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Jul 27, 2011

Environmental activists concerned over escalation of crimes against social leaders in Latin America

by PhilLee — last modified Jul 27, 2011 11:00 AM
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Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean (ATALC) expresses its solidarity with the family of Marlon Lozano Yulan, a youth leader of the Ecuadorian organisation Tierra y Vida (Land and Life), who was murdered on 20 July in Guayaquil, Ecuador.

Marlon Lozano Yulan
Marlon Lozano Yulan, courtesy of Twitter. 
We, as members of ATALC, are seriously concerned about the wave of persecutions and murders of social leaders in Latin America.


We expresses solidarity with Marlon Lozano Yulan's family and repudiate this new assault against the life of a social leader, something which, unfortunately happens too often and with total impunity in Latin America.


Meanwhile, we express our most heartfelt solidarity with all the comrades of Tierra y Vida, and other Ecuadorian organizations that go through similar atrocities on a regular basis.


On July 20, two hired hooded assassins fatally shot Marlon Lozano Yulan in downtown Guayaquil. Tierra y Vida's acting Secretary, Raquel Silva, told Friends of the Earth's Real World Radio that the deadly attack was addressed at the organisation's legal advisor, Milton Yulan, who is related to Marlon.


Tierra y Vida focused its work on defending the right to ownership of the peasants in Guayas province over lands that used to belong to estate owners and bankers until the 2000 banking crisis, when they were confiscated.


Tierra y Vida suspects that sectors opposed to land distribution, which defend land concentration in the hands of corporations and economic groups were involved in the murder of the young activist.


In response to these incidents we call on the social movements and grassroots organizations of the region to strengthen their solidarity. We also demand the Ecuadorian authorities carry out the necessary investigations into the murder of Marlon Lozano Yulan, and  punish those who are responsible.


An alarming trend

We also call on the Ecuadorian and regional authorities in charge of enforcing human rights, the judiciary and human rights organisations to implement the necessary mechanisms to prevent acts like this, which go against the right to peaceful protest.


On May 24, producer Jose Claudio Ribeiro da Silva and his wife, Maria do Espirito Santo, were murdered. They were known in Para state for their struggle for land and defense of the Amazon forest. 


Three days later, in Rondonia state, Adelino Ramos was also killed while he was selling vegetables in the state's capital. He had exposed the actions of big wood corporations in the border between the states of Acre, Amazonia and Rondonia. Hundreds of Brazilian environmental activists have received death threats according to the Land Pastoral Commission.


In Central America, the death threats and persecution of social leaders have become part of the daily reality. The case of Honduras, with a government that succeeded the dictatorship, is the most concerning one.


On July 14, Nery Jeremias Orellana was murdered. He was a 26 year-old journalist who worked with social movements and who was a member of the Broad Front of Popular Resistance. In 2010, 14 people working in the media were murdered in Honduras.


We are on alert over the current violence against social movements in Ecuador and the region and will continue to speak out against abuses whenever we hear of them.


further information

Find out more on the case of Marion Lozano Yulan on the Real World Radio website

Jul 20, 2011

Heroic Malaysian campaigner passes away

by PhilLee — last modified Jul 20, 2011 11:32 AM

Friends of the Earth International learned today about the death of Bato Bagi, a passionate campaigner against the controversial Bakun Dam and a friend of our colleagues in Malaysia. Below is their statement.

Bapa Bato BagiIt is with great sadness that we at Friends of the Earth Malaysia wish to inform you that our long time comrade, warrior and friend, Bato Bagi, one of the main crusaders in the Bakun Dam case passed away peacefully yesterday evening after a short fight against leukaemia.


We are extremely saddened by this sudden turn of events, especially when the Bakun legal action, which he has brought forward fearlessly, will probably be determined by the federal court this coming August. Bapa Bato never lost hope that justice will one day be served for the Bakun-affected communities. 


Bapa Bato Bagi, as known by all – is made of extraordinary strength, courage, kindness and generosity. Of course there is also that unforgettable wit, spoken with his distinct, booming voice. We have all been touched and inspired by him in so many different ways. To have been allowed to work with and for him is the sort of sacred privilege that one can only receive with humility and gratitude.


May his good soul rest in peace.


Find out more about the Bakun Dam case

Jun 30, 2011

Creating a Nuclear Power Free Asia Pacific

by PhilLee — last modified Jun 30, 2011 02:11 PM
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Members of Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific, currently holding their annual general meeting in Seoul, South Korea, have issued a declaration for a nuclear free future.

Several months after the Fukushima nuclear disaster, we are beginning to get a sense of the likely long-term impacts.

