[Debate] (Fwd) Rio-related reports: Bassey on bay eco-social struggles; Martinez-Alier on enviro justice; Temper on jatropha; Warlenius on eco-debt owed the South (Africa Report)
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Thu Jul 5 08:46:40 BST 2012
*4 July 2012 19:44
*After Rio+20, Brazil's Cemetery of Mangroves and Fisherfolks
*Two visits outside the heart of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, marked the
highpoints of my visit to that city for the infamous Rio+20 summit.*
*The first was on 14 June with colleagues from the Oilwatch
International network and that visit took us to Caxias. This is a
community that has had to bear fifty years of toxic assault by
petrochemical installations including the Refineria Duque de Caxias (REDUC).
This refinery is the heart of petrochemical factories that dot the
Caxias landscape and is the fourth largest supplier of refined petroleum
products to the country. Potable water is a problem in this municipality
and some folks reportedly rely on untreated water from the refinery.
The locals see the petrochemicals, including a proposed new refinery set
to become the largest in Latin America, as developments that excludes
the participation of the citizens. They bemoan a dearth of health
facilities even as they bear the assault of multiple pollutions from the
Men and Women of the Sea
The second visit was on 17 June as part of the Rio +Toxic tour to Mage.
It doubled as a solidarity visit to the struggling community people at
the Guanabara Bay area.
During the visit we met with members of [I]Homens e Mulheres do Mar
Association[/I] (AHOMAR) -- Association of Men and Women of the Sea in
the Guanabara Bay. That name did not include women initially, but after
years of gender struggles the role of the women had to be duly
recognized and acknowledged in the name.
This last visit commenced from a point between the head offices of
Petrobras, the Brazilian national oil company, and the offices of the
Brazilian National Development Bank known to be a major financier of
toxic projects in the country. The bank has a budget larger than that of
the World Bank and extends its tentacles all over Latin America and deep
into Africa. The bank turned 60 years on 20 June and fittingly holds
itself up as the flag bearer for green capitalism.
Life turned unpredictable for the fisherfolks in the Guanabara Bay when
Petrobras constructed its pipelines through the Bay. When an oil spill
occurred in 2000 it increased the challenges faced by the fisherfolks.
The footprint of that oil spill is still visible in the Ipiringa area
and the destroyed mangrove is yet to recover. Indeed, the locals call
the area the "cemetery of mangroves."
As much as Petrobras has tried to restore the mangrove, the best result
is seen only in photos where mangroves planted in pots are photographed
before they wilt, according to local sources.
Our team went through various locations in Mage in the company of
members of AHOMAR. A rather uncomfortable aspect was that the leader of
AHOMAR, Alexandre Anderson de Sousa, had to travel in a police car as it
was considered unsafe for him to travel with us in our bus or by any
other means. Since 2009, Alexandre and his family have been under 24/7
police protection under the Human Rights Defenders Program of the
government. The officers go with him everywhere, everytime.
Perhaps this level of protection is necessary for Alexandre's safety. It
could also be a way of ensuring that his activism is curtailed. I found
the presence of the cops rather unnerving. But, as Alexandre said, they
are living in difficult times and terrain and their struggle is one of
survival. Their struggle has been one of ensuring minimal impacts from
petroleum installations as well as resisting expansion of the facilities.
Already some communities have been displaced by pipeline construction
and their overall fishing grounds has been reduced to about 12 per cent
of the area over the past few years. According to the fisherfolks, about
9000 families are involved in the struggle.
According to research done by the department of Geography of the
University of Rio de Janeiro, since the oil spill occurred the fishing
stock has depleted by 80-90 per cent of what it was in the 1990s. Twelve
years after the incident, the stock is yet to return to normal contrary
to assurances they had received from Petrobras. They regret that the
best fishing grounds are no longer accessible to them but are taken up
by oil installations, pipelines and related mega-projects.
In addition, commercial fishing companies use big vessels that
destabilize the smaller boats used by the locals. In addition they
complain that they get shot at with automatic weapons at times by
private security outfit. The objective of the harassment is to stop them
from fishing, according to the locals.
"When Petrobras is accused you can be sure there would be no
investigations," one of the local leaders told us. "We are being
squeezed out of business because we cannot go to the deep seas in our
Death and Dignity
The bay has literally become a platform for Petrobras and sections are
fenced off and cannot be accessed by locals. One leader told us: "we are
resisting because we have no options. We might live or die. Our death
may not result from gun shots, but because our livelihoods have been
destroyed." He added, "We are not seeking to be rich, we just want to
live our lives in dignity."
