While much of the national climate movement has focused on gearing up towards the People’s Climate March in New York City later this month, frontline communities in Appalachia have been working hard at the local and regional level to address climate justice issues at the source. “Our people have been producing energy for this nation for over 100 years. We are proud of our heritage. But we can’t stay stuck in time,” said Teri Blanton, a long time organizer with Kentuckians For The Commonwealth and The Alliance for Appalachia. “In Appalachia we’ve already seen what climate change can do — denuded and destroyed landscapes, poisoned water and a corrupt political system — it’s all together and it’s all connected. We have seen first hand that what they do to the land, they do to the people.” One of the key issues Appalachian leaders are organizing communities around is water pollution; lack of access to safe water has been an issue for decades in the region, a grim irony considering the area is a temperate rainforest.
The furious pace of energy exploration in North Dakota is creating a crisis for farmers whose grain shipments have been held up by a vast new movement of oil by rail, leading to millions of dollars in agricultural losses and slower production for breakfast cereal giants like General Mills. The backlog is only going to get worse, farmers said, as they prepared this week for what is expected to be a record crop of wheat and soybeans. “If we can’t get this stuff out soon, a lot of it is simply going to go on the ground and rot,” said Bill Hejl, who grows soybeans, wheat and sugar beets in the town of Casselton, about 20 miles west of here. Although the energy boom in North Dakota has led to a 2.8 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in the nation, the downside has been harder times for farmers who have long been mainstays of the state’s economy.
According to Kash Nikazmrad of Students for Justice in Palestine, one should view passages from the Hamas charter like the one above as hyperbolic political rhetoric meant to stoke a political base, and not, he says, as something to be taken literally. The focus, he says should be on the genocidal conditions imposed by Isreal that give birth to the resistance. “The UN recognizes Genocide as anything deterring the progression of human life,” says Nikazmrad, “and that is what (Israel) does in Gaza. They don’t allow them to fish. Settlers come and cut down Oliver trees and put concrete on the olive trees. And (Israel) is all outside, and they blame Palestinians for building tunnels to try to bring medical supplies in. What do you think will happen when you build a prison (Gaza) and you prevent people from having any kind of right to life? They are going to try and build tunnels and they are going to try and resist the occupation that is there.”
I first met Victoria Tauli-Corpuz 11 years ago in Rome. An indigenous Filipina activist, Vicky was attending a meeting on indigenous peoples’ rights at the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations rural development agency where I work. In fact, it was the first time indigenous peoples’ representatives had ever been invited to IFAD’s offices on the outskirts of the Eternal City. Since then, IFAD and the UN system as a whole have made progress on bringing indigenous issues and priorities into the mainstream of our work – though we still have plenty more to do. Flash forward to New York this spring, when I heard Vicky’s name called by the chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in the General Assembly hall at UN headquarters.
A year after the birth of the Occupy Wall Street movement in New York City, writer, director and producer Dennis Trainor, Jr. made a full-length feature documentary capturing the fervor and passion that spread through the nation in fall 2011, fueled a street revolution and introduced the concept of “the 99%” to define the corporate greed that has crippled the U.S. American Autumn lets the protestors and organizers tell in their own words why they joined the protests and what they hoped to accomplish. Shot at the birthplace of the Occupy movement at Zuccotti Park in New York City, as well as on location at protests in Washington, D.C., Trainor offers a Ground Zero view of the movement and its participants. On camera, protesters strive to define the goals of Occupy as well as how to achieve them. “Imagine that a single voice carries as much weight as the CEO of Goldman Sachs” the film posits, distilling one of Occupy’s core beliefs.
March Against Monsanto reports that members of the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) are fighting to stop initiatives that require labeling of GMO-containing foods. The GMA does not want people to have the right to know what is in their food. In Washington State alone, the GMA spent more than seven million dollars to defeat the GMO labeling bill in 2013. And now they are preparing to sue the state of Vermont over its labeling law. That’s why March Against Monsanto and others are calling for a boycott of these companies until they drop their affiliation with the GMA. Below is a list of the companies and their headquarters. In addition to boycotting their products, if you live close to a headquarter, you might consider organizing an action to tell them to drop their affiliation with the GMA and to side with the people instead. Tell them that the health of the people is more important than their profits.
Opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline extension through Addison County want to see the project put on hold until concerns over water contamination are addressed. The environmental group Rising Tide Vermont rallied outside the Public Service Board offices in Montpelier on Monday to pressure state regulators to delay the construction of the pipeline extension until these concerns are considered. “What we are asking for is the Public Service Board and the Department of Public Service to suspend pipeline construction until there can be adequate soil testing along the proposed route,” said Jonathan Shapiro, an organizer with Rising Tide Vermont.
As more and more crops are targeted for GMO adaptation and then commercialized, the decision to not grow a crop represents a loss. It is a loss of choice, leaving fewer and fewer crops from which to choose. In 2013, GMO-soy comprised 93% of the soy U.S. crop. Deciding to grow non-GMO soy in a soybean growing area would be a lost cause. A North Dakota farmer quoted in the Food and Water Watch survey, states The loss of crop options is not a direct cost, but a real one. We cannot, for example, grow organic canola as we are surrounded by hundreds of acres of GM canola – pollinated by insects – no buffer is big enough to contain cross pollination. GMO-wheat has not yet been commercialized, but when it is, another major crop might be off-limits to organic farmers.
