[caption id="attachment_20429" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="July ‘06 Blockade of the English River Road"][/caption] On December 2, 2002 the Indigenous youth of the Grassy Narrows First Nation lay down in the path of industrial logging machines—blocking access to their tribal homeland in Northern Ontario, Canada. The action, led by women and youth, sparked the longest standing Indigenous logging blockade in North America. Since 2004, RAN has worked closely with the Grassy Narrows community as well as activists across North America determined to stand up for Indigenous rights and defend their traditional territory from predatory logging. Together, we were able to pressure AbitibiBowater (now Resolute), the largest newsprint manufacturer in the world, to stop clear-cutting on more than 2 million acres of Grassy Narrows’ traditional territory. In 2011, a landmark judgement by the Ontario Superior Court ruled that the Government of Ontario must respect the Treaty rights of Grassy Narrows and cannot authorize an industrial activity without their consent. And now, as a decade has passed since the historic blockade began, which RAN continues to support through small grants, the Grassy Narrows community remains ever-vigilant in the face of imminent new threats to their territory. While an appeal of the court decision will be heard early next year, the Ontario government has already released a 10-year plan calling for more logging within the heart of Grassy Narrows. Meanwhile, Grassy Narrows is calling on supporters to show solidarity by helping to commemorate the 10 year anniversary of the blockade and the international support it catalyzed around the world. Please join them in celebrating resistance, sovereignty, and action in defense of their traditional territory and the earth. Visit FreeGrassy.org for more information. Also, take a look at this great photo retrospective by Jon Schledewitz:
[caption id="attachment_19804" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="KI Indigenous Nation Watershed. Photo by Allan Lissner."][/caption] Canada's Boreal forest is part of the world’s largest land-based carbon storehouse. It is also the world’s greatest reservoir of fresh water, and is among the largest unlogged forests left on the planet. But the Boreal has been under threat for years, and, as is often the case, local Indigenous peoples who live in and off of the forest are on the front line defending this majestic forest. The people of Kitchenuhmaykoosib Inninuwug (KI), in particular, are doing some pretty inspiring work. Through our relationship with Earthroots, an Ontario, Canada-based grassroots organization, and RAN’s role as a grantmaking advisor to Global Greengrants Fund, RAN has helped provide $10,000 in support over the last few years towards the KI Indigenous Nation’s efforts to protect their vast 13,025 square km watershed in a roadless area of Boreal forest. The above mentioned grants helped support KI’s successful blockade and campaign that resulted in mining company Platinex leaving their territory, as well as a comprehensive consultation process resulting in a Watershed Declaration, which places the entire watershed off limits to industry under KI's Indigenous Law and a establishes the process required to secure KI consent prior to any decision being made affecting their lands and resources. Starting this week, the KI Nation invites you to follow a team of paddlers embarking on a two-week, 300 km canoe expedition along an ancient trading route from their remote fly-in community to Hudson’s Bay. The paddlers aim to raise awareness about the need to fully implement the KI Watershed Declaration. The community has already successfully pressured the Ontario government to withdraw approximately half of the watershed from all mining activity, and now they're calling on the Province to expand that decision to the full wild Fawn River watershed. En route on the canoe expedition they will use satellites to transmit blogs, photos, and audio to thousands of supporters via social media portals as they share the landscape with threatened woodland caribou, wolves, sturgeon, polar bears, beluga whales and the iconic northern lights. You can follow their journey, join the KI Support Facebook page and call on the Ontario government to respect KI’s demands to govern their territory and protect their land and water from unwanted mining. “The KI people have protected our entire home watershed through Indigenous Law,” said KI Chief Donny Morris. “Now we are calling on Ontario to respect our protection before this sacred landscape is poisoned by the diamond, gold, and metals mining companies who have set their sights on it.”