Radiation has spread across much of the northern hemisphere and parts of the southern hemisphere. Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency estimates the radioactive release at 770,000 terabecquerels in the first week of the crisis. Total radiation releases will probably fall somewhere between 10−40% of those from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. Radiation releases have not been stopped and will continue for some months.

The long-term cancer death toll will probably be somewhere between several hundred and several thousand. For comparison, a reasonable estimate of the Chernobyl death toll is 30,000.

Allowable radiation dose limits in Japan have been thrown out the window, both for emergency workers and for the general public.

Estimates of the economic costs of the disaster range from $50 billion to $130 billion − but it wouldn't be surprising if the true costs are considerably greater.

Between 100,000 and 150,000 people cannot return to their homes because of radioactive contamination. Some may be able to return before the end of this year but permanent relocation is a likely outcome for those who lived in the most contaminated regions. Legal and political battles will take decades to play out.

Globally, the nuclear power 'renaissance' has taken a big hit. Germany, Italy and Switzerland have decided to abandon nuclear power in favour of renewable energy sources. Plans to introduce or expand nuclear power in many other countries have taken a big backwards step.

Nuclear power has no part in building a climate-friendly and sustainable future.

A large and growing number of scientific studies have detailed the wide range of energy supply and energy efficiency options that can be deployed to meet energy demand while sharply reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

The claim that nuclear power is a necessary or desirable part of the fight against climate change must be rejected. Nuclear power is at most a very partial and problematic response and presents unresolved and unacceptable problems.

Uranium is the first link in the toxic nuclear fuel chain, and is the primary source of radioactive materials used in nuclear reactors and nuclear weapons. Many uranium mines have had serious adverse impacts on the environment and the communities that live near them.

Nuclear power plants around the world have already experienced many problems caused by natural and man-made disasters which are likely to become more frequent and more severe as a result of climate change − as seen in Japan. The nuclear industry has been very slow to address these problems. Meanwhile the nuclear power industry continues to survive because of huge taxpayer subsidies.

Hazardous radioactive wastes are generated at every stage of the nuclear fuel cycle. There is not a single permanent repository for spent fuel or high-level nuclear waste anywhere in the world.

In addition to the risk of accidents, nuclear power reactors are vulnerable to disasters from sabotage, terrorism, or the use of conventional forces to attack nuclear facilities during war.

Nuclear power is the one and only energy source with a direct and repeatedly-demonstrated connection to the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Doubling nuclear output by the middle of the century would require the construction of 800-900 reactors to replace most of the existing cohort of reactors and to build as many again. These reactors would produce over one million tonnes of nuclear waste (in the form of spent fuel) containing enough plutonium to build over one million nuclear weapons.

These are some of the very clear reasons why we MUST reject the nuclear industry.

A clean energy future, based primarily on renewable energy and energy efficiency and conservation measures, is viable, safe and affordable.

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific is calling for Government's in our region like Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Australia to transition into nuclear free societies.

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific region will pursue a nuclear free world as a region and in our individual countries.

We urge the citizens of Asian Pacific region to join us in taking action to build a nuclear free world.

Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific
Thursday 30 June 2011
Seoul, Korea

Jun 21, 2011

Solidarity for Greenpeace Arctic activists

by PhilLee — last modified Jun 21, 2011 11:40 AM

On Friday 17 June, 2011, Kumi Naidoo, the head of Greenpeace international, and fellow activist Ulvar Arnkvaern, were arrested as he climbed an Arctic oil rig operated by Cairn Energy. He was following in the footsteps of 20 other Greenpeace activists who had gone before him in the past two weeks.

Kumi and Ulvar climbed the oil rig, situated 120 km off Greenland coast line, with the aim of handing over a petition signed by 50,000 people from all over the world demanding Cairn publish their oil spill response plan.

They wanted to personally call on Cairn to leave the Arctic.

Speaking moments prior to his arrest Kumi said:

"I did this because Arctic oil drilling is one of the defining environmental battles of our age. I'm an African but I care deeply about what’s happening up here. The rapidly melting cap of Arctic sea ice is a grave warning to all of us."

Friends of the Earth International stands in solidarity with Kumi Naidoo and all the activists arrested during the action. We extend our solidarity to all those who take a stand against against unsustainable practices. We support the right of local communities to reject and resist extractive industry operations that threaten their health and livelihoods. 


We challenge the world's governments to redirect their support towards economic alternatives that could take us towards equitable and sustainable societies. At the same time, we call upon people everywhere to think critically and creatively about what they really need to consume and produce.


Find out more about our work on resisting mining, oil and gas.

Jun 20, 2011

Japan earthquake and tsunami appeal update

by PhilLee — last modified Jun 20, 2011 03:38 PM
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Just over three months since the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan, our group in the country have been reporting back on how the money you donated has been spent.

