Archive for August, 2011

Macroasia Lies: Indigenous Peoples Challenge Mining Company Propaganda


Macroasia Lies: Indigenous Peoples Challenge Mining Company Propaganda

 

Posted 29 August 2011, by , Intercontinental Cry, intercontinentalcry.org

 

Indigenous Peoples in Palawan are challenging a mining company’s latest attempt to mislead government officials and the public so it can gain access to mineral resources on indigenous ancestral lands. Below, a press release from the Philippines-based advocacy network Ancestral Land/Domain Watch (ALDAW).

Lucio Tan's Macroasia Corp. claims that it has obtained Indigenous Peoples FPIC. It hasn't. Photo: ALDAW

 

ALDAW Press Statement:

Indigenous Peoples Protest Against Macroasia Sneaky Moves To Mine Palawan Virgin Forest

In spite of massive opposition and peaceful demonstrations organized by indigenous peoples and farmers since 2008 to protest the entry of MacroAsia corporation in their territory the company claims to have obtained the free and prior informed consent (FPIC) of the local indigenous communities, being represented by the so called “Brooke’s Point Tribal Leaders Federation”.

What MacroAsia Corporations (MAC) is presently doing is to disseminate untrue information through newspapers articles and paid adds on the social consensus that the company allegedly claims to have obtained in all targeted barangay of Brooke’s Point Municipality to be affected by its planned mining operations.

Media sources, fed by MacroAsia misinformation, report that 50 tribal chieftains supported by about 80 percent of the indigenous people in Brooke’s Point have welcomed the project. Ironically, the position of ‘tribal chieftain’ does not fit into any of the ‘customary’ definitions used by the Palawan to refer to those respectful community members, such as elders, whose advice might be sought when important decisions need to be made. Official positions such as ‘tribal chieftain’ have been instrumentally created to fit the interests of large corporations and government agencies rather then to respond to the genuine needs and aspirations of the local communities. This is to say that these 50 tribal chieftains allegedly representing 80% of the indigenous are people that do not hold any representational status or outstanding reputation amongst the Palawan indigenous population of Brooke’s Point.

Using these false arguments MacroAsia is now exercising pressure on the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) to release the so called “certificate of precondition” (CPC) which the company needs in order to get the final clearance from the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development (PCSD) and then push with its mining operations in one of the best conserved forests of the Philippines inhabited by vulnerable indigenous communities.

“It was very unfortunate that two months ago, other tribe members grabbed the chance to visit Manila and the Office of the President in Malacañang and acted in our behalf to allow mining operations there in spite of our opposition” say a group of genuine indigenous Palawan spokespersons representing the communities living in those uplands and lowlands regions to be directly affected by MacroAsia operations.

For the general public and newspapers reader who is not aware of the situation in the field, MacroAsia argument may appear even convincing and worth of merit: “Why, stopping mining operation if they are so welcomed by indigenous people and, in fact, are seen by them as a new source of job opportunity and wealth for their families? In short why going against the interests and development aspiration of a legitimate majority?”. A few clarifications are then needed in order to dismantle MacroAsia’s prefabricated argument. First of all, it must be specified that these pro-mining “tribal leaders/chieftains” belong to the so-called “Brooke’s Point Tribal Leaders Federation” which, indeed, is an obscure entity that is practically unknown to most indigenous peoples’ living in the Municipality. Indeed, MacroAsia has sufficient financial resources to backup the creation of ‘fake’ indigenous organizations and – through the assistance of unscrupulous local Palawan NCIP officers – ensure the top down appointed of so called tribal chieftains, that –  instead – are not perceived as such by the very communities inhabiting those forested lands that MacroAsia intends to plunder. It must be pointed out that the local Palawan officials of the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) have often sided with the mining companies rather then helping their own indigenous constituents. More importantly, the NCIP have failed to consult those  vulnerable and isolated Palawan communities of the uplands which completely rely on forest resources for their survival and whose existence will be practically washed away by MacroAsia open-pith mining.