On May 24, millions of activists from around the world will once again March Against Monsanto, calling for the permanent boycott of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) and other harmful agro-chemicals. Currently, marches will occur on six continents, in 52 countries,with events in over 400 cities. In the US, solidarity marches are slated to occur in 47 states. A comprehensive list of marches can be accessed at www.march-against-monsanto.com. Tami Monroe Canal, founder of March Against Monsanto (MAM), was inspired to start the movement to protect her two daughters. “Monsanto’s predatory business and corporate agricultural practices threatens their generation’s health, fertility and longevity. MAM supports a sustainable food production system. We must act now to stop GMOs and harmful pesticides.”
Alternatiba is mobilising tens of thousands of European citizens on alternatives to climate change, with an upcoming COP21, the international climate summit that will take place in Paris in December 2015. Following Alternatiba in Bayonne, uniting 12 000 people on October 6th 2013, dozens of alternative villages are springing up in Paris, Geneva, Brussels, Bordeaux, Toulouse, Rennes, Strasbourg, etc. Plans are in motion in Spain, South Basque Country, Austria, Romania… and even in Tahiti ! Alternatiba’s film is featured on our website www.alternatiba.eu and are now available in English, German, Spanish and French. The call to organise 10, 100, 1000 Alternatibas is now available in 23 European languages. Solutions to climate change exist. Even better : they’re building a nicer, friendlier, fairer, more human society.
In 2008, Debra White Plume, an Oglala Lakota environmental justice activist, received a piece of mail with no return address. Inside was a 1989 letter to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from John Peterson, an exploration geologist who had worked on what is now the Crow Butte uranium mine in northwestern Nebraska. In the letter, Peterson describes how uranium mining in the area would almost certainly contaminate the regional water supply if it went forward. “I believe certain aspects of the geology of the Crow Butte uranium deposits have been deliberately overlooked or suppressed so that mining could proceed and profits be gained regardless of the effect upon local ground water quality,” he wrote. Peterson’s warnings were disregarded, mining at the site began two years later, in 1991, and it continues to this day. Now, the mine is on the verge of expanding. Cameco Corporation, a Canadian mining company, is seeking permits to create two new mine sites north and west of its current location. If approved by federal regulators, Cameco’s operations would swallow up an additional 8,300 acres of the prairie hills.
In mid-April, word started spreading like wildfire among Louisiana residents: Helis Oil & Gas LLC wants to drill a well in search of oil and gas on a 960-acre tract of land about 30 miles from New Orleans, in the Mandeville area. Helis plans to use hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, to extract oil and gas from the Tuscaloosa Marine Shale (PDF), which holds an estimated 7 billion barrels of oil beneath the Southern Hills aquifer, which extends from St.Tammany to beyond Baton Rouge and well into Mississippi. On April 16, residents packed a meeting, expressing fear and outrage about the proposed drilling. Right away, they learned two things: firstly, that they’re up against Louisiana’s strong laws protecting the oil and gas industry. And secondly, that there’s no time to waste. On May 13, the Department of Natural Resources’ office of conservation, which regulates oil and gas drilling in Louisiana, will hold a hearing to consider issuing a unit permit — the first step in the permitting process.
Vermont’s GMO labeling law will likely still face legal challenges from major food companies like Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co – the leading producers of GMO crops. They are widely expected to sue the state over the law. To defend the legislation, Vermont allocated a $1.5 million legal defense fund in the measure, to be paid for with settlements won by the state. However, even this amount might not be enough to cover the state’s legal bills. Monsanto, DuPont, Kraft Foods Co. and others previously led the charge against the similar labeling legislation in California and Washington state, grossly outspending supporters of the measure that was eventually defeated in both states, with anti-labeling groups spending $22 million of the $28 million total spent on that campaign in Washington. “There is no doubt that there are those who will work to derail this common-sense legislation,” Shumlin said. “But I believe this bill is the right thing to do and will gain momentum elsewhere after our action here in Vermont.”
Michiganders who raise chickens, goats and honey bees on their residential property have had their right to keep livestock stripped away by the state’s Agriculture and Rural Development Commission, which says they are not protected by the same laws as commercial farms. Urban parts of Michigan, particularly Detroit, have been enjoying a renaissance of small-scale farming in recent years. Much of it has been in the form of community farms, residents providing food for themselves, and small entrepreneurs who sell fresh eggs, dairy, honey, and produce to their neighbors, sometimes off the books. Commission Chair Diane Hanson said that the state’s previous agricultural management rules “were not suitable for livestock in urban and suburban areas.” Now, properties not zoned for agricultural use with 13 or more residences within an eighth of a mile or another residence within 250 feet may be required to cease keeping livestock if asked by local authorities.
From 2008 to 2014, insurrectionist activity has sequentially erupted across the globe, from Tunisia and Egypt to Syria and Yemen; from Greece, Spain, Turkey and Brazil to Thailand, Bosnia, Venezuela and the Ukraine. In every instance, there was a tipping point: in Tunisia, it was Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation; in New York City, it was the Wall Street bailout; in Istanbul, it was a few threatened trees in Gezi Park; in Brazil, it was a 20-cent increase in transit fare. Today, the rest of our world seems poised to erupt, with every nation near and far harboring its own Achilles heel, its own tender nerve of geopolitical vulnerability at risk of getting pricked. Thanks to corporate media, which conveniently co-opts the restless amnesia of the news cycle to distract attention from ongoing, systemic issues, this global revolutionary fervor has been presented to us as a bunch of sound and fury that rises and falls and amounts to nothing. But beneath what we’ve come to perceive as isolated and distinct events is a shared but neglected root cause of environmental crisis. What most people don’t realize is that outbreaks of social unrest are preceded, usually, by a single pattern — an unholy trinity of drought, low crop yield and soaring food prices.