Report back from the land of Mega Hydro

Red Clover Climate Justice visits proposed Hydro-Quebec dam sites, meets with Innu resisting Plan Nord and dams along the Romaine River.

This past week, members of Burlington, Vt-based Red Clover Climate Justice traveled to the northern shore of the St. Lawrence River to meet with Innu organizers and visit the dams that power Quebec’s-and much of Vermont’s-economy.

What we found didn’t fit in with the rhetoric we often hear about Hydro-Quebec.  Dead rivers, swaths of clear-cut forests giving way to the endless march of gargantuan transmission lines, aluminum smelters, and fractured indigenous communities in the middle of a bitter struggle for the survival of the Innu culture.  All of these images didn’t add up to what is often advertised to Quebecers and Vermonters as “green energy” and “sustainable development.”

Check back for more photo essays and stories from our trip north as we begin to mobilize in opposition to the New England Governor’s Conference, coming to Burlington at the end of July.

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False Solutions Circus at the Shut Down Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant Day of Action

On March 22, 2012, over 1200 people gathered in Brattleboro, Vermont to tell Entergy corporation to shut down Vermont Yankee nuclear plant. The 40 year old plant had been scheduled to be decommissioned the day before on March 21. Instead, Entergy sued the state of Vermont and forced the state to allow it to continue operating in spite of leaks of radioactive fluid and numerous safety issues.

Members of Gears of Change Youth Media and Red Clover Climate Justice hosted a False Solutions Circus at the action, to draw connections between the greenwashing of nuclear power and other ecologically and socially devastating energy sources currently being proposed as “climate solutions.”

Building towards Rio+20 at the Thematic Social Forum in Porto Alegre: Intensifying People’s Struggles in Defense of the Commons

Cross-posted from UNCSD
(Photo: IBON International)
 
This self-organized side event was officially part of the Thematic Social Forum [part of the World Social Forum series- editor’s note]  held from January 24-29, 2012 in Porto Alegre, Brazil. The theme of this year’s forum was “Capitalist Crisis, Social and Environmental Justice”. It was organized as a preparatory stage for the Rio+20 People’s Summit in June.
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On January 25, around 62 participants from various civil society organizations and social movements from Latin America, Africa, Asia, Middle East and North Africa, and Europe participated in a self-organized side event in Porto Alegre entitled “Civil Society Workshop on Alternatives and Peoples Struggles for Sustainability”. This activity was jointly organized by IBON International, ABONG (Brazilian Association of Non-Governmental Organizations) and the People’s Coalition on Food Sovereignty to launch the “Rights for Sustainability” initiative as a contribution towards the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development or more popularly known as Rio+20. The said initiative was also launched in another civil society workshop held in New York City on January 24.

The main objectives of the side event were (1) to share people’s perspectives, knowledge and practices on sustainable development while identifying enabling or disabling conditions for these alternatives, (2) to assert people’s rights to common goods and explore cooperation among movements and civil society groups, and (3) to explore possible cooperation for the Peoples’ Summit on Rio+20 in June.

Aldalice Otterloo of ABONG gave the opening and welcome remarks. Pablo Solon, a sociologist, researcher, activist and Bolivia’s former Ambassador to the United Nations, was the keynote speaker who presented a critique on Green Capitalism and the Green Economy agenda. He further talked about the dangers of the financialization of nature and the promotion of carbon markets in the Green Economy model.

Panel 1 was composed of Tony Clarke of Polaris Institute and Isaac Rojas of Amigos de la Tierra – Costa Rica who were both asked to talk about the road from Durban to Rio and their critique of green capitalism and the Green Economy model. Tony Clarke, Director of Polaris Institute and co-recipient of the 2005 Right Livelihood Award, called the Green Economy as the ‘greening of capitalism’ and emphasized on the need for system change. Isaac Rojas, International Coordinator of Amigos de la Tierra – Costa Rica, called the green economy a ‘perverse’ attempt of the capitalist system that has been attacking nature and people for years.

Panel 2 featured Anil Naidoo of the Council of Canadians and Nicole Benedicto of Solidaridad who both talked about people’s resistance to resource grabs in defense of the common goods. Mr. Naidoo stressed that the Green Economy agenda is a desperate move of a very desperate capitalist system to save itself from the multiple crises. Meanwhile, Nicole Benedicto provided a narrative of peoples’ struggles all over the world against intensified resource grabs and in defense of common goods.

