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World Forestry Congress: Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Plantations

Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project & North American Focal Point of Global Forest Coalition, posted on this blog everyday last week from the World Forestry Congress.

Buenos Aires, Argentina Oct. 23, 2009- Adjacent to the lounge area at the World Forestry Congress are two shallow pools with sporadically placed globs of water plants growing in them.  Floating in and among these water plants, posing as water lilies, are big pink Gerber Daisies.  Hanging from the ceiling are plastic birds suspended by fishing line.  Over the loudspeaker, very tinny sounding recorded bird songs.  This bizarre setting, I believe, serves as a perfect metaphor for what I have seen at this, my first, World Forestry Congress.

In seminar after seminar I have witnessed plantation-crazed maniacs posing as people deeply concerned with the well-being of our forests.  Even at the Forest Restoration session the topic was not threats to the world’s forests and techniques to restore forests and their biodiversity.  No, the workshop on “restoring forests” was all about growing monoculture tree plantations. (sigh.)

Nearly every session here has been first and foremost a public relations campaign aimed at drilling into the heads of all, but especially the young impressionable forestry students, that the industrial plantation forestry is our best bet for saving the forests.  These forestry hucksters congratulate themselves and each other for being such good con artists.  And their jargon is flawless.  They have coopted the terminology developed by social movements and environmental organizations brilliantly.  Capacity building and Consultations with Indigenous Peoples, Sustainable Forestry Management, Net Zero Deforestation, Forest Restoration, Reducing Emissions from Deforestation, Ending Illegal Logging, Certification, Advancing Social and Ecological Values, Environmental Stewardship, Sustainability Criteria… and on and on…  So beautiful, so moving. (Pay NO attention to the man behind the curtain!)

But if you actually listen to the presentations you can find the subtext and hear what they are actually saying.  It is like something from George Orwell’s 1984.  For example, yesterday at a session on REDD, a woman overseeing a REDD project in Brazil pointed out that her project in the Juma forest is raising money by partnering with corporations including Marriott and Coke.  For every night someone stays in a Marriott hotel, they donate $1 to the REDD project in order to offset the emissions of their guests (no, not the emissions released BY their guests).  The lesson: the more we consume, the more we conserve.  Brilliant!

This logic then also spills over into the effort to promote trees for bioenergy as a means to fight climate change.  We can reduce emissions from deforestation while we reduce more emissions by logging more trees!  2+2=5!  War is Peace! (Hmmm, the guy sending more troops to kill people in Afghanistan DID just got the Nobel Peace Prize…)

Then there was the World Wildlife Fund session on Thursday night on “Stimulating  Forest Investments—how to finance forest destruction, oops, I mean, conservation.  (Funded, you might like to know, by CitiBank and USAID, among others.)

Mark Constantine, of the International Finance Corporation talked about their work in Indonesia.  He had a very neat and tidy little chart that talked about “Challenges” (there’s that word again!) in one column and “Opportunities” in another.

Challenge: Peat Swamp Forest Conversion.  Opportunity: Reforestation of Degraded Lands.  Now, remember boys and girls what we just learned about “forest restoration.”  That’s right, the “challenge” of peat swamp forest destruction in Indonesia provides us with the “opportunity” to plant tree monocultures!

In another chart, he listed the “Risks” of certain activities, next to a column called “mitigation.”  The first item under “risks” was “unsustainable logging & biodiversity loss”  The mitigation: certification and NGO partnerships.  In other words, when you do unsustainable logging and destroy biodiversity, you will need to mitigate your image by getting sustainable forestry certification and partnering with an NGO like WWF.

Another presenter was Roberto Waack, from the Forest Stewardship Council, your friendly neighborhood forest certifiers.  (Didn’t realize forests needed to be certified, did you? You thought they just grew.)  His presentation was quite illuminating.  First he pointed out what FSC does: “Advancing Sustainable Forest Management [you will remember from our lesson yesterday that SFM includes conversion of forests to monoculture timber plantations] through Standards, Certification and Labeling.”

