Tag Archives: UN

Rio Earth Summit: tragedy, farce, and distraction

By Anne Petermann, September 2012.  Source: Z Magazine

As I flew to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on June 12 for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20)—the 20-year anniversary of the historic “Rio Earth Summit”—I read an article in the Financial Times titled “Showdown Looms at OPEC After Saudi Arabia Urges Higher Output.” The article explained that Saudi Arabia was urging OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) to increase their output of oil in order to ensure that the global price of oil would not exceed $100 per barrel in order to “mitigate the risks that high oil prices pose to the global economy.”

The article pointed out that ensuring the health of the global economy requires expanding oil production. This, as we know, will worsen the climate crisis. The takeaway message of the article, therefore, is that the global economy will only thrive by destroying the life support systems of the planet.

At the Rio Earth Summit, this was also the underlying logic of the so-called “green economy” proposals that have polarized and paralyzed the talks since the first preparatory meeting for Rio+20 in May 2010.

According to Jim Thomas of the ETC Group, who wrote about the Rio+20 summit’s preparatory meetings for the Guardian back in March 2011, “Far from cooking up a plan to save the Earth, what may come out of the summit could instead be a deal to surrender the living world to a small cabal of bankers and engineers. Tensions are already rising between northern countries and southern countries…and suspicions are running high that the…‘green economy’ is more likely to deliver a greenwash economy or the same old, same old ‘greed’ economy.”

At the Rio+20 summit, industrialized countries and multinational corporations, accompanied by institutions like the IMF and World Bank, led the push for development of the green economy—that is, to use the very ecological devastation caused by global capitalism to create markets in so-called “environmental services” by turning them into tradable commodities. These new markets would help prop up the global economy in a greenwashed version of business as usual.

“Environmental services,” provided by intact natural ecosystems—which include such things as the storage of carbon, the purification of air and water, and the maintenance of biodiversity—would be given a monetary value in the market, enabling them to be purchased and supposedly protected. In reality, however, it would allow companies to destroy a biodiverse ecosystem in one area, by purchasing the protection of an equivalent ecosystem.

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Filed under Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, Events, False Solutions to Climate Change, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Land Grabs, Posts from Anne Petermann, REDD, Rights, Resilience, and Restoration, Rio+20

Forest Cover: The Official Newsletter of Global Forest Coalition

CONTENTS OF THIS ISSUE (Download the 10 Page PDF by clicking here)

From standing trees to boiled, bleached pulp in one day. Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Rio+20 must Recognize the Role of Civil Society

by Fiu Mataese Elisara/ Chair of the Board, Global Forest Coalition

REDD and the Feeling of Standing Barefoot in a Peatswamp By Simone Lovera, Sobrevivencia, Paraguay

San Mariano Biofuel Project Should be Rejected as CDM Project By Feny Cosico, Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (AGHAM), the Philippines

Genetically Engineered Tree Developments: GE Cold Tolerant Eucalyptus in the US By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project; North American Focal Point, Global Forest Coalition

African Faith Leaders get Organized for Durban COP17 By Nigel Crawhall, Director of the Secretariat of the Indigenous Peoples of Africa Coordinating Committee (IPACC) and member of the Western Cape Provincial Religious Leaders Forum

Calendar of Forest-related meetings

About Forest Cover

Welcome to the thirty-eighth issue of Forest Cover, newsletter of the Global Forest Coalition (GFC). GFC is a world- wide coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and Indigenous Peoples Organizations (IPOs). GFC promotes rights-based, socially just and effective forest policies at international and national level, including through building the capacity of NGOs and IPOs in all regions to influence global forest policy.

Forest Cover is published four times a year. It features reports on important intergovernmental meetings by different NGOs and IPOs and a calendar of future meetings. The views expressed in this newsletter do not necessarily reflect the views of

the Global Forest Coalition, its donors or the editors.

For free subscriptions, please contact Yolanda Sikking at: Yolanda.sikking@globalforestcoalition.org

Global Justice Ecology Project is the North American Focal Point of the Global Forest Coalition


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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, GE Trees, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Latin America-Caribbean, REDD, UNFCCC

UN International Year of Forest Fraud Launched


–by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

I am writing to address the press release below that was put out yesterday by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (why is it forests always get stuck under “agriculture”, I wonder) announcing the “International Year of Forests.”  It’s easy to get lost in the UN’s doublespeak, so I will help translate it.

