Category Archives: Natural Disasters

Earth Minute: Climate Chaos Impacts the Indigenous Tarahumara People of Mexico

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

This week’s Earth Minute discusses the impacts of the climate crisis on the Indigenous Tarahumara people of Mexico who are suffering from a food crisis brought on by both a record drought and a disastrous freeze.

To listen to this week’s earth minute click the link below and scroll to minute 57:48.

KPFK Sojourner Truth Show Tuesday, Jan 24, 2012

Text from this week’s Earth Minute:

The Indigenous Tarahumara People, in the Mexican state of Chihuahua, are some of the latest victims of the climate crisis. Their crops have been destroyed by a combination of the worst drought in 70 years compounded by a record-breaking freeze.

The Tarahumara, known for extreme long-distance running in their mountainous homeland, have been an inspiring symbol of strength and self-reliance in Mexico.  The idea that these fierce people are now starving has mobilized a rapid relief effort in Mexico.

While some may think that the impacts of climate change are a problem of the future, more and more people are experiencing the impacts of extreme weather today–droughts, floods, out-of-season tornadoes, record warm spells and freezes, wildfires and severe storms.  And these impacts are only projected to get worse.

It is time we get serious about challenging the dependence on fossil fuels, industrial agriculture and over-consumption that are driving the climate crisis.  Systemic transformation is essential.   We cannot wait until it is too late.

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

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Filed under Climate Change, Earth Minute, Food Sovereignty, Indigenous Peoples, Latin America-Caribbean, Natural Disasters

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

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

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

Text from this week’s Earth Minute:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Occupy Burlington Dialogue on Ecology and Justice-The System of Debt is the System of Death

 Bridging mass movements for economic and environmental justice

                          The System of Debt is the System of Death:

Examining the intertwined root causes of the crises we face

A workshop and dialogue hosted by Anne Petermann and Orin Langelle

of Hinesburg-based Global Justice Ecology Project

11am, City Hall Park

Saturday, Nov. 12th

  “We live in a toxic crisis-ridden world because choices are driven, not by ethics or morals, not by justice vs. injustice, not even by objective science.  Choices are driven by the bottom line.  The 1% who run corporations make their decisions based on profits–on advancing their own self-interests to the detriment of all other life on Earth.”

In this workshop, we will discuss the intertwined root causes of the crises we face, and develop ideas about what we can do to build alliances based on these commonalities to diversify and strengthen our movement.

Coordinated by the #OWS-VT Burlington Environmental Working Group

                                           http://owsvt.wikispaces.com/burlington+environmental+working+group

The System of Debt is the System of Death Workshop/Dialogue

The use of taxpayer money for the outrageous bailouts of banks engaged in high stakes gambling, and the subsequent slashing of the social safety net has mobilized people, around the world, with “occupy” movement rising up in 1,500 cities globally.  One of the biggest galvanizing issues has been rapidly expanding economic injustice, exemplified in the U.S. by the enormous debt burdens being carried by graduating college students.

Combined with the million plus people who’ve lost their homes to foreclosure because of predatory lending scams by huge financial firms, there is no doubt as to why many thousands of people across the U.S. are mobilizing for a more just economic system.

But the financial crisis and its outcomes are merely symptoms of a much greater crisis.  The crisis of death: exemplified by the climate crisis, the food crisis, the water crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and on and on…

The climate crisis is fast becoming climate catastrophe as region after region suffers the impacts of extreme weather–from floods to hurricanes to droughts to tornadoes to snowstorms–in a trend that shows no sign of slowing down.

Hundreds of species go extinct every day to extinction.  The oceans have lost 90% of their life due to industrial fishing and climate change. The world’s forests–known both as the cradles of biodiversity and the lungs of the earth–are rapidly being destroyed, and there are plans to accelerate this deforestation to produce wood-based electricity.

We live in a tangled and beautiful web of life. This means that these myriad crises are reflected in our own bodies. Cancer is an epidemic.  One in two men in the U.S. will develop cancer over the course of their lives; as will one in three women. Think about all of your family and friends.  Now realize that one in two or one in three of them will develop some form of cancer.  Imagine what that means.

We live in a toxic crisis-ridden world because choices are driven, not by ethics or morals, not by justice vs. injustice, not even by objective science.  Choices are driven by the bottom line.  The 1% who run corporations make their decisions based on profits–on advancing their own self-interests to the detriment of all other life on Earth.

