Posts Tagged ‘environment’

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari

Wangari Maathai

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Posted 28 September 2011, by Editor, Vanguard, vanguardngr.com

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ON Sunday, September 25, 2011, one of the most famous African women in modern times took her exit from the planet earth which she served with distinction.

Her name was Professor Wangari Muta Maathai (April 1, 1940 to September 25, 2011). She succumbed to the scourge of cancer in a Nairobi hospital.

Since her transition was announced by her family, tributes have poured from various quarters, high and low from around the world. From President Barack Obama of the USA to the President of Kenya, Mwai Kibaki, and the Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki Moon; from Archbishop Desmond Tutu to former US Vice-President, Al Gore all the way down to many non-governmental interest groups devoted to earth conservation, such as the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, The National Geographic organisations and the so many websites and blogsites committed to conservation, the world has been unsparing in its tributes to the first female Nobel Laureate from Africa.

According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) Executive Director, Achim Steiner, “Wangeri Maathai was a force of nature. While others deployed their power and life force to damage, degrade and extract short-term profit from the environment, she used hers to stand in their way, mobilise communities and to argue for conservation and sustainable development over destruction.”

Wangari was an extraordinary woman, who ensured that her high quality education was not just for her own benefit but for the rural communities in her native Kenya and the world at large. She was an evangelist for the preservation of the environment. As far back as the early 1970s when she was but a young woman, she founded the Green Belt Movement, with which she mobilised thousands of women to plant trees and raise environmental consciousness. The Movement enlisted over 900,000 women to establish tree nurseries and over the years planted about 45 million trees.

She was also a women rights activist. As the first East African woman to be awarded the Ph.D. when she graduated from the University College of Nairobi in the field of Anatomy, she was a female pioneer in most of the posts she worked. While she taught in the university, she fought for equal status for both male and female staff of the university and would have formed the first academic staff union (similar to our own Academic Union of Universities, ASUU) in the institution had the courts not turned the effort down.

She was a fierce force against the long dictatorship of Daniel Arap Moi, who made sure she never emerged as the President of the National Council of Women of Kenya (NCWK) until one of her opponents favoured by Moi, Maendeleo Ya Wanawake, suddenly withdrew for her to emerge unopposed. She went on to join partisan politics and win a seat as a member of her country’s parliament. Her Right Livelihood Award of 1984 served as an appetiser for the Nobel Peace Prize, which she won in 2004.

Unfortunately, Prof. Wangari Maathai fell victim to cancer, one of the major consequences of pollution and deforestation, which she fought against in over 40 years of her lifetime.

The life lived by this amazing woman is worthy of emulation, especially by other African women. In spite of her divorce a few years into her marriage, she devoted the rest of her life to battles to save the earth, banish autocracy from her country and advance the cause of women.

Africa will honour her memory adequately if African countries take seriously the challenge of continuing the struggle to save the environment, especially in the face of rapid advance of the Sahara Desert, intensification of coastal erosion and gradual disappearance of fresh water resources around the continent and the globe at large. Africa must join hands to make the continent “the last man in defence” against deforestation by massive planting of trees, especially economic trees.

It is heroes and heroines of Africa like Prof. Maathai Wangari that we want our leaders to honour (not sit-tight dictators) as we celebrate a life of uncommon achievements.

Adieu, Earth Mother, Wangari Maathai. Rest in peace.

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http://www.vanguardngr.com/2011/09/adieu-earth-mother-wangari/

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Re-Colonization Of Africa Through Buying Agricultural Land: Wealthy Nations And Their Multinationals On The Rampage

Re-Colonization Of Africa Through Buying Agricultural Land: Wealthy Nations And Their Multinationals On The Rampage

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Posted 26 September 2011, by Akinyi Princess of K’Orinda-Yimbo, Tom Wilt News, tomwilt.com

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The global food crisis of 2007/2008 that triggered riots from Cape to Cairo and from Senegal to Haiti made governments and their agriculturally-engaged companies to get on the saddle and gallop – with their thinking caps on. Export tariffs were slapped on staple food crops to minimise how much could be sold outside their countries.  In my book – Darkest Europe and Africa’s Nightmare: A Critical Observation of Neighbouring Continents, I mentioned, rather apocalyptically, that if we Africans don’t take care then the outside world will turn our continent into “a timber plantation.” This is now happening, but on a worst-case scenario. Africans are being colonised again and this time not with the power of  weapons but through Africans themselves selling their continent willingly. The 99- and 999-year lease – a remnant of colonialists – surely cannot fool anybody. This is equivalent to a full century and/or full millennium which translates into three and a half to thirty-four consecutive generations of Africans.

Africans are selling the one natural resource they can’t afford to sell – their land. Especially arable land. In Antananarivo, Madagascar, earlier in 2009, President Ravalomanana’s government was overthrown by angry urban poor who were already spending two thirds of their income to feed themselves ever since the 2008 massive rise in global prices for commodities like rice and wheat. This was not just because of his own private jet bought from a member of the Disney family for his own use with public funds – no. President Ravalomanana was leasing 1.3 hectares (half the size of Belgium and half of Madagascar’s arable land) to South Korea’s Daewoo for 99 years to grow maize and palm oil and send all harvests during this period back home to feed South Koreans. Daewoo paid nothing: they PROMISED to improve the island’s infra structure. And of course they would provide “jobs for the citizens of Madagascar by farming it, which is good for Madagascar” (read cheap slave labour). As usual the public was kept in the dark. Until the news was leaked by London’s Financial Times. This is the first government in the world to be toppled by angry mobs and the military for “land-grabbing”. Kudos to the people.

There are more than 100 similar land-grabs globally, since September 2008, where huge tracts of farmland are bought up by wealthy countries as well international corporations. Mark Weston, Britain’s international development policy consultant does the colourful canvas thus: “Imagine if China, following a brief negotiation with a British government desperate for foreign cash after the collapse of the economy, bought up the whole of Wales, replaced most of its inhabitants with Chinese workers, turned the entire country into an enormous rice field and sent all the rice produced there for the next 99 years back to China… Imagine that neither the evicted Welch nor the rest of the British public knew what they were getting in return for this, having to content themselves with vague promises that the new landlords would upgrade a few ports and create jobs for the local people.