They now have 115 million hectares of certified forests (both “natural” and “planted”) in 82 countries, with over 15,000 FSC certificate holders in 99 countries.  They have certified productive forests worth over $20 billion. In 2007, they experienced 40% growth in their FSC “supply chain.”  You should have seen their graph!  Nothing but up, up, up! FSC, he explained, is a “multi-billion dollar brand.”

They are also working with operators to help them transition to “clean energy” from biomass, and are supporting new markets and multiple use of forests—including bioenergy.

This is all well and good, you say, but what has it got to do with protecting forests?  Honestly, I have no idea…

The final session of the day is going on as I write this.  It is the session on “recommendations” for the congress.  As my recommendations would be in the realm of removing themselves from the planet, I thought it best to abstain from attending.  If I had to hear one more talking head blather about sustainably destroying the planet, I would have lost my mind completely.

So there you have it.  The World Forestry Congress in a nutshell.  6,000 participants (including approximately 6 Indigenous People) and millions of tons of emissions devoted to exactly what purpose?  Toward the noble goal of building the capacity to manage forests sustainably toward zero net deforestation in order to restore the forest, thereby reducing emissions from deforestation and ending illegal logging through certified sustainability criteria and environmental stewardship that advances social and ecological values.

Who could argue with that?

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Forest Protection and Indigenous Rights Organizations Globally Denounce the World Forestry Congress

Blog post by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project & North American Focal Point of Global Forest Coalition. Every day this week she will be posting an update from the World Forestry Congress on this blog

Buenos Aires, Argentina – Rather than writing another lengthy blog post on the absurdities witnessed at the XIII World Forestry Congress in Buenos Aires, today I offer you some of the views of our allies regarding the Congress.

First you will find comments on REDD made by Camila Moreno, who is Global Justice Ecology Project’s Brazilian representative and a New Voices on Climate Change participant. She made the comments during a panel presentation on REDD organized by the Climate Media Partnership at the congress on Thursday, October 22.

My second post is the presentation by Marcial Arias, who is a Kuna from Panama, on the impacts of REDD on Indigenous Peoples. Marcial gave this presentation during the same panel presentation as Camila for the Climate Media Partnership.

Next I have posted an excerpt from a statement by World Rainforest Movement criticizing the claim of the congress to be “carbon neutral.”  WRM boycotted the congress, instead writing a detailed and sharp critique of it.

Finally, you will find Global Forest Coalition’s formal letter of resignation to the World Forestry Congress Advisory Board. GFC resigned from the WFC Advisory Board after every recommendation they made was ignored.

Camila Moreno on Brazilian Social Movements Denouncing REDD

Camila Moreno, speaking on behalf of New Voices on Climate Change for the panel organized by the Climate Media Partnership, pointed out the widespread opposition to UN’s REDD scheme by communities, Indigenous Peoples, social movements and organizations in Brazil and throughout Latin America.  She began her presentation by reading the Belém Letter: the statement denouncing REDD adopted by Brazilian NGOs and social movements.

You can read the letter at http://www.globaljusticeecology.org/connections.php?ID=323.

She went on to further elaborate the criticism by Latin American groups to including forests in the carbon market, and called for an opening of space for discussion on the true causes of climate change including its underlying drivers, in contrast to the lack of space for any dissent or in-depth conversations found at the World Forestry Congress.

Marcial Arias (of the International Alliance of Indigenous and Tribal Peoples of the Tropical Forest, and Global Forest Coalition) on the Views of Indigenous Peoples on REDD

I have some serious concerns about REDD, which I will explain.

For Indigenous Peoples the trees are more than wood.  The trees mean food, medicine, shelter, and that is not being recognized by REDD.

Next, REDD is being promoted for poverty alleviation.  I will explore if this is true.  First, these types of market mechanisms are not new, we saw something similar through the CDM (Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol) which has had great impacts on Indigenous communities.  For example, the CDM has led to the development of monoculture timber plantations and also large dams on Indigenous lands, and these have had very grave impacts on Indigenous peoples.  Examples of this exist throughout Latin America and Africa.

