Apr 22, 2013
Environmental justice NGO Friends of the Earth South Africa/ groundWork is celebrating Earth Day today by launching its latest publication 'Unpacking Climate Change: Background notes to the catastrophe' in an e-book version online. This year's Earth Day theme is “The face of climate change”, looking at how climate change is affecting real people and environments throughout the world, and how people are stepping up to take action to stop it.
Written by groundWork associate researcher David Hallowes, the guide aims to help readers work through the jargon and engage with the global debate on an issue that is already majorly impacting upon people today.
Climate change is just one dimension of global ecological change forced by the massive scale of industrialisation powered by the fossil fuels: coal, oil and gas. The scale of change is such that scientists are calling this the beginning of a new geological epoch – the Anthropocene. Almost as scary as climate change is the jargon that comes with it. This short guide is intended to let people know what is happening and to make the debate more accessible.
This online version of Unpacking Climate Change is interactive, enabling readers to engage in critical discussion with groundWork around the issue of climate change and the various points raised by this publication.
 groundWork is an environmental justice organisation working with community people from around South Africa, and increasingly Southern Africa, on environmental justice and human rights issues focusing on Air Quality, Climate and Energy Justice, Waste and Environmental Health. groundWork is the South African member of Friends of the Earth International www.groundwork.org.za
 To read the e-book, visit http://www.groundwork.org.za/Unpacking%20climate%20change%20for%20web/Unpacking%20climate%20change%20for%20web.pdf
 For more information on the Earth Day Network and what they have planned this year, visit the website at http://www.earthday.org/2013/
 David Hallowes is a Durban-based researcher focusing on climate and energy. His most recent publication Toxic Futures: South Africa in the Crises of Energy, Environment and Capital was published in 2011 by UKZN Press.
Apr 18, 2013
Social movements in Guatemala are being increasingly criminalized, repressed, intimidated and subjected to human rights abuses, according to representatives of indigenous and feminist social movements.
Guatemala has increasingly opened its doors to European investors, which has resulted in mounting pressure on local communities and the environment, and has led to land grabs and human rights violations. This is often done in collaboration with the government, according to the representatives, in a rush to exploit the nation's gold and nickel deposits, and land for sugar and palm oil development.
The current government wants to introduce a policy of terrorism and repression – pursuing and illegally incarcerating people from social movements. Natalia Atz Sunuc, Friends of the Earth Guatemala said: "Campesinos and indigenous people are labelled as 'terrorists' for defending their basic human rights in a peaceful way".
Paula del Cid, representative of the Feminist Alliance of Guatemala said: "in a context of mandatory evictions, the role of the army is increasing, and sexual abuse is being used as a tool to intimidate women who are defending their land."
In June 2011, forty European parliamentarians denounced the situation in Guatemala, but the European Union still refuses to take a stand in their trade and investment policies. Civil society organisations based in Brussels – Friends of the Earth Europe, Aprodev, CIFCA and Grupo Sur – call on the European Union to ensure policies include mechanisms to monitor and enforce the defence of human rights.
The Spanish company Hidralia Energía, developing dams for hydroelectric power in Santa Cruz de Barillas, Guatemala, began development with neither permission nor consent from indigenous and local communities. This offers a clear example of company and governmental roles in criminalising peasants and indigenous people, while grabbing land to exploit Guatemala's natural resources. Either the Guatemalan or Spanish government must assume their responsibility to respect and protect human rights in Guatemala.