By Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project
Today is the opening day of the Cupola dos Povos–the alternative Peoples’ Summit for Environmental and Social Justice in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
It was pulled together by Brazilian groups and is being attended by social movements, Indigenous Peoples, activists and organizations from all over the world who are coming together to identify real solutions to the multiple and rising crises we face as humans on planet Earth. The summit was organized in direct opposition to the official UN circus known as the Rio+20 Conference for Sustainable Development. More aptly it would be called the Rio+20 Conference for the greenwashing of Business as Usual.
As I flew to Rio on 12 June, I read an article in the Financial Times titled “Showdown Looms at OPEC After Saudi Arabia Urges Higher Output.” The article explained how Saudi Arabia is urging OPEC to increase their output of oil in order to ensure that the global price of oil does not exceed US$100/barrel in order to “mitigate the risks that high oil prices pose to the global economy.”
The insane logic of expanding oil production in the face of mounting climate chaos in order to help rescue the global economy accurately reflects the mindset behind the negotiations around the UN’s Rio+20 Earth Summit, set to start next week here in Rio. Continue reading →
As the final negotiations for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20 conference get underway in Rio de Janeiro, almost 50 civil society groups have published an open letter denouncing the UN Secretary General’s new “Sustainable Energy For All Initiative” (SEFA). The letter states: “The SEFA process and Action Agenda are deeply flawed and threaten to further entrench destructive, polluting and unjust energy policies for corporate profit under the guise of alleviating energy poverty, while undermining community rights to energy sovereignty and self determination.”
The “Sustainable Energy for All” initiative was announced in September 2011, and a “high level panel” was established by the UN secretary general, Ban Ki Moon. The panel includes major investors in the fossil fuel economy including, Statoil, Eskom, Siemens and Riverstone Holdings. The initiative’s stated goals are to 1) double the rate of improvement in energy efficiency, 2) double the share of renewables in the global energy mix by 2030, and 3) provide access to modern energy services for all of humanity. An action agenda is being put forward for endorsement at Rio+20, along with commitments for action from countries and groups.
Groups denouncing the initiative view it as an attempt to use claims of poverty alleviation to further expand corporate control over energy policies with the aim of gaining access to new markets and investment opportunities. The letter points out that the initiative’s goals are inadequate,that it promotes dangerous and unsustainable forms of energy and that there is a deplorable lack of transparency and democratic participation in the process thus far. Continue reading →
Protest against the 1970 Kent State Massacre during the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach. Photo: Langelle/GJEP
Orin Langelle is co-founder of Global Justice Ecology Project and Board Chair. He has been shooting photos of the movement for social change for forty years. Langelle’s first professional photo assignment (St. Louis Outlaw) was covering the 1972 Republican National Convention in Miami Beach, FL. It nominated the incumbents Richard M. Nixon for President and Spiro T. Agnew for Vice President.
This photo is from one of the many protests against the Vietnam war during the Convention. It concerns the tragedy at Kent State University when on May 4, 1970 members of the Ohio National Guard fired into a crowd of Kent State University demonstrators, killing four and wounding nine. The impact of the shootings was dramatic. The event triggered a nationwide student strike that forced hundreds of colleges and universities to close.
This Friday, May 4, is the forty-second year since the murders at Kent State.
The Republicans will meet again in Florida this year for their Convention, forty years later after the major protests in Miami Beach.
Note: The following cross-post is from the March 2012 newsletter, published in London, England from our friends at the Environmental Network for Central America (ENCA). I have known ENCA contacts and activists Nick Rau and Sheila Amoo-gottried for over a decade now and they have graciously put me up in their homes a few times in London. Martin Mowforth, from the School of Geography, Earth & Environmental Sciences at Plymouth University has been sending me the ENCA newsletter for more years than I can remember. I always am grateful to see it arrive.
I received this edition last evening, opened it immediately and was quite surprised to see the following piece written by ENCA’s Barney Thompson. I smiled when I read the paragraph that begins, “With a similar outlook to ENCA, GJEP highlights the intertwined root causes of social injustice, ecological destruction and economic domination…” We’re very honored to be considered in the same vein as ENCA, and appreciate the coverage we receive in the following post.
Thanks to ENCA for all of their amazing work in Central America and the service they provide by supporting the people who live in that region and for getting the word out to the rest of the world.
¡La lucha sigue!
-Orin Langelle for the GJEP Team
This short article is a summary of the Global Justice Ecology Project Press Release (13 December 2011) ‘GJEP Direct Action and Climate Justice at the UN Climate Talks’, GJEP, Hinesburg, USA.
