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Dec 10, 2010

How Africa's voice has been hijacked

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 10, 2010 11:22 AM

Nnimmo Bassey writes in the UK Guardian on how a scramble for individual leaders to speak for the whole of Africa undermines the common voice


Read the article here 

Dec 08, 2010

Nnimmo Bassey collects his 'Right Livelihood Award'

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 08, 2010 12:19 PM

On Monday December 6, Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, was one of four people to be presented with a Right Livelihood Award in the Swedish parliament.

He was awarded the honour for revealing the full ecological and human horrors of oil production and for his inspired work to strengthen the environmental movement in Nigeria and globally.


Watch his acceptance speech here
Find out more about the Right Livelihood Award

Dec 07, 2010

Videos from Cancun

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 07, 2010 12:47 PM

Members of the Friends of the Earth International delegation in Cancun have been documenting the mobilisations and interviewing our spokespeople so we can keep you informed on all the twists and turns of the talks.


Here Nnimmo explains why initiatives such as carbon offsetting should really be called 'do nothing solutions'. 


Watch all of our videos here

Dec 06, 2010

Bringing Cancun to London

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 06, 2010 05:12 PM

On Saturday December 4, thousands of people took to the streets of London to call for a zero carbon Britain. Several well known environmental campaigners addressed the crowds including Friends of the Earth's Andy Atkins.

andy atkins addresses climate march

Dec 05, 2010

The Climate Carbon Stock Exchange drags on

by PhilLee — last modified Dec 05, 2010 09:20 PM
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Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, is observing the UN climate talks in Cancun. Here he assesses the first week of negotiations; from the nations clambering to reject the Kyoto Protocol to the Mexican hosts cooking up secret texts.

nnimmo bassey in cancun"With the ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, emitting greenhouse gas (CHG) emissions over a set limit entails a potential cost. Conversely, emitters able to stay below their limits hold something of potential value. Thus, a new commodity has been created – emission reductions. Because carbon dioxide (CO2) is the principal greenhouse gas, people speak of trading in carbon. Carbon is now tracked and traded like any other commodity."


The above quote is taken from a publication of the UNFCCC on the Kyoto Protocol mechanisms. The publication focuses on international emissions trading, the clean development mechanism and joint implementation – all market based mechanisms set up to ostensibly help the private sector and developing countries to contribute to emissions reduction efforts.


Reflecting on the framing of the protocol one could easily reach the conclusion that there is no point seeking its continuation or validation for another commitment period. It does however appear that the world is in a tight corner right now with the crop of policy makers intent on inventing new ways of carrying on with business as usual and doing nothing concrete to fight climate change. Because the Kyoto Protocol is the only existing climate treaty that has legally binding targets inscribed by parties, many see it as better than nothing.


Could this be a case of half a loaf is better than none? Or is it the case of drowning persons hanging onto straw? You must find your answer!


The first week of the climate conference in Cancun drew to a close with no cheery news and lots to worry about. The first shocker came when Japan declared that they would not inscribe any targets in a second commitment period of the Kyoto Protocol. Let me quickly add here that the term inscribe may sound like chiselling a rock, and casting commitments in concrete, but in reality the inscriptions in the first commitment period have been promises made only to be broken. Nothing inscribed in stone or concrete.


Killing Kyoto

cancun: intervention by domingoSo why are people worried? One reason could be that Japan is wishing up to what the USA knew long ago. Let us take a trip to Kyoto in 1997.


It is reported that when the protocol was being negotiated, the USA, led by Al Gore, made the inconvenient demand that carbon emissions reductions must be tackled under a framework of carbon markets. This led, rather conveniently, to the formulation of what some termed innovative ways of emissions reduction through the commodification of carbon or emissions. Did the USA sign the protocol after they got what they wanted? No. They conveniently walked away. Now we are in the inconvenient corner, pressed on every side and perching precariously on the brink of catastrophic climate change. The USA just walked away from Kyoto once they got the world on the roller coaster of carbon markets. Japan can equally walk away. So can Canada. And Australia.


The European Union says they are willing to consider either option. Wise guys. The fence could be a great place to sit, especially when the only smoke of battle is raised not by canons but by carbon trade.


The carbon market paradigm spun the so-called clean development mechanism (CDM), among others. At the Bali conference another item found its way on to the platter – Reduced Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD). This quickly brought up proposals for REDD plus, REDD pluss pluss… and who knows what else is waiting in the wings. The entire idea is to find ways by which carbon can be quantified and valued wherever it can be found. So far carbon stocks in trees are valued under REDD. 


Progress or regress is being made about carbon stocks in the soil, so that those who do not have forests, but presumably have lands can key in and make some bucks from the carbon beneath their feet. For those who have neither forests nor land, there is hope that they can find some carbon in the water on which they float. And if they have no forest, no land and no water they will probably have some air over their heads. The bigger the atmospheric space over your head, the bigger your chance of making a kill in the carbon equation. Probably. 


There's no doubt that there may be some folks who in the future may have none of these natural assets: no forest, no water, no land, no air. This will happen when every natural thing would have been privatised. Believe me. In that case, all any one would need to tap into the carbon market will be to prove that their bodies embody some amount of carbon.


Mexican Text

cancun mobilizationAs the first week drew to a close, the rumour mill was abuzz with stories of a text being prepared by the Mexican chair of the COP to force a path for the outcome of the conference. This was the method of COP15 in Copenhagen in 2009. If the text is not a phantom, it will materialise over the weekend in time for ministers who will be arriving then to have something to chew on.


In a statement pre-empting this move, civil society advocates, including Friends of the Earth International and the Third World Network demanded, “that delegates reject any attempts to introduce such a text into the conference.” 


