Oct 25, 2013
Four leaders of the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH) are being persecuted by the Honduran court systems for standing up for a local community, the Lenca people, who were not consulted about the construction of a hydroelectric project on their lands. This is COPINH's latest call for solidarity.
The Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras (COPINH)’s General Coordinators are calling for the solidarity of grassroots organizations, progressive social and political groups, the resistance as a whole, national and international human rights organizations and the media.
We would like to inform you about a situation that took place as a result of political persecution against our organization by the Honduran courts, which are racist and follow the orders of private corporations. We are referring in particular to the cases of Bertha Isabel Cáceres Flores, General Coordinator, and Aureliano Molina Villanueva and Tomas Gómez Membreño, communicators and indigenous members of the grassroots and of the executive committee. They are being persecuted for COPINH’s defense of the collective and individual rights of the communities of Rio Blanco, of common goods, of the rights of the Lenca people in general and for their struggle against the privatization of River Gualcarque.
For all of the above we hereby express the following:
1. That the case brought about by DESA corporation against our colleagues, accusing them of damage and sedition is now at the appeals court of Camayagu. Legally, the court has up to five days to respond to the appeal filed by COPINH’s lawyers. Judge Lissien Lisseth Knight sentenced Bertha Caceres to prison and Tomas Gomez and Aureliano Molina to punitive measures, including appearing in court every fortnight and forbidding them to go to the places where the incidents purportedly took place, as claimed by the Attorney General Henry Alexander Pineda and private lawyers led by Juan Carlos Sanchez Cantiyan.
2. That on October 3rd, at the request of DESA, Judge Lissien Lisseth Knight changed the punitive measures in the case of Aureliano Molina. The new measures included banishing him from neighboring communities, even though it is an unconstitutional and ridiculous measure to ban someone from visiting his or her ancestral lands.
3. That in the case of the court’s false accusation of “illegal possession of arms to the detriment of the internal security of the State of Honduras” brought against Bertha Caceres by the Army and the Attorney General’s office, the Appeals Court of Santa Barbara gives absolute priority and credibility to the testimonies of the military officers of the Army Engineers Batallion. Besides, there has not been an investigation into who are the actual owners of the weapon planted in COPINH’s vehicle, which has been used as evidence to accuse Bertha Caceres, even though there is no evidence, records or expert opinions to support this accusation. This is a way of rendering legal the Army’s illegal acts to criminalize even further the struggle of COPINH and of the Indigenous Peoples. The increasing cases brought against Bertha Caceres show the bad faith and racism of a judiciary at the service of colonial companies.
4. For all of the above we demand the Appeals Court of Comayagua and the judiciary in general to:
-Stick to the law, which includes the indigenous law, by securing the right to justice, truth, the respect of territories, culture and spirituality of the Lenca People, as well as the full and effective enforcement of ILO’s Convention 169.
- To not treat the people who are the actual invaders and usurpers of territories, common goods and life of the Lenca People as victims. This case involves the corporation DESA, which has caused historical and irreparable damage, such as the murder of Tomas Garcia by the mercenary Honduran army at the service of the company. His murder has remained unpunished and it has sown insecurity in our communities, by seeking to divide them, or threaten them with the presence of military and assassins.
-To annul the decision of the Court of Intibuca regarding the aforementioned accusations, and the sentence to prison of Bertha Caceres, the punitive measures against Aureliano Molina and Tomas Gómez Membreño. We also demand the annulment of a court warrant for the eviction of the communities of Rio Blanco.
-That justice be served on those who, from their position of power, are denying the existence of the Lenca People and of our native peoples, such as Deputy Attorney General Rigoberto Cuellar, former Minister of SERNA (Natural and Environmental Resources Secretariat).
JUDGES: LAWYERS HUMBERTO MIDENCE (Presiding the C.A.); RUBEN RIVERA FLORES; OMAR BONILLA.
PHONE/FAX: (504) 27.72.01.76
Our voices of life, justice, freedom, dignity and peace raise with the ancient strength of Icelaca, Lempira, Mota and Etempica!
No more criminalization of COPINH! Stop the criminalization of the right to defend our rivers, territories, ancient culture and lives!
Rio Blanco is not a barracks! Army and Police out of Rio Blanco!
Intibucá, October 21st, 2013
Chair of Friends of the Earth International Jagoda Munic reflects on the international solidarity mission to Palestine
Monday, October 14th 2013
It is time to go home. On the way to the airport by taxi, I was stopped at a check point. A soldier asked where I had been and whether I had passed check points. They searched a rucksack belonging to the taxi driver for weapons. The driver, an Israeli Jew, said later: “It is always a problem when you travel from Jerusalem. There are many Arabs there, and if they stop them, they keep them for a half an hour or longer at the check point. That is way I always tell them that I drive from Tel Aviv, not from Jerusalem. But now, I couldn’t because of you, so that our stories are not different. There are people from Spain, and other countries coming to help Palestinians. Coming to the airport from Jerusalem is always a problem.” We got to the airport, two and a half hours before the scheduled departure. My mind was still stuck on the check point. But little did I know what was ahead of me.
At the airport, my passport was checked 5 times. Apart from where I had been, with whom, etc. they asked me if I had explosives, why had I been in Malaysia (twice), do I know anyone there and where did I stay there (note these travels were in 2010 and 2005 respectively.).
They manually searched all my check-in and hand luggage and I was interviewed by security officers twice. They pulled out Palestinian scarves I had bought and threw them on top of the stuff, as if I was smuggling drugs. Of course, they found a copy of the FoEI annual report and the publication 'Environmental injustice and violations of the Israeli occupation of Palestine' and asked me about FoEI. One security officer said that my readings were rather biased towards the Palestinian perspective, and that he has a feeling that I do not say all the truth. I replied: “What is the whole truth?”. After this, they let me stand there for a while, searched my things a bit more. Then the lady that was searching my things escorted me to the check in desk and then on to a hand luggage scan.
Though I seemed to pass the scan, they put “samples” of something – they wouldn't tell me what – into a computer. The computer display turned red and an alarm went off. They said that they found a little problem in my hand luggage and that they need to search it thoroughly. They took me aside for a body search. Three of them went through all of my stuff, opening jars of cream, pulling coins out of my wallet and taking shots with my camera. I was intimidated of course, but even more worried that they would delete my photographs. I was also worried that they would write down the names of people we met from the notebook and business cards I had with me. After more questions about which hotel I had stayed at etc., they took my laptop out of my hand luggage and put it in a box, which was sent on the same plane. I got the laptop back in Zagreb with my check in luggage.