Media technologies and professional skills are valuable tools that enable Indigenous communities living in rainforests around the world to communicate about the crisis of deforestation through sharing their stories, language, and art. Amazon Voice, a great new NGO that is working directly with the local Amazon communities based on a foundation of reciprocity and mutual respect, is giving Tzama, an Indigenous Amazon native from the Tawasap Shuar community in Ecuador, a chance to tell his people's story, his way. Tawasap is at risk. "See?” Tzama says, pointing to nearby trees planted by his great-grandfathers. “They are white these days. Normally, they are covered in fur, plants, greenery. Now nothing grows on them." Shuar culture, too, is losing knowledge and numbers, but they are committed to preserving cultural memory for generations to come. "We need to document. We need the equipment, there is no more time to waste, the time is now,” says Tzama. Kantza is a film project envisioned and produced by Tzama and members of the Shuar nation, which can be supported through Kickstarter. "The things I could show you if I had a long-distance video camera," says Tzama. Those cameras, along with microphones and MacBooks, will be on the way, thanks to Amazon Voice teaming up with villagers who hope to use new tools like long-distance video cameras to create groundbreaking media projects. "We want to work together with the world,” says Tzama. “Everyone benefits from the rainforest. Everyone needs to be working together to care for it. We want to show that we, the Shuar, are here, existing, living. We are not calling on you to help us because we are in need. We are inviting the world to collaborate with us to care for the rainforest, to help themselves."
The fabled Xingu River, with its dark blue waters and unusual rock formations, is a 1230 mile long river in the north of Brazil and one of the principal tributaries of the mighty Amazon river. Here in the lower Xingu, on a 80 kilometer bend through the ancestral territory of several indigenous tribes, the Brazilian government is moving ahead with construction of the third-largest dam in the world, one of the Amazon’s most controversial “development” projects: the Belo Monte Dam. In the distance, just above the pale scraped shore in the center of the photograph, there is a small white marker: this is the proposed site of the eventual dam. To the west (right) the river water will be stanched by the dam and diverted into a gigantic reservoir, flooding hundreds of square kilometers of rainforest, farms, and portions of the urban center of the Amazonian town of Altamira. To the east (left), the river’s flow will be reduced to a malaria-infested trickle, depriving downriver communities of their lifeline. The weatherbeaten Amazonian town of Altamira, in the Brazilian state of Para, was once a farming, fishing and small-scale mining community. It has recently transformed into a dam-driven boom town, with elevated crime rates, strained social services, and increased drug and alcohol use. A third of this city (including the port shown below) will be flooded by the Belo Monte dam. Inhabitants of the region — indigenous peoples, farmers, fishers, and the townspeople of Altamira — have formed a resistance movement against the dam, known as Movimiento Xingu. This map, drawn by community members, hangs as a centerpiece in their offices in Altamira. The lower Xingu is the ancestral territory of many indigenous tribes, including the Arara, Juruna, Kayapo and Munducuru people. These tribes have been living off the bounty of the rivers and the forest for hundreds, if not thousands, of years. The Belo Monte dam threatens their very survival. Here, members of the Munducuru tribe display strength at a meeting convened by the Movimiento Xingu on June 13th in the dam-affected community of San Antonio, approximately 50 kilometers west of Altamira. The Movimiento Xingu meeting in San Antonio was convened only days before the Brazil-hosted UN Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro (Rio+20) next week in order to develop local strategies of resistance to the dam, and to bring international attention to the egregious violation of human rights and the imminent threats facing the ecosystem of the Xingu. The Belo Monte Dam, which is expected to be the third largest in the world with investments totaling upwards of $18 billion, is being financed and built by what is known as “The Consortium” — a group of Brazilian state-owned energy companies and private mining interests. Despite decades of strong local and international resistance to the proposed dam, the Consortium won “legal rights” to begin construction of the Belo Monte dam complex in late 2011. Since then, construction has moved ahead at a startling pace, with armies of dam construction crews carving out massive diversion canals through the