http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649Leave it to the folks at Rainforest Action Network to make anything fun. As an intern with RAN, my job is basically to do whatever task I'm presented, so when Hillary Lehr asked the interns, Lindsay, Lola, and I, to do our own Roar at the Store at the local Barnes & Noble, I thought, "Yeah, I can hand out a few pocket guides and help spread the word." When she mentioned someone wearing our full Tiki the Tiger costume, however, I became way more excited about the idea of our own roar and volunteered right away. Really, who wouldn't want to spend two hours dancing in a tiger suit, especially for such a good cause! I got some funny looks on the bus as we made our way to the store, but as soon as we took our positions outside and began handing out the awesome Rainforest Safe pocket guides, we got a much better reception and the fun began! Although we hadn't brought an awesome boombox or radio, I was blessed with the ability to entertain myself easily and was able to dance to the beat in my head. Thanks to my super sweet moves, the pocket guides were going like hot cakes! People would slow down or stop by to read my sign or take a picture with me, and it gave Lindsey and Lola a chance to explain what we were about and how children's books can play a part in destroying the rainforest. What I learned from my day as Tiki the Tiger is that participating in actions can be fun! I was nervous about going out on the street and "bothering" people, but when you're having fun with it, others have fun with it, too! That great day turned out to be one of my favorite days with RAN.
When I think of a moratorium from a forest perspective, normally it is a very good thing. Convincing corporations or governments to agree to a moratorium that halts deforestation can be like placing a big fat stop sign in front of bulldozers at the edge of a forest. But in the case of Indonesia, are we waiting for a moratorium that the bulldozers will blow right by? The jury is still out on whether the moratorium on natural forest and peat conversion in Indonesia will matter. As Reuters reported, the moratorium announced by Indonesia's President Yudhoyono months ago missed the January 1 deadline for having important details sorted out and signed into law. Unsurprisingly the sticking point appears to be two competing drafts — one from the Presidential task force, one from the Ministry of Forestry. At stake is not just where the stop signs should be placed but even whether or not there should be any stop signs at all. According to Reuters, which was given access to the draft plans:
The forestry ministry wants the ban only on new permits to clear primary forests and peatlands for two years, while the presidential delivery unit wants it to include secondary forests, to review existing permits and consider extending the timeframe.Translated for the rest of us, this means that if the forestry ministry prevails we could see a moratorium that, among other shortcomings, doesn’t protect forests, peatlands, or orangutans. Nor would it provide a sound basis for low-carbon development opportunities or the emissions reductions targets called for by the president. In Indonesia we see many overlapping land claims and massive swaths of natural tropical forest that are still undeveloped but already licensed for corporate exploitation and conversion. Excluding existing permits from the moratorium is a bulldozer-sized loophole. As we lose primary natural forests at an alarming rate, many orangutans are pushed into forests that were logged years ago but have grown back. These are natural forests, but they're now known as "secondary forests." These secondary forests are still inhabited by the Indigenous communities that have lived there for generations, and have also become critical habitat for dwindling orangutan populations. Not including natural secondary forests means goodbye local rights, goodbye local economies, goodbye orangutan habitat. Ask our friend above if she feels better about the destruction of her home because it is considered "secondary" forest. Are we really ready to kiss the orangutan goodbye? And hang on a minute, wasn’t it already against the law to issue permits to clear primary forests and deep peatlands? Hadi Daryanto, a member of the Indonesian task force, claimed during a Voice of America interview that existing law has already stopped the national government from issuing permits for primary forests. If this is true, it starts to feel like we're trying to place that stop sign in quicksand. Unless the Ministry of Forestry is willing to align its plans with the President's task force, Indonesia may have debated for months only to end up with a moratorium that doesn’t matter.