Peace Boat would like to express our appreciation for the donation of JPY 938,000 received from Friends of the Earth International for its Earthquake & Tsunami Relief Efforts in the city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture.

The donation has been utilized to support our purchase of mud cleaning equipment for our volunteer Tsunami Mud & Small Debris Clearance initiative. Since March 16, this project has resulted in the clearance of over 500 homes and other buildings, including schools, retirement homes and shops, and miles of streets and drains.


The activity has directly impacted over 2500 people (those whose home and businesses were cleared) and thousands more in the wider community who have benefited from the improved environment and the re-opening of local shops and public buildings.

Speaking about the work of Peace Boat, local resident Sakuma Ikuko said:

"I have nightmares about the tsunami every night. I get swallowed up by the waves and the moment that I think I’m going to die, I wake up. When I do wake up, all I see out of the window are the endless mountains of debris. A darkness was beginning to consume me and I didn’t think I could make it through. But then, I saw the young Peace Boat volunteers, with their boundless energy, partaking in sludge and debris removal. They gave me courage and the drive not to give up. That is what Peace Boat gave me."


Find out more about the recovery work

Peace Boat Japan
The Japan Chernobyl Foundation

Jun 13, 2011

YFOE is joining the worldwide actions against nuclear power

by PhilLee — last modified Jun 13, 2011 09:46 PM
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On 11th June 2011, 3 months after the tsunami in Japan, the Fukushima power plant hasn’t been fixed and there is still 90,000 people living in temporary shelters. Marco Cadena from Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, blogs from the UN climate talks in Bonn.

yfoee action bonnOrganisations around the world joined the day of action, and there were thousands of people on the streets of Tokyo and many more solidarity actions around the world.


Participants at Young Friends of the Earth Europe climate justice seminar also took action in Bonn during the UN climate talks. The seminar’s aim is to inform and inspire youth around Europe about the issues surrounding the efforts to tackle climate change.

Part of the issues in the big web of problems is false solutions. Many proposals are out there that are trying to solve the climate crisis but for different reasons many of them have not proven, and in some cases there is the possibility that they would cause more damage than help.

One of the false solutions is nuclear energy

Rich countries are using the argument that if we need to switch to non-emitting energy sources, nuclear is the only way to keep providing the electricity needed for our societies. However, events like the recent disaster in Japan show how vulnerable and fragile is the security of nuclear energy.

Even without earthquakes, nuclear waste has incredibly long decay time, meaning that it will be very difficult for future societies to deal with nuclear waste. We just simply don’t know how much trouble we cause in a long run.

There are good solutions that sometimes get ignored by the nuclear and oil lobby. Renewable energy, such as wind and solar power are clean, harmless and infinite source of energy that could solve the current crisis if we act quickly.

However, rich countries are already consuming way too much energy and natural resources with excessive and irresponsible lifestyle. Developed countries need to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions, their natural resource consumption, and their energy consumption.

Instead of emphasising on promoting business as usual, it is time for people, the private sector and governments to realise that we need a great change in a way we live and the way we treat our planet.

We have only one planet we share amongst all living things, and we cannot gamble with false solutions that could threaten our entire survival.

yfoee action no nukesSolidarity action

The solidarity action on 11th June by participants on the YFOE climate justice seminar sends the message to governments that young people demand true solutions to the climate crisis.

Investing in nuclear is essentially a gamble with the future and with the lives of young people, who are representing the next generation. They are the most vulnerable, as they will have to deal with the problems what nuclear power will cause in few decades.

YFOEE also took action in December, during the COP16 Climate Talks in Cancun.

New era of energy use

We do have the technology and knowledge to leave behind the old fossil and nuclear age and shift it into a renewable age, where people live in harmony with nature and each other.

There is a long and difficult way to get there, as governments and companies are not necessarily willing to share these technologies with vulnerable countries.

Therefore, youth around the world need to be actively involved in all these debates, and information and knowledge sharing is essential for their empowerment. In fact, it’s the first step on the way of forming active networks, where people connect and self organise in order to take active role in shaping our and the planet’s future.

May 17, 2011

The Second Nuclear Emergency in Japan

by PhilLee — last modified May 17, 2011 03:03 PM
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Friends of the Earth Japan are calling on you to sign their petition calling on the government to roll back reckless radiation limits and protect hundreds of thousands of Japanese children from a lifetime of cancer fear.

Japan's people desperately need help to ensure their children are safe from radiation exposure. Please support them by taking action now!


After you sign the petition, you will receive a confirmation email. To complete your action, click the link in the email to confirm your signature.