The mechanisms of REDD+ include developing monoculture timber plantations.  With these plantations comes the use of agro-toxics and herbicides.  This is reducing the life expectancy in Indigenous communities, and you can already see the damage to peoples’ health due to tree plantations and associated agro-toxins.

Another important issue is the question of benefits for avoided deforestation.  The tradition of the Kuna People is to do small-scale sustainable logging in the summer. It is part of the culture.  How much will we be paid to change our culture?

Then there is the problem of informing communities about the problems of REDD.   I am reasonably informed, but it is very difficult to explain to the people in indigenous communities just what REDD will mean to them.

Finally, the governments must to take into account the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples with REDD.  It is essential that this UN declaration is taken into account, and it is critical that the people have the ability to say no to these projects.  And finally, the traditional knowledge of Indigenous Peoples must be taken into account in the development of REDD.

 Excerpt from World Rainforest Movement on the carbon neutral fraud at the World Forestry Congress

For the entire critique, please visit WRM’s website at http://www.wrm.org.uy/

According to its organizers, the XIII World Forestry Congress (WFC), to be held from 18 – 23 October, in Argentina, “will be the first World Forestry Congress which shall achieve ‘Carbon Neutral’ ranking”. The organizers plan to reach such status through the purchase of “carbon credits” from Nobrecel’s “Forestry-industrial Sector Biomass Energy Project” in Brazil.

The monoculture tree plantation “forests”

Before analysing the validity of the “carbon neutrality” claim, it is important to understand where the “carbon credits” are coming from, because this relates directly to the misleading slogan of the WFC: “Forests in Development: a vital balance”.

In line with a definition that equates plantations with forests, the WFC organizers did not find any problem in making a deal with Nobrecel, a company holding an extensive area of eucalyptus “forest” in Brazil, which feeds its pulp mill in the State of São Paulo.

The “carbon neutral” myth

The idea of “neutralising” fossil fuel emissions is based on the premise that the carbon released from burning fossil fuels can in some way be “neutralised” by other activities such as the Nobrecel project. This is simply not possible.

What needs to be understood is that the carbon released through the use of fossil fuels (coal, oil and natural gas) has not been part of the functioning of the biosphere for millions of years. Once fossil fuels are extracted and burnt, that carbon –which until then had been safely stored underground- is released, thereby increasing the above ground carbon stock. Once released, that carbon cannot be returned to its original storage place and the more it is extracted, the more the total amount of carbon in the biosphere is increased, thus further enhancing the greenhouse effect.

In the case of the WFC, the organizers themselves explain that most of the emissions related to its meeting will come from overseas flights. Carbon neutral flights are perhaps the best way to show that this is a cheating game. Planes do not fly on renewables; they run on oil. Once burnt to enable the planes to fly, the carbon contained in the fuel is released. Nothing can make that carbon return back underground.

Instead of channeling money to a company such as Nobrecel –thus subsidizing its destructive activities- the international forestry sector could show its commitment with our Planet by ceasing to promote monoculture tree plantations. Instead of trying to achieve an impossible “carbon neutrality” it could tackle the much more achievable objective of excluding tree monocrops from the definition of forests.

Global Forest Coalition Letter of Resignation to the World Forestry Congress

Dear Mr. Heino,

When Dr. Miguel Lovera as Chairman of the Global Forest Coalition agreed to join the Advisory Committee of the XIII World Forestry Congress, he did so because he hoped he would have been able, as the only representative of Southern NGOs and Indigenous Peoples’ Organizations on this committee, to contribute some of the views of our IPO and NGO members to the preparatory process of the Congress. He and his colleague Simone Lovera, who participated on his behalf in the Advisory Committee meeting in March 2009, submitted various proposals to enhance the participation of Indigenous Peoples’ representatives, Southern NGOs and women in the congress. He also proposed to have a greater emphasis on forest restoration in the congress and to ensure the program of the congress reflected a clear distinction between forest restoration and the expansion of monoculture tree plantations, considering the massive opposition of social movements against the latter.

Regretfully, he did not get any response on these suggestions.