“Then, imagine that, after a few years – and bearing in mind that recession and the plummeting pound have already made it difficult for the UK to buy food from abroad – an oil-price spike or an environmental disaster in one of the world’s big grain-producing nations drives global food prices sharply upwards and beyond the reach of many Britons. While the Chinese next door in Wales continue sending rice back to China, the starving British look helplessly on, ruing the day their government sold off half their arable land. Some of them plot the violent recapture of the Welch valley.”

This – huge tracts of land being “sold” to foreigners for “promises” – is what is happening all over Africa this very minute. Except that in my experience not many Africans are that good at organising themselves as a unified force to recapture their valley. They would either fall upon each other with machetes for a few grains some “kind” soul dropped them from the air, or they’d turn into a trillion factions with double the number of “generals”.

Even the great pope of the free market, Financial Times, has used words like “rapacious” for the likes of Daewoo, warning that it was the most “brazen example of a wider phenomenon” where rich nations are trotting the globe buying up the natural resources of poor countries. The new colonialism is vast in Africa, with the buyers being wealthy countries unable to grow their own food. The Arabs are back fleeing their barren sands to turn Africa into their granary like they did one and a half millennia ago (in Egypt at the time). The Gulf states are in the lead in this new investment. Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, controlling between them 45% of the world’s oil, are snatching AGRICULTURAL LAND in Egypt, Ethiopia, Cameroon, Zambia, Uganda, but also in Cambodia, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Russia. South Korea has grabbed a staggering 960,000 hectares in Sudan, the largest country in Africa, where at least 6 other rich countries are said to have secured large land-holding – and precisely where the local population are among the hungriest and least secure in the world. The Saudis are negotiating 500,000 hectares (not acres) in Tanzania. Companies for the United Arab Emirates have snapped up 324,000 hectares in Pakistan. Highly populated countries like China, South Korea and India have acquired swathes of African farmland to produce food for export. India recently lowered tariffs for Ethiopian commodities that could enter India after the Indian government lent money to 80 Indian companies to buy 350,000 hectares of farmland in Africa, particularly huge tracts in Kenya and Ethiopia. And this is the same Kenya where, in the year 2008, the locals of African descent were chopping each other’s limbs off, being shot by their own police and armed forces and burning innocent men, women and children locked up in churches – because of the land tenure! This is the Kenya where the Gallmanns, Briatores and Bransons and many others own private ranches the size of 3 Cypruses, where Prince William and his girlfriend spend a bit of “Hollywood in the bush” once or so a year – the rest of the time, all the above celebrities have their small states looked after by their private property “my Africans” – while 75% of Afro-Kenyans have no scratch of land to plant a tomato!

Kenya made a deal with Qatar, an Arab land with only 1% arable land, to acquire 40,000 hectares of land to grow food. A third of Kenya’s population was facing food shortages and President Kibaki had no better answer for hungry Kenyans opposing the deal but to impose a state of emergency and then turn around to appeal for international food relief. Where is the logic here, by the bony ancients? If Qatar can grow food on Kenyan soil to feed Qataris, why can’t Kenya grow food in Kenya to feed Kenyans? The land offered to Qatar is in the fertile Tana River delta with an abundance of fresh water. Some 150,000 Kenyan farming and pastoralist families for whom the land is communal graze their 60,000 cattle there. It is no wonder that, supported by opposition activists and environmentalists fearing the destruction of a pristine ecosystem of mangrove swamps, savannah and forests, the people now threaten armed resistance. When that happens, the rest of the world will only report about “warring African tribes”, not a group of people fighting to keep their land and ecosystem instead of allowing it delivered to Qatari farmers to feed their Arabs.

Next door in Uganda, 400 small farmers comprising a total of 2,000 people, were driven out (using violence through the Ugandan army) of their land in 2001 to make room for the German coffee grower Neumann Kaffee Gruppe. This was against the OECD guidelines for multinational concerns. On 24th August 2001, the concern’s boss, Michael R Neumann, together with President Museveni inaugurated the plantation. The people who were driven off their land can since then neither feed themselves adequately nor pay school fees for their children. This is another in a long line of  violations of social human rights perpetrated by yet another African so-called leader against his own citizens. Are Africans surprised when the rest of the world view them as some strange pathogens? Who is polishing the patina of Africa’s “bad image”?

Mozambique has signed a $ 2bn deal to give 10,000 Chinese “settlers” land in return for $ 3m in military aid from Beijing. Right. Take the land for 99- or 999-year lease and settle down while you give the starving Mozambicans both reason and means to kill each other off, leaving Mozambique a Chinese province. Food is a weapon is a weapon is a weapon….

But the list is long. The British investor Cru Investment Management has grabbed tracts of the fruitful agricultural land in dirt poor Malawi. US investment banker Philippe Heilberg, assisted by a “warlord”, acquired 4,000 square kilometres of land in southern Sudan. Congo-Brazzaville is allegedly selling 10 million hectares to Euroancestral South Africans to farm. Multinational finance concerns such as Deutsche Bank, Blackstone Group, Goldman & Sachs and Dexion Capital all have invested in African agricultural land. The World Bank and International Finance Corporation are engaged in “the development of agro-business” big time in Africa and other developing countries ever since the food crisis of 2008, pumping billions to agro-concerns to ensure food production in Africa for their own countries. All such investors no longer want to depend on speculators, they want to eliminate middlemen and take control themselves. Cru Investment spokesman, Duncan Parker maintains, “Africa has what it takes to be one of the leading food producers worldwide. Her potential in workers is big, her soil productive and there’s plenty of sun and water.”

Is the man not talking about the same Africa whose people are starving and dying of diseases that could be avoided by mere clean drinking water?

And Philippe Heilberg told the US media that whatever political and legal risks he is taking in Africa at the moment will pay most lucratively because he expects several African states in the coming years to simply fall apart. Can Africans legitimately blame Heilberg for his arrogance and indifference? Besides, when one listens between the words, there is always a plan-in-motion behind such blatant utterances. Africans may well be the next Palestinians – pariahs in their own land.

