messages of solidarity
Jul 07, 2010
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."
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.
In 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.
Jul 02, 2010
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.
These 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
Letizia, 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.
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.
During 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!
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.
The 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.
Jun 25, 2010
Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific (FoE APAC) is pleased to host the Conference on Forest and Biodiversity, Community Rights and Indigenous Peoples with the theme "Ecological Equity: Sharing the Stories, Reclaiming our Rights", which will take place at the Jerejak Rainforest Resort, Penang, Malaysia, in October 14-17, 2010.
The conference aims to provide a space for indigenous communities from all over the world to share stories about their struggle for ecological equity. While learning from them, the conference will give us the opportunity to share ideas with the communities in order to advance their cause on their rights to forests and biodiversity.
FoE APAC along with FoE Malaysia, in consultation with the FoEI Forests and Biodiversity program are finalising speakers now from indigenous communities in the region.
If you want to express your interest in the conference you can do so by emailing Shujata Shalini firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jun 03, 2010
Justice for the Free Gaza flotilla victims and the Gaza people - end Israeli aggression now!
The women, children and men of Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific are outraged by the Israeli attack on the Free Gaza flotilla and the continued injustice towards the Gaza people. Israeli elite navy corps stormed the ships filled with civilians, killing 19 according to reports and injuring dozens. The attack done on international waters was an act of piracy. This marks the latest attack in an escalation of violence and repression against people standing up against Israeli crimes. Israel has decided to silence, by death or imprisonment, all those ready to speak out.
The Israeli attack was well prepared and according to Israeli news the political establishment had calculated that media backlash was less important than keeping the people in Gaza cut off from the world and humanitarian aid.
Not content with massacres against the Palestinian population, international solidarity is in Israel’s crosshairs now. People telling the true story, people defying the dictates of Israeli racist and colonial laws have become a threat to Israeli apartheid. Ironically, this brutal attack highlights the strength people can have when they are determined to resist power and injustice.
The suffering of the people in Gaza must end now! It is time to end Israeli apartheid, colonialism and aggression!
Hundreds of activists around Asia Pacific and the world protested the raid and the blockade - joining demonstrations around the world. Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific calls on all activists around the world to join in solidarity and hold protests and vigils in memory of the people killed on board the ships.
Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific urges international solidarity groups to work with even more determination to build a strong and effective movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions until Israel respects human rights and international law, and until justice prevails in Palestine.
Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific, calls on the United Nations, the European Commission and the United States of America to:
- Suspend trade agreements with Israel
- Condemn this violation of international law
- Provide humanitarian assistance to participants in the flotilla and act to lift the blockade of Gaza
- Call for the urgent establishment of an independent international commission of inquiry into the attack
The victims on board the Free Gaza flotilla may not be brought back, but with our concerted actions, we can make a difference and claim justice for the victims and stand with our sisters and brothers in Gaza.
May 26, 2010
FoEI Chair Nnimmo Bassey talks about what the recent Cochabamba climate summit in Bolivia meant to him.
May 03, 2010
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: http://www.foe.org/gulf-oil-spill
Apr 24, 2010
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 wrote this blog post.
The last day of the World Peoples Climate Change Conference was remarkable in many ways. The day opened with a dialogue session between governments and peoples. This session clearly showed a convergence between the thinking of governments and peoples with regard to the structural causes of climate change and the ways to tackle it.
In attendance were Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. The Vice President of Cuba, the Foreign Minister of Ecuador and a representative of the United Nations were also in attendance. There were official delegations from 47 countries including those from Paraguay, Panama, Mexico, Georgia, Uruguay, Sierra Leone, Yemen, Brazil, Russia, the United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Spain, Sweden, India, Mali, Nigeria, Mozambique, South Africa, Qatar and South Korea.
The closing session was held at the Cochabamba stadium and the atmosphere was one of a fiesta with reports of the outcome of the working groups and fiery speeches from Presidents Morales and Chavez.
Addressing the Dialogue session, Morales stated that Copenhagen was a failure for those who were not interested in tackling climate change but a success for those fighting to save Mother Earth. He thanked governments present, social movements and international organisations. He then called for “conclusions that would ensure that governments have responsibilities to our peoples.” He also called for the setting up of structures and processes for the defence of Mother Earth at national, regional and global levels. He urged that debates should be transparent and have future generations in mind.