Thank you

Apr 29, 2011

Cleaning up after the tsunami

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 29, 2011 01:50 PM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

April 19, 2011

japan clean up 1I joined the volunteer groups, composed of around 200 people, organised by the Peace Boat last weekend and went to Ishinomaki, around 15 km from Sindai City. What we found there was still the misery sight that should have been gone already, as it has been more than one month since when the earthquake and the tsunami had happened. But the situation still needed more and more support to remove debris and sludge, or the very first-step for revival.

japan clean up 2japan clean up 3One of the main activities we engaged in was to scrape sludge out of the houses affected by tsunami. After being equipped with helmets, dust-proof masks, safety boots, and so on, we left for one shopping arcade in Ishinomaki. They said that the black muddy stream had swallowed up to the height of the 1st floor ceiling in the area only  within 20 minutes after the strong earthquake.

My group helped a coffee shop and a dental office over the weekend. We devoted ourselves to our work, having blessed them to start their work again as a master of the cafe and a dentist as early as possible. After removing the sludge into many sandbags, carrying out the muddy furniture, electrical appliances, and child toys etc., and wiping mud away, we could finally saw the surface of the floor after all two days.

“Arigatou ne (“Thank you very much” in Japanese)!” “Hontou ni Tasukatta yo (“You really helped us a lot” in Japanese)!” said the local people in the shopping arcade to us when we were about to leave there. Tears welled up in my eyes. I strongly believed again that each of us could do something even in a small way, which could piled up and became the big support for the local people to reconstruct their lives and communities.


Apr 26, 2011

Thoughts from a Fukushima resident

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 26, 2011 10:36 AM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

Nuclear power is unwanted and unnecessary.  Life within our means!
We do not need to make life more convenient.  Life without damaging someone!
There's not enough to use energy unlimitedly.  Life that children are not frightened!

The triple blow of the large earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident are now depriving the people of Fukushima, my home town, of foundation for living.  There are villages that decided to evacuate pregnant women, toddlers and babies. Vulnerable people who cannot line up for gasoline at a gas station are being forced to endure difficult living conditions with growing anxiety.

The nuclear accident is a man-made disaster. It is thought that Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), pro-nuclear politicians and academics are to blame for the accident, but that is not all.

The fact is that fifty years ago Fukushima Prefecture invited the electric power company to build nuclear power plants in order to promote regional development. The local anti-nuclear energy movement requested countermeasures against tsunamis but this did not happen. This is totally different from what happens in the United States. 

It may be a consequence of our choice and giving our silent approval. We should not only blame TEPCO and the government without understanding the point. It may be said that we made this disaster ourselves as we believed everything the politicians said.

What's the solution?

Providing energy education to learn nuclear power objectively and knowledge and wisdom to protect life is necessary. Reviewing a monopoly system of electric power companies to divide them into a generation company, a transmission company and a distribution company, and establishing a territorially distributed system of electric power supply. 

Let people choose their energy. Using different heat sources for residences. An oil stove is useful in case of disaster. Full electrification is easily affected by power failures. Reviewing electricity payment methods for electric power at peak times.

I feel so sad that the sea and fields in my home town have been contaminated in return for a convenient and gorgeous life in the Tokyo metropolitan area. "I don’t mind darkened stores." "Stores do not have to open 365 days a year. Revive regular holidays."  "Until now, it was too convenient and too bright." I hear those words spoken earnestly.

The nuclear accident triggers us to look into our daily lives and change the structure.  I will take actions praying for the repose of disaster victims in my home town.

Apr 20, 2011

Anti-mining leader from El Salvador wins the Goldman Prize

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 20, 2011 12:00 AM

Francisco Pineda of the Environmental Committee of Cabañas, El Salvador has won the 2011 Goldman Prize for Francisco Pineda for his work in stopping a gold mine from destroying El Salvador’s dwindling water resources and the livelihoods of rural communities throughout the country.

Francisco Pineda - goldman prize winnerCESTA / Friends of the Earth El Salvador has worked closely with Francisco and the Environmental Committee of Cabañas.


Ricardo Navarro, the Director of CESTA, expressed his joy at Francisco's achievement and said that such recognition will strengthen the community and organisations' struggle to prevent mining exploitation in El Salvador. 


Find out more about Francisco Pineda


Apr 15, 2011

"STOP Nuclear Power Plants!" say 15,000 Tokyo demonstrators

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 15, 2011 11:40 AM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

Shouting, singing, and dancing, the participants expressed their own opinion about the nuclear power plants in various passionate ways. Last Sunday, April 10, I joined one anti-nuclear power action at Kouenji, one of the towns in Tokyo. Around 15,000 people gathered for this, the biggest demonstration against nuclear power plants in Japan after the triple-disaster of March 11.


Most of the participants in the action were in their 20’s and 30’s, including some parents with their children. There were also many people who were taking part in their first demonstration.   