forest, as well as building a series of coffer dams downriver from the proposed dam site. The scale of the undertaking for the Belo Monte Dam Complex, in terms of work force and engineering challenges, is absolutely staggering. Already, within the first year of construction, the Consortium has employed upwards of 5000 workers, working in a consistent two-shift rotation six days a week. Even at the Movimiento Xingu gathering yesterday, the dirt roads off the trans-Amazon highway were clogged with trucks and dam workers. Many of the farmer and fisher families in the region have been displaced from their homes by the Consortium. The “community relations” tactics employed by the Consortium can vary, but as a rule the Consortium offers a small, usually insulting payment to local landowners for their property. If the payment offering is rejected, the Consortium will threaten eminent domain. Also, landowners have very little legal recourse to protect their land from expropriation, given the Brazilian Government has declared the areas surrounding construction of the Belo Monte dam as “areas of impact” and thus part of the “public interest.” In this photograph, a young boy stands at night outside the community of San Antonio, just across from a major Belo Monte work base. Many residents of San Antonio have been evicted from their properties. There have been several instances of the Consortium burning and bulldozing homes, churches and cemeteries. The Brazilian Government has plans to build 70 large dams across the Amazon rainforest over the coming decades, and they are touting hydroelectric power as a solution to Brazil’s periodic blackouts and as a “clean development” approach to global climate change. In reality, the Belo Monte dam will cause foreseeable environmental devastation, including species extinction, malarial infestation, and high CO2 emissions from the methane released by the rotting and flooded forest. If built, it will also lead to the destruction of the ancestral territory and culture of the Kayapo, the Juruna, the Arara, and the Munducuru indigenous tribes, as well as an end to the way of life of thousands of farmers and fishers in the region, who depend on the forest and the river for their livelihoods. The fight against the Belo Monte Dam has reached a critical juncture, where the survival of the forest, the river and the people of the Amazon hangs in the balance. For more information and to get involved in the fight against Belo Monte, visit www.amazonwatch.org.
Obama: Man Up! No to the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline! Becky White and the Secret Mission have just released this catchy and hilarious protest anthem/call to action track and music video — featuring RAN's own Executive Director Rebecca Tarbotton on violin — called “Man Up!” The song calls on people to gather at the White House on November 6 to persuade President Obama to make the right decision and oppose the disastrous Keystone XL Pipeline project, the fate of which is being decided by his Administration right now. [youtube ADP4eDaRhGk 550] The movement to stop this massively destructive pipeline has brought together a wide array of unlikely allies and has exploded into a national political force to be reckoned with in a very short amount of time. Please check this out and share it widely to spread the word on this crucial and time-sensitive issue! The White House. Nov 6. Be There. These are the final moments before President Obama makes a decision to approve or reject the construction of the dirty and dangerous Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. On November 6, exactly one year before the election, thousands will come together to completely encircle the White House in an act of solidarity to convince President Obama to make the right decision to reject the Keystone XL. More than 4000 have already signed up to participate. This is fantastic, but we need thousands more! Please don’t stay at home this Sunday wondering whether your presence would have made a difference. Come stand with us for clean energy, for human rights, for all of our futures. Sign up now! “So many lives are on the line right now. The system is crashing. It’s crashing economically and it’s crashing ecologically. The stakes are too high right now for us not to make the most of this moment.” — Naomi Klein at Occupy Wall Street