The last panel was composed of Michel Lambert of Alternatives and Ivo Lesbaupin of ABONG who both focused their presentations on development and system change, a fundamental challenge beyond Rio+20. Michel Lambert of Alternatives talked about the Canadian tar sands struggle against the Keystone Pipeline project which will destroy indigenous territories and lives. Ivo Lesbaupin of ABONG, a Brazilian NGO platform, stressed the need to push for the Common Good of Humanity, and called on governments to rethink their role in the economy and promotion of peoples’ welfare.

Tetet Nera-Lauron of IBON’s Climate Justice Programme, moderated the discussions and invited the audience to be part of the Rights for Sustainability (R4S) which aims to promote a rights-based approach to sustainable development as a way of ensuring that inter- and intra-generational equity and justice are central concerns in the reform agenda at Rio+20 and beyond. For comments and suggestions regarding the campaign, you may contact Paul Quintos of IBON International at pquintos.ibon@gmail.com.

GJEP Press Conference: “Blockading the ‘Road to Rio'”

Global Leaders Powerfully Denounce Green Economy

Expose its impacts on peoples and ecosystems

* Clown Ejected and Photographer Assaulted by UN Security *

(Photo: Langelle, GJEP)

Durban, South Africa–During a press conference today at the UN Climate Conference COP 17 organized by Global Justice Ecology Project, Indigenous Peoples, youth, social movement leaders and ecological justice activists gave powerful testimonies about the looming impacts of the “economic integration” of carbon offsets schemes across the world through the “Green Economy.”

Speakers condemned the Green Economy as a repeat of the failed and unjust dominant economic model, predicated on the expansion of the controversial REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation) offset scheme to privatize and market the carbon stored in oceans, soils, agriculture, and biodiversity – that is, every entity on earth. They further explained how this emerging economic scheme will exacerbate impacts on communities already suffering from climate change, fossil fuel pollution, and false solutions to the climate crisis.

A team of clowns dressed as Uncle Sam and his economic advisors defended the 1% global elite that the Green Economy is designed to serve.

Anne Petermann, Executive Director of Global Justice Ecology Project opened the event with a quote from Einstein. “Insanity,” she said, “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. From that perspective, this COP is insane.”

Desmond D’Sa of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance spoke next. “This conference of polluters has been a failure,” he declared. “It’s not going to assist the communities in South Durban or anywhere. Today as we sit inside this funeral parlor, we lament the deaths of our mothers, our children, and our families. The decisions we see coming out of here are in the interest of greed and corruption.” He closed his talk by invoking the anti-Apartheid call, “Amandla!” which means, ‘power to the people!’

Kandi Mossett of the Indigenous Environmental Network, and Grassroots Global Justice Alliance broke down in tears when she spoke of the mounting numbers of deaths on her home reservation in North Dakota, where natural gas fracking is destroying the water table and fracturing the community.

Referring to one of the key events of social movement groups at COP17 this week, Mossett said, “We called for a moratorium on REDD this week because this is the only thing that is going to save people – to stop these crazy policies.”

Ricardo Navarro, Friends of the Earth El Salvador added, “Here at COP17, we are seeing nothing less than the moral collapse of governments. The politicians here do not represent us. We are the ninety nine percent, and we have to take the streets.

Clowns, led by Uncle Sam, then took over the stage and spoke on behalf of the United States and the global elites.

“We are the ones that caused the climate crisis,” the clowns announced. “And we are the only ones that can solve it!

Referring to REDD, Uncle Sam declared, Forests are very messy. They contain many useless life forms. If they’re not good for the economy, I say get rid of them.”

When asked by the press, “What is your Plan B?”, Uncle Sam, portrayed by Kevin Buckland, a US-based activist and member of the Youth delegation, answered, “Mars.”

During follow up interviews in the hallway of the ICC, UN Security detained Buckland, in clown regalia, while being interviewed on camera. He was debadged and evicted for alleged violation of the UN code of Conduct. (Clown suits are not, apparently, in the dress code.)

While taking photos to document Buckland’s detention, Vermont-based photographer Orin Langelle, Co-Director of Global Justice Ecology Project, on assignment for Z Magazine, was assaulted by UN Security who shoved his camera in his face.

And so the United Nations Circus of Polluters begins to draw to its fractious end.

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Note: Full Statements by Press Conference Participants Below

Statement by Anne Petermann, Moderator, Executive Director, Global Justice Ecology Project

Welcome everyone. We have invited social justice allies from around the globe to join us at this press conference to highlight the inherent dangers of the Green Economy and explain why we are uniting to blockade the “road to RIO.”

