Eco-Instigator #14

eco-instigator-14The year 2016 ran through so rapidly. And just as well. It had a store of horrors – extreme exploitation of nature’s re-sources, wars and repression, massive pollution, deforestation and unconscionable climate inaction. Will these let up in 2017?

While you ponder on what we must do as individuals and as collectives, we serve you another loaded edition of your Eco-Instigator. We share reports, statements and articles hoping that you will get sufciently instigated to step up and speak up as sons and daughters of Mother Earth.

As this edition was going to bed, we received news of the renewed aggression against our partner group, Accion Ecologica by the government of Ecuador. We note the tremendous global solidarity exhibited by individuals and groups from around the world in support of Accion Ecologica. This group is probably one of the foremost environmental justice organisations in the world today and deserves our support. They celebrated 30 years of existence in October 2016 at a grand ceremony held in the Che Guevara Auditorium of the Central University of Ecuador. At that event, several awards were given out to grassroots activists, journalists, academics and others. Yours truly was included in that exalted list in the category of calalysts of the defence of Nature. Here is the list for this category: Ricardo Carrere (late), from World Rainforest Movement (WRM) in Uruguay; Vandana Shiva, of Navdanya of India; The Corner House, of England; Tom Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network of North America; Nnimmo Bassey from Nigeria; Silvia Ribeiro from Mexico and Alberto Acosta from Ecuador.

From all of us at HOMEF we bring you the best wishes for a just 2017.

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Viva Acción Ecológica!

This is a thank you note from Acción Ecológica. Your solidarity helped stop the closure of this frontline Ecuadorian environmental justice organisation. We join them to say a big thank you and to echo their words: ‘We have known (between you and us) how to defend our right to solidarity, to participation, and to denounce the aggressions against nature. Even though it might seem strange to celebrate this, we do, because the risk of losing those rights approached, and it was terrifying.’ How true!

Dearest friends,

We want to publicly acknowledge the thousands of letters, embraces and messages that we have received from every corner of the world. We have, indeed, received an answer that for many, was unexpected: the Ecuadorean government has desisted in its intent to close Acción Ecológica.

We have known (between you and us) how to defend our right to solidarity, to participation, and to denounce the aggressions against nature. Even though it might seem strange to celebrate this, we do, because the risk of losing those rights approached, and it was terrifying.

Our defense of nature might be uncomfortable for groups of power, and to the transnational companies, and perhaps especially to the Chinese, as their companies are present in all of our national territory with their extractive projects and construccion of megainfraestructure But we recognize that our organization is also profoundly loved and respected by communities and individuales with whom we have worked. And put in the balanece, their lack of comfort on the one hand, and the love and respect on the other, the latter weighs more.

We live in a country marked by socio-environmental conflicts, oil exploitation in areas such as the Yasuní, mining in the Cordillera del Cóndor, and agrofuels in our dry and tropical forests. With such assault to territories, custodians of nature have called on us to participate, to be in solidarity, and to denounce such aggressions. We will continue to do so, with our intellectual and political support, with our presence in the streets, and through the construction of shared work – in order to confront the different causes and forms of aggressions against nature.

In accordance with our vision and mission, we commit to continue working so that the intelligence respects the Earth, and so that the Earth can sustain humanity.

We thank all of you for being there, and for giving life to and amplifying our voice, and for touching us with your loving drumbeats of peace, with justice and dignity.

ACCION ECOLOGICA
Together we are the inextinguishable fever, the little light that leads, and the expanse that crosses the night.

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Queridos amigos y amigas

Queremos hacer una declaración publica de agradecimiento a las millares de cartas, abrazos y mensajes recibidos desde todos los rincones del mundo. Hemos logrado un resultado para muchos inesperado: el gobierno del Ecuador ha resuelto desistir de su intento de cierre de Acción Ecológica.

Hemos sabido (entre ustedes y nosotros) defender nuestro derecho a la solidaridad, a la participación y a la denuncia contra las agresiones a la naturaleza. Aunque resulte extraño tener que celebrar esto, lo hacemos, porque el riesgo de perder estos derechos se veía cercano y era aterrador.

Nuestra defensa de la naturaleza puede resultar antipática a los grupos de poder, a las empresas tranasnacionales, quizás especialmente a las chinas, pues estas empresas están extendidas en todo el territorio nacional con sus proyectos extractivos y de construcción de mega infraestructuras. Pero reconocemos que nuestra organización es también profundamente querida y respetada por comunidades y personas con quienes hemos trabajado. Puestos en la balanza, antipatía y afecto, éste pesó más.