And now food is not the only thing that African land is needed for. Think of the recent EU Desertec cordoning off the Sahara for solar energy for Europe. In the Desertec Concept are the words:

In the upcoming decades, several global developments will create new challenges for mankind. We will be confronted with problems and obstacles such as climate change, population growth beyond earth’s capacity, and an increase in demand for energy and water caused by a strive for prosperity and expansion.The DESERTEC Concept provides a way to solve these challenges.

The question is, SOLVE THEM FOR WHO? Certainly not for Africans. And how does this concept work?

It works just like a coal steam power plant, with the difference that concentrated solar power is used for steam production, instead of coal. Large mirrors are positioned in such a way that they reflect and concentrate the sunlight onto a certain point much like capturing sunlight through a magnifying lens. A major advantage of this technology is that a part of the sun’s heat can be collected in heat storage tanks during the day and then run through steam circuits at night or specifically during peak hours, depending on the demand. With this technology, renewable and controlled energy can be provided according to the demand of the electricity grid.

Yet Africans, fifty years down independence road and with the technology already existing and sitting their for a price they can more than afford, cannot position large mirrors in such a way that they reflect and concentrate the abundant African sunlight like capturing sunlight through a magnifying lens! Africans have had the Sahara forever – but they just couldn’t come up with the idea of getting some solar energy from this vast desert. No idea from the whole of Sunny Africa? Yes they could, if Africans start thinking of themselves as worthwhile human beings too, and join forces to keep what is theirs theirs. Otherwise Africans might as well follow the butcher meekly to the slaughter house because that’s where they’re going to end up – in “native reserves” dying off as a people until the few Africans left are put in museums like they were once the main attraction in circuses all over the West in the 18th through early 20th centuries.

German, British and American companies have also bought land in Tanzania and Ethiopia to grow biofuels. Ethiopia – the byword for famine – argues that since it imports oil, biofuels will set off price fluctuations and dependency on oil! What about the environmental impact – 75% of the land allocated to the foreign biofuel firms are forested and these forests will have to be chopped off! The Chinese chopstick manufacturers are delighted.

A Norwegian biofuel company will create “the largest jatropha plantation in the world” by deforesting vast tracts of land in northern Ghana. The company was back to darkest Europe when it flagrantly cheated an illiterate chief to sign 38,000 hectares with his thumbprint. Jatropha is a non-too-demanding plant that produces oily seeds from which biodiesel can be made.

This entire new scramble for poor countries’ land is the result of the food crisis of 2007-2008 when the price of wheat, rice and other cereals skyrocketed across the globe. When the food-grower countries applied tariffs to minimize the amount of staple crops that left their countries, the supply was further tightened resulting in prices shooting further up. It was a policy-created scarcity rather than the true-and-tried traditional supply and demand. A situation arose where rich countries reliant on massive food imports put on their thinking caps. They began to put the fundamentals of global trade (that each country should concentrate on its best product and then trade it) under the microscope. The Gulf states, among other rich countries, with their unimaginable amounts of cash from trading oil suddenly realised you can’t eat cash dipped in oil. Nor can you gnaw on a Rolls-Royce. Or feed your children computer chips. The sheikhs & associates saw that the costs of food imports had doubled in five years. The future boded for worse – both regional and global markets were no longer reliable.

The perfect answer was to own agricultural land. “Control of foreign farmland”, writes Paul Vallely, “would not only secure food supplies, it would eliminate the cut taken by middlemen and reduce food-import bills by more than 20 percent. And the benefits could only increase.” Because the fundamental conditions that had ushered in the worldwide food crisis remain unchanged and could easily get worse.

According to the UN the world population will double by 2050. To grow enough food to feed 9bn people choke the planet. So, long term strategies are the right response. When the Prime Minister Taro of Japan (the world’s largest food importer) asked the G8 leaders in Italy: “Is the current food crisis just another market vagary?” he answered his own question: “Evidence suggests not; we are undergoing a transition to a new equilibrium, reflecting a new economic, climatic, demographic and ecological reality.”

Not that the market is asleep either. The cost of land is rising rapidly, making the irresponsible but insatiable African leaders salivate. And we Africans sit with our hands folded on our laps, waiting for some force of nature to come to our rescue. Many are not even aware of the fact that their ancestral land is being offered for re-colonisation, because their governments are big boys who believe informing their citizens of what is going on puts the boys in a subservient position. These are the chaps in this world who are unaware that they are servants of their people.

The food and financial crises combined have made agricultural farmland the new strategic asset. Veteran speculator Jim Rogers, in league with fellow veterans like Lord Jacob Rothschild, said in July 2009: “I’m convinced that farmland is going to be one of the best investments of our time.” This should actually augur well for Africa because there is land in abundance in the continent, and the agricultural sector – Africa’s backbone – is in need of capital and technology. A win-win situation. Except that Africans are auctioning their continent’s most sacred possession for nought and a staggering 99- or 999-year lease (depending on which salivating leader is dealing with whom. There are leaders out there offering the old colonial 999-year lease). That interprets into three and a half to thirty-four generations of Africans – left in limbo. Or as eventual specimens in museums of the wealthy.

Producing enough food to feed 9bn people in 2050 will crush the planet, denuding forests and drainage rivers and ruining arable land. In Copenhagen, capital saw to it that their lackeys, known as governments the world over, treated climate change as Father Christmas – a fairy tale. But, to capital’s delight, oil prices continue to rise in direct relation to fertilizer and tractor fuel – hence biofuels to further cut the land that would be available for food crops. The horrors are ahead because the fat harvest times are over – there won’t be enough food for the table even for the filthy rich – unless they can afford €3m a day residency in outer space. The market economy will this time – as always – not provide for all and sundry as falsely proclaimed. Land prices have jumped from 15% to 30% globally.

After the financial crisis in mortgage-based derivatives, agricultural land is the new strategic asset. An asset that nobody can manufacture or erect, and then sell. Once given away, it is gone and there’s no replica or spare parts, Africans.