Einstein famously said, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.” In that light, this UNFCCC COP process is insane.

But even more insane is the direction in which it is headed. Not only in terms of setting into motion mandates that will allow business as usual until the planet is cooked, but most of all by moving forward with this so-called green economy.

The logo of COP 17 is a perfect example of this disastrous economic system and this corrupt COP process. It is a giant dead tree, painted green that is smothering the Earth.

We’ve seen for centuries how the market system of transforming resources and human labor into capital for the 1% has impacted critical ecosystems and driven entire peoples into extinction. But now they want to expand this market. They want to take the disaster of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation) and expand that offset scheme to every plant, animal and ecosystem on Earth.

They are developing plans now for Blue REDD, Brown REDD, Yellow REDD, Green REDD, REDD in every color of the rainbow. They want to use the carbon stored by every entity on the planet–including not just forests, but oceans and biodiversity, soils and agriculture to offset pollution from industry in the North, so they can go on polluting.

Already we are confronted not only by the climate crisis, but also by the food crisis, the water crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and the crisis of the oceans. And the Green Economy, in squeezing control of the natural world into fewer and fewer hands of the 1% will exacerbate these problems and drive planet earth to the point where, as Native American activist and poet John Strudel said, “Civilized man may make survival by civilized man impossible.

Statement by Desmond D’sa, South Durban Community Environmental Alliance.

This Conference of Polluters has been a failure. It’s not going to assist the communities back home where I come from, or any communities anywhere in the world. Today as we sit inside this funeral parlor, we lament the deaths of our mothers, our children, and our families.

This funeral parlor has increased misinformation, it has withheld information, and it has not been transparent. The decisions are not in the interest of mankind, the decisions we see coming out of here are in the interest of greed and corruption.

We have to say to today in no uncertain terms, that the conference is a failure. It has wasted resources that could have been used to bring about better things in the world.

We the citizens of the world, the 99% we will continue to fight them in every corner of the world, we will continue to hold them accountable.

Speaking united with one voice we will continue to do this.

Down with the corrupt governments! Amandla!

Statement by Kandi Mosset, Indigenous Environmental Network and GGJ

Hello. I am Eagle woman

(In tears) This is the seventeenth Conference of the Polluters. And what have they done in that time? Nothing!

I grew up on a reservation. We are watching our people die. While I was here my cousin died. He was only 36 years old. Heart attacks, cancers, asthma. Everybody is being affected by the dirty industries on the reservation–industries allowed to continue polluting because of offsets. Because of REDD.

We called for a moratorium on REDD because that is the only thing that is going to save people – to stop these crazy policies. As Indigenous Peoples, as traditional people, we know better than anybody, better than these high level people, how to live upon the land. We resist these people that say ‘we will make the decisions for you.’

I can’t tell you what it’s like to keep going to these funerals, when the coffins are getting smaller and smaller.

I’m not here to compare our struggles; I’m here to unite. Because there is strength in unity and we must unite.

Decolonize the COP and unoccupy the sky!

Statement by Ricardo Navarro, Friends of the Earth El Salvador

We are here to express our disappointment. We are facing a big threat to the future of humanity. The scientists say they are guaranteeing a world that is 5 degrees warmer, by the end of the century.

To allow this to happen is criminal. Politicians are criminals for allowing this to happen. We are talking about the future of humanity, our sons, our daughters.

The message we are getting here is that politicians do not represent us. We have to take the streets. We are the 99%, and we have to take the streets.

We are seeing nothing less than the moral collapse of governments.

Statement by Uncle Sam (clown Kevin Buckland):

Hello.  I am Uncle Sam.  I was pleased to be a part of the World Corporate Climate Summit, which I helped organize over the weekend here in Durban.

But I’m here today at this press conference because I have a dream.  I have a dream that one day corporations will not be judged by the actions that they take, but by how much of the Earth’s surface they control.  But this dream is threatened.  It is threatened by regulation.  Human rights laws, environmental regulations, unions.  All of these stand in the way of progress.   It is not right.  It is not just.  We have paid good money to our government partners to ensure the outcomes of these talks, and by god, we mean to see those outcomes realized.  Neoliberalism must prevail or all life on earth will be threatened.  And by all life on earth, I mean, of course, the 1%.