This post originally appeared on The Huffington Post. Many of us live thousands of miles away from Brazil, Indonesia and the Congo Basin, where the last stands of tropical rainforests still exist. It's easy to forget that each breath we take is connecting us to those remote ecosystems, and that we should care as much about their survival as our own. Some of this you probably already know: Rainforests provide homes and habitats for more than 50 percent of the species on Earth as well as for millions of Indigenous communities. What's more, rainforests also serve as one of our key defenses against global warming by storing massive amounts of carbon. Over 40 percent of the world's oxygen is produced from the rainforests. It may sound clichéd, but the adage is true: Rainforests are the lungs of the planet. The root meaning of the word conspire is "to breathe together," so it's no exaggeration to say that we're all in a vast conspiracy with the world's rainforests. Or, we should be. Today, more than two-thirds of the world's tropical rainforests exist only as fragmented remnants. Industrial agribusiness, resource extraction, poor governance, illegal logging and the failure to recognize and respect the rights of forest peoples as well as global warming all threaten the continued existence of our planet's lungs (here's a great resource on threats facing the world's rainforests). It's as if humans have been on a smoking bender for a few hundred years, and, in spite of advanced lung cancer, we just can't stop ourselves from smoking that next pack. North America and Europe are responsible for a large part of the consumer demand that drives rainforest destruction — which also means we can do something about it. Here's my effort to offer the most important steps you can take to stand with RAN in protecting the world's rainforests. This is by no means a comprehensive list, but these are my favorites. Please share your solutions as well!
- Become a Rainforest Lover Perhaps the most important step to protecting our rainforests is falling in love with them. Educate yourself, your family and your friends about the beauty and remarkable importance of these ecosystems. Right now forest destruction is more profitable than forest protection. You can change that, and a great place to start is arming yourself with the facts. One of the best repositories of rainforest stories and facts is Mongabay.com. I would recommend starting your love affair with rainforests there.
- Support Rainforest Safe Books and Paper Pulp from cleared rainforests is made into cheap copy paper, books, tissue and toilet paper and luxury shopping bags that are then sold to consumers in the United States, Europe and Asia. But it doesn't need to be this way. Top U.S. publishers are taking a stand and demanding rainforest safe paper, but they need your help. Here is a guide to rainforest-safe publishers and books so that you can support those companies that are doing their part and pressure the rest to shape up.
- Stop Destruction of Rainforests for Palm Oil Believe it or not, palm oil is found in half of all packaged goods in the US — everything from cereal, cooking oil and candy bars to lipstick and soap — and its cultivation is one of the key causes of deforestation. Concerned customers have pushed companies like General Mills, Unilever and Nestle (to name just a few) to commit to source only responsible palm oil. Now it's Cargill's turn! As the company that buys more palm oil than any other company in the U.S., Cargill can make a big difference if they choose not to buy palm oil that hurts rainforests. Let Cargill know you care.
- Fundraise for Forest Peoples Raising money to help protect rainforests and forest peoples is easy and important. The Rainforest Foundation and Rainforest Action Network both have easy ways for you, your friends, and/or your classroom to raise critical funds that help forest peoples defend their rights to their traditional lands and to protect and preserve their natural resources.
- End our addiction to fossil fuels It may not be readily obvious, but fossil fuels like coal and oil are a major threat to rainforests and rainforest communities alike. Oil extraction has increased dramatically in the Amazon, for instance, often with devastating social and environmental effects. The problem is not confined to the Amazon, however: A proposed pipeline for transporting oil from Canada's tar sands to refiners in the US would go right through the Great Bear Rainforest. Of course, once all that oil is burned it contributes to climate change. Coal is also a major part of the climate problem, contributing some 20% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. The US currently gets about half of its electricity from coal-fired power plants, earning it the title of "Climate Enemy #1." Our Global Finance Campaign is working to stop big banks from funding coal projects and thereby keeping us hooked on the dirty stuff. Sign up now and help us work to get America off of coal.