The UN press release starts out by talking about the need to recognize the vital role played by forest dependent peoples in protecting forests.  Alright.  True enough.  But they then immediately go on to contradict themselves entirely by talking about how “the forest industry forms an important part of a ‘greener’ economy” and needs to “innovate and restructure itself to … change the generally poor perception of wood products by consumers, who often feel guilty about using wood as they think it is ethically unsound to cut down trees.”

Right, so we need to recognize the vital nature of protecting forests by convincing the public that its a good idea to cut down trees.  They then continue this line of thinking: “the forest industry has great potential in promoting a ‘greener economy’ including through the use of bioenergy, wood promotion activities, and new wood based products and biomaterials…”

Another statement in need of translation: “Pulp and paper production … is coming under increased pressure to reduce its energy intensity and carbon emissions by adopting improved technologies and emission trading.” Now this is really twisted.  Besides ignoring the massive toxic pollution caused by paper mills, they are promoting the use of “emissions trading” to reduce the carbon footprint of paper mills–which means timber companies need to buy up some forest protection project that supposedly stores carbon in order to continue logging forests and say they are helping stop climate change.

Okay then.  So we can be “greener” by massively accelerating the demand for forest products and continuing business as usual with forest offsets.  I suppose if by being “greener” you are referring to amassing American dollars, this might be true.

It is also important to understand some of the UN lingo.  When they say “forests,” for example, they are often referring to industrial timber plantations, and when they say “sustainable,” they mean increased logging.

Where they say, “Planting forests and trees for environmental protection and income could help the poor in arid countries to be less prone to droughts,” they are actually supporting the expansion of monoculture plantations of non-native trees like eucalyptus that will deplete ground water and worsen droughts.  Where they say, “enable the participation of indigenous people and local communities” and “respect their rights,” what they mean is: provide some form of fake consultation with local communities that looks good on paper, but ultimately take their forests by force if necessary for either “protection” or conversion to monoculture timber plantations.

Because where are these new “forest resources” to be found?  You guessed it!  On the lands of forest-dependent peoples who’ve carefully protected them because they depend on them.

This UN press release would be better titled, “International Year of Forest Fraud Launched.”  If you want to read our press release from the launch of the International Year of Forests yesterday, click here.

I have been attending international UN fora since 2004–including the UN Forum on Forests, the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Climate Convention.  I also attended the World Forestry Congress (WFC) in 2009 [a global gathering of timber industry executives, the World Bank and other people who like to destroy forests] and this UN garbage below is straight out of the final declaration of the WFC–which called for more wood-based bioenergy and other bioproducts along with increased protection of forests as carbon sinks (to enable business as usual to continue as long as possible).

This is unfortunately typical of what can be expected from the UN, which is why the global climate justice movement has been mobilizing to create real, effective and just solutions to the climate crisis that do not rely on the UN Climate Convention.  The same thing must be done to truly protect the world’s forests–the care of these forests must be legally returned to the peoples that depend on them.


International Year of Forests launched

UN calls on forest sector to take innovative actions

2 February 2011, New York/Rome – Millions of forest-dependant people play a vital role in managing, conserving, and developing the world’s forests in a sustainable manner, but the outside world often underestimates their rights to use and benefit from local forest resources, says FAO’s new State of the World’s Forests report, launched at the opening ceremony of the United Nations International Year of Forests in New York today.

“What we need during the International Year of Forests is to emphasize the connection between people and forests, and the benefits that can accrue when forests are managed by local people in sustainable and innovative ways,” said Eduardo Rojas, FAO’s Assistant Director-General for Forestry.

Towards a “greener” economy

An increased interest in social and environmental sustainability presents a unique challenge to the forest industry to innovate and restructure itself to be able to respond to the demands of the 21st century and to change the generally poor perception of wood products by consumers, who often feel guilty about using wood as they think it is ethically unsound to cut down trees.

The FAO report stresses that on the contrary, the forest industry forms an important part of a “greener” economy and wood products have environmental attributes that would appeal to people. Wood and wood products, as natural materials, are made from renewable resources that store carbon and have high potential for recycling.

The forest industry is responding to numerous environmental and social concerns by improving sustainability of resource use, using more waste materials to make products, increasing energy efficiency and reducing emissions. For example, 37 percent of total forest production in 2010 came from recovered paper, wood waste and non-wood fibers, a figure that is likely to grow to up to 45 percent in 2030, with much of that growth from China and India.