According to the Bolivian Minister for Foreign Affairs the conference was called for the promotion of life or hayaya as they say in Bolivia.
The Minister gave an overview of the workings of the 17 thematic groups during the conference stressing that they started online debates two and a half months before the conference with inputs from scholars, indigenous peoples, civil society groups and social movements. He said that the Bolivian government had actually expected 10,000 to 15,000 participants, but that at the end of the day over 35,000 people from 142 countries participated. Of this number 9,250 were from countries other than Bolivia.
Speaking about aspects of the work he mentioned the need for a climate tribunal where individuals and countries would be held to account for climate crimes. On climate debt, he urged that there was a need to settle it, although, he said, even if countries achieve 100% reduction in carbon emissions today, "we would not recover up to 10% of what has been lost already."
The people have spoken
Four delegates presented preliminary reports from the working groups. Among key resolutions was that the Accord of Cochabamba should be promoted and within this should be a clear recognition of climate debt to be paid without intervention of international financial institutions such as the World Bank. It also called for the promotion of a new development model away from the destructive tendencies of unbridled capitalist modes.
There was a total rejection of market mechanisms in tackling climate change, including REDD and a total rejection of the Copenhagen Accord and its voluntary emissions rejection suggestions and attempt to expand the carbon market. There was also a call for transfer of technology and adequate finance.
The people also resolved that the definition of forests in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) should be reviewed to exclude monoculture plantations. A clear call was also made to leave fossil fuels such as crude oil in the soil and extractions in forests.
Modern biotechnology in agriculture was also denounced with one delegate saying, "Mother Earth is a living being and must not be used as a slave."
The working groups did not always have easy debates, but unlike the UN climate processes they managed to reach conclusions in record time.
The world must not be held to ransom
Responses from governments came from Cuba, Ecuador and Venezuela. The United Nations representative also responded.
The Cuban vice-president conveyed greetings from the president of his country as well as from Fidel Castro. He regretted the inability of governments to frontally tackle climate change, the most urgent threat confronting humanity today. He added that the essence of capitalism was recently revealed when $12 trillion was mobilised to rescue banks and reward financial speculators rather than investing in the urgent need of saving lives and the planet. He regretted that 1 billion of the population of the rich world waste 50% of the world’s energy while 2 billion people do not have access to electricity.
He then called on peoples of the world to ensure that a few rich countries do not hold everyone to ransom over the climate change negotiations.
Keeping our dignity
To Ecuador, climate change ceased being a purely environmental issue years ago. It has become an issue for geo-politics in the world. The foreign minister recognised the role of civil society in finding real solutions as vital. “There can be no serious tackling of climate change without civil society groups involvements,” he said.
Speaking about the arm-twisting strategy of the USA to get governments to agree to the Copenhagen Accord, the foreign minister revealed that the USA withdrew $2.5 million of environmental aid they had pledged to extend to Ecuador because the country refused to endorse the accord.
In response to this the Ecuadorean minister said, "Man shall not live on bread alone, but also in dignity. We cannot allow blackmail to affect our dignity.” As a dignified country, Ecuador has offered to give the USA $2.5 million if they sign the Kyoto Protocol. He called on other countries to add to this offer to urge the USA to sign the protocol.
Responding later to this call, President Chavez said that rather than giving money to the USA such funds should be channeled towards getting people to attend the climate talks coming up in Cancun, Mexico.
The minister urged nations to include the rights of Mother Earth in their constitutions, noting that the Ecuadorian provision allows communities to press for rights on behalf of nature, since nature on its own cannot make such demands at a court of law.
He ended the response from Ecuador by revealing that their proposal to leave the oil in the soil of the Yasuni Park means not extracting over 4000 metric tonnes of crude oil and a loss of $7 billion. He said his country is ready to bear 50% of that loss and that they expect other countries and organisations to share the burden of the other 50%. He urged other nations to adopt this important initiative as a real solution to climate change.
Learning to listen
The key message from the United Nations was that they have learned the vital need of listening to people from the conference in Cochabamba. They came here to listen especially to the voices that are never heard in official circles. "We have learned here to be more open to listen and have better communication with people from all sectors around the world."
They were also happy that the conclusions "fit" the UNFCCC.