In the end, I was escorted to passport control and had to go straight to the gate, just in time before the already full plane started to roll off. I was thirsty, exhausted and angry all at the same time. I reckon that is how they treat “Palestinian friends”, as the rest of the team was also questioned and searched. Perhaps this experience is the final proof that what we have observed and heard from Palestinian people is not an exaggeration, but a harsh and underreported reality.
I am now home in Zagreb. It is sunny after rain and green parks are turning in the autumn yellow and red colors. Such a contrast to the dry landscape of Palestine. Croatian problems seem insignificant in comparison with Palestinian, despite our troublesome history in the Balkans and the many economic, social and environmental problems we face.
But what have I learned from this trip? Has this visit to Palestine changed me? And what we can do about it?
You see, before I went to Israel and Palestine, I would not consider myself pro-Palestinian. I was following the conflict superficially. I also know, from the war in Croatia and later in Bosnia, that the media are quite biased and that each side has its own version of a story. I am also very reluctant to jump to conclusions. I prefer to have good information before I make my mind. I did some reading and watched some documentaries prior to the trip.
But nothing prepared me for the harsh reality of Palestine. It is not about two equal sides fighting each other, for reasons illogical to outsiders. There is one side that has much more power and it is abusing this power at every step in the West Bank. The oppression perpetrated by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territories is so apparent, that is not surprising that they do not want foreigners to visit the area. It is understandable that Palestinians aim to stop the occupation and that they see it as a root cause of environmental degradation. I also have a much better insight into the work of PENGON - FoE Palestine, that on one side, politically exposes environmental degradation and injustice, but their member groups are working in the fields with poor communities providing access to water and electricity. Indeed, If we stand for environmental and social justice and anti-militarization, we have to support their work and provide accurate information to international fora. I have no doubt that the way to go is to join the boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. The boycott has worked well in the case Montgomery and helped in the case of South African apartheid system, so I believe it can work in the case of Palestine too.
Oct 23, 2013
Chair of Friends of the Earth International Jagoda Munic reflects on the international solidarity mission to Palestine
Sunday, October 13 2013
Our mission finishes in a village close to Jerusalem that is surrounded by the wall. Water is an issue here as well, as water access comes through nearby Israeli settlements. Sometimes when, for instance, there is a festival in the settlement, they simply close the pipe and cut off the water. Most Palestinian villages, unlike Israeli settlements, have water tanks on many roofs. Living with frequent and unpredictable interruptions to the water supply means Palestinians need to be prepared for outages in ways their neighbors do not.
Checkpoints, the wall, barbwire and injustice; it's not surprising that Palestinians call this apartheid. Large red signs announce zone A, under Palestinian Authority: This road leads to area “A”, under the Palestinian Authority, The entrance for Israeli citizens is forbidden, dangerous to your lives and is against the Israeli law.
|House in a cage|
Perhaps the most ridiculous example of this perverse system is the Palestinian 'house in a cage', next to Jerusalem. As one Israeli settlement spread and grew, they wanted to take over the land and house of a Palestinian living nearby. But because the owner had a construction license issued by Israel in the 1970s, the court prevented the army from knocking down the house. Instead they built a cage around it, with only one access bridge under permanent surveillance and with doors that the Israeli army can close automatically and remotely, effectively locking down the house. If I hadn't witnessed this myself, it would be hard to believe that something like this existed at all. It is so surreal.
I feel numb. Perhaps my heart and brain still cannot believe the injustice we have seen.
Top image: Jagoda Munic
House in a cage images: Dave Hirsch
Oct 21, 2013
October 19 marks the global day of action against fracking, known as the Global Frackdown. Friends of the Earth South Africa/ Groundwork sent the letter below to President Jacob Zuma.
Community people all over the world are sending a message that we want a future powered by clean, healthy, renewable energy, not dirty, polluting fossil fuels, which fracking is a part of.
Dear President Jacob Zuma,
In South Africa, the fracking debate may appear to be polarised along racial lines with greater emphasis on the Karoo. However, it is not only white farmers in the Karoo and a bunch of ‘Greenies’ who are concerned about the government’s green light on fracking, but there are citizens of every race, social and economic standing who are concerned and are vehemently opposed to fracking. This experience is global.
We are concerned that government is speeding the fracking process up by the lifting of the fracking moratorium without enough time to conduct meaningful and transparent impact studies and engage with stakeholders. Furthermore, government is moving too fast to authorise shale gas exploration, as the Minister of Trade and Industry indicated, it will happen before elections next year.
Of great concern is that the poor are once again being used as pawns in this process, with promises ofhundreds of thousands of jobs based on ‘independent’ research commissioned by Royal Dutch Shell.
The unskilled poor in whose name many such developments take place will neither receive the jobs nor will they be able to afford the electricity once it is produced. Socio-economic inequalities will continue to widen.
In our hard-fought democracy, there has been little meaningful public consultation during this process. The South African public is not being heard on the issue of fracking and our decision makers are not learning from over 100 jurisdictions around the world where fracking has a moratorium, been banned or restricted. Sadly, our ability to enforce any good legislation is currently lacking which leaves us and our environments open to abuse by multinationals – as Minister Manuel suggested at the 12 Annual International Corporate Governance Network Conference in 2007 – like Shell who have shocking records of environmental and human rights abuses in countries like Ireland, America and
We will not be acting responsibly as one of the largest greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters in the world if we allow fracking. Methane gas from fracking is a far more powerful GHG than CO 2. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) says methane is 86 times more damaging than CO2 over a 20 year period. Coal has devastated our land and water resources and shale gas fracking will do the same. South Africa has places like the Karoo and KwaZulu-Natal which have the potential to produce alternative energy sources, tourism and agriculture, which are now earmarked for an environmentally destructive process like fracking.
President Zuma, we urge you to take leadership on the issue of the development of clean energy systems that are protective of our health and wellbeing. We urge you to take a lesson from countries that have held onto their moratoria while doing thorough investigations. We urge you to learn from the United States where the destruction of land and peoples’ livelihoods has taken place as a result of fracking. We urge you to find out what the majority of South Africans want, rather than rely on the push by corporations for the exploitation of our resources.
What will the legacy of your presidency be? Will it be that we have more polluted toxic water, land and air than ever, that result in health impacts especially on the poor who cannot afford medical treatment?
We are calling for a government that hears the voice of its citizens and not just the voice of profit and economic self-interest.
Climate and Energy Justice Campaigner
groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa
Fracking is a dirty word: The Global Frackdown with Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Local groups in England, Wales and Northern Ireland call on councils to keep their communities ‘frack-free’.
Saturday, October 19, residents joined forces with people in more than 60 areas of the UK, to ask their council to swear not to allow fracking locally.
