Apr 11, 2014
Community members of El Carrizalillo in Guerrero State, Mexico, who blocked access to gold project “Los Filos” of Canadian mining company Goldcorp on April 1st, submitted on Monday a list of demands to the company related to health, environment and fair payment for their lands.
In addition, a government representative of Guerrero State visited the community and was shocked by the environmental destruction caused by Goldcorp in the region, where around 1400 people are living. This is what community leader Julio told Real World Radio.
After Goldcorp´s leasing agreement on the peasant´s lands expired on March 31, on April 1st, the community members blocked access to the mine. They are claiming a fair renegotiation or a closing and post-closing plan for the mining company that has been operating in El Carrizalillo for over ten years.
The gold project has caused serious environmental and health impacts in the area, Julio told Real World Radio. These are “2000-2500 hectares that are completely destroyed by the mine”.
Julio also said that they have also blocked federal transportation networks in order to avoid being repressed by the government, “which is supporting the transnational corporation”. Julio believes the support of national and international support has been key to avoid governmental repression. “This is extremely valuable”, he said, and urged the international community to continue expressing solidarity through letters, press releases, among other protection mechanisms for the community members resisting.
The Meso American Movement against the Mining Extractive Model (M4), together with international networks, such as Friends of the Earth International (FoEI) is circulating an urgent action with letters addressed to Goldcorp authorities and Mexican and Canadian governments to claim a dignified agreement for the affected peoples.
To join the action: http://www.movimientom4.org/2014/04/accion-urgente-por-la-renegociacion-justa-o-restitucion-de-tierras-y-plan-de-cierre-de-la-mina-los-filos-propiedad-de-goldcorp-en-guerrero-mexico/
Apr 08, 2014
Friends of the Earth Argentina is engaged in a campaign to protect some of that country’s most important wetlands, and their campaign will soon arrive at the doorstep of an unlikely accomplice in the potential destruction: Harvard University.
According to a report released late last year by the Oakland Institute and the Responsible Investment at Harvard coalition, industrial timber plantations owned by Harvard University in the Corrientes province of Argentina have degraded the Iberá Wetlands ecosystem and endangered thousands of small-holder farmers in the region.
Harvard owns 212,500 acres of land in the Iberá Wetlands -- one of the world's largest reserves of freshwater -- and also owns two timber companies that are converting the land to monoculture pine and eucalyptus plantations. Since Harvard purchased the companies in 2007, the timber plantations have expanded into protected wetland areas and surrounding communities.
According to local residents, the companies generate little economic benefit for the local population because young people have to leave their hometowns as plantations decrease the productivity of their farms. Moreover, the plantations harm public health with their pesticides use and cause damage to public roads.
The monoculture plantations also devastate the environment as they reduce the availability of water for farming, increase summer droughts, create water shortages, and threaten critical habitat for hundreds of plant and animal species.
The Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition is asking supporters to sign an Avaaz petition to demand that Harvard stop the plantations' expansion. This month, two organizers from Corrientes, Emilio Spataro and Adrián Obregón, will come from Argentina to Harvard Yard for a Week of Action to speak to student groups and administrators about the urgent need for Harvard to desist its exploitation and mismanagement of the Iberá Wetlands.
To learn more and join the rally in Harvard Yard on Friday, April 11, at 2:00 P.M, go to ResponsibleHarvard.com. To sign the Avaaz petition, click here.
See more about this case on the website of Friends of the Earth US
Apr 01, 2014
The FAO's (The UN's Food and Agriculture Organization) current definition actually promotes deforestation. Any area covered by trees could be counted as a forest under the FAO's current definition. But forests are complex ecosystems; the structural, functional and biological diversity of non-tree elements that make up a forest are not taken into consideration. The cultural importance of the interaction between forests and communities is overlooked. Alarmingly, the inclusion of monoculture tree plantations in the definition misleadingly gives the impression that global deforestation is not the problem it once was. You really may as well call a swimming pool a lake.
