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Tagged ‘Ecology‘

WATCH: FROM ALLY TO ACCOMPLICE

March 8, 2017

Another experimental animated short from Indie Grits alum (and 2014 Helen Hill award winner) Kelly Gallagher:

“‘To-day at last we know: John Brown was right.’ -W.E.B. Du Bois. This film is an experimental essay in three movements that explores the importance of being more than an ‘ally’ in struggle, by sharing histories of committed accomplices John Brown, Marilyn Buck, and others. The film also delves into the history of the landscape and former prairie that was the earth on which Brown’s militants trained. In the face of exploitation of people and destruction of land, radical struggle cultivates new life.”

 

 

FURTHER READING:

Accomplices Not Allies: Abolishing the Ally Industrial Complex

Why Is Environmental Damage Of War Considered A Taboo Subject?

Activist Post

September 22, 2016

By Diane Mantzaris

 

“What the imperialist warlords don’t understand is that no one nation or elite class can survive the climate catastrophe without saving the planet as a whole, given the multitude of interconnectedness of the earth’s eco- and geophysical/chemical/climate systems. In fact, allowing massive suffering in ‘unimportant’ regions will logically lead to further decimation of ecosystems and the transfer of their biomass carbon into the atmosphere, as people will be driven to seeking out the last of water and sustenance amid crop failures, droughts and wildfires… We are literally one people, sharing one fate. Human rights is not only a moral issue, it has very sound physical and existential basis.” – Maggie Zhou [Source]

 

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While Australia’s so called progressive left has been hollering about the environmental damage caused to our planet and lamenting the impact of climate change, they still find it “too difficult” to make a call for an end to Australia’s participation in the US/allied dirty war on Syria.

This resistance to speak out occurs even after the RAAF bombing massacre of a few days ago.

Those who remain silent continue to use the excuse of war complexities and “regime change” propaganda in the disinformation spread that travels from the US/UK to Australia – the disinformation shoved under our noses every day.

At least Ann Wright of Consortium News has the courage to ask these questions. As Wright reports in her article, “Greenwashing Wars And The U.S. Military,

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has come in for criticism due to its lack of attention to the detrimental effects of wars and military operations on nature. Considering the degree of harm to the environment coming from these human activities, one would think that the organization might have set aside some time at its World Conservation Congress this past week in Hawaii to specifically address these concerns.

Yet, of the more than 1,300 workshops crammed into the six-day marathon environmental meeting in Honolulu, followed by four days of discussion about internal resolutions, nothing specifically addressed the destruction of the environment by military operations and wars.

At a presentation at the USA Pavilion during the conference, senior representatives of the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force and U.S. Navy regaled the IUCN audience of conservationists with tales about caring for the environment, including protecting endangered species, on hundreds of U.S. military bases in the United States.The heavy funding the IUCN gets from governments is undoubtedly the rationale for not addressing this “elephant in the room” at a conference for the protection of the endangered planet – a tragic commentary on a powerful organization that should acknowledge all anti-environmental pressures.The presenters did not mention what is done on the over 800 U.S. military bases outside of the United States. In the one-hour military style briefing, the speakers failed to mention the incredible amounts of fossil fuels used by military aircraft, ships and land vehicles that leave mammoth carbon footprints around the world. Also not mentioned were wars that kill humans, animals and plants; military exercise bombing of entire islands and large swaths of land; and the harmful effects of the burn pits which have incinerated the debris of war in Afghanistan and Iraq.Each military service representative focused on the need for training areas to prepare the U.S. military to “keep peace in the world.” Of course, no mention was made of “keeping the peace” through wars of choice that have killed hundreds of thousands of persons, animals and plants, and the bombing of the cultural heritage in many areas around the world including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen and Somalia.

Such terrible human suffering and genocide is inflicted upon Syrians by an Australia purporting to be at war with ISIS.

I can only respond in this manner: I swear most people do not have a pulse.

Did it ever occur to you that war, climate change and the refugee crisis are linked?

It is thus very highly ironic that it is too taboo to discuss the ongoing displacement of people caused by war while being so concerned about refugees at the same time.

And yes it was the Australian Greens (Christine Milne) that pushed through cruel sanctions on Syria during Labour’s term in Australia: the same party purporting to care for refugees and the environment today.

Apparently it is also taboo to discuss the massive environmental devastation caused by war and imperialism.

 

[Diane Mantzaris is an Australian artist known for her pioneering application of digital imaging to printmaking and for her unconventional approach to image making, which is often both personal and political in content. Mantzaris pioneered the use of computers as a printmaking and art-making tool in the early to mid-1980s, exhibiting widely, nationally and throughout Asia in touring exhibitions, to considerable acclaim. Her practice now crosses into several fields associated with the visual arts, printmaking, drawing, photography, sculpture, performance and public art. She is represented in most state and public collections throughout Australia and significant private collections throughout Asia and Europe. She was was drawn into action over Syria while watching the events unfold with colleagues in Aleppo.]

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Diane Mantzaris ©
‘Garden of Eve: the Ages of Inhumanity’ 2012 
206cm (Height) x 120cm (Width) 
C-Type Photograph

A Desert Oasis – A Synonym For Mirage

Wrong Kind of Green Op-ed

September 9, 2016

by Forrest Palmer with Cory Morningstar

 

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Cheetahs as accessories: no rainforest required. Cheetahs are status symbols for the ultra rich as they are expensive and  illegal to obtain. (Credits: pixte.com)

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“The world’s first hotel with a tropical rainforest is set to open in Dubai. The Rosemont Hotel & Residences will open in 2018, and will be managed by Hilton Worldwide.” [Source]

It was recently revealed that Dubai is in the midst of building an actual rainforest in a luxury hotel within the city.  According to CNN, this stroke of genius (or more likely, insanity) will have the following amenities available to its guests as detailed by DJ Armin, principal architect and managing partner of ZAS Architects Dubai:

“Inside the rainforest, we’ve created a landscape akin to a full-scale tropical environment — complete with adventure trails, a sandless beach, a splash pool, waterfalls, streams and a rainforest cafe,” says Armin.

There will also be a “prehistoric Jurassic-inspired marsh.”

“Technological features include an advanced sensory rain system that creates a 360-degree experience, simulating the sensation of being surrounded by rainfall without actually getting wet.”

Sensors control where the rain will fall depending on where people are detected.

Water will be collected, stored from condensation and recycled to create a humid environment similar to a tropical rainforest.

The outdoor rainforest will be located on the top level of the entertainment podium that connects the hotel and residential towers.

The project is still at an early stage, but it appears the rainforest will be open to the public as well as hotel guests.

By any rational reasoning, this is a veritable waste of resources that is indicative of the momentary and dwindling spoils of war that man has decided to utilize in its short Pyrrhic victory with the environment itself .  Yet, this is one of many projects that are ongoing by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the country in which the capital city of Dubai resides, to build a desert wonderland for anyone with enough money to experience a ‘genuine heaven on Earth’.

And although this dance with fantasy is beyond delusional as this incessant growth continues presently, there is an acknowledgement by the leaders in the UAE that the ongoing building of this dream world is in danger by their acknowledgement that an absolute storm is brewing in the form of catastrophic climate change.  F. Scott Fitzgerald once said that “the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function”, but this missive doesn’t hold true when it comes to conflicting ideas that are manifested in the tangible aspect of everyday life which can’t exist under illogical circumstances.  Hence, the UAE can’t in one hand have an entire economic system  whose solvency is wholly dependent on 85% of its exports being oil and at the same time address the fact that said oil being exported is responsible for the entire region in which the country resides no longer able to maintain human life in the not too distant future.

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And at a more detailed level, this dreamland built by way of the largesse available through the amount of oil produced per day in the country means that the cause of their ultimate demise will be the liquid that lies underneath the feet of its citizens and provides them the economic resources to build such opulent edifices as an artificial rainforest. The UAE is currently producing approximately 2.9 million barrels of oil a day.  According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a barrel of oil constitutes 0.43 metric tons of carbon emitted into the atmosphere.  This means that the UAE’s oil production is responsible for daily emissions equivalent to 1.25 million metric tons of carbon and yearly emissions of 455 million metric tons.  And although this is a small percentage of the total amount of oil and overall fossil fuels that are drilled, mined and consumed each day, it still illustrates how the United Arab Emirates is complicit in its inevitable demise.   It is but one brick in a wall constituted of the fossil fuel industry that is built upon a global community (mainly Western nations)  consuming 94 million barrels of oil a day (2014 estimates). Yet, it is still a very vital component of the oil equilibrium that allows the economy to function which is to the overall detriment of the physical world we depend on for our continued existence.

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Source: Squares Real Estate

And as the rainforests are an indispensable component of our global ecosystem that sustains life on Earth and has now been relegated to the décor of a hotel for the rich and famous, we must ask ourselves what exactly the frivolity placed on such an important part of our survival is causing at the grassroots level.  To ascertain the precarious situation in which the once expansive rainforest, the lungs of the Earth, are in currently, it is important to look at the destruction that has been caused and its continuing to be placed on its ever weakening back. The rainforests are a network of vegetation that is found  in Asia, Africa, Central America, the Caribbean, as well as small vestiges in the Pacific Northwest, with the largest expanse being that found in South America.  At one time, rainforests covered 14% of the land surface; now it is a mere 6% and dropping precipitously.  This is almost entirely due to man’s insatiable need for consumer growth through extracting irreplaceable resources and minerals from these regions.  At the current rate of destruction, which is about 1 acre each second, the rainforest will be wholly destroyed by the middle of the 21st century, the most optimistic of assessments.  With the loss of this forestation, the diversity of species will continue to fall at apocalyptic rates and ensure that human life will dissolve with all the other species that are being designated for extinction with each passing day.

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Yet, the ornamental aspects of biodiversity ensure that the removal of the rainforest from its natural habitat to a small facsimile amount  will go on unabated for the foreseeable future.  Consequently, the people have been indoctrinated into believing that it is now possible to visit a self contained rainforest with all the Western amenities and luxuries you can imagine at your disposal in the coziest of conditions.

Geoengineering for consumerism within a sweltering desert – branded as sustainability.

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The orangutan is just one species of thousands losing their rainforest habitat to the Western whims (“sustainable” palm oil, “green” biomass, FSC-certified logging, etc.) of industrial civilization.

This is the maniacal ongoing process of removing an actual rainforest from where it can thrive and maintain itself as a living organism and instead transplanting it to an area where not only vegetation is no longer sustainable, but where life itself may be unsustainable in the not too distant future.  It is beyond maddening to see this type of behavior by anyone who is aware of the consequences of our daily actions in terms of the desecration of what may be all living organisms on the planet Earth.

The folly of man is to believe that science will be the magic elixir that will sustain planetary survival outside of a natural word.  Hence, all the components that make a living, breathing planet have no usage any longer as we transition from a natural world to an artificial one. As alchemy, which was at one time deemed a science, has been proven to be useless, at what juncture are we to say that science and technology is rubbish in being ascendant to nature?  As science is at the basis of all advances in a technocratic society, such as the Western world, the problems caused by the resulting technology are increasing at such a rate that any honest assessment must come to the following conclusion:  Even though modern technology may have solved certain woes in societies, subsequent matters have worsened globally through utilization of these technologies that are more numerous in nature and even just as bad or worse than the original troubles.  Wherever the line resides between a sane and insane world, it has definitely been crossed when man actually has scaled to the mythical and illogical heights of believing it can actually displace a rainforest from its natural environment to a replication of sorts in the most unnatural of places.