Furthermore, most solid wood products, like sawn wood and plywood, are produced with relatively little energy use. This results in a low “carbon footprint” from their production and use, which is further enhanced by the fact that carbon is stored in wood products. Pulp and paper production is more energy intensive but is coming under increased pressure to reduce its energy intensity and carbon emissions by adopting improved technologies and emission trading.

Many governments believe that the forest industry has great potential in promoting a “greener economy” including through the use of bioenergy, wood promotion activities, and new wood based products and biomaterials and many developed countries have increased their support for the development of forest industries over the last few years.

REDD+ needs to address local concerns

The FAO report also stresses that urgent action is needed to protect the values of forests that sustain local livelihoods in the face of climate change.
Recent decisions taken in Cancun in December 2010 on REDD+ (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) should be aligned with broad forest governance reform and enable the participation of indigenous people and local communities. Their rights should be respected in national REDD+ activities and strategies, the report suggested.

According to the report, countries will need to adopt legislation to clarify carbon rights and to ensure equitable distribution of costs and benefits from REDD+ schemes.

Adaptation strategies are underestimated
While REDD+ forest mitigation actions are attracting major attention and funding, the role of forests in climate change adaptation is crucial but often underestimated by governments.  The report stresses the importance of forests in contributing to the achievement of national adaptation strategies.

Forestry measures can reduce the impacts of climate change on highly vulnerable ecosystems and sectors of society. For example, stemming the clearance of mangroves (one fifth of which are believed to have been lost globally since 1980), would help protect coastlines from more frequent and intense storms and tsunamis.  Planting forests and trees for environmental protection and income could help the poor in arid countries to be less prone to droughts.  Examples of adaptation measures in developing countries include mangrove development and conservation in Bangladesh, forest fire prevention in Samoa and reforestation programmes in Haiti

The report points out that the close links between forests, rural livelihoods and environmental stability underline the need for substantial financial support for forest adaptation measures.

Without such attention given to local-level issues, there is a risk of eroding traditional ways of life and threatening some of the most biologically diverse and environmentally important forests in the world,” the report stated.

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COP 10: Analysis on The Hot Issues

Here at COP-10, the negotiations of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in Nagoya, Japan, there have been several areas that have been strongly controversial.  Among these: geoengineering schemes, the rights of Indigenous Peoples, and the infiltration of business and the markets into the negotiations.  Today, instead of sharing my own ideas on these topics, I include writings by others.  Warning: some of the language may be wonky, read at your own risk.

–Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project and North American Focal Point, Global Forest Coalition

Source: CBD Alliance ECO newsletters: http://www.cbdalliance.org/cop-10/

Tom Goldtooth, Executive Director of Indigenous Environmental Network explains the importance of Indigenous Peoples traditional knowledge in protection of biological diversity at an event featuring “13 Grandmothers” on October 19th in Nagoya, Japan. Photo: Petermann/GJEP-GFC


Indigenous Representatives Denounce Canada’s Obstructionist Position at COP10

Adapted from IIFB Press Statement

Canada stands alone in its shameful opposition to preambular text “Taking into account the significance of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples” (UNDRIP) in the proposed ABS (Access and Benefit Sharing) Protocol. Reminding parties that it did not endorse the UNDRIP, Canada insisted that the reference to the UNDRIP be both bracketed and deleted.  Indigenous Peoples insist the ABS Protocol must take into account the significance of the UNDRIP.

Armand MacKenzie, Executive-Director of the Innu Council of Nitassinan (Innu Nation), stated that, “You cannot claim to be a champion of human rights on the one hand and at the same time oppose the most widely accepted international charter in relation to Indigenous Peoples’ rights. With such strong arm tactics undermining Indigenous Peoples’ human rights, it is no wonder Canada lost their bid for a seat on the UN Security Council.”

“Canada has contradicted its speech from the throne when it stated it would take steps to endorse the UNDRIP.  The apology from the Prime Minister of Canada for the Residential School system was a positive move towards reconciliation between Canada and Aboriginal Peoples. This obstructionist position is an enormous step backwards, is unacceptable and undermines all Indigenous Peoples’ collective rights” states Ellen Gabriel, president of Quebec Native Women.

