Archive for the 'Agriculture' Category

Creative Protest Spreads, with Actions Against Dole and Chiquita

As thousands in DC prepare to risk arrest in an effort to stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, a wave of creative protest and resistance to the fossil economy seems to be sweeping the US.  To take just one example I’m aware of, this past week ForestEthics organizers and volunteers in three cities took action to demand that Dole and Chiquita sever their ties to the Canadian tar sands.

In Los Angeles, Chicago, and Portland, Oregon, groups of activists staged creative protests outside of stores that sell bananas from Dole and Chiquita – companies the run their truck fleets partly on oil from the tar sands.  A typical banana travels 3,000 miles from plantations in Central America to store shelves in the US, making the tropical fruit industry a major oil consumer.  Dole and Chiquita could be using their market power to steer energy development away from destructive projects like the tar sands and toward renewable power.  Instead they’ve chosen to fuel their vehicles with tar sands oil, fueling demand for this deadly product.

Volunteers at this week’s three protests used giant banana costumes, “tar-covered” (actually chocolate-covered) bananas, and other creative props to get the attention of passersby.  They also collected “customer complaints” that will be delivered to Dole and Chiquita (you can sign the customer complaint petition here).  Earlier this week, thousands of activists flooded Dole’s and Chiquita’s Facebook pages with comments about the tar sands, posting links to an ad created by ForestEthics, which calls out the fruit giants in their hometown papers.

The online activism definitely got the companies’ attention: Chiquita temporarily shut down comments on its Facebook page in response.  Meanwhile store managers could hardly fail to notice the actions happening literally right outside their doors.  All this activity comes on the heels of actions that took place earlier this summer, at the launch of the campaign against Dole and Chiquita.

What’s inspiring to me about these protests and so many others springing up across the country (including the mass civil disobedience in DC), is that most people involved are so focused on staying positive, wearing a smile, and having a good time even as we confront a deadly serious issue.  Those pursuing direct action in the climate movement are intent on harnessing the power of positive hope and goodwill to create a better future, rather than getting bogged down in anger.

A beautiful movement for climate justice is taking shape as we watch.  And I for one am excited to be part of it.

UN Agrees Moratorium on Geoengineering Experiments!

Moratorium in Nagoya!
Nagoya, Japan: News Release | 29 October 2010 | www.etcgroup.org

Geoengineering Moratorium at UN Ministerial in Japan

Risky Climate Techno-fixes Blocked

NAGOYA, Japan – In a landmark consensus decision, the 193-member UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) will close its tenth biennial meeting with a de facto moratorium on geoengineering projects and experiments.   “Any private or public experimentation or adventurism intended to manipulate the planetary thermostat will be in violation of this carefully crafted UN consensus,” stated Silvia Ribeiro, Latin American Director of ETC Group.

The agreement, reached during the ministerial portion of the two-week meeting which included 110 environment ministers, asks governments to ensure  that no geoengineering activities take place until risks to the environmental and biodiversity and associated social, cultural and economic impacts risks have been appropriately considered as well as the socio-economic impacts. The CBD secretariat was also instructed to report back on various geoengineering proposals and potential intergovernmental regulatory measures. Continue reading ‘UN Agrees Moratorium on Geoengineering Experiments!’

It’s Hard to Husk Corn with Oil in the Soil

Part of a three part series on the Keystone XL Pipeline and Nebraska

Hopefully by now you’ve heard of the Keystone XL Pipeline (also known as the Keystone Gulf Coast Expansion), a tar sands pipeline proposed by Canadian company TransCanada that would bring Canadian tar sands oil from Alberta through Saskatchewan before entering Montana, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas and Oklahoma before ending up at its final destinations in Port Arthur and Houston, Texas.

While there are many non-profits, environmental and tribal groups currently fighting this pipeline, this first post of a three part series will focus on the largest issue threatening Nebraska, my home state. This is not to skirt over the horrible effects (dirty extraction, threats to tribal lands/water, a furthered dependence on fossil fuels and insanely large contributions to global climate change) that the pipeline will have on the other impacted areas in Canada and the United States, but Nebraska has a lot to lose from this pipeline being installed, and a lot to gain from fighting it.  So, lets jump in.

Often in fights for environmental and climate justice, the realms of economy and environment are separated and exclusive. However, in Nebraska, OUR ENVIRONMENT IS OUR ECONOMY. Nebraska is an agricultural state first and foremost. Our economy is not as diverse as states like California because the large majority of our state is agricultural land and regardless of some of the potentially negative aspects of our agricultural economy (mono-cropping, GMO crops etc), this is how we exist. Without a pristine natural environment, our crops can’t grow…and what would a world without the famous Nebraska sweet corn be like?

And the Cornhusker state’s agro-economy can’t survive without water.