We will go to Cancun
In his response, President Chavez thanked President Morales for hosting the conference and added that the Cochabamba conference was a continuation of the battle of Copenhagen. He recalled how both of them were almost denied space to make contributions at the Copenhagen conference and how they persisted and with the support of the Cuban vice president got some space to intervene. The Cochabamba conference was a success and also marked a rise of the moral authority of Bolivia in the climate change struggle, according to him.
He declared that no one would stop him from attending COP16 at Cancun and urged the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) states to mobilise resources to assist as many as should attend the conference in Cancun to do so. He also called for massive dissemination of the outcomes of Cochabamba as a tool for popular education, strategizing and mobilisation for the fight against climate change.
He wondered why human beings considered themselves to be of a higher order than other species whereas we do not see ants or animals declaring war on each other while nations keep destroying each other through wars.
He recalled a saying that the earth is our aircraft, we don’t have another one and yet we are destroying it. For some countries to maintain their current consumption levels we will need five earths, he warned. He also brought to mind an article that Albert Einstein wrote that the future of mankind could only be secured through socialism.
President Chavez thereafter spent time setting out strong arguments for the construction of socialism in countries of the world, each taking cognizance of their specific contexts.
He explained that his commitment to fight for real solutions to climate change: "we are not in a permanent state of rebellion, we are just concerned about the future of the earth."
He concluded by saying that the so-called Copenhagen accord to which 120 countries have been coerced to adopt is of no higher standing than the outcomes of the Cochabamba conference. He urged that if the United Nations allows the voice of The Empire to prevail, then peoples have to take steps to ensure that their voices are heard
Taking up that line, President Morales urged that if governments do not listen to the voice of the people social movements should once more take the lead in bringing about popular revolutions to safe the earth: build alliances and structures across the continents and erect a new paradigm of relations and production that will safe Mother Earth.
He told the gathering that the outcomes of the conference will be handed over to the Secretary General of the United Nations as major document for future climate talks.
This was my first time in Bolivia. A day spent in La Paz saw me panting for breath on account of the elevation of the city above see level. Adjusting to the environment was easy due to the warmth of my hosts and many cups of coca tea.
People were friendly in Cochabamba and the FoEI squad were fantastic. With scant Spanish it was the lot of Cristina Fernandez, a volunteer, to ensure I got to my many destinations on schedule and also to communicate with so many folks that needed to be communicated with. It was a fulfilling time in need.
Looking forward to flying out of La Paz, I recalled the beautiful peaks of the Andes and look forward to flying over Lake Titicaca rated as the highest navigable lake in the world – wishing I could scoop a handful of its water as I fly over it!
To the grassroots we must take the outcomes of Cochabamba, and then to Cancun.
Bolivian President, Evo Morales, invited Friends of the Earth to join him to brief the UN on the latest in international climate talks. Find out more
Apr 21, 2010
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 wrote this blog post.
President Evo Morales of Bolivia did not mince words yesterday when he diagnosed the root cause of climate change as being capitalism and all that it entails. The President was speaking at the formal opening of the first-ever World Peoples Climate Change Summit (CMPCC).
The Tiquipaya stadium, venue of the event, was filled to capacity with about 10,000 people from the nations and continents of the world. Many more milled around the streets outside the stadium while thousands more queued in the town square waiting for accreditation to participate in the conference.
Present on the platform with the President was the Vice President of Burundi, country ambassadors and representatives of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) secretariat. Seventeen thousand participants were expected at this conference but by the end of the second day up to 30,000 had registered.
Victory in Copenhagen
The opening ceremony was colourful in the literal sense with multicoloured flags waving, music by musicians from various countries and rituals carried out by leaders of indigenous peoples of the Americas. There was also poetry (written and read by this writer. See end of this report).
To President Morales, the Copenhagen climate conference was not a failure but a victory. According to him, it was a failure of governments but a victory for the peoples of the world.
"We are here today because the governments of the world could not reach an agreement in Copenhagen on cutting emissions and acting on climate change,” he said.
"If they had reached a just agreement, this gathering would not have been necessary."
According to Morales, capitalism and its pursuit of profits and limitless extraction of resources in a finite world is hastening the disappearance of species, the rise of hunger, melting of glaciers and small island nations may disappear. He added that in the last 100 years, developed countries with 20% of the world’s population have generated over 76% of carbon emissions responsible for climate change.