Friends of the Earth local groups set up an oversized swear box in their town centres. They invited passers-by to drop in signed postcards to the Leader of the local council. The postcards ask them to swear not to allow the ‘dirty F-word’ in their local area.
The dirty F-word
The Government is running rough-shod over local communities and plans to puncture holes across huge swathes of the country. This is in search of controversial new fossil fuels: shale gas and coal bed methane.
Burning these fossil fuels will contribute to climate change and risks polluting local water supplies. It is highly unlikely to lower fuel bills.
Recent polling shows that 52% of people would support wind turbines within 10 miles of their house compared to just 18% who would support shale wells.
Global Frackdown Day
October 19 was ‘Global Frackdown Day’, with hundreds of actions taking place in communities in over twenty countries, as part of a month of international action on energy.
“People all over the world are making a bold stand against fracking. If the UK Government is serious about tackling climate change and providing energy we can all afford, the solutions are renewables and energy saving.” said Tony Bosworth, Senior Energy Campaigner.
Image: Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland
Communities and environmental groups converged on the Scottish National Party (SNP) conference on Saturday, October 19, to call on the Scottish Government to be the first in the UK to ban unconventional gas. Demonstrators voiced their concerns about plans to drill for coalbed methane, explore for shale gas and experiment with underground coal gasification in Scotland, highlighting areas of the country under threat from gas companies. October 19 was the second ever Global Frackdown Day, and protests took place in 28 countries around the world.
At the event, the Scottish Government announced a significant strengthening of Scottish planning law, which will require buffer zones between unconventional gas developments and communities.
The rally heard from Scotland’s leading environmental organisations and community groups and was attended by conference goers and demonstrators.
Speakers included: Mary Church, Head of Campaigns for Friends of the Earth, Scotland; Maria Montinaro, Spokesperson for Concerned Communities of Falkirk; Miriam Dobson, People and Planet; and Maire McCormack from Women's Environmental Network.
A fringe meeting, held by Concerned Communities of Falkirk, also took place at the Salutation Hotel after the rally and speeches - this addressed concerns on unconventional gas extraction in Scotland.
Maria Montinaro, Spokesperson for Concerned Communities of Falkirk, said,
"Following much research and investigation, Concerned Communities of Falkirk have come to the conclusion that the risks of Unconventional Gas significantly outweigh the benefits. This is non-sustainable development which will primarily benefit private organisations at the expense of our communities, our environment and our existing industries. The Community Charter, a first for Scotland and the UK, sets out our rights and responsibilities to participate in planning processes that could affect our assets, and to have our views made a material consideration in all related decisions.
"Falkirk and the other informed communities who are opposing Unconventional Gas Developments are not NIMBYs. We are saying - Not In Anyone’s Back Yard. Unconventional Gas must not be given the green light in Scotland. We ask our Scottish Government to take the lead on behalf of its people, to ban this industry, protecting and safeguarding its citizens."
Concerned residents of Canonbie were also present at the Global Frackdown Day rally. A spokesperson for Canonbie Residents Against Coal Developments, CRACD, said,
"Local People in Canonbie are only now beginning to realise the true extent of Buccleuch Estates Coal Development Plans for this area.
"Despite a recent Household Survey undertaken by CRACD, involving more than 360 local residents, which confirmed that more than 90% rejected the coal proposals, Buccleuch seem determined to proceed, and to ignore the community.
"At least until such times as Scottish Planning and other regulatory frameworks can be overhauled to ensure that public safety and environmental risks are addressed, the people of Canonbie call on the Scottish Government to protect their community, and impose an immediate moratorium on all drilling."
Mary Church, Friends of the Earth Scotland Head of Campaigns, said,
"The SNP already know that unconventional gas is unnecessary here in Scotland, and it is clear from countries where the industry is more developed that it is unsafe. We attended the SNP conference on Global Frackdown Day, along with communities facing these developments on their doorsteps, to show the Government that it is also unwanted.
“While today’s announcement isn’t the ban we want, it is a firm step in the right direction and a huge problem for Dart Energy’s current plans for drilling for gas in Scotland. Dart should just give up now.
"We welcome the Government's recognition that buffer zones are necessary to protect communities from the worst impacts of gas drilling and fracking, and urge them to go further and join France, Ireland, the Netherlands and others in putting a stop to all fracking and unconventional gas activity. If Scotland is to play its part in reducing global greenhouse gas emissions, we need to leave this fossil fuel in the ground."
A public inquiry is due to consider an application for commercial coalbed methane extraction at Airth, near Falkirk, next year, following over 2,500 objections. The project, by Australian company Dart Energy, is the most advanced unconventional gas project in the UK. If it goes ahead, it could open the door on thousands of gas wells across the central belt of Scotland.
Earlier this week it was announced that the British Geological Survey is going to map Scotland's shale gas potential while plans to experiment with unproven underground coal gasification techniques in the firth of Forth and in Dumfries and Galloway are also developing.
Friends of the Earth Scotland are calling for a ban on all unconventional gas extraction because of the climate and local environmental and health risks associated with the industry.
Image: PERTH, UK - 19th October 2013: Environmental protestors erect a giant drilling rig outside the SNP Party Conference at Perth Concert Hall to call for a ban on unconventional gas extraction. The demonstrators and members of the community in Scotland joined as part of Global Frackdown Day to show their opposition and voice their concerns to MSP's. Pictured MSP Paul Wheelhouse stands with demonstrators. (MAVERICK PHOTO AGENCY)
Friends of the Earth groups around the world took action to mark the second annual global day of action against fracking, known as the Global Frackdown on Saturday October 19.
The Global Frackdown is part of the Global month of action on energy, which was launched on October 11 and will continue until the vital UN Climate Change Conference which begins in Warsaw on November 11th.
Among the highlights were Friends of the Earth Scotland's action at the conference of the Scottish National Party, in Perth; a persuasive letter from Friends of the Earth South Africa to President Jacob Zuma, laying out the reasons why South Africa should take action immediately; and dozens of local actions by campaigners and community groups in England Wales and Northern Ireland.
Image: PERTH, UK - 19th October 2013: Environmental protestors erect a giant drilling rig outside the SNP Party Conference at Perth Concert Hall to call for a ban on unconventional gas extraction. The demonstrators and members of the community in Scotland joined as part of Global Frackdown Day to show their opposition and voice their concerns to MSP's. Pictured MSP Paul Wheelhouse stands with demonstrators. (MAVERICK PHOTO AGENCY)
Chair of Friends of the Earth International Jagoda Munic reflects on the international solidarity mission to Palestine
Saturday, October 12, 2013
My day started early. At 7.30 a.m. I met Dr. Ayman Ribi, the President of PENGON / Friends of the Earth Palestine. We head to Palestine TV together, to take part in a live broadcast of Good morning Palestine where we chat generally about the mission and Friends of the Earth International (FoEI), and announce tomorrow's press conference. After the show, we go back to the hotel to pick up the rest of the team and head for the Jordan valley.