They said so because the text would seek to replace “the aggregate global emission targets that are supposed to be negotiated under the Kyoto Protocol with the non-binding pledges of the Accord could, according to a UN analysis released November 23, [and] set the planet on a course for devastating changes by the end of the century - as much as 5°C (9°F) of warming.”


It appears that policy makers are not living on planet earth. With a temperature increase of this magnitude, no amount of mitigation or adaptation would preserve most lives, as we know it.


Action time

The week was not all talk. Action time came on Friday when groups led by Jubilee South took to the streets of Cancun, marching from the municipal office to a Wal-Mart Supermarket and demanding that the World Bank must not be allowed to become the climate bank. Why? For one, the bank is notorious for funding fossil fuel related projects and is thus one agency that is deeply implicated in the climate chaos. 


Will the last week of the COP bring any hope? We will have to see.


Photo credits: Sheila Menon

Nov 30, 2010

Report launch: Clearing the air

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 30, 2010 12:00 AM

Today Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland launch an in-depth report about the available alternatives to carbon trading in climate change mitigation and climate finance. Marco Cadena from our Cancun delegation attended the launch.

Speaking at the launch, the report's author, Sarah-Jayne Clifton, outlined the aim of the report:


The report aims to provide real solutions for the establishment of financial framework for climate change mitigation and finance, in an attempt to allow the initiation of genuine low-carbon development in both developing and developed countries. The report analyses the different sectors involved and the provided alternatives. 


Here's a summary of the key points:


A worldwide feed-in tariff in the energy sector would bring down the costs of renewable technologies to an affordable level for everyone.  In addition to the feed-in tariff, a stronger taxation on carbon and energy would trigger energy savings. 


Instead of large-scale industrial agriculture, an expansion of small-scale sustainable farming would lead to emission cuts on a broad level. This would also a tackling of the increasing global demand for large-scale agriculture with particular attention given to the meat and dairy industries

A broad global agreement on universal standards within the heavy industry sector would be the very first step in applying the best technology available worldwide. 


Actions taken in tackling emissions from deforestation and forest degradation need to be monitored and measured to address the main collective issues and to achieve a just solution across the board. This also calls for the protection of the rights of the local communities and the expansion of community forest management. 


Real solutions for climate finance 

A Taxation placed on all international transactions of leading financial institutions and corporations would provide extra income, and would have no financial effect on the general public. 


A Carbon and energy tax would generate $200bn from which climate finance could be easily funded.  The fossil-fuel subsidies are around $700bn per year, worldwide. The producer subsidies consist mostly of funding from Northern governments to fossil-fuel producing companies. The redirection of this money to climate finance would have minimal affect on the citizens in developed countries. 


Later in the evening there was a side event to discuss the report. Several representives from Friends of the Earth member groups were there to share their thoughts and take question. 


The people included Ricardo Navarro from El Salvador; Siziwe Khanyile from South Africa; Samuel Nnah Ndobe from Cameroon; Karen Orenstein from the USA; and the report's author, Sarah-Jayne Clifton from England.  


During the event delegates from developing countries were able to voice their concern regarding the efforts that are being made in pushing the World Bank's lead on handling climate finance for mitigation. 


Members of the panel outlined that previous experience has shown that the World Bank is an unreliable institution, who continue to invest in fossil-fuels which are affecting the natural environment and local communities. 


Siziwe Khanyile pointed out that the World Bank lent almost $4bn to South Africa for coal-fired power station development. Only 1% of this funding was actually spent on renewable energy projects. This example clearly shows that the World Bank lacks experience and sound judgement in promoting funding for development of a low-carbon economy. 


Samuel Nnah Ndobe highlighted the problems associated with the UN REDD programme. In his summary, he states that through the REDD scheme forests will become cheap commodities. To date UN REDD is the biggest forest protection program, however Indigenous communities and developing countries are not necessarily benefiting from it.  


Samuel added: "The debate shifted from climate change to financial mechanisms, which through carbon trading would create the possibility for the continuation of carbon-dioxide emissions and dependency on fossil-fuels." 


Sarah-Jayne Clifton gave a briefing providing a more in-depth look at carbon trading. Clifton outlines that trading with carbon emission credits is not helping to tackle climate change at all, as it provides nothing but a shelter in which industrialized countries can aviod responsibility. 


Sarah-Jayne pointed out that only developed countries benefit form the current carbon trading scheme and that there needs to be solutions implemented that are beneficial for everyone. Moreover, a market based on speculation does not provide a secure alternative to fossil-fuel dependency and it does not provide incentives to reduce emissions in developed countries. 


In conclusion, Sarah-Jayne confirmed the report provides real solutions to climate finance, that will allow both the developed and developing world to implement just and transparent solutions for the procurement of the necessary climate funds. 


Read the report: clearing the air

Nov 25, 2010

Commodifying nature in an age of climate change

by PhilLee — last modified Nov 25, 2010 04:17 PM

A few days before the UN climate negotiations in Cancun, Mexico, Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International, writes about the carbon speculators who will be there hyping the utility of the carbon market as a means of fighting climate change through offsetting rather than taking real drastic action. We will be there to drown out the hype with the message of climate justice.

For about two weeks, starting from next Monday, the world will be locked into another session of negotiations on how to tackle climate change. The conference, to be held in Cancun, Mexico, has drawn less excitement than its predecessor held in Copenhagen, Denmark, a year ago.


The excitement of Copenhagen was partly driven by the false information that circulated that the Kyoto Protocol was ending at that meeting. Though there were serious, but failed efforts, made at that conference to lay the protocol to rest, its first period actually ends in 2012, while a second commitment period will be entered into as soon as the first period elapses.