Marginally seen, it could be a good thing for African countries. Apart from the staggering and varied natural resources, some of which cannot be found anywhere on the planet, land, as already said, is what Africans have in plenty. All Africa needs is capital to develop her agriculture. A mammoth share of this capital is ferreted out of the continent by the handful few wrongly-wired Africans to develop economies NOT AFRICAN. The Big Curse for which Africans only have themselves to blame. The rest of the world call it capital flight – as if this staggering amount of money simply made up its mind to take to the air and fly to the West – the mad terminologies of our times where human beings call their own dead “collateral damages”.

The financial global players who brought on the crisis are the very same ones now roaming the agricultural landscape and grabbing chunks of it. These land deals should bring investments, technology and know-how to local farmers, reduce dependency on food aid and similar maladies. They should provide infrastructure that goes beyond roads leading from the foreign leaseholder’s farms to the port that transport 100% of their harvests back to their own countries. The deals should enable the building of schools and health centres for the whole community. They should provide enough taxes to the government for more development – assuming African governments would at last invest in their own countries and people instead of castles and numbered accounts overseas. African so-called leaders have some inborn dread of educated and healthy citizens. Instead of recognising the greatest potential to their nations of human resources they see adversaries.

Then there is the problem of monoculture in growing plantation of large-scale food crops dependent of huge amounts of pesticides and fertilisers. This would ruin the long-term sustainability of tropical soils not suited to intensive cultivation, as well as damage the local water table. Soil erosion will occur and ruin long-term land fertility. The diversity of plants, animals and insect life will be drastically threatened while the intensive usage of agrochemicals bring in water-quality maladies. In addition the irrigation of the foreign investors’ plantations would take water away from the indigenous users. So these grabs are in effect water grabs – the most valuable part of these deals – instead of land grabs, since once you own the land you own the water beneath it.

The chief executive of Nestlé, Peter Brabeck-Letmathe puts it this way: “Water withdrawal for agriculture continue to increase rapidly. In some of the most fertile regions of the world (America, southern Europe, northern India, north-eastern China), over-use of water, mainly for agriculture, is leading to sinking water tables. Groundwater is being withdrawn, no longer as a buffer over the year but in a structural way, mainly because water is seen as a free good.”

It is not. The average person in the world uses 3,000-6,000 litres of water daily, less than a tenth of which is used for hygiene or manufacturing. The rest goes to farming. Meat-eating has increased and meat requires ten times more water per calorie than plants. The thirstiest products on earth are biofuels. To grow Soya for one litre of biodiesel takes up to 9,100 litres of water and up to 4,000 litres to transform corn into bioethanol. Brabeck-Letmathe predicts, “Under the present conditions and with the way water is being managed, we will run out of water long before we run out of fuel.” India and the USA combined produce a third of the world’s cereals, but Frank Rijsberman of the International Water Management Institute cautions, “we could be facing annual losses equivalent to the grain crops” of India and the USA.

The land grabs are now a pandemic. As with natural resources in Africa, there is no transparency and foreign governments and multinationals engaged in bribes have no great fear of prosecution in poor countries. In their own wealthy countries, at least somebody may publicly cry foul or demonstrate with huge placards in the streets without fearing being shot down by the police or armed forces.

In Africa land rights are not just written, they also exist through custom and practice. There should indeed be (if nothing else) compulsory sharing of benefits such as construction of schools and health centres. Short leases, or better still contract farming, would leave smallholders in control of their land and contract to investors. On the other hand the investors must never have the right to export entire harvests especially during a food crisis in the host country.

Land-grabs represent a serious violation of the human right to food. Humankind’s most primordial fight was over food. It is food that makes the fittest who then survives. I therefore call to all Africans, Continental and Diaspora, and all friends and fans of Africa, to join me in this fight by going to my web site – www.akinyi-princess.de – and signing in the with both your name, the words and your valid email address. In addition, please spread the word to your friends, families, social network chums and pals, chat room and forum acquaintances around the globe to join us in the fight. I need at least 25,000 authentic email “signatures” to enable me to write a petition to the AU Commissioner in Addis Ababa demanding that African governments may not simply “negotiate” land grab deals with foreign governments and multinationals without prior consultations with their respective citizens in the form of a referendum. The petition is now being professionally drafted and will be posted in my web site ASAP.

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A graduate journalist – the London Schools of Journalism as well as an economics graduate of the London School of Economics. Been writing as a freelance journalist since 1980, columnist with various dailies and monthly magazines in Africa and Europe. Gives lectures and seminars in various German universities, colleges and high schools on topics ranging from socio-economy in Africa, Business English, African literature and the socio-ethnological conflicts in the traditions of Africans and the West in general. Written and published articles, papers, novels in Engish and German. Her non-fiction book “Darkest Europe and Africa’s Nightmare: A critical Observation of the Neighbour Continents” published in 2008 by a New York publisher. Full CV –  www.akinyi-princess.de. More works as yet unpublished and a children’s fantasy/thriller.

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WATCH LIVE: Tarsands Civil Disobedience Sept 26, 2011

WATCH LIVE: Tarsands Civil Disobedience Sept 26, 2011

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Posted 26 September 2011, by Brenda Norrell, Censored News, bsnorrell.blogspot.com

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APTN Photos
CBC Live Ottawa
http://www.cbc.ca/video/#/News/Politics/1244504890/ID=2129385867

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Hundreds gather on Parliament Hill to say ‘No to Tar Sands’

(Ottawa) – Hundreds of people from across North America are gathered this morning on Parliament Hill for a rally followed by a mass civil disobedience sit-in. Participants are responding to a call to action for a large peaceful protest where many will risk arrest to tell the Harper government they don’t support his reckless agenda and urge him to turn away from the tar sands and build a green energy future that promotes climate justice, respects Indigenous rights and prioritizes the health of our environment and communities.

“It is morally justifiable to risk arrest if you see and witness a crime occurring or about to occur. We are saying the tar sands industry is unlawful. We need to stop it before the damage is done. It’s worth getting arrested to send that warning out to the rest of Canada,” said Louisette Lante, a housewife from Waterloo.