Vivimos en un país marcado por los conflictos ambientales, conflictos por la explotación de petróleo en áreas como el Yasuní, o de minería en la Cordillera del Cóndor, o de proyectos de agrocombustibles sobre nuestros bosques secos. Un asalto a territorios en donde la naturaleza vive bajo el cuidado de sus custodios que nos convocan a la participación, a la solidaridad y a la denuncia, allí seguiremos, con nuestro aporte intelectual y político, con nuestra presencia en la calle y en la construcción de espacios de trabajo compartido para enfrentar las diferentes causas y formas de agresiones a la naturaleza.

Conforme a nuestra visión y misión, nos comprometemos a seguir trabajando para que la inteligencia respete a la Tierra y para que la Tierra respetada sustente a la humanidad.

Gracias a todos y todas, por estar ahí, por animar nuestra voz y por tocar con nosotros los tambores de la paz que queremos, con justicia y dignidad.

ACCION ECOLOGICA
Juntos somos la fiebre inextinguible, la pequeña luz que cabecea y por la llanura de la noche cruza.

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Chères amies, chers amis,

Nous voulons faire une déclaration publique de reconnaissance aux milliers de lettres, accolades et messages reçus des quatre coins du monde. Nous avons obtenu un résultat pour beaucoup inespéré: le gouvernement de l’Equateur a décidé de renoncer à son intention de fermer Accion Ecologica.

Vous et nous avons su défendre notre droit à la solidarité, à la participation et à la dénonciation des agressions contre la nature. Malgré qu’il puisse sembler étrange de célébrer cela, nous le faisons, parce que le risque de perdre ces droits nous a frôlé d’une manière très inquiétante.

Notre défense de la nature peut paraître antipathique aux groupes de pouvoir, aux entreprises transnationales- et sans doute particulièrement à celles venues de Chine, car celles-ci se répandent a travers tout le territoire national avec leurs projets d’extractions et de construction de méga-projets d’infrastructures. Mais force est de reconnaître que notre organisation est aussi profondément appréciée et respectée par les communautés et personnes avec qui nous avons travaillés: à mettre en balance l’antipathie et l’affection, c’est cette dernière qui a pesé le plus.

Nous vivons dans un pays marqué par les conflits environnementaux, que ce soit autour de l’exploitation pétrolière dans des régions comme le Yasuni, ou de l’exploitation minière dans la cordillère du Condor, ou encore des projets d’agrocombustibles dans nos forêts sèches. Un assaut aux territoires où la nature vit sous la protection de ses gardiens qui nous appellent à la participation, à la solidarité et à la dénonciation; appel auquel nous continuerons de répondre avec notre contribution intellectuelle et politique, avec notre présence dans la rue et dans la construction d’espaces de travail partagés pour affronter les différentes causes et formes d’agression à la nature.

Conformément à notre vision et mission, nous nous engageons à continuer de travailler afin que l’intelligence respecte la Terre et pour que la Terre respectée soutienne l’humanité.

Merci à toutes et tous, pour votre présence, pour encourager notre voix et pour battre avec nous les tambours de la paix que nous désirons, dans la justice et la dignité.

ACCION ECOLOGICA
Ensemble nous sommes la fièvre inextinguible, la petite lumière vacillante qui chemine dans la plaine de la nuit.

Climate change: Hangman of the poor

cover-2016-augustseptemberClimate change: Hangman of the poor

Climate change affects the world unevenly and it is developing countries which, though not historically liable for it, that have to bear the brunt of its adverse effects. Nnimmo Bassey explains, with particular focus on Africa, the nature of the threats facing countries which are financially and economically ill-equipped to meet them.

THE impact of the climate crisis, which is disproportionately felt by those that have contributed least to the crisis, is undisputed. This is why the concept of ‘common but differentiated responsibilities’ (CBDR) is seen as a key principle by which climate justice is introduced into the climate debate. This same reasoning led to the creation of the Annex I and non-Annex I categories of nations under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), in order to have those most implicated in the climate debacle take greater steps or actions to tackle the menace.