Summary by ENCA member Barney Thompson
Frustrated by the lack of any significant progress at the recent UN Climate Conference in South Africa, the US based NGO Global Justice Ecology Project (GJEP) took direct action alongside hundreds of African youth activists and civil society representatives. On the final day of the conference they staged a sit-in in the convention centre halls which resulted in arrest, ‘debadging’ and ejection from the event. They were one of the very few organisations there to take any such direct action in protest at the corporate takeover and the dominance of empty rhetoric over binding action that has now become the norm at the UN climate talks.
GJEP is removed by UN security during sit-in occupation Photo: Ben Powless
With a similar outlook to ENCA, GJEP highlights the intertwined root causes of social injustice, ecological destruction and economic domination. They work to build bridges between social and environmental justice groups (including those in Central America) to strengthen their collective efforts. In Durban, GJEP raised awareness of the messages of such climate justice experts and front line community representatives by connecting them with major international media outlets for interviews as well as delivering press releases and conferences. Included in the speakers was Friends of the Earth El Salvador’s Ricardo Navarro, also a friend of ENCA. They also participated in a march for climate justice attended by tens of thousands of people before then deciding in frustration to take more direct action.
GJEP’s Executive Director Anne Petermann was one of those arrested and she released the following statement:
“I took this action today because I believe this process is corrupt, this process is bankrupt, and this process is controlled by the One percent. If meaningful action on climate change is to happen, it will need to happen from the bottom up. The action I took today was to remind us all of the power of taking action into our own hands. With the failure of states to provide human leadership, and the corporate capture of the United Nations process, direct action by the ninety-nine percent is the only avenue we have left.”
Note: This breaking news from Aotearoa (New Zealand) was received by GJEP from sources around the world. A colleague from Aotearoa writes, “…a bulletin on a break-in at the Scion site where people cut through the outer perimeter fence and dug under the inner security barrier to destroy the young [GM pine] saplings…GE Free NZ stopped short of condemning the action… I expect that the next few weeks will see raids on the homes and offices of known political activists over the Scion action. It will be sold to the public as an attempt to stop political insurrection. Wish us all luck. ”
Anne Petermann, GJEP’s Executive Director and Coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign stated this morning, “With the extreme security measures taken at the site, it is clear that Scion is aware of the powerful public opposition to genetically engineered trees. People understand the inherent ecological, social and health risks associated with genetically engineered trees, and if the government won’t stop them, this action shows that people are prepared take matters into their own hands.”
Scion has been working in partnership with GE tree company ArborGen since 2006. The GE eucalyptus trees being field tested by ArborGen in the US were genetically engineered in New Zealand.
Cross-posted NZ Newswire unless noted. More reports, video and sources at end of article.
For video on the incident, please click here (go to upper left side under headline)
375 genetically modified radiata pine trees at a research site have been destroyed by vandals. Photo / APNZ
A research trial of genetically modified trees destroyed by vandals in Rotorua could have informed the public debate on GM technologies, the Royal society of New Zealand says.
Police are investigating the attack over Easter weekend when 375 radiata pines at Scion’s forestry research institute were either cut or pulled out.
The vandals cut through fencing and tunnelled under another to reach the plants, causing about $400,000 of damage.
Royal Society of New Zealand, which promotes science, president Dr Garth Carnaby says the destruction means evidence that would have informed the public debate about GM technologies has been lost.
“Such vandalism is an expensive squandering of New Zealand’s limited research funding.”
Scion chief executive Dr Warren Parker estimated the vandals had caused about $400,000 of damage and put back research by a year.
“The field trial was approved under one of the strictest regulatory regimes in the world, and our team has fully complied with the containment controls. Despite this, our research opponents were determined to stop us and used criminal means to do so.”
The trials were looking at resistance to herbicides and reproductive development.
Massey University Molecular Genetics Professor Barry Scott said vandalism of this kind was “senseless” and destroyed years of work done by researchers.
“What is particularly abhorrent about this act is the thinking by those involved that their rights and actions should take precedent over the rights of other individuals.”
An anti-GE group is denying involvement in the destruction of genetically engineered pine trees at a research site in Rotorua. (msn nz)
GE-Free New Zealand president Claire Bleakley says she doesn’t know who was behind the attack and doubts it was anyone linked to her organisation.
Police believe the trees were destroyed sometime between Monday and Tuesday morning and want to hear from anyone with information.
Protest in Sacramento, California during a meeting of the WTO’s Agricultural Ministers, hosted by the USDA in June 2003 in preparation for the WTO summit in Cancun that fall. Global Justice Ecology Project co-founder Orin Langelle joined allies at this WTO miniterial to organize protests against the development of dangerous and uncontrollable genetically engineered trees. Photo: Langelle/GJEP
Global Justice Ecology Project coordinates the international STOP GE Trees Campaign. We recently produced a briefing paper on the current status of genetically engineered trees, as well as a history of the campaign to stop GE trees, which we have led since 1999.On March 29th, Global Justice Ecology Project co-organized aconference on Synthetic Biology in Berkeley.