Continue reading ‘It’s Hard to Husk Corn with Oil in the Soil’

Utah commissions independent clean energy report, hides the findings, crashes my computer

Warning: the Utah Department of Commerce and the state’s major electric utility really don’t want you to know the following information, and they will hijack your computer to keep you from getting it:

The administration of Utah’s former Governor Jon M. Huntsman (now U.S. Ambassador to China) commissioned an independent study to figure out how much, if anything, the state could save by switching to alternative, clean forms of energy.  Utah currently gets almost all of its energy through fossil fuel combustion, 82% of which uses coal.

Coal-fired power plant

Report says these things are dirty and expensive; report get's an "F" from state

It appears the current administration (Gary Herbert) and his coal-burning buddies don’t like what the report had to say:

“This [coal-based] resource mix…results in significant emissions of air pollutants and consumes a large share of Utah’s increasingly valuable water resources. The authors estimate that fossil generation in Utah today:

–consumes about 73,800 acre feet, or 24 billion gallons, of fresh water per year; results in 202 premature deaths per year;
–contributes to 154 hospital visits per year for respiratory injuries, and 175 asthma-related emergency room visits each year.

We estimate that the health and water impacts from Utah fossil generation have a monetary value of between $1.7 and $2.0 billion dollars per year (2008$), or between $36 and $43 per megawatt-hour (MWh) of fossil generation in Utah, a value similar to the direct costs of conventional electricity generation.”

Naturally, at this point, I would include a link to the PDF of the report. But I don’t want to do that to you. Get this: if you surf over to the PDF on the state’s website, a giant pop-up window (disavowing the findings) appears, the rest of the screen goes dark, and there is no way to click out of it. I’m no computer genius, so I had to “ctrl-alt-delete” and restart my laptop  just to finish this post. Sheesh. Continue reading ‘Utah commissions independent clean energy report, hides the findings, crashes my computer’

Students Join Landowners to Protest Liquefied Natural Gas in Yamhill County

On Saturday, approximately twenty youth from Oregon’s climate and energy justice movement embarked on a 20-mile bicycle ride through the farmland of Yamhill County, to protest high-carbon liquefied natural gas (LNG) development and meet with landowners whose property and farming businesses are threatened by LNG pipelines. 

Building on the success of a similar LNG bike-protest that took place in Oregon’s Washington County one year ago, this year’s “Bike-the-Pipe” event took us along the approximate route of the Oregon LNG and Palomar Pipelines in Yamhill County.  If energy giants get their way these two LNG pipelines will cut right through some of Oregon’s most valuable farm and forestland, jeopardizing the businesses of countless landowners en route to delivering a carbon-intensive fuel to the California gas market.  Continue reading ‘Students Join Landowners to Protest Liquefied Natural Gas in Yamhill County’

Justice Beyond Copenhagen

Last Tuesday DC was lucky enough to host an all-star panel of global justice activists in a panel discussion called “Evaluating Copenhagen: What it Means for Ecology, Economy, and Equity“, convened by leading movement organizations and moderated by Ray Suarez of PBS.

Among the panelists were leaders and experts of the global justice movement like Martin Khor from the South Centre, Maude Barlow from the Council of Canadians, Victor Menotti of the International Forum on Globalization, Chair of the UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, and Gopal Dayaneni from Movement Generation. You can view the full event online here, or by clicking the image below. I’ll discuss some highlights and possible movement-building lessons.

Movement-Melding in Copenhagen

The experts left very little doubt that the fight to avert climate catastrophe is the fight for the direction of the global economy.

Climate justice + development justice + trade justice = true global justice. Continue reading ‘Justice Beyond Copenhagen’

This is About Survival

This post is provided on behalf of Project Survival Media – a grassroots, student-run media project designed to highlight the true costs of fossil fuels in the lead up to Copenhagen. 

On the eve of the Copenhagen climate talks, communities and individuals around the planet are thinking about survival.  In a world of rapidly destabilizing climates, this word means different things to different people.  To the citizens of the Maldive Islands survival may mean a keeping global temperatures low enough to prevent the permanent flooding of their homeland, while to the inhabitants of African nations that repeatedly have expressed frustration with the unwillingness of industrialized countries to listen to what our own climate scientists are telling us, the main threat to survival may be catastrophic drought threatening to engulf huge regions. 

One key to survival for human beings everywhere, though, is food.  A couple of weeks ago for Project Survival Media, I wrote about the struggles of farmers to build communities based on sustainable food in my own home state of Oregon.  In the Northwestern United States we’re lucky that most people have relatively easy access to healthy, locally grown food; meanwhile, in West Oakland, Project Survival Media team members have been documenting the difficulties of maintaining a healthy diet in the “food deserts” of the inner city.  In the end, our reliance on processed, packaged and fast food produced through industrial agriculture is hurting human health as much as an input-heavy oil-based agricultural system is hurting the Earth and the climate. Continue reading ‘This is About Survival’

The Snow Left Us and Moved to Other Places

Reporting for Project Survival Media in Romania.
By Andrada Farcău with images by Mihai Giurgiu.