This post originally appeared on Amazon Watch's Chevron In Ecuador blog. [caption id="attachment_10691" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Change Chevron campaigner Ginger Cassady examines one of Chevron's open pits full of toxic oil waste in Agua Rico, Ecuador."][/caption] Friday, December 17th was a momentous day in the long struggle of the people of Ecuador's Amazon rainforest region ravaged by oil giant Chevron, formerly Texaco. On Friday — more than 17 years since Ecuadoreans filed a lawsuit demanding cleanup of Texaco's oil contamination — the judge declared a close to the evidentiary phase of the trial, paving the way for a judgment in the historic case. Sucumbios Provincial Court Judge Nicolas Zambrano declared autos para sentencia — the end of the evidence phase of the trial and the beginning of his deliberations over the massive case record, some 215,000 pages of relevant documents. The judge told Reuters on Friday: "The proof phase has been concluded. I have to read what there is in these proceedings and, based on this criteria, issue the corresponding decision." A Wall Street Journal article reported what many observers believe, that a ruling from the judge is "expected to be ready in the first quarter of next year." Of course, many predictions have been made over the years, and others close to the case say that a judgment could come anytime between February and next fall. Regardless, it means a judgment is finally coming in the case, despite Chevron's myriad, creative, and cynical attempts to delay a ruling indefinitely. Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for the Amazon Defense Coalition, which represents the Ecuadorian communities suing Chevron, released a simple statement:
"This decision should put an end to Chevron's continued abusive litigation tactics intended to perpetually delay the resolution of claims that affect the lives of thousands of innocent people."[caption id="" align="alignright" width="320" caption="Photo by Caroline Bennett"][/caption] Pablo Fajardo, lead lawyer for some 30,000 Indigenous and campesino plaintiffs in Ecuador, told Pleiteando.com, "These 17 years of trial have shown sustained damage to those who have seen their water supplies, land and air polluted by Chevron-Texaco. Many of them have already died of cancer and those who survive live in inhumane conditions. At last I see a light at the end of this dark tunnel." Pablo spoke to Amazon Watch's Mitch Anderson in Quito on Friday, just minutes after the judge gave his order. See the video below (sorry about the vertical alignment and black bars on the side — it was shot, inexpertly, on an iPhone): So now, as Pablo explains, even with the evidentiary phase in the trial over, it's important to continue to keep a spotlight on this case, as Chevron has deployed extraordinary resources to delay and disrupt the trial. With a new scorched earth legal strategy designed by its attack dog lawyers from corporate behemoth law firm Gibson Dunn, they have been successful at creating chaos and forcing the plaintiffs lawyers to defend themselves against all kinds of accusations. But with a judgment on the horizon, the plaintiffs have also brought on a major new ally in the form of their own corporate law behemoth, Washington DC-based firm Patton Boggs. Responding to Chevron's well-worn accusations about the case, James Tyrell at Patton Boggs told American lawyer magazine's Michael Goldhaber, "I'm certainly not here to join in any fraudulent effort. We cannot be exposed to liability when we have been hired to do the opposite: to make sure that the final judgment is free of fraud. My mission is to see that a judgment on the merits, warranting international respect, is entered in Ecuador, and, if we win, to enforce it." Enforce it? Yes, this is critical. It's important to remember that Chevron left Ecuador in 1992, and no longer has assets there. So, even if all goes well for the Ecuadorians, and a judge awards them billions from Chevron to remediate the company's widespread pollution, and provide clean water and health care infrastructure to affected communities, the plaintiffs will have to take that judgment to the courts in places where Chevron does have assets and lay claim to them there. That's where big guns like Patton Boggs come in. Unfortunately, that also takes time, while people continue to suffer. Watching this saga unfold over the years, it's hard to imagine Chevron shifting gears. I expect that the company will continue to try to shift the blame, attack the plaintiffs lawyers, try to evade a judgment through arbitration and other "end-runs" around the legal process, and whatever other tricks may still be up their sleeve. For the sake of the communities living around the company's former oil sites, I hope I'm wrong, and that Chevron's honchos will decide it's time for them to stop fighting this losing and dishonorable battle, and finally do the right thing.
[caption id="attachment_10122" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Would you give these little guys up for a bar of soap?"][/caption] Most of us practice personal hygiene at least every couple of days, and because many contain synthetic chemicals, a portion of those end up in our bodies and in our earth. For the last few months, I've been trying to green-up my beauty routine. If I wouldn't put something in my body, why would I want to put it on my body? Standing in the body care aisle at the local Whole Foods, however, I ran into a problem. Palm Oil. It is literally in every single soap on the shelf, and because it doesn't always have to be labeled as such, even "vegetable oil" makes me nervous. Palm Oil is the number one cause of deforestation in Indonesia, where giant swathes of forest are cleared for plantations. Endangered species like the Orangutan and the Sumatran Tiger (of which there are less than 500 in the wild) are losing their habitats at a terrifying rate, and if it isn't stopped, the only place we'll be able to find them will be zoos. Until palm oil production is sustainable and destruction-free, I'll be purchasing products without it. After scouring the Bay Area for palm oil free soap, my search finally paid off. While wandering aimlessly at GreenFest in San Francisco, I came across Diggin' Livin' Farm and Apiary's booth and was drawn in by the promise of palm oil free soap. Jackpot! I bought a bar of the Bioregional Mint" for $6, as much as I'd been paying anywhere else. After using the product and doing some research on Diggin' Livin' Farms, I'm excited to say that I have found my rainforest-safe soap! The soap smells great and keeps skin soft, which is really all I was looking for. The makers, the McEwen family, are dedicated to getting the word out about palm oil and rainforest destruction, even going so far as to sponsor an "adopted" orangutan, Kesi. Kesi, who lost her mother and her left hand on a palm oil plantation, lives at the BOS Nyaru Menteng Orangutan Rescue Center and is funded partially by the purchase of Diggin' Livin' products. What better time to make greener shopping choices than the Holiday season? These destruction-free soaps can be purchased online and will make a great eco-and-orangutan-friendly stocking-stuffer. I know a few lucky people who will be getting soap from me!