Palm-Dubai-UAE-Extension

“Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah will soon bear yet another pricey piece of “fruit,” with the manmade archipelago—one of three artificial islands in the UAE city—plotting to add yet another item to its long list of lodges by 2017.Sporting an estimated cost of $1.4 billion, the sweet resort—whose interiors will be dressed by London-based company GA Design—is being touted as a “foodie paradise,” with several upscale restaurants (led of course by award-winning chefs) inked into its blueprint, on top of an assortment of retail spots. One of the structure’s coolest components is undoubtedly its sky pool, set to sit 295 feet off the ground near its median.” [Source]

Out-Of-This-World-Water-Discus-Hotel-1

“This bold project belongs to Deep Ocean Technology (DOT), a company that plans to develop spectacular underwater hotels for luxe travelers. One of these hotels, called the Water Discus Hotel, will be built in Dubai, and it will look very much like an alien spaceship that landed into the coral-populated ocean.” [Source]

As there are definite undertones and intimations of a problem brewing by just the existence of these enclaves, such as the luxury hotels in Dubia, that are used as enclosures to divide the haves from the have nots, there is no glass thick enough or technology advanced enough or place removed far away enough to distance those who reside inside the domes of safety from the ramifications of the same inventions that give them their privileges in life.  Even though the administrators of Dubai have been able to actually devise temporary settings that mirror the mirage of any desert dweller who has lost his mind due to the extremities of heat prostration, the tangible aspects of it are just as imaginary when it comes to the realities of longevity and sustainability.

A mirage is just a mirage – no matter how many people profess its presence is anything but.

 

 

 

 

Exodus To A Brand New World

Wrong Kind of Green

June 8, 2016

by Forrest Palmer and Cory Morningstar

 

Trail of Tears 1

Between 1830 and 1850, the United States committed one of the most genocidal movements in the history of this country, although still unacknowledged as such to this very day.  During the aforementioned time period, the U.S. government forcibly removed all of the major indigenous tribes from their homelands in the Southeast portion of the country to West of the Mississippi  River in the Oklahoma territory and the surrounding areas.  This mandatory migration came to be known as The Trail of Tears. The removal was comprised of the so-called “Five Civilized Tribes” (given this moniker because they were seen to be most equipped to appropriate the traits of Western civilization, such as clothes, customs, economy, Christianity and other signs of being ‘humanized’, i.e. white).  These five tribes included the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Muskogee, Creek, Seminole and Cherokee Nations.  Yet for all of these tribes perceived signs of being “civilized”, when the land that they inhabited was needed by the state, their designated ethnic inferiority was the single most reason for them being compulsorily extracted from their only home.  During the migration, these indigenous First Nation members were made to walk the entire length of this most inhuman journey, which was over 1,000 miles. Of the approximately 60,000 total members of the tribes who were expelled from their homelands, anywhere from 8,700 to 17,000 were killed by making this treacherous trek , which is between 14.5% to 28.3% of the victims.

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Mississippi Choctaw group wearing traditional garb, c. 1908. Photographer unknown. Public document.

Most recently, approximately 2,000 miles to the North of the general vicinity where the natives in the U.S were finally housed in the most deplorable conditions imaginable on the reservations, there was another exodus that happened recently in Alberta, Canada that had similar characteristics.  As a result of a raging, out of control forest fire, there was a mass evacuation out of this region that was reminiscent of what we saw a couple of hundred years ago during the native death march to the south. The primary difference is that this exodus wasn’t done at the barrel of a gun, but at the behest of something much more powerful than any weapon devised by man:  Mother Nature.

A giant fireball is seen as a wildfire rips through the forest 16 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, Alta. on Highway 63 Saturday, May 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

A giant fireball is seen as a wildfire rips through the forest 16 kilometres south of Fort McMurray, Alta. on Highway 63 Saturday, May 7, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

In the energy oasis of northeastern Alberta, Canada where the oil tar sands are found, approximately 88,000 residents of Fort McMurray had to leave their community with wildfires nipping at their heels.  Fort McMurray is the primary residence of the people that work in the Alberta Tar Sands, comprising about 80,000 “permanent” citizens and 40,000 expatriates who came to Great White North seeking fortune in the lucrative yet environmentally  destructive tar sands oil development.  The region is most famous due to the Keystone XL pipeline and the ongoing attempts to run this pipeline from Alberta, Canada to refineries in the United States, primarily located in Houston Texas.  Although the tar sands oil provides millions of barrels of oil today, this effort has still been used as a red herring by the mainstream environmental movement to give the false impression that it isn’t daily business as usual in the fossil fuel industry which is the problem, since this global effort VASTLY outweighs the drop in the bucket contributed by the tar sands, whether or not Keystone XL comes online or not. (Unbeknownst to most, the pipeline is already up and running with the fourth and last phase being the only one under dispute and the other three phases already being used right now, as well as rail moving significant amounts of tar sands oil as I write this).

racism at core of suicides

Image: Racism At Core Of Native Teen Suicides [Source: Red Power Media]

As a testament that the abuse of the natives really knows no end, the indigenous were spared no mercy at the hands of the state yesterday nor the corporations today. Over past fifty years when the first barrel of oil rolled off the assembly line in 1967, there have been harmful effects visited upon the indigenous community in the surrounding region over time due to the amount of cancerous byproducts that are dumped into Lake Athabasca. The tailing ponds (the dumping ground for the polluted water that is used to assist in tar sand extraction and production) measure about 30 square miles (77 square kilometers) and reside in close proximity to Athabasca River.   Although unacknowledged by the industry, the state or the mainstream media, the sediment from the tailing ponds has been leaking into the Athabasca River. This river is a contributory downstream to Lake Athabasca, where the community of Fort Chipewyan uses for fishing and a freshwater source.  This community is comprised of approximately 1,000 people, almost entirely indigenous First Nation. As proof of the deleterious effects of the tar sands pollution, the community has experienced the rarest forms of cancers that belie such a small community somehow logically showing up with such disproportionate illnesses as compared to the general population . Yet, this medical anomaly doesn’t even fall on deaf ears since the people don’t even have a voice.

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tar sands at night

Tar sands at night. Alberta Oil Sands: “Twenty four hours a day the oil sands eats into the most carbon rich forest ecosystem on the planet. Storing almost twice as much carbon per hectare as tropical rainforests, the boreal forest is the planet’s greatest terrestrial carbon storehouse. To the industry, these diverse and ecologically significant forests and wetlands are referred to as overburden, the forest to be stripped and the wetlands dredged and replaced by mines and tailings ponds so vast they can be seen from outer space.” [Source]

In relation to this turn of events with Fort McMurray currently, the definition of the term ‘poetic justice’ is experiencing a fitting or deserved retribution for one’s actions.  In destroying the environment and visiting unacknowledged depredations to the people of Fort Chipewyan and the surrounding areas, as well as contributing to the devastation of which they are facing presently since the entire community relies on the fossil fuel industry, it is poetic justice by any honest estimation that these residents had to run fleeing from their comfortable houses  in the middle of the night.  This is even more justified since the people in the Fort McMurray area are indicative of the climate change denier clique as only 33% accept that anthropogenic climate change is real to any degree.  Hence, these people are unwilling to even accept that their own hands were on the trigger that caused their own communal maiming through the most dangerous game of Russian roulette known to humanity.

The reason that this is the case is because the masses were in the region specifically to rape the land and  destroy the environment.  There is no rationally sane debate that wouldn’t admit ecological devastation and the resulting climate disruptions increased the likelihood to something such as this happening to almost a certainty.  Hence, if their actions were  the singular, primary or only a contributing factor to their speedy migration from Fort McMurray, it must be acknowledged that the  mere physical presence of the now fleeing residents in the city was  the reason that they had to run from a hell of their own making.  To be succinct, if the residents wouldn’t have put their economic wants above their environmental needs, they wouldn’t have been in a position of vulnerability since the only reason the population was so large in the area was due to the oil industry.  Ultimately, any impartial assessment of the situation comes to the conclusion that the citizens have no one to blame but themselves for this self-inflected catastrophe.

Therefore, we are now in the beginning stages of seeing a grand change in the migratory patterns of humanity. More times often than not migration was due to the collapse of civilizations by way of a lack of resources, which are the basis of any society.  As Western civilization has been able to move masses of people to whatever area of the world that it needed in order to continue the economic system of capitalism, be it the forced migration of the indigenous in North America to the concentrations camps called the reservation, or the worldwide diaspora of the African through the global slave trade, or the coolie labor system where Southeast Asians were dispersed across various continents, it has fostered a god complex in the Western world that only the system and the people who control it can ever dictate who goes anyplace at a given moment in time.

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As such, the Western world has lived under the delusion that it had conquered nature itself and was the ultimate arbiter of who and what was going to go where and when.  This latest episode is just a single example of many recent ones that are increasing in rapidity in the Western world.   The Westerner embodied in the prototypical anglo male is now being made to do the one thing that he thought he was immune to in this world: forced to go somewhere he didn’t want go when he didn’t want to leave.

Luckily, the Western world still has the resources and the economic ability to move with relative ease when disasters like this occur, although this will not be the case for too much longer.  Soon, the daily movements that are effortlessly accomplished by plane, train, ship, car and automobile will lead to having to hurriedly leave a demolishing area with the only thing that nature has given us to move and will be the last thing we have when the infrastructure isn’t available to utilize the previously mentioned contraptions : our feet.  The same feet that carried the native all those hundreds of miles in the distant past.

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Illustration by Gord Hill, Kwakwaka’wakw

As our feet will be the thing to carry us to parts unknown as we will have to go to places we have no choice to go for survival in the not too distant future, I would think that poetic justice would include that we be relegated to the same existence that was imposed on the ones so long ago by such a self-designated exceptional civilization such as this.

Poetic justice indeed.

 

 

 

The Dark Side of Clean Energy in Mexico

CIP Americas Program

January 29, 2016

By Santiago Navarro F. and Renata Bessi

 

Companies and governments have used a rhetoric of  “clean development” to continue exponential economic growth, with megaprojects and so-called clean technologies. International mechanisms, such as the Clean Development Mechanism for developing countries (CDM) promote this strategy. However, there are contrary positions, especially in the geographical areas where these projects considered alternative are developed.

In southern Mexico the generation of clean energy in the form of giant wind energy projects has divided communities.  Opposing positions claim indigenous and peasant ancestral lands are being dispossessed and that the projects have important negative impacts on the ecosystem that are being overlooked.

Loaded with a series of questions, this reporting team travelled to one of the largest wind farms in the world, built in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico, a region that is home to the indigenous Huaves, Mixes, Zapotec, Zoque and Chontales. In this area least 21 wind farms have been installed in the last 21 years, comprising the Tehuantepec Isthmus Wind Corridor. Developers have plans to build 28 parks for clean energy generation in the region

 

Celestino Bortolo Teran is an Indigenous Zapotec whose land has been surrounded by the company Gas Natural Fenosa’s wind farm. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

ISTHMUS OF TEHUANTEPEC EPICENTER OF CLEAN ENERGY

A palm hat worn down by time covers the face of Celestino Bortolo Teran, a sixty-year-old indigenous Zapotec man. He walks behind his ox team as they open furrows in the earth. A seventeen-year-old youth trails behind, sowing white, red, and black corn, a ritual of ancient knowledge shared between local people and the earth. Neither of the two notices the sound of our car as we arrive, “because of the wind turbines,” says Teran. Just fifty meters away, a wind farm has been installed by the Spanish company Natural Gas Fenosa. It will generate, at least for the next three decades, what governments and energy companies have declared clean energy.