“The Canadian government has been undermining the human rights of the world`s Indigenous Peoples since 2006, both at home and internationally”, emphasized Paul Joffe, lawyer representing the Grand Council of the Crees (Eeyou Istchee). “Such conduct severely tarnishes Canada`s reputation globally and puts in serious doubt Canada’s stated intention to endorse the UNDRIP is in good faith.”

Background on Indigenous Issues at the UN CBD

Indigenous delegates from every region of the world have come to Nagoya to be heard at the COP10 negotiations. Indigenous Peoples continue to be among the most marginalized, discriminated and exploited peoples despite living in some of the worlds most biodiverse regions.

Indigenous delegates under the umbrella of the International Indigenous Forum for Biodiversity (IIFB) have been deliberating and working out strategies for negotiating at the COP 10 during the past three days of preparatory meetings.

The IIFB is a collection of representatives from indigenous communities and governments, indigenous non-governmental organizations, indigenous scholars and activists who organize around the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and other important international environmental meetings to help coordinate indigenous strategies at these meetings, provide consultation to the government parties, and influence the interpretations of government obligations to recognize and respect indigenous rights to the knowledge and resources.

The IIFB was officially acknowledged to be a formal advisory body to the CBD in COP5 in Nairobi, a step that has enhanced the presence and voices of indigenous peoples in the CBD and related processes. Since this groundbreaking step at COP5, subsequent COPs of the CBD have seen active and effective work by Indigenous peoples and indigenous organizations, as have a range of sub-processes regarding the implementation of Article 8(j), Access and Benefit Sharing, and others. This participation of Indigenous Peoples in this international process is often not reflected at the national level.

In this time the status of Indigenous Peoples has been recognized with the passing of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) by United Nations General Assembly in September 2007, the impact of this has yet to be fully realized within the context of the CBD. In addition, in some countries there are still many Indigenous Peoples who are still struggling for their rights, and demanding for their recognition as Indigenous Peoples.

This Declaration affirms the existence and establishment of the universal human rights standards for the protection of the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Implementation of decisions under the Convention on Biological Diversity must be consistent with the rights enshrined in this Declaration.

For more information please see: http://iifb.indigenousportal.com


First Global Discussion on Geoengineering Kicks Off

Paragraph 8(w) may be only the beginning

by ETC Group

One of the hottest issues under Climate Change and Biodiversity [at COP-10] has proven to be paragraph 8 (w), which arrived … in bracketed form:

[(w) Ensure, in line and consistent with decision IX/16 C, on ocean fertilization and biodiversity and climate change, and in accordance with the precautionary approach, that no climate-related geoengineering activities take place until there is an adequate scientific basis on which to justify such activities and appropriate consideration of the associated risks for the environment and biodiversity and associated social, economic and cultural impacts;]

COP10 is the first UN inter-governmental negotiating forum that is  openly debating the issue and that is prepared to take a decision on geoengineering as a whole. Not surprisingly, there are different opinions about what the term “geoengineering” entails. This debate exists outside the CBD as well. The issue of scope is central, but should not be difficult to resolve.

What is really at stake in this debate?

Whether or not the precautionary principle will be applied to high-risk and large-scale interventions in the climate system lies at the heart of the debate. Deletion of paragraph 8(w), as proposed by some delegations, would send the wrong signal to those states and private entities that want to engineer the climate by manipulating the very ecosystems the CBD was designed to protect.

Will this decision prevent research and discussion? Geoengineering proponents claim that the proposed wording of the moratorium could prevent people from talking about geoengineering, undertaking research and computer modeling. Such claims are ludicrous. The word “activities” may indeed be broad, but that is the same wording that was applied to ocean fertilization in 2008 and the two subsequent years saw vigorous debate in scientific, political and civil society circles, as well as continued lab research and modeling. The result: ocean fertilization is increasingly discredited as an effective response to climate change and the prospects for making money off ocean fertilization carbon credits is now rightly remote. This is good news for oceans and the people who depend upon them for their livelihoods.

Will this decision prevent companies from developing geoengineering schemes?

It will not prevent research, but it should prevent commercialization. If geoengineering is an “emergency response” then it cannot be handed over to private entities whose primary goal is to make money!

Nevertheless, all kinds of patents on these technologies have been awarded or are awaiting approval. The 2008 decision on ocean fertilization explicitly prohibited research that was “used for generating and selling carbon offsets or any other commercial purposes”. The same should be made clear in this decision about geoengineering as well.