©Mihai Giurgiu

Romania was a land of diversity. We used to have four seasons: spring, summer, autumn and winter. Now we are having two seasons. So, what can be the reason of changing? It could be a natural transformation, just a temporary phenomena or the global warming. All Romanian people are affected by this change: their lands are not that good as before, their fruit production has problems and people have to fight more against the floods. The Romanian scientists say that we can’t prove yet if one of the causes is global warming or not and if the human race is responsible of it.

Continue reading ‘The Snow Left Us and Moved to Other Places’

Farming on the Frontlines of Change: a Report-Back from Project Survival Media

This post is provided on behalf of Project Survival Media – a grassroots, student-run media project designed to highlight the true costs of fossil fuels in the lead up to Copenhagen.  As part of this initiative, Project Survival Media team members in California and Oregon are documenting industrial agribusiness’ contributions to global warming and displacement of communities, as well as the role which small, sustainable farms can play in creating a more viable and just food-production system.

When Anne Berblinger delved into the world of small-scale organic farming in 1991, the concept of global warming had not yet entered mainstream consciousness in the US.  “It wasn’t at the top of everyone’s mind,” says Berblinger while slicing freshly harvested peppers in the kitchen at Gales Meadow farm – a site she and her husband Rene’ have been farming since 1999.  Yet though climate concerns had yet to penetrate mainstream thought in the early ’90s, Berblinger says she was inspired to take up small farming in part out of her feeling that “the earth was in peril.”  Motivated by concerns about soil, wildlife, and the other casualties of industrial agribusiness she says, “Having a small piece of land to care for and be the steward of seemed important.”

Today, Anne and Rene’ Berblinger and a team of youthful helpers, many of them recent graduates of Pacific University, cultivate more than 200 varieties of certified-organic herbs and vegetables on the nine flat acres of Gales Meadow Farm. Many crops at Gales Meadow are heirloom varieties not found in the industrial farm zones that have given way to endless high-yield monocultures.  Each plant variety has a history, dating back to its origins in the traditional farming communities of Europe, North America, or elsewhere.  Every carefully cultivated strain represents a reservoir of genetic diversity – a diversity that’s become all the more important to bolster our agriculture’s resilience in a world where modern high-yield crops may turn suddenly vulnerable to changing climates. Continue reading ‘Farming on the Frontlines of Change: a Report-Back from Project Survival Media’

Water: When Nightmares Come True

Retreating Lake Naivasha in May

I always thought it was a little overly dramatic when people used to say, with that gleam of fire in their eyes and intense certainty in their voices, “The next world war will be fought over water.” I didn’t notice their resigned sadness after saying that and seeing the response of the audience, of my response.

Water wars, we imagined, were decades away. Climate refugees fleeing drought and devastation would be seen in generations, not in ours. People would recognize when resources were becoming so scarce and develop cooperative strategies for conservation long before it came to the point of fighting over them. Right?

The sad climate “joke” five years ago was that we’d need to bring melting icebergs to sub-Saharan Africa to support life. But in Kenya today, aid workers are already flying water in from other countries. Today, thousands of men and women are already dying from lack of the most basic human need — water.

From NY Times: An elderly woman is given water in the Turkana region of Kenya. Many of the elderly are too weak and sick to feed themselves or drink

Today, when I repeat the phrase – “Wars will be fought over water” – with the same confidence and intensity, the same fire, and the same resigned sadness, I know that fights over water are not generations – or even years – away. We may not have another world war, but I have no question that we will see more devastation and violence, if we need to see any more than the lives being lost every day in Kenya.

There is no water to drink, let alone have water to wash hands to prevent the spread of diarrheal diseases. There is no water to drink, let alone have water to farm. Lakes have been retreating for years as water is used for farming, for geothermal energy, and for survival, and the lakes’ disappearances are threatening not only water animals like flamingos and hippos, but all of the biodiversity for which Kenya is famous.

NYT: "'We eat once a day, said Mrs. Bai, 65, explaining how she and her family had survived the lack of rain."

At the same time, in India, thousands of farmers commit suicide annually due to desperation caused by cycles of debt, but also cycles of increasing drought and irregular rain. Farmers who would rather die than face the shame and sadness of watching their families die of starvation, have killed not only themselves but their families as well. This year has been one of India’s worst monsoons in recent history, with too little rains coming too late, and often all at once.

On the brink of death, is there a question of anything but desperation?

Read more on what we can expect – and what we can do. Continue reading ‘Water: When Nightmares Come True’


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