Change Chevron activist Josh Kahn Russell holds a banner reading "Energy shouldn't cost lives" while Chevron CEO John Watson flees up a staircase (Watson is on the top left). Chevron CEO John Watson was invited to speak about “The Energy Economy” at the University of Chicago, his alma mater, this morning. The event provided audience members a chance to ask Watson questions, and as it just so happens, we have a few we’ve been meaning to ask him. So we sent some activists to the event. Here’s how it went down, as told by Josh Kahn Russell, who led our team on the ground in Chicago and chased John Watson right out of his own event:
Today Chevron CEO John Watson spoke about the new era of energy at the University of Chicago’s business school, Chicago Booth. Some friends and I were concerned about Chevron’s attempts to evade both the law and the company’s moral responsibility to clean up the 18 billion gallons of toxic oil waste it deliberately dumped in the Amazon, killing 1,400 people and poisoning thousands of others. So we paid him a visit. Dressed business casual, we came in early and each took seats in different parts of the room. We listened to John Watson distance Chevron from the BP oil disaster. He reassured us all that Chevron is a thoughtful oil company. He went on to say that, above all other objectives, “No goal is more important than operating in a safe and responsible manner.” On that note, Debra Michaud, an alumna of the University of Chicago, jumped up to express her dismay that a fellow graduate would be involved in poisoning the communities of 30,000 people. She asked Watson to speak to Chevron’s toxic legacy in Ecuador. Watson was quick to evade the question, claiming that the damage was not Chevron’s responsibility. He seemed relieved at the end, as if he was thinking, “Phew, glad that’s over.” But it wasn’t. A couple minutes later I took the mic and pointed out the irony in Watson’s allegations of “deception and conspiracy” on the part of the Indigenous plaintiffs in the court case, as his comments themselves were the real deception. After pointing out his false claims of remediation, he asked that we all just wait and “see how it all plays out.” After waiting through 17 years of Chevron’s delay-deceive-and-distort tactics, I kept pushing and went on to challenge his arguments. The students in the room were engaged. Our respectful tone and figures presented from scientific case studies played well with the Business School crowd. One person near me glanced to the podium and murmured to her neighbor, “Why isn’t he answering the question?” Watson’s eyes darted around nervously as he realized that his presentation was being hijacked. Watson’s entourage from the Business school looked panicked. The moderator escorted me off the microphone. A few minutes later, Abigail Singer went up to the mic to speak, and the alarmed moderator declared the Q&A over, after seeing Abigail’s paper, fearing she too would ask about Ecuador. She was escorted to her seat, and the event was declared over. Watson, who can be seen from behind just over the right side of the banner, is ushered away by security guards after the event is declared over by organizers. It was clear that the one thing people would remember from the event was the controversy about Chevron’s role in poisoning Ecuadorean Amazon communities. I went up to shake Watson’s hand, and was immediately blocked by security guards who ushered him away. We persistently followed him out, holding up a banner reading “Energy shouldn’t cost lives” all the way out of the building. Two people from the crowd cheered us on, saying “Way to stand up!” and “Keep going!” We did, until the moderator, furious, saw to it that we were escorted from the building. John Watson needs to know that this issue won’t simply go away. It is going to stay in his face until he addresses it head on — even on his home turf and alma mater.Check out the action on the video:
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="275" caption="General Mills Joins Race to Protect Rainforests!"][/caption] Yesterday marked a huge shift in the U.S. food industry - it's now official that the world's sixth largest food company is taking concrete action to address their controversial sourcing of palm oil from Cargill. I attended General Mills' annual shareholder meeting on Monday in Minneapolis, MN, and listened intently as CEO Ken Powell addressed several hundred of his company shareholders. After the usual 20 min. financial reports and marketing strategies overview, he addressed two two issues in his presentation that were of particular importance to the company: Palm Oil and Water Conservation. CEO Ken Powell made it very clear that his company would work hard to push their palm oil suppliers (Cargill is their key palm oil supplier) to make real changes on the ground in Indonesia to prevent any further rainforest destruction, Indigenous community displacement or species extinction for palm oil expansion. As I went inside the shareholder meeting with local community member and mother Sharon Sund to make a statement, 40 RAN activists and coalition partners rallied in front of the meeting, holding a big banner reading "General Mills Joins Race to Protect Rainforests" with matching yellow and black balloons and T-Shirts with backs that read "Can Cargill Catch Up?"