Why are some countries opposing 8(w)?

Some countries are anxious to move forward with geoengineering – not only with research in computer modeling and laboratories, but in the real world. Thus far, only Russia has experimented with Solar Radiation Management techniques but a small group of geoengineers in Canada, the UK and the US (amongst others) is also anxious to move forward with such tests. They want to experiment with cloud whitening, altering the alkalinity of our oceans and more. We know that altering the sun’s radiation will affect precipitation patterns, potentially threatening the food supplies of up to 2 billion people. (1)

Such experiments cannot be allowed to proceed in the absence of inter-governmental consensus and oversight and a careful consideration of the intended and unintended impacts.  However, no such information or even a risk assessment to do so  exist now. Rushing ahead with climate engineering interventions could be disastrous.

What happens next if the moratorium is agreed to?

The debate will continue, with a much diminished risk of a unilateral intervention that could go badly wrong and with assurance that any attempt to engineer the climate would be quickly condemned by the international community. The moratorium will buy the world – both governments and civil society  – the time we need to debate whether or not this is the road we want to go down and how to put in place meaningful risk assessments and controls. The debate on geoengineering will not be over. It will be safer.

ETC Group’s new report: Geopiracy: The Case Against Geoengineering was published this week and is available with other background documents on our website (www.etcgroup.org).

(1) See Alan Robock, Martin Bunzl, Ben Kravitz, Georgiy L. Stenchikov, “A Test for Geoengineering?” Science, 29 January 2010, Vol. 327. no. 5965, pp. 530-31 and ETC Group news release, “Top-down Planet Hackers Call for Bottom-up Governance,” 11 February 2010 available at http://www.etcgroup.org/en/node/5073.


It’s About Life and Life is Not a Business

by Susan Walsh, USC – Canada and Bernrd Beermann

When members of the public in the UK were asked in a recent survey what the  word biodiversity meant, the most common answer was “some kind of washing  powder”. In response, Kate Rawles of the University of Cumbria states: “Modern societies … are dangerously close to completely losing touch with the value of other living things”.

The 193 Parties and hundreds of civil society organizations gathered at the 10th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity do know what biodiversity means. They understand only too well what is at stake if the dramatic erosion of our planet’s biological diversity is not stopped in its tracks, as well as the corresponding loss of resilience that could lead us all over the brink into a world where we are no longer welcome. Within the past century, for example, we have lost an estimated 75% of our plant genetic resources and, over the past decade alone, nearly 60 million hectares of primary forest. We are driving species to extinction at up to 1000 times the natural rate. How will the 1 billion people who depend on fish as their sole or main source of animal protein survive if 80% of examined world marine stocks are exploited or overexploited?

The Japanese Times’ special editions on COP 10 put it this way: “In Nagoya, the issue under discussion is not melting glaciers or brutally hot summers that extend long into autumn due to global warming, but life itself.”

The challenge is daunting. We face compounding environmental, food, fuel, economic, and climate crises that are converging into a perfect storm of biodiversity loss and social injustice. The conservation, sustainable use, and equitable sharing of benefits of biodiversity are fundamental to addressing these crises. Time and again, however, we see governments agreeing to business as usual, downplaying overconsumption, and searching for newer and better technological solutions with short-term, often counter-productive results. Governments can and must do better. We call on parties to strengthen the Convention’s core principles, particularly the ecosystem approach, the precautionary principle, participation, equity, justice, and an understanding that biodiversity cannot be separated from those humans with values that nurture, defend and sustainably use biodiversity.

We are particularly troubled by trends such as the growing popularity of market mechanisms that carve nature into pieces of valued and not so valued property and the growing influence of corporate actors who place profit ahead of the integrity of human community and the landscapes we inhabit. The convergence of the Rio Conventions must be preceded by clear evidence that the CBD’s values and principles will not be lost in the mix.

Unchecked, these trends could well undermine our largest ecosystem – the planet. The commodification of nature is at the heart of biodiversity loss and eroded resilience. The spirit of collaboration in Nagoya must reflect a willingness to respect nature’s gifts and complexities.

Civil society organizations here in Nagoya call on the delegates and their capitals to reconnect with Mother Nature and with the multiple values of other living things. If we are to avoid that perfect storm from blasting its way through our ever-fragile planet, we need to tap into that kinder, gentler human in us all.