Since the 15th session of the Conference of the Parties to the UNFCCC (COP 15) in 2009, the idea of having nations committed to emissions reduction at levels required by science has been sidelined. At COP 21 in Paris last December, leaders set targets for temperature increase of 1.5oC or ‘well below’ 2oC. We remember that at COP 15, the lead negotiator for the developing-country Group of 77 (G77), Lumumba Di-Aping, denounced the 2oC warming target as ‘certain death for Africa’. He also characterised it as a type of ‘climate fascism’ that was being forced on Africa. He wondered why Africa was asked to sign an agreement that would permit an unacceptable level of warming in exchange for $10 billion, and also being asked to celebrate such a deal.1

At COP 21 the idea of binding emissions reduction targets was totally jettisoned, in a manner that underscores the high level of power play and global dominance by rich industrialised nations which are determined to avoid responsibility for the climate crisis. The Paris Agreement of COP 21 has been applauded by political leaders across the world and celebrated by mainstream media and transnational corporations mostly because it marked the first time nations agreed that action had to be taken to combat climate change. A close examination of the document shows, however, that the real agreement by political leaders was that: while climate change demanded action, they could essentially perpetuate business as usual, without recourse to what science requires. The actions they would take are called Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs). As the name indicates, nations state what they intend to contribute to tackling the looming crisis according to national interests, with the NDCs being subject to review every five years and coming into effect by 2020.

It has turned out that if emissions are reduced at the levels nations have said they would contribute, we will be on track for a global temperature rise far above the ‘well below’ 2oC target set by COP 21. We should note at this point that the polluting nations are punching far below their weight in terms of emissions reduction while the poorer, vulnerable nations have pledged to do much more than their fair share. That is the classic way of turning justice on its head.

The Paris Agreement is loaded with good intentions that are not backed by commitments to take requisite action. Added to the NDCs, the agreement left a hole through which false solutions such as REDD+, geo-engineering, carbon trading/offsets and other market environmentalism schemes could gain ascendancy. ‘Solutions’ such as REDD+ (REDD stands for ‘reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries’) transfer the burden of action to curb global warming to vulnerable forest communities, for example, in ways that further deepen their vulnerability. Meanwhile geo-engineering entails intentional weather modification efforts that essentially put the planetary climate thermostat into the hands of powerful entities that could be governments or corporations. Computer models used to check the impacts of pumping sulphates into the stratosphere, for example, indicate serious implications for nations in the Global South.

Computer modelling in two peer-reviewed scientific papers showed, among other findings, that ‘sulphate injections into the [Southern Hemisphere] could increase precipitation in the Sahel region by up to 100 mm/month, but decrease precipitation in the South West [of Africa] by up to 60 mm/month … Similar results were found regarding NPP [Net Primary Productivity] with an increase in the Sahel region by up to 100% but a decrease in the South West by up to 60% and also in the Magreb area of up to 20%. [The authors also noted that] Brazil could see a decrease in both NPP and precipitation. In a scenario where sulphate is injected into the [Northern Hemisphere], the Sahelian region is subject to reductions in NPP by as much as 60-100% … The precipitation pattern in the region could be affected by a reduction of 20-80mm/month … In this scenario, Southern Africa could see increases in both NPP and precipitation.’2

Urgent actions are needed and they must not be such as would create more problems for the poorest. One of the factors that hamper climate action is finance. It must be stated here that if the ecological or climate debt owed the Global South were recognised and paid, there will be no debate about who contributes how much, and who can access, climate funds. The debates always tend to suggest that finding needed finance is a herculean task; meanwhile enough funds that could make a huge difference are stashed away in tax havens by a handful of individuals and corporations. A recent report by Friends of the Earth International shows that 13 richest persons in the world have enough money to provide renewable energy to all of Africa within 15 years, for instance. Meanwhile the Africa Renewable Energy Initiative is looking for $10 billion between 2015 and 2020 to tackle energy poverty on the continent. In terms of the Green Climate Fund, the target is $100 billion per year from 2020. Meanwhile, the rich nations are spending over $1 trillion a year on destructive military hardware and warfare. The point is that the money is there; what is lacking is commitment to face the planetary crisis.

What are the implications of this lack of commitment and readiness to act?

The world is currently enamoured with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a fitting successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). If sustainable development is to be attainable and not an oxymoron, we must become conscious of the fact that the very concept of lineal development or growth is an impossibility on a finite planet. The targets or goals will remain mere pipedreams in a climate-changed world.  For the goals to be met, tackling global warming cannot be based on nationally determined contributions.

The casualties of climate change are many. They include those whose nations, territories and communities are being washed away by rising sea levels, floods and coastal erosion. They include those whose lands are suffering desertification. There are casualties braving deserts, seas and oceans to find a foothold on higher lands.

A major area of vulnerability is agriculture and food production. Real climate actions are needed to build resilience into agricultural systems before catastrophic climate change sets in. The 1996 World Food Summit declared that ‘Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.’3 This indicates that food security must rest on four pillars: availability of food, accessibility to food, suitable utilisation of food, and the presence of these three in a stable way. When hazards meet vulnerability, the inevitable outcome is disaster. No hazard is more pressing globally than climate change.