http://www.flickr.com/apps/slideshow/show.swf?v=71649Sharon and I met Tom Forsythe, the General Mills rep we've been working with over the past 8 months, and he escorted us inside, introduced us to high level staff, and gave us seats at the front of the house. Sharon and I together made a 4 minute statement inside the meeting and were thanked by two huge rounds of applause from shareholders. After the meeting CEO Ken Powell came out and shook hands with us and thanked us for our work. Sharon read him a statement from her 11 year old daughter and it was very powerful. After jointly releasing General Mills' palm oil policy last Wednesday with a big media splash, marking an end to our public campaign targeting General Mills, we dropped a banner on the Grain Exchange skyway outside of Cargill's downtown office last Thursday to let Cargill know that now the pressure is really on. Cargill's palm oil customers are demanding responsible palm oil in the U.S. - will Cargill provide it? You can watch our statements: These are the statements we made inside the meeting: ASHLEY SCHAEFFER, Rainforest Agribusiness Campaigner, Rainforest Action Network: "My name is Ashley Schaeffer and I am here today on behalf of Rainforest Action Network. As an individual responsible for RAN’s General Mills-focused palm oil campaign, I have been in communication with Tom Forsythe of General Mills since February of this year. I’m here today both to congratulate General Mills on the recent adoption of their benchmark palm oil policy and to express my enthusiasm about working together in the future on the implementation of this policy. But first I’d like to say a few words about why this policy is so important. Palm oil is found in thousands of consumer products, from soap to cosmetics to breakfast cereal. Its use is widespread and increasing around the world, but particularly in the U.S., where its consumption has tripled in the last five years. Unfortunately, palm oil is also tightly linked to the destruction of some of the world’s most valuable remaining rainforests, primarily in Indonesia and Malaysia. Increasing consumption has triggered expanded production, replacing once biodiverse rainforests with mono-cropped palm oil plantations. This unsustainable agriculture model is causing extreme devastation in Indonesia, both socially and environmentally. It’s one of the primary reasons that unique species like Sumatran orangutans, tigers and elephants are almost extinct, why many waterways are heavily polluted, and why thousands of Indigenous peoples are displaced from their traditional lands every year. With such reluctance from large suppliers like Sinar Mas and Cargill to address this issue properly, it’s really up to U.S. food companies who buy palm oil for their products to take leadership on this issue to push their supplier companies to make real changes on the ground in Indonesia. The recent leadership that General Mills has demonstrated on this issue is a testament to the company’s values. The palm policy is important for General Mills as a company, and for the impact General Mills can have in moving suppliers forward. There is a long way to go on the issue, and to completely stop the destruction fo the world’s rainforests will require companies like General Mills continuing to demand better standards from suppliers. We are very much looking forward to working with General Mills on the implementation of this policy, and applaud the goal of 100 percent certified responsible palm oil by 2015. SHARON SUND, Rainforest Action Network Twin Cities Member and Minneapolis resident: As a local community member and a mother, I want to thank General Mills for their new policy on palm oil. This issue is important to me because it is important to my daughter, Jade. If all of our children knew that we were feeding them breakfast cereal at the expense of rainforests, they would never forgive us. That is why I am so glad to see that General Mills is making these changes - so we don’t have to suffer the wrath of our children for letting rainforest destruction happen. I would also like to encourage General Mills to go as deeply into this issue and your commitment as you can, to ensure that your suppliers follow through with the policies that you have endorsed. I have hope that in one year, we will have seen big changes on how palm oil is being produced in Indonesia, and that here in Minnesota we can feed our children while still sustaining the earth." In case you missed all the action last week, check out some of our best media hits below: FAST COMPANY MAGAZINE: General Mills Ditches Dirty Palm Oil http://www.fastcompany.com/1690894/general-mills-ditches-dirty-palm-oil MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE Demonstrators dangle from skyway in protest against Cargill http://www.startribune.com/local/103624319.html?elr=KArks:DCiUo3PD:3D_V_qD3L:c7cQKUiD3aPc:_Yyc:aUUl USA TODAY: General Mills boycotts palm oil that destroys rain forestsl http://content.usatoday.com/communities/greenhouse/post/2010/09/general-mills-palm-oil-rainforest-destruction/1-oil ASSOCIATED PRESS: General Mills changes palm oil policy http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5idaKBimL0u6hYVfIPrxPltIPSm1gD9IE7AIG0
