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Wildlife Conservationists need to Break out of their Stockholm Syndrome

Global Policy

August 30, 2016

by Margi Prideaux

 

Instead of fighting a destructive economic system, international conservation NGOs are bonding with its brutality.

staved-polar-bear

“A male polar bear starved to death as a consequence of climate change. This polar bear was last tracked by the Norwegian Polar Institute in April 2013 in southern Svalbard. Polar bears need sea ice to hunt seals, their main prey. The winter of 2012-2013 was one of the worst on record for sea ice extent. The western fjords on Svalbard that normally freeze in winter remained ice-free all season.” Ashley Cooper/Corbis [Source: Polar Bears on Thin Ice]

Conservationists like me want a world where wildlife has space, where wild places exist, and where we can connect with the wild things. Yet time after time, like captives suffering from Stockholm syndrome, wildlife conservation NGOs placate, please and emulate the very forces that are destroying the things they want to protect.

Despite our collective, decades-long, worldwide commitment to protect wildlife, few indicators are positive. The Red List that’s issued by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature now includes 22,784 species that are threatened with extinction. Habitat loss is the main problem for 85 per cent of species on the list.

The number of African rhinos killed by poachers, for example, has increased for the sixth year in a row. Pangolins are now the most heavily poached and trafficked mammals on the planet. One third of the world’s freshwater fish are at risk from new hydropower dams. Two hundred amphibians have already gone and polar bears are probably doomed. Human beings are simply taking too much from the world for its rich diversity to survive.

baby-pangs-face-detail-christian-boix

A close up of Katiti the Pangolin  ©Christian Boix

None of this is news to people in the conservation movement. The reality of devastation has been apparent for many years, which should prompt some soul-searching about why we are failing.

The main reason is that we are allowing the market to dictate conservation while ignoring the very people we should empower.

Communities everywhere know their non-human kin—the animals that live among them. We know the seasons we share, and what grows when and where. We know the ebb and flow of life in our shared places. For some, those vistas are forests. Others look out to the sea, and some on endless frozen horizons. These are not empty places. They are filled with wildlife with which human beings commune.

But if wildlife are local, the impacts of human activity on them are unquestionably global, and they require global management. Industrialized fishing, mining, forestry and mono-agriculture raze whole areas and replace diversity with a single focus. The illegal international trade in exotic species provides a path for the unethical to hunt, kill, package and commodify animals and plants. The market’s quest for resources and power floods, burns and devastates whole landscapes.

For the last two decades, the conservation movement of the global North has believed that little can be done to counterbalance the might of this vast economic system, so the reaction has been to bond with it and accept its brutality—to please it and copy its characteristics. In the process, organizations in this movement have developed the classic symptoms of psychological capture and dependence through which victims develop a bond with, and sympathy for, their captors.

I’m being deliberately provocative here by evoking Stockholm syndrome because it clarifies the crucial point I want to make: I believe that the conservation movement’s unhealthy relationship with the global economic system exacerbates harm to both people and wildlife.

NGOs in Europe and North America raise money from philanthropists, corporations and other donors to arrange or establish protected areas that extend over large, pristine and fragile lands in Latin America, Asia and Africa. The public in the global North flock to their ambition, hoping it will lock precious places away from harm and raising even more money in the process. But this support turns a blind eye to the inconvenient fact that these areas exclude local communities—people who have lived for millennia beside flamingos and tigers, orangutans and turtles and who are just as wronged by big business and globalization as are wildlife.

These agencies also court the market by selling ‘adoption products’ and ‘travel experiences’ to these protected areas. They smooth out the ripples from their messages so that their supporters’ sensibilities are not offended. They deflect attention away from harmful corporations. They expand their marketing departments and shut down their conservation teams. They adopt the posture and attributes of the very things—capitalism, consumerism and the market—that destroy what they seek to protect.

Hence, their capture-bond is informing how they see the world. In their efforts to please and emulate the market they fail to look for the broader, systemic causes of elephant poaching or killing sharks for their fins. They trade stands of forests for agreements with corporations and international agencies not to campaign against dams that will flood whole valleys. They defend sport hunting by wealthy western tourists as legitimate ‘conservation’.

For example, the Gonds and the Baigas—tribal peoples in India—have been evicted from their ancestral homelands to make way for tiger conservation. Tourist vehicles now drive through their lands searching for tigers, and new hotels have been built in the same zones from which they were evicted.

Or take Indonesia, where massive illegal deforestation has burned and destroyed huge areas of precious rainforest. Even though a court order and a national commission have compelled the government to hand ownership of the forests back to the people who live there, the corporate sector is resisting. At times they hide behind their NGO partners through the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, a global, multi-stakeholder initiative that includes many conservation NGOs as members.

International NGOs have scuppered efforts to control polar bear trophy hunting in the Arctic while they benefit from lucrative corporate partnerships for other areas of polar bear conservation. A major project run by Conservation International in the Ankeniheny-Zahamena Corridor of Madagascar has restricted villagers’ use of their traditional forests for food harvesting in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, yet Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell and NRG Energy are all members of the organisation’s Business & Sustainability Council.

