars. The funds are aimed at increasing the capacity of national governments to implement carbon-saving strategies together with local groups, such as indigenous peoples and other forest-dependent communities.

“The U.N.-REDD programme’s support is invaluable because climate change is a global problem and the issues of REDD+, sustainable forest management and sustainable livelihoods cannot be handled by the country alone,” said Salisu Dahiru, national coordinator for REDD+ in Nigeria.

But organisations working with forest-dependent communities say the benefits for local people are minimal.

“We say very clearly ‘no’ to REDD+. Under it, people are being expelled from nature so that big industries can profit from carbon storage,” argued Winnie Overbeek, the international coordinator of the World Rainforest Movement, a non-governmental organisation based in Montevideo, Uruguay.

In Uganda, for example, a case was documented where 22,000 people were violently evicted from the Mubende and Kiboga districts earlier this year to make way for the United Kingdom-based New Forests Company to plant trees, to earn carbon credits and ultimately to sell timber. Similar incidents happened to indigenous peoples all over the world, said Overbeek.

“REDD+ is about making more profit, continuing pollution and disrespecting the rights of forest people all over the world. It’s about land grabbing,” he warned. “It’s time to stop thinking about REDD+ and start protecting local populations and their land rights.”

Marlon Santi, a member of the Quichua indigenous community that lives in the Amazon Region of Ecuador, said he has experienced first-hand how REDD+ took away people’s livelihoods. The scheme has led to mega forestry projects that exist to the detriment of local people.

“Forests have become a negotiating space to make money. They are used as business opportunities. That’s unacceptable to us,” said Santi. “REDD+ projects are hypocritical. We need real political solutions that benefit everyone.”

He hoped the negotiators at this year’s COP 17 will grant an open ear to his people’s needs.

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Silent forests and famine in east Africa

Note: The scourge of industrial tree plantations displacing native forests or being grown on so-called “degraded” lands [i.e. lands where native forests or other ecosystems were previously destroyed] is a global epidemic–but mostly a threat to countries and peoples in the South.  With the emergence of wood-based energy (liquid fuels or biomass-based electricity) and other wood-based products as alternatives to fossil fuel-based products and energy, the demand for industrial tree plantations is rapidly expanding.  As the article below points out, the emphasis on water greedy non-native species like eucalyptus and pine is leading to devastating impacts on watersheds.    Now even faster growing genetically engineered trees are being planned.   These franken-tree plantations will worsen the impacts on watersheds and lead to greater suffering, starvation and loss of biodiversity.

On Sunday 4th December, at an all-day event in the COP17 Civil Society Space in Durban, South Africa, expert speakers from Global Justice Ecology Project and other organisations from around the world will describe how tree plantations threaten our planet and its peoples.

Go to www.timberwatch.org for full details of the venue and programme.

–The GJEP Team

Deforestation and replacing indigenous woodland with exotic trees has had a catastophic effect on climate change

by Wangari Maathai

Cross-Posted from The Guardian, 25 November

Dry river bed in Mwingi District, Kenya

A dry river bed in Mwingi district, Kenya. Much of east Africa has been hit by famine as drought conditions worsen. Photograph: Ken Oloo/Red Cross and Red Crescent/HO/EPA

This article was written by Nobel peace prize winner Wangari Maathai in September, shortly before her death. It addresses some of the main issues she and the Green Belt Movement were intending to raise at the UN climate summit, which starts in Durban, South Africa, on Monday

In 2011 the worst drought in 60 years engulfed the east of Africa, forcing millions into a desperate struggle to survive. Poor governance intensified the consequences: a drought, not unusual for this part of Africa, became a famine, in which untold human suffering was guaranteed.

Governments could have planned for the drought (after all, some regions haven’t seen good rains for four years) and helped their people adapt to the realities of global warming. They didn’t.

This is the International Year of Forests. What we know is that intact forests are essential to stabilising local climates and securing the livelihoods of Africa’s farmers, herders and entrepreneurs. However, some governments, institutions and organisations are aggressively promoting the planting of exotic species of trees at the expense of indigenous ones as a solution to both drought and climate change. It is not.

One of the most important environmental benefits indigenous forests provide is regulating climate and rainfall patterns; through harvesting and retaining rain, these forests release water slowly to springs, streams, and rivers; this reduces the speed of water runoff and with it, soil erosion. Indigenous forests and trees also play an important role in spiritual and cultural life.

Exotic trees, like pine and eucalyptus, cannot offer these environmental benefits. They eliminate most other local plants and animals. Like invasive species, they create “silent forests” that are devoid of wildlife, undergrowth and water. Tragically, exotic tree plantations in the tropics have taken the place of indigenous forests, often through “slash and burn” practices that destroy biodiversity and turn what used to be forest into agricultural or grazing land.

Through the Redd+ initiative (Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation), the international community has committed itself to protecting and rehabilitating indigenous forests. Redd+ is intended to save the world’s remaining indigenous forests, whose destruction is responsible for about 17% of climate-warming carbon dioxide (CO2) pumped into the atmosphere each year. It also seeks to bolster the capacity of communities to mitigate and adapt to the negative effects of climate change (including drought and floods).

For governments and private enterprise to support Redd+, and at the same time welcome the planting of exotic trees at the expense of indigenous forests, is a contradiction. This is especially true for countries like Kenya, where indigenous forest cover is less than 2% and mainly remains in watershed areas. Establishing plantations of exotic trees in watershed areas and on private farms is bad environmental, economic, and social policy. In the long run, communities will be without reliable rainfall, rivers, productive soils, and food.

In Kenya and other tropical countries more than 60% of the population still live in rural or forested areas. These communities will become poorer and more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change – and the nation will experience more severe and regular droughts that in turn will challenge livelihoods, food security and industry – since Kenya (like Brazil and, increasingly, China and India) relies on hydropower.

The benefits provided by indigenous forests and trees are worth trillions of US dollars each year. No market value is given to clean drinking water, clean air and food that sustains life, unlike the dollars that can be assigned to timber sales. The lure of money obscures the real value of essential environmental services and livelihoods of local communities as they are sacrificed for short-term economic gains.

Environmental damage can take a long time to take root. Some years back Kenya imported a eucalyptus clone from South Africa. In South Africa now the government’s Working for Water programme has as its main objective the removal of eucalyptus and other invasive species from sources of water. Today we are seeing that many rivers in Kenya have less water than they used to, or have dried up altogether.

Governments must demonstrate a commitment to standing forests and the rehabilitation of degraded forests. This can be done only if national laws that encourage continued deforestation and forest degradation are reformed; and if communities are supported to plant appropriate trees. If none of this happens, considerable financial resources will be invested without achieving reductions in poverty and other development gains. As the world can see in the east of Africa, there is no time to waste.

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Filed under Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, REDD, UNFCCC