"Capitalism merchandises everything. It seeks continual expansion. The system needs to be changed. We have to choose between change or death,"
President Morales warned, adding, "Capitalism is the number one enemy of mankind.”
He saw a sustainable future as being possible only through actions of solidarity and complementarities as well as equity and the respect of human rights, right to water and biodiversity – the Rights of Mother Earth – a new system of rights that abolishes all forms of colonialism.
The President condemned the erosion of sustainable and traditional ways of life, indigenous knowledge and wisdom. He also condemned the introduction of genetically engineered crops as well as heavy dependence on chemicals in agriculture.
United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth
The president said that the climate conference was called so that governments and peoples can sit together and fashion out ways to save the earth from climate change resulting from current destructive modes of production and consumption. To him, it is vital for governments to respect the views of social movements and peoples of the world. He called for the decolonisation of the atmosphere and a United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Mother Earth. Such a charter will secure for the people of the world a right to freedom from fear of pollution as well as from fear of contamination of the food chain through genetic engineering.
President Morales called for the building of intercontinental movements, strengthening of international organisations and organisations of indigenous peoples and workers. He reminded the gathering that in recent times nature has been sending strong signals to the world through tsunamis, floods and earthquakes. In addition to these signals, climate change portends more dangers. Urgent action is needed.
In conclusion, the president called on the peoples of the world to act together to save Mother Earth from capitalism: “There are two options before us all, two ways that we must choose from: death to capitalism or death to Mother Earth.”
Mother Earth or Barbarism
Speaking later in the day on a panel that examined the structural causes of climate change, Alvaro Garcia Linera, the Vice President of Bolivia, further explained the concept of Mother Earth. We note here that President Morales attended this session held at the Coliseo of the Univalle and sat among the participants. (That in itself constitutes a message to leaders who need to know that they need to listen and hear what the people are saying.)
"The concept of Mother Earth is not just a slogan. It means a new way of producing, a new way of relationship with nature and with one another,” he said. “This relationship is one of equality and not domination, a relationship of dialogue, of giving and receiving. It is not merely a philosophy or folklore. It is a new ethics, a new way of developing technologies and modes of production."
Recalling a statement by Rosa Luxemburg, "socialism or barbarism," Vice President Linera said that today we could say "Mother Earth or barbarism."
Affirming that capitalism was the root cause of climate change and many of the ills of the world today, Linera said that the system permits oil companies and the military complex to commit genocide, destroy the environment and reap ever-rising profits at the expense of the blood of the people.
"Nothing will change as long as capitalism reigns," he warned. “It is a system that destroys society and nature through the destruction of knowledge and positive productive forces. It is a system without conscience."
Vice President Linera called for the rebuilding of our collective environmental and social consciousness. He also called for the building of an organic relationship with nature where human beings understand that nature has rights and human beings have obligations towards nature.
In an oblique reference to carbon offsets and REDD projects, Linera warned, "We are not forest rangers for those causing pollutions and climate change. This system of indulgences cannot be accepted. It is a system of colonialism. It is not a solution."
Keep the Oil in the Soil
Speaking also on the structural causes of climate change, Maria Espinosa, a minister from Ecuador, said that climate change must not be used as a smokescreen to obscure other problems confronting the world today, including the lingering impacts of the structural adjustment programmes foisted on developing nations by the World Bank and the IMF in the 1980s.
Espinosa informed participants that owing to Ecuador’s refusal to associate with the Copenhagen Accord drawn up by a few countries during COP15, the United States of America government has refused Ecuador an environmental aid of $2.5 million. In response, Ecuador has offered to pay the USA $2.5 million if they sign the Kyoto Protocol.
She also spoke on the Ecuadorian initiative to disallow the exploitation of crude oil in the Yasuni Park, a biodiversity hotspot and home to indigenous peoples. This move will keep 400 million metric tonnes of carbon out of the atmosphere thus offering a real solution to climate change.
Earlier this writer, while speaking on the same panel, had said that the real solution to climate change is the cutting of emissions at source and that rather than waste resources on untested technologies such as those of carbon capture and storage and geo-engineering, the world should quickly move away from the fossil fuels driven civilization. This call is captured in the well-known slogan: leave the oil in the soil, the coal in the hole and the tar sands in the land.