The reality of the precarious situation of the AHOMAR activists was
underscored by the murder of two of their leaders a few days after our
visit. They are indeed denied dignity in life and in death. The shocking
news reached the world that:
"Almir Nogueira de Amorim and João Luiz Telles Penetra, artisanal
fishermen and members of Homens e Mulheres do Mar Association (AHOMAR)
went missing after going out to fish on Friday, 22 June 2012." Further,
reports of the brutal murders inform, "Almir's body was found on sunday,
June 24th, tied to their boat, submerged close to the São Lourenço beach
in Magé, Rio de Janeiro. The body of João Luiz Telles, Pituca, was found
on monday, June 25th, with hands and feet tied in fetal position, close
to the São Gonçalo beach."
Recalling past incidents, reports have it that in "2009, the men and
women of AHOMAR occupied the construction sites of land and sub-sea gas
pipelines for transport of Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) and Liquefied
Petroleum Gas (LPG), built by a consortium between two contractors: GDK
and Oceânica, hired by Petrobras. This construction is directly making
artisanal fishing impossible in the Mauá-Magé beach, Guanabara Bay,
where the AHOMAR headquarters is located.
"They anchored their boats close to the pipelines and stayed there for
38 days. Since then, the fishermen are suffering constant death threats.
That same year, in May, Paulo Santos Souza, formerly in charge of the
association's accounting, was brutally beaten in front of his family and
killed with five shots in the head. In 2010, another AHOMAR founder,
Márcio Amaro, was also murdered at his home, in front of his mother and
wife. Both crimes have never been cleared up."
[B]Nigerian Gas imported and Flared[/B]
On the way to "the cemetery of mangroves" we saw gas pipelines that had
an interesting story behind them. Around 2002 when Brazil had an energy
crisis due to reduction in levels of water in her hydroelectricity dams,
the country began to import liquefied natural gas from Nigeria. With an
improvement in the energy situation the importation continues and the
excess gas is simply flared. It can be said that Nigeria, the second
biggest flarer of natural gas after Russia, flares at two ends of the
pipe: in the Niger Delta and in Brazil.
Another similarity with the messy oil fields of Nigeria is that most of
the spills are first reported by fisherfolks. The Petrobras spill of
2000 at Ipiringa is said to have occurred by 1 AM and was discovered by
fisherfolks six hours later. The massive spill destroyed a huge swath of
mangrove and with it took the bottom off the livelihoods of at least 300
families who used to pick crabs, prawns and other seafoods here.
The toxic tour ended with a standing meeting with the environment
secretary of the Mage Municipality. Before that meeting we visited Surui
community heavily impacted by an oil pipeline that cuts right through
it. Stories of buildings cracked by heavy earth moving machinery during
the laying of the pipeline as well as displacement of several families
are rife here.
The land acquisition process is quite interesting. According to the
locals, Petrobras officials would arrive at your door and offer you a
certain amount of money for your property. If you refuse, they leave.
But when they come a second time they would inform you that the money
they offered has been set aside for you in a special account. In other
words, you have no option but to accept their offer. When the officials
come a third time, their mission is simple: to evict you from your property.
We are all fisherfolk
The deaths of Almir, João Luiz, Paulo and Márcio must be denounced in
the strongest terms. We cannot stand apart from this assault simply
because it is not occurring in our territories. Our realities are not
different whether in the oil fields of Nigeria and Ecuador, the mines of
Philippines or the tar sand pits of Alberta Canada. Communities with
oil, gas and mineral resources are daily being assaulted. The least we
can do to defend our common humanity is to stand in solidarity with
challenged peoples all over the world and proclaim that: we are all
fisherfolk; we are all AHOMAR activists!
Dying for the environment
By *Joan Martinez-Alier
*One of EJOLT's* main tasks - of which I am the coordinator - is to
collect and map a large global inventory (not less than 2000 cases) of
environmental conflicts. Some will be success stories of forests saved,
of dams or mining projects stopped. Others, of recurring and replicated
unsustainable development models, packaged in the language of 'growth' -
Often, environmentalists are killed.