Some 80% of the food in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia is produced by smallholder or family farms.4 They depend on natural resources such as forests and shrub lands for their livelihoods as farmers and pastoralists. They also depend on rivers, lakes and creeks for fish. The tragedy is that governments seldom think of the smallholder farmer when they think of agriculture. They think more of industrial agriculture which utilises chemical inputs with heavy dependence on fossil fuels. Apart from the concomitant land grabs, displacement of smallholder farmers, and destruction of food systems and ecosystems, industrial agriculture, including cash cropping through plantations, exacerbates climate change.

Besides the threat to food security, there is a greater risk to food sovereignty. Understanding the difference between food sovereignty and food security is important for us to grasp the grave impact that climate change has on agriculture and nutrition. Food sovereignty speaks of the right of peoples to grow crops and produce foods that are healthy, suit their ecosystems and are culturally appropriate. Food security, in comparison, is concerned with having food in sufficient quantities. These two concepts are not opposed to one another, but rather food security is best secured in the context of food sovereignty. What does this mean?

With a simple focus on food security, it does not matter what food a person eats, provided she eats something. The food could be totally alien to the individual, but to erase hunger, whatever food is available has to be consumed. Mere food security eliminates choice and forces people, for example, to eat genetically modified (GM) foods, even when they are opposed to the technology. This was the sore point that Zambia was confronted with when the country faced food shortages in 2002.5 At that time Zambia insisted on being given milled and not whole grain GM maize to avoid contamination of indigenous species. The struggle over what food to receive or reject became a source of big debates and geopolitical power play. A major newspaper in the country, the Zambia Daily Mail, had this to say: ‘It is very interesting to note that for the first time Zambia was being forced to accept a gift. Doesn’t this worry us as recipients, that the giver is insisting that we take the GM foods? Are the Americans just concerned about our stomachs or there is something behind the gift?’6

Increasing temperatures and freak weather events are bound to have profound impacts on agricultural systems. The magnitude of these impacts would determine how the remaining carbon budget is managed or expended. The race to colonise the atmosphere is on and will likely intensify with nations making voluntary pledges to cut emissions. The implication of such voluntary pledges and actions is that sufficient resilience will not be built into our food and infrastructural systems. That translates to the harsh fact that vulnerable nations and regions will be incapable of coping with resulting loss and damage.

El Nino, La Nina and desert locusts

El Nino is a weather pattern which happens as a result of the warming of the Pacific Ocean near the equator, off the coast of South America. It occurs when trade winds off the Pacific coast of South America weaken, or at times reverse, letting the warm water of the western Pacific flow instead towards the east. This change sets off atmospheric changes triggered by the warm water displacing the cooler water that is normally found near the surface of the eastern Pacific. This abnormal weather situation sets in motion altered weather events in many parts of the world. It occurs every 2-7 years and does not have a regular pattern.7 This recurring cycle thus goes with variations in sea-surface temperatures, convective rainfall, surface air pressure and atmospheric circulation across the equatorial Pacific Ocean.  The opposite to this is called La Nina.

A minimum 0.5oC temperature increase has to occur in the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean near the equator for it to be considered an El Nino year. It is not clear how these phenomena will change in the age of climate change, but the associated precipitation variability on regional scales is likely to increase due to larger moisture availability in the atmosphere.8 With heightened unpredictability in precipitation as well as the cyclic occurrence of the El Nino and La Nina phenomena, it is obvious that food systems will come under greater stress and plans must be made to absorb or cope with the shocks.

One cause to worry about these changes in temperature, rainfall and wind patterns associated with climate change is the effect they may have on the desert locust in Africa. The land mass from West Africa to the Horn of Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and southwest Asia will be particularly exposed to the impacts of this highly destructive migratory pest. Warmer temperatures and increased rainfall in desert areas cause the locust to mature sooner and have a shorter lifecycle; the breeding season begins earlier than normal and continues beyond the usual. It is expected that with a combination of a general increase in precipitation, higher rainfall events and tropical cyclones in the Arabian Sea, locust numbers may increase more rapidly and, if not adequately controlled, may become plagues.

Water stress

The quantity and pattern of rainfall affect the availability of water. Already we are seeing a significant shrinkage of a water body such as Lake Chad. Others like Lake Turkana are under threat from proposed dams and other factors. Lake Chad, located at the intersection of Cameroon, Chad, Niger and Nigeria, has shrunk from over 25,000 square kilometres in the early 1960s to less than 2,000 square kilometres. This has led to the displacement of farmers, pastoralists and fisherfolks. The resultant loss of livelihood is seen to be contributing to the violence in northeast Nigeria as well as in the country’s Middle Belt region where violent conflicts between herdsmen and farmers flare up frequently.