We also stated that the equation of energy security to national security has led some nations into military adventures which apart from being destructive in themselves consume huge fossil fuels and compound the problems of climate change. We also rejected the neoliberal systems that permit the World Bank to parade itself as a climate bank while funding dirty energy projects such as the Eskom coal plant in South Africa and a number of other fossil fuels projects elsewhere. We called for the overturning of corporate power and halting its erosion of peoples’ sovereignty.
Transformation solutions offered included:
- Reclaiming peoples control over their resources
- Building progressive people-oriented governments and power structures and shifting away from capitalist modes of relations
- Direct action to stem climate crimes at source
- Legislation – such as the Rights of Mother Earth
- Litigation and other actions that connect civil society actions in the North and the South. Example the prosecution of Shell in the Netherlands over pollution in Nigeria.
- Leave fossil fuels in the soil
- Reject the Copenhagen Accord
The working groups continued their work throughout yesterday and many other panels with enthusiastic participation.
I will not dance to your beat
(a poem by Nnimmo Bassey)
I will not dance to your beat
If you call plantations forests
I will not sing with you
If you privatise my water
I will confront you with my fists
If climate change means death to me but business to you
I will expose your evil greed
If you don’t leave crude oil in the soil
Coal in the hole and tar sands in the land
I will confront and denounce you
If you insist on carbon offsetting and other do-nothing false solutions
I will make you see red
If you keep talking of REDD and push forest communities away from their land
I will drag you to the Climate Tribunal
If you pile up ecological debt
& refuse to pay your climate debt
I will make you drink your own medicine
If you endorse genetically modified crops
And throw dust into the skies to mask the sun
I will not dance to your beat
Unless we walk the sustainable path
And accept real solutions & respect Mother Earth
Unless you do
I will not &
We will not dance to your beat
Cochabamba, Tiquipaya, Bolivia
20 April 2010
Read at the opening ceremony of the World Peoples Climate Conference Summit.
Apr 20, 2010
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
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
Some 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.
- Read our press release on the summit
- Listen to Nnimmo's speech the summit
- Go to the official website of the summit
- Find out more about our work on climate justice
Mar 29, 2010
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.
Mar 09, 2010
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.
Please support the Halmahera people by signing the petition on Friends of the Earth Indonesia's website.
Dec 19, 2009
Nnimmo Bassey, Chair of Friends of the Earth International sums up the last two weeks of climate talks in Copenhagen from the backroom deals to rise of the Climate Justice movement.
Early on in the second week of COP15, the cordoned path created for long lines of NGOs seeking entry into the Bella Centre was a crowded mass of people. The cold was setting in, but the people pressed in.
The story was different for the last two days of the COP. The path was desolate and taken over by a carpet of snow. Observers had been barred from entering the venue and the few with possibilities of entry had to contend with long waits as security officials thumbed through sheets with names of those cleared to enter.
Within the conference venue the most democratic space appears to be the entrance hall where the registration of delegates was carried out. The pull here is the large UNFCCC logo on the wall where virtually every delegate sought to be photographed as a memento to a conference of lost opportunities.
Inside the chambers, more went on behind closed doors than in plenary. The Danish president of the COP spent more time denouncing leaked or rumoured secret texts rather than spending precious time negotiating. Blocks and hurdles were erected in the path of negotiators to ensure that real progress was not made.
The UNFCCC erected banners inviting people to raise their voices for climate change. Out on the streets the Danish police fought to ensure that the voices of dissent were silenced.
Thousands demand Climate Justice
If any good news emerged from the climate conference, it must be that the climate justice movement is rising up. On December 12, 2009 over 100,000 citizens of the world braved the cold and marched more than six kilometres through the streets of Copenhagen to show their disgust with politicians and leaders who consistently refuse to act but keep talking about climate change.
Would emissions be cut? Would these be done at source or would it be through acts carried out elsewhere rather than at home? Who would pay for the mitigation measures needed to be effected in poor developing nations? The impacted nations have said that levels of funding needed to tackle these impacts have been put at about US$400 billion per year. With brave generosity, rich nations offer to place $30 billion for the period 2010 to 2020. And then ramped up to US$100 billion by 2020.