Many of us in the EJOLT project were in Rio de Janeiro in June 2012. It
was presented to the world in the usual wrapping paper: hope, change,
possibilities. Meanwhile, the alternative "people's summit" at the beach
in Flamengo was entitled "For Social and Environmental Justice". The
official conference at Rio Center, however, scarcely mentioned
environmental injustices, crimes and liabilities. The one-eyed kings
leading so many of the blind - unknowing, unconscious; into the 'green
However, in Brazil itself since December 1988 when Chico Mendes
was killed fighting deforestation in Acre, hundreds of
other socio-environmental activists have been killed. While we were in
Rio, people fighting for the environment were killed from Peru to
the Philippines. The civil society organization Global Witness
published impressive figures on such victims which went unmentioned in
the bland agreement signed in Rio by governments (many of which are
involved in such crimes).
After Rio, I read a book on Mexico by Luis Hernández Navarro,
"Siembra de concreto, cosecha de ira". In Mexico there are
environmental justice networks such as REMA (against mining projects),
MAPDER (against dams), "En Defensa del Maiz" (against transgenics and
in defence of peasant agriculture).
hundreds of other socio-environmental activists have been killed
There is also the Asamblea de Afectados Ambientales. This crisply
written book gives short accounts of many environmental conflicts
emphasizing the successes of the poor and the indigenous. The author
unavoidably mentions names of well-known environmentalists killed since
2007. The list could be multiplied by three by resorting merely to the
regional newspaper editions or to the webpages of EJOs.
In any given country, the number of activists who die is not
directly related to the number of conflicts. It depends also on the
general level of violence, which is higher in Mexico, Colombia and Peru
than in Ecuador or Argentina. This being acknowledged, here are
names gathered from Hernández Navarro's book. Behind each name there was
or there still is an environmental justice organization or a
. Aldo Zamora, 15 May 2007, member of the tlahuica community
fighting deforestation in San Juan Atzingo, killed by "talamontes"
(large scale wood robbers) in the vicinity of Santa Lucía, Ocuilan,
. Aristeo Flores Rolón and Raul Delgado Benavides, 2007, in
Cuautitlán de Barragán, Jalisco, for their defence of indigenous rights
against iron mining in the ejido of Ayotitlán.
. Bernardo Méndez Vásquez and Bernardo Vásquez Sánchez, 18 January
and 15 March 2012, Coordinadora de Pueblos Unidos del Valle de
Ocotlán, in San José del Progreso, Oaxaca, for their opposition to the
mining project La Trinidad of Fortuna Silver Mining.
. Betty Cariño, 27 Abril 2010, 37 years old, when travelling to San Juan
Copala in solidarity with the triqui community. An activist in the
Mixteca and elsewhere, a radio journalist, she had origins in Liberation
Theology and was involved in conflicts against dams and for peasant
. Leopoldo Juárez Urbina, 8 May 2010, and five or six other members
of the purépecha community of Cherán, Michoacán, defending their
communal forests against "talamontes".
. Mariano Abarca, 27 November 2009, 50 years old, Chicomuselo, Chiapas,
leader of the resistance to a barite mine owned by the Canadian company
. Miguel Angel Pérez Cazales, 31 octubre 2009, from Santa
Catalina, Tepotzlán, defending the protected area of Texcal
. Rubén Flores, 28 April 2010, his birthday, 42 years old,
Coajumulco, Morelos, defending the forest of Ajusco Chihinautzin, killed
*The EJOLT project (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and
Trade) initiative is a large collaborative project bringing together
science and society; academics, researchers and environmental justice
activists, to catalogue conflicts and work towards confronting
ecological injustice. Work areas include nuclear energy; oil, gas and
carbon injustice; biomass and land conflicts; mining and ship breaking;
environmental health and risk assessment; liabilities and valuations;
law and institutions; and ecological debt, consumption and unjust
ecological exchanges. For more information, visit www.ejolt.org
The controversial jatropha stumbles in Kenya
By *Leah Temper*
*A campaign by Nature Kenya and other Environmental Justice
Organizations (EJOs) has saved the Dakatcha Woodland Important Bird Area
(IBA) from destruction from biofuel crops after Kenya's National
Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) rejected clearance **for a
pilot project on ** over 10,000 ha of land*.*
*A study shows that biofuel from plantations at the Dakatcha Woodland
would result in up to six times more carbon emissions than fossil
fuels/Photo/Reuters*The Italian owned company Nuove Iniziative
Industriali Srl, through a local subsidiary called Kenya Jatropha Energy
Limited, had proposed converting 50,000 ha of land at the Kenya coast
into Jatropha curcas plantations. The 32,000 ha Dakatcha Woodland is
within the proposed plantations.