Along with this farm, twenty others have been set up forming what has come to be known as the Wind Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, located in the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca.  The Corridor occupies a surface area of 17,867.8 hectares across which 1,608 wind turbines have been installed. The Secretary of Tourism and Economic Development of Oaxaca (STDEO) claims that they will collectively generate 2,267.43 MW.

The Tehuantepec Isthmus stretches just two hundred kilometers from the Pacific to the Atlantic Ocean, making it the third narrowest strip of land connecting the Americas after the isthmuses in Nicaragua and Panama. Mountains converge here to create a geological tunnel that funnels extremely high-speed winds between the two oceans. Energy investors have set their sights on the region since the government of Oaxaca claimed that the region is capable of producing 10,000 MW of wind energy in an area of 100,000 hectares.

Isthmus of Tehuantepec, 200 kilometers of land connected with the Atlantic and Pacific. The arrow marks the direction of the wind.

“Before, I could hear all the animals living in the areas. Through their songs and sounds, I knew when it was going to rain or when it was the best time to plant. Now though, it seems the animals have left due to the wind turbines,” Teran told us, with sadness and rage in his voice. Teran does not know if the claims that the turbines, are generating alternative energy to help to reduce the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions of large corporations and industrialized countries are true or not. The project was built in accordance with the Clean Development Mechanism (MDL) as defined in the Kyoto Protocol. The main objective is to prevent global temperatures from rising 2°C before 2100, according to the 21st Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), better known as the COP 21, held in Paris, France Nov. 30-Dec. 11, 2015. “I don’t know what climate change is and I don’t know about the COP. I only know that our ancestral lands are being covered by these turbines,” “I don’t know what climate change is and I don’t know about the COP. I only know that our ancestral lands are being covered by these turbines,” said Teran.

At the Earth Summit held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, participating countries passed the UNFCCC in response to climate change. With this accord, states set out to maintain their GHG emissions at the levels reached in 1990. At the Third Conference of Parties (COP 3), held in Japan in 1997, the Kyoto Protocol was approved by industrialized countries with the aim of reducing national emissions to an average of five percent below the 1990 levels between 2008 and 2012. In order to help reduce the costs of this reduction, three “flexibility mechanisms” were designed: Emission trading, Joint Implementation (JI), and the aforementioned Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) under which a large number of the wind farms in the Tehuantepec Isthmus have been constructed.

According to the Kyoto Protocol, these mechanisms are meant to permit industrialized countries and private companies to offset their emissions by developing clean energy projects in other parts of the world where it is more economically viable and then include these reductions in their national quotas. Joint Implementation targets projects in Eastern European countries, many formerly members of the Soviet Union, while the CDM is only applicable to developing countries that were not given a GHG emission limit under the Kyoto Protocol.  The second period of engagement of the Protocol is 2013-2020. In this period, countries in the European Union (excluding Iceland) have agreed to a collective emission reduction of twenty percent with respect to 1990 emission levels.

“The investment of polluting companies and countries in CDM projects and carbon credits is a form of speculation that has turned pollution into a business”Biologist and coastal ecology and fishery sciences professor and researcher Patricia Mora, of the Interdisciplinary Research Center for Integral Regional Development of Oaxaca (CIIDIR Oaxaca) based at the Instituto Politécnico Nacional, affirms that many studies show that as temperatures continue to increase, “The investment of polluting companies and countries in CDM projects and carbon credits is a form of speculation that has turned pollution into a business”.

The secretary general of the UNFCCC, Christiana Figueres, speaking in Berlin on the national plans published by 146 countries to combat climate change last October, that if the international community does not take urgent action, global temperatures will rise four or five degrees Celsius by 2100 according to estimates of the International Energy Agency.

The Clean Energy Extraction and Energy Transition Financing Law states that Mexico will install technology to generate 25,000 MW of clean energy by 2024. “Mexico has an obligation to limit the electrical energy generated by fossil fuels to sixty-five percent (from the current eighty percent) by 2024,” the law states.

Here, I have everything – milk, corn, fruits, vegetables. It is all a product of my work and produced naturally.Teran continues sowing his corn as we ask him about the benefits he’s gained from the Wind Corridor. A bit irritated, he responds, “They have not provided me or anyone in my family a job, and I don’t want anything to do with these companies or the government. I just want them to leave me in peace on my land, to let me live as I did beforehand. Here, I have everything – milk, corn, fruits, vegetables. It is all a product of my work and produced naturally. Here, I have everything – milk, corn, fruits, vegetables. It is all a product of my work and produced naturally. We don’t use any agrochemicals.”

Wind farms for sale

Most wind turbines are stained with lubricants in the blades and in the engine. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F)

Most wind turbines are stained with lubricants in the blades and in the engine. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

WIND FARMS FOR SALE

The United States Department of Energy (DOE) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) published an atlas in 2004 that mapped wind potential in the state of Oaxaca, with the goal of accelerating the use of wind energy technologies in the state.

“This wind resource atlas is an example of collaboration between Mexico and the United States, besides being an important element of the Mexican strategy to ensure availability of the necessary information and to define specific renewable energy projects, as well as tools to access financing and development support. The goal in creating this wind atlas and other assessments of renewable resources is to ensure that communities of Oaxaca in the end receive social and economic benefits of renewable energy,” explains the document.

The mapping confirms that the Isthmus is the region with the largest wind potential, with winds up to 60 km /h. “This region of the Isthmus provides an excellent wind resource, especially the regions of La Mata, La Venta and La Ventosa”, the Atlas concludes.

The first project was developed at La Venta in 1994. The first project of its kind in Latin America, it was named “La Venta I”. Later followed La Venta II and La Venta III. The first two are operated by the Federal Electricity Commission (CFE) and the latter by the Spanish company ACCIONA.

The researchers say they will not share specific maps related to the respective areas of wind potential, due to the confidentiality required in possible contracts signed between companies and the government of Mexico. A decade later, with the arrival of more wind parks in the region, it has become clear that the majority of these sites are located on the shores of Lago Superior.

Map of the wind resource assessment conducted by USAID
Energy Map
To further promote the development of wind energy in Mexico and the possibility of export,  USAID released another document in 2009 called “Study of Export Potential Wind Energy of Mexico to the United States”. This document confirms that the greatest potential for wind energy is concentrated in the states of Oaxaca (2,600 MW) and Baja California (1,400 MW). In August 2015 the government of Mexico officially announced that the wind farm “Energía Sierra Juárez” Baja California, the first wind project between Mexico and the United States, will export energy to California. And they are waiting for an interconnection to export the energy produced in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec.“This mapping is only one part of a series of mega-projects that are designed for this area. Not only is it wind energy, but also oil and gas, mining, and infrastructure for the transport of goods. Therefore, this wind mapping is only a pretext to map the full potential of this whole geostrategic area, which functions as a type of catalog to offer it to businesses,” says biologist Mora.The wind corridor was designed under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), signed in 1994 by Mexico, the United States and Canada. NAFTA implementation began with the international agreement called Plan Puebla Panama (PPP), now remade into Proyecto Mesoamerica. The project’s main objective is to create favorable conditions for the flow of goods, oil, minerals and energy, which was necessary, according to the official document of the PPP, for “the creation of roads, paths, steps, bridges, railways, pipelines , aqueducts, power lines, ports, airports and telecommunications. “The president of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto, recently announced the creation of three special economic zones in the south of the country, including the Interoceanic Corridor of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, “in order to generate new poles of industrial development and diminish the economic and social backwardness of these regions,” the report said.

“Clean energy is part of this context. It’s part of the continuity of the exponential economic growth of capital, it is not something alternative to it. It’s another link that is painted green,” Mora states.

THE COSTS OF CLEAN ENERGY

There is currently no established wind farm that respects biodiversity. (Photo: Renata Bessi)
There is currently no established wind farm that respects biodiversity. (Photo: Renata Bessi)

The dominant development model in the production of electricity from wind power in the Tehuantepec Isthmus, is presented as a  formula in which  everyone wins – the government, developers and industry. It’s a self-supply model, in which a private developer of wind power generates energy production contracts for a wide portfolio of industrial customers (Coca-Cola, CEMEX, Wal-Mart, Bimbo, for example) for a certain period. In this way, companies can obtain energy prices lower than the market for the  long-term and they also enjoy the financial benefits of carbon trading, which allows them to continue polluting and, to speculate on the sale of pollution permits to other companies. Developers can also access financing schemes for “green” projects through organizations like the Inter-American Development Bank and the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) of the UN.The communities are also presented as winners in these projects for the development of self-sufficiency and the income they receive from the lease of their land. But two decades after the first wind farms were installed,  what benefits gains have these Clean Development Mechanism projects left to the peasant and indigenous communities?

¿Why the resistance?

In response to constant harassment and persecution, the Alvaro Obregon community created a community police force called “Binni Guiapa Guidxi” In November of 2012, the consortium Mareña Renovables set out to build the largest wind farm in Latin America in the Barra de Santa Teresa, in San Dionisio del Mar, Oaxaca. The Barra is a strip of land between two  lagoon that later connects to the sea in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Here the indigenous community of binniza (Zapotec) and ikojts (Huave), together with the community of Alvaro Obregon, opposed and blocked all access to this strip of land. In response, the State sent about 500 troops from the state police to unblock access, acting with extreme violence. The Indians resisted until the government suspended construction of the wind park. In response to constant harassment and persecution,the Alvaro Obregon community created a community police force called “Binni Guiapa Guidxi” on February 9, 2013.

Also in  February 2013, the situation in Alvaro Obregon–the only access to the Barra Santa Teresa–became tense. Police established a checkpoint  at the entrance of the community. Two Americans spoke with the commander of the local police. One of them was Andrew Chapman, a member of the management team of the company Mareña Renovables.

Bar Santa Teresa

Three researchers, Cymene Howe and Dominic Boyer, both of Rice University, and Edith Barrera of Universidad del Mar, who were in the region studying the resistance against the company, approached Chapman. He explained his work in the area to the researchers: “My job is to open dialogue and listen (…) We have this project, which I really think is good for the planet, good for the region and good for the people here” .

The director was clearly displeased at the opposition from the community to the wind project. “One cannot but be amazed at the beauty of this place. And then you see how people live. And I’m not just trying to impose my American values here, but I don’t think that bad health care is a good thing, I don’t think that poor education is a good thing … So we can channel resources to these communities to improve services. Imagine where they could be here in five or ten years. They can still continue fishing in the lakes (…) “, the researchers cite Chapman as saying in their text, “The Margins of the Wind State: Autonomy and Development of Renewable Energy in Southern Mexico”.

Chapman questioned the suggestions of the police to not enter the community for lack of security. “I find it frustrating and sad, and the consequence is that the investor group I represent is sitting in their offices and can put their money here, or they can put their money somewhere else. I don’t need these problems. I’m not really in the business of saving the world, I’m in business to make money for my trust, and I have to do it under low risk. “

Since 2013 what was known as Mareña Renovables has changed its name and form several times. The Spanish energy company, called the Preneal group, that signed exploration contracts and obtained the permits from the state government, sold the rights to the project (which at that time were two separate projects) for $89 million to FEMSA, a subsidiary of Coca-Cola, and Macquarie Group, the largest investment bank in Australia. These companies quickly merged the two projects and sold part of their stake to Mitsubishi Corporation and the Dutch pension fund PGGM, signing at the same time a power purchase agreement with FEMSA-Heineken for 20 years.