Water wars or conflicts will likely intensify as freshwater systems get salinised through sea level rise and incursion of seawater. It has been estimated that by 2030 climate-related conflicts will rise by 54% in Africa. This could be directly linked with the availability of water. Overall, it is estimated that by 2020 up to 75-250 million people in Africa will face water stress. Changes in rainfall patterns will affect the distribution and health of wetlands, streams and rivers. When rainfall is reduced in arid and semi-arid areas, serious water stress is experienced, while other regions may have increased rainfall and be confronted with new challenges on how to cope with floods.

Biodiversity changes

Climate change and rising temperatures affect ecosystems in many ways. One vital way is through the spread of vector-borne diseases such as malaria. It is estimated that up to 90 million more people in Africa will by 2030 be exposed to malaria, already the biggest killer in Sub-Saharan Africa, due to weather variations.

There are also effects on beneficial insects and birds, including those that help in the process of pollination. Pests and invasive and alien species can have direct impacts on livestock and general food production. For livestock, temperature variations affect the animals directly. It is projected that diseases such as West Nile virus, bluetongue or Lyme and schistosomiasis (bilharzia) may expand into new areas. Increased rainfall and flooding due to El Nino has also been implicated in outbreaks of Rift Valley fever in East Africa.

Increases in pest infestation which result in health issues and loss of forages and water sources create more challenges. The changes in crop and livestock productivity would have implications for availability and accessibility to food, which could instigate disaffection and riots. These impacts will also be reflected in existing geographical variations in ways that could see increased productivity in some regions and reduction in others. Climate change can easily lead to the erosion of genetic resources, including crop, animal and fish species.

Reduced rainfall and shrinking water bodies affect the presence and diversity of riverine fisheries. Assessments by researchers report that the impacts of climate change on fisheries and aquaculture will be felt most acutely in Africa and South Asia.9

Climate impacts on forests directly translate to livelihood challenges for the estimated 1.6 billion people who depend on forests for livelihoods. Forests provide timber and non-timber products, and protect water sources and soils. Forests are vulnerable to droughts and increased temperatures. Climate impacts will include loss of forest biodiversity through tree mortality, fire outbreaks and human pressures.

Human pressure includes conversion of forests into plantations, with the accompanying loss of biodiversity. It also includes the pursuit of infrastructural development such as roads through forests. A current case in point is a proposed superhighway that threatens to erode community forests as well as a major forest reserve in Cross River State in Nigeria. The sore point with the proposed highway is that the government revoked occupancy rights of communities within a 10 km stretch on either side of the highway. By estimates, the highway and the lands girding it would take up 25% of the landmass of Cross River State. Analysts insist that the superhighway can easily be re-routed to preserve the communities as well as enormous biodiversity which includes rare and endangered species. It is also noted that the highway will lead to massive deforestation with grave climate change implications.

The 260 km road is planned to lead from a proposed deep sea port at Esighi in Bakassi Local Government Area through the Cross River National Park and up to Katsina Ala in Benue State, at a cost of 700 billion naira or about $3.5 billion. Observers think the project may be a cover for land grabbing, illegal logging and poaching and the destruction of habitats in the forests and reserves that are protected by law and preserved by custom. They question why a project of this nature would reportedly enjoy contributions from Nigerian banks without requisite preliminary surveys, plans and approvals.10

Climate injustice and sundry impacts

The climate impacts we have discussed thus far illustrate inherent injustices: the poor and the vulnerable are the ones mostly at risk. Poor levels of social investment leave the poor vulnerable and without protection as unpredictable weather events manifest. They are the most hit by food losses, sicknesses, infrastructure destruction, droughts, floods and water stress. They are poor, and climate change makes them poorer still. They are the ones expected to take real climate action, like protecting their forests, yet they are the last to be compensated when the booty of market environmentalism (through the commodification of nature) is to be shared. Within this scenario lies also hidden gender injustice exacerbated by imposed gender roles, oppression and patriarchy.

There were serious floods in various African countries in 2012. As we write this, there are warnings to communities in the flood plains of the Benue and Niger rivers to brace themselves for heavier floods this year. The floods of 2012 displaced 530,000 people in Niger between July and September, while six million were displaced with over 300 deaths in Nigeria. Thousands more were displaced in Mali, Kenya, Uganda, Chad, South Africa, Mozambique, Somalia, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Sudan, Mauritania and others.11 Flooding cost Mozambique a whopping $550 million in 2000 and lowered the national gross domestic product (GDP) by 1.5%. For Nigeria, the 2012 floods brought a 0.36% drop in GDP.