Industry plans to combine the use of GE trees and the use of manufactured and totally synthetic lifeforms to create so-called “advanced cellulosic biofuels.” These synthetic organisms have never existed before and there is no way to know what would happen if they “escaped” into the environment. This is a reckless technology that must be ended.Genetically engineered trees live for decades, can spread their pollen and seeds for up to hundreds of miles, making them much more dangerous than agricultural crops. GE versions of native trees like poplar and pine will inevitably and irreversible contaminate native forests with their pollen and seeds, leading to total disruption of the forest ecosystem. GE eucalyptus trees are non-native, invasive, highly flammable and deplete ground water.
Today the issue of GE trees is more urgent than ever with industry proposals to commercially release millions of GE eucalytpus trees in huge plantations pending with the USDA. If approved, these plantations will exacerbate droughts and cause massive firestorms. They must be banned.
Genetically engineered trees (GE trees) are also known as genetically modified trees (GM trees) or transgenic trees. This refers to trees which have been genetically altered through the insertion of foreign DNA to give the trees unnatural characteristics such as the ability to kill insects, resist toxic herbicides, grow faster or have modified wood composition.
This Nov. 11, 2008 photo released by ArborGen shows a field trial of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in Sebring, Fla. South Carolina-based ArborGen received federal approval to plant 260,000 GE eucalyptus trees in locations around the South for use by International Paper, MeadWestvaco and Rubicon LTD. (AP Photo/ArborGen)
The release of GE trees into the environment is extremely dangerous and the impacts of the escape of these trees into native forest or other ecosystems is unknown, but likely to be extremely destructive. If GE trees are released on a large scale, the escape of pollen or seeds from these trees is both inevitable and irreversible. Contaminated trees would go on to contaminate more trees in an endless cycle. For this reason, we began campaigning to stop GE trees as soon as we learned about them in 1999, when we were still Native Forest Network, launching the official first campaign against GE trees in June of 2000. In April of 2003 we co-founded the STOP GE Trees Campaign.
Below is a brief history of the campaign to stop the release of genetically engineered trees. Thanks to our generous supporters for making our work to protect forests and communities from the dangers of GE trees possible.
GE trees are still one disaster we can stop. To join the campaign against GE trees email firstname.lastname@example.org. To sign the petition calling for a global ban on GE trees, please click here. To read our report on the current status of GE trees, click here.
Coordinator, STOP GE Trees Campaign
Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project
History of the Campaign to STOP Genetically Engineered Trees
June 2000: Campaign against GE trees launched at Biodevastation protest during Biotechnology Industry Organization national conference in Boston. Washington Post runs front page article about the campaign.
May 2001: Chapter on the dangers of GE trees published by GJEP Co-Founder Orin Langelle in the book Redesigning Life.
July 2001: Native Forest Network (NFN) report released From Native Forests to Frankentrees: The Global Threat of Genetically Engineered Trees.
July 2001: NFN organizes protest at GE tree conference at Skamania Lodge in Washington state.
GE trees action at International Paper subsidiary in Sacramento, CA. Photo: Langelle
March 2003: Action for Social and Ecological Justice, Rainforest Action Network and Northwest Resistance Against Genetic Engineering organize GE tree protests at the World Trade Organization agricultural negotiations in Sacramento, CA.
December 2003: UN Climate Convention’s Ninth Conference of the Parties (COP 9) in Milan, Italy decides that GE trees can be used in carbon offset forestry plantations.
December 2004: GJEP and WRM organize side event and press conference on social and ecological dangers of GE trees at the UN Climate Convention COP 10 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Mapuche participant presents threats to Indigenous peoples.
MST camp in Espirito Santo, Brazil. Banner reads "eucalyptus plantations are not forests." Photo: Langelle
November 2005: Global Justice Ecology Project, World Rainforest Movement and FASE host joint international strategy meeting on GE trees in Vitoria, Brazil. Participants attend from five continents.
March 2006: STOP GE Trees Campaign and EcoNexus campaign against GE trees at UN Biodiversity Convention COP 8 in Curitiba, Brazil. UN decides to warn countries about GE trees, calls for application of the Precautionary Principle and launches a study into the ecological and social impacts of GE trees.
Boat action in Charleston harbor protests industry conference on GE trees and plantations. Photo: Petermann
October 2006: STOP GE Trees Campaign, Rising Tide and Katuah Earth First! organize protests and a boat action organized around the International Union of Forest Research Organizations “2006 Forest Plantations Meeting” in Charleston, South Carolina, US.