Even more surprisingly, many members of this ‘opportunistic’ and ‘ad hoc’ created “Brooke’s Point Tribal Leaders Federation” are not even indigenous people from the affected areas; most of them come from acculturated groups living in the more populated lowlands and have no emotional linkage or livelihood interest in the forested uplands of Brooke’s Point. Some of them are either ‘half-blood’ Palawan or originally from other locations. Interestingly enough, the names of vulnerable Palawan of the uplands to be directly impacted by MacroAsia operations do not even feature in the membership list of the “Brooke’s Point Tribal Leaders Federation”. Moreover, this ‘federation’ is not affiliated with and recognized by the well-respected NATRIPAL (Nagkakaisang Mga Tribu ng Palawan literally, The Federations of Tribes in Palawan) which operates on the island since 1989 and encompassed most of the community/municipal based indigenous associations in the Province.

On early June, a group of 9 tribal leaders and representatives from the Palawan tribe travelled to Manila to counter-act the move of the fake pro-mining tribal chieftains supported by MacroAsia and meet NCIP officials, as well as other government representatives in order to explain their points of view. Their visit was arranged by the Ancestral Land/Domain Watch (ALDAW) Indigenous Network.

The Palawan IP delegation received the full support of Congressman Teddy Baguilat (Chair of the Committee on Indigenous Cultural Communities) who is calling for an urgent committee hearing to investigate the issuances of mining permits and NCIP Certificates of Precondition in the province of Palawan and other parts of the country highly populated by Indigenous People.

On 22 August indigenous members of the same Palawan delegation and specifically Artiso Mandawa, Pedro Sagad, Wiliton Palete, Prudencio Danadio, Titu Cui, Leticia Sagad, Nelson Sumbra have written a message to be delivered to both President Aquino and to the press. In the message, written on the behalf of the upland Palawan communities of Brooke’s Point it is stated:

“We will never let our mountain and rivers to be mined. These are our sources of food, medicine and livelihood. We do not need money, because our ancestral lands provide for our needs. In the mountains, we do our rituals and call on our God. This is our sacred land. Mining in Brooke’s Point means the death of our indigenous community and the demise of the Palawan tribe. We trust that the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples will take this seriously before deciding on issuing Certificate of Precondition to MacroAsia. Free prior informed consent should be obtained from the indigenous communities that will be affected by actual operations, not form those who live in cities and in the lowlands outside Brooke’s Point, and who wrongly claim to be true leaders of the Palaw’an tribe”

For previous IC coverage of the Palawan case also see http://intercontinentalcry.org/palawan-voices-from-the-lost-frontier/ http://intercontinentalcry.org/troubling-developments-for-the-island-of-palawan/

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Address your concerns to the following NCIP officials

Hon. Roque Agton,
Hon. Santos Unsad,
Hon. Cosme Lambayon
Hon. Percy Brawner

Requesting the no-issuance of the Certificate or Preconditions to MacroAsia Corporation:

Email: resource@ncip.gov.ph
Telefax: (63 2) 373-97-65

Please also include in the Cc: oed@pcsd.ph and mearlhilario@yahoo.com (PALAWAN COUNCIL FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT – PCSD)

Kindly request President Benigno C. Aquino III (Malacañang Palace, Manila) to support the Brooke’s Point indigenous peoples’ claims against MacroAsia Corporation and call for an in-depth investigation of the procedures fallowed by the NCIP Palawan staff to obtain, allegedly, the Free Prior Informed Consent of local communities in favour of MacroAsia

Email: titonoy@president.gov.ph

Also sign the Rainforest Rescue online letter addressed to President Aquino and NCIP https://www.rainforest-rescue.org/mailalert/716/philippines-please-support-palawan-s-indigenous-peoples-against-mining
As well as the no-2-mining-in-palawan petition launched by the Save Palawan Movement http://no2mininginpalawan.com/ and the ALDAW Petition to stop the encroachment of mining corporations and oil palm plantations on Palawan ancestral land http://petitiononline.com/PA2010/petition.html

For more information watch ALDAW videos on Vimeo and  Youtube; and see ALDAW’s Facebook page.