Even worse is the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF), which stands accused of breaches of OECD Guidelines on the Conduct of Multinational Enterprises and of the UN Declaration on Human Rights. The complaint in question alleges that WWF has financed and supported ecoguards that have brutally displaced the Baka tribespeople who have traditionally lived in the area now declared as a national park in Cameroon, while turning a blind eye to the destruction of the Baka’s way of life through logging, mining and the trafficking of wildlife.

wwf

Stephen Corry, the director of Survival International (which in this case is blowing the whistle on another NGO), has this to say:

“WWF knows that the men its supporters fund for conservation work repeatedly abuse, and even torture, the Baka, whose land has been stolen for conservation zones. It hasn’t stopped them, and it treats criticism as something to be countered with yet more public relations.”

Writing on openDemocracy, Gordon Bennett argues that NGOs might avoid toxic situations like this if they undertook proper investigations before committing to new parks and protected areas. I agree, but I also believe that WWF should have supported the Baka people to propose their own solutions to conserving their forests instead of assuming that a park and ecoguards were the answer.

These depressing examples are being replicated around the world. The situation will only get worse as human populations increase. Local communities and wildlife are bound to lose out.

The world is changing, however, and local civil society is on the rise. International conservation NGOs therefore need to think long and hard about their relevance as local groups grow stronger. As more communities gain access to international politics, they will be trampled on less easily by agendas from afar. The challenge is to ensure that they become empowered to look after their own land and the wildlife around them.

If the conservation movement is brave enough to transform the ways in which it works, it can support this process of empowerment and the radical changes that come with it. It can connect with local civil society groups as a partner and not as a decision maker. It can devolve its grip on how conservation is conceived and respond to community ideas and wisdom about protecting the wildlife with which they live.

In this task the conservation movement has a lot to offer. International NGOs are skilled and experienced, and they have access to international processes of negotiation and decision making. If they free themselves from corporate pressures and transform themselves into supporters of local civil society, together everyone is stronger. NGOs can help to project the unpasteurised voices of local communities into the halls of the United Nations.

To do any of these things, however, they must remember who they were before they were captured. It’s time to break free from Stockholm syndrome.

 

 

[Dr Margi Prideaux is an international wildlife policy writer, negotiator and academic. She has worked within the conservation movement for 25 years. Her forthcoming book Birdsong After the Storm: Global Environmental Governance, Civil Society and Wildlife will be released in early 2017.  She writes at www.wildpolitics.co and you can follow her on twitter @WildPolitics.]

 

FURTHER READING:

Fundacion Pachamama is Dead – Long Live ALBA [Part VII of an Investigative Report]

Oil, Contact, and Conservation in the Amazon: Indigenous Huaorani, Chevron, and Yasuni

CUNY Queens College, Department of Political Science and Environmental Studies Program

January 10, 2013

by Judith Kimerling

Colorado Journal of International Environmental Law and Policy, Vol. 24, No. 1, 2013

Eye On Amazon Watch

Image courtesy of Eye on Amazon Watch

Abstract:

Texaco’s discovery of commercially valuable oil in the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador ignited an oil rush that made the conquest of Amazonia a national policy imperative. Texaco (now Chevron), Ecuador, and missionaries from the Summer Institute of Linguistics carried out a campaign to “contact” and pacify Indigenous Huaorani (Waorani) who lived in areas slated for oil development. Chevron’s operations also caused massive environmental damage which led to the ongoing, and increasingly complex, litigation now known as “the Chevron Ecuador Litigation.” This Article begins with a brief review of events leading to the litigation and an analysis of petroleum policy, Amazon and indigenous lands rights policy, and environmental protection policy in Ecuador. A discussion of the litigation (in the United States, Ecuador and the Hague) follows. Recent developments in the litigation are shifting much of the focus of the legal and political contest from allegations about Chevron’s misconduct to allegations of misconduct by the lawyers and activists who manage the litigation in Ecuador, and have eclipsed the situation on the ground, where environmental conditions continue to deteriorate and peoples’ rights are still being violated. The Article then examines the situation of the Huaorani who are struggling to survive and protect what remains of their ancestral territory in Yasuni National Park and the Tagaeri-Taromenane Intangible Zone. It includes a discussion of the gap between promises in the law and the reality on the ground, and ways in which conservation bureaucracies and NGOs are also violating the rights the Huaorani and posing new threats to Huaorani territory and self-determination.

Download the paper: SSRN-id2332782

Update via TeleSUR, August 8, 2016: US Court Rules in Favor of Chevron in Ecuador Pollution Case

http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/US-Court-Rules-in-Favor-of-Chevron-in-Case-Against-Ecuador-20160808-0009.html

Eagle and Condor meet in Oneida

December 26, 2015

Irene Leon, advisor to the Ecuadorian foreign minister addresses members of three different Oneida clan families.