The Dakatcha Woodland is located 40 kilometers North of the coastal town
of Malindi and is home to rare and globally threatened birds. It is also
home to over 20,000 people and is the ancestral land of the indigenous
minority Watha and Giriama tribes. The plantation would not only have
evicted the tribes from their land, but would also have uprooted their
sacred burial sites.
The EJOs further contended that the local council had betrayed the
trusteeship of the land by agreeing to irregularly allocate the land,
held in trust for the benefit of the community, to the Italian private
developer, in disregard of the needs of local people and biodiversity.
The groups also pointed to Kenya Jatropha Energy LTD's unprofessional
and irresponsible behavior by starting the project and clearing
forestlands against the law without the proper clearances.
This move by NEMA is an important step in the fight against the
widespread implementation of Jatropha Curcas in Africa. Jatropha has
become a controversial biofuel. While proponents argue that the crop is
resistant to drought and pest problems, critics contend that the
biofuel, as with many first generation biofuels, may actually produce
more greenhouse gas emissions than burning fossil fuels if it is grown
over natural ecosystems, such as the Dakatcha Woodlands, and that it
needs more water than maize to produce a good crop of oil seed and is
subject to many pests and diseases.
A study commissioned by Nature Kenya, the Royal Society for the
Protection of Birds and Action Aid, reveals that biofuel produced from
the proposed plantations at Dakatcha will result in up to six times more
carbon emissions than fossil fuels.
Much of the biofuel produced in Dakatcha is destined for Europe because
of new European Union targets. The misguided Renewable Energy Directive
(RED) requires 10 per cent of transport to be renewable by 2020 and most
member states plan to meet this almost entirely through biofuels. To
meet this target, millions of hectares of land will need to be turned
over to biofuel crops. Such land is not available in Europe so the
alternative is Africa, driving the rampant landgrab that has seen
hundreds of thousands of hectares acquired by foreign companies and
Yet, even as the Dakatcha Woodlands is spared and another British
Company, G4 industries, has also pulled out of the Coast region in
Kenya, the Tana Delta wetlands area remains under threat by several
projects, including one proposed by a Canadian biofuel company, Bedford
fuels, to grow 10,000 hectares of jatropha.
"It is heartening to see NEMA's decisions being guided by science. We
now urge NEMA to apply the same criteria to the proposed biofuel
plantations in other sensitive areas such as the Tana River Delta," said
Paul Matiku, Executive Director of Nature Kenya (BirdLife's offshoot in
the region), in a press release.
/*Leah Temper is a doctoral student, and a researcher in Environmental
History and Ecological Economics at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.
29 June 2012 17:19
Rio+20 or Rio-20: Green economy vs Ecological debt
By *Rikard Warlenius - PhD candidate, Lund University, Sweden, *
*The high-level UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, last week was
called an "epic failure" by Greenpeace and other environmental
organizations, their disappointments reminiscent of the "epic failure"
of the UN Climate Conference in Durban, South Africa only half a year
**Other critics have re-named the summit "Rio--20", since no progress at
all has been made since the Earth Summit in the same city in 1992, when
three important conventions were adopted on climate change, biodiversity
and desertification. Yet, despite their noble ambitions, these
conventions have failed miserably in reversing the negative global
environmental trends: since 1990, yearly emissions of carbon dioxide
have increased 45 % and soon the atmospheric concentration will pass 400
ppm, to be compared with the 280 ppm pre-industrial rate. The extinction
rate of species today is alarmingly high with some 30 % of amphibians,
21 % of birds and 25 % of mammal species at risk. The fight against
desertification is also being lost, with the percentage of degraded land
area rising from 15 % in 1991 to 24 % in 2008.
Stated goals to reduce the ecological and carbon footprint and at the
same time improve life for the billions who still lack basic resources
cannot be achieved while simultaneously maintaining growth for those who
already live in prosperity.
But if the 1992 Rio Summit convention was too little too late, at least
it still remotely mustered some global political ambition for dealing
with the ecological crises. The same cannot be said of any global
environmental agreements since. The 2012 Rio declaration, ironically
called "The future we want", is nothing but a political surrender to the
forces of ecological destruction that now put human civilization as we
know it at stake.