Contact the ALDAW INDIGENOUS NETWORK (Ancestral Land/Domain Watch) at: aldaw.indigenousnetwork@gmail.com

 

http://intercontinentalcry.org/macroasia-lies-indigenous-peoples-challenge-mining-company-propaganda/

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Reconnecting with Mother Earth

 

Reconnecting with Mother Earth

 

Posted 28 August 2011, by Sam Dickson, Daily O’Collegian (Oklahoma State University), ocolly.com

 

The past few years have brought us a frenzy of overzealous work-out gurus and nutrition Nazis, all spewing information at us about how we’re not healthy enough, thin enough or defecating enough. Well, I say enough. You really want to be healthy? Go outside.

Seattle, Wash. is one of the dreariest places in the contiguous United States. It rains constantly, people wear dark colors, and the suicide rate there is magnificently depressing. Why? There isn’t any sunshine.

Seattleites suffer from a mega vitamin D deficiency, which the sun so graciously supplies. We need those rays, and as blessed Oklahomans, we have a wonderful, record-breaking climate that rain happens to be allergic to.

Outside is where it all began. Whether you’re so inclined to believe it all started in a garden or not, all of our ancestors were people of the land. In fact, many cultures today still understand the value of being more in touch with nature than our fast-paced urban society here in America.

Think about the cultures who still build the houses they occupy or whose religions make a very poignant point to respect nature. No, they don’t drive fancy cars or watch Jersey Shore, but they do often live together and take care of each other as a community; they also happen to have acquired a significantly less amount of debt and stress, I would venture to think.

Oh no. I just wrote about, “nature.” Does that mean I breached the hippie threshold? I did, indeed. Even though I don’t believe in all of the pillars of Hipslam, I do think they had some of their facets right. We are connected to this earth, even if some of us only relate that to being worm food one day.

That’s actually very significant; we will literally be a part of the dirt, replenishing the same ground we graciously took nutrients from while we were living. We need the earth, and she needs us, too.

I would like to insert a tirade on recycling here, but I’ll resist the urge because we’ve all heard enough about that. However, taking care of the resources we have and the home we live in is of utmost importance to me, my fellow man, and to future generations. It’s selfish and ugly to litter and only lazy people do it.

We could all use a dose of courtesy, but don’t just extend that to other homo sapiens. Throw Mother Earth a bone every once in a while, too, but I don’t mean that literally.

How many of us have actually taken some serious time and noticed just how magnificent the relationship is between man and his home? It’s a lost art in today’s society to just sit, soak up some rays, and watch the squirrels run around the trees, but I encourage you to do just that. Or better yet, go hiking, trail running, mountain biking, kayaking, rock climbing, skiing, fishing, gardening, rowing, sailing, long-boarding, dog-walking, poem-writing, sun-bathing, swimming, journaling, or Frisbee-ing.

Make time to do the things you like to do and that will positively affect your health. Trying something new also does wonders for the soul. Connect with your roots; we can better understand ourselves when we know where we came from; I personally find comfort in the fact that some of my relatives are a bunch of nuts.

 

http://www.ocolly.com/opinion/column-reconnecting-with-mother-earth-1.2566498

Biosphere’s influence on cloud formation larger than previously thought

Biosphere’s influence on cloud formation larger than previously thought

 

Posted 28 August 2011, by Jorn van Dooren, Bits of Science, bitsofscience.org

 

Clouds can have a large impact on global climate. Depending on conditions they can either trap or reflectthe sun’s heat. Scientists at CERN have now determined that organic vapours released by Earth’s organisms play a far more significant role in cloud formation than previously suspected.

 

Previous assumptions

Cloud droplets can form only on tiny airborne particles called aerosols. The basis for these aerosols is created when sulphuric acid and ammonia molecules cluster together, sometimes jumpstarted by cosmic rays. Previous assumptions led us to believe that sulphuric acid and ammonia accounted for the formation of a majority of aerosols. But as the results of the research presented in Nature show, their clustering can only account for a tenth to a thousandth of observed rates.