Irene Leon, advisor to the Ecuadorian foreign minister addresses members of three different Oneida clan families.

ONEIDA OF THE THAMES TERRITORY – On Sunday, October 25, a 10 person delegation headed by Irene Leon, advisor to the Ecuadorian foreign minister, was welcomed at the Kayanere’ko:wa longhouse within the K^onthyokwanhasta on Elijah Rd, on Oneida Nation territory. This gathering was the latest step in the development of an ongoing relationship between three traditional Oneida Nation clan families who follow the Kayanere’ko:wa (the Great Peace), and the movement known as the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA).

Sunday’s delegation was received by some 35 members of the Turtle, Wolf and Bear clans, including Hoyane (chiefs) and clan mothers. The delegation from Ecuador included representatives from Alliance Pais, the coalition of social movements backing the current Ecudorian government as well as long time Chilean activists.

The main purpose of the delegation was to strengthen an ongoing relationship with traditional Onkwehon:we clan families that has been building since early April of last year. On April 8, 2015, a delegation of some 30 members from the Latin American community in Toronto accompanied Wilmer Barrentios, the Venezuelan ambassador to Canada for a meeting at the Kanien’kehà:ka (Mohawk) long house at Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. At that meeting, diplomatic protocols were observed and lines of communication were opened between the Venezuelan government and clan families represented within the K^onthyokwanhasta or peoples wampum.

[The complete transcript of the diplomatic exchange from that visit is available online via the Two Row Times newspaper. The audio of the speech made by Venezuelan Ambassador Barrentios event, and the speech given in reply by Kanenhariyo on behalf of the Mohawk Longhouse are both available via the What’s Going On? Podcast. For more information about the K^onthyokwanhasta, check out Episode 9 of the What’s Going On Podcast.

Following the ambassador’s visit, representatives from the Ecuadorian government who had joined the delegation of April 8, continued to develop relations with the clan families involved in the K^onthyokwanhasta movement. The Ecuadorian consulate in Toronto reached out to members of the K^onthyokwanhasta in Oneida and Six Nations and Akwesasne, and asked for their help in coming to Washington on April 19th and 20th to stand together with the people affected by the ecologically destructive acts of Chevron.

In answering this call for help, over 100 traditional Onkwehon:we people from Oneida, Grand River, Tyendinaga, and Akwesasne drove to Washington for a rally outside the offices of the world bank in order to support the indigenous peoples of Ecuador and their $10 billion dollar lawsuit against oil giant Chevron for its pollution of the Amazon – an ecological disaster ranked as one of the greatest in human history.

Rotiskenrakehte gather outside of the World Bank headquarters in Washington DC in April of 2015.

Rotiskenrakehte gather outside of the World Bank headquarters in Washington DC in April of 2015.

The participation of the Onkwehonweh delegation was enthusiastically welcomed by the thousands of Ecuadorians present at the Washington rally, and the intervention in support of their southern cousins, was widely reported and made front page news in the daily papers in Ecuador.

Follow-up meetings were held with Ecuadorian representatives after the event, and Kanasaraken from the Bear Clan of the Akwesasne Mohawks was sent to Ecuador as a representative of the K^onthyokwanhasta for a meeting and a series of workshops concerning the anti-Chevron campaign.

This campaign, which has trended on Twitter with the hashtag #chevronsdirtyhand, has seen the Latin American community in Canada build relationships with Onkwehon:we people as well as with anti pipeline movements such as the Unist’ot’en camp in BC which stand in the way of a major tar sands pipeline backed by Chevron. The gathering at the Oneida longhouse on Sunday, October 25, thus represented a continuation of this ongoing relationship.

In addition to bringing a message of greeting and solidarity from the Ecuadorian social movements, Ecuadorian representative Irene Leon made a formal invitation to the three clan families who were present to send a delegation to the global indigenous summit that the Bolivarian movement is planning in June 2016.

At this conference, the presidents of 10 different Latin American nations will be present to meet with representatives of indigenous peoples from across the Americas. The aim is to bring together indigenous peoples movements across the Americas with the ALBA governments to address common problems and to build an international alliance of social movements and indigenous peoples. The conference is set to occur during the course of the summer equinox from June 19-21, 2016 and will be held in Ecuador.

Sunday’s meeting was an indication that the rebuilding of traditional Onkwehon:we ways of governance is alive and well. The meeting was opened with the traditional Thanksgiving address, and the visitors were informed that they were being welcomed on behalf of not only the ancestors, the elders, the men and women, and the children, but also the faces yet to come – the people in whose interests all decisions must be made.

The Ecuadorian delegation and the K^onthyokwanhasta sat on opposite sides of the Longhouse and counseled amongst each other in coming to decisions which were expressed to the other side of the fire by their speakers. Both groups expressed satisfaction that their ongoing relationship was being strengthened by regular contact and discussion together. Regarding the invitation to the International conference in June 2016, the Oneida clan families decided that further discussion was required before making a formal decision about attending the conference. They informed the Ecuadorian delegation that they would return a formal answer to them once they had fully consulted with their people.