We visited the Ras Al–Auja canals, where a stream, once so abundant in water that a little dam was built a few decades ago, is now dry. It is hot and a desert-like landscape surrounds us. We stand next to the water pump facility. Our guide, an American who refuses to be filmed or pictured - let's call him Jim to protect his identity - explains: “Water pumping here is extensive, both from the surface streams and from aquifers. Israeli pumps go as deep as 400 meters, while Palestinians are not allowed to have such deep wells. Over there, we can see some villages that do not have access to water or electricity, although there are transmission cables and water pumps near them.”
Over exploitation of water from aquifers is occurring, but it is an even greater environmental injustice that denies or limits water access to Palestinian villages and towns in comparison with Israeli settlements. On average, settlements consume 369 liters per person per day (l/p/d), in comparison with 73 l/p/d of water consumption by Palestinian villages, which is much less than the WHO recommendation of a minimum of 100 l/p/d. During our drive through Jordan valley this difference could be seen plainly. You can distinguish settlements with big houses, green areas and plantations of dates or other crops so green, in comparison with overcrowded and not so green Palestinian villages.
Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal according to the UN, but they are still spreading. There are now about 580,000 Israeli settlers in the West Bank. Apart from over consuming water, the settlements cause a significant loss of agricultural land and uprooting of trees. They are also dispersed around the area like holes in Swiss cheese. Not only do the settlements suck up resources, but due to their geographic distribution, they can control water pipes, sewage systems, and electricity lines, meaning that at any moment they can deny Palestinian villages and towns access to basic resources.
We drive further through the Jordan valley and visit local herders whose modest habitats – tents and huts mostly – have been destroyed by the Israeli army. They are trying to defend themselves in court and are determined to stay on the land they have used for about 50 years. There is a military base on a hill above the herders. Soldiers approach us in a jeep just a few minutes after we started to chat with the herders.
“What are you doing here?” they ask. “Nothing – we are just looking around and leaving soon anyway” I reply. Perhaps they do not mind us taking photos – indeed, a bit further away was another group including tourists – but we were had our friends from PENGON with us , who could communicate with the herders for us in Arabic. The soldiers stayed there for a while before they decided to leave, but not before they saw us start to board our van.
The last location that we visited in the Jordan valley is a Palestinian village called Zbeidat, from where there is a beautiful view of the valley. In the distance, we see mountains in Jordan. Somewhere in the middle is the meandering Jordan river. Our hosts tell us that here the river is just centimeters wide, because of a lack of water in the bed due to interference upstream. The land between the village and the river, belongs to the villagers, but they can not do much with it, as it is in security zone C and controlled by the army. The villagers wanted to install a wastewater treatment system to deal with the sewage from the village and to use it for agriculture, but were refused permission. Despite the land in zone C officially falling under Palestinian control, it is almost impossible to develop the infrastructure because permits for such construction are still subject to Israeli approval.
Image: Radio Mundo Real
Oct 17, 2013
On October 19 2013, people around the world will gather to make their voices heard in unanimous rejection of fracking. The second annual Global Frackdown is an opportunity for people to learn and share their knowledge about hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and let policy makers know that the tide has turned: Fracking will not be tolerated.
A number of significant victories have been scored against the practice of fracking since the last Global Frackdown. Even in the last few weeks, France's highest legal body upheld a ban on fracking and European Union lawmakers voted to force energy companies to carry out in-depth environmental audits prior to any procedure involving fracking. Bulgaria also banned fracking and moratoriums are in place in Ireland, the Czech Republic and Lithuania. Opposition to fracking is also growing in Africa and the Americas. But there is still a long way to go and much, much more work to do. Join us!
What can you do?
October 11 marks the beginning of a month of worldwide public protest and action to say no to dirty energy, and to support clean, renewable alternatives.
Clean, community-owned energy already exists and is a real solution to climate change. But it needs more momentum and political support. We'll be telling our decision-makers to put people at the heart of a clean energy future.
Recent reports from Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and the International Energy Agency demonstrate the need for a revolution in how societies generate their power and that almost two thirds of known reserves of fossil fuels must remain underground if we wish to prevent catastrophic climate change.
This month gives people the opportunity to protest against the dirty energy of the past and to demand a clean energy future in the run up to the vital UN Climate Change Conference which begins in Warsaw on November 11th.
People can add any energy activity they are planning to the global map of actions. Each action, large or small, will contribute to strengthening the global movement for a world free of dirty energy projects, and for real community energy solutions.
The month of action is divided into the following theme weeks:
- 11 October: annual meeting of the IMF and the World Bank, we will call on these institutions to stop public subsidies for fossil fuel projects.
- 19 October: Global Frackdown – global action day against hydraulic fracturing, one of the most extreme forms of fossil fuel extraction.
- 20-27 October: People vs Coal – the dirtiest and most polluting industry is befriending governments to directly influence public decisions.
- 28 October - 3 November: Shell, clean up your mess! Shell has failed to clean up decades of pollution in the Niger Delta, we need to stand with the most affected communities
- 4-11 November: Community Power – communities across the world are building democratic renewable alternatives.
Friends of the Earth International is part of a worldwide initiative to help organise this month of action along with Greenpeace International, 350.org, Push Europe, La Via Campesina, Action Aid International and many more groups.
Oct 16, 2013
Punishing peaceful protest: environmental activists need more protection from human rights violations
Working to make the world a cleaner, fairer place can be a dangerous and thankless task. Occasionally, voices for justice and equality, like Mandela or the Dalai Lama XIV, are praised internationally. But most of the people who make great personal sacrifices to protect our collective wellbeing are people you and I have never heard of – and some of them are in danger all the time.
On September 19, 2013, thirty Greenpeace activists were arrested following an attempt to stage a peaceful protest on board a Russian oil rig. One month later, the activists are still being detained in Russia while the security services 'investigate' charges of piracy. Unfortunately, the use of such absurd charges against environmental activists, who are manifestly innocent, is not unusual at all: Turkish Prime Minister Erdoğan's characterization of the Gezi Park protesters as 'looters' is a similar example.