The World Rainforest Movement, Friends of the Earth International, La Via Campesina, and Focus on the Global South wrote a joint letter on March 21 - International Day of Forests - asking the FAO to change the way it defines forests.
Write a letter or email to yourasking them to urgently begin the process of devising a new definition for forests. Use some of the talking points below (or just copy paste if you're in a hurry).
To whom it may concern,
The current definition of forest used by the FAO is inadequate. It does not adequately protect forests or the people who depend on them. At least 300 million women and men worldwide depend directly on forests for their livelihoods. These people must be consulted and their priorities included in devising a new definition.
The current definition preferences the perspectives of the timber, pulp/paper and rubber companies who benefit from planting large monoculture plantations. A new definition must reflect how forest dependent peoples see and use forests.
States and multilateral institutions such as the FAO and the World Bank still see forests as land where the commercial extraction of valuable timber by private companies is the best way for countries to get on the so called “development” track and take people out of “poverty”, yet the current definition leaves forest communities vulnerable to land grabs and undermines their food sovereignty.
The present reductionist definition also justifies the expansion of large-scale monoculture tree plantations as so called “planted forests". Such large-scale monocultures are even considered “reforestation” and are said to compensate for forest loss. In practice, industrial tree plantations and other industrial monocultures like oil palm and soy have contributed immensely to the destruction of forests and other biomes like grasslands and savannas throughout the world. While providing a handful of transnational companies with enormous profits, they have left forest-dependent communities impoverished and often even driven them off their territories.
The FAO’s State of the world´s forests report continues to support the myth that deforestation is less of a problem than it was in the past. The supposedly positive news is the result of the current definition, which confuses forests and plantations, permitting tens of millions of industrial fast-growing monoculture plantations (such as eucalyptus, acacia and rubber) to be counted as “planted forests” in countries’ forest statistics.
Under FAO’s present forest definition, even a genetically modified fast-growing eucalyptus plantation of 100,000 hectares is called a “forest”, in spite of all the negative impact it has as a large-scale monoculture crop, not to speak of the risk of contaminating the genetic composition of surrounding trees and forests.
For all of these reasons and many more, I implore you to begin the process of creating a new, more representative, less damaging definition for forests as soon as possible.
1. View of palm oil plantation in Cigudeg, Bogor by Achmad Rabin Taim from Jakarta, Indonesia
2. An underwater picture of a swimming pool by Tukka
Mar 31, 2014
On March 31, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published its report on the latest scientific understanding of climate change impacts.
The report's findings draw our attention to the many reasons why the climate crisis is an environmental justice issue.
Climate change is hitting the poorest people and the poorest countries hardest, despite these being least responsible for causing it. These examples from the UN report exemplify why the climate crisis is an environmental justice issue:
1. The poorest are already most affected by climate change
Extreme weather can destroy homes and infrastructure, and changing weather patterns can reduce crop yields and make some conditions unworkable. While richer people and richer countries may be positioned to adapt to these new circumstances, poorer countries and poorer people are already struggling with higher food prices and reduced crop yields.
2. Poverty and extreme weather
Countries and districts lacking essential infrastructure and quality housing are simply less able to cope with extreme heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones and wildfires. Water scarcity and lack of access to food following extreme weather is also a greater problem for poorer countries and poorer people in richer countries.
3. Access to food
Essential crop yields, such as wheat and maize, have already been negatively affected by climate change. Further change could mean the breakdown of food systems and supply chains in vulnerable areas. Once again it is the urban and rural poor who are worst hit.
4. Health impacts
Delivery of basic medical services will suffer in some particularly vulnerable areas, exacerbating existing health complaints and leaving preventable conditions unchecked. As the twenty first century rolls on, climate change is expected to lead to increases in ill-health.
5. Fishing and coastal communities
As climate change causes the loss of marine ecosystems and damages others, the impact on already fragile fishing communities could be catastrophic. Changing marine migration patterns are vastly unpredictable. Meanwhile, storm surges, coastal flooding and rising sea-levels are likely to disrupt livelihoods and cause injury, ill-health and death in coastal regions.