The Ecuadorian delegation provided their hosts with gifts including a coffee table photo book which showed pictures of the environmental devastation caused by Chevron and also provided a glimpse into the lives of indigenous peoples in Ecuador and the stunning landscape and natural environment that is their home. Chilean members of the delegation performed a song about the struggles of the Mapuche peoples, and presented the longhouse with a portrait engraved in copper of socialist president Salvador Allende who was murdered in a CIA sponsored coup on September 11, 1973. A flag of the Alliance Pais movement bearing the visage of Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa and Che Guevera’s famous saying “Hasta la victoria siempre” (forwards to victory) was also offered to the Longhouse. The gifts were graciously accepted, and the guests were invited to partake in a delicious meal prepared by the hosts.

Once the gathering reconvened after lunch, further business was attended to. Recognizing the efforts of the Ecuadorian government in dealing with transnational corporations acting against the interests of indigenous peoples, the Oneida clan families asked for assistance from the Ecuadorians in understanding and addressing developments on their territory involving large corporations. In particular, the Oneidas asked for help with understanding corporate agreements made without their consent. The Ecuadorian delegation agreed to provide their international expertise in dealing with global corporations, and made a public commitment to follow up with a series of workshops on how transnational corporations operate, and how the Ecuadorian, Venezuelan, and Bolivian governments are working towards an alternative vision for their peoples.

The Ecuadorians asked for a letter of support for their anti-Chevron campaign and the Oneida clan families agreed to write such a letter. The Oneidas in their turn asked for a letter of support from the Ecuadorians that would recognize the relationship that has been built together with the K^onthyokwanhasta over the past six months. The speaker from the Oneida families explained that the traditional clan families are not part of the elected band Council system and are not seeking provincial or federal recognition from the Canadian government. The clan families that make up the K^onthyokwanhasta are the basis of the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and they don’t speak for anyone else, only themselves.

Traditional protocol was used to ensure that all parties had expressed what they had come to the meeting to say, and the meeting was concluded with a closing address and the taking of a group photo to commemorate the continued building of a relationship between the peoples of the land of the Condor and the peoples of the land of the Eagle. As in the other gatherings which have defined this newly emerging relationship, there was an air of happiness and very positive energy from all involved in the meeting.

 

For more information about the work of the K^onthyokwanhasta, please contact Jagwadeh at 519-865-6407 or Anthony at 226-234-5342.

 

For more information about the campaign against Chevron and the work being undertaken by Ecuadorian social movements in North America, please visit the website www.antichevron.ca or the Facebook group https://www.facebook.com/chevronsdirtyhand please contact Santiago Escobar at 647-920-6446

Don’t get confused, in Ecuador the people support Correa and the Citizens’ Revolution

August 18, 2015

By Santiago Escobar

Ecuador Article

Photo: On April 15, the coordinator of Pachakutik, the political front of CONAIE movement,
met with banker and right-wing politician, Guillermo Lasso. Pachakutik and Lasso
agreed to rally against the government.

On August 13th, 2015 bankers, right-wing groups, few indigenous people, foreign funded NGOs, “radical leftists”, local and international corporate media, called to a general strike against the government of President Rafael Correa, but did not succeed in their destabilization attempts.

This plot started as a “marcha indigena” (“indigenous rally”) during which people supposedly marched over 700 kilometers across several provinces to finally reach the capital of Ecuador, Quito. However, in fact most participants traveled by SUV and gas-guzzling trucks owned by infamous CONAIE and Ecuarunari members. ‘Infamous’ because all their glory and revolutionary past vanished when these historic indigenous organizations succumbed to the old elites and joined the right wing agenda lead by banker Guillermo Lasso, who according to Wikileaks is a key contact and has strong ties to the US Embassy in Ecuador.

Don’t get confused the current CONAIE and Ecuarunari are no longer the same from the 1990s and 2000s when they stood up and fought against neo liberal governments.

Why they protest

In June 2015 wealthy elites claimed that two new bills aimed at addressing inequality and the concentration of wealth, would affect small business, families assets and all kind of entrepreneurship. In fact however, these bills would only impact less than 2% of the Ecuadorian population and no poor and middle class families. President Correa opted to temporarily withdraw the bills in an effort to promote a national debate around the pressing problem of inequality.

In this context the leadership of CONAIE and Ecuarunari not just met with banker Lasso, but also got public support from the notorious far-right mayor of Guayaquil, Jaime Nebot, the leader of Partido Social Cristiano (PSC). His PSC party has been linked to the disappearance and torture of labor, indigenous and student activists in the 90s. Part of the opposition group is also Andres Paez who has strong ties to Chevron Oil Corporation.