As Miguel Lovera started working as advisor to the Paraguayan Minister of the Environment in June 2009 he asked me to substitute him in the Advisory Committee. When I was accepted as his substitute, I asked you and other members of the Advisory Committee about your response to the proposals GFC had submitted, and about ways I could participate effectively in the work of the Advisory Committee in general. On August 12 I received a response from Ines Matyszczyk that my “message of 9 August has been referred to Mr Olman Serrano, Associate Secretary-General of the XIII WFC, who will get in touch with you directly to follow-up on GFC’s proposal”. But we did not get any response from him or anybody else so far.

We have not been consulted at all about speakers, or other elements of the Congress’ programme. Having now reviewed the final program as it is posted on the WFC website, we feel there is a severe lack of participation of Indigenous Peoples and Southern NGOs amongst the main speakers. Except for two keynote speakers from COICA, the coordinating body of Indigenous Peoples of the Amazon, we recognize hardly any Indigenous peoples’ representatives amongst the speakers.

We feel the program of the congress is very much biased towards industry and government representation and that it lacks representation of Indigenous peoples and forest-dependent communities. We also feel there is a lack of balance between proponents of carbon offsets and wood-based bioenergy and more critical voices amongst the WFC speakers.

Meanwhile, we have understood that specific requests by our Argentine NGO colleagues to allow more local NGOs and social movements to participate in the congress have been denied as well.

In summary, we feel the WFC Organizers have not taken us seriously as part of the advisory committee. Based on our concerns, I regret to inform you that I decided to resign as a member of the Advisory Committee of this congress.


Signed, Andrei Laletin, Global Forest Coalition

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World Forestry Congress: Forum on Forests and Climate Change (or why REDD is the greatest thing since sliced bread…)

Blog post by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project & North American Focal Point of Global Forest Coalition. Everyday this week she will be posting an update from the World Forestry Congress on this blog

REDD—Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation in Developing Countries—is the timber industry’s wet dream.

MST signs 1The MST and Via Campesina rally outside of the World Forestry Congress on Wednesday October 21, to protest against monoculture timber plantations and the destructive impacts they have on communities and forests in Latin America.  They demanded an end to monoculture timber plantations in the region and decried future plans for GE tree plantations.    Photo: Petermann/ GJEP-GFC

Buenos Aires, Argentina- What?  How could something designed ostensibly to reduce emissions from deforestation benefit the timber industry?

The answers to these and other questions were made clear during the 5 hour forum devoted to discussing the role of forests in climate change mitigation on Wednesday, October 21st during the 13th World Forestry Congress in Buenos Aires.

It all started at the Rio Earth Summit—those of you out there who are old enough to remember something that occurred in 1992— where the kernels of what was to become REDD first gained traction.  Governments at the Rio Earth Summit agreed that reducing emissions from deforestation would be a very good idea.  Well, heck, who could argue with that?

It wasn’t until the Bali UN Climate Convention in 2007, however, where the concept of reducing emissions from deforestation actually took shape in the form of REDD.

Thanks largely to Al Gore, the instrument for funding REDD is the carbon market. Back when the Kyoto Protocol climate agreement was being negotiated, Al Gore was the person who was singularly responsible for inserting the concept of marketing carbon (i.e. privatizing the atmosphere) into the Kyoto Protocol climate agreement way back in 1997 (which he did by insisting that the U.S. would never sign on without it—so it was added but the U.S. didn’t sign on anyway…) This money-maker has really taken off and in 2005 the carbon market was worth $11 billion.  Oh, but that’s peanuts.  By 2008 the carbon market was worth $125 billion.  Yes, 125 BILLION dollars.  That’s one hell of a bubble!  Of that, just the portion devoted to REDD is projected to be worth some $45 billion in the next few years (according to Tiina Vahenen, of the UN REDD Secretariat).  Though, god bless her, she did worry about whether or not these profits would “trickle down” (yes, she used those words) to the people in the forests.  Hmmm, How did it work with Reaganomics again…

Ms Vahenen perhaps let down her guard a little at the end when she said REDD would be “beneficial for forestry.”  Not beneficial for forests, no.  Beneficial for forestry—i.e. the companies that like to cut down forests to make money.  She concluded by stating unequivocally, “the forestry sector cannot afford to lose this opportunity.”  I guess not!  $45 billion in REDD funds to advance the goals of the forest industry is not something to sneeze at.  Most of these funds will come from Northern country governments–in other words, another publicly funded subsidy for the timber industry.