Organic vapours

To let nucleation occur at a substantial rate in the low atmosphere the presence of an organic trace vapour is needed besides sulphuric acid and ammonia. If this is significant on a global scale, the role of the organic component and thus that of the biosphere on cloud formation is more significant than previously thought.

Cosmic rays

In the large stainless steel chamber filled with highly purified air where the Cloud experiment took place, the scientists also tested the effect of cosmic rays on cloud formation, as some physicists believe these are responsible for global warming. The team did find that the rays increased nucleation by 2 to 10 times, which is small compared to the effect of ammonia increase (100-1000 fold). Furthermore this increase in nucleation yields particles around the size of 1 nanometre, which does not necessarily translate in an increase of 50 nanometre particles needed for cloud formation.

Climate

The apparent effect of the biosphere on cloud formation has significant effect on the role attributed to aerosols in current climate models. Maybe more importantly, since our activities greatly influence the biosphere, it may add an extra unexpected factor to human contribution to climate forcing.

Aerosols and clouds play an important role in climate modelling, but were never properly measured. The Cloud experiment aims to create a better understanding of cloud formation and will result in better computer models of how the Earth’s climate is influenced by clouds.

The focus of the study is on how cosmic rays influence cloud formation, of which they so far found only a marginal effect. So the effect of the biosphere was somewhat of a surprising, but nevertheless important, bonus. It is another step towards our understanding of how we can affect global climate, whether it is intentional through cloud geoengineering or in some other less intentional fashion.

© Jorn van Dooren | www.bitsofscience.org

 

http://www.bitsofscience.org/biosphere-cloud-formation-2860/

Rewards for tips on damage to ecology

Rewards for tips on damage to ecology

Posted 26 August 2011, by Cai Wenjun, The Shanghai Daily, shanghaidaily.org
STARTING next Thursday, local residents who give tips about illegal behavior impacting the environment can get up to a 10,000 yuan (US$1,565) reward, the Shanghai Environmental Protection Bureau said yesterday.

The violations include starting construction without environmental authorities’ approval, illegally dumping hazardous waste or giving hazardous waste to an unqualified company or individual for processing.

Most rewards will be no more than 5,000 yuan.

People must give their real name and contact information while calling the bureau’s hotline 12369 or e-mailing it at sepi@sepi.gov.cn.

The bureau promised to protect the privacy of tipsters.

Some smaller problems will not get rewards, such as reports on bad smells or chemical leaks. People can complain about bad odors to the bureau’s hotline.

http://www.shanghaidaily.org/article/?id=480836&type=Metro

The Latest from Iran (28 August) It’s the Ecology, Stupid

The Latest from Iran (28 August) It’s the Ecology, Stupid

 

Posted 28 August 2011, by James Miller, EA WorldView (Enduring America), enduringamerica.com

 

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An overview of the ecological problems facing Lake Orumiyeh in northwest Iran


1420 GMT:The US Hikers. The lawyer for US citizens Josh Fattal and Shane Bauer, sentenced earlier this month to eight-year prison sentences on charges of espionage and illegal entry has said that he has filed an appeal.

Fattal and Bauer were arrested, along with American Sarah Shourd, who in July 2009 while hiking along the Iran-Iraq border. They had 20 days to appeal the sentence.

Shourd was freed on $500,000 last September and did not return for trial.

1400 GMT: Environment Watch. Twenty-two Iranian lawmakers have called on the Presiding Board of Parliament to take “expert and immediate” action to counter the rapid shrinkage of Lake Orumiyeh in Western Azerbaijan Province in northwest Iran.

The MPs warn that allowing the lake to dry out completely would have social, political, and economic consequences.

Last week, Parliament voted down a plan to raise water levels in Lake Orumiyeh by transferring water from the Aras and Siloueh Rivers. The lake, the largest in Iran, has receded significantly in recent years — Hassan Abbasnejad, the head of environmental protection in Western Azerbaijan, reported that 53% of the lake has already turned into salt fields, and the salt content of the lake has reached 400 grams per litre.