The action began at 10 a.m. with a solidarity rally in front of the Centennial Flame on Parliament Hill featuring a number of speeches from prominent individuals from environmental organizations and Indigenous communities directly impacted by the tar sands Following the speeches, waves of participants in groups of 20 or more will separate from the solidarity rally and choose to risk arrest by participating in a peaceful sit-in near the front doors to Centre Block.

Ottawa action live

http://www.livestream.com/ottawaaction

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Watch live streaming video from ottawaaction at livestream.com

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WATCH LIVE TODAY MONDAY Sept. 26, 2011

Watch Live: Twin Cities Tar Sands Action
Today 10AM to 2PM CDT!

http://www.ienearth.org/ien-pipeline.html

CIVIL DISOBEDIENCE OTTAWA TODAY
“We have hundreds of people who have signed up to risk arrest,” said Clayton Thomas-Muller, a campaigner with the Indigenous Environmental Network. “At a time when we need to be fundamentally reducing our emissions, at a time when we need to be generating investments in zero-carbon energy technology, we’re allowing Big Oil and this Harper majority government to lead us on a backward path, which is destroying Canada’s image internationally,” he said.
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/oil-sands-opponents-to-descend-on-parliament-hill/article2179710/

Embattled pipeline at centre of mass Ottawa protest
CTV News Canada
Protesters started collecting on Parliament Hill on Sunday, taking part in protest training sessions ahead of a planned mass confrontation with the federal government over its support for the oilsands and a proposed pipeline from Alberta to Texas.
Hundreds of environmentalists are expected to turn out for Monday’s mass rally, which organizers expect will become “the largest civil disobedience action in the history of Canada’s climate movement.” More:
http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Canada/20110925/protesters-gather-for-pipeline-protest-110925/

KEYSTONE XL ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT HEARINGS COMING TO YOUR AREA
Background
www.ienearth.org

The proposed Keystone XL pipeline would consist of approximately 1,711 miles of new 36-inch-diameter pipeline, with approximately 327 miles of pipeline in Canada and 1,384 miles in the U.S. TransCanada filed an application for a Presidential Permit with the U.S. Department of State to build and operate the Keystone XL Project. The proposed Project would have the capacity to transport 700,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil to delivery points in Oklahoma and southeastern Texas.

On August 26, 2011, the U.S. Department of State released a final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline saying the pipeline would have “no significant impact” on the environment. According to the U.S. administration, they are saying President Obama now has three months to determine whether the controversial project is in the national interest of America.

Our concerns with this FEIS are similar to the concerns of a previous pipeline project called Keystone (with no “XL” attached to it, sometimes called Keystone 1) and its final EIS that was done in 2008. The basic concern was the EIS was incomplete, and didn’t thoroughly address all the issues. Keystone XL fails to take seriously the potential damage to American Indian Tribes and their Tribal members in the States of Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. These damages could threaten, among other things, water aquifers, water ways, cultural sites, agricultural lands, animal life, public drinking water sources and other resources vital to the Tribal peoples of the region in which the pipeline is proposed to be constructed. Lack of adequate consultation has been a consistent concern expressed by Tribal members of all the affected Tribal Nations who to this day have not been thoroughly informed of the potential effects of this pipeline.

With over 12 spills caused by the Keystone 1 pipeline, which runs through eastern North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Kansas with links to Missouri and Illinois, it is critical that the State Department take the potential environmental and cultural resource impacts seriously. The FEIS is not even requiring TransCanada, the company that hopes to build Keystone XL, to submit an emergency response plan before final approval. In spite of the reported spills on Keystone I, the XL EIS predicts 1.78 to 2.51 spills, of any size, per year.

Tribal Nations deserve and have a right to be thoroughly informed and have a truthful account of the damage Keystone XL can cause. The toxic corrosive crude oil that would flow through the Keystone XL pipeline comes from the tar sands in northern Alberta, Canada. The tar sands are located in the homelands of the Cree, Dene and Métis communities. The pipeline will cross hundreds of miles of indigenous territory, including Lakota territory, and violate treaty rights under the Fort Laramie Treaties of 1851 and 1868 as well as human rights under the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

U.S executive approval is needed before the pipeline can be laid in place. The State Department has announced the schedule for a series of public input meetings in States along the route of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline. Written comments will be accepted by the State Department until October 9th, 2011.

Public Hearings on Keystone XL Pipeline

Monday, September 26, 2011

Texas:
Bob Bowers Civic Center
3401 Cultural Center Dr., Port Arthur, 4:30 – 10 p.m.
Kansas:
Kansas Expo Center
1 Expocenter Dr., Topeka, noon – 3:30 p.m., 4– 8 p.m.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Montana:
Dawson Community College
Toepke Center Auditorium, 300 Community Dr., Glendive, 4:30 – 10 p.m.
Nebraska:
Pershing Center
226 Centennial Mall, South Lincoln, noon – 3:30 p.m., 4. – 8:00 p.m .

Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Texas:
University of Texas Lady Bird Johnson Auditorium,
2313 Red River St., Austin, noon – 3:30 p.m., 4 – 8 p.m.

Thursday, September 29, 2011
South Dakota:
Best Western Ramkota,
920 West Sioux Ave., Pierre, noon – 3:30 p.m., 4 – 8 p.m.
Nebraska:
West Holt High School, 100 N. Main St. Atkinson, 4:30 – 10 p.m.

Friday, September 30, 2011
Oklahoma:
Reed Center Exhibition Hall,
5800 Will Rogers Rd., Midwest City., noon – 3:30 p.m., 4 – 8 p.m.

Friday, October 7, 2011
Washington, D.C.: To be announced via website and public notice.