They also sought to speculate with the reduction  of 825,707 tons of carbon dioxide a year, equivalent to the emissions of 161,903 cars.

Under the pretext of reducing global warming they come to our territories to control our forests, mountains, our sacred places and our water.“Mother Earth is sick. The disease is global warming, caused by the owners of money. They believe that money can buy life. They want to profit with the same disease that they have caused to Mother Earth. Under the pretext of reducing global warming they come to our territories to control our forests, mountains, our sacred places and our water. They are causing devastation in our social fabric,” said Carlos Sanchez, Zapotec Indian who participated in the resistance against the installation of wind farm in Barra Santa Teresa Park and the installation of a park by Gas Natural Fenosa in Juchitan de Zaragoza.

Juchitán-Oaxaca-Zapotec-Indian-resistance-to-building-one-of-largest-wind-farms-in-Latin-America-despite-death-threats-from-paramilitary-groups-paid-by-companies-Photo-Santiago-Navarro-F.

Juchitán Oaxaca: Zapotec Indians show solidarity with resistance to building one of the largest wind farms in Latin America, despite death threats from paramilitary groups paid by companies and protected by the government. (Photo: Santiago Navarro F.)

Sanchez is also founder and member of the community radio Totopo, created to report on megaprojects in the region of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. During an intermission of his radio programming, we threw a question at Sanchez about what the Zapotec people know about the CDM. “It is a discourse between businessmen. They are labels exchanged between companies to justify their pollution and they don’t explain anything to indigenous peoples,” he replied.

“Could we, with our forests, also sell carbon credits, bypassing these companies? Who will buy? It is no coincidence that only those who understand these mechanisms are the only ones who benefit as employers and the state. It is a farce that is presented as very nice and green.”

Sanchez continues, “We do not even benefit from the energy produced. Instead, the energy is more expensive for ordinary consumers. While the transnational corporations that are supplied with this clean energy are paying prices that make you laugh. If you walk by the communities you will notice what the clean development they have brought consists of, and I challenge one of the owners of the companies to actually live in the midst of these turbines. They live in their mansions. “

The Environmental and Social Management, published by the IDB in November 2011, noted the possibility of short-term “economic dislocation” of the population because of the interruption of fishing during the construction phase of the Marena Renovables park. But the long-term impacts of the presence of the park on the local population engaged in fishing were not mentioned.

Following demonstrations by indigenous peoples, on May 8, 2013, the Oaxaca State Secretary of Tourism, José Zorrilla Diego, announced the cancellation of the proposed Renewable Mareña project in the Barra de Santa Teresa. Shortly after the announcement of the cancellation, the state government said the project would continue in other areas of the Isthmus.

THE UNDERESTIMATED ENVIRONMENTAL, SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC IMPACTS

After the resistance in Barra Santa Teresa in 2013, the Zapotec community of Carlos Sanchez, in the city of Juchitan de Zaragoza, received the news that a park would be installed on their land. Despite resistance from the community, the Spanish company Gas Natural Fenosa installed the Biío Hioxo park (“strong wind” in the Zapotec language). With 117 wind turbines, the company estimates that they will prevent the emission of 400,000 tons of CO2 annually.

The environmental impact study conducted by the URS Corporation Mexico in 2008, contracted by the company Gas Natural Fenosa, testifies that the development of the wind farm “in this area of Oaxaca state is a clear example of sustainable development” and that “the project is environmentally viable because it uses renewable resources and does not generates significant impacts on the environment.”

The study finds no significant impacts on wildlife; the biggest impact and one that will be given the necessary attention, according to the report, is the risk of birds colliding with the turbines. Regarding flora, the same study found that the removal of vegetation would also have no significant impact.

Local communities and environmentalists report that in fact wildlife is being affected. The regions of Barra Santa Teresa, in Alvaro Obregon, and Playa San Vicente in Juchitan de Zaragoza are particularly special because of the close interaction of the species inhabiting these ecosystems. “That is where the border of several closely related ecosystems are, of water and land, called ‘ecotones’. What happens to them separately affects the dynamics in a way that threatens the very existence of all the ecosystems as a whole “, biologist Patricia Mora states.

The biologist analyzes two levels of impacts at different phases of the Project. The first is the direct impact. When installing the project they have to “dismantle”, that is, remove the vegetation. This implies destruction of plants, as sessile organisms – those that don’t have a body to serve as a foot or support. There are also slow displacements of animals and organisms, including reptiles, mammals, birds, amphibians, insects, arachnids, fungi, viruses etc.

Generally, we only consider the macro, that is, the larger organisms, and not the tiny microscopic organisms. Yet often that’s where there’s the most damage. Many micro-organisms have yet to be identified and interestingly enough, these organisms are really what keep the ecosystems living and in balance. In many Mexican ecosystems, there are only a few of these species documented, which means that one cannot quantify their precise function or the actual damage. Many endemic, native species are in some degree of danger that is recognized on national and international lists.

After completing the construction phase, indirect impact continues. Ecosystems are disrupted and fragmented and therefore there is a greater likelihood of their disappearance, due to changing land use and climate change.

“These are considered very fragile ecosystems. Due to the geographical location, we are talking about  semi-arid zones where the water cycle is vital. These ecosystems act as moisture retainers and their disappearance drastically changes the soil’s moisture capacity. As the vegetation disappears these will become totally uninhabited deserts, because solar radiation changes the dynamics of the soil and it doesn’t allow new vegetation”, Mora says.

The biologist questions the way the environmental impact studies are done. “Usually there are ‘agreements’ behind closed doors, between consulting or research centers and government offices, prior to the studies. Standard templates  are used, where information is copied, sometimes poorly copied; where lies or half-truths are told. The focus on specific aspects of the project deviates, but it apparently meets the ‘requirements’ on paper.  I know this because I’ve worked with the consultants who develop such projects. Additionally, many of the projects in operation today do not even have an environmental impact study,” says the biologist.

But there is no consideration for the chain of production.Mora argues that, in order to consider a clean energy project it would have to meet rigorous environmental impact studies that consider the entire chain of energy production. “It is true that the wind is clean,” says the researcher. But there is no consideration for the chain of production. They have to consider the types of metals using a single generator. For example, the steel is usually mined in open pit mines; there they use water, energy, and ecosystems were also devastated. Oil was used for the smelter and transportation. The same applies to the lubricants used. The life of each turbine that is 20 to 30 years is added and then must be replaced with new ones.

Missing accompanying studies

Environmental impact studies were not mandatory until recently, and much less those studies that analyze continued impact  after construction. As for social impact, there  simply are no studies. An indigenous man, Teran,  lives within 50 meters of the Biío Hioxo turbines of Natural Fenosa Gas. He is one of the few peasants who did not agree to lease their land for the installation of wind turbines.

We do not know what awaits the next generation of children to be born. I’ve never seen this in my life“After the park came, I noticed that the animals changed. An example is with the first generation of calves. They were born with a deformity in the navel. A type of hernia hanging up to 50 centimeters long and some of them did not survive,” says Teran. “I sincerely wish that committed scholars would come to investigate these effects on animals because the second generation comes next year in 2016. We do not know what awaits the next generation of children to be born. I’ve never seen this in my life,” adds Teran.

The farmer tells about declining rainfall and increased thunderstorms. “It rains a lot less and thelightning strikes the turbines or the trees. It is dangerous to remain in the middle of the park when these storms come, “ says Teran. He adds that the well water used for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene, which is a few meters from the turbines, “is no longer the same water. There is a distinct taste that irritates the skin.”

Roberto Martinez, a local fisherman, tells us that traditionally migratory birds came there to drink at Cienegas, where there was water in abundance. “I think the birds are shifting their migration path because they no longer come as before.”

The  environmental impact study foresaw effects on the birds. “The fauna directly affected during the operation phase of the Project are the mortality of birds and bats caused by collisions with wind turbines, by habitat fragmentation and the noise”, says  the study.

In the same park, Carlos Sanchez says, “We know that companies have found veins of water and are closing them off with the foundations of the projects. They’re  using a special liquid to slow the flow of water, we do not know exactly what kind of substance it is.”

Not so clean energy

To set the turbines hundreds of tons of cement that interrupt the water flows are used. “It is worth mentioning that they are using the cement company CEMEX, which also has a wind farm in the Isthmus,” Mora notes.

Park EURUS wind turbines

The population of La Venta, where the first wind farm was built, was literally surrounded by turbines. Under the argument of increasing self-sufficiency,  another wind park called Eurus was built in 2009, and later auctioned off with capital of the Spanish company Acciona and the transnational construction materials company CEMEX.

CEMEX can be seen as a role model of the (MDL) CDM. The company has been listed as a clean and responsible company and has registered several projects under the mechanism. In its 2013 report CEMEX boasts of expanding their projects with the CDM model. “Six new initiatives were registered as (MDL) CDM in 2013, which include four alternative fuel projects in Mexico and Panama and two wind farms located in Mexico, among those Eurus and Ventika.”

In 2015 the Eurus wind farm won the prize awarded by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB Infrastructure 360 °) in the category of “Impact on Population and Leadership,” which recognizes outstanding sustainability practices in infrastructure investments in Latin America and Caribbean.

In February 2015, community activists and social organizations of Venta denounced that, “about 150 wind turbines of the wind farm Eurus and Oaxaca III, owned by Acciona, have spilt oil on the blades and main coil, which has polluted the subsoil and water, and the farmers and ranchers who have ranches surrounding the place,”  defenders of the Earth and Sea asserted. Both wind farms have 1500 MW turbines, which need 400 liters of synthetic oil, while the 800 MW turbines only require 200 liters of oil per turbine per year.

Continuity resistance

The company Natural Gas Fenosa has anounced it will use a gate to prevent access of peasants and indigenous to the enclosed polygon of the wind farm. Only employees and local residents and workers would have access. “That would prevent fishermen’s access to the sea and the hunters’ access to the Lago Superior hunting areas,” explains Zapotec indigenous Faustina Martinez Lopez, who lives in the area. Also in this area there are seven sacred sites for indigenous peoples.

Women in resistance by the construction of the wind farm on the bar Santa Teresa

Local resistance began with the complaint of a farmer on the community radio Totopo, which transmits in the native Zapotec language as many do not communicate in Spanish. “Other farmers, fishermen and indigenous people heard that complaint and began approaching the radio. There began a process of organization. This is when the Juchiteco Peoples Assembly  (APPJ) was founded,” recalls Sanchez. “It was when the community organized to resist and prevent the enclosure of wind turbines. A barricade was built to block access to Playa Vicente (Lago Superior), where the polygon began. The barricade remained for two months. But the company began using police and hit men and death threats to evict,” says Sanchez.

One of the worst clashes between the community and the police happened when a group of us went for a tour in the location where the company had already begun their work. Women and children remained at the barricade. 25 vans and cars arrived and violently pressured them to leave the barricade. “Quickly the sisters called us by phone and we mobilized the community through Radio Totopo and a battle broke out,” said Sanchez, who later was ambushed and beaten by a group of subjects.

In the end, the company finished construction of its wind turbines without fences, keeping the polygon open to hunters and fishermen.