As with the IUFRO seminar yesterday, the takeaway message from this 5 hour excercize in self-flagellation (for those of in attendance who think that forests are more than just wood) was that the best way to protect forests and stop climate change is to increase the demand for wood.  Naturally.  The way this happens is through a magical little term called “sustainable forest management.”  The wonderful thing about “sustainable forest management” is that you get to count plantations as “forests.”  That means under REDD you can cut down all of the native forest that you want to—as long as you plant a monoculture timber plantation after you’re done.  Then it will not count as “deforestation.”  Like I said, magic!

Because as Gerhard Dieterle, a Environmentally and Socially Sustainable Development Expert for the World Bank [I know, I know, stop laughing…] explained, it is not the timber industry that is driving deforestation, it is local communities.

Now you’re probably saying to yourself, wait, isn’t deforestation caused by industrial-scale logging, or the expansion of agrofuel crops, or the excessive consumption of paper and wood products in the North?  Nope.  Because of that magical little 3 word term, “sustainable forest management,” the timber industry can deforest all day long and still be only officially responsible for 14% of annual deforestation.  And expansion of soy monocultures and other commercial-scale agriculture is only responsible for 20%.  No, it is actually those nefarious local communities and the poor who are causing deforestation. According to Gerhard, local communities and the poor are responsible for a whopping 48% of annual deforestation.  “Poverty,” he insisted, “is a main global driver of deforestation.”  Wow.

So, how, then does the World Bank propose to address deforestation?  On this point, his answers became rather vague.  Something about using the World Bank’s Forest Investment Program to get Northern governments to invest in the carbon market (which the World Bank manages) so they can throw a lot of money at the problem.

But if we accept the World Bank’s conclusions on the drivers of deforestation, then we would have to also accept that addressing the underlying causes of poverty is the number one way to reduce emissions from deforestation.  But Gerhard didn’t talk much about that.

Perhaps that is because it is the World Bank’s own programs that have driven millions, if not billions, of people into poverty worldwide.  To really address poverty-driven deforestation we would have to eliminate the World Bank and their loan shark programs.  We would also have to abolish unjust free trade agreements that further exploit countries in the South, and we would have to stop the massive land grab that is occurring.  Local peasant and indigenous communities are being violently evicted from their lands for expanding agrofuel plantations (like soy and oil palm) and monoculture timber plantations.   And under REDD, people are even being evicted for “conservation” of forests.  The imperialist model of “conservation” practiced by the likes of Conservation International involves drawing imaginary lines around forests to be “protected,” and then expelling all human inhabitants within those boundaries.

But Gerhard didn’t talk about any of that.  He also didn’t talk about the problem of so-called “indirect impacts,” or what the UN Climate Secretariat calls “leakage,” with regard to saving forest carbon.  When the protection of one area (to store its carbon) merely pushes the destructive practices into another area, there is not net conservation or saving of carbon.  This is called leakage.  And obviously, the refusal to address the underlying causes of deforestation means that the demand for the wood products is not decreasing, which means that “leakage” is inevitable.

But not if you listen to the “experts” at the World Forestry Congress!  They really do have it figured out.   For them the way to address deforestation (by those problematic impoverished people) is to increase the demand for wood while providing support to the timber industry, so that it can employ poor people to work on “sustainable forestry management.”  So simple!  Give the timber industry and land investors lots and lots of money so that some will trickle down to the local communities and get them to stop destroying the forests!  Why didn’t we think of that!

In the “Message From the XIII World Forestry Congress to the COP 15 of the UNFCCC” they lay this out quite clearly in the following points:

• Sustainable management of forests provides an effective framework for forest-based climate change mitigation and adaptation;

• Sustainably harvested forest products and wood fuels can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by substituting high emission materials for neutral or low emissions, renewable ones.