After all, we, the 1% have a very long track record, going back hundreds of years, of improving upon nature.  Nature is very slow and inefficient. For example, nature eliminates the weak and sick one individual at a time; where we eliminate entire ecosystems and peoples!  It is a much more efficient process.

With the Green Economy, we, the 1%, are now taking our experience and advancing it to the next level.   It’s like this COP 17 logo.  Note that it depicts a giant dead tree, painted green, that is covering the earth.  This is what we are about.  This is the progress we are moving toward.  Currently, forests are made up of living trees that take years to grow, must be cut down, debarked, and sawed into lumber or pulped for paper.  Forests are very messy, with lots of extraneous life forms and human communities that serve no purpose. With the green economy, we can use new technologies–geoengineering, synthetic biology, nanotechnology and genetic engineering –to develop trees that sprout from the earth, grow to a massive size, are perfectly square, and fall to the ground, ready for harvest.  And we will engineer them to be green so they will make people feel good.

It’s a win-win.  We eliminate the surplus human population and monopolize the planet’s resources, channeling them for the benefit of us, the 1%.

Indigenous Peoples and Allies Call for a Moratorium on REDD+

Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD and for Life Forms in Durban, to build grassroots opposition to REDD

Photo: Jeff Conant/GJEP

December 6, 2011 — Indigenous Peoples participating in the UNFCCC negotiations have called for a moratorium on REDD+ today. In a statement released to the press, the Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD and for Life declares: “REDD+ threatens the survival of Indigenous Peoples and forest-dependent communities and could result in the biggest land grab of all time. Based on in-depth investigations, a growing number of recent reports provide evidence that Indigenous Peoples are being subjected to violations of their rights as a result of the implementation of REDD+-type programs and policies.”

Berenice Sanchez, MesoAmerican Indigenous Womens BioDiversity Network, Mexico, said, “The supposed safeguards are voluntary, weak and hidden in the Annex. REDD+-type projects are already violating Indigenous Peoples’ rights throughout the world. We are here to demand an immediate moratorium to stop REDD+-related landgrabs and abuses because of REDD+.”

The President of the Ogiek Council of Elders of the Mau Forest of Kenya, Joseph K. Towett, said “We support the moratorium because anything that hurts our cousins, hurts us all.”

Marlon Santi, former President of the National Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador, said, “We are here to express our concern about the false solutions that have made a business out of climate change. For indigenous Peoples, the way of life we maintain in our territories is sacred. Therefore, we see carbon markets as a hypocrisy that will not detain global warming. With this moratorium, we alert our peoples about the risks that come with REDD+: threats against our rights and those of our Mother Earth, with the attempts to turn our lands and our forests into a waste-basket for carbon, while those responsible for the crisis continue reaping the benefits.”

“REDD+, in its readiness phase, has proved that it is not an effective tool for providing binding safeguards. We have seen the problems it causes and we take them extremely seriously,” said Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network.

Basing their alert on the Precautionary Principle[1] and on serious concerns regarding human rights, Indigenous Peoples’ rights, and an increasing spate of reports citing the failure of REDD to protect forests or to mitigate the climate crisis, the Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD and for Life calls for an immediate moratorium.

In addition, in the document released to the press today, they call for the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Office of the High  Commissioner on Human Rights, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues, and other human rights organizations, to investigate and document violations from REDD+-type policies and projects, as well as to prepare reports, to issue recommendations and to establish precautionary measures and reparations to guarantee the implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and other instruments and norms.

The call for moratorium was announced at a press conference at UNCOP17 this morning. See the entire press conference on video, here.

The call for a moratorium follows, below:

Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD and for Life

Calls for a Moratorium on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+)

United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 17th Conference of the Parties
Durban, South Africa, December 5, 2011

The Global Alliance of Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities against REDD and for Life calls for a moratorium on Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) at the 17th Conference of the Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), until the following concerns are fully addressed and resolved. However, we reserve the right to expand these demands.

Our call for a moratorium is based upon the precautionary principle which says that, “when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not established scientifically.” The moratorium that we are demanding is the precaution that must be taken to ensure our rights and our environment because the majority of the forests of the world are found in the land and territories of indigenous peoples.