Justice

In 2013 the APPJ filed an agricultural  injunction against the company Gas Natural Fenosa for not having conducted a free and informed  prior consultation, as required by the International Labour Organization. “The company will initiate the second phase of the project, and the judge has yet to issue a judgment. They said they would send an anthropological expert to evaluate whether these lands are where our ancestors lived. Only in this way, the injunction will continue. There are studies and testimonies that have been here since long before the formation of the Mexican State. We are a Zapotec Indian village, an ancient people, we retain our language, our traditions, it is offensive that the judge would even say that. He should not even be considered Mexican, because he does not know the history of the people of Mexico,” said Sanchez.

VIOLATED SACRED LANDS

Carlos Sanchez walks slowly with downcast eyes, mapping each centimeter he steps on the sand of Playa Vicente, in the Lago Superior. The seaside landscape painted with pelicans and herons flying above the fishermen, contrasts sharply with the line of wind turbines. Sanchez seeks traces of his ancestors to share with the reporting team. “There are so many traces around these territories that it’s possible to find pieces on the surface,” he says.

Vestiges buried on the shores of the beach San Vicente

The Isthmus of Tehuantepec has been occupied by different cultural and linguistic groups from more than 3, 500 years ago, by speakers of Mixe and Zoque languages. It is very likely that large and stable populations existed around1200 BC. “This indicates the amount of time that these communities have been associated with the environment, creating knowledge and transforming it in such a way that one can say that the natural environment of the Isthmus is a cultural construct, and that culture is a construct that has a close relationship with the nature of the geographical area in question, “explains Alfredo Saynes, Faculty of Sciences of the UNAM.

Sanchez steps forward, stops suddenly and points to two objects on the sand. Once up close, you can see two clay pots buried with just part revealed on the surface. “When the tide is low we can  see several vestiges of ancient temples, such as these,” he tells us.

According to archaeologist Agustín Andrade Cuautle, of the National Institute of Archaeology and History, the state of Oaxaca has the largest number of registered archaeological sites in Mexico. Of the 4,000 registered throughout Oaxaca, 100 are in the Isthmus.

Land of refuge – The land where the wind estate company Gas Natural Fenosa is installed is suitable for agriculture thanks to the river water of Los Perros. The Los Perros River through these lands and floods them throughout the rainy season. “The environmental impact study states that this is eroded land, which has only garbage and flies, but it’s not true. These lands have given life to the Zapotec civilization of this region, precisely because of its fertility, “Sanchez shares.

The Istmeños are the last real Zapotecs after the Aztecs converted the Zapotecs in the north into their subjects, assimilating them culturally and linguistically. Throughout their history they resisted several attempts of domination, even fought against the invasion of the French, when they tried to colonize Mexico. To date they are recognized as people who resist and struggle.

In each of their sacred sites that are within the wind polygon -Santa Cruz Paso Cnu, Santa Cruz Guelaxada ‘, Santa Cruz Chigue’ze’, Santa Cruz Guelabe’ne ‘Guiiguidxita Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Guuzebenda–there are the tombs of Zapotec Indians who participated in the Mexican revolution of 1910, which allowed them to keep their land in their hands.

Santa Cruz sacred site MAY 12

Historically, this town had already taken up arms, since the independence of Mexico until the Mexican Revolution in order to defend their territory. When the government sent troops, the village would empty everything in order to not leave any food for them. They took their chickens, animals and took refuge in these very same sacred places. “This area provided protection to the people, for being fertile. And there the resistance survived. These places have served as protection in many moments of our history. That is why an attack on these parks are an attack against us,” says Faustina López Martínez.

According to Sánchez, part of the site called Guelabe’ne ‘was destroyed because of the wind park. “They filled it with stones to build a road.” In addition, the paths of two other sites were also affected. “The road to Santa Cruz Chigue ‘ze’ was cut by a road in the wind energy business. The road to Santa Cruz Guelabe’ne ‘was completely destroyed, the pilgrimage can only pass coming in other ways. “

“The roads are critical to our rituals,” said Faustina. As each year, the community makes a pilgrimage to their holy sites. “They conducted no impact study for our sites,” she adds.

HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS AND PERSECUTIONS

The radio station has suffered several attempts to close it down, with raids by police federal and Navy.Community organization against the wind farm in the Barra de Santa Teresa was the first major resistance against the ways in which these companies are developing their projects on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Sanchez reports that, not coincidentally, it is in this period that the companies began hiring hit men, with the backing of the state.“We see gunmen escorted to the state police. The community is so small, so we know who they are. Because of the threats we began to receive three companions had to leave the community. Some of us have been persecuted with absurd lawsuits, accusing us of kidnapping, attacks on the roads, and damage to other people’s private property. They began to detain people involved in the movement. We have received threats by phone. The radio station has suffered several attempts to close it down, with raids by police federal and Navy. They have now another sign mounted above ours to interfere,” says Sanchez.Sanchez reports that since 2013 he does not go to public places. His mobility is restricted to the community. “We were offered the protection mechanism of the Ministry of Interior. But we have realized that the task of protection has been given to the state police, the same people who attacked us. I didn’t know whether they have come to protect me or arrest me. So I rejected this protection mechanism and started a small personal protection protocol, “says Sanchez. APPJ members filed a complaint in court and still have not received averdict. “The state supports the wind companies,” Sanchez concludes.The Committee for the Integral Defense of Human Rights Gobixha (CódigoDH) Oaxaca demanded the immediate intervention of the federal and state governments to stop the wave of violence against supporters of the Popular Assembly of the People of Juchitan (APPJ) who have been victims of threats , harassment, persecution and attacks, including the murder of one of its members. This followed the conflict rooted in the construction of the Bii Hioxo wind farm, according to the Committee. But there was no response.The company Gas Natural Fenosa rejects the accusations, ensuring that: “While certain groups have filed several allegations regarding violations of human rights of communities affected by the project, Gas Natural Fenosa says they are unfounded, that they lack objective justification, and are incompatible with the commitments made by the company’s Human Rights Policy. “

 

NEW STRATEGY, NEW PARK, OLD PROBLEMS

It did not take long for the government’s promise made in 2013 to relocate the project from the Barra de  Santa Teresa to another zone in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec to take shape. In 2014, the company Mareña Renovables, now called Eolica del Sur (Southern Wind), found a new place to develop clean energy and contribute to the goals of reducing greenhouse gases, in the Lago Superior.

In 2016, the project foresees the installation of 132 wind turbines of 3 MW each in an area of 5,332 hectares, avoiding the emission of 879,000 tons of greenhouse gases per year, according to the company.

An independent report released by researchers from different fields and universities – UNAM (National Autonomous University of Mexico), UCCS (Union of Scientists Committed to Society), UAM (Metropolitan Autonomous University) and ENAH (National School of Anthropology and History), points out various inconsistencies in the environmental impact study submitted by the company and approved by the Secretariat of Environmental and Natural Resources (SEMANART).

The first contradiction regards the company that made the study. The company responsible is Especialistas Ambientales (Environmental Specialists). According to the Constitutive Act of the company, the founding partner is the engineer Rodolfo Lacy Tamayo, current Undersecretary of Planning and Environmental Policy of the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources. “Based on the above, we have a concern regarding the independence and objectivity in both the development of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as well as the approval” states the report.

The document warned that there are many inconsistencies with respect to Baja Espinoza Forest (Selva Baja Espinosa), which is to be cleared for the construction of this project, since the study did not produce a map of land use and vegetation at the scale of the polygon. Evaluating the information available on the MIA’s own field research, “our analysis shows that the developer intends to cut 100% of the tree surface without proposing any measure of compensation.”

San Vicente Beach

“This is particularly worrying because the polygon project affects the Biological Corridor in Oaxaca in the Isthmus-Chimalapas Region, which in turn is part of the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor. According to CONABIO, the Mesoamerican Biological Corridor in Mexico was established with the purpose of coordinating policies for the conservation and sustainable management of resources in priority areas in the southeastern region of the country  regarding conservation of biodiversity. (…) The Selva Baja Espinoza forms a biological corridor connecting the Priority Marine Regions: Continental Shelf Gulf of Tehuantepec, and Upper and Lower Laguna; and Terrestrial Priority Regions: Northern Sierras of Oaxaca Mixe and Zoque-La Selva Sepultura “says the document.

According to Eduardo Centeno, director of the Eolica del Sur  company, the MIA was submitted in accordance with Mexican law and contains mitigation measures and preventive measures for the environment, including reforestation. “One benefit is that [by means of reforestation programs and mitigation] it will enable environmental surveillance and protection of archaeological sites that would not exist if the project were not done”, he explains.

Another concern of communities relates to water pollution in the lagoon and ocean as a result of the oil that will drain on the beaches, estimated at 300 liters per windmill. According to Mora, Genoveva Bernal of Semarnat, the institution responsible for approving the MIA, says the park will not affect Lago Superior at 3.9 km. She notes that the ministry does not guarantee, “that it will not affect, like it has done to other parks in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, the groundwater of the region.”

Alejandro Castaneira, professor and researcher at the ENAH, who participated in writing the Report, says the SEMANART authorized an environmental impact study that was wrongly produced. “It is  announced that parks are generating clean energy. Are we going to use clean energy to produce Coca-Cola and Lays Chips while poverty continues?” asks Castaneira.

Participatory process?

After the events of 2013, Eolica del Sur and the State convened for the first free, prior and informed consultation, under Convention 169 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO) for indigenous peoples, 22 years since the arrival of the first wind farm in the time Isthmus of Tehuantepec. This consultation began in November 2014 and was completed in July 2015, and is regarded as a essential element for the project to become effective. The federal and state government as well as the company claim that the consultation fulfilled its role, which justifies the project since most of the participants approved. On the other hand, there is enormous pressure for the cancellation of the consultation because of the irregularities denounced during the Consultation and, since they were not taken into account they limited the  assembly and thus the presence of those affected.

At a press conference, Bettina Cruz Velázquez, a member of the Assembly of Indigenous Peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Defense of Land and Territory, said that the consultation was carried out after local and federal permits and approvals of land use had already been given by authorities and claimed this shows the federal government’s decision to strip Binni Záa (Zapotec) of its territory. “The consultation is a simulation, the ground was already prepared to start the operations of the company and they also play with the ignorance of communities in regards to this. They do not respect international standards,” says Cruz Velasquez.

A petition for relief was filed for the 1,166 indigenous  binni’zaa, in order to protect indigenous rights and defend their  territory against the wind project. On September 30, the Seventh District Judge of Salina Cruz, Isaiah Corona Coronado accepted the injunction against the construction and operation of the megaproject Eolica del Sur in its territory and issued an order to suspend all licenses, permits, goods, approvals, licenses and land use changes granted by federal and local authorities, until the final judgment is issued.

According to the lawyer Ricardo Lagines Gasca, adviser to the community, the company is affected by the petition as a third party. But those who are really being sued are municipal authorities, Energy Regulatory Commission, the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources, the City of Juchitan, and the National Institute of Anthropology and History, which stated that the area would be free of any effects against archaeological pieces or remains.

“The state allows these projects one the one hand, allowing all the state and federal agencies to expedite permits. Yet indigenous peoples are not aware of these legal proceedings, so that they can actually participate in decisions and not simply be consulted after the decision was already taken. The whole Isthmus territory has been divided between companies based on the lack of awareness of the peasant and indigenous communities who live here, “says Garza.

Even with the temporary cancellation of the park, the governor of Oaxaca, Gabino Cue, in his report released in November, states the project installation as a given and as a result of the consultation. “In collaboration with the Federal Government, the State Government managed to confirm one of the most important investments in Latin America in the field of wind power generation, worth a billion dollars, in the upcoming construction of the wind farm with the company Eolica del Sur, which will generate 396 MW, “ says the document.