1235 GMT: Claimed video of latest protests and clashes in northwest Iran over the Lake Orumiyeh issue:

1230 GMT: Strikes and Protests. Kalemeh reports on the strike of cloth merchants at the Tehran Bazaar, which it claims has spread to other vendors, and the suppression of an attempted rally on Saturday by security forces.

The news intersects with the reports from northwest Iran of demonstrations over the environmental damage to drying Lake Orumiyeh, in which more than 30 activists have been arrested.

1220 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Human rights activist Mostava Avazpour has been arrested in Tabriz. He was seized as he was among 30 guests during an iftar dinner.

The arrest comes amidst news of the release from prison of more than 100 activists, including some jailed for protests following the 2009 Presidential election, after an amnesty by the Supreme Leader

Kalemeh puts the amnesty in perspective with the claim that more than 200 political prisoners, including 120 seized after June 2009, were still being held in Section 350 of Evin Prison in Tehran.

1210 GMT: Justice Watch. State news agency IRNA is reporting that Majid Jamali Fashi has been sentenced to death for the murder of physicist Masoud Alimohammadi in January 2010.

Iran Prosecutor General Gholam-Hossein Mohseni Ejei made the announcement. Jamali Fashi was accused of working with Israel to assassinate Alimohammadi, who reportedly worked with Iran’s nuclear programme.

1205 GMT: The Quds Day “Success”. Video with a man who is not quite sure why he participated in the regime’s Quds Day rally on Friday. He gets his lines wrong — instead of saying that he took part because of “hate and anger against Israel”, he says he is marching “against unity”.

1115 GMT: The Battle Within. Fars publishes a sharp warning from Mohsen Fouladi, the coordinator of the three branches of Government —he claims a huge sedition will start in the media in the middle of the Iranian month of Mehr (September/October). Fouladi added that, if the Supreme Leader orders it, swords will be drawn against the President’s right-hand man Esfandiar Rahim-Mashai.

1105 GMT: Fashion and Politics. The “battle within” over the “Khatoon” special on hijab, published earlier this month in the pro-Ahmadinejad daily newspaper Iran rumbles on — a complaint against the editor of the paper has been filed in court.

Critics of the special allege it argued against the compulsory wearing of hijab by women.

1050 GMT: Political Prisoner Watch. Amir Khorram, a senior member of the Freedom Movement of Iran, has been summoned to Evin Prison to serve a six-year sentence.

1045 GMT: Agriculture Watch. Khabar Online claims that the import of $227 million in fruit in the past four months has “ruined” domestic farmers.

1035 GMT: Parliament v. President. Parliament’s Article 90 Commission has warned the Government about its refusal to pay $2 billion allocated for the extension of the Tehran Metro system, summoning nine officials to appear.

The money has been held up by the Ahmadinejad administration since its authorisation by the Majlis last year. Tehran Mayor Mohammad-Baqer Qalibaf is widely seen as a leading rival of Ahmadinejad and his allies.

1030 GMT:Mardomak posts the video of the Supreme Leader warning that the “enemy” is trying to remove religion from Iranian universities.

1025 GMT: The House Arrests. The International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran claims, from a source “close to Iranian officials”, that opposition figure Mehdi Karroubi — under strict house arrest since mid-February — is “surrounded by a team of psychiatrists working with his captors to force his mental state into agreeing to appear in front of cameras and make televised ‘confessions’”.

No one has heard from Karroubi for six weeks. This weekend his wife Fatemeh, also under house arrest, said her husband had been moved to a separate apartment on 1 August and deprived of fresh air, books, and contact with others.

Last week an Iranian MP said a statement of “repentance” from Karroubi would be published “within hours”. It never appeared.

0545 GMT: Updates will be sporadic today, as Scott is on the road and James would rather have his computer unplugged than risk a power spike during a hurricane (he’ll be fine, very wet, but fine). But, as luck would have it, Scott and I leave the liveblog alone for a few hours, and there are riots in the streets.