With a 2oC warming above pre-industrial temperatures, it is estimated that there could be permanent reductions in per capita food consumption of 4-5 %. With current trends in temperature increase, about 20% of Sub-Saharan Africa’s arable land may become much less suitable for farming by 2080.

A paradigm shift from a one-dimensional characterisation of responsibility and suffering to dimensions of fairness and justice is necessary to move beyond the impasse in international climate negotiations and improve national-level policy-making. The inequalities which are associated with human-induced elements, unequal distribution of impacts, unequal responsibility for and disproportionate cost of climate change mitigation and adaptation have shaped vulnerability and capacities for adaptation.  There should be a shift from a simple dual classification of winners and losers derived from locations in sensitive biophysical systems to include political, economic and social determinants of vulnerability and adaptation capabilities.

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Endnotes

1                    Patrick Bond (2012). Politics of Climate Justice.

2                    ETC Group (2014). Geoengineering and Climate Change – Implications for Africa. http://www.etcgroup.org/fr/node/5985

3                    World Food Summit (1996).

4                    UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (2008). Food Security Concepts and Frameworks – What Is Food Security? Learner’s Notes. http://www.fao.org/elearning/course/FC/en/word/trainerresources/learnernotes0411.doc

5                    Friends of the Earth International (2003). Playing with Hunger. FoEI, Amsterdam.

6                    Zambia Daily Mail, 5 November 2002. Quoted in Friends of the Earth International (2003).

7                    Study.com. What is El Nino? http://study.com/academy/lesson/what-is-el-ni-o-definition-effects-quiz.html#courseInfo

8                    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2013). Projections of Long Term Climate Change: Regional Changes and the Atlas. Accessed at https://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/unfccc/cop19/cop19_pres_collins.pdf

9                    E H Allison et al. (2009). Vulnerability of national economies to the impacts of climate change on fisheries. Fish and Fisheries, 10(2): 173-196.

10                Nnimmo Bassey (2016). Halt the assault on the Ekuri community and other forests. https://nnimmobassey.net/page/6/

11                See http://poleshift.ning.com/profiles/blogs/west-and-central-africa-flood-impact-profile-as-of-17-sep-2012 for more details.

Culled from Third World Resurgence No. 312/313, Aug/Sept 2016, pp 17-20

20 years of Oilwatching

asamblea de oilwatch en octubre de 2016

Delegates at the 20th Anniversary/General Assembly of Oilwatch International

Oilwatch International was formally inaugurated in 1996 in Quito, Ecuador. Oilwatch has remained a network driven by the conviction that the petroleum civilisation is driving humans to the precipice. This forward-looking network called for oil to be left in the soil from its very early days. That is still the call today. Building a post-petroleum civilisation has never been more urgent as it is now.

Ecuador was the right place to begin this adventure, this struggle, this working with and learning from communities impacted by fossil fuels extraction. Ecuador served as a big school because in one or two days, and within a short travel time, you could visit oil wells, pollution spots and refineries. You could see all the atrocities and massive oil spills left by Chevron in the Amazon, for example. Using the tools of research and social exchanges, Oilwatchers from various countries could see that the destructive impacts of hydrocarbons extraction and oil-driven civilisation was uniformly reprehensible.

The extreme pollutions of the Niger Delta, the acid  and asphalt lakes beside the refinery in Curacao, the Tar sand pits of Canada and the ongoing epic struggles to keep pipelines from destroying nature and peoples ,remain the open wounds that we must confront daily.

In two days Oilwatchers looked at the rearview mirrors over the past 20 years, talked about the increasing criminalisation of nature defenders, remembered our fallen comrades, and agreed to pursue the attainment of a future where the rights of people and nature are respected and where humans live in harmony – in the true spirit of Ubuntu.

On my first trip to Quito in 1997 I took a photo of the three Amazons above on a scooter. Talk of mass transit! That photo is preserved in my pollution travelogue – Oilwatching in South America (Kraft Books, 1997). As we marked 20 years of Oilwatch we could not resist the pull to have a throwback! Simply amazing.

Oilwatchers stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters taking the stand on the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Ecocide, Genocide from AgriToxics

 

Dr Jayasumana noted that in most things, Asian, African and Latin American countries follow the West. He, however, pleaded that in the case of Monsanto’s RoundUp all communities should follow Sri Lanka.