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The Earth Minute on KPFK’s Sojourner Truth Radio Show

This week’s Earth Minute discusses the UN Climate Convention—the body charged with addressing the climate crisis, mainly employs business and market-based strategies.

Listen here for this week’s Earth Minute

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Post #7 December 11, 2009

At Indigenous Peoples Speak Out. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

At Indigenous Peoples Speak Out. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

 Indigenous Peoples Speak Out.  Global Justice Ecology Project teamed up with the Indigenous Environmental Network with co-sponsorship by Global Forest Coalition to help create a space for Indigenous Peoples to share their experiences, stories and songs.  We felt this was a critically important event to highlight the voices of Peoples who are being shut out of the official climate negotiations, even though they are some of the peoples being most profoundly affected by the climate crisis.

Indigenous Peoples Speak Out. Global Justice Ecology Project teamed up with the Indigenous Environmental Network with co-sponsorship by Global Forest Coalition to help create a space for Indigenous Peoples to share their experiences, stories and songs. We felt this was a critically important event to highlight the voices of Peoples who are being shut out of the official climate negotiations, even though they are some of the peoples being most profoundly affected by the climate crisis.

At Indigenous Peoples Speak Out Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Panel discussion from Klimaforum09’s “Towards a Peoples Tribunal on Ecological Debt and Climate Justice.” New Voices on Climate Change participant Lidy Nacpil from Jubilee South listens to Ricardo Navarro of Friends of the Earth El Salvador (left); Naomi Klein sits between them. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Global Forest Coalition releases their monitoring report on the UN’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation scheme. GFC had people monitor the potential impacts of REDD in countries targeted for REDD projects. The report was highly critical of the potential social and ecological impacts of this market-driven forest scheme. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Trees protest inside the UN conference negotiations. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Outside the conference protest like this are happening daily. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

Protest against the military junta outside the UN climate conference. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, Copenhagen/COP-15, Indigenous Peoples, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle

Dennis Brutus poem ‘Gull’ (Copenhagen conference)

Below you will find a short video followed by a bio whose limited capacity could not fully capture the life of the South African activist poet Dennis Brutus.

I have included a video of him speaking on his poetry and the Copenhagen climate conference (cop-15) that is fast approaching, and in the words of Dennis Brutus “we have to get ready for the fight for the survival of the planet… and Copenhagen has to be the place where the fight begins.”

Another compelling interview with Dennis Brutus HERE

Dennis Brutus, poet, scholar and famous anti-apartheid activist, shot in the back by the white controlling regime of South Africa, who served time with Nelson Mandela at Robben Island, recently encouraged that we should all ‘Seattle Copenhagen’.

While still in South Africa, Brutus was forbidden to teach, write and publish there.. Sirens, Knuckles and Boots, his first collection of poetry, was published in Nigeria while he was in prison. The book was awarded the Mbari Poetry Prize, awarded to a black poet of distinction, but Brutus turned it down on the grounds of its racial exclusivity.[2]

After he was released, Brutus fled South Africa. In 1983, Brutus won the right to stay in the United States as a political refugee, after a protracted legal struggle. He was “unbanned” in 1990. He is the Professor Emeritus of University of Pittsburgh.[3] He has now returned to South Africa and is based at the University of KwaZulu-Natal where he often contributes to the annual Poetry Africa Festival hosted by the University. He continues to support activism against neo-liberal policies in contemporary South Africa through working with NGOs.

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Actions Spreading Across the U.S. Against Corporate-Driven Climate Policy


22 September 2009

Actions Spreading Across the U.S. Against Corporate-Driven Climate Policy

Pittsburgh, PA–As groups protest the Pittsburgh International Coal Conference days before the G-20 arrives in the city, additional actions against U.S. climate policy and the fossil fuels industry took place on both the east and west coasts.

In New York City, Climate SOS, New York Climate Action Group and Rising Tide North America protested what they called “a greenwashed U.S. climate agenda” at the opening of NYC Climate Week.  Activists distributed their version of the ACESA (American Clean Energy and Security Act) bill to event attendees and media in the form of fake $2 trillion bills [1] which subtly depict a collusion of prominent Green NGOs (NRDC, the Nature Conservancy, Environmental Defense Fund among others) with corporate backers of the bill (BP, Shell, Dow, and others). Climate SOS organizers Dr. Rachel Smolker and Dr. Maggie Zhou engaged ceremony patrons with a pointed critique of the bill’s corporate-friendly implications.