[caption id="attachment_8548" align="alignleft" width="381" caption="Avatar vs. tar sands. See the resemblence? "][/caption] James Cameron, "the most powerful man in Hollywood," is in Alberta. Canadian TV cut into regular broadcasts this morning to show footage of him climbing into a helicopter for an areal tour of the tar sands. He's touring with industry reps this morning, then will visit with Indigenous leaders later this afternoon in Ft. Chipewyan. He's expected to do a formal press briefing on Wednesday. Cameron is visiting on the invitation of George Poitras on behalf of the Indigenous Environmental Network issued last year at the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Rights at the UN. Kevin Libin at the (conservative) National Post is providing live coverage during the industry tour. CTV is also getting good footage, including Cameron's comparison of the tar sands to destruction of the Amazon and his movie Avatar. Meanwhile, tar sands development is beginning to encroach on US soil. Utah's Division of Oil, Gas & Mining just approved the first ever commercial lease for tar sands development adjacent to Canyonlands National Park. Transcanada is also pushing for approval of a $12 billion pipeline to bring 1 million barrels per day of tar sands crude oil to the Gulf Coast. Both projects show an industry pushing our economy deeper into oil addiction--scraping bottom to extract the last, dirtiest drops of a fundamentally a non renewable resource. Take action to demand a stop to tar sands production in the US and watch this space for updates on Cameron's "Avatarsands" visit.
[caption id="attachment_8458" align="alignleft" width="240" caption="General Mills Moves Away from Rainforest Destruction!"] [/caption] It is with much gratitude, excitement and hope for our world's remaining forests that I announce the end to Rainforest Action Network's General Mills palm oil campaign. Our Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign has come a long way in 2010 with your help. Check out some campaign "best moments." Eight months ago, 42 activists braved the freezing cold weather of January to unfurl a massive banner reading "Warning: General Mills Destroys Rainforests!" on top of the frozen lake in front of General Mills' Minneapolis Headquarters. At the time, not a single U.S. food company had a comprehensive palm oil policy. [caption id="attachment_8476" align="alignleft" width="211" caption="Kids Thank General Mills: "We Can Eat Cheerios Again!""][/caption] Today, America’s favorite food company took a crucial step to protect rainforests. General Mills (GIS) released a new palm oil policy that limits the company’s exposure to an increasingly controversial commodity. The company’s new policy, along with previous actions to eliminate problematic suppliers like Sinar Mas Group, puts them in the front of efforts by the U.S. food sector to address deforestation resulting from palm oil. Kraft and Burger King have also announced initial steps to ensure that they are not sourcing ingredients that damage the rainforest. The new palm oil procurement policy includes specific commitments on critical issues including respect for the rights of Indigenous communities, prevention of further destruction of endangered rainforests and protection of peatlands, a major source of climate change causing emissions from palm oil production. In addition, General Mills has set a goal of “sourcing 100 percent responsible and sustainable palm oil” by 2015, setting a new bar for the American food industry. See General Mills’ new palm oil policy in it's entirety. We hope that General Mills’ actions will serve as a wake-up call for others in the food industry, especially Cargill. America’s largest importer of palm oil, Cargill, has yet to take sufficient action to meet this demand or to clean up its own palm oil supply chain. Although the agribusiness giant has taken initial steps to do so in Europe, it has failed to bring RSPO certified segregated palm oil to the United States, and it continues to source palm oil from some of the worst suppliers in the business. [caption id="attachment_8460" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Today General Mills Sets Forward on the Right Path, Away from Rainforest Destruction; Now It's Cargill's Turn. Photo: David Gilbert"][/caption] As a company with some of the most beloved brands in the nation, including Cheerios, Betty Crocker and Hamburger Helper, General Mills’ decision to address deforestation in its supply chain is a major industry signal that unsustainable palm oil expansion practices are a problem that can and should be addressed. RAN will continue working with General Mills on the ongoing implementation of the new policy. Read General Mills' press statement here.