President Lula of Brazil, while speaking at the plenary on the closing date, wondered if the negotiators would have to wait for angels to put intelligence in their brains before they could come to a good deal. His statement suggested that there was a case of lack of intelligence. Was it really a lack of intelligence or an unwillingness to toe the paths of true ambition?
take it or leave it
When President Obama took the stage, he asserted that climate change poses an unacceptable risk to our planet. The world should act boldly in the face of the threat. He said he came to act and not to talk. So what was the act.
Obama stated that the USA would change the way they create and use energy as a necessary block in their national security. In addition they would work to ensure reduction of dependence on foreign oil. At the end of the day, all that President Obama said amounted to declaration of US interests that the world had to accept or leave. It brought nothing new to the table.
Even the funds promised for mitigation in poorer nations was made with a snigger that no one expecting aid should escape the demand for responsibility.
Talking about responsibility, who is responsible for the climate impacts in these poor countries? The pledge of President Lula to meet Brazilian challenges with own funds and the promise to assist poor countries in their efforts to take mitigation measures shone in the dark hallways of the Copenhagen talks.
With several versions of the Copenhagen Accord, coined perhaps from a phrase in President Obama’s speech, one leaves the conference wondering where all the hype about working for an ambitious deal went. If there was a deficit of anything at this conference it was that of ambition.
A disaster for the world's poor
I left the Bella Conference at 1:45 AM to meet the warm chants of climate justice activists protesting in the cold, beneath the Metro tracks, denouncing the lack of seriousness in the climate negotiations. The protesters could have been snugly asleep in their beds, but these were mostly young people whose future was being jeopardised for the political expediency of a few and for the comfort and profiteering of carbon speculators.
As we said in our final statement at the talks, the so-called accord was a disaster to poor nations. A two degrees Celsius temperature rise means sure disaster and death to millions in vulnerable countries.
As I crushed the snow beneath my feet, each step raised a question: for how long will leaders be disconnected from the voices of the people? But I took great comfort from the strength of Friends of the Earth International activists who demonstrated to the world that the time for the growth of the climate justice movement has indeed come.
Congratulations, friends. Have a great holiday season and an action-filled 2010.
Dec 18, 2009
This morning Young Friends of the Earth Norway / Nature and Youth delivered a Christmas present to the Norwegian Environment Minister, Erik Solheim, demanding that Norway increase their target for emissions cuts to at least 40 percent by 2020.
Dec 17, 2009
More than five thousand people from around the world joined the Flood for Climate Justice on Saturday December 12 'flooding' the streets of Copenhagen demanding 'climate justice' and an end to offsetting carbon emissions.
This morning members of Climate Justice Now, briefing the Klimaforum on the sate of the talks, were joined by Cristian Dominguez, a member of the Bolivian negotiating team. At the climate talks Hilary Clinton proposed a $100 billion fund for climate change but, as ever, the devil's in the details.
Ricardo Navarro from Friends of the Earth El Salvador opened proceedings at the Klimaforum by talking about the expulsion of the Friends of the Earth International delegation from observing the talks and how the people who represent the millions of affected people around the world are being denied a voice.
Today only two people from Friends of the Earth International were allowed into the conference centre where the talks are taking place.
On the talks Karen Orenstein from Friends of the Earth US said:
"The blame game is now beginning for who will be responsible for the no solution."
Friends of the Earth International believes that rich countries are squarely to blame for the lack of any meaningful progress made so far.
Cristian Dominguez from the Bolivian negotiating team at the climate conference told the audience what it was like on the inside for developing countries:
"They don't want to talk about the Kyoto Treaty so they delay. Last night we stayed until 2am and achieved nothing."
He said the politicians of the developing countries were focusing on the past and unwilling to change, "they are like robots of the capitalist system."
"We have faith that Evo Morales [the Bolivian President] won't sign a document that goes against humanity, against Mother Earth" he concluded.
the climate fund
Most of the politicians and heads of state attending the summit have now arrived in Copenhagen and are making announcements on how they propose to move forward.
Today US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton announced a $100 billion climate fund. However, she did not say how much the US would contribute to this amount that falls far short of what the United Nations say is needed.