6. Poverty reduction efforts will be set back
With the erosion in food security comes the likelihood that efforts to reduce existing inequalities will be scaled back. Economic growth is likely to decline. Poverty reduction will be more difficult and less effective.
The impacts of climate change are already being felt, particularly by the poorest. Further climate change brings substantial risks to human well being, again particularly the poorest, as well as to ecosystems.
Coping with the effects of climate change will require rapid and significant reductions in emissions from the wealthiest people across the world and from the wealthiest countries.
It will also require significant financial and technical assistance to help poorer countries and regions to adapt and develop low-carbon economies.
But there is also an urgent need to reduce vulnerability to climate change by reducing inequalities between and within countries.
Image: Mayeenul Islam, Cyclone Aila Climate Change Nijhum Dwip 2009 Bangladesh
Mar 21, 2014
Lack of access to clean water for Palestinians is a major problem. Opposition to Israeli state water company Mekorot's discriminatory policies has spurred people into action around the world. Friends of the Earth Palestine is co-organizing a week of action against Mekerot beginning on March 22, World Water Day.
The occupied Palestinian territory shares water sources with Israel, but the vast majority of their shared water is piped to Israelis and illegal Israeli settlements.
All Israeli settlements in the West Bank are connected to piped water supplied by Mekorot, while an estimated 15% of the Palestinian population is not serviced at all.
Even Mekerot's paying Palestinian customers often do not have a sufficient supply. During summer, water is routinely rationed and supply can be reduced by up to 70% in certain places. Some Palestinian cities, towns and villages may have water only once a week or even once a month.
This injustice and the inequity of access to water supply has always been a source of tension, especially when Palestinian villagers see water pipes leading to Israeli colonies passing through their land without supplying their village with water.
Friends of the Earth International is supporting the Week of Action Against Mekorot co-organised by PENGON/Friends of the Earth Palestine and other Palestinian organisations because of the water company's discriminatory water policies and practices.
What is the week of action?
A global call to stand up and insist that governments, public and private utility companies, and investors worldwide avoid or terminate all contracts and cooperation agreements with Mekorot.
Mekorot is working to expand its international activities, participating in bids for public contracts and partnerships with utility companies in countries such as the U.S., Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Cyprus, and Uganda.
In December 2013 the largest drinking water supplier in the Netherlands, Vitens, set a precedent when it decided that its commitment to international law meant it had to withdraw from a cooperation agreement with Mekorot.
What can you do?
- Write a letter to a public representative, public/ private utility company, or an investor insisting they discontinue their business relationship with Mekorot
- Share banners for social media contrasting the affluence of life in some of the settlements with life in the Palestinian communities
- Join #StopMekorot Thunderclap for World Water Day: Stop water injustice in Palestine
- Share this Infographic on water issues in the West Bank
For more information
Friends of the Earth International press release 'Israeli water company Mekorot under pressure from NGOs'
Read 'Water injustice in Palestine'
More about the Week of Action Against Mekorot
For more about Mekorot's international activities see the Mekorot factsheet prepared by Stop The Wall (STW) and the company's website
Jan 11, 2012
A new report by Friends of the Earth Europe shows that European consumption is threatening the world's water supply.
This research shows how Europe’s material consumption is threatening the world’s water supply and Europe is neglecting the catastrophic consequences that water stress and scarcity will have in the continent and in the rest of the world. Europe’s high levels of water use are characteristic of alarming levels of resource use by a minority of the global population. This imbalance in water use has already resulted in water conflicts in parts of the world where water is scarcest.
Mar 24, 2011
On Wednesday March 16, civil society organisations in Colombia took to the streets of the capital Bogota, to mark the International Day of Action Against Dams and for the defence of rivers, water and life. They were joined by other like-minded organisations from the continent and beyond.
Demonstrations and cultural events also took place in Brazil, Mexico, Guatemala and El Salvador.
In Neiva, in the south of Colombia, 2000 people marched to express their opposition to plans to build a dam in the Magdalena river. More than 200 peasants from the region took part in a sit-in outside the site where the dam would be built.