From a geopolitical perspective the negotiation stalemate is
doubtlessly caused by the inaction of the developed countries in the
North. Even though their population is only one fifth of the worlds',
their accumulated carbon emissions amount to 75 % of the total. Similar
figures for ecological footprints inexorably reveals who has caused --
and benefited from -- environmental degradation, and who therefore
should be obliged to take the lead -- and pay the costs -- towards a
global green transition. Twenty years ago, this obligation was
acknowledged through the adoption of the "common but differentiated
responsibilities" principle 7 in Rio 1992. But since the North has never
fulfilled its assignment -- definitely not the US, with the EU being
only slightly better -- it is completely unrealistic that countries such
as China, India, Brazil or South Africa would put their partly
successful catch-up development at risk for cleaning up the mess caused
Seen from an economic system perspective, the ecological crises reveal a
crisis for the development model of both North and South. Inherent in
the notion of "sustainable development" -- launched in the 1987
Brundtland Report and the foundation for all mainstream environment
policy since then -- lies the promise of green growth, of constant
win-win solutions between ecology and economy, that simply has not been
met in reality. Not in the classic industrialization development
formula, not in the private profit-maximizing structural adjustment
neoliberalism, and not in the financial market approach of the so-called
"green economy" that was the flavor of the month in Rio 2012. While
never clearly defined, green economy usually refers to attempts at
"internalizing the environmental externalities" through the
objectification and commodification of ecosystems (reduced to their
"environmental services"). These newly minted services can then be
bought, traded or securitized as any other financial commodities.
Experience so far implies that such market-based solutions have weak
environmental impacts but strong social impacts. Evaluations of the the
CDM market, part of the carbon trading scheme of the Kyoto protocol,
reveal that between one and two third of the projects do not deliver the
promised emission cuts. In Africa, India and other parts of the world,
poor rural dwellers are those most dependent on the free "services" --
e.g. fresh water, food, firewood, medical plants -- that the natural
commons provide. Payment schemes may perhaps slow down deforestation at
a high social price, but the "avoided emissions" are then traded and
exchanged for continued emissions in a developed country. In this way,
finanzialisation often means zero gains for the environment but a
de-facto transfer of rights and properties from the poor to the rich.
Essentially, it provides a way for those who can afford it to occupy
double the environmental space, as they can continue emitting, while
assuaging their guilt through "green consumption". No wonder the "green
economy" has been enthusiastically hailed by companies and governments
stuck in the growth discourse while at the same time has beewn
unequivocally rejected by social and environmental movements throughout
the global South.
In order to find genuinely sustainable solutions -- in both an
environmental and social sense -- to the current crises other methods
and policies will most certainly prove necessary. But even more crucial
is the insight that these crises cannot be solved only by the win-win
market-based solutions. The social metabolism -- the economy's material
and energy throughput from extraction to waste -- tends to increase
whether economic growth is dubbed green or not, and as it grows, so does
ecological degradation and an increase of environmental distribution
conflicts over the use of the resources -- for social or market
purposes. Stated goals to reduce the ecological and carbon footprint and
at the same time improve life for the billions who still lack basic
resources cannot be achieved while simultaneously maintaining growth for
those who already live in prosperity. Someone will have to make sacrifices.
A truly sustainable agenda would have to start with a recognition of the
ecological debt. From colonial days until today, raw materials and
energy from the South and the global commons, as well as their sink
capacities, have been expropriated for the social metabolism of the
North without properly compensating material losses, ecological
degradation, labor and lost development opportunities. This has been
crucial for the North's ability to secure world dominance as well as
welfare and prosperity for most of its citizens, while the South's
efforts to catch up constantly have been undermined.
The ecological debt is hard to measure in full extent, but attempts at
quantifying one important part of it, the climate debt, show that most
African countries are creditors rather than a debtors, while all
Northern countries have a huge debt not only to the South, but also to
future generations everywhere for emitting greenhouse gases way above
what is long-term sustainable. This debt should be acknowledged and
compensated for, for instance through green technology transfer and cash
payments directly to poor households.
While repayment of the ecological debt could and should enable
(sustainable) development for those who need it most, it is also clear
that the capitalist economic growth in both North and South has a very
high social cost and is environmentally disastrous. In the end, a new
development model is needed. Such a new model was not at all considered
in the official 2012 Rio Earth Summit "negotiations". But Rio de Janeiro
also hosted a parallel People's Summit, which was nothing less than an
inclusive and democratic laboratory for the elaboration of sustainable
ways forward. Here, "green economy" was rejected for a localized economy
in harmony with nature and ideals of consumerism and growth abandoned
for the adoption of liberated time and basic income as a prerequisite
for "good life -- buen vivir" for all.
/*Rikard Warlenius - PhD candidate, Lund University, Sweden, who visited
Rio as partner of the international research project EJOLT
(Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade), see
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