But why would anyone want to kill the protocol and why should it be sustained? The Kyoto Protocol is seen by some as the only legally binding instrument to which the industrialised and highly polluting nations can be made to commit to cutting emissions at source. From this perspective, when countries fight to abolish the protocol, they are simply trying to avoid making any real commitment to tackling climate change.


leave it to the market?

offsetting magic trickOne problem with the workings of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and the ongoing negotiations is that it bases a chunk of its reasoning and framings on the market logic. This follows the path created by the mindset that has built a vicious paradigm of disaster capitalism, in which tragedy is seen as opportunity for profit. What do we mean by this?


Rather than take steps to curtail emissions of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming, some people are busy devising ways of making every item of nature a commodity placed at the altar of the market. Through this, everything is being assigned a value and many others are privatised in addition.


What makes this offensive is firstly that you cannot place a price on nature, on life. Secondly, speculators are hyping the utility of the carbon market as a means of fighting climate change. Some of the ways this manifests is through the carbon offsetting projects by which polluters in the industrialised countries continue to pollute, on the calculation that their emissions are being compensated for elsewhere.


As Friends of the Earth International stated in a recent media advisory, “Carbon trading does not lead to real emissions reductions. It is a dangerous distraction from real action to address the structural causes of climate change, such as over-consumption. Developed countries should radically cut their carbon emissions through real change at home, not by buying offsets from other countries. Carbon offsetting has no benefits for the climate or for developing countries - it only benefits developed countries, private investors, and major polluters who want to continue business as usual.”


Cancun will obviously be crawling with carbon speculators and traders, as was the case in Copenhagen. And they have good reasons to be there. They will be there because policy makers on both sides of the divide see benefits in the schemes, even though the so-called benefits are pecuniary and are actually harmful to Mother Earth. But as far as the money enters the pockets of some poor countries, the rich countries can go on polluting, having paid their "penance."


Not just money alone

wb get out from our forestsThe world appears deaf to the need for real actions to curb climate change, and the focus remains on money. In fact, while many of the items of the Cancun agenda have stalled, with regard to reduction of carbon emissions in the industralised nations, there is no shortage of proposals on how carbon markets can be brought in to give appearance of action.


Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation (REDD) is one of such schemes in the scheme. Quick progress is being made on REDD and already, talks are advancing on other variants of the scheme. Indigenous and forest community people are opposed to REDD and object to its implementation, as attention is being focused on forests merely as carbon stocks for mercantile purposes. Significantly, many see REDD as not seeking to stop deforestation, but merely to reduce it.


It is also argued that that any reduced deforestation may not be sustained, as deforesters may just shift to another forest or zone to continue with their activities. In other words, REDD is a pretty fiction that may pump money into the pockets of some countries and corporations, but will marginalise forest peoples and will not help to fight climate change. The attraction, as critics have said, is that if this mechanism is linked to the carbon market, it will allow developed countries pay money to REDD-projects that preserve forests in developing countries, and in return receive carbon credits - buying the right to pollute.


There will also be strident rejection of any role at all for the World Bank in the climate finance architecture that may be devised in Cancun.


The atmosphere is set for a somber, winding series of negotiations. However, social movements and other civil society groups are set to push up the voices of the people, as already broadly articulated in the Peoples Agreement, reached at the World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held in April 2010 at Cochabamba, Bolivia.


The environmental justice movement that took first serious steps in Copenhagen is sure to take firmer steps on the streets of Cancun and in thousands of Cancuns being planned for a multitude of locations around the world.


The message in Cancun, if we must expect motions towards real actions to tackle climate change, is that governments must pay attention to what the people are saying, to the real challenges faced by vulnerable peoples around the world, and not lend their ears to carbon speculators.


Find out more about what we're calling for in Cancun

Nov 10, 2010


by PhilLee — last modified Nov 10, 2010 03:44 PM
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The detention and deportation of Filipino activists from Seoul and the harassment and intimidation of a number of other activists at the hands of Korean immigration authorities are manifestations of the undemocratic and anti-people nature of the G20 and further exposed the illegitimacy of this group of self-proclaimed caretakers of the global economy.

The protests and mobilizations in Korea of tens of thousands of people in clear defiance of the Korean governments security measures, is an indication of a clear disconnect between the agenda of the governments of the G20 countries and the interests and aspirations of their people.


The G20 Summit in Korea was supposed to address the issue of the growing gap between the rich and the poor in the wake of the global economic crisis.  The G20’s prescriptions for economic recovery and development, however, anchored on the perpetuation of a flawed corporate driven, export-oriented development model would further exacerbate poverty and inequality and undermine social cohesion across the world.


The whole point of the Peoples Conference in Korea, and the reason why the deported Filipino activists came to Korea, is to articulate the peoples’ opposition and resistance to the G20 and to collectively discuss and put forward alternatives to the failed model of development that the G20 is so desperately trying to preserve.


We say NO to the G20 and the policies that continue to threaten jobs and peoples livelihoods, and erode workers’ rights and welfare;


We say NO to the G20 and policies that cause the expulsion and repatriation of migrants in the name of restrictive and Draconian migration policies and rules;


We say NO to the G20 and the policies that use women as safety nets in crisis, and is blind to the differential decision-making powers in the household and economy in general;


We speak out against the free trade agenda and the push of the G20 governments for more ambitious and comprehensive free trade agreements disguised as economic partnerships but are really instruments of economic domination and control by the rich over the poor within and across countries and regions;


We speak out against the development agenda of the G20 which threatens peoples’ right to food, destroys the environment, and perpetuates unequal access and control over natural resources in support of the profit-driven motives of corporations;


We say NO to the G20. It does not represent the interests of the peoples of the world and it cannot speak on our behalf.