Thick smoke from burning peatlands hangs over the capital of Central Kalimantan in Indonesian Borneo every morning. The smell from the smoke is pervasive, a constant reminder of how Indonesia has become the third largest greenhouse gas emitter in the world. Driven by relentless and ill advised palm oil expansion, Kalimantan’s carbon rich but relatively unproductive peatlands are being rapidly drained and burned. Across Indonesia, peatland destruction is releasing up to a billion tons of carbon dioxide a year – equivalent to emissions from 200 large coal power plants - in addition to fomenting wide social conflict and destroying critical habitat for orangutans, tigers and other species. Yet economic activities on peat contribute less than 1% to Indonesia’s GDP. Emissions from sparsely populated rural Central Kalimantan alone now exceed those of Jakarta, a sprawling traffic-choked mega-city of more than 10 million people. [caption id="attachment_16009" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Smoke Over Indonesia Photo: Creative Commons"][/caption] From September 20-22, Central Kalimantan played host to the annual meeting of the Governor’s Climate and Forest Task Force (GCF). The GCF brings together California with 15 tropical forest states from the Brazilian Amazon, Peru, Mexico, Indonesia and Nigeria covering 20% of the worlds tropical forests to promote the development of REDD (Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Degradation) mechanisms in carbon markets. Ironically, with heavy smoke from peat fires disrupting flights in and out of the province, the meeting almost had to be relocated to Jakarta. REDD was initially promoted by industrialized countries as a quick, easy and cheap way to address climate change under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change as part of a wider fossil fuel emissions reduction agreement, but prospects for such a new international agreement have declined precipitously since the debacle at the Copenhagen Conference of Parties two years ago. While the urgency and importance of protecting peatlands and tropical rainforests is undeniable, at the same time, the true challenges and complexities of trying to define and implement REDD payment mechanisms on the ground at the sub-national level were in full display at the GCF meeting. [caption id="attachment_15926" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Suwido Limin shows dam constructed to restore drained peatlands and slow GHG emissions"][/caption] At the formal level, the outcomes of the GCF meeting were fairly straightforward. Delegates agreed to accept the Brazilian state of Matto Grosso and Madre de Dios in Peru as new members. The next GCF annual meeting will be hosted by the state of Chiapas in Mexico. The GCF established a new fund, with $1.5 million in seed money from the U.S. State Department, to assist with state capacity building. Efforts to expand GCF membership in Europe were endorsed. Discussions among stakeholders and rights holders in the GCF side events and corridors profiled some of the greater challenges and controversies. Perhaps foremost among these is the need for rights based approaches to promote durable and just forest stewardship and green development, which was put forward forcibly by Indigenous and forest community organization participants. A strong statement was delivered to the GCF meeting by forest dependent community representatives from Aceh, Papua, Central Sulawesi and Kalimantan calling for, “guarantee on people’ full involvement and representation in every process and stage, especially in the project’s decision-making processes…rights and access to complete and comprehensive information…the right to manage and to utilize the forest and resources within it, which we have inherited from our ancestors…every decision concerning the benefits for the people should be defined by the people themselves.” Underlying and supporting this perspective, including from many GCF delegates, is a growing recognition that durable forest stewardship can only be achieved with full involvement, understanding and support of the forest dependent communities themselves. As Odigha Odigha (a Goldman Environmental Prize winner who RAN worked closely with in the 1990s), representing Nigeria's Cross River State put it, “The people in the forest are the ones that must fully understand what REDD is because they have the final responsibility, not people in London, not people in Washington.” Similarly, the former Governor of Papua strongly emphasized community rights and empowerment in his proposals for promoting low-carbon green development pathways in Indonesia’s most heavily forested province. The GCF delegates have largely returned home, but here in Borneo the peat smoke remains. Yet, reasons for optimism in Central Kalimantan can still be found in some locally led initiatives. Native Dayak, Sudwido Limin, is not waiting for REDD to take action. At the tropical peatland research center that he established, Sudwido showed us how they are damming up drainage canals in abandoned peatland areas, restoring forest cover and fighting peatland fires in a community based approach. The methods they are developing could be widely applied, and combined with a strict prohibition on further peatland conversion would go a long way to leashing in Indonesia’s soaring greenhouse gas emissions. Jakarta, are you listening?