REDD+ threatens the survival of Indigenous Peoples and forest-dependent communities and could result in the biggest land grab of all time. Based on in depth investigations, a growing number of recent reports provides evidence that Indigenous Peoples are being subjected to violations of their rights as a result of the implementation of REDD+-type policies and programs, including: the right to life of objectors to REDD+,  forced displacements and involuntary resettlement, the loss of lands, territories and resources, means of subsistence, food sovereignty and security, and the imposition of so-called “alternative livelihoods” that lead to separation of our people from their communities, cultures y traditional knowledge. Similarly, our rights to free, prior and informed consent, self-determination and autonomy consecrated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIPs) are also violated. It is worth noting that the United Nations itself recognizes that REDD+ could result in the “lock-up of forests”. Furthermore, REDD+ is portrayed as a vehicle for strengthening land tenure rights, but, in fact, is used to weaken them.

We denounce that the safeguards contained in the Cancun Accords do not provide a framework that prevents or halts the violation of our individual and collective rights established by UNDRIPs; given that they do not establish legally binding obligations or mechanisms to guarantee our rights, present complaints, or demand reparations. The efforts we have made to strengthen human rights safeguards at COP 17 have been rebuffed by relevant Contact Groups of SBSTA and LCA within the UNFCCC process.

REDD+ and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) promote the privatization and commodification of forests, trees and air through carbon markets and offsets from forests, soils, agriculture and could even include the oceans. This could commodify almost the entire surface of Mother Earth, hurts our relationship with the sacred and violates the rights of Mother Earth. We denounce that carbon markets are a hypocrisy that will not stop global warming.

We also share our profound concern that the sources of financing for REDD+ carbon offsets come from the private sector and carbon markets, which extractive industries are involved in. Carbon markets and REDD+ convert our territories and forests into carbon dumps, while those most responsible for the climate crisis do not commit to legally binding reductions of greenhouse gas emissions and continue to make profits. The World Bank itself has reported that the “financial flows required for climate stabilization and adaptation, will in the long run be mainly private in composition.”

REDD+ not only harms Indigenous Peoples and local communities, but also damages the environment. REDD+ promotes industrial plantations and could include planting genetically modified trees. Perverse incentives are already increasing deforestation and the substitution of native forests with monocultures.

REDD+ jeopardize the human future and the balance of Mother Earth because it entrenches fossil fuel use, which is the major cause of the climate crisis. According to the Director of NASA, James Hansen, the world’s most distinguished climatologist, “industrialized countries could offset 24-69% of their emissions via the CDM and REDD… thus avoiding the necessary domestic cuts that are required to peak emissions around 2015.”

REDD+-type projects lead to conflicts within and between indigenous communities and other vulnerable populations. The loss of traditional use of forest, financial incentives, converting forests into commodities, financial speculation and land grabs undermine our traditional systems of governance, generate conflicts.

Furthermore, every time that a community signs a REDD+ contract in a developing country, which provides pollution credits for the fossil fuel industry and other entities responsible for climate change, it allows environmental destruction and hurts vulnerable communities elsewhere, including in the North. By favoring continued exploitation and burning of fossil fuels, REDD+ allows for the continuation of pollution in industrialized countries, further threatening communities in the North that are already overburdened by these impacts. It is not possible to reform or regulate REDD+ to prevent this situation.

Due to the problems of calculating baselines, leakage, permanence, monitoring, reporting and verification that policy makers and methodology designers are not willing and cannot solve, REDD+ is undermining the climate regime and violating the principle of common but differentiated responsibility established under the UNFCCC. Pollution credits generated by REDD+ obstruct the only workable solution to climate change: keeping oil, coal and gas in the ground. Like the carbon credits produced under the Kyoto Protocol’s CDM, REDD+ is not intended to achieve real emissions reductions, but merely to “compensate” for excessive fossil fuel use elsewhere.

Furthermore, biotic carbon – the carbon stored in forests – can never be the climatic equivalent to fossilized carbon kept underground. Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels adds to the overall burden of carbon perpetually circulating between the atmosphere, vegetation, soils and oceans. This inequivalence, among many other complexities, makes REDD carbon accounting impossible, allowing carbon traders to inflate the value of REDD carbon credits with impunity.

Based on the above, we urgently call for the United Nations Human Rights Council, the Office of the High  Commissioner on Human Rights, the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues and human rights organizations to investigate and document the violations from REDD+-type policies and projects, as well as

to prepare reports, issue recommendations and establish precautionary measures and reparations to guarantee the implementation of UNDRIPs and other instruments and norms.

In summary, REDD+-type policies and projects are moving too quickly, allowing crucial human rights and environmental concerns to be sidelined or dismissed. We reaffirm the need for the moratorium on REDD+. In conclusion, we emphasize that forests are most successfully conserved and managed with indigenous governance of the collective lands and territories of Indigenous Peoples.