Yes, Dorothy its true: increasing the demand for wood products by 50% or more is a win-win-win.  The timber industry wins because they get lots more money and access to land; local and indigenous communities win because they get to have jobs working for the timber industry; and the climate wins because cutting down trees and converting forests to plantations helps stop climate change.

Whew!  I guess we can all go home now and relax.  The experts have it all figured out.

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Missive From Nutlandia

Blog post by Anne Petermann, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project & North American Focal Point of Global Forest Coalition. Everyday this week she will be posting an update from the World Forestry Congress on this blog.

Buenos Aires, Argentina-I knew, before I came to the World Forestry Congress, that it was largely going to be a trade show for the timber industry and its allies, but knowing that and being in the midst of it have proven to be quite different things.

Tuesday’s exercise in absurdity was a symposium organized by the International Union of Forest Research Organizations (IUFRO-acronym pronounced You-Frew), focused on Emerging Issues in Forest Science.  Unfortunately, the speaker who was to address emerging genetic engineering technologies cancelled at the last minute.  I was very much hoping to hear the future direction of transgenic tree technology from the perspective of You-Frew.

Never-the-less, the other speakers did not disappoint.  The over-arching theme was the conflation of forests and plantations.   Each started his/her presentation (there were six white men and one white woman) by talking about the need to protect forests and the services they provide: clean water, food, energy, shelter, fodder, biodiversity and livelihoods.  They would then shift gears to discuss tree plantations and the emerging challenges they are confronting with regard to various aspects of plantation forestry. What they neglected to mentioned was that tree plantations and forests are, in fact, completely and totally different.  Not only do tree plantations NOT provide clean water, food, shelter or biodiversity, tree plantations actually destroy biodiversity, deplete water and displace communities because the once diverse forest was eliminated to make room for the plantation.

The most schizophrenic presentation, however, was by David Crown, head of IUFRO’s Division 5, which specializes in Forest Products.

He launched into his presentation by pointing out that the IUFRO estimates that the world is losing forests at the rate of 13 million hectares per year, and that population increase and climate change are further increasing pressures on the world’s forests and providing a huge challenge. (They LOVED to talk about challenges!)  He pointed out that soil, water and carbon need to be protected through conservation measures while maintaining traditional uses of the forests and new uses such as bio-energy.

He then moved on to assert that a major goal for the forest products industry is insuring that wood is THE preferred material for construction and manufacture.

So, in other words, we need to conserve forests while simultaneously increasing the demand for wood…

Of course, this is indicative of the fundamental psychosis of industrial forestry proponents: that we must continually expand fast growing timber plantations in order to get more wood from less land and thereby protect native forests. On its surface, there may appear to be a logic behind the notion that we can protect forests by concentrating the harvesting of wood products on high-productivity plantations. However, the reality does not match the rhetoric.  The massively growing demand for wood–predicted by the IUFRO to be an increase of 50% within the century–cannot be met sustainably.  The rising rate of illegal and legal logging in forests, the loss of agricultural lands to expanding tree plantations, and the conversion of biodiverse native grasslands and forests to timber plantations, are just a few of the impacts in which this rising demand for wood will result.

There was not one–Not ONE–mention in any of the presentations about demand reduction for forest protection.

Michael Wingfield, who Coordinates the Forest Health Division at IUFRO (Division 7) was the only one of the IUFRO speakers who made any distinction between tree plantations and forests. He pointed out that plantations were having a negative impact on forests due to the fact that plantations were highly susceptible to disease and insect infestations, though this seemed to mystify him when he stated, “we don’t really know what’s going on.”  It was this tendency of plantations to succumb to ever worsening disease and insect infestations that led him to conclude that all plantations in the future would be comprised of GM trees.

Of course, first year ecology students know that monocultures–that is, large expanses of a single species of plant–are, by their very nature, ideal targets for insects, disease, fungal infestations, etc.  Ironically, the industrial forestry response to this reality, and the spreading epidemics in monoculture timber plantations, is not to restore biodiverse native forests that are naturally resilient, nor to suggest that maybe shipping forest products and their exotic pests around the planet should be discouraged, but rather to further the reductionist approach and create vast monocultures of many thousands of clones derived from a single individual tree that has been engineered for a particular profitable trait.