Water wars – Major protests broke out on Saturday over the ecological crisis at Orumiyeh lake, a 5200 square km body of water in northwest Iran, that is drying up. Environmental activists blame bad government policy, including the damming of rivers that feed into the lake, lack of preservation, and poor water usage policies, combined with drought, for the problems facing the lake. As Orumiyeh dries, the people and animals living in the area of the lake will face serious consequences.

On Saturday, major protests took place against the government policies that many believe are leading to this crisis,despite the Friday Prayer leader of Orumiyeh calling the protests to be illegal.

Many activists have been arrested by the Iranian Intelligence Ministry in recent days. 30 people were arrested on August 24th, more people were arrested before and after a soccer match in Tabriz on the 25th, and even more people were arrested in Ardabil and other cities. Protesters at the soccer match chanted “Lake Urmia is dying, the Majlis orders its execution.”

Iran’s parliament recently voted against allocating funds to channel water from the Araz River to raise the level of the lake. Instead, they proposed relocating Azerbaijanis living around Lake Urmia.

Turan Kheyri, the wife of detained activist Mustafa Avazpur, told RFE/RL that he has been detained twice before for demanding the protection of Azeri rights. She says Avazpur was released from jail last year.

Asgar Sadiqi, the brother of detained activist Abdullah Sadiqi said Abdullah telephoned them to say he was being held at an Intelligence Ministry facility in Tabriz. He said the ministry did not inform the family why Abdullah was arrested.

Vahid Qaradagli, an Azeri human rights activist in Iran, told RFE/RL on August that Azeri activists are enraged at the Iranian government’s failure to take measures to prevent Lake Urmia from drying up.

“The activists were planning more protests on August 27, and the government is arresting activists to avert the wave of protests,” he said.

Qaradagli says the government has built a fence around the lake, but no steps have been taken to preserve it. He says if the lake dries up, some 10 million tons of salt will remain which will damage the environment and may cause illness among people living in the vicinity.

Events came to a breaking point on Saturday. Below is some footage, including what I can only assume is a great overview of the situation by BBC Persian:

Heavy security presence in the area:

The protests:

Protesters approaching what appears to be a wall of riot police:

Violence erupts:

http://www.enduringamerica.com/home/2011/8/28/the-latest-from-iran-28-august-its-the-ecology-stupid.html

BRIDGES builds a community of leaders to advance racial, economic, educational and environmental justice.


Posted 29 August 2011, by Staff, BRIDGES, bridgesusa.org

 

Environmental justice exists when all people equitably share the environmental risks and benefits of industrial society and have equal access to natural resources, and when the entire community can depend on equitable protection under environmental laws and the right to participate in decision-making.

Memphis ranked 50th out of 72 (72 is the worst) cities in a 2007 Urban Environment Report conducted by the Earth Day Network. This report calculated a city’s rank in seven categories: drinking and surface water, air quality, toxics and waste, quality of life, parks and recreation, human/public health, and global climate change. The legacy of racial and environmental injustice in Memphis has created a community where our poorer citizens and citizens of color bear the burden of environmental contamination, while being denied equal opportunities to enjoy urban green spaces.

Addressing environmental justice in Memphis includes increasing the ecological sustainability of our community, reducing our carbon footprint, and increasing the health of our citizens. Tennessee does not require environmental education to be taught in the classroom. BRIDGES steps into this gap and provides much-needed environmental education for youth and adults. We advance sustainability and environmental justice in personal behavior, civic engagement, and economic choices.

BRIDGES youth understand the connections between racial, economic, and environmental justice. Our goal is to educate and empower youth to create a future where all inhabitants of the Memphis area have access to clean air and water and healthy outdoor spaces, and are free from the toxins that plague urban environments.