Informed consultation?

Independent consultant Isaac Portugal Rosas was invited by the organizers of the Consultation to describe the operation of the energy system in the country. During his presentation, he explained with technical details how energy circulates throughout the national network. In answering a question he himself posed: Why is the energy generated in the parks not necessarily used here in the communities where it is produced?, he responded. “Energy is not like any good, like an orange, for example, that can be sold anywhere one wishes. There is a system, the National Power Control Center dedicated to balance the entire national energy system, because it can not be stored. This center facilitates the distribution of energy which is released into the national system at all times. We have no way to verify that the energy produced here is used by a company in Monterrey, for example, “he explains.

What seems like a technical explanation on behalf of the consultant, who appears as independent, reveals that the wind energy produced in the isthmus has specific destination – consumption for companies – even before they begin to generate.

According to the Commission for Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples of Mexico, of the federal Ministry of Government, in a  document titled Wind Energy in Mexico: a social perspective on the value of the land, states that unequal access to electricity is produced from wind energy because of international financial institutions, developed countries and multinational wind companies that fund and define the general guidelines that orient wind power projects on a large scale in Mexico. Their interests are guided more by the pursuit of profit in the short term, rather than to solve environmental problems.

“It was an `uninformed´ consultation. The company and the government stated what they wanted. What we heard there is not very reliable,”says Sanchez.

COMMON LANDS: AN OBSTACLE FOR COMPANIES

“As children we took advantage of the wind that exists in our land to move small pinwheels much like the wind turbines. We also found ways that would allow the wind to move something small. All rustic. Now you can do it with technology on a large scale,”says Juan Regalado, Zapotec Indian, from Union Hidalgo village of Juchitan, where the wind company Demex came in 2011.” The damage these businesses are doing the social fabric of our communities is not right” said Regalado referring to the park installed in his community, which does not even have an environmental impact study.

One of the major impacts is the conflict generated over land where the wind resource is located. The distribution of land after the revolution in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, is marked by a series of conflicts and changes in legislation. “The legal status of the lands of Juchitan to this day has not been clarified, which prevents clarity regarding how much it is, where communal land is located, and who regulates the sale of ejido. This situation is now aggravated by the change in land use for the installation of wind farms, “says the NGO DH Code.

According to Regalado, there is no doubt that wind turbines are on their communal lands. “There is a 1964 presidential decree where the titles to the common goods were confirmed. What is certain is that there are no private lands,” he explains.

According to him, the company’s interest is to deal with smallholdings because this way they make direct contact with a single person. “In communal lands, deals are made with the villagers. Not only the possessor of land must see advantages, but all the people of the community, because we are all affected,” he explains.

Based on the decree of 1964, Regalado and 16 others Hidalgo Union filed a lawsuit in the Agrarian Court requesting the cancellation of their contracts with the company. The legal question is whether the land is communal or private. If they are found to be communal, the contracts are automatically dissolved.

“The last judge we had of the Agrarian Court of the District of Tuxtepec said the contracts must be canceled, because they are within communal lands. But to support this decision, he decided he needed a survey by us and the company. Our expert argued that our land is within the communal estate of Juchitan, using the decree of 1964. The company hired an expert, who missed the deadline and could not answer. So they contracted a second expert, who missed the first deadline and are now expected to be late in the second, which still must be done this year, “Regalado said.

The Agrarian Court also consulted the Oaxaca Agrarian Office and the National Agrarian Registry, confirming that these lands are communal.

It is not surprising that Juchitan has this conformation. This is characteristic of the state of Oaxaca. According to the Ministry of Agrarian Development, 78% of the land in Oaxaca is collectively owned—shared ejidos, or indigenous communal lands.

“The aim is to cancel the contract with the company. It will be a precedent for other communities in the Isthmus. The sad thing is that the company, realizing that they will lose in court, has been looking to each of us individually to finish the contracts offering some money. It is a political issue, the group is strengthened and we are convinced that it is the Court that must rule that annulment with their respective damages to the company, “said Regalado.

Recurrent practices – The Commission for Dialogue with Indigenous Peoples of Mexico said that opponents to wind farms generally have said that the contracts do not provide clear information on the rights that owners have to lease their land.

“The contracts do not establish a clear distinction between productive farms and vacant land [which would generate different payments], and lack clauses regarding the renovation of payments. This is understood as the co-optation of community representatives, with simulation of ejido assemblies with signatures of dead people and others that do not appear in the ejido census to expedite the signing of contracts and individual negotiations between owners and companies, in order to exclude ejido assemblies to the processes of decision making,” says the document.

CLEAN ENERGY: THE REPRODUCTION OF INEQUALITY

According to documents from the Commission for Dialogue with the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico, international experience has shown that remuneration paid by energy companies erecting wind farms on leased lands oscillates between one and five percent of the gross income of the energy produced by the turbines. According to the European Association of Wind Energy, land rental there represents 3.9 percent of total costs. “However, the case of Mexico is drastically different if you take into account the much lower value compared to international standards: here, remuneration is between .025 and 1.53% [of gross income].”

In Europe, the value of land rental for wind farms far exceeds that which landholders can expect from other forms of land usage. The document highlights the case of Spain, where returns on land in Galicia, for example, go from 90,000 Euros for wind farms, 18,000 Euros for common land forestry, 4,500 Euros for woodland areas with high wind potential and 6,000 Euros for livestock areas.

According to the Tepeyac Human Rights Center, in the case of the energy company Fenosa Renovables’ contract with farmer Anastasio Toledo of Juchitán, it is stated that during the first phase of development, the construction of the wind park, they will begin paying him 150 pesos annually (9 Euros) per hectare. Payment for the installation of a wind turbine slides from 8,000 and 18,000 pesos (454 and 1,022 Euros) and afterwards a small percentage is added from the energy generated during the period.

“Because there is no organization that regulates the value of land in Mexico, energy companies pay landowners far less than the actual value, which can provoke tension in communities in which wind farms are set up,” states the human rights organization. “It is necessary to establish the laws and regulations which will define the range of value and the protocol for rights disputes when projects are set up on communal lands. This will help to protect the interests of indigenous communities,” the Commission for Dialogue with the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico claims.

Who benefits from clean energy? The criteria that have been used to justify the implementation of wind parks in Mexico as a means of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and fossil fuel energy production, are insufficient to determine the benefits, risks and broader implications of wind energy production, the Commission for Dialogue with the Indigenous Peoples of Mexico upholds. “The criteria ignore or underestimate the complexity and cognitivist and ethical uncertainty of the risks and impacts created by wind parks on a large scale. They cannot be seen as a viable energy alternative if they continue to reproduce and deepen socioeconomic and environmental inequalities between countries and between social groups within individual countries.”

 

In collaboration with Armando Carmona

 

Renata Bessi is a freelance journalist and contributor the Americas Program and Desinformémonos. She has published articles in Brazilian media: The Trecheiro newspaper magazine, Página 22, Repórter Brasil, Rede Brasil Atual, Brasil de Fato, Outras Palavras.]

[Santiago Navarro is an economist, a freelance journalist, photographer and contributor to the Americas Program, Desinformémonos and  SubVersiones.]

Conjuring Clean Energy: Exposing Green Assumptions in Media and Academia

 

“Productivism or growthism is the belief that measurable economic productivity and growth are the purpose of human organization (e.g., work), and that ‘more production is necessarily good'”.

 

February 13, 2015

 

Excerpts from the research paper “Conjuring Clean Energy: Exposing Green Assumptions in Media and Academia” by by Ozzie Zehner

 

Excerpt from “How productivism infiltrates media“:

Some media outlets will directly reprint special interest group “content” under their own masthead. The Detroit Free Press has directly published materials prepared by a branding firm called “Issue Media Group,” which is dedicated to “creating new narratives” that promote growth and investment (Issue Media Group, 2014). Alternet, Salon.com and   Alternet, Salon.com and Truthout have published material written by “Global Possibilities,” a special interest group funded in part by the oil company BP and a group of automotive and energy industrialists represented through The Energy Foundation (Global Possibilities, 2013).Truthout have published material written by “Global Possibilities,” a special interest group funded in part by the oil company BP and a group of automotive and energy industrialists represented through The Energy Foundation (Global Possibilities, 2013). The special interest group “Inside Climate News,” funded in part through The Energy Foundation, the Rockefellers and other productivist interests, claims to publish through numerous media brands including the Associated Press, Bloomberg, Business Week, The Weather Channel, The Guardian and the McClatchy Group, a conglomerate of 30 daily newspapers across the USA (Inside Climate News, 2014). Special interest groups commission their articles from within a sphere of private, typically business, interest. Readers and viewers have a difficult time distinguishing between such sponsored content and traditional independent journalism Figure 9.

Rebranding Productivism 2

Excerpt from “Conclusion: crisis of the productivist ethos during contraction“:

Set against the backdrop of a clear blue sky, alternative energy technologies shimmer with hope for a cleaner, better future. Alternative energy technologies appear to be generating a small, yet enticing, impact on our energy system, making it easier for us to envision solar-powered transporters flying around gleaming spires of the future metropolis. Understandably, we like that. These visions are certainly more pleasant than imagining food shortages, land decimation, economic disintegration and conflict, which we might otherwise associate with fossil fuel scarcity. The immediate problem, it seems, is not that we will run out of fossil fuel sources any time soon, but that the places we tap for these resources – tar sands, deep sea beds and wildlife preserves – will constitute a much dirtier, more risky and far more expensive portfolio of fossil fuel choices in the future. Certainly alternative energy technologies seem an alluring solution to this challenge. And while this is a pristine and alluring vision, might it also be a deadly distraction?

Debord (1970, p. 14) wrote that “the society which rests on modern industry is not accidentally or superficially spectacular, it is fundamentally spectaclist.” Perhaps he could have spoken similarly about modern energy or modern environmentalism. Debord’s spectacle is a divine deity around which duty-bound citizens gravitate to chant objectives without reflecting upon fundamental goals.   Debord’s spectacle is a divine deity around which duty-bound citizens gravitate to chant objectives without reflecting upon fundamental goals. It’s all too easy for us to miss the limitations of alternative energy, Debord might say, as we drop to our knees at the foot of the clean energy spectacle, gasping in rapture.It’s all too easy for us to miss the limitations of alternative energy, Debord might say, as we drop to our knees at the foot of the clean energy spectacle, gasping in rapture. This oracle delivers a ready-made creed of ideals and objectives that are convenient to recite and that bear the authority of science. These handy notions of clean energy reflexively work into environmental discourse. And as we have seen here, productivist environmentalists enroll media to tattoo wind, solar and biofuels into the subcutaneous flesh of the environmental movement. In fact, these novelties come to define what it means to be an environmentalist. And environmentalist’s aren’t the only ones lining up for ink.

Every news article, congressional committee hearing, textbook entry and bumper sticker creates an occasion for the visibility of solar cells, wind power and other productivist technologies. Numerous actors draw upon these moments of visibility to articulate paths these technologies ought to follow. First, diverse groups draw upon flexible clean-energy definitions to attract support. Then they roughly sculpt energy options into more appealing promises – not through experimentation, but by planning, rehearsing and staging media demonstrations. Next, lobbyists, foundations and PR teams transfer the promises into compelling stories, legislative frameworks and eventually necessities for engineers to pursue. What happens to our analyses of “innovation” if we frame “innovators” as skilled, or perhaps unwitting, “conjurers” of an illusion of abundance?