The system must be transformed.  It cannot be sustained.

In this workshop, we will discuss the intertwined root causes of the crises we face, and develop ideas about what we can do to build alliances based on these commonalities to diversify and strengthen our movement.

www.globaljusticeecology.org

Outrage! Many young people were rounded up after a protest and put on a bus to take them off the grounds of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (2010) in Cancun, Mexico. Photo: Langelle/GJEP-GFC

www.globaljusticeecology.org

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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Justice, Corporate Globalization, False Solutions to Climate Change, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Greenwashing, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Natural Disasters, Rio+20

Photo Essay from Vermont: The Recovery from Hurricane Irene Begins

As of Tuesday, 30 August 2011, there were still thirteen towns in the U.S. state of Vermont that were completely cut off from the outside world due to the torrential rains of Hurricane Irene.  This was because roads like Route 100, which runs north and south through the state, sustained catastrophic damage to its culverts and bridges for many miles.    In all, over 200 roads across the state were closed due to wash outs from the heavy rains that pelted the state for nearly twenty-four hours on Sunday, August 28.

Route 100--this and other washed out bridges and culverts cut off the town of Granville, VT from the outside world

Text: Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Photos: Orin Langelle, Co-Director/Strategist, Global Justice Ecology Project

Orin Langelle and I toured a portion of our home state of Vermont on Tuesday, 30 August to witness and document some of the destruction that Hurricane Irene had left in its wake.  Though it was downgraded to a “tropical storm” by the time it reached Vermont, its torrential rains wreaked havoc around the state.  Where we live, we had been quite fortunate and only lost electricity for twenty-three hours or so.  Other parts of the state were far less lucky.  During our travels, however, we witnessed the resiliency of Vermonters, who tackled their own loss or the loss of their neighbors, not only with fortitude, but also with humor and a very New England-like matter of fact-ness.

The post-flood clean up effort begins in Waterbury, VT

Our journey began at Camp Johnson in Colchester, where the Vermont National Guard is stationed, to see what an official governmental response looked like.  Vermont’s National Guard sustained the heaviest losses per capita of any U.S. state during the occupation of Iraq.  Like many Vermont National Guardsmen, the young soldier we spoke with, Nathan Rivard of Enosburg Falls, explained that responding to the needs of his neighbors during disasters like Irene that was the reason he had joined the Guard.  The response to the storm was, he felt, the real story in Vermont. “It’s people helping people,” he explained.  “Not just the disaster, but how people respond after.”

VT National Guard personnel prepare relief packages

The Vermont National Guard responded while the storm was still raging to help Vermonters caught off guard by the inundation of water.  Before the sun was up on Tuesday morning, thirty FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) tractor-trailers had arrived at the National Guard’s Camp Johnson with water, ready to eat meals, blankets, cots and other supplies.

FEMA personnel prepare temporary shelters

Because of the widespread road damage, however, getting the supplies to the people who need them has been extremely challenging.  With thirteen towns completely cut off from the outside world, National Guard helicopters have been almost the only way to get help in from the outside—either in the form of medical assistance or basic necessities like food and water.

National Guard medical helicopter

The ability of the government to help over the long term, however, is highly uncertain as the number of natural disasters in the U.S. over the past year has severely depleted FEMA’s budget.

[Note:  We asked the VT National Guard what communities in VT were receiving supplies from the Guard  so we could document distribution.  We were never given that information.]

The People Pull Together

From Camp Johnson, we headed to Waterbury, where Vermont’s state offices are located–and sustained heavy flood damage.  Waterbury was submerged under 10 feet or more of water when the Winooski River rose to record flood levels in minutes.  Even the state’s emergency management office succumbed to the flooding waters and had to relocate to Burlington—the state’s largest city.  When Irene hit Sunday, WDEV (Radio Vermont) stayed on the air all day and night with a generator, despite losing power from the grid and their internet connection.  While a commercial station, they remain dedicated to their community.  WDEV provided valuable information to residents about flooding damage and impassable roads during the disaster.  See Democracy Now! for an interview with the WDEV station owner.

This photo shows the high water mark from the flood in Waterbury

By Tuesday, volunteers and neighbors were pouring support into the community.