From Honduras to Russia to Turkey, activists and community leaders are being harassed and intimidated for standing up for environmental or social causes. We can't say with confidence that environmental activists are suffering more persecution now than in the past – there simply isn't enough current or historical data to be sure – but as international organizations pay more attention to the overlap between human rights violations and environmental activism, the severity of this global trend is slowly becoming apparent.
ITN report on Greenpeace case
Explanations for this pattern vary, but the following factors certainly contribute.
Increased competition for natural resources and tighter environmental regulations in most rich countries have caused a race to exploit the cheaper resources of under-regulated, cash-hungry southern countries, creating more possibilities for conflict over land and other resources.
International human rights standards do not currently go nearly far enough towards ensuring that transnational companies respect social and environmental standards abroad. This combination of inadequate international standards with weak or greedy national systems creates conditions where, for example, Chinese factory workers make goods for western markets under dangerous, exhausting, or exploitative conditions that would no longer be accepted in the West. Their government won't take steps to ensure their wellbeing and the international community can't agree on workable solutions to insist that governments protect their citizens. But these are also the legally nebulous circumstances that see opponents of dams or palm oil plantations being harassed, kidnapped, threatened or killed with almost total impunity in a number of countries.
The 2008 credit crunch and subsequent financial crises have created an appetite among investment banks and large pension funds for new ventures outside of the rich world's battered economies. Even some supposedly environmental programs, such as tree plantations, deserve their share of the blame, as they cause more problems than they solve. Clearing land to construct a dam or plant a monoculture plantation often leads to people being pushed off their land and protesters being threatened. Environmental activists, like most activists, are also a lot more vulnerable because they tend to get in the way of the plans of powerful people. Friends of the Earth groups around the world have been working hard to bring attention to these cases.
Front Line Defenders interview with Berta Cáceres
In the same week that the Greenpeace incident was reported, an activist called Berta Cáceres was sentenced to serve a jail sentence in Honduras and has since had to go into hiding. Friends of the Earth believes that her life is in danger if she goes to prison. She is a long term advocate for environmental and human rights justice in her region of Honduras. Kumi Naidoo, executive director of Greenpeace International, could just as easily have been talking about Berta Cáceres when he described the Russian court's treatment of the Greenpeace campaigners as 'Nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest'. Rulers have understood and largely respected the immunity of diplomats since antiquity. Peaceful protest needs the same respect. As the environmental crisis we face becomes more severe by the day, the need for governments to respect and protect the human rights of environmental protesters is more urgent than ever.
This blog post was written by Denis Burke for Blog Action Day 2013. The views expressed are the author's and do not strictly reflect the position of Friends of the Earth International.
Oct 15, 2013
Les Amis de la Terre/Friends of the Earth France, in partnership with CRID (Centre de Recherche et d’Information pour le Développement /Research and Information Centre for Development) and Peuples Solidaires – Action Aid France, have opened public voting for the Pinocchio Awards 2013.
Les Amis de la Terre/Friends of the Earth France, in partnership with CRID (Centre de Recherche et d’Information pour le Développement /Research and Information Centre for Development) and Peuples Solidaires – Action Aid France, have opened public voting for the Pinocchio Awards 2013. By highlighting specific cases of social and environmental rights violations committed by multinational companies, these Awards are an opportunity to report the gap between the speeches about “sustainable development” and the actual practices on the ground. Through the Pinocchio Awards, these organizations are fighting for a binding legal framework for multinationals’ activities.
Six years after the first edition of the Sustainable Development Pinocchio Awards, Les Amis de la Terre France, in partnership with CRID and Peuples Solidaires, are launching the 2013 edition and opening polls at www.prix-pinocchio.org. Nine companies have been nominated in three categories (1):
- Greener than green: awarded to the company which has led the most abusive and misleading communication campaign in regard to its actual activities.
- Areva and its mining museum Urêka
- Air France and carbon offsetting in Madagascar
- BNP Paribas and research against climate change
- Dirty hands, full wallet: awarded to the company which has the most opaque policy at the financial level (tax evasion, corruption, etc), in terms of lobbying or in its supply chain.
- Auchan and the Rana Plaza factory collapse in Bangladesh
- Apple and the Bangka tin mine in Indonesia
- Alstom and the big dams of Belo Monte and Rio Madeira in Brazil
- One for all and all for me!: awarded to the company which has the most aggressive policy in terms of appropriation, exploitation or destruction of natural resources.
- Total and shale gas in Argentina
- Veolia and the privatization of water in India
- Société Générale and the coal mine Alpha Coal in Australia
According to Nathalie Peré-Marzano, director of CRID, “Private actors, especially multinational companies, are entrusted a major role in ‘development’ that States still reduce to economic growth. This vision is being challenged by many today since these multinationals are at the heart of the system that aggravates inequities all over the world, abusively exploits natural resources, and affects the basic rights of populations.”
For Fanny Gallois, campaign manager at Peuples Solidaires, “From the exploitation of workers to the appropriation of populations’ natural resources, in addition to environmental damages, the activities of multinationals, especially the French ones, sometimes have catastrophic consequences. The Pinocchio Awards are here to question their responsibility and to remind the elected officials and the government that it is time to regulate the activities of these companies.”
Juliette Renaud, Corporate Accountability campaigner at Les Amis de la Terre France, concludes: “Current government ministers, including Nicole Bricq, have admitted the need to recognize the legal responsibility of the multinational parent companies regarding the damages caused by their subsidiaries and sub-contractors. Action has now to be taken by setting up a binding legal framework and putting an end to their impunity. Citizens from every continent are affected by the nominated companies for the Pinocchio Awards and they should all be able to enjoy the same rights and access to justice.”
Mobilization around the Pinocchio Awards will take place from 15th October to 19th November, date of the public award ceremony (2). Bi-weekly focuses will be realized in order to enlighten each case. Local groups from Les Amis de la Terre France and Peuples Solidaires will organize regional events. A stand is expected in Paris during the Week of International Solidarity.
To learn more, visit our website: prix-pinocchio.org
Caroline Prak, Les Amis de la Terre – Friends of the Earth France – 01 48 51 18 96 / 06 86 41 53 43 – firstname.lastname@example.org
Fanny Gallois, Peuples Solidaires – Action Aid France – 01 48 58 21 85 / 06 19 89 53 07
Camille Champeaux, CRID – 01 44 72 89 74 – email@example.com,
 The detailed presentation of the Pinocchio Awards and the nine 2013 nominees is available in French, English, and Spanish on the following website: www.prix-pinocchio.org.