"When could we change this situation, if not now?” "We don’t want to leave

this kind of big risk and burden behind for our children." These were the thoughts that moved more and more people to join in the demonstration. Many people found out about it through Twitter and the internet.


There were anti-nuclear actions in other Japanese cities on that day. I have a feeling the demonstrations will spread across the country.


Coverage of the demonstrations

“STOP Nuclear Power”  Action @ Kouenji on April 10, 2011-part 2


“STOP Nuclear Power”  Action @ Kouenji on April 10, 2011-part 1



Apr 14, 2011

Messages from Japanese citizens to the world

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 14, 2011 10:27 AM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

Smile a cheerful smile !
Let today and again tomorrow be filled with your beaming smiles !!

Tell us about something wonderful you met today.
Tell us about something happy you got today.
Let your smiles be spread all over the world again today.

Your smile will surely put new life into all of us !!



I just happened to be at my cousin's home with my daughter when the first

strong earthquake hit North-west Japan. We felt quite a strong quake and I held the kids tightly until the quake stopped.


All the kids started to cry "Scary!!"


Calming down the kids, we couldn't stop watching TV... it was just like a

fiction disaster movie but it was all real. Also one of my best friends was

in Ishinomaki for a business trip, where had fatal tsunami hit. He came back

five days after the disaster by luck.


I couldn't sleep at all that night, I just prayed things would not get worse in

the midst of the frequent aftershocks.


If I were out for work on that day as usual and left my 22-month old

daughter at the child day care....? If something worst happened at the

Fukushima nuclear plant...?


Such thoughts kept giving me a shudder and I couldn't let my child away from

me even after the day care restarted.


It was extremely difficult to sort out the information for the first week

(it is still difficult though, and maybe getting worse), however,  I decided to follow my instinct as a mother and evacuate to my hometown in the south-west region!


So far, I'm satisfied with my decision to leave Tokyo for a while.

The biggest reason is now I'm free from the extraordinary tension in Tokyo.

I didn't notice that I was under such way-out stress until I left there.


Here I've got a sense of self-composure to join and organise some charity events. I just came back from the kids' English lesson and now I've become keenly aware that the smile of children always gives adults the right direction.


Last but not least at all, I truly appreciate so much for care and prayers from all over the world. Also, let me apologise for radioactive pollution from Fukushima. A lot of ordinary Japanese citizens feel that we shoulder part of the responsibility as we've neglected its danger in order to enjoy a semblance of quality of life. Nuclear is not a necessary evil any more but an absolute evil!




One Day in Fukushima City

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 14, 2011 03:33 PM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

one day in fukushimaOn April 11, I visited Fukushima City with two activists from Citizens Against Fukushima Aging Nuclear Power Plants (Fukuro-no-Kai). We met four members from Fukushima Citizen’s Conference for Reconstruction from Nuclear Disaster, a citizen’s group established immediately after the events of March 3. 


We spoke about how we can convey their voices to the Parliament and Government of Japan and the possibility of further collaboration. As they spoke under the stress, the sense of duty for immediate actions and the stress and the ongoing fear of radioactive contamination / exposure, each and every word weighed heavily. 


During the meeting, there was a very strong earthquake. We interrupted our meeting as the TV reported that Fukushima Daiichi had lost its power sources. Several strong earthquakes were felt afterwards, but people didn’t seem to care, they just continued talking. I think they have become accustomed to the quakes.


Fukushima Citizen’s Conference for Reconstruction from Nuclear Disaster have been monitoring the amount of radiation at several schools and kindergartens in Fukushima and the southern part of Miyagi. As a result, some high values were monitored in some playgrounds. They aim to request and pressure the local government to monitor thoroughly and conduct necessary actions by presenting the data monitored by the citizens. Their intention was partly realised, as Fukushima Prefecture began the radiation monitoring at more than a thousand schools. Citizens Against Fukushima Aging Nuclear Power Plants (Fukuro-no-Kai) have collaborated by providing the Geiger counters and utilising the monitoring of results at a national level.


During our meeting, the activists stressed the following:


- People in Fukushima have accepted Nuclear Power Plants, which meant that we put priority on money over life and safety. This disaster is a direct consequence of it. It is the time to reverse the order. We have been struggling to change our society, which does not want to move under severe pressure and stress. But we must change.  We would like to build a foundation of the future society for our children.


- We feel a sense of urgency when we see children playing in the rain without umbrellas.


- The government should evacuate the children from all schools where high amounts of radiation have been recorded. The governmental support is indispensable, thus, it must provide for the coordination of host communities and financial support”


- Independent monitoring by citizen's group is very important, but we do not have a sufficient number of Geiger counters and any measurement instruments for food and soil contamination. We need international support to continue our activism.