At the first house we came to on Elm Street, one of the streets where the flooding had been the worst, a group was sharing stories about the scene on Sunday.  Their front yard was heaped with ruined debris.  The home’s owner explained to us that the water in the apartment he rented downstairs had been up to his shoulders.  He explained that he wouldn’t even be able to start dealing with the damage to the house until the insurance agent arrived—which wouldn’t be until Friday.

But, he emphasized, the outpouring of support had been amazing.  Restaurants were donating food to the relief effort, and a bus full of “Youth Build” participants had arrived earlier that day to pitch in.  “If you didn’t know there was a flood, you’d think it was a block party,” he explained with a smile.

Inside the house, it was easy to see just how destructive the flood had been.  Kitchen appliances were covered in mud, while at one end of what had presumably been the living room, a happy birthday sign still hung.  In another room, mud covered baby toys littered the floor.

A Happy Birthday sign still hangs on the wall

Cars did not fare well either during the flood.

Around the corner on Randall Street, the activity of clearing homes of debris and salvaging what could be salvaged was still under way.

Huge dumpsters lined the street and debris was being piled according to type with electronics in one pile, hazardous materials (mostly paint, stain and household chemicals) in another, and everything else going in the dumpsters.

We came across one woman who picked up a white jug and sighed, “this was an antique,” as she poured muddy water out of a gaping hole in its side.  “Oh well,” she said.  “It’s just stuff, right?” then chucked it into the dumpster.  “Bye.”

For some people the loss was clearly overwhelming.  Others got to work cleaning what could be cleaned.

Coming up the road we encountered three intrepid children, helping out the best they could by giving out bottles of water.  They were very serious about their job, asking everyone they met if they wanted something to drink.

Among the ruins were tarps laid out with items that had been salvaged and washed, drying in the sun.  Many people managed to tackle the mess with a positive attitude.

From Waterbury, we headed down Route 100—one of the hardest hit roads in the state.  Not far down the road, we came to Moretown, were the Mad River had lived up to its name.

Bridge over the Mad River, severely damaged by the flood

The Mad River, now back to its calm, pristine self, had become a raging torrent on Sunday, shutting down Route 100B and flooding the Village Cemetery.

Workers repair the bridge over Route 100B in Moretown

The cemetery fence was buckling under the weight of the flood debris that was caught in its chain links and many headstones had been flattened—including those of the entire Philemon Family (dating back to 1865) and Bulkley Family (dating back to 1822).

Across the street, another home was half-hidden by debris with a lonely pair of mud-covered rubber boots testifying to the people that had lived there.

Further down Route 100, on the border of Waitsfield and Warren, the Mad River had taken out half of the road.

Nearby, American Flatbread, a unique and very popular Mad River Valley institution featuring an outdoor bonfire, indoor clay flatbread oven and walls covered with Bread and Puppet art, had also succumbed to the raging mud.  As we passed, teams of people were pitching in to help clean out the mess.

Our final stop on Route 100, where we could go no further, was at the border of Warren and Granville.  The road was washed out.  Route 100 further to the south was closed due to water, and Route 125, the only link to the west, was also impassable.  This left the towns of Granville, Hancock and Rochester, all located along Rte 100, cut off from the outside world.

At the roadblock we spoke with some electrical workers who were trying to get to the town of Rochester.  They had been talking with the road worker at the wash out to see how they might travel south.  “We’re based in South Royalton,” one electrical worker explained.  “We’ve been trying to get to Rochester all day. They’re without power and we’re trying to get in to fix it.  We tried to get to Rochester from the South but couldn’t get in. Now we’re trying to get in from the North, but that’s not working either.  We’re going to try some small dirt roads now to see if we can get around these wash outs.”

The Mad River near Granville--not so mad anymore

While the record devastation around Vermont has been catastrophic to many communities, the spirit of collective teamwork that we experienced on our journey gave us a hopeful glimpse of what is possible and the mountains that can be moved when people pull together.  As we head into the uncertain future of escalating climate chaos and extreme weather, this spirit may be the one thing that enables communities to come together to find local, small scale, ecologically sustainable solutions to the climate crisis.

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Filed under Climate Change, Climate Justice, Natural Disasters, Photo Essays by Orin Langelle, Posts from Anne Petermann, Water