Through our experiential education program, BRIDGES is preparing our students to be players in the green economy of the 21st Century. BRIDGES youth are leaders for sustainable living practices, the improvement of environmental conditions, and the protection and care of our natural resources.

http://www.bridgesusa.org/environmentaljustice_1

Environmental Justice in Detroit


Defending the Commons: Environmental Justice in Detroit

 

Posted 29 August 2011, by Tom Stephens, Counterpunch, counterpunch.org

Here’s what we said before they got here: The Environmental Justice Task Force of the Detroit City Council welcomes the United States Environmental Protection Agency and national Environmental Justice (EJ) activists to Detroit.  In recognition of the historic EPA conference in Detroit from August 24 thru 26, 2011, and affirming the importance of EPA’s work and role as essential to accomplishing the goals of EJ, including improved quality of life for all, we offer the following proposed points of unity for a 21st century EJ agenda:

1.  Public Health Issues are Environmental Justice Issues

•        Improved waste management is essential for our communities, including recycling, waste reduction, materials re-use and composting.

•        Food security, local agriculture and improved soil quality are essential for our communities.

•        Improved air quality is essential for our communities.

•        Improved water quality and access to affordable water supplies are essential for our communities.

•        Adopting renewable sources of energy, energy conservation and access to affordable supplies of clean energy for achieving climate justice, with the economic benefits of the transition equitably shared, are essential for our communities.

•        Reducing or eliminating cumulative and synergistic impacts of multiple pollution sources and contaminants in concentrated populations and environments is essential for our communities.

•        Reducing and ending adverse disproportionate impacts of pollution on people of color and low income populations is essential for our communities.

•        Ending environmental racism is essential for our communities.

2. Principles Guiding and Supporting our Work:

•        The government and society are responsible to make work available to people who are willing and able to do it.

•        We seek adoption and implementation of alternative economic models, based on principles of solidarity, the commons and redefining work to fulfill all of our lives, rather than to enrich a few privileged and extraordinarily empowered groups and entities.

•        The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the UN’s recognition of water as a human right support our communities’ rights to live in clean, healthy, and just environments.

•        Applying the precautionary principle to protect our most vulnerable from unknown, potentially severe risks is essential for our communities.

•        Land use and economic development policies, programs and activities should be integrated with the principles and goals of Environmental Justice.

3. Our Communities Need and Demand:

•        Adequate and affordable housing as an alternative to the Wall Street foreclosure catastrophe that has decimated our communities.

•        Affordable, clean, safe and efficient mass transit and mobility.

•        Accelerated movement away from fossil fuels to clean and affordable energy.

•        Education and work to benefit the fundamental human needs and rights of all, not just to profit a few.

•        Nonviolent alternatives to war, policing and imprisonment, and other destructive forms of social conflict.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 (first day of the conference) 

Welcome to Detroit, in the same spirit Richard Moore of New Mexico, co-founder of the Southwest Organizing Project, said this morning: I want to commend individual EPA staffers for joining us here to discuss the critical issues of environmental justice, but we have so much more work to do!!!

Similarly, this morning Peggy Shepherd of WE ACT for Environmental Justice, and Dr. Beverly Wright (“I don’t follow instructions very well”) of Dillard University Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, observed that if you ask for a set of environmental justice policy recommendations today, it’s pathetic and laughable that we can pull out documents created 15 years ago, and they are still completely relevant, because none of the things called for back then have happened yet.

So I feel very frustrated this afternoon, after listening to the panel discussion of the federal government’s Inter Agency Working Group on environmental justice.  But I was trying to figure out what to say here, under these circumstances.  And then it just came to me.

Tomorrow you will be honoring the legendary, lifetime activist Grace Lee Boggs of Detroit.  And it occurred to me that last year I heard Grace say something that speaks directly to the situation here.  Grace said something amazing (You can always tell when Grace is saying something amazing, because her lips are moving).

It was last year round the time when the real horror and enormity of the Gulf of Mexico oil blowout was just becoming apparent and inescapable to the whole world.  And this was just after President Obama gave his major speech about that disaster to the country and to the world.  Grace had watched the speech and her reaction speaks volumes to our discussions here about what the EPA can and must finally do to help us work for environmental justice.

She said “… Here was the president of the United States, and he was completely powerless.  And not just because we don’t know how to plug the damn hole immediately.  He was powerless primarily because he doesn’t believe that another world is possible.

