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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.


GMO-Free Europe Conference 2010

by PhilLee — last modified Jul 20, 2010 02:13 PM

Come and take part in the 6th European Conference of GMO-Free Regions, Brussels and Ghent, September 16-18, 2010. Co-organised by Friends of the Earth Europe.

GMO-Free Europe Conference 20102010 will be a decisive year for the future of GMOs in Europe. New approvals for the cultivation of GMOs and new legislative proposals by the European Commission are pending. With his approval of the first GMO for cultivation since 1998  the new Commissioner in charge sent out a clear message about his intentions.GMO-Free Europe 2010 will send back an equally clear message and prepare for further action.


The GMO-Free movement has continuously expanded, increased and diversified all across Europe and well beyond. On September 16 at our session in the European Parliament we will present our demands to the public and to institutions in Brussels. For two days we will then retreat to Ghent for exchanging experience, information, ideas and strategies, for discussing the challenges ahead and for preparing joint activities.


We invite representatives from formal and informal GMO-free regions, GMO-free initiatives and activists on related issues from all over Europe. Breeders and seed exchangers, farmers, bee-keepers, gmo-free traders, processors and retailers as well as consumers, critical scientists and environmental activists are welcome. 


  • An organizing committee has started to work and is open for your suggestions.

  • If you want to organise workshops, present ideas, share experiences please do contact us now.

  • If you can help with organisation (e.g. translation, web maintenance, outreach) please let us know.

  • The budget for the conference is not yet secured: We are urgently looking for co-sponsors and funders. We therefore cannot make any commitments to fund travel expenses at this moment - but will try our best

  • Participants fees will be 80 € for institutions and organisations and 50 € for small NGOs.


Get ready - Get going - lets do it again!
Find out more

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

Climategate review clears scientists

by PhilLee — last modified Jul 07, 2010 05:17 PM
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Friends of the Earth England Wales and Northern Ireland react to the news that the scientists accused of dishonesty over climate data have been cleared.

Commenting on today's report by Sir Muir Russell on the leaked e-mails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, Friends of the Earth's

Executive Director Andy Atkins said:


"By confirming the integrity of the climate scientists this report shows we cannot afford to ignore expert warnings on the risks of climate change.


"The vast majority of climate scientists agree that man-made climate change is happening - if nine out of 10 pilots said that they thought that a plane was likely to crash no-one would be foolish enough to fly in it.


"Reducing our growing dependency on fossil fuels by investing in green power and slashing energy waste will also boost the economy by strengthening our energy security and create new jobs and business opportunities.


"It's time to see through the dangerous smokescreen of climate scepticism and get on with the urgent task of building a clean, safe and low-carbon future."

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