In the north of the country up to 4,000 people demonstrated against the construction of the Ituango Dam on the Cauca river. The people's slogans demanded guarantees of the right to land, work and the rejection of forcible evictions.
In Santander, peasants, fisherfolk, environmental activists, workers and students demonstrated against a project to build a dam in the Chicamocha river, one of the most diverse places in the region. The dam would cause severe damage to the fisheries, and peasants who live on the river.
In Cauca, to the west, black communities conducted a General Assembly to mark the day and to prepare an action plan to respond to threats on their territory from a proposed hydroelectricity project. They also agreed to put together an environmental management plan for its Basin.
Aug 02, 2010
On July 28 the United Nations General Assembly overwhelmingly agreed to a resolution declaring the human right to "safe and clean drinking water and sanitation."
The UN General Assembly passed on Wednesday in New York, US, a resolution that recognizes the human right to clean water and sanitation, with 122 votes in favour, 41 abstentions and zero votes against it. Hundreds of social movements around the world welcome this historic decision.
“After over a decade of hard work, the global water justice movement achieved a major victory”, states the Council of Canadians in a press release issued Wednesday. The Council of Canadians is an organization that has been crucial in the international struggle for this right and that works for social, economic and environmental justice in Canada and the rest of the world.
Three members of the Council of Canadians were present at the UN General Assembly session yesterday. One of them, Anil Naidoo, said “this resolution has the overwhelming support of a strong majority of countries, despite a handful of powerful opponents. It must now be followed-up with a renewed push for water justice.”
The initiative, introduced by Bolivia with the support of over 30 countries, declares “the right to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation as a human right that is essential for the full enjoyment of life and all human rights.” And is “deeply concerned” since “approximately 884 million people lack access to safe drinking water and that over 2.6 billion do not have access to basic sanitation”. It also states its alarm since “approximately 1.5 million children under 5 years of age die and 443 million school days are lost each year from water and sanitation related diseases”.
The movements fighting for the human right to water at an international level are aware of the fact that their work and mobilization must continue, to ensure the enforcement of the resolution. “We are calling for actions on the ground in communities around the world to ensure that the rights to water and sanitation are implemented”, said Naidoo. “Governments, aid agencies and the UN must take their responsibilities seriously”, he added.
Several developed countries pushed to prevent the resolution from being passed, although when it was time to vote they abstained, to protect their international image. The United Kingdom, Canada, US, Australia and New Zealand are among these countries.
It was reported that these countries tried to change the text of the resolution to reduce their future obligations to ensure the human right to water.
Most of the abstaining countries are European, mostly the EU or aligned to the EU. The six African countries that abstained (Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Tanzania and Zambia) are former European colonies, as the two Caribbean countries (Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago).
Jul 22, 2010
Friends of the Earth Korea / KFEM have recently occupied a 6 metre high dam to show their opposition to the four major rivers development project.
At 4am on July 22, 2010, Five KFEM campaigners occupied a 6 metre high dam on the Namhan River, part of the four major rivers project. The group of five were protesting at the environmental destruction the project is causing.
A spokesman from the group said:
"As environmentalists we cannot understand the irrational and ecologically destructive four major rivers project. Protesting is the only thing we can do because the government ignores and rejects all the suggestions from the people on the ground."
The South Korean government announced the four major rivers restoration project in June 2009. They claim that the Four Major Rivers Project is part of its efforts to combat climate change. However, the project threatens conservation efforts of wetlands and will stop rivers from flowing freely. Friends of the Earth Korea believe that more than 100 river wetlands on the National Wetland Inventory will be affected by the project.
Wetlands play a crucial role in flood control, water supply and water purification. The construction of levies and dams on rivers to improve flood control has often had the reverse effect. Floodplain restoration and removal of nearby structures should be considered as an alternative solution.
Friends of the Earth Korea are demanding that President Lee Myung-Bak:
- recognise the public concerns about the project and stop it immediately
- create an organisation to create alternatives to the four major rivers development project
- discuss with civil society organisations and local people any future ideas for development projects
Apr 17, 2009
More than 1000 Colombians demonstrated in the capital as part of international water week in order to reclaim water as a fundamental right.