[caption id="attachment_15952" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Pak Rusni at PT ISK Photo: David Gilbert/RAN 2009"][/caption] In a huge win for Indigenous and forest dwelling peoples throughout Indonesia who are struggling to assert their customary land rights in the face of massive palm oil expansion, Chief Justice Mahfud M.D. has ruled that two Articles of Indonesian law used to imprison community members are unconstitutional, unlawful and invalid. Articles 21 and 47 of Indonesia's Plantation Act are responsible for the widespread criminalization of forest community members who often end up in jail for defending their land rights against the ever-encroaching expansion of oil palm plantations. Since 2004, palm oil companies, police officers, courts and judges have based legal decisions on Articles 21 and 47. These articles allowed the police to persecute forest communities standing up for their rights, essentially deeming defense of human rights illegal. Sawit Watch has documented more than 660 ongoing conflicts between Indigenous peoples and local communities with palm oil companies in Indonesia. Criminalization through Articles 21 and 47 led to the arrests and detentions of hundreds of community members. According to Norman Jiwan from Sawit Watch, the judicial review that led to this outcome came about in response to a request made by five victims of the Plantation Act's concerned articles. The five victims are:
- Vitalis Andi and Japin are members of the Indigenous community from Silat Hulu in conflict with Sinar Mas in Ketapang District, West Kalimantan
- Ngatimin is chairperson of BPMP of Pergulaan village in conflict with London Sumatra
- Muhammad Rusdi, head of village Karang Mendapo community in conflict with PT Kresna Duta Agroindo, a Sinar Mas subsidiary oil palm plantation in Jambi
- Sakri, a farmer from East Java.
Wahyu Wagiman from the Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy (Elsam), who represented the plaintiffs, welcomed the ruling as a relief to more than 600 traditional communities in the country that were threatened by the law. 'Our next step is to spread the word as wide as possible and to find a way to release farmers currently charged under Articles 21 and 47, including Japin, Vitalis and Ngatimin.'During my field visits in West Kalimantan last fall, I recorded video interviews of numerous community members fighting for justice, working around the clock to get their fellow community members out of jail. From the community of Long Teran Kanan drawing a line in the sand in response to IOI Corp. failing to recognize their native customary lands to the recent criminalization of community members in Jambi where Wilmar bulldozed Indigenous settlements for palm oil, this legal victory is a ray of hope in an otherwise dismal landscape for Indigenous rights in Indonesia. Criminalizing Indigenous peoples for taking a stand to protect their native customary land rights is unjust. This recent court ruling is a step in the right direction and bodes well for human rights.
[caption id="attachment_15659" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Earthdance has partnered with Critical Beats and Cyberset Music to create this one-of-a-kind compilation featuring contributions from Govinda, Bluetech and DJ Spooky in collaboration with Amazon indigenous musicians. Download the new album today!"][/caption] Some of the world's hottest DJs, including Govinda, Bluetech, and DJ Spooky, teamed up with Indigenous musicians from the Amazon to create some truly inspirational music. Now it's your turn to inspire and be inspired by their beats. Earthdance International, Critical Beats for the Climate, and Rainforest Action Network are teaming up to promote the new compilation, called Critical Beats For Gaia. Proceeds will directly benefit frontline rainforest communities through RAN's Protect-An-Acre grants program. RAN's most recent Protect-An-Acre grantshave supported everything from deforestation mapping and case studies in Indonesia to the Achual community’s permaculture project in the Peruvian Amazon. This work is central to RAN's mission, as this is where real change happens: on the ground, from community to community. While we can shift markets and demand accountability for U.S.-based corporations, it's vital to do this work in solidarity with and in support of frontline and Indigenous communities most impacted by the destructive practices we are all trying to stop. Each year, Earthdance International organizes people around the world to promote synchronized world-wide "events for peace" in September. This fantastic group helps connect activists, meditation communities, peacemakers, and organizations to grow a just and sustainable world, starting with ourselves and our communities and then working to spread the peace globally. Now, Earthdance and Critical Beats for the Climate have teamed up to create even more possibilities to support frontline communities through the release of this beautiful new compilation. Critical Beats for Gaia features so many incredible DJs and producers, it is the perfect opportunity to spread awareness through music and reach out to people who want to be part of the solution.