Yesterday Friends of the Earth were suspended from the UN climate talks despite having all the relevant accreditation . The reasons varied from "fire regulations" to "security concerns." We think this is a result of our critical voices at the summit and our demands for climate justice for developing countries.
Watch the video of the how the day unfolded
Dec 16, 2009
Friends of the Earth today were refused entry to the UN climate conference in Copenhagen despite having the relevant accreditation.
Nnimmo Bassey the Friends of the Earth International Chair said:
"Our organizations represent millions of people around the world and provide a critical voice promoting climate justice inside the UN. On the inside and the outside, all the rules have gone out the window - organizations such as Friends of the Earth that support peaceful action are being barred while developing countries concerns are being trampled in the plenary."
This is a shocking turn in events and we are working on our response now to the UNFCCC.
We will keep you updated.
To learn more about today's dramatic events inside and outside of the conference centre please visit the Friends of the Earth US blog.
The common theme than ran through today's talks was false solutions to climate change. Schemes such as REDD - a carbon offsetting mechanism - and carbon capture and storage are being put forward as credible ways to cut carbon emissions. These talks proved the opposite.
The first talk explored the false solutions being promoted in the name of tackling climate change including the role of the World Bank, carbon offsetting, monoculture tree plantations and agrofuels.
The speakers included Camila Morena from Friends of the Earth Brazil and Nnimmo Bassey from Friends of the Earth Nigeria and the Chair of Friends of the Earth International.
Camila looked at REDD as a false solution.
"The Amazon covers 49% of Brazil and Amazon deforestation accounts for 48% of the deforestation taking place at the moment, four times the rate of Indonesia - the second deforester" she said.
REDD, which stands for reducing emissions from deforestation and degradation in developing countries, will mean that forests are incorporated into carbon markets.
Put simply, a factory in Europe can offset their emissions by buying credits on the carbon market and as a result a landowner in the Amazon will be paid not to cut down a hectare of trees. The way the mechanism is set up though could also mean that deforestation actually increases under the scheme. It is flawed in many ways.
Camila said there was "tsunami of investment in REDD projects in Brazil at the moment" and said that big agribusiness, who are the owners of most of this land - not peasant farmers as we are led to believe, who are cutting down the rain forest to plant soy are now being rewarded for not deforesting the Amazon anymore.
"We are paying the kings of deforestation not to chop down our forests" she said.
In the climate talks Friends of the Earth are demanding that forests are kept out of carbon markets, that plantations are entirely excluded and land rights are enforced as the basis of any forest policy.
Nnimmo Bassey talked about gas flaring in his country.
Gas flaring takes place when the the associated gasses that occur when oil is extracted from the ground are burnt straight into the atmosphere. This is what Shell and other companies do in the Niger Delta, often in the middle of communities, twenty-four hours a day. Not only are huge quantities of CO2 pumped into the air but also toxins that have had devastating effects on the surrounding communities.
For decades oil companies have broken the law by illegally flaring, saying it's very difficult to stop. Now the clean development mechanism (CDM) has come along, another false solution, and Shell are looking to stop these illegal flares and claim money for doing so under the pretext of reducing their carbon emissions.
Nnimmo put this question to the audience:
"If I were a bank robber and I decide to rob only one bank a day instead of ten should I be given an award? This is what is now happening as oil companies turn to carbon development mechanisms."
a future without fossil fuels
In another room George Monbiot, an environmentalist from the UK, also addressed false solutions and looked at the huge levels of investment that would be needed to continue down the road of fossil fuels.
He dismissed the notion that we'll soon be at peak oil and once that runs out we will naturally progress to renewables because we will have no choice.
"The problem we're facing is not too little fossil fuels, it's too much" he said.
He explained that as fossil fuels become harder to reach, more and more money will be needed to extract them. In the case of coal there is plenty in the far reaches of Siberia and the North Sea bed. The problem is getting it.
He conceded that the path to renewables is an expensive one - around $4.2 trillion he'd calculated - and will totally change our consumption patterns but the path to our continued reliance on fossil fuel would also cost around the same amount just to continue with business as usual.
As he sees it, there are two options:
"We spend trillions on securing fossils fuels for the next generation an adapt to the the disastrous consequences, or we can invest the same amount in renewables that will last forever."
I know which one I would choose.
Find out more - http://www.monbiot.com/archives/2008/11/25/one-shot-left/