 The Pinocchio Awards are given on the basis of thousands of internet users’ votes across the world. The ceremony will take place 19th November 2013 with Peuples Solidaires and CRID, at La Java, Paris. Registration is open here
Follow the Pinocchio Awards and Les Amis de la Terre France updates on Twitter @amisdelaterre
Oct 14, 2013
Wednesday, October 9, 2013
Here we are, past the passport control at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. A group of friends meeting together in Jersulam and, more officially, Friends of the Earth International's delegation on a solidarity trip to Palestine, where we are going to learn more about and support PENGON / FoE Palestine's work. Our group includes ExCom members Daniel Ribeiro from Mozambique and Elaine Gilligan from the UK, along with Real World Radio Coordinator José Elósegui from Uruguay, International Coordinator Dave Hirsch and International Membership Development Coordinator Erick Burke, both from the USA. And me, of course, Jagoda Munic, from Croatia, the chairperson of FoEI. It is night and by the time we reach Jerusalem, there is nowhere open to eat dinner, so we had to go for a quick drink to catch up with each other and share information about the mission.
Friends of the Earth International solidarity mission
Thursday, October 10
It took some time to get to Ramallah from Jerusalem, although they are not so far apart, indeed they seem to be part of the same city. But one check point was closed, so we had to turn around and find another on the heavily congested road. This is normal here. The check points are at the entrances to all cities in the West Bank. Israeli soldiers check everyone who passes.
For an outsider, it may seem that the West Bank is under the control of the Palestinians, but very soon one finds out it is not. Indeed, only 17.7% of the area – all in the cities – is under Palestinian control, while the rest is controlled by the Israeli army. This is based on the Oslo Interim accords from the 1990s, which divided the West Bank into three areas of control, giving the Palestinian Authority control over 17.7% (Area A) and partial administrative control of a further 18.3% (Area B). The remaining land (60.9% Area C and 3% nature reserve) is under Israeli military and administrative control, as is the entire border.
Because of the road blockade, we had to rush to our meeting in the office of the Palestinian Hydrology Group, one of the 15 member groups of PENGON or Friends of the Earth Palestine.
Here we had a presentation by Dr. Abed EL Rahman Tamimi about the Palestinian Environment, describing the main environmental problems like land grabbing, water shortages and cut offs, uprooting trees, toxic waste-dumping and air pollution, all linked to the Israeli occupation as the root cause of these problems.
Perhaps the biggest problem is water shortage and accessibility. Dr. Tamimi points out that the water is under the domain of the Israeli Ministry of defense and that the main reason that Israel has built a Wall in the West Bank is to strategically shift the border get access to the West Bank's mountains where water can be drilled from aquifers. The separation wall has largely been built on Palestinian land along the Western aquifer, which is the richest strategic groundwater basin. The barrier includes a strip of land called the ‘seam zone’ between the Green Line and the actual wall, effectively constituting a further land loss of around 8.5%.
After that, Mr. Omar Barghouthi gave a presentation on the BDS campaign (boycotts, divestment and sanctions), which was founded in 2005 by Palestinian civil society. The campaign mobilises individuals, groups and organisations to boycott Israeli institutions that support the apartheid politics of Israeli Government, until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. The campaign is inspired by the civil rights movement in the US against segregation and discrimination and with the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. It is base on three basic pillars or principles:
- Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
- Recognizing the fundamental rights and full equality of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel; and
- Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
All these demands have a basis in UN resolutions on Palestine and they are simply requesting implementation of international law. Many prominent people, including Stephen Hawking, have supported the campaign. Among other supporters, this campaign has many Israeli intellectuals and organisations on its side. See more details at www.bdsmovement.net
After these introductions, which set up the context for our mission, we hit the road and went to a small village named Jobet Adeeb, near Bethlehem. Here we saw a Palestinian village from 1925 with no electricity or water sewage system, and a school existing in poverty, while just a few hundred meters away there are Israeli settlements with all needed modern facilities including a compost plant. While one wonders how it is possible that the settlement from 1997 can have all these services, while a village from 1925 has none and they live next to each other, the answer exposes the double standards of the Israeli government, which declares any construction, including, electricity lines or solar collectors in Palestinian village illegal, simply refusing to issue permits. If anything is built without the permit (which you cannot get in the first place) the Israeli army is there to pull the construction down with sheer force.
Back in the van, we head towards Hebron and a village next to the famous wall, built on Palestinian land. The wall separates the village from their agricultural land and now they cannot survive on agriculture. As a consequence they have to find a job either in Israel or abroad, which means people slowly but surely emigrate from the area. Living next to the “fence” also often brings noise pollution from military training during the night.
Water shortage is another issue. Harvesting rain water provides non-drinkable water that lasts three months. For drinking water and all the water needed during the rest of the year, the villagers buy water from a private Israeli company, which absorbs about 20% of their income.
Jagoda Munic, chairperson of Friends of the Earth International, at the wall
Friday, October 11
Early morning and we are heading north, to the city of Tulkarem, where we meet representatives from the Palestinian trade union. Our guide for the day is Dr. Kefaya Abu Al Huda, an expert in hazardous waste. The trade union has been fighting over the years to improve the working conditions in the chemical, plastic and pesticide industry, which they have succeeded by organising several general strikes over the years. However, there is still a big problem of children that work in the factories and frequent accidents including explosions and open fires. When I asked a question about the position of the trade union about the closing down of the factories, the answer is – yes we want to close them down, as workers can work in less polluting industries or in agriculture. It has to be pointed out that the the Geshuri factories that produce pesticides and fertilisers, have been moved from the vicinity of Israeli towns and settlements twice in the 1970s, as the Court ordered them to close down due to high level of pollution and non-compliance with Israeli environmental and safety regulations. However, they've reopened in the Palestinian territory on a high quality agricultural land and above water aquifer, just next to the town in the 1980s. “Since then, the level of cancer in the area increased significantly and it is much higher than in other areas of Palestine”, declares Dr. Abu Al Huda. “I can prove this with data from my research” she said.
Indeed, when we came close to the factories, we could see for ourselves – the smell was so awful that it was difficult to breathe. Just across the road there was a local town, with wind blowing the fumes directly to the buildings. The factories are built in a manner that Palestinian villages are downwind most of the time. Workers passed us on their way to the factory, there was a shift change. They greeted the union representative, but refused to speak with us or to give a statement. “Look, there is a 13 or 14 year old boy,” said Elaine.
It was easy for us to run away from the pollution to the next point of our visit, but I sincerely do not know how anyone can live in such proximity to the chemical industry. It is more than a nuisance, it is a health hazard.
The next stop is the famous wall in the town of Qalqelia. Here we can walk right next to it. “This is definitely not a fence”, some graffiti says, which is indeed true of a 7 meter high concrete wall with barb wire on the top. “This is apartheid”, we read, but also: “this wall will never stop our voices”. Indeed, the voices of Palestine have to be heard!