Further information

Apr 06, 2011

Home of respected Colombian Professor raided

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 06, 2011 04:36 PM
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Friends of the Earth International is greatly concerned by the news of a raid, by the Colombian army, on the house of Mario Mejia Gutierrez, a well-known Professor of Latin American Agroecology. We have been informed that a group of 70 Colombian military personnel participated in the raid. They caused severe damage to the property.

Mario Mejia GutierrezMario Mejía has become a leader of the Latin American agroecology and environmental movement because of his contributions in developing an agroecological way that respects environmental and cultural heritage. His publications are read by many.

In his home in San Antonio, Valle del Cauca, Professor Mario Mejia has developed the important work of protecting the water springs that provide drinking water to nearly 35 families. In addition he's been involved in reforestation work, a rural school, and workshops for peasant groups. Thousands of people have visited his house in order to learn environmentally friendly practices.

With his own resources he's built lodgings, dry toilets and wooden stoves which were seriously damaged by the raid.

We demand the Colombian authorities investigate these incidents and guarantee the human rights of the Professor, and those he works with, and that he is compensated for the damage caused to his property.

Apr 05, 2011

Life in a city, 40 km from Fukushima

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 05, 2011 12:09 PM

Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

I would like to introduce an essay from one of our friends, who lives in Iwaki City, 40 km from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

japan earthquake tsunami 2Two weeks after the hydrogen explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant building, we've returned to Iwaki City at last. Iwaki is 40 km away from the Fukushima plant and is neither within the 20 km evacuation zone nor within the 30 km safety zone.


However, immediately after the nuclear explosion following the earthquakes and tsunamis, we were not able to determine the degree of risks involved and evacuated to Ibaraki Prefecture, 160 km from Iwaki city.


My wife works at a high school, 34 km from the Fukushima plant. Two days after the evacuation, she insisted on returning to Iwaki City. I was against this. At the time, there'd been a second hydrogen explosion. Upon hearing about this, my wife still persisted with her plans to return and we began to quarrel. One hour after the second explosion, the school finally got in contact with her with an official notice to stay on stand-by and not to return, my wife conceded.


I was relieved to settle this matter. We then began to worry about our cat that was left behind. This cat, being semi-wild, lies idly during the day in the neighboring field and returns home at night. We were certain that she would take refuge in the field and was not likely to starve, thus the problem was her radiation exposure.


The radiation monitoring began in Iwaki City and was reported to be about 1 micro sieverts per hour (Sv/h) in the atmosphere above normal levels. The soil contamination too appears relatively serious. As our cat lives in the field, she must be covered with the dirt. I wonder how much she has been exposed to.


Two weeks later as we returned to Iwaki city, our cat was fortunately alive and well. I wondered what she had been eating. We brought her into the bathroom immediately and washed her with some cat-shampoo. So as not to bring the radioactive material into the house, we had initially decided to wash her outside. However, the joy of finding her alive left us with no such reason.


The hardest part came afterwards. The cat naturally wants to go outside; she kept crying so that we could not keep her indoors any longer. As we told her, "outside you will be exposed to radiation", she would not listen and began rolling around in the field again.


Like many cats, our cat too dislikes getting wet; therefore we cannot wash her every day. We ourselves are wearing masks when outside and we take our clothes off in the entrance hall so as not to bring the radiation material into our bedroom. But is it any good at all if the cat comes in full of dirt?


Thus far when we brought her inside our home, we used disposable body-towels. However, since these towels are relatively expensive, and do not come in large amounts, we opted to use baby-wipes. We soak them very lightly and wipe her three times and needless to say they are then discarded.


We are well aware of the radiation risks and have some knowledge. Yet as we restart our lives, we end up not thinking of this risks as everyday needs and emotional needs take over. People living outside the immediate danger are far more sensitive to such risks. In fact, prior to our return to Iwaki City, our family members and friends living outside Fukushima Prefecture were very concerned and strongly opposed our return.


Despite this, my wife decided to return out of her sense of duty and out of her guilt for left behind. While I, with my affection for our cat, selfishly reasoned that "the plant will not explode immediately," "we can secure the gasoline if needed," "1 micro Sv/h does not present a high risk," and so on.


Upon returning, we found the shelves of the supermarket empty and about 100 cars lined up at the gas station. Yet here the sky is blue, and so ordinary is our everyday it makes it difficult to believe that only 40 km from here are the damaged nuclear plants.


Whether our cat is exposed to radiation is still unknown, and recently we nicknamed her Sievert. More accurately, as the cat is treated as a nuclear material, Becquerel is appropriate. Therefore, we thought of calling her Becky, however, my wife thought Sievert prettier and there was no use in arguing.


By continuing this life, the risk of radiation will be forgotten unless the situation worsens at the plants or until the onset of cancer emerges. I wonder for those who have settled here for good, this may well be a happier life.