In this hodgepodge, Jorge Herrera head of CONAIE and Carlos Perez of Ecuarunari, both have used the same rhetoric as the ultra-reactionary Venezuelan opposition, calling to defend “freedom”, and fighting against a supposed dictatorship of Correa and to avoid becoming as Venezuela. Furthermore, both Herrera and Perez made statements against the proposed two new bills. Carlos Perez even stated that Ecuador and Venezuela are ‘like Germany and Italy’ (alluding to fascism), and that all current progressive governments in Latin America especially Venezuela, Ecuador and Bolivia are ‘fake leftists who are only making people poorer’.

Furthermore, these opposition groups have not accepted the invitation by Correa’s government to have an open and public dialogue, only confirming that this is part of a regional plan aiming to topple the revolutionary governments across Latin America. This real objective is also revealed by the opposition now calling the “marcha indigena” to become an indefinite general strike, which includes road blocks and violent rioters, perfectly synchronized on the heels of right-wing demonstrations against taxes on the ultra-rich.

Already in 2014 the president correctly identified that “People must prevail over capital,” adding that politics is about whose interest governments serve, asking the questions: “Elites or the majority? Capital or humankind? The market or society?

Policies and programs depend on who holds the balance of power.”

What the Correa administration has achieved

Ecuador now collects three times more in taxes than it did in 2006 (when tax evasion was rampant), allowing the government to invest in much needed infrastructure and services. As a result of this social change, President Correa has been rated as one of the most popular presidents in Latin America throughout his administration. Furthermore, political stability has returned to the Andean nation.

Correa and his supporters have won 10 elections since 2007. Promoting equality and tackling discrimination has also been given greater emphasis than in the country’s past.

This has boosted the use of different native languages, which were formerly endangered. Laws to protect minorities have also been implemented, including a law which compels companies to reserve four percent of jobs for people with disabilities, and other quotas for minority ethnic groups – such as indigenous communities and Afro-Ecuadorians – in order to narrow inequality gaps. The same has been applied in the country’s higher education system, where indigenous and Afro-Ecuadorean community inclusion has soared.

The government has also invested more than $200 million in Intercultural Bilingual Education in order to maintain and encourage indigenous languages since the start of the Citizen’s Revolution.
Also, with the new Media Law – approved in 2013 – the indigenous communities have greater access to community media. The law assigns 34 percent of the country’s radio and TV frequencies to community media. So far, 14 radio frequencies have been assigned to each of the country’s indigenous groups.

As an Ecuadorian migrant living in Canada for the past 6 years, every time I visit Ecuador I am able to see the massive re-distribution of wealth that has taken place. Now the majority of people have access to quality services. Especially the access to health and education needs to be highlighted, as 8 years ago this was only a privilege of the few. After decades of being one of the poorest countries in the region, the current government has undertaken a series of deep reforms, which have delivered remarkable changes for Ecuador’s long-excluded majority, particularly for indigenous peoples.

Before the citizen’s revolution, the Ecuadorian economy was collapsed forcing many to migrate, but today all Ecuadorian migrants are again part of the country being able to elect members of Parliament to represent our particular needs and create policies to make our lives better while living abroad. This allows us to maintain a real connection and participation with our homeland; and with numerous benefits in place for returning migrants, many are finally able to return home.

Ecuador’s fight for sovereignty has come at a price

Ecuador has shown an anti- colonial/imperialist foreign policy in order to tackle Western domination. The Correa government shut down the U.S. military base in Manta, asserted control over the country’s oil and other natural resources, taking them away from domination by multinationals, and canceled the punishing international debt. In the past three times as much was spent on debt repayment than on social services. Affecting big players in the financial world, specially US and European elites.

However, this fight for sovereignty has come at a price. On Sept. 30th 2010, a police strike ended up in a violent revolt against President Correa, who was held hostage and fenced in a hospital for several hours. Policemen openly called to assassinate President Correa the outcome of the clashes resulted in 10 deaths. Documents emerged showing massive U.S. funding for policemen and opposition groups, through USAID.

Despite this direct threat, Correa continued to assert an independent foreign policy; one of his boldest moves was granting Julian Assange asylum in the Ecuadorean embassy in London in 2012, a move that angered the U.K., Swedish and US governments.

Today the right wing opposition continues to receive funding from NGOs protecting US interests. According to the Bolivian and Ecuadorian heads of state, the “empire” is attacking Latin American nations with “soft coups”.

Bolivian President Evo Morales accused the Ecuadorean right of using Indigenous movements to topple President Rafael Correa, and urged them not to be treated like instruments.
“I want to tell my Indigenous brothers in Ecuador to not allow themselves to be used against the Ecuadorean government,” said President Morales

Today the rich fight against the government of the poor

When you have a well-organized plot implemented by small indigenous groups, bankers, right wing parties, “radical leftists”, local and international corporate media and the US Embassy against a revolutionary government of the people, you clearly have to choose a side.

During the coup against Allende in Chile there were only two sides. During the coup against Chavez in Venezuela there were only 2 sides. During the coup against Zelaya in Honduras there were only 2 sides.

Today in Ecuador, there are only 2 sides. The side of the people and the citizen’s revolution or the side of the right wing indigenous traitors that share the same ideas, speech and demands as the bankers and the elites.