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http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/09/watch-live-tarsands-civil-disobedience.html

Navajo Council Angry: Navajo President slashes funds for elderly, children and green jobs

Navajo Council Angry: Navajo President slashes funds for elderly, children and green jobs

President’s Shelly’s vetoes target green initiatives, resource development, young people and the elderly

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Posted24 September 2011, by Johnny Naize, Censored News, bsnorrell.blogspot.com

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Johnny Naize is the Navajo Council Speaker

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Navajo Council Speaker Johnny Naize

WINDOW ROCK Ariz. — The Navajo Nation Council voiced anger at Navajo President Shelly’s line-item vetoes of portions of the FY2012 Tribal Operating Budget on Friday. Among the cuts in the $556.6 million budget included $111 thousand for the Little Folks Day Care Program, $161 thousand for five Navajo Area Agency on Aging offices in Shiprock, Chinle, Tuba City, Fort Defiance and Crownpoint, $352 thousand from the Navajo Green Commission, $130 thousand from the Resources Committee, and $838 thousand for legislative district staff for the 24 Council Delegates.

“The Council is very concerned for President Shelly’s lack of cohesive management on the direction he wants to take the Navajo People,” said Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize. “The President says not to forget the elders but it appears he has. He has also said we need to nurture the youth because they are our future but instead has yanked funding that would do just that.”

“Additionally, at a time when other governments are looking for ways to build a green economy to reduce waste and become environmentally aware, President Shelly has decided that the Navajo people will not.”

“These vetoes were unnecessary after all the discussions we held in June between the three Branches and during the recent Budget Sessions which produced this budget,” continued Naize. “I unfortunately believe the President has suddenly decided on himself to rewrite all the work the Branches have done during the past three months.”

In the FY2012 operating budget, the Executive Branch was appropriated the bulk of the $556.6 million at a little more than $505 million for programs and set asides such as for Higher Education and Veterans. Next, the Legislative Branch was appropriated $16.6 million with the Judicial Branch receiving $15.4 million for their programs and set asides. Also included in the budget are $25.4 million for fixed costs and $4 million for chapter spending.

“These cuts are concerning because they appear to be made as a vendetta against certain programs, council members and committees,” said Naize. “But in the process of doing that he vetoed funds for Summer Youth Employment, and an elderly group home in Blue Gap. Our people are in need and even though the President says his Branch provides direct services to the people, these vetoes prove they won’t. That is not how a Natani leads his people.”

Earlier this month President Shelley vetoed $2.2 million for Youth Employment, $286,000 for the Hoosh Doo Dii To’ Home and $1 million for the Navajo Department of Transportation.

Also in these latest round of vetoes was funding for 24 Legislative District Staff for the 24 Council Delegates.

“In the past, the Legislative Branch has worked with a little more than 8 percent of the total Navajo Nation Operating Budget, said Navajo Nation Council Speaker Johnny Naize. “Not only do we need to remain at that level but we’ll also need some additional funds to address the increased workload for the 24 Council Delegates.”

At the district level there is a growing feeling of isolation as Council Delegates juggle up to 8 chapters and their work on their committees in Window Rock. The Legislative District Staff would assist the Delegates by attending meetings that otherwise may have been missed due to other commitments.

Although some thought a smaller Council would mean a smaller budget, the opposite has happened. The increase in Chapter representation has lead to an increase of meeting and on-reservation travel expenses. Speaker Naize and the Council are resolved in making sure the people don’t lose their voice just because President Shelly wants to ration and silence the Delegates ability to serve community needs and concerns.”

“Again, the Navajo People are becoming confused where President Shelly is taking us,” concluded Naize. “All these programs are for the people yet he refuses to acknowledge the need out there. For the last couple of months he has held numerous town halls to get community input yet for all the people’s efforts, he has decided to ignore them.”

“I want the people to know that the Council will not ignore them and will continue to work and make sure the business of the people gets done no matter how President Shelly tries to silence them.”

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http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/09/navajo-council-angry-president-slashes.html

Cree George Poitras: Ottawa Tarsands Action Monday

Cree George Poitras: Ottawa Tarsands Action Monday

OTTAWA TARSANDS ACTION – Why am I attending?

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Posted 24 September 2011, by George Poitras, Censored News, bsnorrell.blogspot.com

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George Poitras is a former Chief, Mikisew Cree First Nation

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George Poitras

In the past year and even more so in the past few weeks a lot of debate has focused on the tarsands in northeastern Alberta as “ethical oil.” Advertisements taken out on the Oprah Winfrey Network by EthicalOil.org, why Oprah Winfrey has endorsed this propaganda by big oil is anyone’s guess?! The advertisement suggests why should America be dependent on Saudi Arabian oil, “a state that doesn’t allow women to drive, doesn’t allow them to leave their homes or work without their male guardian’s permission.” That there is a better alternative, “Ethical oil from Canada’s oil sands.” Apparently meaning a more human alternative.

Names synonymous of this “ethical oil” notion include Alykhan Velshi, Ezra Levant. Proponents who happily began to espouse the controversial two words include Canadian politicians like environment minister Peter Kent and prime minister Stephen Harper as they traverse the globe promoting investment in the tarsands.

The tarsands have been mined, primarily open-pit, for the past 40 years in what is known as the traditional lands of many Treaty 6 and Treaty 8 First Nations. The total tarsands deposit, the size of England, is known to be the second largest oil deposit in the world, second to Saudi Arabia. Only 3% of the total deposit has been mined in the past 40 years and Dr. David Schindler, a world renowned water expert, proved last year that there has been virtually no monitoring of what has also been characterized the largest industrial project in the world. A claim that the local Indigenous peoples have made for decades with proof of deformed fish, observation of poor water quality, receding water levels, impacts to animal health, and more recently in Fort Chipewyan, an increase in rare and aggressive cancers.

Tarsands a humane alternative?

When local physician Dr. John O’Connor raised concerns of disproportionate numbers of unusual cancers in Fort Chipewyan in 2006, the government of Canada, or physicians from the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch lodged complaints against him including a charge of “causing undue alarm” to residents of my community of Fort Chipewyan. Canada’s charges against a family physician has never before been heard of in the history of Canada. For my community of Fort Chipewyan, this unprecedented action by the government of Canada essentially signaled to us that Canada didn’t care what claims Dr. O’Connor was making or that people in Fort Chipewyan might be living in a situation with an epidemic of rare and aggressive cancers. The claims were eventually proven by an Alberta Cancer Board Study in 2009 because of our unrelenting efforts; perhaps we shamed the Canadian and Alberta governments into doing so by successfully making our concerns a part of the international debate of this “dirty oil” campaign and not because the governments felt it was the “ethical” or “humane” thing to do.