Even if her life ends prematurely, our cat might be content to roll around in the field as usual. I too am defeated by my own emotion and no longer troubled by the thought of letting our cat into our home even if this means shortening my life a little.


Photo credit: DigitalGlobe

Apr 04, 2011

Constructing temporary houses in Japan

by PhilLee — last modified Apr 04, 2011 03:00 PM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

Building new homes in japanIt has been three weeks since the earthquake and tsunami hit Touhoku and Kanto area. In Miyagi prefecture, the construction of temporary houses
has started for people whose homes were completely destroyed or washed away.

In Iwanuma City, the first 100 houses are under construction and another 58 will be added. In Miyagi Prefecture 10,000 houses will be constructed and, as of April 1, 2300 houses are already in the process of being built.

In Yamamoto town, consultations for residents were held, but information is said to be insufficient. For example, it's not known whether there's an option to move into temporary housing into other prefectures (districts). It will be a long way from fully satisfying people's needs. But at the same time, local officials are working so hard for the people.

japan earthquake tsunami notice boardIwanuma City Hall

In Iwanuma City Hall, since the earthquake and tsunami occurred, a disaster centre has been established under the Mayor's initiative. When I visited the centre the staff seemed to be busy with recovering the bodies. They have been sleeping in the City Hall since the disaster to deal with huge loss and damage that has been gradually unfolding. The health condition of the workers is a serious concern. 




Top photo: Construction begins in Iwanuma City. Bottom: A message board in Iwanuma City

Mar 30, 2011

Social and economic impacts caused by nuclear accidents becoming evident

by PhilLee — last modified Mar 30, 2011 12:20 PM
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Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

On 24 March a 64-age vegetable farmer in Fukushima committed suicide. It was just one day after the Japanese government declared restrictions on  eating several kinds of vegetables produced in Fukushima and neighbouring areas.

He had a cabbage patch growing 7500 cabbages. According to Mainichi Newspaper, his son said 'If we did not have the nuclear accidents, he would still be here today.'

In addition, last night, I saw on the NHK news that a very old Ryokan (Japanese Inn) in Fukushima was closed for the first time in more than 100 years due to cancellations after nuclear accidents.

The Ryokan was not affected by earthquake and tsunami, but it was 60km from the nuclear plants, outside of the evacuation zone. Rooms were fully booked up until mid-May. However, they were all cancelled after the nuclear accidents.

These are the stories covered by the major Japanese media, but I guess there are hundreds or thousands of similar stories.

It's really difficult to describe how I feel about this story.. It's just so sad. Those affected can ask for compensation or help from TEPCO, or the  government, but life will never be how it was before the accident.


Mar 24, 2011

No more than two bottles of water per person

by PhilLee — last modified Mar 24, 2011 12:55 PM
Filed Under:

Our colleagues at Friends of the Earth Japan are writing a blog on life after the earthquake and tsunami. They will be documenting how they, and fellow citizens, are rebuilding their lives and addressing some of the issues that have arisen as the country recovers from its biggest crisis since World War II.

Japan blog-water-2On 2Japan blog-water-13 March the Japanese government announced not only vegetables, such as spinach produced in Fukushima, but also tap water in Tokyo is contaminated with radioactive materials.

Although the level of contamination is said to be only risky to babies, and it does not pose an immediate threat in any way, especially to adults, many people scrambled for bottled water.


I went to a shop to get water on my way home, but, too late.... No bottled water! Just tea and other sweet drinks were left. Instead I got one bottle of oolong tea. 





Photos: A fridge in a Tokyo shop cleared out of water, and a sign rationing water to two bottles per person.


Feb 21, 2011

Solidarity for our missing colleague in Colombia

by PhilLee — last modified Feb 21, 2011 05:39 PM
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Friends of the Earth International is extremely concerned about the disappearance of our colleague from Friends of the Earth Colombia. Below is a statement on the situation. We will be updating you shortly on how you can help.

We, Friends of the Earth Latin America and the Caribbean - a regional organization member of Friends of the Earth International, a federation of 76 member groups around the world - hereby express our deepest concern for the well-being of Sandra Viviana Cuellar Gallego, a young environmental activist who disappeared on February 17, near Puente del Comercio, in the exit towards Palmira, in Cali, Colombia.



We demand the Colombian authorities to take urgent measures to find our colleague as soon as possible, to protect her life and speed up her search. We are following this concerning and saddening incident closely within our federation.

Jan 03, 2011

The betrayal at Cancun

by PhilLee — last modified Jan 03, 2011 12:15 PM
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Chair of Friends of the Earth International Nnimmo Bassey writes about the outcome of the UN climate summit that took place in Cancun, Mexico last month.