May 2007: STOP GE Trees Campaign launches “National Effort to Stop Genetically Engineered Eucalyptus Plantations in US Southeast.”
June 2007: STOP GE Trees Campaign issues press release asking US health and environmental agencies to investigate potential link between pathogenic fungus and genetically engineered eucalyptus trees.
Frankenforests threaten to take over UN Convention on Biological Diversity conference in Bonn, Germany. Photo: Langelle
May 2008: A major series of protests and side events are organized by a large international alliance of groups and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations at the UN CBD convention in Bonn, Germany calling for a global ban on GE trees. Unanimous support for the ban received from entire African delegation, many Latin American and Asian country delegations, and all NGOs and IPOs present.
June 2009: The STOP GE Trees Campaign and allies submit nearly 17,500 public comments to the USDA opposing the USDA’s recommendation for approval of an ArborGen proposal to plant over a quarter of a million GE eucalyptus trees in test plots across seven states. Only 39 favorable comments were received by the USDA.
Mapuche woman protests outside of the Belgian Mission in Manhattan. Photo: Langelle
October 2009: La Via Campesina, the world’s largest peasant farmer organization, organizes protests outside of the XIII World Forestry Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina. GJEP speaks about GE trees.
February 2010: Groups Force USDA to re-release Draft Environmental Assessment on genetically engineered eucalyptus trees after their original EA lacked key US Forest Service hydrological studies.
May 2010: USDA approves ArborGen request to plant 260,000 genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in test plots across the US South despite overwhelming public opposition.
June 2010: Global Justice Ecology Project, Global Forest Coalition and Biofuelwatch release new report, Wood-based Bioenergy: The Green Lie, at the UN climate talks in Bonn, Germany during a European tour on the issues of GE trees and wood-based bioenergy.
July 2010: Global Justice Ecology Project, Dogwood Alliance, Sierra Club, Center for Food Safety, International Center for Technology Assessment and Center for Biological Diversity file suit against the USDA over their approval of ArborGen’s large-scale test plots of GE eucalyptus trees.
September 2010: Global Justice Ecology Project, Dogwood Alliance and the STOP GE Trees Campaign release a 5 minute video on the dangers of large-scale tree plantations and genetically engineered trees.
October 2010: ArborGen announces plan for Initial Public Offering (IPO) to raise funds for research.
Protest against the World Bank's Forest Carbon Partnership Facility at the UN Climate Conference in Bali, Indonesia in 2007. ArborGen is trying to get their GE trees into forest carbon offset projects. Photo: Langelle
2007-2010: GJEP organizes side events and press conferences with World Rainforest Movement, Global Forest Coalition, Climate Justice Now!, Indigenous Environmental Network and other groups at annual UN Climate Conferences linking GE trees to the REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) scheme and denouncing the UN’s definition of forests.
January 2011: ArborGen partner Range Fuels shutters taxpayer-subsidized cellulosic ethanol plant in Georgia, due to their inability to manufacture affordable cellulosic ethanol.
January 2011: ArborGen submits request to USDA for full deregulation and commercial approval of their GE eucalyptus trees.
February 2012: COST Alliance formed in EU to advance GE tree “sustainability criteria” by “…improving the scientific basis for safe tree development…with the intent to supply the world with fuel, fibre and energy.”
March 2012: Action Alert launched to stop the expansion of ArborGen’s GE eucalyptus test plots in the US South.
March 2012: ArborGen Board announces major changes to Senior Management.
The false solutions circus at VT Yankee Protest. Photo: Dylan Kelley
March 2012: Vermont Yankee Protest–Protesters link nuclear power and GE trees as dangerous “false solutions” to climate change.
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.
Go to the link below and scroll to minute 30:04 to listen to this week’s Earth Minute:
On March 10th, Members of the Stop Suncor and Tar Sands Coalition, including the American Indian Movement and other groups, occupied the site of a Suncor Energy oil spill on the shore of Colorado’s Sand Creek.
Suncor Energy boasts of being the first corporation to begin extracting the tar sands in Athabasca, leading to the deforestation of thousands of square miles of Boreal forest and the destruction of First Nations cultures. Suncor produces more than 90,000 barrels of oil per day at its refinery in Commerce City, Colorado.
Tessa McLean of the American Indian Movement said, “the oil that’s being spilled here came from Athabasca, a First Nations community. My people up are suffering there because of the oil we’re refining here.”
Deanna Meyer of Deep Green Resistance Colorado added, “Suncor has so poisoned this land that oil is bubbling up through numerous burst sub-surface pipelines. Benzene levels in this water—that fish, ducks, geese, beavers and other beings depend on—are 100 times the safety limit.”
While the spill was first reported last November 27th, it is believed to have begun in February 2011.