We call on the peoples of the world to come together against the G20 and to intensify the struggle for a better and more just and peaceful world.




Alliance of Progressive Labor (APL)

Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM)

Aniban mga Manggagawa sa Agrikultura

Asia-Pacific Network on Food Sovereignty

Ban Toxics!

Coalition Against Trafficking in Women – Asia Pacific (CATW-AP)

Ecological Society of the Philippines (ESP)

Greenresearch Environmental Research Group

Green Convergence for Safe Food, Healthy Environment and Sustainable Economy

Focus on the Global South

Freedom from Debt Coalition (FDC)

Friends of the Earth International 
Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific

Jubilee South – APMDD


Kilusang Mangingisda

Legal Rights and Natural Resources Center

Migrants Forum for Asia (MFA)

Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ)

Task Force Food Sovereignty (TFFS)

Third World Network

World March of Women - Pilipinas

Oct 08, 2010

Toxic sludge leak: request for donations

by PhilLee — last modified Oct 08, 2010 05:12 PM
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Friends of the Earth Hungary is calling for donations in order to provide assistance to those living and working in the areas worst affected by the red mud spill.

The Csalán (Nettle) Environmental and Nature Protection Association appeals to everyone in a position to do so to contribute to the purchase of vitally important protective equipment. The Association would like to provide immediate assistance to those living and working in the areas worst affected by the red mud spill, coordinating with the local governments of the affected communities, particularly Kolontár and Devecser.


We would like to provide quick help to those living and working in the areas affected by the unprecedented, catastrophic spill on October 4, 2010. We are coordinating this with those working in the disaster area and Mr. Tamás Toldi, Mayor of Devecser. They emphasized the most urgent need for protective clothing and equipment for those working in the affected areas. Our Association would like to provide all residents of the affected communities with a protective mask (6,000 pieces) , 500 pairs of rubber boots and recovery devices, as much as needed.


About $5 (1000 HUF = 4 EUR) pays for 4 safety face masks with a dust filter, $26  (5000 HUF = 20 EUR)  for one set of protective clothing (one pair of rubber boots and gloves),


$26  (5000 HUF = 20 EUR) for one set of recovery devices (spade, shovel

and hoe),


12 500 HUF = 50 EUR  for one barrow for those working on the field.


Please provide help according to your abilities!


donate now!

1. Bank Account below (with a note that the donations is for the RED MUD




Bank Account (in international relations): HU60 1160 0006 0000 0000 0297


Beneficiary’s  Name: Csalan Egyesület


Beneficiary’s  Address: H-8200 Veszprem, Rakoczi F. u. 3, Hungary


2. Donate through PayPal by clicking on the link below


All donations received are allocated to the purchase and distribution of the above described equipment and we report the amounts received and their use in detail on our website. Based on the donations received as of October 6 and 7, 2010 the distribution of rubber boots and gloves and safety masks has already started. The Csalan Association considers providing accurate information to the citizens critically important, so we prepared and distributed flyers about the basic facts of the accident and priority activities for the first days.


Your donation is highly appreciated – no amount is too small!

Oct 07, 2010

Statement on the toxic sludge leak in Hungary

by PhilLee — last modified Oct 07, 2010 03:10 PM
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Friends of the Earth Europe sends it condolences to the families of the people who have lost their lives this week in the toxic sludge leak in Hungary. Our thoughts are with the thousands who are suffering from this environmental disaster.

Far too often we see environmental disasters of this kind yet we continue to see corporate opposition to strong environmental, health and safety regulations at a national, European and international level. Corporations say the costs are too high, but the real cost of weak regulation is clear for all to see.


Friends of the Earth Hungary/Magyar Termeszetvedok Szovetsege  (MTVSZ) is present in the area and actively assessing and monitoring the situation as the gravity of it unfolds. The priorities must be to safeguard people’s health and protect the repair the local environment. In the longer term environmental protection measures must be strengthened to prevent future disasters.


Read more at FoE Hungary's website:

Aug 12, 2010

Statement on the floods in Pakistan

by PhilLee — last modified Aug 12, 2010 05:35 PM
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Pakistan is experiencing one of the worst natural disasters in living memory as floods and mudslides claim thousands of lives and destroy entire communities.

pakistan-floods-2010Fourteen million people have been affected by the floods and so far at least 1,600 people have lost their lives. It's estimated that some 300,000 homes in all four provinces of Pakistan have been washed away by the flood waters affecting more than 10,000 villages.


We at Friends of the Earth International feel the pain of the Pakistani people as they struggle for survival in this desperate time. We are deeply saddened by their losses.


While we express our solidarity with the Pakistani people and all who are contributing to the efforts to provide assistance to the displaced, we promise to relentlessly work for climate justice, demanding real and urgent actions to confront the realities of the climate crisis.


The Pakistani people are also victims of an international community that has failed to act and address the underlying causes of climate change. The causes of the recent increase in extreme weather conditions must be addressed now. 


Pakistan has always had monsoon seasons and for generations people have adapted to them. However, the increase in extreme weather conditions has left the Pakistani people unable to adapt to such rapid change and they have become much more vulnerable. 


Deforestation and other natural habitat destruction also play a part in this increased vulnerability, as do large infrastructure projects like mega-dams. Both the Pakistani and the Indian governments released water from their bursting dams due to the flood in order to “save” their dams. 


This action proved fatal to scores of people living around these dams. For several years, communities and civil society groups fought against the building of these mega-dams stating that they were catastrophes waiting to happen and the vulnerable communities living along the rivers would be impacted the most. In the event of extreme weather, as we are seeing now, these people would be on the front line. Sadly in the last few weeks these predictions have been realised. 