Monsanto Tribunal opened this morning at The Hague. A panel of five judges are hearing testimonies from victims and experts from across the world. Reports will be coming. We feel a need to share a clip from a post -testimony video conversation I had with Dr Channa Jayasumana of Sri Lanka. He spoke extensively on how 69,000 Sri Lankans lost their lives from chronic kidney disease traced to exposure to RoundUp. He mentioned in his testimony that most cases of chronic kidney failure can be traced to hypertension or diabetes. However, in the cases recorded the victims had no history of hypertension or diabetes. Following scientific evidence and years of studies and campaigns, the government of Sri Lanka banned the importation, distribution or use of Monsanto’s glyphosate based RoundUp in 2014.

Dr Jayasumana noted that in most things, Asian, African and Latin American countries follow the West. He then pleaded that in the case of Monsanto’s RoundUp all communities should follow Sri Lanka. This is a direct call to the Nigerian government to reconsider the approval given to Monsanto on Sunday 1st May 2016 to introduce GMOs into Nigeria. The permits issued in Nigeria demand the use of the same toxic weedkillers banned by Sri Lanka in 2014 after recorded genocidal impacts. Compounding the tragic trend is the the fact the Nigerian authorities approved for Monsanto to bring a failed Bt Cotton technology into the country.

More to come from the People’s Assembly and from the Monsanto Tribunal.

Praise for Oil Politics

full-coverPraise for Oil Politics – Echoes of Ecological Wars: This is what highly respected thinkers and writers have to say about this new book. Get a copy and share your own thoughts!

Nnimmo Bassey embodies the thinker, writer, activist in one. His latest collection of essays Oil Politics is the story of our times. And since we are all eating, drinking, thinking oil, it is a story each of us should read. Oil has caused pollution in the Niger Delta and contributed to climate change. But it has also polluted democracy. As Nnimmo puts it, the story of oil is the story of ‘The blind walk of autocrats in the vice grip of kleptocrats results in unrelenting pummelling of the grassroots.’ We need to move from Oil to Soil, from Kleptocracy to Earth Democracy. Oil Politics is a call to action to each and every Earth Citizen.— Dr VANDANA SHIVA, philosopher, environmentalist, author, professional speaker, social activist

For decades, Nnimmo Bassey has been a relentless warrior against the ravages of the oil industry, holding the Niger Delta up as both a stark warning and an inspiring model of resistance. The truths in these essays demonstrate that the climate crisis amounts to a war, one waged by global elites on the poorest and most vulnerable. In his deiance, fearlessness and lyricism, Bassey also lights the way towards a just and democratic peace. — NAOMI KLEIN, author This Changes Everything and The Shock Doctrine

Nnimmo Bassey is that rare individual—he combines solid theoretical knowledge with practice; a perceptive writer and campaigner of the inest pedigree. In this collection of essays, ranging from issues of petroleum extraction to climate justice, Bassey brings to bear these formidable talents. This book deserves reading and re-reading. It is a worthy addition to the corpus of works on Africa’s badly mauled ecology. — Dr IKE OKONTA, author When Citizens Revolt: Nigerian Elites, Big Oil and the Ogoni Struggle for Self- Determination and co-author Where Vultures Feast: 40 years of Shell in Nigeria

Very few people understand the ‘politics of oil’ and have confronted the environmental crisis in Nigeria like Nnimmo Bassey. In Oil Politics: Echoes of Ecological Wars, he not only reveals the devastating impact of our environmental indiscretions but how the incestuous relationship between the Nigerian state and multinationals like Shell has left Nigeria and Nigerians gasping for breath. If we still care about Nigeria, or what is left of it, then we can only ignore this intervention at our own risk! — CHIDO ONUMAH author, We Are All Biafrans

Oil and mineral development represents a continuous act of violence against nature and society; this violence is a prerequisite to these extractive activities. Faced with this reality, communities in diverse regions of the planet organize varied forms of resistance and construct alternatives. Nnimmo Bassey is one of the human beings most committed to ecological justice and thus, social justice. This book, a collection of the author’s essays, is an example of that commitment. — ALBERTO ACOSTA, Economist, former President of the Constitutional Assembly of Ecuador, former Minister of Energy and Mines

Nnimmo Bassey is an angry good man, aware in his bones of the socio- ecological debt from North to South. He writes brilliantly calling the world to action for climate justice and against fossil fuels extraction. He comes from Nigeria and the Niger Delta where over two million barrels of oil are exported everyday, where many people have been killed while others have resisted throughout the decades of destruction brought by Shell and other companies.— Professor JOAN MARTINEZ-ALIER, ICTA, Universidad Autonoma de Barcelona