As I reported on Monday, the Malaysian government—hand in hand with the country’s largest palm oil companies—is attempting to undermine the RSPO’s “sustainable palm oil” certification standard by creating its own certification. Problem is—the Malaysian palm oil industry’s version of “sustainable palm oil” is pure greenwash which is extremely problematic for the companies and consumers demanding real standards of sustainability that are based on sound science. The entire notion of determining a baseline of "sustainability" for forest preservation will be lost. Yesterday’s Malaysian paper StarBiz update on the process does not bode well for the species, communities and forests of Indonesia that are most threatened by the expansion of palm oil plantations. It reported that the “draft on the Malaysia Sustainable Palm Oil (MSPO) certification scheme is currently being formulated with the Malaysian Palm Oil Board (MPOB) earmarked as the main moderator.” Does it seems strange to anyone else that Malaysia’s Palm Oil Board – in charge of advocating for palm oil expansion at any cost – is formulating a certification scheme for sustainable palm oil? Where are the scientists, agronomists and ecologists? The article continues:
“the [Malaysian] Government is serious about introducing its national green palm oil certification scheme as an alternative to the current voluntary Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO) certification…this is an opportunity for Malaysia to tell the world that its oil palms are grown in a sustainable manner and do not involve the clearing of virgin forest.”Malaysia wants to tell the world that land conversion for its oil palm "doesn't involve the clearing of virgin forest?" Clearly the preservation of natural forests is important, but what about the Free, Prior, Informed Consent (FPIC) of its Indigenous peoples and forest communities? What about its critical habitat for endangered species like the orangutan? What about its other forested areas that are not natural forest land anymore but secondary forests—key habitat for endangered species and diverse forest peoples? I think Malaysia has more at stake that it cares to admit. Watering down criteria for the "sustainability" of its palm oil plantations could turn out to be nothing short of devastating for the people and wildlife of Malaysia.
[caption id="attachment_14464" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Left to right: Wounded Knee DeOcampo (Me-wuk), Tony Cerda (Rumsen Ohlone), Mickey Gemmill, Jr (Pit River), Naiche Dominguez (Apache/Ohlone), Wicahpiluta Candelaria (Rumsen Ohlone/ Apache) at Segorea Te."][/caption] Nearly 100 days of continuous prayer on-site at Segorea Te (also known as Glen Cove) near San Francisco, California, has precipitated a precedent-setting victory for the protection of a sacred site and ancestral burial site near Vallejo, California. Here's the good news:
Yesterday, the Yocha Dehe and Cortina tribes established a cultural easement and settlement agreement with the City of Vallejo and the Greater Vallejo Recreation District (GVRD). The agreement sets a legal precedent for granting Native peoples jurisdiction over their sacred sites and ancestral lands. The cultural easement forever guarantees that the Yocha Dehe and Cortina tribes will have legal oversight in all activities taking place on the sacred burial grounds of Sogorea Te/Glen Cove. It also represents a significant step forward in enacting tribal sovereignty, as the first such easement under CA Senate Bill 18 to be negotiated at the city and recreational district levels.[caption id="attachment_14463" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Morning Star Gali (Pit River) and Wounded Knee DeOcampo (Me-wuk) – Photo by Scott Braley"][/caption] For more details, check out the Committee to Protect Glen Cove's press release. The historical and cultural value of the 3,500-year old site continues to be spiritually important to California tribes. On April 14th 2011, local Native Americans and supporters began a 24-hour prayer vigil at Sogorea Te to prevent the Greater Vallejo Recreation District from bulldozing/grading a large portion of the sacred site and constructing bathrooms and a parking lot. Rainforest Action Network is honored to stand in solidarity with the Committee to Protect Glen Cove. We sent an email to our 100,000+ supporters featuring an action alert that helped garner over 1500 emails from RAN activists to decision-makers in the City of Vallejo, Greater Vallejo Recreation Committee, and Native American Heritage Council urging for respect of sacred sites and the Native community. RAN staff and volunteers also organized an awesome benefit event in San Francisco that raised $700 to support the ongoing prayer vigil at Glen Cove. We are so happy to have been able to help impact this important local struggle. The role that an organization like Rainforest Action Network has in supporting the Native leaders who are protecting Glen Cove isn't just a good deed to be proud of. It is our responsibility to respect and stand in solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples whose land we live and work on. Thank you and congratulations to everyone who has worked to protect Segorea Te!