Despite this, both the Alberta and Canadian governments continue to this day, to deny there is any concern with cancers in Fort Chipewyan.

The governments of Alberta and Canada have for the past 15 years relied on the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) to monitor the Athabasca River and the fish health. Every study since then has concluded that there was little to no impacts from tarsands development on the water or the fish health. A position that was proven wrong by Dr. David Schindler. Essentially, the RAMP which is 100% funded by the oil companies and who’s data is proprietary, and the Alberta and Canadian governments have been lying to the downstream impacted communities but also to Albertans and Canadians. They both shamefully admitted this following Schindler’s study just days before Christmas in 2010.

Fishermen in Fort Chipewyan have been saving deformed, tumoured, discoloured, and other problem fish for many years. Many residents in my community have chosen not to eat any fish from the Athabasca River or Lake Athabasca, a sad commentary to impacts on a peoples way of living. In June 1970, a Suncor pipeline break spilled 19,123 barrels of oil, roughly 3 million liters, into the Athabasca River which reached Lake Athabasca. This shut down the fishing industry on Lake Athabasca for two consecutive years. The fishermen held a press conference in October 2010 in Edmonton, Alberta displaying many of the collection of problem fish. This generated further international attention to the tarsands industry and its impacts to water and fish health.

Indigenous leaders in the downstream community of Fort Chipewyan have been chastised by oil company executives when they speak publicly to the press about their concerns of impacts from tarsands. They have gone so far as threatening, that should the Indigenous leaders continue, there would be repercussions to their First Nation-owned company’s contracts within certain oil company sites. Oil company executives regularly question the Indigenous leaders when their own community members speak out publicly on issues and I have seen those members silenced.

Two years ago I attended a protest in Trafalgar Square in London, England. We drew a crowd of about 500 supporters and this protest generated so much publicity internationally by England’s BBC and Canada’s CBC who were present and did live interviews. Three weeks after this action which I dubbed the “bloody oil tour” an executive from a major oil company flew to my community to meet with my Chief & Council and in no uncertain terms stated that they didn’t like that I traveled internationally and generated so much negative publicity on the tarsands industry. They also stated that they knew of all my actions in the past years because they said they had a binder “this thick” to prove it. He further suggested that somehow I should be “silenced” or even “terminated” or there would be repercussions. Two weeks later, the First Nation-owned company contracts worth millions were terminated displacing approximately 65 employees. I chose to leave my employment shortly thereafter.

An ethical, humane future for impacted communities?

In a recent trip to the Amazon and in conversation with a colleague from Nigeria, I told him many of our issues, our concerns, the repercussions we receive for being vocal. He was in complete disbelief. He said in a million years he would not believe all of this would occur in Canada, a developed G8 country. He said Canada is known as a safe country for its citizens. Canada is known as a country that prides itself for protection of human rights within its own borders and beyond.

I also tell my fellow leaders in Fort Chipewyan and to those young, brave members of my community, that the repercussions for speaking publicly is nothing compared to what we will see in the future. That if only 3% of the total deposit has been mined and the environmental impacts are so significant, that there will be many more generations of our people who will take up this challenge and they will face much more backlash than what we are seeing today from what has become a ruthless and aggressive race to exploit the tarsands. That many of our people will continue to see the early demise of their lives from rare and aggressive cancers the same way we watched our youngest victim at the age of 28 succumb to his cancer just months after being diagnosed. That if we see our environment in such a negative state today, do we think that we are capable of handing down to future generations a healthy environment? That if Canada and Alberta today ignore and repeatedly, knowingly infringe on our Constitutionally protected Treaty Rights, will our future generations be able to meaningfully exercise their right to hunt, fish and trap? Will our people in 20 years from now be able to enjoy a traditional diet of fish, moose, ducks, geese, caribou?

While I do not condone any ill-treatment on women in Saudi Arabia, Indigenous peoples in Canada’s tarsands should not be a pawn or be sacrificed to allow certainty for Canada, Alberta and multinational corporations to exploit the tarsands at all costs! From an Indigenous perspective, watching and being victim to the 40 years of unrelenting, unfettered, unmonitored development of the tarsands, there is nothing “ethical” or “humane” about the development of the tarsands!

I will be in Ottawa on Monday, September 26th to oppose the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline because an approval means an expansion of production of tarsands by a million barrels a day, further exacerbating local Indigenous peoples grave concerns about the development of the tarsands.

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http://bsnorrell.blogspot.com/2011/09/cree-george-poitras-ottawa-tarsands.html

Sri Lanka’s women deminers clean up legacy of Asia’s longest war


Sri Lanka’s women deminers clean up legacy of Asia’s longest war

Biruntha Ravichandran, 21, a deminer working for the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), searches for mines in a mine field in Kannaddi, located in Mannar district in Sri Lanka (reuters_tickers)

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Posted 23 September 2011, by Nita Bhalla, SwissInfo (Swiss Broadcasting Corporation), swissinfo.ch

 

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MANNAR, Sri Lanka (AlertNet) – Wearing a visor and a protective vest over grey fatigues tucked into black military boots, former housewife S. Dishanty crawls on her hands and knees through dense bush, slowly inching forward and methodically scanning the ground.

A year ago, this 23-year-old Sri Lankan woman was looking after her elderly parents and young son in their war-devastated village. Nowadays, she searches for an instrument of that destruction: landmines.

“My husband went missing during the war. My family and I lived in a camp for displaced people … when we returned home after the fighting, everything was destroyed,” Dishanty told Reuters in a cleared patch of a mine field in Sri Lanka’s northwestern district of Mannar.

Dishanty is part of a small number of women in post-war Sri Lanka who are taking on the risky role of clearing up the legacy left from a conflict which lasted a quarter of a century — and changing age-old views in this conservative and patriarchal, largely Hindu Tamil community.