Shockwaves rippled through the world’s largest environmental lawsuit today. A new damages assessment has been submitted in the lawsuit pitting 30,000 Indigenous peoples and local farmers against the global oil giant Chevron. The damages assessment finds that because of factors still persisting in the Ecuadorean rainforest from Chevron’s pollution, nearly 10,000 Ecuadoreans are at significant risk of dying from cancer by the year 2080, even if Chevron cleans up the toxic contamination in the next ten years. "The information in this submission is highly significant because it reflects clearly that there is a terrible oil-related disaster in Ecuador in the area where Chevron operated," said Pablo Fajardo, lead lawyer for the Amazon communities. "What these analyses make chillingly clear is that thousands of Ecuadorean citizens may well contract and die of cancer in the coming decades because of Chevron's contamination," he added. This new round of assessments comes after complaints by Chevron about the original independent assessment, submitted in 2008 - which contained over 105 expert reports and more than 64,000 samples, many of which came from Chevron’s own team. Since the original assessment Chevron has invested in public relations campaigns, spy schemes, and fake media reports in an attempt to discredit the assessment, smear highly respected scientists, and derail the lawsuit. Then recently, in a move seemly to appease Chevron, the presiding judge opened a 45-day window for both parties to submit their own damage assessments to the court. Had Chevron the basis to prove there is no contamination in Ecuador’s rainforest, the company would have pounced on the opportunity. But it didn’t. Instead, Chevron immediately rejected the court’s offer to compile and submit a damages assessment. Many in the legal and human rights communities found this move irreconcilable. However, those close to the lawsuit see this latest development as yet another indicator that Chevron is solely interested in delaying the trial, rather than letting the court rule on the facts of the case. "We predict that Chevron’s bad faith will be on full display yet again. Chevron complained that it did not have an opportunity to produce its own damages assessment. But when given the opportunity, company lawyers accuse the judge of bias against Chevron and launch attacks on the justice system." Said Fajardo Six renowned technical and medical experts compiled the new damages assessment. Based on their findings, the damages reached $40 to 90 billion, nearly double the $27.3 billion originally determined. (The numbers are broken down in the court filing that can be found HERE.) The new numbers come after a new and more thorough examination of Chevron’s "unjust enrichment" – money saved by using sub-standard drilling practices. While operating in the region the oil company intentionally used drilling practices deficient in safety and pollution safeguards. Simply, Chevron is accused of intentionally poisoning communities to save a buck. [caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="500" caption="Marta Isabel Arrobo, 49, recalls numerous health problems she and her family have suffered living in close proximity to several toxic oil pits abandoned by Texaco (now Chevron) in the Ecuadorean Amazon rainforest. Photo by Caroline Bennett / Rainforest Action Network"][/caption] It’s obvious that Chevron never had any intention of submitting a new report, its intention was to be obstructionist – resigned to the fact that anything found in any assessment will only point to the company’s liability. Chevron’s game-plan is clear: delay the trial at any cost, all the while communities continue to suffer from the pollution. As a recent DowJones article points out, Chevron won’t be able to do this forever. The end of this precedent setting trial is nearing. The entire oil industry is watching this lawsuit with guarded eye, as it will potentially set the stage for similar suits – demanding restitution for harm and negligence. It is because of this that Chevron will pull no punches as the company tries to claw its way from liability. Expect more fireworks and distraction from Chevron, as the truth continues to pin the company in a corner of accountability.