In Pakistan's time of need we urge you to donate to organisations working directly with the Pakistani people to  relieve their suffering. 


In the long term we hope you will join those like us who  campaign for the right of communities to choose their sustainable energy sources and to develop healthy consumption patterns that will lead to sustainable societies. 


This, combined with the need for greenhouse gas emissions reduction and for all people to share an equitable amount of resources within ecological limits, is essential to achieving climate justice.


For more information about our climate justice work go to -


 Photo Credit: Flickr/NB77


Jul 20, 2010

Australia Must Close the Door to Illegal Timber

by PhilLee — last modified Jul 20, 2010 10:32 AM

Today, Indonesian environmental and social justice groups will ask Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard to close the door to illegal timber and forest products. A letter carrying the message will be delivered to the Prime Minister through the Australian Embassy in Jakarta by Friends of the Earth Indonesia.

The Australian Government made an election promise in 2007 to ban illegal timber. Last Saturday, PM Gillard set the date for the next election for August 21st. The Government has just one month left to uphold its commitment on illegal timber.


Australia has continued to expect timber supplying countries, especially Indonesia to stem out illegal logging.


"Of course, Indonesia needs to tackle the serious and chronic problem of illegal logging because it is in our national interest to do so. However, Australia is a timber importing country and an influential power in the Asia-Pacific region. It has to walk the talk on good governance by banning the trade in timber stolen from other country’s forests." says Mohammad Teguh Surya, Head of Campaigns for WALHI. 


"For the last few decades, WALHI and other civil society groups in Indonesia have been campaigning hard to fight illegal logging to protect what is left of the once dense and mighty Indonesian tropical rainforests. Teguh explains, "we are fighting a losing uphill battle. Illegal logging operations are organised criminal activities. They operate above the law, bribing law enforcers, using force to intimidate forest communities and those who stand in their ways to cut down the trees, leaving a trail of destruction behind."


Illegal logging is highly profitable. Those who benefit from it will be open for

business as long as there are buyers. A recent UK-based Chatham House research showed that tough actions taken by the US and EU has resulted in a drop in demand for illegal timber. However other timber importing countries including Australia must act aggressively in order to maintain the momentum created to eliminate this trade.


Jul 19, 2010

Save the largest National Park in Sri Lanka

by PhilLee — last modified Jul 19, 2010 04:25 PM
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Friends of the Earth Sri Lanka need your help.

Recently two roads have been developed across the Wilpattu National Park without respecting the value of this natural habitat and the environmental laws.


The park, which was famous for its leopards, was closed due to the civil war in Sri Lanka and has recently been re-opened only to find that this ambitious construction is ruining the park further.


This may be the last chance to save Wilpattu, the largest national park in Sri Lanka.


Please sign this petition and help ensure the national park is a safe haven for animals


Jul 07, 2010

Illegally detained activists in Indonesia deported with no formal charges filed

by PhilLee — last modified Jul 07, 2010 11:11 AM

Friends of the Earth International is shocked by the police harassment of 15 international environmental activists. The group were arrested and detained for more than 24 hours, after Indonesian police dispersed a peaceful press conference. They are now safe and on their way to their home-countries.

Jean Marie FerrarisIn an interview, Judith Pasimio, the executive director of Friends of the Earth Philippines (LRC-KsK) said that on July 5, Jean Marie M. Ferraris, team leader of LRC-KsK’s Davao office, together with 14 other green activists were in a middle of a press conference on the ill-effects of coal-fired power plants, when some 100 Indonesian police barged in and arrested the activists.

"This outrage only shows what appears to be collusion between the Indonesian government and the Cirebon Elektrik, Ltd. We denounce how the police violently disrupted a peaceful and legitimate practice in the defence of the environment and the rights of its people" said Ms Pasimio.

"Jean went to Indonesia to share the Philippine experience on the deadly impact of coal and our own learnings from our anti-coal campaigns, particularly in Maasim, Saranggani. She kept her humour throughout the ordeal.

"We maintain that the Indonesian government should explain this affront against the rights of peoples to peacefully assemble and pursue genuine solutions to our deteriorating environment and rational utilisation of natural resources for the national interest and not for the profits of corporations,” Ms Pasimo continued.

The delegation claim that representatives of coal-fired power plant Cirebon Elektrik, Ltd. accompanied the 100 Indonesian police when they were arrested.

An emailed statement from LRC-KsK, appealed for President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III to immediately intervene and demand an explanation from the Indonesian government.

"The new administration of President Aquino must send a strong message to the international community that it is committed to protecting our citizens from abuses committed on foreign soil, even if it is by a foreign government," it stated.

background on the incident

In an email, Tuesday evening, Amalie Conchelle C. Hamoy-Obusan, one of the anti-coal campaign network members detained, said that she, together with other activists from Greenpeace and communities in China, Indonesia, Thailand and India were apprehended at around 2pm on Monday and detained for more than 24 hours.

"We were in the village simply to give support and learn from the experiences of our brothers and sisters who share the same plight as our countrymen living around coal-fired power plants," Ms. Hamoy-Obusan said in her email.

She claimed that while at the Cirebon police station, they were accused of "visa irregularities" and "engaging in activities that create instability."

"The interrogation lasted through the night and we’ve had little sleep," said Ms. Hamoy-Obusan.

One of the unilateral agreements of member-nations of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is that visa is not required if a citizen of any member-nation—visiting an ASEAN country—for visits of less than a week.