Oct 11, 2013
Civil Society movements blamed Governments negotiating on biofuels at the Committee on World Food Security [1, 2] for defending the interests of the biofuels industry rather than the interests of people pushed into hunger by biofuel policies. Ignoring expert evidence from the High Level Panel of Experts showing that biofuels targets aggravate food price volatility and hunger, Governments led by North America, Australia and the EU systematically deleted any references to Human Rights, links with food price spikes and land grabbing.
Governments acknowledged that biofuels crops compete with food crops and influence food prices but did not have the courage to recommend any action to stop this. The domination of pro biofuel countries in talks, spearheaded by the EU, has resulted in decisions heavily favorable for biofuels expansion. Governments including Egypt, Jordan and China who spoke expressing strong misgivings have largely been ignored.
Robbie Blake, biofuels campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said:
"Experts agree that burning food for biofuels is not a 'green' solution. It fuels hunger, land grabs and climate change. Yet, under intense pressure from a subsidy-hungry biofuel industry, the UN Committee on World Food Security has today ignored the obvious: that to reduce pressure on land and food we must stop using food for fuel for the rich."
Kirtana Chandrasekaran, food sovereignty coordinator for Friends of the Earth International, said:
"Small scale food producers have spoken powerfully here about the reality they are confronted with every day: that biofuels crops compete with their food production, for the land they till and for the water that sustains them. They called on this assembly to take action to defend the right to food from the impacts of biofuels; instead the recommendations overwhelmingly defend the interests of the biofuels industry and legitimise violations of the right to food."
In June the High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE), on the request of the CFS, released its report on biofuels policies to inform the negotiations . The report clearly concluded that there is a link between the energy policy and food insecurity and that biofuels have been a key driver behind steep food price spikes and food price volatility in recent years. It said: “Everything else being equal, the introduction of a rigid biofuel demand does affect food commodity prices. […] In the last few years (since 2004) of short-term commodity food price increase, biofuels did play an important role.” Other independent research such as by the European Commission has confirmed similar findings . And the OECD, World Bank, IMF, WTO and FAO in 2011 called on ministers of G20 countries “to remove provisions of current national policies that subsidize (or mandate) biofuels production or consumption” . All this advice was discounted.
Estimates suggest about six million hectares of land in sub-Saharan Africa is already controlled by European biofuel companies and about 293 land grabs covering more than 17 million hectares worldwide have been reported due to biofuels.
On Monday more than 80 civil society organizations sent a letter to CFS members warning that the current recommendations would fail to uphold the Right to Food or stop hunger caused by biofuels.
 The CFS serves as a forum in the UN System for review and follow-up of policies concerning world food security. Civil Society participates at the CFS through the largest international mechanism of civil society organizations seeking to influence agriculture, food security and nutrition policies and actions.
 The mandate and spirit of the reformed CFS is to create a body that includes all countries and stakeholders. A Global Strategic Framework rooted in the Right to Food is at the heart of the reformed CFS and provides clear guidance to coordinate actions on food security and nutrition.
 The HLPE provides scientific and knowledge-based analysis to inform governments on priority issues. It’s report on biofuels is: www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/hlpe/hlpe_documents/HLPE_Reports/HLPE-Report-5_Biofuels_and_food_security.pdf
 Open Letter on Biofuels in the CFS
 Civil Society intervention after the CFS Biofuels Decision Box is adopted
Oct 09, 2013
The Global Frackdown will unite concerned citizens everywhere for a day of action on October 19, 2013 to send a message to elected officials in our communities and across the globe that we want a future powered by clean, renewable energy, not dirty, polluting fossil fuels. The journey to a renewable energy future will not be fueled by shale gas. Climate scientists warn that continued extraction and burning of fossil fuels will lead to catastrophic climate change.
As the oil and gas industry escalates its public relations offensive, it is critical that our elected officials hear the truth from their constituents. Fracking is an inherently dangerous technology and shale gas is not a bridge fuel to a low-carbon economy. It’s time to expose the oil and gas industry’s desire to profit at the expense of our communities and our environment. It’s time to hold our elected officials accountable. It’s time for another Global Frackdown.
Participants in the Global Frackdown will organize events in their communities to challenge decision makers to oppose fracking, united around a common mission statement calling for a ban on fracking and investment in a clean energy future.
The first-ever Global Frackdown in September 2012 brought together 200 community actions from over 20 countries to challenge hydraulic fracturing, or fracking—a risky technique that uses millions of gallons of water, sand and chemicals to break open shale rock deep underground to release previously unrecoverable deposits of oil and gas. The oil and gas industry has spent millions of dollars on slick PR campaigns and high-profile lobbying efforts to buy the ability to extract fossil fuels from our communities with as little government oversight as possible, all while destroying our water resources and our climate.
While the industry is working hard to protect its profits and drown out the worldwide demand for clean, renewable fuels, there is a tremendous movement afoot around the world to protect our global resources from fracking.
Together as a movement, since the first-ever Global Frackdown, we have:
- Passed more than 336 measures against fracking, wastewater injection and frack sand mining in communities across the United States
- Passed a moratorium on fracking in the Delaware River Basin Commission
- Banned fracking in Longmont, Colorado
- Passed an indefinite moratorium on fracking in Vermont
- Upheld bans on fracking in Bulgaria and France, despite intensive pressure from industry
- Pushed for moratoria in multiple regions in Europe
- Obtained local referenda on fracking in Romania, which rejected fracking by more than 90 percent
- Pushed for a ban on fracking in areas for drinking water provision in Germany
- Passed moratoria on fracking in the Netherlands and the Czech Republic
- Organized to oppose fracking in communities in Argentina, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco and Egypt
- Spurred the introduction of new laws for assessing unconventional gas impacts in Australia
- Delayed fracking in South Africa and the Republic of Ireland
- Forced the European Union to start analyzing the risks of fracking in Europe
- Persuaded 262 Members of the European Parliament – more than a third – to vote in favor of an immediate moratorium on shale gas
Oct 07, 2013
The delay to trade talks between the EU and US, which were due to start in Brussels today, must be used to address the risks a deal represents to people and the environment, says Friends of the Earth Europe.
The negotiations were put on hold on Friday evening when it was announced that the US delegation would not be travelling to Europe due to the current shutdown of parts of the US administration.
Friends of the Earth Europe is highly concerned about the threat the EU-US trade deal – known as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – poses to environmental, social and consumer standards and safeguards. The group is calling on negotiators to use this delay as 'thinking time' to make sure the interests of people and the environment are given priority over business interests.