March of the Campesinos, cancunIt was obvious to observers that the climate negotiations at Cancun were wired to support commerce rather than tackling the climate crisis that the world is confronted with. This trend took solid steps a year earlier at the summit in Copenhagen when a handful of nations sidestepped the multilateral tradition of the United Nations and working through “green rooms” away from the conference floor concocted the so-called Copenhagen Accord instead.

The Copenhagen Accord could not be adopted at the end of the 2009 conference for the basic reason that majority of country delegations did not know how it was crafted and on what basis. Countries like Bolivia and Venezuela stood resolutely against it and that conference only agreed to take note that such a document existed.

The fact that the Accord was not adopted as a conference outcome did not deter its authors, principally the United States, from working behind the scenes, bilaterally, to get several countries to endorse it. Some analysts have said that the endorsement was achieved through arm-twisting tactics and promises of financial and other aids. Those who refused to yield were sanctioned by way of having climate or environment assistance cut.

From the beginning of the Cancun negotiations, signals were sent that its essence was to elevate the Copenhagen Accord to the level of being the conference outcome. The first salvo was fired by the delegation of Papua New Guinea who declared that a few nations with divergent votes from the majority must not prevent the conference from reaching a decision. They suggested that if a consensus became impossible a decision should be made by a vote. This position, as noted in an earlier article on Cancun, was immediately objected to by the delegations of Bolivia, India, Saudi Arabia and others.

At the end of the Cancun summit, with the Copenhagen Accord now dressed in new garbs, there was no consensus for its adoption. Not to be deterred, the Mexican presidency of the conference banged the gavel repeatedly on her table and rammed the document through, after redefining consensus as not necessarily meaning unanimity.

Empty promises

Nations yelped and cheered. Cancun had delivered; they enthused and backslapped each other. But what did Cancun deliver and how will the planet fare under the scenario set by what has been termed Copenhagen Accord 2?

The conference outcome avoided legally binding emissions reduction targets for the main polluting nations - the rich industrialised countries - and rather urges a voluntary pledge based system with no monitoring mechanisms. From recent WikiLeaks regarding discussions in France, it is clear that the rich countries are determined not to make binding commitments to act for the safety of the planet.

Looking for something to celebrate, some countries latched on the promise to create a Climate Fund within the United Nations climate change framework but having the World Bank as a trustee. The promised climate fund did not specify how the funds would be sourced.

The agreement did not review subsisting intellectual property regime that does not freely allow the exchange of green technology. It took big steps in paving the way for new market based mechanisms that would allow for speculation and avoidance of actions to reduce emissions at source and generally position the planet at great risks of catastrophic climate change.

Teresa Andersen of the Gaia Foundation, who wrote about the manner the Cancun conference ended, captures the disbelief of critical observers:

"We sat in disbelief as the crowds leapt to their feet, cheering, applauding, whooping and whistling the Mexican chair of the Cancun climate negotiations. Mexico’s foreign secretary, Patricia Espinosa, graciously bowed her head, her hands crossed over her heart in an authoritarian simulation of modesty, as we shook our heads, open-mouthed, at the eerie frenzy taking place around us. In the last hours of the Cancun climate negotiations, the world’s deluded leaders were cheering as they tossed the planet onto the bonfire."

According to Teresa, "The Cancun Agreement, we are told, has “saved multilateralism”. What it has not done though, is offer any meaningful solution to climate change. As it stands, the Cancun Agreement could mean global temperature rises of up to 5 degrees centigrade, and a possible 6.5 degrees in Africa."

Friends of the Earth International's initial analysis of the Cancun outcome sees the prospects of opening new market mechanisms as potentially creating practices that are more harmful to the climate than current ones.

We believe the establishment of one or more market-based mechanisms over the course of the next year is to be considered, with a view to taking a decision to adopt these new mechanisms at COP 17 in South Africa. The new mechanisms could include a number of different types of instruments, some of which would be more destructive than others.

Little gains

All was not lost in Cancun. Social movements pushed the path of climate justice in various venues in Cancun. The government of Bolivia, which had facilitated a Peoples Conference on climate change and the Rights of Mother Earth in April 2010, stood with the people, pushing the right analysis and solutions, right to the end of the conference.

Social and climate justice movements clearly stated that the causes of climate change are systemic and that the only way to tackle the climate crisis is through a change of the capitalist and patriarchal system that caused it.

With the clear indication that rich nations are not keen to tackle climate change, but would rather make bogus promises that poor vulnerable nations unfortunately lap up, it is doubtful if the 2011 conference to be hosted in Durban, South Africa, will produce anything different from Copenhagen and Cancun.

The South African government has dubbed COP17 the Peoples COP. It will be seen whether the voices of the people will prevail or if corporations and their surrogate politicians will hold sway in their market-based chariots.