Photo: Jean Marie M. Ferraris courtesy of

Jul 02, 2010

The Cariano 7X festival

by PhilLee — last modified Jul 02, 2010 11:44 PM

Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International has been in Italy for the last few days enjoying life in a sustainable village one day and denouncing oil companies in Rome the next.

cairano-7x-nnimmo-2These past few days I have been in Avellino, Cairano and Rome all in Italy, of course. Friends from the unit of Amici della Terra (Friends of the Earth Italy) – in the Avellino area invited me to participate in Cairano 7X – a week-long festival where artists, poets, writers, philosophers, musicians, farmers, carpenters, travellers, meet, have workshops and enjoy hospitality in the houses of the inhabitants of Cairano. I am sure you would want to be there! They are all engaged in a unique local struggle to show how a sustainable village can thrive and to make a plea that Cairano must not die. Local struggles in local contexts multiply like drops of water to form the ocean of our collective struggles and fights.


It is indeed a huge cultural experiment with seven projects over a seven day period. The dates set for the event this year were 20-27 June. But I was busy elsewhere at that time and had to visit Cairano a couple of days after the event.

Did I miss a lot? You bet! But, because Cairano is a living event, I still met the atmosphere and the footprints the festival left behind. I should let you know that Cairano is also the name of the village in which Cairano7X takes place annually. As we headed west of Aviello towards Cairano on a warm afternoon, my hosts Luca Battista, his wife and Letizia Leito began to fill me in on what to expect.


By the way, the Aviello landscape is incredibly beautiful. Mountains surround you in every direction; protected parks ensure that those who wish can stay green (with envy). We rode over a series of bridges with no rivers beneath them. That really surprised me.  We eventually saw two minuscule rivers and an artificial lake (a dammed river).

A new humanism

cairano-7x-nnimmo-3Letizia, my interpreter, by the way, reminded me of the words of Franco Arminio, poet, writer and the Artistic director of Cairano7X. He had explained the Cairano project this way:  Cairano 7x is a simple but a very ambitious idea: we think that a new humanism may develop somewhere and we think mountains are the best place for its development: we call this humanism “paesologia”, a discipline that looks at the villages as they are and as they could become rather than think of them as they were, typical activity of the scholars of “paesologia.”

One has to be at Cairano to fully comprehend what the festival seeks to achieve and what it is all about. Cairano is a village set on a hilltop and cannot be hidden. The hill itself is a sculpturesque cape that reminds you of so many things at the same time. Could it have been dropped here from space? All around the hill are farmlands and a little way off wind power generates electricity for equally far off places.

Cairano had a population of 1,410 people in 1951. Currently the population has dropped to about 300 or less, mainly elderly men and women who sit in the summer sun probably recalling the days of old when the village was bustling with folk. A few young couples live here, so you will find kids and some youths. There is only one kindergarten, so the young folks have to attend school in other villages or towns. Great thing, I soon found out is that you don’t really need a wrist watch here, because the bell tower at the church sends out chimes on the hour and also every other 15 minutes or so. I wondered if that continued through the night.

touring cairano

So here we were. A team was waiting to receive us, and then the tour of the village begun. Cairano7X’s focus this year was on migration.  I learned that in the distant past this was a point where folks moving elsewhere paused before proceeding with their journey.

cairano-7x-nnimmo-5During the week-long event artists set up sculptures and dynamic art works that tell the story of migration. One very interesting one was made of paper cut-outs of birds and snails denoting rapid movement and the crawl.  We found these paper birds sitting on door posts, window ledges and walls. Of course, the snails crawled at the base of walls. There were moments of dispersal and moments of convergence. Exciting.

And then a big scaffold that held different expressions of movements: barbed wires representing restricted access, a huge nest made of grass representing the idea of home. There were seeds in a trough speaking of life and settlement. So many symbols. You could stand before this architectonic sculpture for hours and there would still be more to see.


And what about the wooden chair that is stuck precariously up a wall? I could not figure that one out. Except if it means to say it is no time for sitting down. Keep moving. But then a piece of paper looking like a giant price tag tells another story: you may have to sell this, and move. My imagination ran riot!

How about the workshop in an abandoned building, with a giant wooden leaf on the floor and vertical poles rising from it?  On the wall is a wooden block on which is a call for the world to move away from fossil fuels and leave the oil in the soil. Yes!

All around this area there are stone and concrete dice of different colours. The urge to roll the dice was so strong I had to move my attention to giant spider legs of sticks and a body of a bulbous glass jar.

Come with me. Let us climb higher up and see the beauty of this “deserted” village.

We were soon confronted with a brick and terracotta building constructed on the principles of a compass with horizontal and vertical axes, according to Luca. The architect who invented this compass and method of construction had used it to construct a hospital in Mali. And I suspect the same was replicated in the artisan markets of Bamako (where I must say is the only place I find hand made sandals that my feet love!) Ah!cairano-7x-nnimmo-4

Up at the pinnacle of this beautiful village is a brow of a ship constructed of sticks and ropes. It perches precariously on the precipice overlooking a lake in the distance and giving you a true sense of sailing… into the future. And then next to it are chairs and a bench.

It was instructive to observe that all the artistic projects here were executed with locally sourced materials. Nothing was imported in. As we left Cairano the young folks regretted that people had to leave after arriving at the village. The wished that folks would come to stay. Hmmm, it was sad to say goodbye.

I couldn’t capture the sounds of music that must have wafted across the Cairano landscape during the event. The plugs had been pulled and the platforms were being dismantled. The gardens developed by some of the participants were alive and well and I keep wondering how come flowers were already blooming if they were planted just the week before. As we descended from Cairano, I wished we could actually stay. The memory of the event hung thick in the air. And we took a part of it away to the seminar that was to hold the next day.

addressing the causes of climate change

The seminar took place at Avellino and I was honoured to speak about the structural causes of climate change, promote elements of the Chochabamba Peoples Agreement on Climate Change and also talk about the gushing oil in the Gulf of Mexico and the forgotten spills in the Niger Delta. I also read a poem I wrote in Bolivia, I will Not Dance to Your Beat. Other speakers spoke on the fact that the limitless growth was impossible in a finite planet.