“I had to find a job to support my family. This job gives me an income and has made people proud of me.”

The Indian Ocean island is in its third year of peace after government forces defeated the separatist Tamil Tigers in May 2009, but the threat of landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) lies buried under swathes of agricultural and forest land, as well as some villages.

After almost 10 years of the army and aid groups “de-contaminating” the island, reports of casualties are dropping. According to the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor, there were six deaths in 2009 compared with 11 the year before.

But experts say there are hundreds of thousands more mines, mainly in the north of the country, which could take another decade to clear.

In an environment where skills are scarce, funding low and pressure high to clear farmland to restart cultivation, women like Dishanty — survivors of the violence — are stepping forward.

“These women work on the front line of the humanitarian demining effort in Sri Lanka,” said Nigel Robinson, country programme manager for the Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), which counts 75 women among its 750 deminers.

SURVIVORS TO DEMINERS

Aid workers estimate Asia’s longest-running modern war left behind as many as 90,000 war widows or women whose husbands just disappeared.

“Many of these ladies head their households — their husbands are missing or were killed in the war — so this is an opportunity for them to earn money to take back to their families.”

As displaced communities return home and begin to rebuild, many women are being forced to change from their traditional roles as carers to providers for families with as many as six or seven mouths to feed.

With a scarcity of skills and jobs in this war-ravaged region, opportunities offered by organisations like FSD — although seen as dangerous and against the traditional view of a woman’s role in this society — have been welcome.

Among the three main demining groups, there are now about 200 women deminers.

The women, like the men, attend a camp for three weeks learning about the types of explosives and landmines they are likely to encounter, plus the skills and techniques required to search and mark landmines.

In the minefields of Mannar, deminers work in searing temperatures in heavy protective clothing, using shears to cut through the overgrown grassland which was once paddy field.

The work is painstaking and stressful — the deminers systematically scrutinise the ground inch by inch, with the potential of a deadly or dismembering explosion ever-present.

But the women say the job, with a salary of $250 (162 pounds) a month and full insurance, provides not only income but also respect, even if they have to spend three weeks at a time away from home.

“I did have concerns about the safety at the beginning, but we have a standard operating procedure and if you are careful and follow instructions, it’s safe,” says Biruntha Ravichandran, 21, who is supporting nine family members.

“People used to come up and say ‘How can a woman do that job?’ But now they ask me to get them a job here too,” she says, smiling as she puts on her baseball cap and heads back to camp after finishing a seven-hour shift.

(AlertNet is a global humanitarian news service run by Thomson Reuters Foundation. Visit http://www.trust.org/alertnet)

(Editing by Bryson Hull)

Reuters

 

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http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/news/international/Sri_Lankas_women_deminers_clean_up_legacy_of_Asias_longest_war.html?cid=31199490

Writers Unite! 09.26.11 Blog Action Day for Climate Justice


Writers Unite! 09.26.11 Blog Action Day for Climate Justice

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Posted 24 September 2011, by , The Mokong Perspective, mokongperspective.wordpress.com

 

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In solidarity with the victims of typhoons Ondoy (“Ketsana”), Pepeng, Frank and all other extreme weather events and disasters of the past here in Manila and all over the Philippines, the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ) and the Freelance Writers of the Philippines (FWP) call on writers/bloggers/media workers to write their literary pieces, essays, tweets and slogans on “climate justice”. All these are to be submitted on September 26, 2011.

For those with blogs, you can upload your article in your own blogs and at the same time submit it on the day itself at http://climatejusticeday.wordpress.com. For those without blogs, you can submit your articles and pieces via climatejustice@groups.facebook.com. Also do follow us in twitter (@clim8justicePH) and flood it with your tweets on climate justice.

We see that writers can play a big role in this effort to best articulate the issue especially with political, manipulative moves by the rich, industrialized and overly-consuming countries (Annex 1), which don’t want to be accountable from their past actions on too much greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs) brought about by unfettered industrialization and accumulation of profit. This hampers genuine actions to mitigate the impacts of climate crisis to the most vulnerable communities especially the indigenous people. We believe that writers can share the passion in spreading the message. Actions must be taken before the situation becomes even worst.

For the Philippine-setting, writers/bloggers can use the destruction of Sierra Madre Mountain Range in Central Luzon (forest and climate) and typhoon Ondoy as concrete examples where you can apply the concept of climate justice. There are many news articles, which you can use as source for these two cases. Aside from the 2nd year since Ondoy hit Manila, it’s also the Save Sierra Madre Day as proclaimed by Malacañang.

The following sources can be used to understand climate justice: Jubileesouth Asia Pacific Movement on Debt & Dev’t (JSAPMDD), Climate Justice Now! (CJN), Pan African Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), World Bank Out of Climate Finance!, Third World Network (TWN) and Friends of the Earth International (FoE UK).

This is an awareness-raising initiative to push people to take action against climate change by claiming climate justice.

In return for those who will contribute, all submissions are bylined, with back-links for the promotion of their blogs. As contributions come in on that day, names of contributors will be mentioned in the tweets of clim8justicePH. If the writer/blogger is affiliated with FWP, we request him/her to mention that he/she is a member of FWP.

PMCJ is a movement composed of the affected sectors and communities, CSOs and POs that stand united in demanding for what we call climate justice. It is a concept that dwells on the anthropogenic or human causes of climate change, demanding the rich, industrialized, overly-consuming countries (Annex 1) to be held accountable for their abuse of the atmospheric space due to their too much emission of greenhouse gases (GHGs). Although globally all countries must do their share in solving the climate crisis, PMCJ believes that those countries, which caused the most damage must do more and make a significant contribution in resolving the crisis.

PMCJ also brings forward the demands and amplify the voices of the most affected and vulnerable communities, which is a step towards claiming climate justice.

This initiative is also in partnership with the Faith-based Congress of the Philippines (FCAID) and the Freelance Writers of the Philippines (FWP).

Related articles

 

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http://mokongperspective.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/writers-unite-09-26-11-blog-action-day-for-climate-justice/