Nnimmo Bassey is one of the best known and most respected activist/analyst of the socio-political and environmental impact of fossil fuel extraction across the planet. As part of his commitments he has played a leading role in Friends of the Earth International, Environmental Rights Action in Nigeria and Oilwatch International. For more than two decades he has directly participated and/or documented peoples’ struggles against these depredatory activities, not only in Nigeria, but also in South Africa, Equatorial Guinea, Ecuador, Brazil, the Gulf of Mexico and others. … A main focus of his attention has been the struggles of the Ogoni people against the social and environmental devastating impacts of Shell’s extractive activities in the Niger Delta. This book contains an extraordinary, thoughtful and well documented critical analysis of many of these impacts and struggles. The way in which multiple dimensions of the fossil fuel civilization are integrated into the analysis is particularly valuable: impact on people’s lives; environmental devastation: climate change: the impunity with which transnational corporations operate in the Global South; government complacency and corruption; military repression; the geopolitics of oil; the implications and unsustainability of high consumption life styles based on cheap fossil energy; as well as the multiple forms of popular resistance and struggles. Activists and communities around the planet, who not only believe that another world is possible but are willing to fight for it, have much to learn from this book.— EDGARDO LANDER, retired professor of social sciences at the Universidad Central de Venezuela in Caracas, Caracas

Deconsecrated for Coal

Deconsecrated for Coal: Interconnectivity of struggles – part 1img_2326

One of the most jolting statements I have heard in recent times was at a Climate Camp, and Summer School on Skills for System Change, in Rhineland, when someone said, ‘anyone that accepts authority is at same intellectual level as a horse.’ I know you may be saying that was an insult to horses! But let us ponder on that statement for a while. Horses accept human authority to work or to go where the driver decides it should go. Is that all we do when we accept authority? Whatever the basis for the formulation of that statement maybe, one thing is clear, whether horse or human, when we accept authority we surrender our sovereignty to such authority. This surrender can be voluntary or it could be extracted by force. It can lead to the gains of the common good or it could lead to deprivation of liberties.

We could call that a form of resistance, a registration of disgust over extractivism without boundaries. It registers that extraction defies life and notions of the sacred.

The climate camp was held literally on the lips of the insatiable jaws of a coal mine that is dislocating communities and emptying out others to make way for the gigantic teeth of metal excavators. One poignant information was about a church that was earmarked for demolition along with other building and infrastructure at Immerath. The town turned a ghost town as thousands of people were moved and the dead got relocated to a new cemetery. The church had been consecrated for use at the time that it was built. Now that it is to be put into disuse and demolished so that coal may be extracted from the rocks beneath it, the community had to hold a solemn deconsecration service to, for want of a better word, desecrate it so that a holy structure should not be torn down. If that concern for the sacred had been orchestrated by the mining company one would have decried its hypocrisy. As it were, this was the desire of the people, to make the building unholy so that an unholy act could be perpetrated. We could call that a form of resistance, a registration of disgust over extractivism without boundaries. It registers that extraction defies life and notions of the sacred.

Still at the climate camp, I attended a workshop on anarchism. The key points I came away with was that anarchism is not an absence of organisation, but rather that anarchists work with nature and take part in social movements with the aim of bringing about transformation. That is revolution. The anarchist may well be ready to take action when others are far from ready. At one level, the anarchist could be engaged in insurrectionism. A significant point in anarchists toeing the eco-communism part is to overturn the Darwinian concept of survival of the strongest. How is that? Simple: when the weak come together, the can defeat the strong. Coming away from that workshop got me wondering how many folks aren’t anarchists.

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Graphic recording by Jakob Kohlbrenne

My input to the battery of conversations across the camp came in a session where I shared the platform with Sheila Menon who was part of the Plane Stupid struggle against the expansion of Heathrow airport runways. We stressed the fact that the global nature of the environmental and climate changes require a recognition that we must work to bring about the consolidation of movements across obviously interconnected struggles. We stressed the need to reframe the climate narrative, build resilience in diversity and the truth that adapting to a crisis cannot be a solution to that crisis. We also stressed that in our various struggles, although targets may differ, the overall objectives remain broadly the same. From that perspective we underscored the fact that local resistances to bads are valid starting points, as they expose injustices and focusses the analyses of traumatised citizenry facing diffused dictatorships of various kinds – corporate and political. However, these need to be connected to others in order to overturn the rapacious system of exploitation, expropriation and consumption.

Following the climate camp, I was privileged to meet with and learn from activists and friends engaged in diverse sites of struggles on climate and extractive issues – from Kenya to Mozambique and Uganda. These experiences will come up in the next couple of blogs. Stay connected.