A consequence of alternative energy visibility-making appears to be the necessary invisibility of other options. There’s only so much room on the stage. Energy reduction strategies, degrowth, economic contraction and other decline pathways remind people of their reliance on finite resources, or their own vulnerability to the imminent contraction. In ominous times, might individuals invest their enthusiasm into alternative energy narratives, thereby allowing themselves to cognitively avoid existential threats and circumvent otherwise undesirable reckonings?

Perhaps we have forged magnificent energy spectacles only to cast ourselves as climatic superheroes within the late stages of an illusion of abundance. If so, then these spectacles have come to protect us from questions about our own culpability in ecosystem decline. Green technologies bypass worries of raw material scarcity, as they exist in our minds apart from fossil fuel and extractive industry. They ease our anxieties about increasing levels of CO2 so long as we faithfully believe that they are carbon-free undertakings. But most centrally, alternative energy spectacles protect us from considering our own growth, in consumption and population, which could not otherwise come to a peaceful end within the logic of the current expansionist milieu.

 

Download the paper: https://www.academia.edu/9599130/Conjuring_Clean_Energy_Exposing_Green_Assumptions_in_Media_and_Academia

 

[Ozzie Zehner is a visiting scholar at the University of California, Berkeley STSC and author of Green Illusions (GreenIllusions.org).  He has written for academic and mainstream publications including Christian Science Monitor, The American Scholar, The Hill, UTNE, Truthout, ARTE, IEEE Spectrum, Women’s Studies Quarterly, and other publications. He regularly guest lectures at universities and serves as a reviewer for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Ozzie is also a founding collaborator for a research and media nonprofit that will launch in San Francisco in 2015. ]

Cowspiracy: The Film that the World’s Most Powerful NGOs Don’t Want You To See

 

“When Cowspiracy was being made none of the major conservation or environmental groups would cooperate or support the position that the meat industry is the major contributor to climate change, to the wastage of water, to the pollution of groundwater and to the destruction of bio-diversity in the oceans.” – Paul Watson, Sea Shepherd

 

COWSPIRACY: “The Sustainability Secret (http://cowspiracy.com) is a groundbreaking feature-length environmental documentary following an intrepid filmmaker as he uncovers the most destructive industry facing the planet today, and investigates why the world’s leading environmental organizations are too afraid to talk about it.”

 

EcoWatch

October 10, 2014

by Ward Pallotta

Cowspiracy Exposes the Truth About Animal Agriculture

A recent documentary, Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret, asks why most leading environmental organizations are ignoring a leading cause of environmental damage.

In 90 minutes, co-producers Kip Andersen and Keegan Kuhn argue that our institutional and individual attention to selected environmental issues will not make a collective difference unless we also confront the realities of animal agriculture. Animal agriculture’s environmental effects are so pervasive that apparent progress elsewhere cannot counter its destructive and growing impact.

The film suggests why protection for expanded areas of the ocean will not protect oceans or ocean animals. Growing food organically, even on a commercial scale, will not protect the land. Keeping lumber operations out of the Amazon will not save the rainforest.

Making homes more water efficient and taking short showers will not make more water available. Driving electric cars will not solve the carbon emissions problem. Installing LED lights and converting to renewable energy will not stop global warming.

Here is some of the data gathered by the producers and woven into this powerful film.

Animal agriculture uses 55 percent of the water in the U.S. American homes use five percent. One thousand gallons of water are needed to produce 1 gallon of milk. Two thousand five hundred gallons of water are needed to make one pound of beef. Growing water shortages make animal agriculture unsustainable.

Livestock uses 30 percent of the Earth’s total land mass, including nearly 50 percent of the U.S. mainland. The growing demand for animal farmland is responsible for 80 percent of Amazon rainforest destruction. (Palm oil production is second). With 160-million acres cleared or degraded annually for the animal industry, 40 percent of the rainforest will be destroyed in 20 years, affecting species survival and carbon sequestration.

Animal agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions. All forms of land, air and ocean transportation total 13 percent. Transportation industry air pollution is overshadowed by animal agriculture air pollution.

Seventy billion animals are raised annually worldwide. Everyday 144 million animals are killed for food. U.S. farm animals produce 7 million pounds of excrement every minute. Our lakes, oceans and psyches cannot sustain animal agriculture.

Too many environmental groups are dodging this issue, but the cattle industry is steaming. One cattle association blogger reminds its members that it also takes a lot of water to make a T-shirt or produce a car.

Seventy-five percent of Americans consider themselves environmentalists. Only 5 percent of Americans are vegetarian or vegan, however their percentage has quintupled in five years.

The average American consumes 209 pounds of meat each year. Everyday, a person that eats a plant-based diet saves 1,100 gallons of water, 45 pounds of grain, 30 sq. ft. of forested land, the equivalent of 20 lbs. of CO2 and one animal’s life.

This issue is an environmental advocate’s dream come true. It requires no political action money, no corporate boardroom decisions, no re-negotiated food policy, no tax incentives. When we eat meat, dairy and eggs, we feed this growing catastrophe. Change will happen as quickly as we convince each other to change what we eat. While producing his film, Kip Andersen became a vegan.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret was self-funded by the producers and crowdfunded via Indiegogo. The marketing efforts for the film depends on community organizations to sponsor the film, promote ticket sales through their networks and fill a local theater. They bear no cost, only effort, and it is working. Cowspiracy showings are accelerating all over the country—during the last two weeks in October, the film will be seen in 35 locations.

Click here for a list of upcoming events or to host a screening.

 

[Ward Pallotta is retired from social justice, nonprofit fundraising in Cleveland, Ohio. He and his life partner, Ann Urick, are members of VegSarasota and Transition Sarasota in Sarasota, Florida, and are advocates for safe and healthy food. Nine years ago they realized they were eating dangerously and switched to a plant-based diet.]

 

How Bolivia is Leading the Global Fight Against Climate Disaster

Life on the Left

October 6, 2014

by Richard Fiddler

https://i1.wp.com/www.bellenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Evo-Morales-has-overseen-strong-economic-growth-since-taking-office-in-2006-326x235.jpg?resize=326%2C235

(October 6, 2014) Bolivia goes to the polls next Sunday, October 12, in the country’s third national election since the victory of Evo Morales and his Movement Toward Socialism (MAS) in December 2005 and the second since the adoption of its radically new constitution in 2009. The MAS list, led by President Morales and his Vice-Presidential running mate Álvaro García Linera, is far ahead in the opinion polling over four opposition slates, all to the right of the MAS.

Although Bolivia’s “process of change,” its “democratic and cultural revolution” as García Linera terms it, is still in its early stages, the country’s developmental process has already attracted considerable interest — and some controversy — internationally, not least because of its government’s role as a leading critic of global climate change, which it forthrightly attributes to the effects and the logic inherent to the capitalist mode of production.

Some of the highlights of this approach and how Bolivia is attempting to shape the preconditions to “going beyond capitalism” are discussed in this short presentation that I made at a workshop at the People’s Social Forum in Ottawa, August 22.

– Richard Fidler

* * *

We are “ecosocialists” because the climate crisis now bearing down on us is the major issue facing the world’s peoples. It threatens the very survival of human life. It is directly caused by capitalism as a system. The alternative to capitalism is socialism, and our socialism must reflect the centrality of climate crisis in our thinking and actions.

On a global scale, Bolivia is punching way above its size in drawing attention to this crisis and formulating answers to it — within the limits of its situation as a small landlocked country in South America. And its government is moving to implement its proposals through developing an “economic, social and communitarian productive model” that takes immediate steps toward dismantling the dependent legacy of colonialism, neo-colonialism and capitalism while pointing the way toward what it terms “the socialist horizon.”

I will start by highlighting a few notable examples of how Bolivia is contributing to our understanding of climate change and what can be done about it.

When the United Nations 2009 climate summit in Copenhagen ended without any commitment by the major powers to emissions reductions, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales promptly issued a call for a “World People’s Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth,” to be hosted by Bolivia.

People’s Conference on Climate Change

BoliviaCochabambaPeoplesClimateChangeConference

The conference met in Cochabamba in April 2010. It was attended by more than 30,000 people (one third were foreign visitors from 142 countries and official delegations from 47 states). It adopted a powerful anticapitalist “People’s Agreement” that called, in part, for stabilizing the rise of temperature to 1o C and limiting carbon dioxide emissions to 300 parts per million.

The Cochabamba Agreement also rejected carbon market mechanisms that transfer primary responsibility for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to poor countries. It called for integrated management of forests, “without market mechanisms and ensuring the full participation of indigenous peoples and local communities.” And it called on developed countries to allocate 6% of their GDP to fighting climate change, to repay some of their climate debt as a result of their emissions.

These proposals have been ignored by the United Nations in subsequent climate conferences. But Bolivia has pursued its international campaign.

Evo’s Ten Commandments

For example, in 2012 the government organized a mass gathering on December 21, the southern summer solstice, at the legendary Isla del Sol in Lake Titicaca. The event attracted some 40 indigenous groups from five continents as well as government leaders from other countries. In the days preceding the event, public and internet forums were organized to stimulate public debate on such topics as climate change and lessons from indigenous knowledges on how to live in harmony with Nature. Speaking at the event itself, Evo Morales offered “Ten Commandments to confront capitalism and construct the culture of life.”

This year Bolivia is chairing the G77+China group of what are now 133 countries of the global South. The Morales government has used its position to feature the issues of climate change, sustainable development and “Living Well in harmony with Mother Earth.” These were prominent themes of Evo’s opening speech to the G77 summit in Santa Cruz in mid-June, which directly attributed climate crisis to “the anarchy of capitalist production.”

Two weeks later, the Bolivian Workers Central (COB) and the government sponsored an “Anti-Imperialist International Trade Union Conference” in Cochabamba. It was attended by representatives of unions in 22 countries affiliated with the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU), which claims a membership of 86 million in 120 countries.

Climate crisis as ‘crystallization’ of capitalist crises

The conference adopted a remarkable “Anti-Imperialist Political Thesis” aimed at pointing the way toward a socialist world order. We are faced, it says, with a structural crisis of global proportions affecting all aspects of nature and human life — climate, energy, food, water, etc. The climate crisis is “the crystallization of all these crises…. We are in a stage of capitalism where everything is commoditized, including life itself and common goods.”

The statement rejects the concept of a “green economy,” based on such capitalist devices as carbon credits, essentially the privatization of nature. And it points to the rising competition for control of scarce or declining natural resources, a key ingredient in the imperialist war drive.

Fighting the capitalist world system today are locally-based resistance movements, the statement notes. But globally we “have yet to create a united front that could constitute an alternative to capitalism.”

The “basic contradiction of capitalism,” it says, is “the contradiction between the social character of production and the capitalist form of property over the means of production and the appropriation of its results…. An alternative project to confront the crisis of capitalism can only come from the popular sectors and organized labour” — with “socialism as its horizon.”

What the Bolivians are saying, then, is that there is no enduring solution to our mounting environmental disasters and climate crisis short of overcoming capitalism.

Dependency and ‘extractivism’

I maintain that no other government worldwide is doing more to spread this ecosocialist message. However, there is a common perception — especially among many global justice advocates in the North — that Bolivia’s government actually violates these precepts in its own development strategy. A common criticism is that not only has it not broken with capitalism — one well-known critic in these parts claims it is “reconstituting neoliberalism”[1] — but it has not broken decisively with the “extractivist” legacy of colonialism and capitalism, referring to the fact that Bolivia’s economy is still highly dependent on large-scale removal (“extraction”) and export of unprocessed raw materials, not just in traditional extractive industries such as mining and hydrocarbons but through industrial-scale agriculture, forestry and even fishing.