Toward the end of the session, I was called on to ask a question.   I asked Mr. Wingfield what he was doing to respond to the threats that GE tree plantations pose to native forests.  I gave the example of the Bt insect resistant poplar plantations in China that have been documented as contaminating native poplars with the Bt trait. I further suggested this would have a very negative impact on the forest ecosystem, especially species of songbirds that depend on the insect targeted by the Bt as a critical source of food.

Unfortunately, the moderator intervened saying the session had run out of time and it suddenly ended before my question was answered.

Undeterred, I approached Mr. Wingfield following the end of the session.  He answered me by saying, “well.  I’m pro-GMO.”  He made some vague reference to the “successes” of GMO food as the reason for his Franken-tree ferver. (He apparently missed the studies that have come out recently debunking the industry hype about the increased yield of GE crops.)  He did agree, however, that native species of GE trees that could pollinate should not be used.  His opinion was that only non-native GE trees should be used or trees that could not pollinate.  I chose not to argue ecology with him, or to point out that even tree engineers overwhelmingly have concerns about “contamination of non-target organisms” by GE trees, and will not give 100% guarantees that their trees will maintain their sterility permanently.  Or to point out that non-native plantations of eucalyptus, for example, have been a total ecological disaster because they cannot support biodiversity or social needs.

No, I could not bring myself to argue with someone so entrenched in his delusion that GMO tree plantations were the way of the future in the face of all evidence to the contrary.  And that has been the take-away lesson of the World Forestry Congress so far: that timber industry proponents have an amazing ability to rationalize and justify their socially and ecologically destructive paradigm that promotes incessantly growing demand for wood products met through the industrialization of trees–and all under the auspices of protecting forests.

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Reports from World Forestry Congress in Buenos Aires

Banner photo (Plantations Are Not Forests) from last Friday's march:  Petermann/GJEP-GFC

Banner photo (Plantations Are Not Forests) from last Friday’s march: Petermann/GJEP-GFC

This was written on Friday by Global Justice Ecology Project’s Anne Petermann in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Everyday this week she will be posting an update from the World Forestry Congress on this blog.

16 October

March, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Movements converged today in the heart of Buenos Aires demanding “¡soberanía alimentaria!” (food sovereignty) and also sending a message to the forthcoming World Forestry Congress that “Las Plantaciones no son Bosques” (plantations are not forests).

The World Forestry Congress, being convened by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, is slated to begin here in Buenos Aires on Monday, October 19.  This congress occurs only once every five years and is being widely denounced by forest protection organizations for its domination by the timber industry.  The World Rainforest Movement has set up a page on its website devoted to arguments why the congress is a sham, and Global Forest Coalition, which has been on the Advisory Board of the Congress, is submitting its formal resignation.  Global Forest Coalition decided to take this step after its recommendations to increase participation of indigenous peoples and women in the congress, and to increase the focus of the congress on forest restoration rather than forest conversion to plantations, were ignored.

In a sharp critique, Ricardo Carrere, of the World Rainforest Movement writes of the congress, “the WFC will help to strengthen plantation companies by continuing to provide their tree plantations with ‘scientific’ credibility and that the ‘forest terminology’ will serve to maintain the current corporate-friendly definition that classifies them as ‘planted forests’.”

Global Justice Ecology Project will be attending the World Forestry Congress to monitor the plans of the timber industry globally with regard to both the use of forests in the carbon market (one of the main false solutions to climate change being negotiated in the upcoming Copenhagen climate talks), and the plans to commercially release genetically engineered trees.

Prior to the congress, over the next two days, I will be meeting with our allies from all over Latin America to plan strategies to oppose the commercial release of genetically engineered trees, and to counter the misinformation and propaganda around the use of forests as carbon offsets.

Stay tuned for more blog posts over the next week.

Anne Petermann
Executive Director
Global Justice Ecology Project
from Buenos Aires

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