As president Correa put it: “Before the poor had to fight against the government of the bankers. Today, the rich fight against the government of the poor, for the ‘crime’ of seeking a bit of social justice”.

 

[Santiago Escobar is an Ecuadorian citizen living in Canada since 2009. He has spent the last 4 years working on migrant workers’ rights with migrant farm workers in the Niagara region. Prior to this Escobar organized with Social Movements in both Ecuador and Venezuela implementing People’s Media platforms. In 2009 Escobar became a whistleblower in the environmental law suit against the Oil giant Chevron exposing Chevron’s corruption and dirty tricks operations in Ecuador. The evidence provided have been used in international courts exposing Chevron’s corruption. Escobar also serves as the coordinator of http://www.antichevron.ca/ campaign in Canada.]

 

Follow up: Published on Aug 21, 2015

“David Hill’s article in the Guardian on August 20, entitled “Protests by 1,000s of Ecuadorians meet with brutal repression” is riddled with errors and misrepresentations. We explain to you why.” [TeleSUR]


 

EARTH HOUR: CORPORATE GREENWASH

Friday, March 26, 2010



I wrote extensively about Earth Hour last year and my intention was just to ignore it this year, especially since it appears to have lost its ‘novelty’ value and the level of public interest in it – at least here in New Zealand – seems to have dropped away a little.

However I saw Oliver Driver and Carly Flynn talking nonsense about it on Sunrise this morning. Mediaworks (of which TV3 is a part) is one of the main supporters of Earth Hour in New Zealand so it wasn’t surprising that Oliver and Flynn gushed enthusiastically about it all.

It was, incidentally, ironic that the two presenters should be enthusing about ‘all of us’ coming together for this ‘great’ environmental campaign when, just two days earlier, both Driver and Flynn were agreeing that it was a good idea for Paula Bennett to bash beneficiaries.

Apparently the love and good vibes only go so far…

One of the other main New Zealand supporters of Earth Hour is Toyota. Given that cars spew tons of pollutants into the air every year, I’m not exactly sure how Toyota are contributing to creating a cleaner environment.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are the organising body behind Earth Hour.

I wrote extensively about the shocking politics of the WWF last year and I’m not going to repeat it all here, suffice to say that the WWF has a dismal record of jumping into bed with corporate polluters in return for sponsorship dollars.

Such has been its eagerness to attract corporate backing it has accepted funds from oil corporates like Chevron and Exxon Mobil – both oil giants with dismal environmental records.

The WWF also has taken millions from corporations like Citigroup, the Bank of America, Kodak, J.P. Morgan, the Bank of Tokyo, Philip Morris (yes, the cigarette manufacturer) , Waste Management , Coca Cola and DuPont.

As I wrote last year:

The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), formerly the World Wildlife Fund, has long been pushing a market-friendly brand of environmentalism.

Interestingly, given the recent local controversy about the importation of palm oil into this country, in November last year some 31 countries signed a letter attacking WWF’s founding role in the ‘Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil’. The letter said: ‘WWF’s involvement is being used by agrofuel companies to justify building more refineries and more palm oil power stations in Europe.’

The palm oil industry is a leading cause of destruction of tropical rainforests.

As was the case last year there has been no critical analysis of Earth Hour and the WWF. Instead we have media oganisations like Mediaworks acting as an advertising agency for the WWF.

It has also has the backing, among others, of various city councils – and former Prime Minister Helen Clark.

How many New Zealanders know they are supporting an organisation that takes money from cigarette companies, supports uranium mining in Australia and is playing a central role in the promotion of the palm oil industry and the consequent destruction of more of our precious rainforests?

If they did then its likely a lot of Kiwis would probably stay well clear of Earth Hour.

http://nzagainstthecurrent.blogspot.com/2010/03/earth-hour-corporate-greenwash.html

Calculating the value of carbon in trees | Nature Conservancy Exploitation

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Listen to the show

Calculating the value of carbon in trees

Biologist Ricardo da Britez measures stored carbon Delegates at the global climate summit failed to figure out a way to stop the destruction of the world’s forests. But some lawmakers think they have a solution, and it relies on financing from some of America’s biggest polluters. Michael Montgomery reports in collaboration with Mark Schapiro.

Biologist Ricardo da Britez and a fellow worker measure the carbon stored in a tree in Brazil. (pbs.org)

Links

TEXT OF STORY

Bob Moon: The recent global climate summit left a lot of issues hanging at the end of last year. So the world is still trying to settle on a way to stop the steady destruction of the world’s forests. That’s a critical question, since the clearing of forests leads to more greenhouse gases worldwide than all the cars, trains and planes combined. But hold on. Some lawmakers think they have a solution. And it relies on financing from some of America’s biggest polluters.

Michael Montgomery brings us this story in collaboration with Mark Schapiro of the Center for Investigative Reporting.


Michael Montgomery: It’s a basic equation: forests pull carbon from the atmosphere. But when trees are burned or chopped down, that stored carbon goes back into the air.