Cairano is seen as representative of a place that is “sustainable in itself, not having yet saturated its ability to bear the pressures due to human activities. Giving a new demographic and economic meaning to these western territories is probably one of the most important policy actions for the environment having the goal of reducing the climate altering emissions and of ensuring civil rights not unrelated to health and safety provided by the environment.”

The seminar was followed by excellent local food and folk music. I felt like skipping to the beat!

July 1 saw me heading to Rome with Raffaele Spagnuolo, President of Friends of the Earth Campania.  Max Bienati and Rosa Filippini of Friends of the Earth Italy were waiting having left Avellino the day before. Rome was the venue of a vital press conference to call the attention of the Italian public to the fact that although everyone speaks of the oil spill gushing in the Gulf of Mexico, United States, there are unreported disasters happening everyday in the Niger Delta of Nigeria. And an Italian oil company, ENI or AGIP is neck deep in the murk along with their cohorts.

Nnimmo-press-confThe press conference was moderated by Rosa and addressed by me, Christine Weise of Amnesty International and Elena Gerebizza of the Campagna per la Riforma della Banca Mondiale. The press were there and so were representatives from the Italian oil giant ENI. Having the oil company represented was quite something!

gas flaring in the dock

The conference opened with a video clip of gas flaring around the world, produced by the World Bank. It shows the Russian Federation as the top gas flarer in the world, with Nigeria taking the silver medal.

Our focus was on the evil and illegal practice of gas flaring in Nigeria (illegal since 1984) and the fact that the BP’s spill in the USA shows clearly that the best oil industry standards are not nearly good enough. Plus the fact that reliable data is hard to come by. One high profile example is the BP spill that has grown from 1000 barrels a day to over 100,000 barrels. Not to mention their cut-and-paste environmental impact studies and spill response plans.

Christine spoke primarily of the fact that environmental rights are human rights and that the oil majors operating in the Niger Delta have played foul in every imaginable way – spilling equivalent of one Exxon Valdez every year over 50 years. Plus the human rights abuses ongoing in the oil fields and in Nigeria generally.

Elena focused on the footprint of international finance institutions in this mire. And she also brought up the case of the Italian oil company ENI getting a nod to receive carbon credits for halting an illegal activity in one location in Nigeria.

We went for lunch after the conference. I have thoroughly enjoyed pasta and cheese these past few days. Over lunch Laura Radiconci from Friends of the Earth Italy, who writes books under the pen name Camilla, presented me with a very apt give. She gave me a copy of her book “The Parachutist” – a story of an American World War II soldier who was actually a vampire, fierce, desperate and bloodthirsty. The question on the blurb of this book is “Will he see his love again and resist the urge to kill her?”

I told her that she might have to write a new story about another vampire, the oil companies, who have sunk their fangs into the necks of poor communities.

I had looked forward to enjoying this trip. I was not disappointed. Saying good-bye was not easy. But Cairano7X will also happen in 2011. Mark your diaries.


Ps: see my album “Cairano” on facebook to see some photos from Cairano

May 26, 2010

Love and the climate crisis

by PhilLee — last modified May 26, 2010 10:23 AM

FoEI Chair Nnimmo Bassey talks about what the recent Cochabamba climate summit in Bolivia meant to him.

May 03, 2010

It's Not Just BP That Bears Responsibility for Spill; Government Is Responsible Too

by PhilLee — last modified May 03, 2010 12:25 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Friends of the Earth's president, Erich Pica, had the following response to President Barack Obama's remarks this afternoon in Louisiana:

"President Obama was correct when he said BP is responsible for this spill. But the government bears responsibility too, as it failed to protect U.S. waters and the people who depend on them. Offshore oil drilling is inherently dirty and dangerous. In order to fulfill its responsibility to protect its citizens and territory, the government must establish a permanent moratorium on offshore drilling."


More information about offshore drilling, the oil spill and Friends of the Earth’s response can be found here:


Apr 20, 2010

World People's Summit on Climate Change opens in Cochabamba

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 20, 2010 10:47 AM

A team of Friends of the Earth climate justice campaigners are in Cochabamba, Bolivia attending an historic people's summit on climate change. Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International is also there and filed this blog post.


Following the catastrophic outcome of the United Nations’ climate negotiations held in Copenhagen in December 2009, a breath of fresh air wafts in as peoples from around the world gather in the first ever global summit on climate change initiated by a government in league with social movements, indigenous peoples and other civil society actors.


An assembly of governments and peoples

When the president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, announced that the world would meet in Bolivia for a thorough and inclusive discussion on this vital issue of our day many may have thought that the announcement was nothing but a pipedream. To the joy of many and the consternation of some the summit is taking place as planned.

The summit attracted a registration of up to 17,000 participants and activities commenced today by way of working groups and a peoples assembly facilitated by La Via Campensina, the largest peasant farmers movement and Friends of the Earth International.

This summit stands in sharp contrast to the Copenhagen event in many ways. First, this is an assembly of governments and peoples. In Copenhagen effort was not spared in keeping civil society out of the conference. That conference was marked by lockouts of civil society, detentions of climate activists and outright brutality on non-violent protesters on the streets.


In Cochabamba the police are offering assistance and are even wearing badges indicating that they too are participants. Whereas Copenhagen showed a disdain to the voices of the people, in Cochabamba this is the essence of the meet. Having said that, we must agree that there is a similarity between the two cities: the two names begin with the letter "c" and both have ten letters.