On March 18 2009, Colombians demonstrated in support of a referendum on the right to water as part of International Water Week. More than 1000 people participated in the demonstration which included young people from universities and schools, environmentalists, trade unionists and neighbourhood communities from all over Bogota.
The demonstration’s strength and impact rested on the young people’s cultural expressions as they sought to reclaim water as a vital element of their territory and access to water as a fundamental right, far removed from the thinking promoted by transnational corporations and other private actors.
The march sent a strong message to the MPs who were discussing the Water Referendum Bill in the House of Representatives. The bill demands the enforcement of the popular decision, supported by over two million Colombians, to treat water as a fundamental human right for everyone.
However, while the Columbian congress is questioning the cost implied by the implementation of the proposal, delaying its approval, the figures of inequality in the country continue to rise. Nearly 53% of the rural population has no access to drinking water. In the capital alone, there are nearly one million people without access to water, because they cannot afford it.
Friends of the Earth Colombia/CENSAT demand the lawmakers reflect the citizen’s decision in the recent referendum and they encourage the national and international community to support this initiative and to continue moving forward in the building of a social and environmental movement that defends access to water as a fundamental human right.
On May 19 the Colombian congress ignored the will of the people and 'modified' the bill taking out the reference to water being a basic human right.
Apr 20, 2007
referendum result - 60% reject water privatization
On the historical day October 31 st , 62,75% of the Uruguayan people supported the Constitutional Reform in Defense of Water, adding water as a human right to the Constitution and setting the basis for its exclusive public, participative and sustainable management.
This referendum resource was promoted by the National Commission in Defense of Water and Life (CNDAV) . The commission was created in 2002 as an answer to the signing of a Letter of Intent between the Uruguayan government and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which committed to extend the privatization of potable water and sanitation services to the entire country.
Privatizations started in Maldonado department, firstly with the presence of French multinational company Suez Lyonnese Des Aux followed by Spanish company Aguas de Bilbao.
As in most of water privatizations performed last year, these processes have had negative consequences.
From the social point of view, wide sectors were prevented access to potable water for not being able to afford the cost of the service, which considerably decreased its quality with respect to the services granted by water state company OSE.
The conditions of the service were of such low quality that quality control bodies in that matter recommended not to consume water because it didn't comply with minimum quality standards.
From an economic point of view, the “business” was really bad for the Uruguayan state. Not only did the companies failed to comply with the chronograms provided in the contracts, but they didn't pay what was established as well. Having to file for contractual reconsiderations before the state, which assumed the losses caused in each of the cases.
From an environmental point of view, Aguas de la Costa company (subsidiary of Suez) was responsible for drying Blanca Lagoon, which used to be used as potablilization source. Precisely for this cause, neighbors of Maldonado department filed a law suit against the company for environmental damages.
Water against everything
The victory of the water plebiscite was actually a social one. CNDAV is a wide group of social and political organizations which oppose a merchandising conception of water.
Among their founders are neighbors' organizations, FFOSE (water state company's trade union) and REDES-FOE (Friends of the Earth Uruguay). After its foundation, the commission became greater, including the majority left wing political party (Frente Amplio, winner of October 31st elections) and one nationalist party's sectors.
However, despite its political support, the water plebiscite was secondary within the politic and media agenda. In addition to this, privatizing companies, of water and other sectors (as bottling companies) as well as conservative business sectors (large estate owners, forestal and rice) carried out a strong politic and media lobby against the reform.
During the nine months previous to the campaign, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) started a public debate with the CNDAV, denying any imposition to the Uruguayan government and refusing the responsibility attributed to the content of 2002 Intentions Letter.
The work, which enabled the triumph of the Constitutional Reform , was based on the grassroots, which transmitted the spirit and content of the proposed articles.
The auspicious result of the plebiscite opens the doors for a water policy designed from a vision of this resource as a common good, to be publicly managed on social participation and sustainability criteria.
read about the background