Jeff Horowitz is with the nonprofit coalition, Avoided Deforestation Partners. He says one way to fight climate change is to change the economics of forests.

JEFF Horowitz: What we are trying to do is make forests more valuable alive than rainforests that they would be as rainforests that have been slashed and burned.

In Brazil’s vast Atlantic Forest, some big U.S. companies are already investing in this idea. Several years ago, the U.S. Nature Conservancy brokered a deal between American Electric Power, Chevron and GM. The companies gave a Brazilian nonprofit money to create a 50,000-acre nature reserve. What’s unusual about the deal is what the U.S. companies get out of it — credit for carbon stored in the trees to cancel out their industrial emissions back home.

Some of America’s biggest polluters, like American Electric Power, like the idea. Mike Morris is CEO.

MIKE Morris: If you think about biodiversity and you think about the capacity of forests to do the things that they do, and you know that they are a very effective carbon sink, it just makes sense.

But companies like AEP have to know how much carbon the trees are storing to qualify for credits. Deep inside the reserve, biologist Ricardo da Britez is helping them do just that.

Da Britez drives a small nail into a Guaricica tree. He wraps a metal measuring tape around its white trunk. Then, with some quick math, he calculates the tree is storing around 220 pounds of carbon. Maybe enough to cancel out a week’s worth of emissions from a Hummer.

Da Britez explains that credit for the carbon stored in this tree belongs to General Motors. If the amount of carbon doesn’t sound like much, supporters of the plan say this: If you multiply that one tree by millions of others, it could help America hold down its own greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s got some U.S. companies really interested. Here’s why. Legislation pending in Congress would put a cap on the heat-trapping gases companies can release. But the plan also allows companies to get around these caps by investing in projects that cut emissions somewhere else. And preserving a forest could be a lot cheaper as a first step than modernizing power plants.

American Electric’s Mike Morris.

Morris: What I’m trying to do is make sure that the cost of electricity to my customers stays as low as we can have it stay during the period of the technology rolling out.

Electricity prices may stay cheaper, but Greenpeace forest expert Rolf Skar isn’t so sure that letting companies buy up carbon stored in trees is the best way to cut greenhouse gas emissions. He says saving forests this way could amount to sidestepping needed regulations.

ROLF Skar: There’s no way to ensure that we will avoid the worst effects of climate change — catastrophic climate change — if we allow polluting companies to continue to pollute here in the U.S. and simply side step their obligations to clean up their act by paying for avoided deforestation elsewhere.

Skar says this way some companies will never invest in cleaner technology. And there are other issues: Can anyone really guarantee that these trees will store carbon forever. What if there’s a fire, or a blight?

Back at the reserve, Ricardo Da Britez finishes his analysis of the Guaricica tree. So how much is the carbon in this tree really worth?

RICARDO Da Britez: One dollar.

But that tree, and the thousands more here, could become a lot more valuable if U.S. legislation passes. Then, the price of carbon could skyrocket. And that means U.S. corporations would set their sites on buying up forests like this one around the world.

With Mark Schapiro, I’m Michael Montgomery for Marketplace.

MOON: Our story was produced in collaboration with the PBS newsmagazine Frontline/WORLD. Tomorrow we’ll look at how the project is affecting local populations in Brazil’s Atlantic forest.

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/display/web/2010/02/25/pm-brazil-one/

Conservation projects displace locals | U.S. Nature Conservancy Exploitation

Friday, February 26, 2010

Listen to the show

Guarani people walk around their island village Several years ago three U.S. companies sank millions of dollars into a forest reserve in southern Brazil to earn credits to cover some of their carbon emissions back in America. How does the scheme work on the ground? Michael Montgomery reports in collaboration with Mark Schapiro.

Guarani people walk around their island village. (pbs.org)

Links

  • Frontline/WORLD: Carbon Watch
    A project tracking the new currencies of global warming.
  • Center For Investigative Reporting: Carbon Watch
    A project looking at some of the key issues of climate change with a special focus on the trillion-dollar carbon trading market it has created.
  • Calculating the value of carbon in trees
    Delegates at the global climate summit failed to figure out a way to stop the destruction of the world’s forests. But some lawmakers think they have a solution, and it relies on financing from some of America’s biggest polluters. Michael Montgomery reports in collaboration with Mark Schapiro.
  • A green police trooper rides a boat in Brazil.A green police trooper rides a boat in Brazil.
  • Guarani tribal leader Leonardo Wera TupaGuarani tribal leader Leonardo Wera Tupa

TEXT OF STORY

BOB MOON: How about this idea: Save a tree in Brazil, keep polluting here at home. A plan pending in Congress would allow some of America’s biggest polluters to cancel out their emissions here, if they buy up endangered forests around the globe. Some U.S. firms have already been doing that by sinking millions of dollars into a forest reserve in southern Brazil. And how has that gone over with the locals down there?

Michael Montgomery has that story, in collaboration with Mark Schapiro of the Center for Investigative Reporting.