Participants generally agree that this summit is a great opportunity for the false solutions to climate change to be fully exposed and the real solutions as well as the demands for climate justice to be clearly made. It is a step in the build-up to an unstoppable global environmental justice movement.

Declaration of Mother Earth's rights

Alfredo Felipa, Peru. Second place, Reclaiming Traditions category. Friends of the Earth groups favorite: second place (tied).The summit is organised around seventeen working groups and hopes to examine the structural causes of climate change and also to discuss and agree on the need for a Universal Declaration of Mother Earth Rights.


The working groups around which the work is organised include those planning for a Climate Justice Tribunal, the dangers of a carbon market, climate migrants and technology transfer among others. The summit is also working on the organisation of the Peoples' World Referendum on Climate Change.

The summit will not be without controversial moments. For one, there is a group of techies from Europe who are in Cochabamba to sell the idea of geo-engineering as a solution to climate change. Many groups are already up in arms against in suggestion of using the techniques suggested by geo-engineers. Among which are those that say that manipulation of nature could lead to unexpected outcomes apart from allowing individual unregulated space to take up the global commons and further pile unjust access to resources and place people at risk.


Some proposed geo-engineering solutions are the seeding of the clouds to block off the sun and thereby cool the climate as well as seeding the oceans with “pollutants” in order to enhance its carbon capture and storage capacities.

Another hot area has to do with REDD (reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation). While some groups think that REDD would bring benefits to communities, The Indigenous Environmental Network, Oilwatch, The Corner House, Transnational Institute and other NGOs believe that REDD is nothing other than "Reaping profits from Evictions, land grabs, Deforestation and Destruction of biodiversity."   It is also believed that REDD offers polluting companies the space to buy permits to carry on polluting.

In the run up to the Cochabamba summit, an International Fair on Water (towards the World Peoples Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth) was held here on 14-18 April 2010.


The conference declared that climate change is "a result of an extractive, destructive and polluting production pattern of which large-scale mining, oil, coal and gas extraction operations, and water dams intended to meet wasteful energy consumption needs, provide examples."


The conference went ahead to propose among others a transition from an extractive pattern to a pattern based on principles of solidarity, justice, dignity and respect for life, reciprocity and equity.

It also called for a revocation of "licences granted to transnational corporations and especially halt mining, gas, oil and monoculture tree plantations and agro-industrial, land-intensive, cattle ranching corporations. All those activities are voracious water consumers that end up in merchandise aimed at meeting an increasing consumerism."

Strengthening the environmental justice movement

Flood-1-tnSome people wonder what will be achieved in the peoples’ summit seeing the failure of the United Nations climate conference in Copenhagen. Most participants here see Cochabamba as a great opportunity for the strengthening of an environmental justice movement whose birth was so loudly communicated outside the official meeting chambers of Copenhagen.

This summit also illustrates that governments ought to work with the people, after all they their legitimacy can only derive from the support of the people. President Evo Morales of Bolivia is showing very clearly that governance is about engagement with real people in efforts to tackle real problems and that governments and government organs should not be afraid of listening to the people.

The university campus (UNIVALLE) where the summit is taking place is covered with a sea of colourfully dressed participants from around the world. Business suits are a rarity here. People walk with assured steps in full dignity. Laughter rings beneath the trees and the mountains of Tiquipaya provide and excellent backdrop. 

The volcanic ash blowing over Europe may have stopped some participants from getting to Cochabamba, but that event alone illustrated the power of nature and the fact that although there is much knowledge, there are still things that remain under the control of nature. Wisdom urges humanity to respect the rights of Mother Earth and live in cooperating rather than manipulating relationships with her.
Tomorrow the summit opens.


Further information


Mar 29, 2010

Indonesia: Bajau Action Alert

by PhilLee — last modified Mar 29, 2010 04:56 PM
Filed Under:

On March 12, 2010, Berau Regency Police rounded up and detained 103 Bajau Pela’u people who live on boats around Balikukup Island, East Kalimantan, Indonesia. Your help is needed in ensuring their release.

The Bajau Pela'u people were taken to Tanjung Redeb, capital of Berau Regency and ended in the Hall of the District Social Agency where they were detained. The local chief of Police said that they did not have national identity papers and thus planned to deport them to either Malaysia or the Philippines.

The Bajau Pela'u are part of the Bajau community who live on boats as a way of life. This is a part of their culture and they cannot be separated from their boats and the sea.


Since their detention they have become weak and are suffering emotionally as a result of being away from their usual surroundings.


Please take action on the Friends of the Earth Indonesia website

Mar 09, 2010

Protect Indonesia's biodiversity by rejecting World Bank funding

by PhilLee — last modified Mar 09, 2010 02:40 PM

A planned nickel and cobalt mine in Indonesia could destroy the fragile ecosystem of Halmahera island. Please take action and call on the world bank to halt their funding of the project.

A planned nickel and cobalt mine on Halmahera Island in Indonesia could result in an ecological nightmare if it goes ahead. Twenty-one percent of Weda Bay nickel mining area is part of Indonesia's protected areas and includes the Lalobata and Aketajawe National Park.


The mine will destroy 35,155 hectares of protected forest. Approximately 17 million tons of rock will be dug each year from this small and fragile island rich in biodiversity.

Export of the nickel and cobalt from this mine is expected to reach 65,000 tons a year. The company behind the mine plan to use sulphuric acid to extract nickel from the ore. In addition, they will dump their waste into Weda Bay.


Friends of the Earth Indonesia (Walhi) reject the role of the World Bank and financial institutions everywhere that provide insurance and funds to dangerous projects such as the PT Weda Bay Nickel mine.


take action

Please support the Halmahera people by signing the petition on Friends of the Earth Indonesia's website