Many corporations are already lobbying for a deal that is in their private interests, for example, against measures to prevent the import of dirty tar sands from the US and Canada to Europe, and against EU food protection measures which make it harder for US companies to export GMOs.
Magda Stoczkiewicz, director of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Decision-makers on both sides of the Atlantic now have extra thinking time and they need to realise that an EU-US trade deal can only help get us out of the economic and climate crises if it has the interests of people and the planet at its heart. Big corporations will undoubtedly be using this delay to continue lobbying for weaker standards, especially on issues related to food, agriculture, chemicals and energy. Our health and safety must not be traded away for an agreement that would mainly profit big corporations or limit states’ ability to regulate."
Friends of the Earth Europe insists that, as part of the deal, companies and investors should not receive excessive rights to legally challenge democratically adopted measures through a so-called ‘investor state dispute settlement’. It says a partnership should only be agreed if it results in higher standards for the environment, safety and consumer protection and if the ability of governments to make new legislation is not weakened.
The group is also concerned about the lack of transparency of the negotiations so far and is calling for the public to be given access to negotiation documents.
The following briefings on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) have been published today by Friends of the Earth Europe:
'Trading away our future?' briefing on the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP): www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/foee_briefing_ttip_oct13.pdf
'How fair and sustainable food and farming could be permanently damaged by a transatlantic trade deal' briefing: www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/foee_iatp_factsheet_ttip_food_oct13.pdf
'The risks of including an investor-to-state dispute settlement in transatlantic trade talks' briefing: www.foeeurope.org/sites/default/files/foee_factsheet_isds_oct13.pdf
The environmental education center for Friends of the Earth has been honored by Hostelling International
As Corcerizas wins an international award for sustainability
The environmental education center for Friends of the Earth, As Corcerizas, has been one of the international winners of the Hostelling International Award for projects aimed at improving natural heritage through reducing carbon emissions. The prize of 24,800 pounds (about 30,000 euros) will make As Corcerizas an energy island through the winter months.
As Corcerizas has been chosen as a winner, taking second prize, from a selection of hostels from all around the world belonging to the international network of youth hostels. The final vote was between 15 finalists from participating countries such as the U.S. , Brazil and China. The three initiatives with the most votes were the winners of the prizes from the network, enabling them to improve the sustainability of its facilities and surroundings: Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States [1 ] .
The award endorses the implementation of a project presented by Friends of the Earth which proposes the installation of a wind turbine and the construction of a heated cob wall as radiation system. A program for schools to minimise their carbon footprint in order to tackle climate will also be developed.
At the Friends of the Earth hostel all energy production comes exclusively from renewable energy, and so it is able to operate outside the conventional electricity grid, forming what is known as an "energy island" in virtually every month of the year. The problem was that in winter the sun and the flow of water coming from the small reservoir in the Sierra de San Mamede would sometimes not be enough to cover the entire building's electrical demand. Thanks to this award As Corcerizas will be entirely solidified as an energy island, serving as an example of sustainability not only in Spain, but also at a worldwide level.
" This award recognizes the work of all workers and volunteers and for their professionalism, effort and motivation which has managed to push through a project which is 100% renewable and democratic. This is how we are proving the viability of a center that operates outside of the electricity grid. We want to thank all the people who have supported As Corcerizas and have made utopia a reality," stresses Analia Moares, responsible for the center.
Promotional video: ( English)
Oct 02, 2013
Young Friends of the Earth Norway has been instrumental in facing down the country's imposing oil industry and protecting a delicate, precious environment. The story below is from Silje Lundberg's blog.
Last night we got the news we’ve been waiting for for years: vulnerable areas in the extreme north of Norway, the Lofoten islands, are to be kept closed from the oil industry for the next four years. This is a major victory for the local fishermen who’ve been fighting this for more then two decades and for us, the people.
The fight against oil drilling off the coast of the Lofoten-islands has been a fight between local fishermen, environmentalists, and young people on the one side, and major oil companies and politicians blinded by the wealth from oil on the opposite side. Today we won. Yet again. Since 2001 this is the fifth time we’ve kept the oil industry’s dirty paws away from the Lofoten islands, and for each victory the oil lobby will have a harder time convincing parliament to open the areas. Because the public don’t support them, science doesn’t support them and youth don’t support them. We believe in a different future for our country and for the northern region.
I grew up not far from these precious islands, and ever since I joined Young Friends of the Earth Norway, more then thirteen years ago, I’ve been fighting for their future. The oil industry and the petroholic politicians argue that we need to open these areas to secure jobs in the north. That this is the only way for young people to move back to the region. That’s bullshit. This is my region, and I have faith in it and the people here. We cannot continue to build our country on an industry that produces a product that threatens millions of people all over the world. There has to be some boundaries, also for the Norwegian oil industry. We need to leave the oil in the soil, and the most obvious place to start is to keep the areas outside the Lofoten-islands free from the oil industry.
The area holds unique cold-water reefs, pods of sperm whales and killer whales, some of the largest seabird colonies in Europe as well as being the spawning grounds of the largest remaining cod stock in the world. Why on earth would any one even consider drilling for oil here?
It’s been a long fight. In 1994 the Government opened parts of the areas for the oil industry. In 2001 Young Friends of the Earth Norway and the Bellona Foundation stopped one of the exploration rigs headed towards Lofoten. The pressure from the public on the Government was huge, and they had no other option but to order the rig to turn and go back, without succeeding in their mission. Since then we’ve secured the areas at every cross road, first in 2002, then in 2006, in 2011 and then again this year. In 2013. This year will go down in the history books as yet another year when the people stood up, against major oil companies and one of the most powerful lobby groups in Norway, and the people won. We managed to get the new minority Government, consisting of two parties who both want to open the areas for oil exploration to preserve the areas. And to put the considerations to future generations and to renewable and everlasting fisheries over the short term profit that the oil industry might give us.
In 2017 the fight continues. But I’m certain that for every time we’ve won this, it gets harder and harder for the oil industry to win. And therefore I am certain that when the time comes, we’ll win again. There is no other option.
Oct 01, 2013
In the morning of Friday September 27, government agents abducted community leader Maynor Lopez in his home town, the municipality of Santa Cruz Barillas, department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Mr Lopez is a well-known activist and leader of local resistance to the hydroelectric project Santa Cruz, managed by the Spanish company Hidralia SA through its subsidiary Hidro Santa Cruz.
Held at gun point, Maynor was taken into a van, which villagers say they recognized as one of the hydro company vehicles, and subsequently transferred into a helicopter that took him to Guatemala City. There he was reportedly arrested and detained by the national police.