Michael Montgomery: If you want to save a forest in Brazil, you might call on the services of the state’s Force Verde, or Green Police.

Recently, five Green Police troopers set out on a patrol of a nature reserve in the vast Atlantic Forest. Three big U.S. companies — American Electric Power, Chevron and GM — invested millions of dollars to protect 50,000 acres of land here. It’s a very 21st century idea: these companies don’t own the land or the trees. They own credit for the carbon stored in the trees, and someday, they hope to use it to cancel out some of their greenhouse gas pollution back home.

Sound of Green Police commander speaking

The team’s commander leads us through tall grasses and into the forest, where orchids grow wild and jaguars prowl. The Green Police are here to make sure that no one is cutting down trees. They’ve chased off land developers and poachers. But locals complain the green police are also targeting them.

Jonas da Silva: If I go there, I’ll be humiliated in front of my family, because I’ll be arrested. I’ll be called a thief.

That’s Jonas da Silva. He grew up on the reserve’s border. The subsistence farmer says now he can’t hunt or fish or even use the forest paths that the community has relied on for generations. Da Silva lives among some 10,000 farmers, fishermen and Indians who eke out a living from the land.

Sound of children singing

On a small island near the reserve, we meet up with Leonardo Wera Tupa. The Guarani tribal leader has watched with apprehension as American companies cordon off the land here, in the name of fighting climate change.

Leonardo Wera Tupa: When those lands end up in the hands of environmentalists who say they want to preserve them, it ends up limiting many things for the people around and the local population suffers.

Jutta Kill: It is denying them access to land that they have used for many generations and which they have maintained and preserved.

Jutta Kill of the British environmental group FERN has compiled extensive testimony from dozens of locals who complain about abuses by police and park rangers.

Kill: We heard of people being arrested, we heard of people having their produce confiscated and we heard of the increasing difficulty of sustaining families. And therefore, a number of families have also had to leave the area.

Kill says some people fled to Antonina. That’s a small town a few miles outside the reserve. Carlos Machado is Antonina’s mayor.

Carlos Machado: Directly or indirectly, it was through these conservation projects that the population came here and created a ring of poverty around our city. It’s caused a big social problem here.

Machado calls these displaced people “carbon refugees.” But environmental groups managing the reserve see it differently.

U.S. Nature Conservancy promotional video: Forests are the lungs of our planet.

In a promotional video, the U.S. Nature Conservancy, which brokered this deal, says its forest projects in Brazil are:

U.S. Nature Conservancy promotional video: Offering local communities economic alternatives that are compatible with forest protection.

Duncan Marsh directs international climate policy for the conservancy. He says the group’s work in the reserve has given the community dozens of new jobs with health benefits, where before there were virtually none.

Duncan Marsh: Most of those jobs are jobs with the full range of benefits, whereas a lot of these people were not necessarily employed in a full and fully compensated way prior to the existence of the project.

Marsh described retraining locals to sell things like organic bananas and honey. But the Nature Conservancy’s own manager in Brazil told us that most money for job programs ran out a couple years ago. Now, even some of the project’s own corporate backers concede that mistakes were made.

Mike Morris: I wasn’t there in the early go, but I would imagine that we came in as American companies frequently do, “Everybody get out of the way, we’re going to do this.”

That’s Mike Morris, CEO of American Electric Power, one of the country’s biggest utilities. Morris says he’s still excited about the idea of preserving forests to cancel out some of AEP’s greenhouse gas emissions, but he says moving forward the company will do things differently.

Morris: Our effort will be never to repeat those endeavors but to go in as a willing partner and participant, after conversations with the local folks and the governmental folks involved, to make certain there’s agreement with what we’re doing.

Climate legislation making its way fitfully through Congress now includes a provision to respect the rights of people who live off forest land. But it remains to be seen whether companies only pay lip service, or find a way to protect the forest’s people as fiercely as they do the trees.

With Mark Schapiro, I’m Michael Montgomery for Marketplace.

Moon: Our story was produced in collaboration with the PBS program Frontline/WORLD.

Comments

  • Comment | Refresh
  • By Olga Swarthout
    From Holly, MI, 02/27/2010

    These relatively small tribes of indiginous people have suffered throughout history like the American native Indians.
    In the 16th century they were victimized by European geo-political machinations that gave Brazil to the Portugese and the rest of S. America to Spain ( see the award winning 1980’s movie THE MISSION, starring Robert DeNiro, Jeremy Irons and Liam Neeson ). In the 20th century they were again disenfranchised by Brazil’s massive agricultural development. The government ultimately gave them safe haven deep in the high forests bordering Argentina. Today, even that land is not safe for the Indians.

    By Larry Tobos
    From MI, 02/26/2010

    Nothing new here: “civilized” people taking advantage and forcing “savages” to remain that way so we can have “big oil” enjoying the same old bonanza. Just appaled by the story, and you categorizing it as a “green” story. Sincerely,
    Laurentiu (Larry) Tobos