Meanwhile on the west coast, the Mobilization for Climate Justice also took action in San Francisco against Chevron and the corporate-driven U.S. climate bill. Activists blocked four lanes of traffic with a parachute-shaped banner which read “Climate Justice or Climate Chaos.”  “If Congress wants to protect the public interest, they would never consider adopting the current climate bill (ACESA) that was written by big oil and energy corporations in the first place,” said Carla Pérez of the Movement Generation Justice & Ecology Project. “Cap and Trade legislation coupled with direct subsidies to oil, coal, nuclear, bio-fuels and incinerator industries will only serve to add hundreds of toxic smokestacks in our backyards, she added.”

Back in Pittsburgh, climate activists met in Schenley Park to set up the climate convergence–a space to talk about issues related to climate change and climate justice.  Part of this effort includes the New Voices on Climate Change program  of Global Justice Ecology Project. Anna Pinto, from CORE in India, who came to the U.S. for a speaking tour as part of the New Voices on Climate Change program [2] , explained why opening space to discuss climate justice is so important. “Climate justice is not abstract. It’s practical, it’s about survival.  It’s about need against greed,” Ms. Pinto explained. “Is it worth it to have three cars today to have your children die of horrible diseases tomorrow? Both the United States and Indian governments are pandering to the greed of industrialists and financiers rather than enabling ordinary people to provide for their needs,” she concluded.

Indigenous Environmental Network‘s Jihan Gearon, another New Voices on Climate Change participant, added her view on the centrality of climate justice within the discussion of climate change in the U.S.  “From extraction to transportation to refinement to distribution to consumption to storage, Indigenous Peoples are disproportionately impacted all along this road of destruction. The end result is contaminated and diminished food and water resources, forced removals, increased rates of illness and gridlocked economies,” she explained.”

Global warming and climate change pose yet another serious threat. The land of the Indigenous people in the arctic is literally melting under their feet, disrupting the lifecycles of the plants and animals they depend on, and forcing coastal and island communities to abandon their homes and traditional lands. What happens to a culture when the land and environment it stems from no longer exists? Even more frightening is that the proposed solutions to climate change, such as carbon trading, nuclear power, and ‘clean’ coal technologies, will only exacerbate the problems we face,” she added.

The repression experienced by indigenous and marginalized communities around the world due to climate change and the fossil fuel economy is today being echoed in Pittsburgh as a result of the same G-20 countries that are the main drivers of climate change.  Activists with the Three Rivers Climate Convergence and Seeds of Peace  have been harassed and arrested numerous times over the past few weeks in the build up to the G-20 meetings later this week.

Protests across the U.S. demanding real, effective and just action on climate are expected to continue throughout the fall, to culminate on November 30th with massive non-violent civil disobedience actions nationally and internationally.

November 30th is significant as it is both the tenth anniversary of the historic shutdown of the WTO (World Trade Organization) meetings in Seattle and exactly one week before the UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen, where world leaders will meet to hammer out a new global agreement on climate.

Activists are joining together around the world to ensure that any new agreement on climate is devoted to real and just action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and not focused on corporate-controlled, profit-oriented false solutions to climate change.  Massive protests are being organized by the international network Climate Justice Action to occur during the UN meeting in Copenhagen, which some activists have begun to call “CorporateHaven” due to the overwhelming influence of industry in the climate debate.



Orin Langelle, Global Justice Ecology Project +1.802.578.6980

Ananda Lee  Tan, Mobilization for Climate Justice West Coast +1.415.374.0615/+1.510.883.9490 ext. 102

Hallie Boas, New Voices on Climate Change Coordinator +1.415.336.6590

Rachel Smolker, Climate SOS, +1.802.735.7794

Abigail Singer, Mobilization for Climate Justice Co-Coordinator, +1.828.280.3462


[1] http://www.actforclimatejustice.org/2009/09/nyc-scientists-activists-protest-corporate-control-over-climate-policy/

[2] The New Voices on Climate Change speaking tour is co-sponsored by Global Exchange, Speak Out and the Mobilization for Climate Justice.  Its goal is to highlight and amplify the voices of people and communities impacted by climate change, the fossil fuel industry and profit-driven false solutions to climate change.

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