So let’s take a quick look at some features of Bolivia’s incremental development model, bearing in mind of course that this small landlocked country of 10 million cannot be expected to create socialism all on its own, in isolation from the global economy and its neighbouring countries in Latin America.[2]

The new economic model

Three months after taking office, in 2006, the Morales government “nationalized” Bolivia’s main natural resource, its extensive hydrocarbon deposits. The state asserted ownership of gas and mineral deposits and renegotiated contracts with the private companies, including some transnationals, still involved in refining and exporting the product. Thanks to hugely increased royalties and taxes, about 80% of the profits now go to the state, more than a four-fold increase in its share of these revenues.

The vast increase in state revenue as a result of greater control over natural resource wealth has facilitated a sharp drop in public debt. Less dependent on foreign loans, the government has been able to expand its nationalization program into such areas as telecommunications, electricity and water, and ensure that more Bolivians have access to these basic services.

Significant steps have been taken toward industrializing and diversifying the economy. For example, under the government’s gas industrialization plan, Bolivia has already begun to export processed gas and by 2016 will be able to meet its domestic demand for gasoline and liquefied natural gas (LNG). As a result, hundreds of millions of dollars currently allocated to subsidizing the cost of imported processed gas can be redeployed to meeting other needs. And higher returns from processed gas exports mean Bolivia can, over time, look to generating more wealth from relatively less gas extraction.

Increased state revenues have “facilitated a seven-fold increase in social and productive spending by the government since 2005,” writes Federico Fuentes. This in turn “has allowed the government to make some headway in overcoming the social debt it inherited.” Social programs have been dramatically expanded; today one in three Bolivians benefits directly from government social security payments.

Poverty levels have been reduced from 60.6% of the population 2005 to 43.5% in 2012. Income disparities have likewise been reduced.

Modest gains, perhaps, although important in themselves in one of the poorest countries in Latin America. But there is good reason to expect more radical social reforms in the near future, especially if the government manages to go beyond programs directed to particularly disadvantaged groups and to implement projected universal coverage in such fields as health care.

Higher personal incomes, limited industrialization and the growth in the domestic market — purchasing power is up more than 40% since Morales took office[3] — have aided growth in the manufacturing sector, contributed to a decrease in unemployment (Bolivia currently has the lowest rate in South America, 3.2%), and an increase in the percentage of workers employed in the formal economy.

Furthermore, the government has undertaken some important initiatives not only to lessen Bolivia’s extractivist dependency but to point the country in a post-capitalist direction — through creating small state-owned enterprises in which local producers and communities have a say in how they are run; the titling of more than 35 million hectares of land as communitarian property or indigenous territories; and strengthening communitarian agriculture practices through preferential access to equipment, supplies, no-interest loans and state-subsidized markets.

Extracting Bolivia from extractivism, however, is not an easy process. In the short term, the country’s economic development strategy has actually expanded its dependency on the extractive economy. On the plus side, low unemployment, greater social security, higher living standards and a political environment in which the indigenous peoples and languages have been given constitutional recognition, have strengthened the social solidarity of the popular classes, on which the government rests for its support. These are essential steps in any emancipatory project, one that points the way toward that promised “socialist horizon.”

Deepening the process?

And this may be only a beginning, Alfredo Rada writes in a significant article published in early August entitled “Deeping the process of change on the basis of the social movements.” Rada is Bolivia’s Deputy Minister for Social Movements and Civil Society. His department reports directly to the Ministry of the President and to President Evo Morales.

Rada draws attention to the recent reconstitution of what he terms the “Revolutionary Social Bloc” of the major trade unions, campesino and indigenous organizations as well as neighborhood councils and urban school boards, micro-enterprises and members of cooperatives. This bloc or alliance is known as the CONALCAM, the National Coordination for Change.[4]

“The regained protagonism of workers and social movements,” Rada writes, “inevitably tends to strengthen … ideological tendencies within the process of change.” He draws attention to the Cochabamba anti-imperialist trade union meeting in July, supported by the government.

“Here is the vigorous present and promising future of the Bolivian process. In those proposals they defend what has been achieved (which is a lot) and seek to deepen the changes with their own political action based on the social movements.

“But the talk about deepening the process, if it is to achieve greater vitality, must be accompanied by programmatic proposals that point to further strengthening of the state with new nationalizations in strategic sectors of the economy and new industries in petrochemicals, steel, metallurgy and processed foods; to transformation of the capitalist relations of production in the public enterprises; to the strengthening of the social and communitarian sector of the economy through productive projects of an associative nature that generate employment; to the agrarian revolution that eradicates the new forms of latifundism and foreign ownership of the land that have developed in recent years; to food sovereignty, avoiding the new forms of monoculture both in the east (soy) and in the west (quinua) of the country; and to defense of Mother Nature from mining pollution and the severe impact of irrational consumption of natural resources in the cities.

“If the social movements keep the political and programmatic initiative, they will become the principal factor in democratic governability in the medium term, an indispensable factor in the management of the process.

“In light of the probability of a new triumph of Evo Morales against a right wing that is still searching for a compass, our view should go beyond the electoralist calculation. Now is the time to bring together the revolutionaries around clear ideas, organize them in close relation to the social movements and strengthen the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) as the political instrument of those movements.”

Resource dependency is not the cause of underdevelopment

Transnational corporations continue to operate in Bolivia. Extractive industries persist. Bolivia’s economy is still capitalist and resource-dependent. But the initial successes of its new development strategy centered on state investment initiatives demonstrate that it is not resource dependency per se that generates underdevelopment;[5] it is the weak state structures and capacities typically associated with such economies. Countries with stronger state institutions — such as Norway or Canada, both heavily reliant on hydrocarbon exploitation (and mining in Canada’s case) — have remained prosperous nevertheless. However, Canada, one of the G7 leading imperialist powers, is one of the most environmentally damaging extractivists in the world, and is no example for Bolivia.

Bolivia’s MAS government is taking advantage of the favourable opportunity offered by a burgeoning global market for the country’s resources to strengthen state sovereignty and capacities with a view to raising living standards, planning production for national development, and empowering traditionally subaltern classes.

At the same time, it is conscious that imperialism as a world system continues to pose the main threat to all such efforts as well as jeopardizing the environment as never before. That is why it has consistently campaigned to raise public awareness of the need to go “beyond capitalism” as an integral component of instituting “another world” of harmonious co-existence among humans and between humanity and nature.

And that is also why the government has placed so much emphasis on forging broad international alliances with governments and social movements around such issues as climate crisis.


[1] Jeffery R. Webber, “Fantasies aside, it’s reconstituted neoliberalism in Bolivia under Morales,” http://isreview.org/person/jeffery-r-webber.

[2] For a more ample development of this argument, see Federico Fuentes, “Bolivia: Beyond (neo) extractivism?,” published first at Telesur.

[3] Linda C. Farthing and Benjamin H. Kohl, Evo’s Bolivia: Continuity and Change (University of Texas Press, 2014), p. 86.

[4] The Coordinadora Nacional por el Cambio (CONALCAM) is a Bolivian political coordination of social movements aligned with the governing Movement for Socialism-Political Instrument for the Sovereignty of the Peoples (MAS-IPSP). It was founded on 22 January 2007 during the Constituent Assembly of 2006-2007. CONALCAM mobilizes its member organizations in support of the “process of change.” (Wikipedia)

[5] For a critical discussion of “extractivism” from the government’s standpoint, see Álvaro García Linera, Geopolitics of the Amazon, pp. 31-35.

 

New Book: Emergency as Security–Liberal Empire at Home and Abroad

Zero Anthropology

 

January 18, 2014

by Maximilian Forte

EMERGENCY AS SECURITY: Liberal Empire at Home and Abroad

Kyle MacLoughlin and  Maximilian Forte

“Just as our vision of homeland security has evolved as we have made progress in the War on Terror, we also have learned from the tragedy of Hurricane Katrina….We have applied the lessons of Katrina to this Strategy to make sure that America is safer, stronger, and better prepared. To best protect the American people, homeland security must be a responsibility shared across our entire Nation. As we further develop a national culture of preparedness, our local, Tribal, State, and Federal governments, faith-based and community organizations, and businesses must be partners in securing the Homeland. This Strategy also calls on each of you….Many of the threats we face…also demand multinational effort and cooperation. To this end, we have strengthened our homeland security through foreign partnerships, and we are committed to expanding and increasing our layers of defense, which extend well beyond our borders, by seeking further cooperation with our international partners. As we secure the Homeland, however, we cannot simply rely on defensive approaches and well-planned response and recovery measures. We recognize that our efforts also must involve offense at home and abroad”. (George W. Bush, preface to Homeland Security Council, 2007).

Before we get into an overview of this book, we should provide you with some of the basic information about the book, and how to obtain a copy. Following that, we have a brief introductory overview of the contents and significance of this volume.

About the Book

Emergency as Security: Liberal Empire at Home and Abroad (Montreal: Alert Press, 2013), is the newly released third volume in the New Imperialism series emerging from the seminar at Concordia University. The published chapters consist of a selection of some of the best work produced by advanced undergraduate researchers in the seminar, and this is likely our best volume to date. Chapters in this volume offer some profound theoretical and analytical insights into the history and complexity of contemporary imperialism, as well as developing a useful conceptual vocabulary for analyzing the imperial landscape.

FLASHBACK | The Last Twenty Years of Social Liquidation

libcom.org

August 27, 2013

by Miguel Amorós

“In the society of the spectacle protest is a form of leisure and the tragic pathos of the class struggle must recede before hilarity, relaxation and festival, genuine forms of the neo-contestatory spirit which has found in pot and pan-banging, whistles, and costume parades its most suitable means of expression and in software, blogs and cell-phones its best weapons.”

The last twenty years of social liquidation - Miguel Amorós

In this 2006 lecture, Miguel Amorós depicts the previous twenty years as a period of radical changes for the emancipatory project, beginning with “the disappearance of the workers milieu” in the 1980s and the simultaneous rise of a new youth movement which, because it “started from zero” as a result of its lack of historical memory, was in part drawn to violence (“immediate confrontation”), and in part to the practice of “neo-contestatory”, “festive” forms of simulated struggle (“In the society of the spectacle protest is a form of leisure”), only to be “absorbed by the dynamic of survival in a hostile environment” as “the fifth wheel of the electoral bandwagon of social democracy”.

Concerning the Degeneration of Revolutionary Ideals after the End of the Working Class in the West

“The present period is one of those when everything that seems normally to constitute a reason for living dwindles away, when one must, on pain of sinking into confusion or apathy, call everything into question again.”1

On July 19, 1936 the Spanish proletariat responded to Franco’s coup d’état by unleashing a social revolution. On February 23, 1981 another coup d’état took place, one that met with the most absolute indifference of the proletarians, who hardly bothered to change the station on their radios or TVs. This contrast of attitudes reflects the fact that the proletariat was in 1936 the principal social factor in politics, while in 1981 it was not even an auxiliary factor for the interests of others. If the coup of 1936 was directed against the proletariat, the coup of 1981 was a settling of accounts between different factions of power. Not even in the most alarmist analyses was the workers’ predilection for struggle taken into consideration for the simple reason that it was minimal. The perpetrators of the coup d’état ignored the proletariat because it was no more than a secondary figure of political rhetoric, one that was historically finished.