And that’s the question I have for you in EPA, and for all of us: Do we believe that another world is possible?  And if so, what are we gonna do about it?

Because the change has come, the new world is here now.  The industrial world the corporations built has failed.  They’re not “too big to fail.”  They failed.  Sister Theresa, one of the most active community leaders in Detroit’s industrially inundated 48217 area, asked you just now who takes over if an administrative agency screws up.  We know the answer is “the corporations.”  The same Wall Street system of corporate domination that’s devastated our communities and our whole society.  This has created a whole new context for our work.  Not only is a different world possible, it’s already here. The real question is are we up to its challenges?  Environmental justice is critical to these challenges and the new world we have to build now in the wake of the industrial neoliberal collapse that’s brought us to this point. 

Saturday, August 26 (after the conference) 

Like Grace’s friend Shea Howell says, Detroit is a city that changes the world.  Mass production of the automobile transformed not only the quality of daily life in communities, but the whole industrial system.  It’s called “Fordism” by it sharpest analysts, because of what happened right here in Detroit, Highland Park, and Dearborn in the first half of the last century. But Detroit the world changer didn’t stop there.

Organizing under the social relations of work in the Fordist system gradually transformed race relations – the original sin of American politics and law – with the rise of the UAW CIO in the 1930s and 40s.  This was the first sustainable, strong multiracial organization of working people in the country, probably the world.  Some of our ancestors, in some cultures and communities, even began to see “the others” who had different skin tones, hairstyles, facial features and kin & cultural relations with new eyes.  This was the thing that had to be attacked by resurgent capital in the Cold War, the Red Scare and the FBI’s COINTELPRO hounding of Dr. King, Black Panthers and other rebels.  And this growing ability to make alliances across lines of race and ethnicity was a crucial ground for what we now know as the environmental justice movement.

Because even before that vicious rightwing backlash gathered and broke on the unions and our communities, when the world crisis of fascism and fighting back had come to a head in 1942, the new, multi-racial UAW had done something else really extraordinary in Detroit, and spreading throughout the industrial urban centers of the Arsenal of Democracy.  The great Captains of Industry doubted that production could be changed over from cars, radios and washing machines to tanks, war planes and heavy trucks and jeeps as swiftly as Uncle Sam and FDR wanted them to fight Hitler and his allies.  But the labor leaders and unionized workers demonstrated the essential difference between people who actually know how to build a camshaft and those who pay others to do so.  They said “Hell yes we can,” and they helped reorganize the essential human and material resources to win the war of humanity and democracy against racism, barbarism and fascism.  The “greatest generation” was largely a working class culture and movement “imported from Detroit,” to mix and match a couple fashionable media slogans.

So it’s really more appropriate than you would think for the EPA to come to Detroit, in the midst of the global crash and non-recovery since 2008.  Hell yes we know another world is possible.  We’ve done it before and we’ll do it again.  EPA needs to hear the voices of the people in these communities who know how to survive under these conditions, not just those of the professionals who argue about them, regulate them, and cut deals behind their backs.

THREE QUESTIONS FOR “THE DETROIT STORY” AT THE EPA’S ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTIC CONFERENCE:

•        How can we establish and defend the commons as an effective alternative basis for socioeconomic, political and legal relationships?

•        How can we stop the unjust, racist process of turning places like Detroit into toxic and exploited sacrifice zones?

•        How can government help us build an environmental justice movement that won’t be derailed by attacks based on greed and unprincipled, adverse administrative rulings?

As we learned this week, the answer is by reinstating meaningful legal remedies for disparate impact discrimination caused by communities’ excessive exposure to pollution; by standing up to corporate power when necessary to protect fundamental human rights; and by remaining open to meaningful, timely, and effective input from the communities that are most affected by industrial development and emissions where we live, work and play.

Tom Stephens is a people’s lawyer in Detroit. He can be reached at
jail4banksters@yahoo.com

 

 

http://www.counterpunch.org/2011/08/29/environmental-justice-in-detroit/